A hookah bowl (sometimes called a “chillum”) is a container located at the very top of the hookah shaft. It is here the tobacco is heated and the hookah smoke occurs. Accordingly, a high-quality bowl should be well and at the same time evenly warmed up, preventing the tobacco from burning out. The bowl is prepared by putting tobacco into it, then it is covered with a screen (foil or kaloud), and only after this screen is placed hot coals on. There should be no direct contact between tobacco and the screen with coals! The heat will reach the tobacco blend, passing through the holes made in the surface of the screen.
The bowl itself also has holes. One – mandatory – is located in the foot, with the help of which the bowl is mounted on the shaft.
A single hole bowl is called fanel. It is well suited for those who love dense tobacco. For those who prefer a looser – “air” – tobacco, there are bowls with additional small holes. They do not only rarefy smoke, but also reduce the risk of hot embers falling into the hookah. If this risk remains, you can put a crumpled piece of foil into the bowl foot.
There are two ways to fix the bowl: external (when it is mounted on the shaft) and internal (when it is inserted into the shaft). In any case, the bowl should sit evenly, tightly (so that coal does not fall out of it) and be extremely airtight (so that hookah smoke does not leak out). To do this, in the place of mounting to the shaft there are usually special seals.
What is a hookah bowl made of?
The most popular (and, according to many, the most practical) are clay bowls. This is a classic one, literally tested over the centuries. Firstly, they are inexpensive, and secondly, they are evenly warmed up, and tobacco does not burn in them. The most heat-resistant is red clay. Clay bowls have very few drawbacks. Perhaps some aesthetes will find them not too refined, but as it is said, tastes differ… A more serious disadvantage is the fragility of the material. The clay bowl is easy to break – however, given its low cost, this is not such a problem. Therefore, experienced hookah smokers immediately have a spare bowl.
Nearly as good as clay bowls are silicone ones. They keep heat for a long time, almost do not overheat and are easy to wash. A silicone bowl is used only with kaloud and is very convenient for novices. Experts feel the only drawback of this bowl that it is good only for light tobaccos, but for strong ones the necessary heat is not produced…
Glazed porcelain or ceramic bowls usually look very nice. However, their material is heated up faster, and tobacco can burn (this is also facilitated by the enamel coating). On the other hand, such bowls weakly absorb odors and will last much longer than clay ones.
Metal bowls are generally “indestructible”, but tobacco can burn much more strongly than in ceramic ones. In addition, some smokers complain that the smoke goes with the taste of metal.
All of these shortcomings are practically devoid of heat-resistant glass bowls, but they are, of course, more expensive than the above.
Interestingly, a disposable bowl can even be made from fruits – for example, from a half of pineapple. Such a “natural” bowl will give the hookah smoke an additional taste.
Buying hookah bowls
As we have already written above, in order to protect the hookah from the ash, it is better to purchase a bowl not with one large hole, but several small ones. The upper edge of the bowl should not have splits and be even so that the screen on top fits tightly enough. Therefore, when buying, check this aspect by turning the bowl over and applying it to a flat surface. The size and depth of the bowl depends on whether you smoke alone or in the company (it is advisable for the company to purchase a larger bowl). However, remember that in a bulky bowl the tobacco is warmed up more slowly.
Since the bowl is one of the cheapest parts of the hookah, experienced smokers immediately buy several identical bowls in reserve. Or several different bowls for different types of tobacco (for example, one for Al Fakher – Two Apple and the other – for Al Fakher Peach). There are even special bowls that allow you to smoke several tobaccos at a time. It can be a bowl with partitions and sectors (each sector is for a separate grade). Or several bowls that are mounted on one foot. Thanks to such a “multi-story” bowl, you can experiment directly during smoking, combining different flavors and changing their ratio.