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Hookah Bowl Buying Guide

July 10, 2019

Image of lots of different types of hookah bowls and shisha heads

Hookah bowls (also known as hookah heads or shisha bowls) come in different shapes, sizes and materials; and can have a big impact on the quality of your shisha smoking session. Each type of hookah head has its pros and cons, and finding the right bowl for you shouldn't be based on price alone. This article explores various different types of shisha bowls, so that when it's time for you to buy a new hookah pipe (or just a new bowl), you'll know exactly what you're shopping for.

Egyptian hookah bowl

Most shisha kits are sold with what is known as an Egyptian style hookah bowl. These bowls are mostly made of clay and can be either glazed (easier to clean) or unglazed (retains shisha flavour better). Egyptian hookah heads are shaped like a dish and usually have five medium-size holes in a cross pattern in the base to allow the shisha smoke to be drawn into the chamber of the hookah pipe. Egyptian shisha bowls can be used with foil, screens and chimney sets; providing a cheap and versatile option for shisha smokers. One downside to Egyptian hook bowls is that the excess molasses in the shisha tobacco will drip straight into the stem. 

Vortex hookah bowl

There are a couple of different designs that have been called Vortex hookah bowls, as the name relates to the smoke vortex created by the shape of the Vortex shisha head. Typical clay Vortex hookah bowls are shaped like a doughnut mould, with a stump in the centre of the dish encompassing outward-facing draw holes. A more modern version of the Vortex shisha head is made of silicone (dishwasher safe, unbreakable, no grommet required), and has fins moulded into the base of the dish to disrupt the airflow creating a smoke vortex. Compatible with foil, screens and chimney sets; Vortex hookah heads are an improvement over Egyptian hookah bowls as less molasses will drip down the stem.

Phunnel hookah bowl

Building on the design of the Vortex hookah bowl, Phunnel hookah bowls are also shaped like a doughnut mould but have a single upward-facing draw hole in the middle of the centre stump. In theory, excess molasses should be contained in the base of the bowl and be prevented from dripping down the stem. Finding the right foil or screen design (number, size, and pattern of holes) for the Phunnel shisha bowl requires a bit of trial & error, and chimney sets may result in too much airflow for some shisha lovers.

Lipped hookah bowl

All of the above shisha bowl designs (Egyptian hookah bowls, Vortex hookah bowls, and Phunnel hookah bowls) can come with an internal lip to accommodate a heat management device. That being said, it's important that the bowl design suits the heat management device, otherwise there might be too much (or too little) airflow through the system. If in doubt, most heat management devices will work fine with a lipped Egyptian hookah bowl or lipped Vortex hookah bowl (providing the diameters match).

Chimney set

Chimney sets are a great addition to compatible hookah bowls and offer many benefits over traditional foil. Chimney sets are easier to set up, safer to use (prevent coals from falling off), and allow shisha smokers to quickly rotate the coals to prevent hot spots from developing. Another big point of difference with Chimney sets is that the charcoal is raised quite a bit from the top of the shisha tobacco mix, permitting more airflow compared to foils (which practically touch the top of the tobacco).

Heat management devices

Heat management devices are essentially an enclosed chimney set, with variable vents that can be opened and closed. Therefore, heat management devices share all the same benefits as chimney sets, as well as allowing the hookah smoker to adjust the heat of the charcoal using the vents. There are many different designs of heat management devices, with Lotus heat management and Razor heat management being the most popular designs.

Over time, most shisha aficionados procure a collection of hookah bowls; and it's not unusual to regularly switch your shisha head depending on the flavour of tobacco being smoked, or desired draw (easy draw or hard draw). You can even sculpt a hookah bowl out of fruit (known as fruit bowls or fruit heads) to add another fruit flavour to your shisha mix. Our advice is to try a few different combinations and see what you like best.

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