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August 15, 2020
Shisha charcoal or hookah coals come in many different shapes and styles, so it can be a bit confusing what the differences are and which type of coal you should be using for your hookah. We'll cover the materials, types and best brands so you know what to look for the next time you need to buy shisha coals.
You might not have given it much thought, but what goes into making shisha coals is extremely important. Have you ever smoked shisha at a friend's house or hookah bar and copped a massive headache or strange buzzing sensation while smoking? It was probably caused by instant-light or quick-light charcoal which contains nasty chemicals to get the shisha coal burning quickly. There are also many hookah coal brands that use cheap fillers like wood and sawdust to minimise production costs, which can release unpleasant odours when burnt that change the taste of the shisha tobacco. One way to tell the quality of the coal someone is using is to check the colour when it is lit: whiter coals burn hotter and indicate cheap fillers and chemicals, whereas browner coals more likely contain only premium ingredients. Whichever coal you choose for your hookah, make sure that it's made from 100% natural materials, ideally coconut shells. Coconut shell charcoal provides an odourless and tasteless burn so you can savour 100% of the shisha flavour, plus a long and consistent burn.
Why so many shapes for such a simple product??? Each have their pros and cons – there's no “one size fits all” when it comes to shisha charcoal.
Cubes: Arguably the most common type of shisha coal, cubes have six flat equal sides (like dice) which make them ultra-stable when burning. Cubes offer a slow burn and can be successfully used with most hookah bowl and screen setups due to the many different sizes available. Make sure to rotate the cubes throughout the session to get the best results.
Flats: Similar to cubes but more like a flat bar, flats won't burn as long so are good for shorter shisha sessions. Flats are best used with foils, as their shape isn't well suited for heat management systems or chimney sets.
Cubettes: Halfway between cubes and flats, cubettes are just another variation of the traditional cube, but with the same shortcomings as flats.
Fingers / sticks (round): If cubes are the most common type of hookah charcoal, fingers or sticks would be a very close second. Cylindrical in shape, 3 x charcoal fingers sit nicely around a chimney set or on top of a foil when using a phunnel bowl. Sticks are also less likely to cause heat spikes when compared to cubes.
Cuboid: A rectangular version of sticks, the flat sides of cuboids make them a more stable option but are less versatile and prone to heat spikes. Be careful with cuboids as many quick-light coals come in this shape.
Hexagon / hex: Another hybrid of sticks, hexagon or hex coals are almost always made from coconut shells. With all the benefits of sticks but more stability, hexagon coals are a great choice.
Circle / disc: The poster child of quick-light charcoal, avoid this shape at all costs unless you are sure it's made from 100% natural materials.
Quarter circle: Designed for Lotus style heat management systems and Razor heat management systems, quarter circles burn well at the start of a session but lose their shape as they burn making them difficult to manage with tongs.
Now you know the different shapes of hookah coals and their uses, here are our favourite brands made from coconut shells and the shapes that they are available in.
Firebrand: Made from 100% single origin virgin coconut; available in both coco cubes and coco fingers.
Nusakoko: All the way from Mother Russia, Nusakoko is one of the few charcoal brands to offer hexagon shaped shisha coals.
Cocoshisha: The best thing about Cocoshisha is the variety of shapes available including cubes, sticks, cuboids, and hexagon coals.
Shaman: Shaman is the king of cubes, with 22 mm, 25mm, 26 mm, and 31 mm sizes available.
CocoUrth: As it's name suggests, CocoUrth only offers environmentally friendly charcoal. Available in various cube sizes, flats, quarter circles, and hexagon coals.
Don't forget to check out Part 2 – How to smoke a hookah pipe for added tips on using coals.
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