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by Wade Hill
December 11, 2017
Hookah coals - arguably one of the most important parts of the hookah session. Without them, you wouldn't be smoking! Everyone uses coals, but the coals they use can vary from person to person. While covering every brand of coals is for another day and time, I think it's important that we talk a bit about different types of coals - what they do, and what they're good for. With so many different types of coals around, it can be super easy to get lost in the mess. So let's jump into it!
Natural vs. Quicklites
Quicklite coals are what most smokers start with. They're the first thing that newer smokers should stop using. Quicklite coals are generally easy to lite (hence the name), and don't last very long. They impart a very disgusting taste onto your smoking session, and they're just an overall bad experience. They're usually used by newer smokers because they're more accessible - easy to lite, and relatively easy to use. Unfortunately, they're low quality, have added carcinogens in the combustion formula, and don't last nearly as long as natural coconut coals.
Natural coals, or coco coals, are the current industry standard for hookah coals. These types of coals come in three main styles - flats, cubes, and HMD-fit. Natural coals do have the downside of a longer lighting time (roughly 8-10 minutes), however, natural coals will usually last twice as long as quicklite coals, and they burn cleaner - meaning you won't taste your coal in your smoke. You do need to have an electric burner to light these coals, but I think that the investment is well worth it. It's a night and day difference when you make the jump, something that I can't explain - you need to try it for yourself.
These are going to be the standard coconut coal style, and the type that's been around the longest. These coals will last roughly 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your setup, and the coal itself. The actual size will vary from brand to brand, but you can expect a rectangle design. These coals are great for shorter sessions, and there's a large variety of these to choose from. A lot of people will tell you to get Coco Nara - don't. Unless that's the only thing that your local smoke shop has to offer, avoid Coco Nara's. Granted, they're still better coals than quicklites, but they're easily the worst natural coal on the market. They were fantastic when they came out a few years ago, but in early 2015 we started to see a drastic decline in quality. Now, I would recommend checking out Titanium's, or Black Diamond coals for flats.
Cube coals are the big brother to flats. As the name would imply, these coals are the same size on all sides (like cubes should be), and are usually 25mm per side. Cubes will last roughly an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half, entirely depending on the type of coal that you get. These coals are great for brands that either A) like a lot of heat (think Ugly, Nakhla) or B) Can smoke for a long session. These are my personal coal of preference, and the market has actually seen an overwhelming love for these, over the last year or two. Some of my personal favorites include coals like Prestige, CharcoFlare, and Superior Coco coals (not on the market yet).
These coals are a weird in between coal. These aren't super common, however they're something that have gained a lot of popularity over the last year or so. Mini cubes are cube coals - the same size on all size, like regular cubes. However, these are significantly small in size. These are typically about 22mm across each size, and that means that you can get about an hour out of them. Personally speaking, these aren't something that I'll use very often. If I want to smoke a short bowl, I'll smoke with flats. If I want a longer session - cubes. I very rarely find myself wanting a bowl that an hour long - usually I want more. However, that's just a personal preference! If these types of coals work for you - great! Everyone has different preferences, and there's nothing wrong with that.
So while Heat Management Devices (like the Kaloud Lotus) were made with the intent of being used with any coals, coal manufacturers started to see the increasing HMD market, and decided to make a coal that appeals to those smokers. These coals are either cut into quarter cirlces, or half moons, and form a full circle to be used in an HMD. The longevity of these coals is vastly varying, however you should expect about an hour out of these coals, generally speaking. These coals are great if you like using an HMD, however they're less versatile, because they don't work as well on foil.
Silver tab coals are actually a type of quicklite coal, but they're the only one's that you should ever consider using. The coals are usually silver, in nature (hence the name), and will usually be even thinner than normal flats. These coals are extremely low in heat, and they can be lit off of each other, making them a great quicklite coal. However, these impart far less coal taste onto your bowl, allowing you a better smoke. Funnily enough, the owner of Tangiers, Eric, has gone on record many times saying that Tangiers should be smoked with Silver Tabs, because they're so low heat. They certainly work for Tangiers, but they aren't my coal of choice for it.
While finding the right coal for you is a tricky thing to do, hopefully this guide gives you some insight as to what you kind of coals you should be looking at getting. There are a lot of options out there, but I'm confident that you'll find the right coal for you, and your hookah sessions will only improve from there. As always guys, thank you so much for reading, and happy smokes!
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