Re: Beginners guide?
I am a beginner too but here is what I have learned from this forum and other research.
1. Depends on the size of the bowl and the method of choice for "packing". Typically a standard Egyptian clay head holds 20-30g Smaller ones hold less bigger ones hold more and funnels hold more. 25g sounds about right and makes sense being about half a 50g pack for a standard bowl.
2. Fill the base until it covers the bottom of the stem by about half an inch to an inch. That will make sure the water still covers it even when the water is going nuts because of bubbles.
3. Doesn't really matter but I am sure everyone has an opinion.
4. The best coals are usually natural coals it seems Coco Nara and ******* Hookah are the two most popular. Quick lights are ok but typically are considered to have slightly lesser quality. Belgians, 3 kings, Akhla, ******* Hookah, and others are all good it appears you should stay away from Rollands. Quicklights light easy because they have a flammable accellerant on the outside that burns quickly and burns completely away leaving just coal and ash. Usually you light them and get them started and let them sit until they ash over. Then set them on the bowl and take a couple of puffs and your good.
5. No smoking is safe not even herbal shisha tobacco but just about anything is safer than cigarretes. Not because any of it is safe but because cigarrettes typically use leftover tobacco after the good stuff was harvested for other things and cut for cigars and pipes then mixed with some good stuff and some more leftovers, then they are sprayed with chemicals like preservatives (which is why cigarettes don't have to be stored like cigars) and other flavor and buzz enhancers. Cigarettes aren't made for quality they are made to feed addictions. Pipes and Cigars don't have the additives but they have all the same natural tars and nicotine as well as some additives like spices and what not. Hookahs filter out the tar but the nicotine and smoke still come through. Part of the damage from smoking is from chemicals and part is from the smoke taking the place of oxygen and some is from heat. So no smoking is safe just some are worse than others. There is no better when it comes to smoking.
6. Brands are a matter of personal preference. The best way to decide that is to try, try, and try some more. You will find some you hate and some you love. You may find that one brand does certain flavors right and certain flavors wrong for you while another may fill those holes. You may find that what I like you won't and what you like I won't. However, there are some safer starting points. 3 kings, ******* Hookah, Belgian, and Akhla are good starter quicklight coals. I think it is better to start with those and eventually get a separate burner and set up for the natural coals which require a little more time and a little more set up but are supposed to be so worth it. Al Nakhla, Al Fakher, Starbuzz, Hookah-Hookah, and Saalaam (the only herbal worth trying according to many here which isn't to say they recommend it just that if you have to try some herbal this is the one to get.) are some good starter tobaccos. That doesn't mean be afraid of trying others but that those are fairly easy to find and should provide a nice range of flavors and are typically regarded as good quality. There are many good ones and you will find flavors of these that you won't like so find out what is close to you and smoke away. Also if you are buying accessories online find out what they carry and get a few 50g packs with your order. You won't regret it.
7. There are as many theories of this as there are people on the boards. The main thing is you want to have holes where your coals are so that air passes over them to keep them going good and strong. Also you want air flow to your tobacco as well. There are many different patterns that work well for different people and different types of bowls. A good starting point is to make 2 or 3 rings of toothpick size holes or smaller (some use hat pins or even straight pins) beginning around the edge of the bowl and coming in. basically you want either a ring or several pads in the places you normally move your coals to during smoking.