It is no secret that I love coconut charcoal. The clean flavor, the low carbon monoxide production levels, consistent heat, lack of smoke and long burn times are absolutely unparalleled in other charcoal. So, why do we hear reports of people having trouble with coconut charcoal going out and not staying lit?
The biggest culprit is user error. I don’t want it to seem like I am pointing the sole finger of blame at the smokers that are having trouble. It could really just be a simple matter of not leaving your coals on your ignition source for long enough. The charcoal wants to be glowing red and ashed over entirely before it is placed on the bowl of your hookah. Black spots or sides are unlit charcoal and will cause uneven burning over time. It’s like lighting a cigar crookedly. The burn could correct itself, but there is an equal chance that it could cause issues. One of these issues is the charcoal cooling down and going out.
Next is humidity and moisture. If coals have an internal humidity that is too high it could lead to improper and lack luster burn properties. Have you ever tried to light a fire with a damp piece of wood? It’s the same idea. You may be able to get it to smolder and burn for a bit, but that’s only because the heat has dried out a small portion of the material. Once that portion runs out, it snuffs itself. To remedy this problem you have two options.
If you have let your charcoal get completely red and ashed over, but they seem to lose heat and go out shortly after taking them off the burner, you may want to try baking them. Take the piece of charcoal out of any packaging and spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake them in the oven on a very low temperature (maybe 200F) for about an hour or two and let them cool. This should help cook out some of the moisture them may have absorbed from the air while in transit or otherwise sitting around.
Next is freezing. The technique is the complete opposite, but the idea is the same. A freezer is a surprisingly dry place and cold air will pull moisture out of items with higher internal moisture. Ever seen a steak that’s been left in the freezer and it now looks like a mummy’s parched tongue? Same principle.
Now if your charcoal is still giving you problems, it may be a bad batch or even a bad brand. This is why I always suggest using high quality charcoal like coconara, cocomazaya or coco-ultimates.
Lastly, remember that coconut charcoal has a tendency to go out on the surface that is in contact with the foil. This is not a problem and it will relight itself. If you are really concerned about it, flip the charcoal and it will be red again in a few minutes.