Where is it? I can never find a screen in my collection when I’m ready to smoke.
Did it get thrown out? It does just look like a piece of scrap metal.
Ah! Found the screen!
Damn. It’s covered in burnt on, carbonized tobacco juice. Yuck. No worries. That won’t hurt anything.
Wait… Is that rust? In the garbage it goes.
The only screens that I’ve ever owned for my hookahs were freebies and they have almost all met with the same fate. They get tossed in the bin because I find screens to be a waste of time and a huge source of frustration. Many of us, myself included, started with a screen and likely because it came free with a hookah. Don’t worry. This is a place of acceptance and if I can admit to smoking with a screen then so can you. The first step to getting help is admitting the problem. Then we can move on and find the solution, which in this case is a nice roll of foil. So, negative diatribes aside, why do I hate screen so much?
Let’s start with the obvious. The holes are always much too large and numerous to actually regulate and control the heat. All those giant holes let in way too much fresh air, which dilutes the smoke and gives you thin clouds. On the other hand, this usually causes issues with the charcoal as it burns hotter with the extra airflow and because you’re drawing much more often to try and keep the heat up. These now overheating pieces of charcoal are very likely to burn your tobacco and ruin your session.
Next is the fit between screen and bowl. There is no screen that fits every bowl and trying to find the perfect combination is practically impossible. For me, this eliminates many of my favorite bowls from the rotation. If I used only screens I would never be able to smoke with anything other than one of my small Egyptian clay bowls and a few cheap, mod ceramics. They fit a screen a lot better than my Tangiers Small Funnel (here is a quick guide on how to pack phunnel/funnel bowls too), but the seal is still terrible.
With foil you have the ability to form a great seal on any bowl. A good seal make a huge difference in the quality of the smoke and the efficiency with which the heat from the charcoal is being used. It’s a better barrier between the charcoal and the tobacco, which is important to avoid burnt bowls, but it’s also a much better insulator and keeps the tobacco more evenly warm for longer. You can also perfect your hole patter to optimize your session. The size, placement and number of holes in your foil is entirely up to you. Want a little more airflow? Add a few more rows of holes or make them a little bigger. Do you find that your tobacco is getting scorched too easily? Use two pieces of foil instead of one to double the insulating properties and protect your shisha tobacco.
This all boils down to what I said at the beginning. Foil is the way to go. Screens suck.