I love making things from scratch. I cook constantly, I brew my own beer and I make my own shisha tobacco once in a while. The process can be very simple or very complicated depending on what you want to make, but today we are going to focus on modern style tobacco.
Make Modern Hookah Tobacco at Home
The ingredients you will need to make shisha tobacco are fairly simple. Tobacco leaves, molasses or honey, glycerin and flavorings. Personally I don’t use glycerin but I enjoy more traditional moassel and tobamel than you are likely looking for.
Stay away from black strap molasses and make sure to buy an unsulphured product. If you are using honey, don’t buy anything really expensive. The subtle flavors of honey are mostly lost in the process and don’t really transfer into the smoke. In regards to glycerin, you want to get vegetable glycerin, which can be bought at health and body stores. High quality flavorings like those I discuss in my article about adding more flavor to hookah tobacco are definitely your best bet.
Getting traditional tobacco can be a bit harder to manage than the other ingredients. Light pipe tobacco or cigar tobacco is a good choice, but I wouldn’t use anything too expensive as the intention is for the added flavors to be forward in the mix. There are lots of places online that you can order whole leaves or you can get a bag of pipe tobacco or some light cigars to chop up and experiment with. The best option though is tombac, which is just dried tobacco pressed into a brick. It’s another form of Middle Eastern shisha tobacco but with no flavoring or molasses and it has a very light flavor profile to begin with. I will be using some scrap leaves that were packed inside a box of cigars.
1. Soak the Dried Tobacco
It is now time to soak the dried tobacco to re-hydrate it, make it pliable and remove a little bit of the nicotine. The longer you soak it the less flavor it will add to the final product and the more nicotine will be taken out. Change the water every 30 minutes or so until you feel you’ve reached your desired level of washing. Modern style tobaccos like Starbuzz or Social Smoke wash and boil their tobacco until the water runs clear and no flavor is left behind. You too can strip the leaves of all character and flavor if you want to make sure your mango tobacco doesn’t smack of maduro.
2. Strip out the Stems and Chop the Leaves
If you are using whole leaves then you need to strip out the stems to avoid bitterness, overly high nicotine content and unpleasant flavors. You can do this by hand, but a sharp knife and a cutting board make a big difference. After the spines are stripped, bunch the tobacco up together, squeeze it into one block and cut it up with your sharp knife.
You can make it as course or as fine as you want.
3. Add Honey/Molasses and Flavorings
The ratio I use for molasses and honey is 3 to 1. For every 3 grams of tobacco I use 1 gram of molasses or honey. So 300 grams of dried tobacco takes about 100 grams of honey for my tobamel. Sometimes it’s more sometimes it’s less depending on the style of tobacco and the type of flavoring. Mix the honey/molasses, all the flavorings you want to use and about 30g of glycerin per 300 grams of tobacco in a bowl and add the tobacco. Start light with the flavorings. Some of them are super strong. A table spoon is all you need to start. Mix it up with wet hands and take a whiff. If it smells good put it in a Tupperware container to sit over night.
If you want to take it to the next level you can bake the tobacco before adding the flavorings to help the glycerin and molasses/honey soak into the leaves. I like to wrap all of the tobacco, molasses, etc in tinfoil and bake it on “Warm” for an hour or so. If it’s not traditional moassel then that’s really all you need to get the juices flowing. Now add your flavorings and let it blend together over night.
4. Wait a Day
The next day, if the consistency seems right and it smells good, load up a bowl and smoke it. If it’s dry add some more of the honey or molasses. If you don’t like the flavor add some more until you get it right. It can take up to a week or more for the flavors to really mellow out and come together into their final form, so be patient. It’s all about preference but it’s really as simple as that. From this point we can get into more traditional tobaccos but I think that may be a follow up blog post.
Here are two good shisha packing guides too:
5. Also See
Making Hookah Charcoal at home to learn how to make your own coals too.
tyleron December 23, 2011 at 1:47 am
you can use ecigexpress? (dot) com concentrated flavors not the juice the concentrated flavors
and you can have any flavor from apple to monster energy to weed or pizza flavor or anything else all are food grade and you just mix a very little in with the glycerin they are strong im going to make some monster tomorrow ,save a bit of money
Rinzyon August 17, 2014 at 9:44 pm
It might have been better to give measurements in teaspoons/tablespoons/cups rather than grams. Not everyone has a scale at home, but everyone can measure by volume.
That’s true. Everyone needs a scale in their place though 🙂
I’m not sure if your ratios are right.. maybe I’m wrong. I did smaller portions. 30g herb, 10g honey, 3g glycerin and there wasn’t enough moisture. It’s a smaller amount than yours but my right-side brain is saying there shouldn’t be a difference.
Eros Diemon September 24, 2014 at 2:25 am
Here is a website to help you with your measurement conversions: http://www.cookitsimply.com/measurements/
Christianon September 26, 2014 at 8:33 am
Quite nice my friend. I like the way you made it.
krystaon February 17, 2015 at 5:30 pm
I made this and it didnt smoke very well. Is that normal? It Never burnt which is good but never truly smoked. I dont know what I did wrong but your clouds were better than mine. Any suggestions?. O and I used glycerine as well, only 2 tsps.
Deannaon April 29, 2015 at 5:54 pm
It was probably because the shisha was still too wet, or the coals you were using were not hot enough. I suggest using coconut coals.
KingAnubison March 20, 2015 at 1:39 pm
What flavoring brands would be best to use?? I currently have LorAnn’s flavorings but I’m curious to see if there are any better ones that are strong but yet enjoyable
Mister Thriceon April 4, 2015 at 2:25 am
Making things from scratch is awesome, so how about we figure out how to make flavorings from scratch! Lorann doesn’t have boysenberry, and they only have one peach, and frankly, it’s just not enough to work with. How does one convert a fruit into a juice you can mix with shisha so that it doesn’t rot/etc.?
PrincessWillyon February 12, 2016 at 3:32 pm
Most LorAnn flavorings are essential oils emulsified in propylene glycol, alcohol, glycerin, etc. If you look up how to extract essential oils, you’ll find various (usually difficult, with the exception of citrus) methods. This is why you won’t find a lot of options in the natural section of LorAnn. Things like boysenberry have to be ‘constructed’ by combining various shelf stable flavors – usually essential oils – to make a ‘taste-alike’. If you take a close look at the ‘ingredients’ on LorAnn you’ll notice that some flavors, like almond (lots of oils in almonds) will be listed as containing “Almond Oil” whereas things like Blueberry will contain “Blueberry With Natural Flavors” – a key differentiation. I would suggest going for things which have easy to extract oils if you want to try making your own.
Now for the TL;DR
Essential oils are usually extracted in one of two ways – either by distillation or squeeze extraction. Distillation involves boiling or steaming your source in a distiller; what you’re using would determine how you should go about that. But basically your objective is to extract the oils from the plant through the boiling/steaming, then distilling the concoction and skimming the oil off the surface of the water once the process is complete. There are some more new-age ways of distilling essential oils, but this is the method you’d be able to do at home. Squeezing is a lot easier, but only works for high-oil sources, particularly citrus rind. The old school way of extracting orange oil was by soaking orange peel in warm water to make it pliable, then pressing firmly with a sponge (a natural sponge, mind, not the dishwashing kind) which would press the oils out, then the sponge would soak them up. Wringing out the sponge would yield a similar concoction to the distilled variant, in which the essential oil could be skimmed off the top.
Note, however, that both methods can be used to some degree with pretty much any ingredient (though will certainly be more difficult with some) and that the result will provide a different product for both. Distilled and pressed citrus oil still exists today, each for different applications of flavor profiles.
Ara Mardoyanon April 26, 2015 at 12:29 am
I have been smoking hookah since i was about 7. and just recently (1 year ago) i started making and selling juice for ecigs and ehookahs. Would it be appropriate to use y concentrated e-cog flavorings as the flavoring for the tobacco, if i was to start making my own hookah tebech (tobacco)? also, would you have any suggestions on how to start the process, and where i might be able to get the raw tobacco to start making it myself? thank you for your time sir!
stevenon May 18, 2015 at 2:34 pm
does anyone know where the big hookah companies like star buzz , fumari , al fakher , etc Get there concentrates flavor from ? I’m guessing its a top secret super lab or something.
Krystaon May 19, 2015 at 9:57 am
Totally some abandoned lab in Antarctica im sure..haha
Caraon July 5, 2015 at 7:10 pm
I see in the picture that the flavors are extracts. Most extracts include alcohol per volume. That doesn’t affect the flavor of the shisha? Just curious as I’m thinking about making some of my own.
Mikeon November 17, 2015 at 12:55 am
Just made raspberry, maple and raspberry maple flavored shisha super excited to try it after it sits for a while
Felipe Azevedoon December 22, 2015 at 2:16 pm
Is this how the big companies does their hookah flavors? Of course they have better equipments, but the steps are the same or their have some differences? if they use some process that get warmer ou colder, or something like only big companies have the money to do it?
Boon March 18, 2016 at 11:56 pm
I found this video to be super helpful. There seem to be numerous variables to consider for your smoke preferences. I have been trying to replicate a smoke most similar to Al Faker shisha. I particularly like the mint flavor. I have yet to come close to a correct recipe. Does anyone have any ideas?
Samon May 21, 2017 at 3:27 am
Do you found something for make like al fakher menthe?
Andyon April 5, 2016 at 11:02 am
Which kind of tobacco leaf should I use?
Immion April 27, 2020 at 4:08 pm
You said make sure use artificial flavouring oil not natural based flavour oil ??? Cant we use natural ?