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The Vortex Bowl from Sahara Smoke

Authored by William on 10 July 2010 No Comment

07-10-10_163602_Sahara-Smoke,-Vortex-Bowl The Vortex Bowl is one of only a few very popular specialty bowls. In short, it’s design aims to help tobacco smoke longer with more flavor by trapping the juice in the bottom of the bowl, rather than leaking down into the hookah itself. Today, we’re going to spend some time looking at the Vortex Bowl in detail, as well as look at some of the pros and cons of this unique bowl.


The Vortex Bowl is priced more reasonably than other specialty bowls at about $10, compared to other specialty bowls like the Tangiers Phunnel Bowl ($15), or the HJ Alien Bowl ($19).

Size & Shape

The Vortex Bowl stands a little shorter than a standard Egyptian bowl at about 7.5cm, which also makes it the shortest specialty bowl by a long shot. It’s height also helps it fit beneath standard wind covers, even on hookahs with a taller top stem (the portion of the stem that extends beyond the tray).


07-10-10_163659_Sahara-Smoke,-Vortex-Bowl The bottom of the bowl makes a more dramatic bell shape than most other bowls. The shell of the bowl is also more narrow than most standard clay bowls. This combination means that some hookahs will require two bowl grommets to fasten this one securely on top.

While you should always store an unused bowl upside down to prevent tipping, this bowl is surprisingly stable thanks to the flare at the bottom. And, aesthetically, this bowl looks nice and camouflages itself well as a standard bowl.


In my experience (I’ve been through about six Vortex Bowls), the Vortex Bowl is less durable than other specialty bowls, and significantly less durable than most standard Egyptian bowls. However, the much lower price points makes up for it.

Just recently, I had the unfortunate happening of breaking one of my Vortex bowls. Luckily, however, the bowl split almost right down the center, giving us an opportunity to see what the inside looks like.


The black flecks on the inside of the bowl were likely splatter left over from the manufacturing process. None of the bowls I have owned have had any obvious defects on the outside of the bowl. The Vortex Bowls also tend to be more standard in size and shape than the other specialty offerings.

How It Works

07-10-10_163707_Sahara-Smoke,-Vortex-Bowl 07-10-10_163643_Sahara-Smoke,-Vortex-Bowl The Vortex Bowl works by placing the tobacco in a ‘mote’ around a spire which rises above the tobacco. Around the sides of the spire are four small holes through which the smoke is pulled. This helps keep the juice in place and burn more slowly. However, this also has a built in draw-back. Because the holes are fairly small, they get clogged easily. If they aren’t cleaned out very regularly, burnt gunk will get baked in there and become next to impossible to remove.

The Vortex Bowl is packed in the same way you would pack a standard bowl. Loosely and ideally not touching the tin foil. You’ll also want to watch closely to be sure that you haven’t covered any of the holes with tobacco. The Vortex Bowl typically works best with very wet, fine to medium cut tobacco and usually uses around 10g to 15g, though some brands of tobacco (such as Ayam Zaman or Social Smoke) will require less.

Why Choose the Vortex Bowl?

The Vortex Bowl is one among several excellent specialty bowls. Of course, it’s not perfect and it does have it’s own idiosyncrasies, but there are a number of good reasons someone may choose the Vortex Bowl over other specialty offerings. Here are just a few of them.

  • The position of the holes on the Vortex Bowl’s spire keep the tin foil from air-locking the bowl, which is a chronic problem on the various phunnel bowls.
  • It uses a modest amount of tobacco. Much less than a standard Egyptian bowl and only slightly more than the the HJ Alien Bowl which is designed to use minimal tobacco.
  • Its inexpensive and widely available, making it easy to replace.
  • Its shorter size makes it easier to fit under everyday wind covers.
  • It requires no special packing technique.

The Drawbacks

Of course, there are drawbacks.

  • The material is more brittle than most, meaning you’ll have to handle with care.
  • The holes in the spire are smaller and can restrict the draw a bit, especially if tobacco is blocking one of them, though most won’t notice and difference.
  • It accumulates gunk which is very difficult to remove. You’ll probably just opt to replace the bowl.
  • Its flared shape at the bottom may require an additional bowl grommet to help secure it to the stem.

In Conclusion

The Vortex Bowl delivers an excellent smoke and is very easy to pack. If you’re diligent in keeping your bowl clean and are generally careful with you accessories, the Vortex Bowl will be a very economical option. Even if you break one of these babies, replacing it won’t break the bank. Most smokers, casual and enthusiastic alike, should feel comfortable, even excited, to try this bowl out. All in all, It’s worth every penny and is sure to enrich your smoking experience.

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