After having properly packed the tobacco and lit it, the time has come to enjoy smoking your pipe. While smoking a pipe may seem largely instinctive, there is a certain level of technique involved.

For instance, drawing too hard on your tobacco pipe may cause it to burn hot, which can potentially ruin the whole experience with things such as tongue bite. Meanwhile, puffing too lightly or infrequently may cause it to go out.

Therefore, this guide will teach you how to smoke a pipe as well as a few techniques for optimal enjoyment:

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How To Smoke A Tobacco Pipe

You can use the menu below to explore all our pipe guides and resources on Bespoke Unit. Alternatively, continue scrolling to learn how to smoke a tobacco pipe or click here to jump ahead.

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Tips Before Smoking Your Pipe

Packing Pipe Tobacco With Tamp ToolUnlike a number of other guides on the internet, this one focuses solely on the act of smoking a pipe. Meanwhile, our guides on the steps to take before and after smoking are on separate pages for easier reading and an improved navigational experience.

Before you smoke it, you’ll need to learn how to pack your pipe with tobacco. Following this guide will ensure that the bowl is consistently loaded with the right density of tobacco. As a result, the draw will be pleasant and it will reduce the number of relights required.

How To Properly Light A Tobacco PipeSimilarly, we offer a full guide on how to light your pipe properly. By following this process, you’ll ensure that the tobacco has the correct combustion for a longer and fuller pipe smoking experience.

We highly recommend that you follow these guides before jumping into pipe smoking as they will improve your overall enjoyment. For instance, an improperly packed pipe may have a tight draw or will keep going out. If not well-lit, you may struggle to smoke the pipe at all.

Following this guide, you can learn how to clean your pipe so that it’s ready for the next smoke too!

Finally, make sure that you’ve properly broken your pipe in if it’s new. Breaking in a pipe is a simple procedure of smoking quarter-full bowls and slowly increasing the portion of tobacco each time.

This provides your pipe with a consistent layer of carbonised tobacco deposit, which is known as cake. The resulting cake will insulate your pipe, which prevents it from burning out and can also improve flavour.

How To Smoke A Tobacco Pipe

In this guide, we’ll be presuming that the pipe has just been lit as outlined in the tutorial linked above. As such, you are looking to learn on how to puff on the pipe as well as the techniques involved in smoking it.

We’ll be breaking down the smoking process into the following steps:

You can use the links above to jump ahead or simply scroll down to read it all.

How To Puff On A Pipe

Smoking A Briar Tobacco PipeA full bowl of an average-sized pipe can last anywhere between twenty to forty minutes with the right technique. However, there is no single method for smoking a pipe.

Nevertheless, there are a few things to keep in mind when smoking.

First and foremost, pipe smoke shouldn’t be inhaled. Like cigars, the smoke should instead be enjoyed with slow sips.

Furthermore, avoid clenching the pipe stem too hard between your teeth. Clenching too hard can cause saliva to run down the stem and cause gurgling. Either take the weight with your hand or let it hang naturally instead.

The act of puffing or drawing or drawing on a pipe is similar to sucking on a straw. However, rather than swallowing the smoke, you hold it in the mouth. While the smoke then lingers over the palate, take a moment to appreciate the flavours and aromas before exhaling.

Finally, puffing on a pipe requires control. Drawing too hard may affect the experience by causing the tobacco to overheat. Hot tobacco may burn the pipe as well as cause discomfort in the mouth, which is known as tongue bite.

Pipe Smoking Pace

Similarly, puffing too often can cause the same issues as drawing too hard as mentioned above. Furthermore, the tobacco will burn quickly and your smoke will end prematurely.

Meanwhile, puffing too infrequently can result in the pipe regularly going out, which is no more than a frustration.

Finding the right smoking pace for a pipe can be challenging and requires a little practice before it becomes second nature. Many enthusiasts believe that tobacco just on the edge of going out provides the best flavour.

This is because a slow pace creates a cool smoke and allows the oils of the tobacco to mellow whereas hot smoke releases vapour and burns them away. Therefore, don’t worry too much about relighting it if it goes out.

Relighting The Pipe

Burning Tobacco In PipeRelighting is essentially an integral part of tobacco pipe smoking. Therefore, this shouldn’t be seen as a failure as it happens to everyone.

If your pipe went out early in the bowl, simply apply a flame above the tobacco and take a few puffs to get it going again. Avoid putting the flame directly on the tobacco as it may burn it too fast.

Meanwhile, if your pipe went out further down, you may want to dump some ash before relighting. If you have a pipe tool, use it to stir the ash then tap it out of the bowl and into an ashtray.

After a light tamp, you can follow the same process as above to relight it again.

It’s worth dumping some ash first because relighting through it can have an unpleasant, bitter taste. Furthermore, sometimes the embers are simply being suffocated by too much ash.

If the pipe goes out too frequently, then perhaps you need to revise your tobacco packing technique or maybe see if you’re lighting the pipe properly. Alternatively, the tobacco may have been too moist when first lit.

Stoking A Tobacco Pipe

As you start to become used to pipe smoking, you may be able to anticipate the embers going out. If you’re quick enough, you can stoke the pipe as you would a fireplace to prevent it from happening.

Stoking a pipe consists of simply pressing your index and middle fingers gently over the bowl and taking a few puffs. Alternatively, you can also use the pick of a pipe tool to poke the dottle to keep it alight.

If the pipe was on the edge of going out, you’ll be able to rekindle the tobacco and get it burning again. For some experienced pipe smokers, this becomes second nature and they will always have a digit absentmindedly hanging near or over the pipe’s bowl.

When You’ve Finished Smoking A Pipe

Cleaning A Pipe Rim With SalivaA tobacco pipe is finished if you’ve either exhausted all the tobacco or don’t want to smoke any more. When this happens, you can simply dump its contents into an ashtray.

If the dottle (leftover tobacco) is relatively cool, you can tap the pipe into your hand and any leftovers will fall out. Otherwise, you can use the sole of your shoe if you’re outdoors.

To avoid damaging the pipe when knocking dottle out, some regular pipe smokers use corks that have been glued onto the centre of an ashtray. Most depot stores sell cork door stoppers that do this well. Otherwise, a Champagne cork is quite effective.

While you don’t need to clean your pipe after every bowl, it doesn’t hurt to run a pipe cleaner through the stem if convenient. You can also use the reamer of a pipe tool to lightly remove any extra deposit.

To learn more, we have provided a detailed guide on pipe cleaning, which includes daily maintenance.

Finally, if you are looking to smoke a pipe regularly, we suggest buying at least a second one and alternating them on a daily basis.

Generally, wooden pipes shouldn’t be smoked two days in a row due to a build-up of moisture. Leaving your pipe to rest for a day will allow for the wood to cool down and the moisture to evaporate.

Advanced Pipe Smoking Techniques

If you’re a regular pipe smoker or want to try a few different techniques, we have a few advanced smoking methods listed below:

What Is Pipe Retrohaling?

What Is Retro-HalingA topic we also cover when smoking cigars in great detail, retrohaling is the process of exhaling out of the nose. The smoke is never inhaled but is pushed down the back of the mouth and up the sinuses.

Although not specifically a pipe smoking technique, retrohaling is a great way to discover the nuances of a tobacco and its flavours.  As we have sensitive aromatic receptors in the nasal passage, retrohaling allows you to detect the full spectrum of flavours offered by the tobacco.

Retrohaling is best done just after exhaling a small amount of smoke from the mouth to really experience the aromas and their complexities.

Puff frequently enough that pipe remains lit but not too much that it heats up, which can cause tongue bite or damage it.

Breathe & Bellow Pipe Smoking Method

Man Smoking Tobacco PipeSometimes referred to as the Bellow method, breath smoking is an advanced technique for experienced pipe smokers.

With your mouth closed, you hold the pipe between your teeth and breathe normally through the nose.

As you inhale through the nose, draw just a wisp of smoke from the pipe. Exhaling again through the nose, you gently blow a small amount of smoke back out of the pipe.

After about three or four breaths, enough smoke will have finally gathered on the palate to exhale fully from the mouth.

By repeating this action, you effectively massage the smoke, which very slowly burns the tobacco but ensures that it stays lit. As the tobacco is constantly albeit gently stimulated by smoky air, it may develop a more complex and nuanced flavour.

The result is a much more prolonged and meditative pipe smoking experience, which potentially yields richer aromas.

Common Pipe Smoking Issues

While packing, lighting and smoking a pipe seem like relatively simple tasks, they can take a while to perfect. Over time, you may even develop your own techniques that work for you.

Until then, you may experience a few common issues that we’ll highlight below:

  1. Pipe Too Hot
  2. Gurgling Noise
  3. Tongue Bite

If any of the issues you face aren’t listed here, check our lighting and packing guides for more that are related to those specific processes. Otherwise, please leave a comment below if there are any issues that you face and we can update the guide!

Pipe Is Too Hot

False Light DottleYou can tell if a pipe is too hot if you can’t comfortably hold it in your hands. Sometimes the pipe may be so hot that the heat crawls up the stem. Another way for testing if a pipe is too hot is by touching it against your cheek.

A hot pipe is usually linked to puffing either too hard or too quickly. If this happens to you regularly, be more conscious of your technique and try to pace yourself.

Meanwhile, you may find that slowing down causes the pipe to go out. In this case, check the moistness of your tobacco and whether you’ve packed it properly.

Different tobacco blends may have a sweet spot in terms of moisture level and it can be hard to gauge without some trail and error.

While dry tobacco will burn quickly and produce excess steam, moist tobacco will require hard draws to stay lit, which will release steam.

When the pipe does get too hot, simply set it down for a few minutes to cool. Once the pipe is at a comfortable temperature, feel free to pick it up again and carry on. However, it might have gone out by this time.

My Pipe Is Gurgling

Filled Tobacco Pipe BowlA frustrating noise that embarrassingly sounds like a child’s toy bubble pipe, gurgling is an issue that can be caused by a number of different problems.

Gurgling pipes are most commonly caused by the tobacco being too moist, which can be easily remedied by letting the tobacco dry before lighting.

Another common reason is the stem being gripped too tightly between the teeth, causing saliva to drip down and build up in the bowl. Therefore, try relaxing your grip and seeing if it makes a difference.

Of course, the amount moisture that gathers in the bowl also depends on the shape of the pipe. Similarly, the amount that may be drawn up the stem and into the mouth, producing a very unpleasant taste, may also be affected by this.

Otherwise, another typical cause is that you’re smoking too fast. This is because when smoking too quickly, you overheat the ember. Consequently, moisture condenses in the stem’s chamber before settling at the bottom of the bowl.

What Is Tongue Bite?

A common ailment for many novice pipe smokers, the dreaded tongue bite is also affects experienced enthusiasts. Described as a sore or tender tongue irritation, it can also affect the lips or even the roof of the mouth.

The burning sensation of tongue bite can be as minor as some slight discomfort while smoking or as severe as several days of soreness. However, there are many theories as to what causes tongue bite and how it can be prevented.

Causes Of Tongue Bite

Some pipe enthusiasts and tobacco blenders suggest that tongue bite is the symptom of a chemical burn. They suggest that tobaccos with a high alkaline content produces a chemical irritation.

For instance, Virginia tobacco features a high pH and a concentrated amounts of it in a blend may cause tongue bite. Consequently, it’s often blended with other tobaccos to reduce such discomfort.

However, most pipe smokers believe that tongue bite is essentially a thermal burn caused by exposing the mouth to hot smoke and steam. Indeed, particularly young Virginia is also known for its quick combustion and hot burn.

How To Stop Tongue Bite

Preparing Tobacco For PackingIndeed, each of the above factors can contribute to tongue bite. However, we would argue that it’s mostly caused by both the moisture and temperature of your smoke.

For instance, new members of the pipe community will often puff furiously to create thick clouds of smoke similar to a cigar or cigarettes. This leads to the tobacco heating up and potentially burning the tongue.

Meanwhile, many pipe tobacco blends are quite moist when first purchased. When smoked in this state, it demands more work to stay lit. Consequently, the excess moisture produces steam, which is even hotter due to the furious puffing.

If you experience tongue bite, we suggest that you first adopt a more relaxed smoking technique like the one detailed above. With sufficient practice, you may eliminate tongue bite altogether.

However, if you believe that the burn is caused by moist tobacco, we suggest that you dry it before smoking. If the tobacco is only slightly moist, it can be air dried for a few minutes out of the tin before smoking. Otherwise, very moist tobacco can be left open for some time in order to reduce its humidity.

What Next?

Now that you have learned how to smoke a tobacco pipe, take a look out our related guides:

Tobacco Pipe Smoking Guide
Reviewed by Alistair K., on .
"Fantastic guide that got me started! Thanks for providing so much detail so I could get started on properly smoking a pipe."
Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★