Most Common Pipe Tobacco Mistakes


Fun fact: Contrary to public opinion, pipe smoking isn’t for just certain kinds of people. You may have tried smoking a pipe before, ended up feeling just way too out of your depth with it, and subsequently gave up on it. Well, I can assure you that you’re not alone because many of us have been there too.

So why does pipe tobacco often not turn out the way we expect, especially the first time we try it? The answer to that is that it’s not the pipe’s fault. Neither is it that you or I aren’t cut out for the pipe life because yes, everyone and anyone can smoke pipe tobacco. The actual problem is that most people nosedive into smoking pipe tobacco as if it were a cigarette or cigar and end up not experiencing the way a pipe should smoke.

To get to really enjoy your pipe tobacco, irrespective of whether you are a first-timer or a veteran who might be finding that there’s something off with their pipe experiences recently, you need to know what you might be doing wrong and how to avoid it so that you can find yourself enjoying your pipe tobacco a lot better. Without further ado, here are the most common pipe tobacco mistakes many of us make, and how you can remedy each one.

Smoking Pipes

1. Cheap Isn’t Always Cheerful.

We can all agree that any opportunity to get something at a bargain (especially if the price almost feels like a steal) can feel half as good as winning the lottery. However, it’s safe to say that you will always get what you pay for, and this applies to pipes and pipe tobacco.

This is not to say that you must buy the most expensive pipe that you find in the store, but it will always be a safer bet for you to avoid going for the cheapest. Cheap pipes, as well as cheap tobacco, can really affect your pipe experience. As regards tobacco, cheap variants will give you a whole bunch of smoke in your mouth with zero flavors. Oftentimes, cheap tobacco even produces a bitter chemical taste and a nasty burning sensation to make it worse. These are all adverse consequences you can avoid by paying just a little extra for better quality tobacco and pipes that will assure you get much better experiences than going for the “cheap and cheerful.”

Smoking Pipes

2. Lighting Up.

Lighters, in general, burn very hot and are not very precise. Using them to light up your pipe can be pretty risky. We’re looking at the possibilities of pipe damage, alterations to the tobacco flavors, or burning out the pipe bowl as a result of the higher temperature. To make your pipe last longer, and to get a better burn from your tobacco, lighting up with matches is best. Even when using matches, be sure never to let the flame touch the tobacco. Instead, hold the flame directly above the tobacco and use long breaths to draw it in.

Man Smoking

3. Smoking Your Pipe like a Cigarette.

If you’re a cigarette smoker who’s going for a little switch-up of things by picking up a pipe, keep in mind that pipe smoking is a bit different than smoking a cigarette. Avoid taking deep drags or inhaling deeply with each hit like you would with a cigarette. The goal with pipes is not to get super buzzed at the speed of light but to deliberately enjoy the classic ease of the pipe-smoking ritual.

Just like sipping from a flute of expensive champagne, pipe smoking is about the act of savoring with each inhale. You taste the flavor of the smoke, become intoxicated by the aroma, and relax under the cooling sensation.

Man smoking

4. Puffing like It’s a Race.

Smoking too deeply isn’t the only thing you should refrain from. You should also avoid smoking too fast. This can truly ruin the experience for you as taking puffs that are too quick causes the tobacco to burn faster and hotter, and you could end up burning your tongue if it flares too hot. Pipe smoking is an activity for relaxation, not a race, so you should never rush it. For the best effects, you should smoke your pipe like you have all the time in the world and then some.


5. Leaving Your Pipe Unclean for a Long Time.

Cleaning your pipe might not be the most exciting part about pipe smoking, but it is essential that you do it regularly and thoroughly to keep your pipe in tip-top condition. Use pipe cleaners to remove the residue left inside the stem and shank of your pipe. If this residue is left in the pipe for too long, it can get absorbed into the pipe and permanently alter its flavor. Thus, keeping your pipe clean is essential to its delivery of good flavor when you smoke it.

Thorough and often cleaning of your pipe also helps to avoid oxidation. Remember that pipe cleaners are the only appropriate tool; do not try to shove any other kind of material into your pipe for the purpose of cleaning it.

Pipe Tobacco

6. Handling Your Pipe the Wrong Way.

If you assemble or disassemble your pipe incorrectly or you handle it carelessly, this can cause irreparable damage to your pipe. Here’s how to disassemble your pipe correctly after smoking:

  • Let the pipe cool down before taking it apart.
  • If you do it while it’s warm, it will eventually stretch out, and the stem will loosen.
  • To remove the stem, twist it in a clockwise manner only until it gets free.
  • If you twist it in both directions, the stem will become looser over time and may eventually crack or break.

How to pack System pipe

7. Packing Too Tightly.

A lot of us began our pipe-smoking journey with little to no understanding of what the best way to pack a bowl is. Some of us just went with our gut and loaded our pipes with as much tobacco as would compress into the bowl, but that gut feeling only led to unpleasant experiences. If you pack your tobacco into your pipe too tightly or firmly, it will be difficult to keep the tobacco lit and will require more aggressive puffing. This will overheat your pipe and get your tongue burnt—which is definitely not the goal when you pick up a pipe to smoke it.

If you’re looking for the right way to pack the bowl of your pipe, first of all, don’t even think of it as “packing” the bowl. Instead, think of it more as “sprinkling.” Fill the bowl so that the tobacco is loose, then push it down with a thumb or finger to about two-thirds full, making sure that it retains that light “springiness.” Then fill it the rest of the way and push it down again, this time with even less pressure. If there’s room, fill it again. Make sure to keep every fill and press as light as you possibly can to avoid it getting too firm.

Drawing in through the unlit pipe should produce a pressure similar to sipping a beverage through a straw. If you draw on the unlit pipe and it produces a whistle similar to the wind in the trees, the bowl is packed too lightly. If it takes any effort at all to draw through the pipe, it’s packed too tightly.

You may not get it right on your first attempt, but if you keep paying attention to each bowl you pack and smoke, you will learn to find the right level of compression. Soon enough, accumulated experience with each bowl you smoke will give you the expertise you need to properly fill the bowl of your pipe.

Cigar Pipe

8. Choosing the Wrong First Pipe.

An expensive, artsy-looking pipe may look great, but if you’re a first-timer who’s still trying to decide whether pipe smoking is going to be something you’ll be doing long-term, you may not want to invest that much money right from the jump.

Corn cob pipes are a great and inexpensive way to start. They give you enough room for experimentation, deliver excellent flavors, and provide very good smoking quality.

On the upgrade, Briar pipes are beautiful and impart a subtle flavor that most smokers truly appreciate. They can last a lifetime if properly smoked and maintained. You will want to purchase one that has been well-cured or already broken in so that you can get a remarkable smoking experience from this type of pipe.

9. Conclusion.

I’m going to conclude with the last point because as much as it is also a mistake, it also needs to be said in the light of a reminder. Just like any other smoke in existence, pipe smoking is supposed to be a very personal experience. Whether the tobacco that goes into your pipe is Virginia or Oriental, or whether your preferred pipe time is at brunch paired with a simmering hot cup of Earl Grey or in the evening with some friends and sips of whiskey, all of that is entirely up to you.

Pipe tobacco on its own gives you, the smoker, a lot of room for personalization of the experience. As much as you go on to adopt the tips I’ve given above, don’t forget to enjoy your pipe the best way—your way.

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