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 puck of charcoal, am I doing something wrong?

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Justinicus



Age : 41
Location : Mid-Atlantic U.S.
Registration date : 2008-06-29

PostSubject: puck of charcoal, am I doing something wrong?   Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:21 am

Gentlemen,

I've recently returned to pipe smoking after a long hiatus. Not that I was an old hand in the past... So I guess this is my second time around being a noob. However, something's been happening that I don't remember from my pipe days in my early 20s.

About 3/5ths of the way through a bowl, the taste starts to go off. Less rich, complex flavor, more... ash. I have a harder and harder time keeping it lit. I'll flip it and tap out the ash, re-tamp the tobacco a bit, and relight if necessary. I might do this two or three times per bowl. When I'm down to about the bottom third, it tastes terrible and looks like charcoal. I give up at this point and scrape it out.

I'm always shocked at this point how much tobacco charcoal is in the bottom of the bowl. I usually use a meerschaum-lined Dr. Grabow, and the bowl is about an inch deep. I'll have usually about a third of an inch of this crud at the bottom.  I know it didn't burn away to nothing in the old days, but I'm pretty sure I remember mostly ash instead of coal at the bottom of my bowl.

Smoking method: Pack with the old three-phase method -- fill it, pack lightly. Fill it again, pack medium. Fill it again and pack firmly. Then I light it, it expands, and I tamp it back down to a medium-firm pressure.  Commence smoking. As I notice less smoke on the draw, I tamp it a bit more while puffing.  I often heat up the pipe a good bit -- the bowl will get a wee bit uncomfortable to hold, at which point I stop/slow considerably to let it cool. Could that be causing the charcoal effect? Or is this all normal?

Thanks for reading!
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Richard Burley

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Location : North Coast NY
Registration date : 2011-04-09

PostSubject: Re: puck of charcoal, am I doing something wrong?   Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:32 am

What kind of a cut are you smoking? I can't really tell from your description, but it sounds like you might be packing too tightly. Or the tobacco is too moist. I suggest a bit of drying and starting with a pack that is just barely tight enough to hold the tobacco in the bowl if inverted. Forget the three-step method, IMO. Just try for uniformity, then a gentle push on the top. It should be bouncy, sort of.
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RDPipes

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Age : 64
Location : East Texas
Registration date : 2011-12-15

PostSubject: Re: puck of charcoal, am I doing something wrong?   Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:39 am

Not being any expert, I would say your puffing too much and tamping firmly is a no no while smoking. I just tamp with the weight of the tamper and only do this occasionally if it seems to be going out. I think what is happening is when you gotten it too hot juices from the tobacco form at the bottom which the tobacco absorbs thus making it hard to burn and ending up with carbon doodle. Now I've heard that Burley tobacco doesn't alway burn to the bottom, just what I heard, while as Virginia's in my experience always do and you end up with ash and some times dark but, burnt tobacco at the bottom depending if you are diligent enough in smoking it to the bottom. Just my two cents from my limited experience.

And yes, when packing that way it's got to be left springy in each stage, I pack the same way and it works fine for me.
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MisterE
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Location : Mexico City
Registration date : 2009-08-24

PostSubject: Re: puck of charcoal, am I doing something wrong?   Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:03 pm

Sometimes that will just happen. Some tobaccos are just harder to get a clean and easy burn with. Does this happen with all tobaccos?

Try smoking a few half bowls and see if you have the same problem. If you do, then it might be an air flow issue in the bowl. If that works fine, then it's probably a packing issue.


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Fr_Tom

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Location : Diocese of Northern Indiana
Registration date : 2013-05-29

PostSubject: Re: puck of charcoal, am I doing something wrong?   Tue Apr 08, 2014 2:08 pm

I am going to observe here that most people by natural inclination pack too tight and tamp too much. Most tobacco companies sell tobacco that is way too damp since water is cheaper for them than tobacco leaf.

I am going to suggest drying out whatever you are smoking - just as an experiment. Resist the temptation to overtamp.
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DrumsAndBeer

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Age : 46
Location : Northern, CA
Registration date : 2012-04-04

PostSubject: Re: puck of charcoal, am I doing something wrong?   Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:32 pm

Tom, I agree with you about your water content comment.

Most of my in-smoke issues went away when I started drying my tobacco to the point of nearly crisp. For one, it's amazing how much moisture is still in the tobacco at this point even though it feels completely dry. Also I found that drying most tobaccos really does improve the flavor of the smoke and it eliminates a lot of the end bowl bitterness.
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Justinicus



Age : 41
Location : Mid-Atlantic U.S.
Registration date : 2008-06-29

PostSubject: Re: puck of charcoal, am I doing something wrong?   Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:55 pm

Thanks for all the excellent advice! I have some experimenting to do  Very Happy 
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