5 Months In, I Still Have No Idea How to Pack a Pipe

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Apr 2, 2024
37
138
Eastern CT
Too loose, too tight, beats the hell out of me. All I know is it tastes like shit 8 out of 10 times. The other 1 or 2 out of 10, it's extremely enjoyable and relaxing, but I can't repeat it consistently. I've thought I had it figured out 3 or 4 times, only to have my next smoke taste like a garbage fire again, with the same pipe and tobacco and doing my best to pack it the same way.

For example, the first time I tried Half and Half I hated it. A few months later, I tried it again. It was amazing. I could taste the burley. I could taste the virginia. Wasn't too wet, wasn't too hot. I've tried it 5 or 6 times since then, and it's been terrible every time.

When you smoke a pipe, does it actually taste good every time, or is it only the rare "nirvana smoke" that has a pleasant tobacco flavor? Serious question. I see the "reviewers" on youtube just chuck some tobacco in the pipe and puff away like freight trains, while waxing poetic about all the flavors they're experiencing, and I wonder if they're all just bullshitting and re-hashing the tin description.

If it was bad every time, I'd conclude that pipe smoking is gross and you guys are all nuts. But the rare good one keeps me chasing the dragon. I've watched all the videos, read all the forum advice, tried all the methods, including "just put it in the pipe." What gives? You gotta tell me the secret. I've bought 15 pipes and a couple pounds of tobacco, and now I'm addicted (to the hobby, not the nicotine). I don't want to cut my losses yet.
 

AJL67

Lifer
May 26, 2022
5,501
28,082
Florida - Space Coast
Dry
Dry more
Pack loosely
And most important sip the pipe, if you have a nice tasty bowl going hitting it harder and faster isn’t going to multiple the enjoyment it will most likely diminish it as the tobacco will super heat and the ember will be more like a burning piece of coal, it fucks everything up. Maybe you have an enjoyable bowl going and you start hitting it harder or faster and it just goes downhill from there. Gotta remember to take your time.

Remember it’s a science not an art.
 

mpjetset

Starting to Get Obsessed
You're going to get there. If you are at 20% now, you'll be at 30% soon. Your mouth will figure it out for you. You can't rush it. Half & Half in a cob... leave the 9mm filter out and go slow after the char, but the char is the best until you start burning cob. Then it gets interesting for a couple of minutes. Good luck!!
 

kcghost

Lifer
May 6, 2011
14,301
23,782
77
Olathe, Kansas
It usually takes a while. This why most noobs fail at this. And you must take in account the tobacco you are using. Load your pipe roughly a third of the way up and then tamp light. Take a draw on your pipe. Your pipe should draw very easily. Then depending on your desires, you can fill it another third or all the way up. but this time when you should feel some resistance when you do. You want at the amount of resistance of a well-cut cigar.
 

bullet08

Lifer
Nov 26, 2018
9,310
38,906
RTP, NC. USA
Dry tobacco, yes. Make sure it's dry to the touch, and make sure when you pinch the tobacco, it's not wet or cool.

But the trick comes in when you are packing the chamber. Leave a good air pocket at the bottom of the chamber. That gives room for air to circulate, and oxygen to burn the tobacco. That means don't shove the tobacco in till it touches the bottom. And pack it loose so it doesn't get compacted. Test the draw before putting flame to tobacco. There shouldn't be any resistance, or very little. If it feels like sucking a bowling through a straw, unpack and pack it again.
 

PipeIT

Lifer
Nov 14, 2020
4,654
28,352
Hawaii
Based on the information you shared, if every blend and every pipe tastes bad, then one can only assume there is something possibly at play here effecting this.

So…

Let’s change all your habits/methods and see if this works.

1. Make sure all your tobacco is dried, grab a small pinch between your fingers and it should have a slight crispness to it, so only dry it until it reaches a slight crispness. In time as tastes get better, you can experiment with the amount of dryness.

2. Gravity Fill - take very small pinches and drop inside the chamber, a little at a time, each time tapping the side to help settle, and do this till you reach the top, and then very gently press down to pack it, but very little pressure to do this.

3. Only light the tobacco enough to take a few small sips, then let it go out, let the pipe cool down and then repeat. Once the top is charred, then ever so slightly press with only the weight of the tamper.

4. Do not worry about keeping the pipe lit! To much fire and heat are not a good thing with pipe tobacco and the pipes. It destroys the flavors of complex blends, and creates moisture in the pipe, leading to bad tastes. When you eventually keep a pipe lit, this should be done with only enough flame to keep it going. For now, don’t worry about keeping it lit.

5. When a lot of white ash appears on the top, making it hard to light, only take away the white ash, leave the dark black ash. If you take away to much ash, when you light over for a few lights, the tobacco can taste bad.

6. When you use a tamper, only use the weight of it to press the tobacco down.

7. Think about the chamber divided in sections, when you smoke through each of these sections run a cleaner all the way through the stem into the bottom of the pipe chamber. If you start getting bad tastes as your smoking, it might be, because you should of ran a cleaner through it earlier.

8. When you are done smoking, and you‘ve dug, or knocked the tobacco out, let the pipe cool slightly inside, but is still warm, and take a paper towel or napkin and gently wipe it around in a circular motion inside the chamber to clean it out, not up and down. This will help keep the carbon layer uniform in thickness. If any tobacco is stuck inside, after wiping it with a paper towel, use a tooth pick to gently pick out the pieces.

9. When the pipe has cooled down, take the stem off and run a cleaner through it. Only use dry cleaners through the stem, don’t dip them in alcohol to clean any stems! Buy yourself like a grain alcohol Everclear 150-190 proof, then dip a pipe cleaner in Everclear and run it through the pipe shank just to the end of the airway at the bottom of the chamber. Also, use qtips dipped in Everclear and run around inside the shank/mortise. If you also keep your pipes really clean, you might only need to use cleaners dipped in grain alcohol every other or few smokes, not necessarily all the time is needed.

10. Let your pipes dry out rest for 2-3 days. Do this smell test, after you are done smoking the pipe, the inside of the chamber should smell somewhat Smokey, not so nice. Now smell it every day, until it starts smelling nicer, usually in 2-3 days, it will smell nice, now your pipe has aired out, now smoke it.

And last, not every pipe smokes every blend as nice as another pipe. Briar is a peculiar thing, some pipes just do better with certain blends, so you just have to experiment with this.

Have fun! :)
 
Last edited:

niblicck

Can't Leave
Oct 7, 2020
390
3,134
Alabama
Fill the pipe the way you have been filling it. Take tobacco back out and remove 20% of it. Refill the pipe with the 80% looser filling. Tamp as required after charring lite. When it starts to taste really good, slow down even more.
 

dottlejockey

Part of the Furniture Now
Packing is neither science, nor art, but a mere reflex for the learned.

However, early in the pipe journey it can feel more like an intimidating, solemn undertaking.

+1 to @BingBong 's advice to "relax."
Maybe experiment with 1/2 bowls. Pack relatively loosely, tamp gently and puff slowly.
+1 to @keith929 's advice to "practice, practice, practice."
Ergo rinse and repeat.

Let us know how it goes! :)
 
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AJL67

Lifer
May 26, 2022
5,501
28,082
Florida - Space Coast
Dry
Dry more
Pack loosely
And most important sip the pipe, if you have a nice tasty bowl going hitting it harder and faster isn’t going to multiple the enjoyment it will most likely diminish it as the tobacco will super heat and the ember will be more like a burning piece of coal, it fucks everything up. Maybe you have an enjoyable bowl going and you start hitting it harder or faster and it just goes downhill from there. Gotta remember to take your time.

Remember it’s a science not an art.
You. know it's not always packing the bowl. No matter how you pack it, no matter how dry, if you hit it too hard or start a bonfire in the bowl the tobacco is going to taste like shit. Could explain why one bowl great and the next 5 suck, the better it tastes the harder and faster you hit it, that is the fail, grasshopper.
 
Apr 2, 2024
37
138
Eastern CT
You. know it's not always packing the bowl. No matter how you pack it, no matter how dry, if you hit it too hard or start a bonfire in the bowl the tobacco is going to taste like shit. Could explain why one bowl great and the next 5 suck, the better it tastes the harder and faster you hit it, that is the fail, grasshopper.
I'll try paying more attention to that next time, but generally I smoke pretty slow. On the edge of going out a lot of the time. I catch myself reflexively smoking faster sometimes when it tastes bad. Trying to get to the "good part," or trying to get it over with faster, lol.
 
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LongIslandPiper

Starting to Get Obsessed
Nov 8, 2022
230
990
You learn to pack a pipe the same way you get to Carnegie Hall; practice,practice,practice. :sher:
I love that little Sherlock Holmes emoji. That being said, patience is key. You stated you have multiple pipes. Stick with the 1-2 or few that produced an enjoyable bowl and practice the load and pay attention to the resistance (drawing on it as you go). Also as other have stated, a adequately dry tobacco is key. The key word is adequately but that is subjective upon you the smoker. Eventually through trial and error your fingers will get the ‘feel’ for the correct dryness. Good luck and don’t let it get you so frustrated. It is more work in the beginning and like all things valuable its a art that you can appreciate for a lifetime.
 
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LongIslandPiper

Starting to Get Obsessed
Nov 8, 2022
230
990
I'll try paying more attention to that next time, but generally I smoke pretty slow. On the edge of going out a lot of the time. I catch myself reflexively smoking faster sometimes when it tastes bad. Trying to get to the "good part," or trying to get it over with faster, lol.
Also something that some haven’t mentioned as much. Eventually at a certain stage of smoking throughout the bowl you may have to remove just the top layer of ash. You can accomplish this in a number of different ways. I caution you ⚠️ just to remove a small portion of this ‘top layer’ of ash by simply tapping out the bowl on a cork knocker very gently. Occasionally the excess buildup of ash (especially if you have to relight) will cause a unpleasant taste upon your relights. Once again this step is trial and error. If the pipe is smoking well keep going and don’t ash out at all. Once you get the subtle nuances it will all come together