Unburned Tobacco or Dottle Question

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Nov 26, 2018
Love my new house. But, it's on a sorta top of a sorta hill. Front porch gets full blast of wind rather often. Smoking a pipe isn't as enjoyable. On good sunny days with a good breeze is nice, but face slapping wind suck. Been trying to finish a bowl of Balkan for last three days and it's just not something I can relax with. Probably dump it today and load a new bowl.


Staff member
May 12, 2015
Carmel Valley, CA
This is a good strategy for burning out the bottom of the bowl and/or the edges of the draft hole. It's also the reason why so many manufacturers and carvers use bowl coatings. There is no set rule for how much leaf you should leave unsmoked. Just make sure you leave some and try not to set any briar on fire.
No, no, no! Leaving unsmoked tobacco should not be a practice nor a goal. (Nor should smoking to a fine white ash be a goal.)

If your smoke is pleasant, keep on going. If it starts to sour, quit, dump and start over.

Reasons why some loads sour, and some don't is complex. manifold, and beyond the scope of this post! :)


Feb 21, 2013
The unburned tobacco is called dottle. Most smokes end with just a little, the longer you have been smoking, the more experienced, usually the less there is.

As soon as the flavor isn't good, whenever that is, stop smoking that bowl. The idea is enjoying the flavor; when good flavor ends, so should the smoke.

Don't worry about building cake. The bottom of the chamber will develop cake, and you don't have to vary your smoking technique to make it happen. Many of us, a minority, don't build cake, just sustain a thin carbon coating by wiping out the chamber, after scooping out the ash, with an abrasive paper towel after each smoke.

For me, MM cob pipes most often burn an entire chamber with no residual unburned tobacco, but briars do this often too.


Can't Leave
As other have said, can be tobacco dependent. But I also have found that with my meerschaum and my calabash (which has a meerschaum insert), I can smoke those until only ash remains every time. Not so with the briars.

As for cake, some an almost romantic relationship with their cake. Others, not so much. Personally, I don’t prefer cake, and will periodically clean out my pipes with baby wipes and Q-tips etc to make sure any cake stays to a minimum. But if cake is important to you, you could try loading some 1/4 or 1/2 bowls in the pipe for a period and smoking those down to make sure you’re getting bottom of the bowl pitched somewhat congruently with the top. If you only load these smaller amounts, you’ll likely be able to smoke the bottom of the bowl better than if it’s underneath a full pipe’s worth, having been pressed in, tamped down, ashed, lit and re-lit etc.

Just my thoughts. Best of luck.


Can't Leave
Feb 9, 2022
Erie, PA
I only ever get down to ash consistently with a clay or with a The Smoke(which has a graphite liner). Occasionally with a morta, but not always. I've read conflicting things about it, so I just take a modified "spit out the gum when it loses all flavour" approach and smoke until it just doesn't taste good anymore.


Can't Leave
Oct 20, 2011
IMHO one of the great myths of pipe smoking is that you have to smoke the tobacco all the way to the bottom.
My personal approach - smoke a blend until it begins to taste sour or ashy then dump the rest.
Life's too short to fight the dottle...


Starting to Get Obsessed
May 5, 2020
I feel as though my breakthrough moment with pipe smoking came when I stopped caring. Stopped caring about how I pack, how often it goes out, how often I relight, how much of the bowl I finish, how much I toss out. I mean, what does a bowl of pipe tobacco cost... between $0.30 - $0.60? Unless you're on an extreme budget, nothing should matter less than if you're finishing the whole bowl of pipe tobacco.