There are a number of reasons, as a smoker, to smoke hand rolled loose tobacco
. Quality is one reason. Good hand rolling tobacco is generally vastly superior to the majority of pre-packaged cigarettes. Price is another. I can pick up a 40 gram packet of tobacco for around $2.50-6.50 US, and a packet will make 40-60 cigarettes. A pack of 20 manufactured cigarettes in my area runs $3.50-$5.50 US, and is usually an inferior product. Hand rolling allows a smoker to remove stems and other trash from your tobacco, and also allows you to choose the paper, size, and density in your cigarette. Most pre-packaged cigarettes are impregnated
with thousands of chemicals, but notably, sulphur
and salt peter
in the paper to ensure that it burns whether you're actually actively smoking the cigarette or not. This ensures that you smoke and buy more cigarettes, and makes saving a portion of a cigarette unpalatable. Many brands of cigarettes also use sheet tobacco
which is comprised of reconstituted factory floor sweepings
and other trash. This is not to say that hand rolling or loose tobacco is chemical or additive free. Nearly all
cigarette tobacco uses artificial or natural additives in the curing
proccess. Uncured, unaged tobacco is nearly impossible to smoke due to the moisture content and harshness involved.
The most important thing about rolling a cigarette is the tobacco used. For this I will mainly be discussing commercially available hand rolling tobacco
. However, there is a startling array of unbranded hand rolling tobacco available at finer smoke shops. House brands, one offs, custom blends, and so forth. I leave these up to the reader to decide upon.
The second most important thing is the rolling paper used. The papers included with better hand roll brands are usually adequete, but some people prefer to buy specialty papers. Rolling 'leaves' made of rice or hemp paper are a good start. I usually keep a packet of Zig-Zag
whites or Rizla
papers handy for when I want a smoother smoke, but I usually just use the ones included. There are more brands of rolling paper available than there are brands of tobacco, in an amazing array of sizes, colors, shapes, and materials.
I smoke primarily Halfzware Shag
. According to alt.smokers.*
"Zware" is Dutch for "strong". "Halfzware" is basically "half as strong". All the Halfzware Shag I've seen is very
finely cut, practically an eighth as thin as the tobacco used in manufactured cigarettes.
For the purposes of this How To, I will only review Halfzware I've actually smoked. However, a quick search via google and memory reveals at least a dozen or so different brands: Bali Shag
, Norwegian Shag
and more. I will not be reviewing Top
, or any of it's ilk, and these instructions are not geared for this sort of crap. If you are desperate enough to smoke that junk, you'll surely be able to figure out how to roll it. (These brands are composed of thickly cut, dry, crumbly sheet tobacco and are notoriously difficult to roll. Avoid.)
In order of my personal preference, with accompanying review, manufacturer, and distributor (as available):
Blended by: Peter Stokkebye
Distributed by: C.W. Obel
Almost always moist and fresh. Usually pricier. Bali Shag uses a step in processing that removes "bird's eyes" (Thin cross section slices of tobacco leaf vein and stem) in the manufacturing process. This yields a smoother smoke, and less time making it.
Original European Blend
Blended by: Douwe Egberts
Distributed by: Imperial Tobacco
Blended and distributed by: Republic Tobacco
Drum is the tried and true, and used to be the defacto standard of quality for widely available packaged Halfzware. There seems to be some confusion about the current status of availability here in the United States
. I've heard conflicting reports about whether or not Drum is being actively distributed here any more. The fact that I have found many, many stale packets in stores at clearance prices over the last year or so seems to support this. However, I have noticed that various Rite Aid
locations in my area seem to have very
fresh stock. The original Douwe Egberts European blend is almost impossible to find in retail locations. Also, you will frequently find the Republic Tobacco version of Drum labeled as "European Blend". Apparently this is still not the original Douwe Egberts blend, as it is lighter and less robust. This is not necassarily a bad thing, as the original blend is quite strong.
Blended by: Lane Limited
Stock is frequently stale or dry, but cheaper. Better than most Drum look alikes, but not nearly as good as Drum or Bali Shag. It has more stems and trash then either of those as well.
Blended by: Kretek International
Almost always dry and stale, in my experience. Good in a pinch
Blended by: Mac Baren
More frequently stale or dry than even Lookout. Sometimes awful. Always better than Top or Bugler, though. Also good in a pinch.
All of these brands reviewed are the normal European Blend "full strength" flavor, in blue packets. I have smoked the "light" varieties of some of these, but I do not prefer them. If you find the blue labels too strong, give the "golden" or "light" varieties a try.
How to hand roll the perfect cigarette.
For the purposes of these instructions, "right hand" means "dominant hand". You may obtain better results switching the directions around to use your dominant hand.
Inspecting the tobacco
Inspect your tobacco. It should be moist and springy to the touch, but not wet or musty smelling. If it is musty or moldy smelling (or looking!) you should avoid smoking it. It should not be brittle, and resist crumbling to powder when being handled or rolled. If your tobacco is too dry, you may add one to a dozen droplets of water to the pouch (or can). For best results, allow the moisture to be absorbed by the tobacco. Wet tobacco is obviously difficult to smoke, and will soak the rolling paper and make it tear far too easily. Dry tobacco burns too fast, and will result in a very harsh smoke.
Pulling a plug from the pouch
Depending on the density of the tobacco, you want to pull a fairly loose, springy ball or plug of tobacco from the pouch with your right hand, about 3-6 centimeters in diameter. Palm this plug of tobacco loosely, and pull out a rolling paper
Laying out the tobacco in the paper; preparing to roll
Hold the paper with your thumb inside the crease, and supporting the underside with whatever fingers feel comfortable, glued edge facing you from the far side. I generally support it with my middle and ring fingers, as it leaves my pointer finger free to assist smoothing out the tobacco. Put one edge of the plug under your left thumb between it and the paper, in the crease of the paper. Properly held, the paper will easily support the tobacco because of the crease in the paper, and the supporting fingers underneath. With your right hand, pull and smooth out the tobacco to fill the bottom of the crease. What you are looking for is an evenly distributed cylinder-esque bead of tobacco, about the size of a pinky finger, like a fuzzy caterpiller
. It should be about one third to half as wide as the paper being used, and equally or slightly longer than the paper. A bit of overhanging tobacco will actually make it easier to roll.
Fold the paper up into a "U" shape around the tobacco. With your thumbs near the center-front, and one or two fingers from each hand on the back, begin rolling the paper back and forth around the tobacco. As you roll the front down, put pressure down into the rough cylinder of tobacco, with a slight amount of lateral tension between your hands, as though you were trying to gently
pull the paper apart. Too much force and you will
tear the paper in half. No lateral force at all, and you'll end up with a lumpy cigarette. When rolling the front paper up, transfer the pressure from your fingers in the back down and in towards the tobacco. As you roll, any stray or loose strands should be integrating themselves more and more into a cohesive, but not too tight cylinder, as though you had a cigarette with the paper taken off. You may need to pause in between rolling motions to help guide strands into the roll, or pull strands off that are too long or rebellious to integrate. Once you have a nice, smooth cylinder laying in the paper, you're ready to close and seal the paper.
Roll the front part of the paper down until it's about even with the tobacco, and the back paper up. Keep the pressure and tension steady. Moisten the glue with your tongue, as you would an envelope. Try and keep the moisture only on the glue, and don't use too much. If the paper becomes too moist, it will
tear. There are a number of ways to get the unglued edge of the paper to tuck up under the glued edge, but for me the following works well. Maintaining gentle pressure between the thumb and fingers of one hand, grasp the almost completed cigarette between the length of your first and second fingers, and apply pressure, just holding it. Repeat for the other hand to mirror the first. Squeeze the first and second fingers of both hands slightly together towards the top to help guide the unglued flap underneath the now moistened glued flap, and push up and in with your thumbs, while mainting gentle lateral tension. The unglued edge should wrinkle slightly, and tuck neatly into the open seam between the tobacco roll and the glued edge. With your second fingers, flip the glued edge over towards your first fingers in the center, still maintaing slight lateral tension, and smooth the glued edge down from the center toward the end. You should now have a more or less cigarette-like object with tobacco sticking out each end.
I smoke my handrolls filterless, as good tobacco doesn't need a filter. (Halfzware shag is usually milder, less acrid
, more flavorful and more robust than manufactured cigarettes.) If one end of the unfinished cigarette is more narrow, pull the loose strands of tobacco from that end. It helps to hold the end pinched in one hand while you pull or break the stray strands free. Twist the end down to a point.
Light as normal. People used to filtered cigarettes often complain about loose tobacco ending up in their mouths. While this is sometimes unavoidable, it doesn't happen all the time. I find that this is usually due to the fact that people used to filters flick the filter of the cigarette to ash it, or otherwise abuse the unlit end. Try and keep the unlit end dry, and don't chew on it. To ash, tap the side of the cigarette, or keep an ashtray handy and allow the ash to fall off. Also, people used to 'normal' cigarettes ask "How do you know when you're done?". The cigarette is finished when it is no longer palatable, or becomes too hot to hold. I frequently smoke mine right down to a roach, not unlike the end of a marijuana joint. The form factor and concept of a hand rolled cigarette is practically the same.
Roll Your Own Magazine
My hippy cousin-in-law Dave that taught me how to roll tobacco one spacey evening, my cool dad, and a decade of smoking things.
Everything Quests - Smoking
Note to gods/editors: If a better place can be found for this, or a better node title can be made, please feel free to do so. (In the interest of the deprecated "How to" format for node titles.) Perhaps Handrolled cigarettes? Integrate your writeups.