How to make regular incense cones backflow

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In the last couple of years, backflow incense burners have been all the rage. With their unique way of making the smoke flow down like a waterfall instead of up, it creates a serene flowing effect, which resembles slow-motion water.

They are beautiful and calm-inducing and let’s face it, pretty cool. The one problem that people are constantly complaining about is that the incense cones that came with their backflow burner don’t smell good! Now as cool as they look, if it’s filling your space with an aroma you don’t like, it kind of defeats the purpose of using incense in the first place.

Because backflow burners require a special ‘backflow cone’, you can’t use just any old regular incense cone.

Not to worry, though. In this article we will show you how to make regular incense cones backflow, so you can enjoy both looking at your backflow incense burner and smelling it.

Are backflow incense cones different?

Flow Month backflow burner

Backflow cones are different from regular incense cones, which is why you can’t just substitute the cones you received with your burner for regular incense cones.

Backflow cones have a small hollow tunnel through the center of the cone. The hollow space starts at about ¾ of the way down from the top, ending with a hole at the bottom.

It’s this unique shape that is the key to the backflow waterfall setup.

How do backflow cones work?

Backflow cones

If you are going to try to make your own backflow cones from your regular incense cones, you need to understand how they work.

Incense smoke is actually more dense than normal air at room temperature because it contains tiny particles.  When the incense is lit, the heat offsets the weight of the tiny particles, so the hot smoke rises.

As it burns and because the backflow cones are hollow, cool air from inside the burner reaches the smoke. This cool air cools the smoke, making it denser and the smoke sinks through the hole.

When it exits the incense at the bottom, it flows gently downwards creating the waterfall effect.

How to make regular incense cones backflow

The problem is that the majority of backflow cones widely available (or that come with the burner when you buy it) are cheap synthetic incense that smells like exactly that – cheap synthetic incense.  The good news is: you can use your favorite incense cones and convert them to backflow cones. You can use two different methods.

1.      Drill Baby Drill!

The only difference between a regular incense cone and a backflow incense cone is that the backflow cone has a hole in it. Using a power drill with a thin bit (size will depend on the size of your cone), drill a hole through the center of your cone from the bottom.

Just make sure to stop drilling an eighth of an inch or so from the tip of the cone, so that you don’t break it and it backflows properly.

2.      Grind, add water, reform, make a hole, dry!

You may not have the proper drill bit or even a drill on hand, but you can still make a backflow cone using your favorite regular incense cones. Simply grind up your incense cones into powder, add water until it forms a malleable putty, then form it back into cones. Then use a nail to poke through the middle of the bottom of each cone, going to about ¾ of the way through.

Leave them out to dry for a few days, then tip them over to expose the bottom surface to allow them to fully dry.

Make your own!

You could always go a step further and make your own cones from scratch. There are a lot of recipes out there or you can just use some of your favorite fragrant ingredients.

You’ll need to grind the ingredients down with a mortar and pestle or pop it into a food processor. You’ll also need a binding agent of some kind; a common one is Makko powder . Makko powder dissolves in water then hardens when it dries, making it extremely useful for forming cones.

It also burns well, which is useful if some of your other incense ingredients are not as flammable.


Now that you know how to make regular incense cones backflow, you can turn your favourite regular incense cones into backflow incense cones by making a hole through the bottom. Whether you use a drill, or grind up your incense cones and add water, or make your incense cones from scratch, make sure you don’t make the hole all the way through to the tip. The tip of the cone must remain intact for the backflow to work.