Vape Juice 101 - What is eLiquid?

Introduction

Vaping is such a personal activity that allows you a great amount of freedom. And if there’s one area where you can greatly maximize your freedom of choice, it would be in choosing your e-liquid.

The juice or e-liquid is simply the solution that you’ll use for vaping. It is the liquid matter enclosed in the tank of your vaping device which turns into vapor when the battery heats up your atomizer. E-liquids are generally composed of just 3-4 ingredients, but you have seemingly endless options when it comes to choosing your base, nicotine level and flavorings.

Scoring the perfect e-liquid, whether by finding it from stores or making your own is such a rewarding and fun activity for vapers. If you’ve just started vaping, chances are, you’ll feel overwhelmed with the number of options presented to you. But at the end of the day, it will always be about choosing the juice that works for you and the very first steps would be determining the right base/s, nicotine strength and flavors for your vaping pleasure.

What’s in e-Liquid?

Instead of the numerous ingredients rolled into a piece of paper as what you’d normally see in traditional cigarettes, the smoke or vapor in vaping comes from a substance called the e-liquid or juice. The e-liquid is a solution composed of three to four ingredients: propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), nicotine and flavoring. If you wish to use a nicotineless e-liquid, simply remove nicotine from the equation and you’d still get perfectly-flavored vapor.

Beginner vapers usually purchase pre-mixed e-liquids from vape stores. This allows them to simply transfer the liquid to their vaping tanks and begin vaping immediately. However, vaping aficionados also wander towards concocting their own e-liquids.

But there’s more to e-liquids than just having a solution that you can vape. You also need to consider your bases, nicotine strengths, and flavors that will make vaping more enjoyable for you.

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Nicotine vs. No Nicotine

Every individual has his own preference and tolerance with nicotine. Some seasoned smokers may prefer stronger nicotine levels to satisfy their nicotine cravings while vaping, while others may like to begin and stay with no-nicotine vaping. Vaping with or without nicotine is a matter of personal choice, but there are a few considerations that you should keep in mind where nicotine is concerned.

First, you should know that nicotine is addictive. That is why some smokers are finding it hard to kick their smoking habits out. They have nicotine dependency. If you’re going to switch to vaping with existing nicotine dependency, you must determine the right nicotine levels for you. If you set it too low, you might find vaping less enjoyable and not very rewarding. If you set nicotine levels too high, you are only feeding your nicotine dependency some more. The right level should satiate your nicotine cravings effectively.

Second, you must know what your goals are. If you’re venturing into vaping to gradually reduce and/or eliminate your nicotine dependency, then you should gradually reduce your nicotine consumption as you go. You may start from a certain dose and slowly take it down from there.

Some people still would like to vape without taking a nicotine hit. It could be that they simply enjoy the warmth and flavor of the vapor while producing huge clouds. Whatever your reasons are for vaping, choosing the right nicotine level is crucial to make vaping worthwhile of your time and money.

How much nicotine can be in e-liquid?

Nicotine is often measured by milligrams or mg per millimeter of e-liquid. If an e-liquid says it has 24mg/ml, it simply means that per 1 ml of e-liquid contains 24 mg of nicotine.

You can determine the suitable level of nicotine in your e-juice by determining the type of smoker that you are. Here’s a good way to demonstrate this:

  • 19-24mg/ml – if you’re a chain smoker
  • 14-18mg/ml – if you’re a heavy smoker
  • 9-13mg/ml – if you’re a medium smoker
  • 5-8mg/ml – if you’re a light smoker
  • 1-4mg/ml – if you’re an ultra light smoker
  • 0 mg/ml – if you’re a non-smoker but just want to enjoy vaping

Most of the e-juice in the market can contain as much as 24mg/ml of nicotine, although others can make as much as 36mg/ml which is considered by many very high level of nicotine.

Effects of Nicotine Levels to your Vaping Experience

For those who were formerly or are currently smokers, nicotine does have an impact to vaping experience. For certain brands, flavors are more pronounced with low nicotine levels. Meanwhile, some flavors are more pronounced with higher nicotine amount. But what’s common among the observations of vapers is that the higher the nicotine level, the more intense the throat hit.

Beginners generally go through different brands and different nicotine levels first before finding out level they are most comfortable and happy with.

What the heck are PG & VG?

Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are the bases in making an e-liquid. Used as a carrier to make nicotine and flavors available for inhalation, PG and VG can both be used as bases, but there are instances wherein VG is preferred. As bases, what PG and VG do is dilute the flavorings and nicotine in order to turn the e-liquid into vapor.

VG or vegetable glycerin is a plant-based substance that’s also used in various industries like food and cosmetics. It is odorless and colorless, but it does taste sweet. Vegetable glycerin is responsible in lending the e-liquid its vapor. The more VG an e-liquid contains, the more clouds are produced when vaping.

PG or propylene glycol is an organic compound which is like VG in that it is odorless and colorless. It is slightly sweet also, but is miscible with alcohol and water. PG is basically harmless as it has low toxicity and it does not irritate the skin. It is graded by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe.” Other than in manufacturing e-cigarettes, PG is also used in various products like for asthma inhalers and in topical medication.

Between the two, VG is thicker while PG is thinner. Both are generally safe for human use but there had been reported cases of PG sensitivities with a small number of vapers. If you develop rashes, get itchy throat and experience wheezing when vaping, it is likely that you are allergic to PG. It is also for this reason why some manufacturers have come up with 100% VG e-liquids.

The main drawback with VG is that since it is thick, it is not so easily diluted like PG, nicotine and flavorings. VG residues can clog the atomizer, causing it not to function properly. This is especially true for atomizers of older models and the ones with smaller wicks. It has also been reported that high amounts of VG in e-liquids may cause dry throat and thirst. It is recommended to constantly drink water when vaping e-liquids with higher amount of VG.

Remember, While PG makes more clouds, VG provides more flavor.

What mix (PG & VG) should I use?

There is no standard rule in choosing the right mix of PG and VG in your e-liquid. Each vaper is different – some may want more flavor while others may want more vapor and throat hit. But generally, you can opt for 60% or more of VG if you like your vapor to be thicker and fatter. Take 60% or more of PG if you like more throat hit and pronounced flavors. If you’re unsure, you can opt with 50% of each first.

Aside from these rough estimates, here are more considerations when choosing the mix that would work for you.

Vapor vs. Flavor – if you like to make more clouds, you must choose an e-liquid mix with more VG. However, this might mute the flavors of your juice. On the other hand, if you’d like to truly taste the flavor, you must opt for more PG. But you must know that you will generate lesser vapor.

Throat hit – some vapers like to simulate throat hit they get from real cigarettes and opting for higher e-liquid is the solution to this. Higher VG can make vaping feel smoother to the throat, while higher PG makes it somewhat more intense.

Heat it is a universal truth that atomizers will heat up after sometime of use, but using VG more in the e-liquid helps slow down this process. VG is able to resist heat better when you increase the voltage of your device. However, doing so with more PG in the mix will result to e-liquid that tastes burnt.

e-liquid Shelf Life – PG is a natural antibacterial agent and preservative so it tends to make your e-juice last longer. VG might help produce more vapor, but it just doesn’t have this property. It is recommended to place even a small portion of PG (5-10%) if you’re not at all sensitive to it and would just like to create fluffier clouds and get a smoother vaping experience. You may take out PG from the mix altogether if you’re sensitive to, but you have to put in some more effort in steeping your e-liquid in order for it to mature and last a little longer.

Tank of choice – certain mixes or bases are suitable for certain tanks. If you prefer clearomizer tanks, opt for 50% mixes of both or one with higher PG. VG tends to clog up coils resulting to dry hits and unpleasant burnt taste. Sub-Ohm tanks typically use more VG as it produces more clouds. Since sub-ohm vaping also uses more e-liquid quickly, putting in more PG which is thinner, will make sub-ohming more inconvenient and not so budget-friendly. Drippers, on the other hand, are more flexible when it comes to PG/VG mixes, but the norm for most is 30% PG/70% VG.

Choosing the best mix for you is really a personal preference more than anything else. Since vaping experience is different for everybody, you must find out the mix that works well with your personal tastes. VG and PG are both safe for humans, but just be reminded not to expose pets, especially cats to PG since they can get sick from inhaling it. As courtesy to your pets and extra effort in keeping them safe, try not to vape near or around them.

Mixing Multiple Flavors

The first three ingredients of e-juice – nicotine, PG and VG- are basically odorless, but PG and VG may carry a slight level of sweetness. The fourth ingredient, flavoring, provides a whole new dimension to your vaping experience. Not only can you vape the classic tobacco taste, you can also try fruity, minty and spicy ones. Then there’s chocolate, coffee, and a whole lot more. And you don’t have to be too limited with just one flavor per e-liquid either as you can also combine different flavors to achieve the vapor taste that you truly prefer. Think of minty cinnamon, pina colada, etc.

But if you’re going to do your own e-liquid, you must remember to gather your flavorings from one manufacturer. Mint can taste bad from one store and taste good in another. As a newbie in e-liquid making, it is good to get small amounts of various flavorings from one source first to make sure they are all of the same quality.

You will not be using a lot of flavoring in the overall solution of the e-liquid. In fact, flavor is just 10-15% of the juice. You don’t want to add too many flavors either as this can lead to a “washed out” taste, rather than getting the intended flavor. Some flavors can be overpowering and may mute the flavors of others, so make sure you know most of their properties of the flavors you’re getting. For instance, Acetyl pyrazine is so overpowering that just a few drops can already make flavors “pop.” Lemon juice can initially have a distinct flavor at first but it mutes over time. Even sweeteners have varying levels of “sweetness,” some of which may taste like spicy sweet, moist sweet and just plain sweet.

Aside from getting flavors from one manufacturer, it is also important that your recipe is reproducible. Meaning, it should be easy to replicate some time later if you think you’ve hit the right taste, texture and throat hit. It is also good to always be taking notes of the amount of each ingredient each time you make your own e-liquid so you can refer back to it and be able to make the necessary changes for it to suit your taste.

Tips to Get the Most Out of your e-Liquid

Always shake it – sometimes ingredients tend to separate. Shaking the e-liquid before use will even distribute the ingredients in all areas, allowing you to get the perfectly concentrated e-liquid with all the right amounts of bases, nicotine and flavors.

Use an eyedropper to fill your tank & wet the cotton – using an eyedropper is a precautionary measure to ensure you get little liquid at a time and minimize the risks of exposing/spilling nicotine into your skin.

Keep it out of sunlight; keep shaded – direct exposure to sunlight can change the composition of your e-liquid. Its ingredients can oxidize with sunlight, making the e-liquid taste different when vaped. Keeping it in a cool, dark and dry area will help preserve the integrity of your e-liquids.

Steep it – akin to “maturing” the wine, steeping e-liquids has a lot of reasons. It allows air circulation, removes air bubbles and basically allows the e-liquid to mature. Some e-liquids don’t taste as good when they were freshly-made, but steeping it will make the e-liquid taste even better.


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