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Concerning e-Liquids

Choosing e Juice as a New Vaper

In this final section of the Spinfuel Guide for New Vapers we’ll look at all the variations of e-liquids that is out there on in the marketplace, as well as a glimpse into the future as it concerns the EU’s TPD rules and the FDA Deeming Regulations. The kinds of e liquids and the tens of thousands of flavors, sizes, nicotine levels, will change dramatically in the coming months and years, so we’ll attempt to emphasis the type of e liquids that will most likely remain on the market after mid-2018.

Goals – It’s important to have goals, even when it comes to vaping, and depending on your personal goals, choosing the correct ejuice can be as important as choosing the right vape gear for you.

Today – There are countless varieties of e-liquids, hundreds of brands, thousands of flavors, and a variety of nicotine strengths. There are inexpensive budget brands and ultra-premium overpriced brands. There are brands that specialize in organic ingredients; some are wonderful, and some…not so much. Some brands use what’s called NET nicotine (nicotine derived directly from tobacco leaves), some specialize in Tobacco flavors, or dessert flavors, or any of a few dozen other categories for flavors alone.

It can seem overwhelming at first, but don’t worry that now, we’re going to give you some of the basics, and then allow you the opportunity to ask the right questions in hopes of shortening your exploration in the e juice jungle.

E-Liquids 101

E-LIQUIDS GUIDE FOR NEW VAPERSIf you have decided to begin your vape journey with the cig-alike, this section won’t do you much good. Cig-alikes use prefilled cartomizers for the most part, but there is a tiny subsection at this level that sell “blank” cartomizers and the user fills the cartomizer with thin e liquid. Using cig-alikes usually means choosing prefilled cartomizers of 6-8 different flavor offerings. These e liquids are very high in PG, or propylene glycol. You might remember from our chapter on the finer points of e liquid, that PG is a thin substance and the ‘flavor carrier’ for an e liquid solution. Think Blu Cigs, with their small batteries and prefilled cartomizers offering Bold Tobacco, Pina Colada, Peach Schnapps, and a menthol type eliquid. In the world of cig-alikes, Blu Cigs is going to be your best bet.

Mods and Tanks

When we talk about e juice and the hundreds of brands thereof, and thousands of flavors therein, we’re talking about what Vapers use with their Box Mods and Tanks.

Note* We need to decide on some terminology here. While we have explained in other sections of this guide, there are cartomizers, clearomizers, glassomizers, and plus-ohm and sub-ohm tanks. All of these terms really mean ‘atomizer’. An atomizer is any container with a heating element that is used to vaporize e liquid so that the user can inhale the vapor. There are some Vapers, and some writers in the our field, that call all of the above ‘atomizers’, which can be confusing to New Vapers. From here on out, for the sake of simplicity, we will use the term ‘tank’ to mean atomizers that hold anywhere from 2ML and 6+ML of ejuice, and use replaceable coil heads. For now, as a new Vaper, this will help center you when it comes time to discuss various e liquids.

We believe that it is fair to assume that if you are reading this section in order to help guide you to the right e liquid, you are using a mod and a tank. You could have chosen a low power mod and a plus-ohm tank, or you could have gone in the opposite direction and purchased a high wattage mod and a sub-ohm tank. So, first we’ll divide the e liquid products into two types, High PG and High VG formulations. The reason is quite simple; low wattage mods with plus-ohm tanks require thinner e juice in order to vaporize correctly, while high wattage mods and sub-ohm tanks require thicker e liquid, with higher VG formulations, or vegetable glycerin, in order to keep up with the higher wattage and lower resistances of sub-ohm tanks. There is more to it than that, but this is the basic idea.   As you’d expect, there are e-liquids more suited for each type. Let’s discuss these Plus-Ohm and Sub-Ohm e liquid formulations and why they are what they are.

Plus-Ohm – If you like the idea of plus-ohm vaping that you have read about in our Plus/Sub ohm section of this guide, you would have purchased a mod with a moderate amount of wattage (otherwise known as power) and a suitable tank, a tank that uses coil heads that are rated above 1.o-ohm. The Aspire Nautilus X would be a good example of such a tank; it comes with two 1.5-ohm coil heads, which are plus-ohm heads. The Nautilus X doesn’t need any more than 20 watts pushing it, so an iStick 20 or iStick 30 is plenty of power. For a set up like this, you’ll need to look to specific e liquid formulations.

In simple terms, this means e-liquids that are at least 50% PG (Propylene Glycol). There are hundreds of e liquid flavors with a 50:50 PG/VG ratio, or higher, including PG/VG ratio in 60/40 or even 70/30 PG/VG. The characteristics of this type of e juice are:

  • Thin juice, pours easily
  • Intense flavor – PG is the flavor carrier, the more PG the more intense the flavor delivery.
  • PG does not produce as much vapor as VG, so a high PG formula will not produce the same density of vapor as high VG formulas.
  • Nearly all high PG e liquids use artificial flavoring.
  • High PG causes dehydration. The best way to fight this is to increase your daily water intake. Start with one extra 16oz bottle of glass of water each day and go from there.

The coil head in a plus-ohm tank can look identical to sub-ohm coil heads in the newer tanks. However, while there are still some older tanks on the market in the plus-ohm territory you’ll notice that most coil heads are much smaller than sub-ohm coil head.

Most coil heads state the recommended wattage (imprinted on the side of the coil head), it needs to vape well. For example; a typical 1.6-ohm coil from a year or two back, is usually best vaped using no more than 10-15w. While new plus ohm tanks with 1.5-ohm coil heads can be vaped well at up to 20w. In any case, a high PG formula will provide a better vape experience with plus-ohm vape gear.

Note* It’s a good idea to read the promotional literature about tanks to find out the recommended ratio of juice, and what wattage to use.

Sub-Ohm – Sub-ohm vaping works best with e-liquids that have a 30/70 PG/VG ratio, or higher. In the sub-ohm world of vaping, there is High VG and Max VG. A High VG is an eliquid with 70-80% VG formula, while a Max VG e liquid is 90-100% VG. The flavorings and nicotine that go into e-juice are usually suspended in PG solution, so it is difficult to find a 100% VG juice, but not impossible. Some brands specialize in 100% VG formulas.

If you have a sensitivity to PG, or a full blown allergy, you will need to vape a high VG formula.

The characteristics of a High/Max VG e liquid include:

  • A smooth vape, no throat hit or harsh feel.
  • Thick, dense clouds of vapor when vaped at the proper wattage
  • With enough flavoring in the recipe, a High VG e liquid can offer a more natural flavor, less intense, but more authentic.

In the very basics, a 0.5-ohm coil head can be vaped at 25-30w, but there is more to this that’s not quite appropriate for this guide. For instance, some .5-ohm coil heads can be vaped with 60w or more. As you get into the more advanced guides you’ll see why this happens.

To sum up: 

  • Cig-alike Vapers need not worry too much about e-liquids, since most of it is pre-filled and prepackaged.
  • Low Wattage/Plus-Ohm vape gear calls for 50% PG or higher formulas.
  • High Wattage/Sub-Ohm vape gear calls for higher VG, usually 60 or 70% VG, but can be as high as 90-100% VG.

What Do You Want from Your Juice?

When you made your decision on the vape gear you purchased, you set out a certain path to the e juice that would be compatible with your gear. Just as it’s important to be aware of your goals when buying equipment, this matters equally when buying e-juice.

Replicate Smoking – If you’re aiming to replace cigarettes, you might want your vape to closely resemble the experience of smoking. To get a noticeable throat hit, similar to smoking tobacco products, you will want a high ratio of PG. The higher the nicotine level, the stronger the hit too, but be careful as this can lead to a harsh vape.

Flavors – There are thousands and thousands of flavors of e-juice out there. Some you will love, some you won’t. A good starting point is to think about your personal tastes. Do you prefer fruit tastes or creamy flavors? Or would you prefer a tobacco-tasting vape? The range is vast so start by checking our reviews section to see what appeals to your tastes. It’s best to try out as many flavors as you can – ask your fellow vapers to try some of their e juice, maybe a couple of mL’s, to see if you like it. As a rule of thumb, most vapers feel creamy dessert-based flavors come across best in the thick mouthfeel from a sub-ohm vape, while sharp fruit and citrus flavors work best with a plus-ohm vaping. However, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to taste. Everyone is unique so the best advice is to suck it and see!

Tricks – If you want to produce huge clouds and perform exciting vape tricks, you want maximum VG juice, or 100% VG if you can find it. It’s best to go for juice with 0mg nicotine as tricks involve inhaling a lot of vapor in one go, and inhaling too much nicotine can cause nausea.

Budget – Obviously, your choices when buying e-liquids are limited by your budget. Many vape shops produce their own ranges of juice, which can be simple one-note flavors. If all you want is a simple blueberry vape, this can be fine. The more expensive ‘premium juice’ ranges generally have more complex recipes, but this isn’t always better. Also, you should be aware that the actual ingredients aren’t any better quality than those in basic juice ranges. The extra cost comes from the expertise gone into creating the recipes and the fancy packaging. With all juice, we recommend trying before you buy, if possible.

To Sum Up:

  • Use high PG juice in a plus-ohm set-up to most accurately resemble smoking. Consider high nicotine too, for a stronger throat hit.
  • Think of what flavors you enjoy in daily life and try juice based on those. Be aware that many vapers consider some flavors more suited to plus-ohm vaping (fruit, citrus), and some for sub-ohm vaping (creamy, dessert), although this is subjective.
  • If you want to blow clouds and perform tricks, stick to high, or max, VG juice, with zero nicotine.
  • Expensive premium juice isn’t necessarily better than mid-range priced juice, though very cheap budget juice is generally poor quality.

Juice Advice

Here are some things to keep in mind when buying your first bottles of e-liquids.

Experiment – Variety is the spice of life. While you might not like actual watermelon, the vape equivalent could be right up your alley. Try as many flavors as you can, whether from vape shops or fellow vapers. If you like the sound of a juice, always buy the smallest amount first – usually 10ml – as a tester. If it turns out you don’t like it, you haven’t wasted much money. (For readers based in Europe, the upcoming TPD regulations will mean 10ml is the maximum you can buy. This is good news for sampling flavors on a budget, but bad news when it comes to buying your favorite juice in bulk amounts.) Many e-juice brands offer ‘sampler’ packs, containing a selection of flavors. These are an ideal way for beginner vapers to test out different tastes. When starting out on your vaping journey, it’s a good idea to budget a small amount of money each week for trying out a wide variety of new flavors. Our tastebuds work in mysterious ways, so be sure to try a varied selection!

Open-Minded – Be aware that your tastes change throughout the day. You may find a coffee flavored juice is ideal for morning, but doesn’t feel right in the evening. A light fruit mix might be perfect on a bright sunny day, whereas a rainy day warrants a rich tobacco-flavored vape. Your tastebuds are complicated so never write off a juice after just one vape.

Beware of Hidden Costs – If you buy juice online, make sure you haven’t signed up to a recurring deal. Some sites sign you up to a monthly auto-ship, charging high amounts for juice you might not even like. Some businesses are in this field because they love vaping as much as you do, and some are in the business for one reason only; making money. Those that are in the vape business only to make money, often mislead their customers. Whenever Spinfuel hears about these businesses we call them out in a very public way.

Ingredients – Some ingredients degrade the cotton wick in your coils quicker than others. Be careful when it comes to juice with food coloring and high amounts of sweetener. Sweeteners can caramelize on the wick when heated, clogging it up and reducing the amount of flavor you can taste when vaping. High-end juice ranges are particularly guilty when it comes to this. If conserving the lifespan of your coil is a top priority, avoid very sweet juices, and any with bright colors. Colored juice is becoming less common as vapers demand less additives in their juice. In nearly all cases, they add nothing of value to the juice and are an unnecessary marketing device. There is a lack of comprehensive studies about the effects of vaping food coloring, so be careful with these types. They might be eye-catching but the potential health risks are a cause for concern.

Wattage – Most coils come with the recommended wattage range written on the side, but the best advice is to start low and gradually increase until you find your sweet spot. If you fire your kit too high, it can burn the coil and lead to a very unpleasant burnt taste. Be aware that the higher the wattage you vape at, the quicker your coil will burn out. Vaping at high wattage and low resistance also means consuming a lot more juice. Sub-ohm vapers can go through as much as 30ml a day, which can become very expensive, very quickly.

Flavors – But what specific flavors should you try? We recommend new vapers try at least two tobacco flavored e-liquids when first starting out. This can make the transition from cigarettes smoother and less jarring. Avoid NET-based juice. These are eliquids made from naturally extracted tobacco, and are set to be subject to stringent legislation under the current wave of regulations sweeping the vaping world. We recommend starting with four different 10ml bottles of juice. Two tobacco flavors, and two flavors you enjoy in everyday life, whether that be fruits, desserts, sweets or menthol. Once you’ve sampled these, try four more bottles and keep this pattern until you determine what flavors you prefer vaping most. During this process, stick to 10ml bottles and only move to bottles that are 30ml or larger once you find juice you particularly like, and want to save money and reordering so often. Buying 60mL bottles can lower the “price per mL” by half, and that’s a terrific way to keep vaping less expensive than smoking tobacco products.

Spinfuel Selections – When it comes to specific flavor recommendations, you should use the search function to see what the Spinfuel eLiquid Review Team have said about e juice containing that flavor. Our comprehensive reviews cover countless brands, with detailed information about their quality and pricing. The very best of these have won a Spinfuel Choice Award. These are the very best juice options, as decided by Spinfuel’s 4-member team. This award has developed over the years, and covers five key factors: quality ingredients; safe packaging; authentic flavor; accurate flavor descriptions; and consistency of flavor over different batches and nicotine strengths. If want the very best e liquid out there, this is the place to start.

To Sum Up:

  • Experiment with as many flavors as your budget can stretch to, but always start with 10ml amounts. Consider buying sampler packs from recognized brands.
  • Try your vape at different times of the day, as your tastebuds can change throughout the course of the day, and depending on what you’ve recently eaten or drank.
  • Be aware that certain ingredients, particularly sweeteners, can reduce the lifespan of your atomizer coil. Avoid juice containing food coloring and other unnecessary
  • When finding your ideal wattage, start low and slowly work up until you find your sweet spot. Vaping at higher wattage will burn through juice and coils quicker than a low-wattage plus-ohm vape. If you are vaping with a plus-ohm atomizer start at 8-10w, and if you are using a sub-ohm atomizer, start at 15-20w. Better safe than sorry.
  • Try out at least two tobacco flavored eliquids when starting out, to help make the leap from tobacco product cigarettes easier. At the same time, try a couple of other flavors you find enticing. Budget to try a number of new juice flavors each week so you can build an informed opinion on the best juice for you.
  • Spinfuel ejuice reviews should be your first port of call when it comes to researching specific flavors and brands. Take careful note of any juice with the Spinfuel Choice Award as these are highly-rated by a number of different staff members.
  • When an e liquid brand describes their flavors they make them all sound scrumptious. Try to resist the poetry or hard-sell ‘lyrical’ flavor descriptions. Read between the lines to understand what this or that e juice might taste like.

Nicotine Advice

New vapers often have many questions about nicotine. How much nicotine should you start with? How does vaping compare to smoking a tobacco cigarette? There are no clear-cut answers as everyone is different but here are some pointers.

What is the vaping equivalent of smoking a cigarette?

Currently, there is no definitive answer to this. People inhale at different rates and the vast technological differences in vape gear means the amount of nicotine consumed in a single drag cannot be accurately determined. The best advice is to treat it like sugar in your tea – try out different variations until you find a level that’s right for you.

How Much Nicotine Should I Start With?

Again, there is no catch-all answer to this but there a few things to keep in mind. If you’re a heavy smoker (20+ per day) you might need a high nicotine level to begin with, such as 18mg or 24mg. However, this can mean decreased flavor and a harsher vape. If you only smoke a couple of cigarettes per day, you might prefer to start with a low level such as 3mg or 6mg. Be aware that consuming too much nicotine in a short space of time can lead to feelings of nausea and dizziness. You might feel like your fingers and toes are tingling, and you might begin to sweat profusely. Don’t panic, there is a 99.99999% chance you’re going to fine in a few minutes.

If you are sub-ohm vaping keep to 3mg or 6mg of nicotine. Any higher can be overpowering due to the stronger hit from a sub-ohm vape.

Lastly, overconsumption of nicotine can happen even when you are using the correct strength.  Many vapers so enjoy the flavor they are vaping and do not want to stop. Unfortunately, by not stopping the vaper can overconsume nicotine. If you find yourself doing just that more often than you should, immediately lower the nicotine strength so you don’t overconsume, or stop vaping sooner. If you usually smoked a tobacco cigarette in 12 or 13 “puffs”, vape the same amount to avoid problems. Most vapers reduce the nicotine strength rather than reduce the amount of vaping. Because vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking tobacco products, reducing nicotine makes the most sense to us.

Should I Reduce Levels of Nicotine Over Time?

We believe there a few reasons to lower your nicotine intake. Firstly, juice with low or zero nicotine simply tastes better and vape less harshly. Nicotine degrades over time, taking on a peppery taste, so lower nicotine levels reduce the effects of this. Secondly, if you wean yourself off nicotine you are less likely to return to smoking if your kit breaks or you are in a country where vaping is banned.

Nicotine isn’t as dangerous as is often suggested, but it is somewhat addictive so it’s advisable to reduce your reliance on it. Even so, nicotine usage in vaping is less addictive than cigarettes because tobacco contains many more habit-forming additives. Many of the recent laws clamping down on vaping claim that the use of nicotine in eliquid makes it a tobacco product. While we at Spinfuel find this illogical, it does mean you can sidestep a lot of TPD and deeming restrictions if you stick to zero nicotine e-juice.

What’s The Best Way of Reducing Nicotine?

First off, you should find the level of nicotine that’s right for you. The first few months in switching from tobacco products like cigarettes to vaping are vital, so don’t try to rush things. Many vapers report minor skin and throat problems such as blisters and coughs in these first few weeks as they transition away from tobacco, so be prepared for this.

Once you are confident you prefer vaping over smoking, it’s time to gradually decrease your nicotine intake. Most e-juice comes in these levels of nicotine: 3mg, 6mg, 12mg, 18mg and 24mg. Aim to reduce by one step every few weeks.

Focus on the improved flavor, and if you feel you aren’t getting enough nicotine in a single vape, simply vape more frequently and take longer inhales. Don’t worry, if the new level of nicotine isn’t working for you, go back up a step until you feel ready to try again.

The most important thing is to avoid smoking again. Many vapers reduce down to the lowest nicotine level over time, without even trying, as they prefer the smoother vape and improved flavor from low nic juice. This advice relates to plus-ohm vaping. Switching to sub-ohm vaping can be a useful to way to get a stronger hit from vaping, while using eliquid with low nicotine.

If you goal is to get to zero-nicotine vaping, it can be done much easier and faster than you might think, once you know in your heart that you are done with tobacco products forever. Once you reach zero-nic vaping you can choose to stop vaping, or continue to enjoy the full rich flavors and the thick, dense vapor clouds. It’s your decision.

To Sum Up:

  • There are too many variables in both vape technology and the human body to establish the vaping equivalent of a cigarette. Ultimately you must discover your preferred level by sampling juice of different strengths.
  • If you are a heavy smoker, it can help to start with a high level of nicotine, such as 18mg or 24mg. Sub-ohm vaping is more powerful, and as such most suitable juice comes at a maximum of 6mg of nicotine.
  • While the dangers of nicotine can be overstated, it can be useful to reduce your nicotine intake over time to experience the benefits of improved flavor and a smoother vape. Lowering your nicotine habit can also prevent the risk of reverting back to smoking.
  • Reduce the nicotine level of your stage, slowly and in stages. Don’t rush it. Remember, nicotine is not the enemy.

Storage and Steeping

There are a few tried and tested methods when it comes to extending the lifespan of your juice. Store it correctly and it can last for up to two years. When you buy your first bottle of juice, you should be aware of steeping as some shop-bought juice needs this to reach its full potential.

Storage – Most e-liquids come with a ‘best before’ date, but incorrectly-stored juice can go bad quicker than you’d think. Light-colored juice often turns darker over time due to oxidization, caused by exposure to the air and heat. That darkened juice can often still be vaped, but it is an indicator that it is losing its potency and flavor. Direct sunlight is a major factor in causing flavor to fade, so store in a cool dark place, away from humidity and heat sources. The top shelf of a dark closet, or pantry works well, but don’t refrigerate it as the flavor can distort if the temperature is too low. Nicotine tends to degrade quicker than other ingredients, taking on a harsh peppery taste and darkening, so be aware that high strength juice can change in taste and appearance over a matter of weeks.

Steeping – Some brand-new e-liquids may need steeping. This is most common with complex e liquid recipes, where the juice needs time to blend together to reach its optimum flavor. Some simple flavors can be vaped straight away but more sophisticated e-liquids will require steeping for a maximum of four weeks. If your juice needs steeping, keep it sealed in a cool dark place until it’s ready to use. Your juice vendor should tell you the amount of time it needs to steep, or it may be listed on the bottle.

Some brands, like Vape Dudes out of Texas, prepare and sell pre-steeped e-liquids under the name “Private Stock”. These pre-steeped e liquids might be a little more expensive, and that’s understandable. Vape Dudes makes up a batch of their flavors under Private Stock, and then stores the ejuice in a perfect storage facility. Other pre-steeped eliquids are brands that are outsourced to multi-million dollar facilities, where “aging” or steeping, is done during the large number of bottles that are manufactured, stored, and eventually shipped to vape shops around the country. When browsing e liquids online or in a vape shop, look for a DOB, date of birth, to see just how long ago the ejuice was made. If it was bottled more than a month ago chances are you won’t need to further steep it.

To Sum Up:

  • E-liquid will naturally turn darker over time, due to oxidization. This is fine to vape, but to reduce flavor degradation always keep your juice in a cool dark place.
  • E-liquids made from complex recipes will often require steeping before they reach their best for vaping. This means storing your juice in a cool dark place for up to four weeks, to let the flavor molecules merge together.
  • You can find more exhaustive information in our complete guide to storage and steeping.
  • Some brands sell pre-steeped eliquid, while others outsource the manufacturing of their e juice line, so are naturally steeped or aged through this manufacturing process.

Conclusion

Much like buying vaping gear, choosing the right e-juice is something that varies from person to person. While only you can tell what flavors you prefer, we have given information about nicotine and the PG/VG ratio which should help guide your first purchases, as well as information on how best to store and steep your juice purchases. For more thorough information about specific brands of e-juice, read our detailed e-liquid reviews. These are written by multiple Spinfuel writers, so over time you can discover which team members share similar tastes to your own. Currently, you can try out free samples at vape shops but the FDA are putting an end to this, and all giveaways, from August 8th 2016, onward.

As the final section of our Guide For New Vapers, we hope we have given you a solid grounding in the information you need to know when starting out on your vaping journey. But don’t stop here, there’s much more to learn about the world of e-cigarettes and vaping. Use the search function to check out the rest of the Spinfuel site for more detailed questions, and keep a look for our new Q&A section which in time will answer practically any question about vaping.

Ian Jones