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Spinfuel Guide to Vaping Guide: Disposable Dripping Atomizers
I can’t think of a single piece of vaping hardware more sadly underrated and underrepresented than the Disposable Dripping Atomizer, or DDA. The DDA is a simply amazing tool for the vaper who is just getting into the search for that Holy Grail, the “all day vape.” And today, I’m going to tell you all about them — and why I absolutely love them, as a casual vaper and as a review — and why you can love them for precisely the same reasons a reviewer does.
What Are They?
So what is a DDA? How does it differ in construction from, say, a cartomizer? Well, a DDA is similar to a cartomizer in that it’s a metal tube with 510 connection threads on one end. That’s about where the physical resemblance stops.
There is no wicking material inside a DDA. Instead, inside, you find only an atomizer coil sitting comfortably inside a ceramic cup. That’s really all there is to a DDA — just an atomizer assembly inside a metal tube with 510 connection threads on the atomizer side and an open end on the other side, into which you fit your drip tip. These devices, by the way, are the devices for which — I’m guessing, here, but it’s an educated guess, so I’m fairly confident that I’m right — drip tips were conceived of in the first place.
So what kinds of DDAs are there? Well, they range from the dirt-cheap to the relatively pricey, with a performance spectrum that matches their asking prices pretty neatly. You can grab yourself a decent 510 atomizer in the $5-7 price range and get very competent performance, or you can opt for a pricier but much more “powerhouse” model for double the price, but with twice the performance and longevity, as well as more options cosmetically and physically, such as various colors and various barrel lengths.
Which one you choose is going to be a matter of personal aesthetics and what your wallet will permit; but the reasons why you should choose one are pretty compelling. Let me lay down for you the reasons why I like them, and see if you find that these reasons just might apply to you, too.
What Are They For?
The biggest thing I use DDAs for, as a casual vaper, is the same thing I use them for as a reviewer: testing new eliquids. This is a case of turning their biggest “con” into a “pro”: because DDAs use very, very little wick for their tiny atomizers, and no tank, their eliquid capacity is measured in drops, not in milliliters.
Now, if you’re going out and about, that’s obviously not going to be anything even remotely like what you want to take with you. On the other hand, if you’re just getting started with new eliquids, and you aren’t sure whether or not you’re going to like, then a DDA is absolute perfection for finding out.
Let me give you an example scenario:
You’ve just heard about this wonderful new eliquid vendor, and hey, how about this luck? They’ve got sample size bottles. So you don’t have to drop a lot of money on 30ml or even 15ml bottles in order to find out which of their liquids you’ll want more of — you can throw down, say, $15 for a 5 pack of little 5ml sample bottles instead. Good deal!
But what to test them in? A 1ml cartomizer? Well, if it turns out you don’t like that liquid, too bad — you’re going to have to finish off a whole ml of the stuff now that you’ve filled a cartomizer with it.
But what if, instead, you had something smaller? Something you just drip four drops of that liquid into? That’s the ticket! And that’s just what a DDA is for. At any rate, that’s how I use them.
And I use them that way both casually, for the scenario I just described, and professionally when I review eliquids for Spinfuel. Although I also fill cartomizers and clearomizers to round out the testing, and although I don’t mention my DDAs, I do use them. You see, various atomizing devices can bring out various characteristics in any eliquid. The Kanger Protank and Protank II, for example? They tend to impart a faint metallic flavor on eliquids vaped from them. Cartomizers? Can sometimes (for me, anyway) add just the faintest whiff of a hint of a trace of ‘popcorn’ to vapes, particularly if the liquid has a very, very delicate flavor.
But a fresh (or freshly cleaned and dry-burned) DDA will always give you the most accurate possible flavor from an eliquid. It’s what I always start with, before the liquid goes into anything else. (Or, at the very least, right after it goes into a cartomizer but before the cartomizer is ready for use.)
How Do I Set It Up?
In order to set up a brand new DDA, my usual method is to carefully add 6 to 8 drops of the liquid I intend to test first. I then give the atomizer 5 minutes to become saturated with that liquid — this primes the atomizer. After that 5 minutes has elapsed, I add no more than 4 additional drops of the liquid I intend to test, then give it 5 more minutes, and then begin to use the device.
After it has been primed, never add more than 4 drops of liquid to your DDA. If you do, you risk flooding, which, trust me, is just about as unpleasant an experience as you could have, second only to taking a good, long drag on one that hasn’t got any eliquid in it at all. Harsh, scratchy, burning hit is bad, but second worst is a mouthful of hot eliquid on account of there was too much for the device to turn it into vapor.
How Do I Use It?
So now let’s say you’ve got your DDA primed — are there “best practices” for using it? Yes, indeed, there definitely are. Here they are in list form:
1. Keep track of the quality of the hit. If it starts to get dry or scratchy, or if the flavor starts to taste like anything other than the juice should taste like, time to top up.
2. Never more than 4 drops in any top-up.
3. If you use your DDA on a variable-voltage or variable-wattage mod, keep the voltage or wattage modest. Don’t go overboard and push a 1.8 ohm DDA up to 15 watts. These devices aren’t made for power vaping.
4. Give it plenty of cool-down time. While it’s possible to chain-vape using a DDA, these devices are by and large just empty metal tubes with atomizers. They can and will get extremely hot to the touch after prolonged, uninterrupted use.
How Do I Clean It?
So let’s say you’ve tested your first liquid in your DDA, and now you want to switch to another flavor. Should you clean it between liquids? You’ve heard about this issue called “flavor creep.” (At any rate, you have now!) Flavor creep is what happens when you switch from one flavor to another with the same atomizer, but that previous flavor is… tenacious. It’s still hanging on in the atomizer, and it’s talking over the new flavor.
So how do you defeat that “flavor creep” issue? By cleaning your DDA between flavors. And how do you clean your DDA? There are two methods, one “quick” and one “thorough.”
The “quick” method involves a somewhat delicate process known as “dry burning.”
NOTE: Always exercise EXTREME CARE when “dry burning” an atomizer!
“Dry burning” an atomizer involves the following steps:
1. Remove the drip tip from the DDA so that you can see the atomizer inside.
2. If your device is variable-voltage or variable-wattage, make sure your device is set to NO MORE THAN 3.7 VOLTS output.
3. While watching the atomizer coil carefully, PULSE (DO NOT HOLD) the firing button of your device. ONE PULSE EVERY COUPLE SECONDS should do it.
4. Watch for the coil of your atomizer to glow red. This will be problematic at first, since vapor will be rising from the coil. This is the old eliquid you are “burning” off.
5. Every few pulses, blow firmly on the atomizer to prevent the old eliquid from “cooking” onto the coil and hardening there.
6. Once the atomizer no longer emits vapor, stop the process and let the DDA sit for a minimum of 5 minutes to cool down.
After this, you will need to “prime” the DDA with the next flavor, just as you did when setting it up for the first time. The “quick” cleaning method is the one I use when I’m reviewing a line of eliquids and want to prevent “flavor creep” from interfering with the review process.
The “thorough” method only involves a couple of other steps, but it takes significantly longer. In the “thorough” method, I place the DDA into a shot glass of 151-proof Everclear and allow it to soak in that for 12 hours, followed by another 6 hours to air-dry, followed by the “dry burning” step described above. I only go for the “thorough” cleaning every two weeks or so.
Recap & Recommendation
So who are DDAs for? Basically, they’re for anyone who wants to sample a variety of eliquids without the commitment of filling a cartomizer or clearomizer before you know whether or not you’ll like the eliquid you’re testing. Now, you can see why that’s something reviewers would absolutely love — but it’s something I love as a casual vaper, as well.
To use an analogy, it’s a little like walking into a restaurant that usually serves nice, big portions — but not knowing whether or not their food is going to be the best thing ever, or sort of meh. Having a DDA is like being able to order just one bite of everything, so that you can find the thing that hits that absolute, perfect sweet spot for your palate before you sit down with a big plate of it.
That, to me, is one of the very best things a vaper with an adventurous palate could wish for.