The Journey Begins With The First Step
Boy, what a week it has been! Between my normal day-to-day responsibilities and my new passion for DIY e Liquid “hobby” of creating my own eLiquid, (thanks to the encouragement from the people at Totally Wicked eLiquid), it has been one busy week.
Fun with Concentrates
The first thing I learned about DIY ejuice mixing is that, in the very beginning, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the things you need to know before opening a single bottle of flavor concentrate, nicotine concentrate, or diluents. Worse, when you are dealing with nicotine concentrate, understanding just how toxic liquid nicotine can be, it can be a daunting task to simply open the bottle!
From Sunday to Tuesday of this week every time I had a few minutes I would lock myself in my office and bring up YouTube in my browser and watch videos on mixing your own ejuice. There are literally dozens of them to watch, some good and some bad, but every one of them is a learning experience.
Until you actually do something ‘real’ all this learning is an abstract. Even when I thought I was confident enough to open the boxes of concentrates, nicotine, and PG and VG diluents, I had a couple of videos at the ready to sort of ‘hold my hand’ along the way. Unmasking the mystery of eLiquid can be unnerving.
The Abstract of Knowledge
Watching a YouTube video is an excellent way to see how people mix their own ejuice, but unless you are prepared to ‘start and stop’ almost constantly, ‘rewind and review’, and even jotting down notes won’t get you very far, other than being entertained. What you learn, even with the starts and stops and notes, is fine, but there is a reason why ‘hands on’ training works so well. It’s in the “doing” that counts.
The best YouTube video I watched was created by “ILoveMeLexi” (http://youtu.be/2nep4_ZF7Mo) and the title is, simply, “Make your own e-liquid”. It runs 8:19 and you watch her mix up a batch of ejuice and listen to her explain what she’s doing, it’s that simple. For some reason I kept coming back to her video, despite the 10-15 other videos I watched in that time. There was simplicity to her method, and she had confidence. That sort of thing rubbed off on me a little. She made it look so easy.
The iPhone eJuice App
Note* I understand that Totally Wicked offers an Android App for mixers, but since I use an iPhone and an iPad, I need to write about the app that I use. Here’s a link to the Android app user manual.
During the preparation stage I also sought out any Apps I could find that would do all the math for me. It’s not that I’m bad at math, but mistakes can be costly, and I’d heard a lot about how good the 2 iPhone/iPad apps are at calculating and configuring recipes for mixing your own juice.
Liquix E-Liquid Calculator
I purchased an app from iTunes that you are going to read me reference hundreds of times over the next year or two. This app will make you a better mixer, will help you keep track of all your supplies, and give you accurate recipes for any flavor of ejuice you want to create, in any PG/VG blend, at any nicotine level. I haven’t talked to anyone about this app yet, but I’ll bet that there are many professionals out there using it everyday.
Dealing with liquid nicotine is no small matter. This is toxic stuff and one small mistake can have devastating effects. I cannot emphasize this enough; if you have kids or pets you must make absolutely sure that every single ingredient is safely stored away from their preying hands or paws. You could easily poison your kids or pets if you leave your nicotine concentrate out in the open and curiosity gets the better of your kids and pets.
As for your own safety, if you plan on spending just an hour or less with these ingredients plan on washing your hands a couple of times to make sure that your skin doesn’t absorb the nicotine, unless you’re wearing gloves.
If you plan on mixing for a few hours you absolutely need to invest a couple of bucks in some very thin surgical gloves. I like the ones my doctor uses, very thin and purple, so whenever I go to see him I ask him for some. (Long before I began this project I’ve been taking home purple gloves from my doctors office. You never know when a pair of gloves might be needed). You can buy surgical gloves like this at Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and so forth. If you have a medical supply store in your area you can get them there as well. DIY e Liquid
Wearing surgical gloves doesn’t affect the handling of the ingredients and at the same time it saves you from having to worry about the nicotine concentrate getting into your system through your skin. I would go so far as to say this is a must-have part of any DIY eLiquid project.
Work Space DIY e Liquid
A proper Workspace can be an issue for many people. It depends on your personal situation so I can’t advise as to specifics. For me, I’ve been working with these ingredients at home and at my office.
At home I’ve set up a separate desk as my workspace, and I keep all of my ingredients in the drawers. At the office I use what we call our “conference” room, which is really just a spare room with a large table, a mini-frig, and a sink. Wherever you can find a safe and secure place to work is fine, but if you can’t find a permanent place to set up your supplies then make sure you have a system in place where you can pack and unpack all of the ingredients, bottles, droppers, and so forth. If you discover that you enjoy making ejuice try to find a place at home where you can set up your workspace and secure it from your kids and pets.
I know it sounds like I’m overdoing it. I mean, there aren’t any dangerous fumes or chemical burns to worry about, and if you don’t have any kids or pets around you can mix juice on your dining room table during dinner, but if you do have to worry about nicotine poisoning then its always better to be safe than sorry.
The Unboxing DIY e Liquid
When it came time to order in my supplies I had to depend on the great customer service people at Totally Wicked. I called them up and told them that I wanted to try my hand at making my own eLiquid, but that I was a complete noob. I didn’t know from nothing, and needed the rep to tell me what I needed.
The person I talked to asked me a couple of questions, I can’t recall exactly what they were, but what we decided upon was this:
- The Nicotine Base. Did I want my nicotine base to be Propylene Glycol (PG) or Vegetable Glycerin (VG)? Totally Wicked offers nicotine levels in these two products at 54mg and 72mg. I chose both since I’m in this for the long haul and I will be experimenting with new things every week. I’m not building a factory line to produce certain flavors so I wanted variety.
- The Diluents. Was my ejuice going to be PG based, VG based, or both? Again, because I am going to be experimenting I chose both.
- Concentrates. Totally Wicked offers two lines of concentrates, Red label and Gold Standard. I chose the Gold Standard because this is their premium line of concentrates. I will add Red Label in my next order.
- Flavors. This was a real game stopper for me. I would have liked to order every flavor they had, in 20ML bottles, but who has that kind of money these days? So I chose a dozen flavors to start off with and will add to those in my next order.
- Accessories. As far as a glass dropper goes I knew that at least for a while I was going to mix by the drop. When I asked the rep about this he was nice enough to tell me that in the Titanium and Platinum line of the nicotine kits include a professional level glass dropper, the kind with a bent tip that provides a uniform ‘drop’ each and every time. After using this dropper I’m sold on it and plan to add a few more to my tool kit, just in case. In the mixing kits you also get 10ML and 30ML bottles for mixing. This was a good start but I plan on buying plenty of bottles so that I can keep all my various experimental eLiquids for future reference. DIY e Liquid
And that’s about it. The rep, never knowing who I was or what I was doing, or for whom or what I was doing it for, I was treated as though I was the only customer that day and the success of Totally Wicked depended solely on me. I haven’t felt this good about a blind call to customer service in a long time.
When my package arrived from Totally Wicked I couldn’t wait to tear open the box and check it out. So naturally, I did just that. But that’s where it stopped. The package arrived a couple of weeks ago, and since that first day, when I opened the boxes and looked at each item I hadn’t touched them. The boxes are in our stockroom and I hadn’t done a thing with them until yesterday morning.
All of video the watching, all of the reading, and the time I put in learning how to use the Liquix eLiquid iPad app, was preparation. When the time came I hoped I was ready, but there was this tiny voice in my brain that urged me to try and not poison myself by vaping 54mg of nicotine. It kept telling me “Don’t forget to dilute!”
My first ejuice DIY e Liquid
I’ve had co-workers and friends all offer their advice on what my first attempt of an eLiquid flavor should be. “Keep it simple.” “Don’t go off the recipe!” and “Don’t be a hero!” I listened, to a point, but ultimately I had to make the decision myself.
The first decision was what level of nicotine did I want to try. With the Liquix eLiquid App I could choose any level I wanted. Did I want to go light, maybe 0.6%, medium at 1.2%, or 1.5%, or heavy at 2.4%?
Despite being a simple “first-try” I wanted to approach it as though I was making an eLiquid that I could actually vape for a while, so the level of nicotine had to be both realistic and satisfying to me. I chose 1.2%, which left room for error but still satisfying.
Next was the mix. Should it be 100% PG or 100% VG% or did was a 70/30 split that so many pros use the way to go? I decided on a 50/50 split. It would be enough PG to realize a decent throat hit and enough VG to allow for plenty of vapor production.
Then it was time to choose a flavor. When it came time to decide on the flavor I was stumped. Realizing that I should have ordered a lot more concentrates I felt hemmed in by the limited number of choices. As standalone flavors each of them would make a good vaping flavor, but did I really want to go with a single flavor the first time out? Wouldn’t it be more exciting to mix a couple of flavors and see if I could mix something a little different?
As it turned out, I made up 2 flavors my first time out. One flavor consisted of two concentrates and one consisted of a single flavor. The single flavor was something I wanted to make the minute I saw it listed on the Totally Wicked website; Sarsaparilla. As a kid I absolutely loved sarsaparilla soft drinks. I’d never seen this flavor offered by any of the brands I’ve seen, so this is one I had to try.
For my two-flavor eLiquid flavor I chose Pineapple and banana. It was sort of a “half way” Pina Colada. I would have gone with Coconut as well, had I had the smarts to order coconut in the first place. I figured that if I could create an ejuice that was good enough to actually taste both the banana flavor and the pineapple flavor then it would be deemed a success.
The Act of Creation DIY e Liquid
I chose to make a 10ML flavors. I wanted it large enough to fill a few Clearomizers (CE2’s) and small enough not to have to waste a lot of the ingredients.
I mixed them in 30ML bottles. With a steady hand, I placed the ingredients I would need on my desk in a half circle. The empty bottle was directly in front of me. I opened my iPad and punched the numbers into Liquix .
Nicotine base: 54mg
Target nicotine level: 12
Flavoring percent: 10
Amount to create 10ml
Drops per standard (glass dropper) 25 drops = 1ML
Liquix spelled out the recipe in an easy to read and easy to understand box. To make sure that Liqux was working as advertised I also opened up an iPhone app called “eJuice” and type in the same information. The recipe was identical; I was good to go.
PG NICOTINE: 2.2ML OR 55 DROPS
PG DILUTENT 1.8ML OR 44 DROPS
VG DILUTENT 5.ML OR 125 DROPS
FLAVORINGS 1.0ML OR 25 DROPS
I followed this recipe for both flavors. For the eLiquid that called for banana and pineapple I divided the 25 drops of flavoring as 13 drops of pineapple and 12 drops of banana.
In my ‘newbie’ opinion I believe that this recipe calculator is a godsend to DIY ejuice mixers. I cannot imagine a time where I wouldn’t need it, unless I turned pro and over the course of a couple of years memorized certain recipes. And since I plan on sticking with Totally Wicked’s high-quality ingredients it would be really nice if they ported their Android app to the iPhone. I imagine that when configuring their app they took into consideration the characteristic of their own ingredients and the recipes could be tweaked for their product.
Steeping is what you do with freshly made ejuice in order to “age” them, or “marry” the ingredients. This is a near-controversial issue, some people don’t do it, and some do. We at Spinfuel make it a point to steep the ejuice we receive for review. For us, it simply works. It has never failed to enhance the flavor of every eJuice bottle we’ve received. For reviews we fill our cartomizers, tanks, clearos, or whatever we’re going to use and we let them sit overnight. In every single case it has made a positive difference.
For my eLiquid experiments I plan on steeping as well. The two eLiquids I made yesterday were completed about 4PM. I filled a total of 4 CE2 Clearomizers (2 for each flavor) and left them in the office overnight. As I read this I am about to vape the juice for the very first time.
The reason I chose CE2 Clearomizers for this project is simple; Clearomizers give a cleaner taste in almost every situation. I trust the flavor; it’s a more accurate reflection of the taste. From what I understand, many professional juice mixers drip juice directly onto the atomizers in order to get the truest flavor from the ejuice, but I don’t care for this method so Clearomizers are the next best thing. CE2 Clearomizers are more affordable than CE4’s and CE4+ so it makes sense economically as well.
Here goes nothing! (I’m vaping this live!) Tick tock tick tock…Two minutes later: Okay, the first flavor I tried is the pineapple/banana. Plenty of pineapple taste, tons of vapor, but almost no throat hit. I can’t find the banana anywhere. Maybe I should have gone 13 drops of banana and 12 drops of pineapple. Could one drop literally bury the second flavor? Maybe.
I’m pretty impressed with myself right now. This isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. The CE2 is attached to my new Lambo 4 (review upcoming) and its set to 3.9v. When I push it to 4.2 it gets too warm too quickly, but the throat hit is there. 4.4v is just too much. Is it the Clearomizer or the juice? Not sure. Will have to experiment further.
I know I can do better. I like this pineapple flavoring… I like it a lot. Next time I’m going to stay with this pineapple, add some coconut. Using these two flavors as my basic I’ll play around with a third flavor.
50/50 PG/VG isn’t a bad way to go either, but next time I’m going to 65/35 to see if I can maintain a good amount of vapor but punch up the throat hit some.
Okay, here goes… Two minutes later… the sarsaparilla is a unique and wonderful flavor, I want to work with this again. But, 10% flavor isn’t enough. A 50/50 PG/VG works okay but again I think I can get a better result at 65/35 or 70/30. I’m not even going to try to add something to this flavor until I get it right by itself. But for some reason I’m keep thinking I might throw in some marshmallow flavoring.
Using the same Lambo 4 set to 3.8 gives okay results. This seems to be a flavor that can turn on you fast if you bump the voltage abruptly. Tried it at 4.2 and it delivered a better throat hit, but it was a hairs thickness away from burning. This needs work, not sure is I want to continue working on this now, might be going to something new.
Grade: F+ (fail, but worth working with again)
Remember, I’m going to be spending one-day a week in my “lab” working on eLiquids. Next week I’m going to work with the Pineapple and coconut and find that third flavor to add to it. Since I can back off from watching videos so much I can spend more time learning some tips and tricks to pass along to you.
Instead of a single eLiquid I’m going to try at least 6 different variations.
In addition to the one flavor above I’ve decided to work with some other flavors that I want to keep secret right now. I have a plan and I want to see if it works.
By the time I mix again I’ll have some nicotine testing strips to make sure the nicotine levels are accurate.
Lastly, I just had a good idea. Whichever ejuice comes out the best I’m going to mix up 6x 15 or 20ML bottles and give them away to our readers. Not sure how right now, but I’ll figure something out. Maybe a random drawing, maybe something else. Stay tuned…
For months now the staff has been trying to come up with a fun and entertaining idea for a Spinfuel Podcast. How about a podcast every 2 weeks that is dedicated to DIY eLiquid creation? We can do some interviews, answer questions, talk about the experiments I’m doing, and highlight one or two professional ejuice companies for each show. Maybe I can convince someone at Totally Wicked to come on each show and talk about something eCig related or eLiquid related. Get Julia in here as co-host maybe.
I’ll have the podcast idea fleshed out by next Wednesday, and I’ll disclose it in my next “Fun with Concentrates” column.
As I close this week’s column out I find it interesting that I am still vaping on the Pineapple/Banana ejuice. Still can’t taste the banana at all, but this isn’t bad. Hmmm…