Everything You Need to Know About E-Liquid
Not All E-Liquids Are Created Equal
Introduction to Modern E-Liquid
At times it is written as e-liquid, eliquid, e liquid, eJuice, e-juice, even e juice. No matter how you decide to write it, without it you’re simply out of luck. E-Liquid is at the very center of vaping. It is the ‘solution’ that is vaporized in your electronic cigarette, whether that e-cigarette is a high wattage box mod, an all-in-one tube shaped device, or any other configuration used to turn that hopefully delicious concoction into luscious, flavorful vapor. Let’s journey into the world of e-liquid together, let us share what we know about e-liquid in 2016 and beyond.
E-Liquid is made from various amounts of these main ingredients:
Other ingredients can find their way into e-liquid as well, but as the industry matures you’ll find them used less and less. Those ingredients include; alcohol, food coloring (a big no-no), and sometimes, palm glycerin as an alternative to vegetable glycerin. But as we progress as a community and as an industry, it is coming down to using Vegetable Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, and Flavorings, nothing more, and sometimes less.
The Importance of Vegetable Glycerin
When the industry was young it was common to see e-liquids comprised of more Propylene Glycol than Vegetable Glycerin. The reason is that PG (Propylene Glycol) has a thin viscosity and works very well as a ‘flavor enhancer/booster’.
The flavorings used in e-liquid is intensified through the use of PG, but PG has some unfortunate attributes. A small percentage of people have a Propylene Glycol allergy that causes excessive coughing, itching, dryness, and trouble breathing in severe cases. PG is also, somewhat, controversial for other reasons not really worth getting into here. Today, Vegetable Glycerin is the most favored of the two, for many reasons, including the general safety of it.
The Hardware (Vape Gear)
Often times when people graduate from a basic disposable or rechargeable cig-alike (Blu Cigs, Halo G6, NJOY, etc.) they will purchase the hardware before thinking about the type of e-liquid to buy for it. Vapers, a term for people that use electronic cigarettes, will often see a device, a box mod (an electronic vaporizer in the shape of a box), or a tube shaped device, that may or may not come with an atomizer, and the urge to buy it is too strong to resist. So they buy it without knowing what type of e-liquid works best.
Most box mods and tube shaped mods sold today need an atomizer in order to use it. Some, like the Kanger Nebox Subox, come with an atomizer built into the battery. Others, like the Joyetech eGo ONE or the Innokin Endura T18 come with their own atomizer.
An atomizer can be many things in today’s terminology. Often the term is used to describe a glass and stainless steel tank with a prebuilt coil head, sometimes an atomizer is that coil head, or just the coils with organic cotton or silica wicking, or a clearomizer or cartomizer.
For this primer on modern e-liquid let’s all decide to use the term ‘atomizer’ to mean any device sitting atop an electronic vaporizer in which e-liquid is contained. For much of this article the atomizer and ‘tank’ will be used interchangeably. I choose to do this because the modern vaping ‘scene’ is moving toward box mods and tanks. A tank holds a fair amount of e-liquid and uses a prebuilt coil head. Most tanks sold today perform amazingly well, especially when compared to clearomizers and cartomizers used in years past.
Without getting too technical, we have to touch on coil heads and coils ‘n cotton in order to explain how to choose a proper e-liquid. I will try to cover this as simply as I can.
For every ‘tank’ made for vaping the manufacturer offers 2, 4, or even 6 types of coil heads. These coil heads can differ in two ways; the metal used in making the actual coils, and the ‘ohms’ level at which those coils are rated. Below is an example that should make it fairly easy to understand.
The Kanger Subtank
The KangerTech Subtank is a common and popular ‘tank’ that can be used on just about every type of electronic cigarette on the market today. From box mods to tube-shaped ‘vaporizers’, the Subtank is a wonderful match for most devices.
The Subtank Mini by Kanger is made of glass and Stainless Steel, holds 4.5mL of e-liquid, creates voluminous clouds of vapor and delivers wonderful flavor, with all the coil heads made for it. The degree of vapor and flavor depend almost entirely on the e-liquid, but I’ll get there in a few minutes.
Kanger offers several coil heads for the Subtank Mini. The coil heads are rated at 1.5-ohm, 0.5-ohm, 0.3ohm, and 0.15-ohm. Kanger offers these coil heads made with Nickel wire (Ni200) for mods that include ‘temperature sensing’ technology (the 0.15-ohm coil head), and Kanthal wire coil heads for non-temperature sensing devices. The Kanthal wire coil heads are the 1.5, 0.5 and 0.3-ohm variety. Because all Kanger coil heads for the Subtank series use Organic Cotton stuffed through and around the wrapped coils, people refer to Kanger coil heads as “OCC’s”, or Organic Cotton Coils”. Atom Vapes, a company in China, makes an OCC for the Kanger Subtank that uses a special wrap for their coils. This wrap is called a Clapton Coil.
Some e-liquids are better for coil heads over 1.0-ohms and some work better for sub-ohm (less than 1.0-ohms) coil heads. What I mean by “better” is that they taste better, create thicker vapor, and can even give the coil heads a longer life.
Choosing the ‘right’ e-liquid for you means knowing the hardware, or vape gear, you want to use, the type of vaping you prefer, i.e., mouth-to-lung style, a method most cigarette smokers use, or a direct ‘lung hit’ style where the vapor is drawn directly into the lungs. Lastly, the vaper should have an idea on what kind of ‘flavor, or flavors’ they want to experience while vaping.
The type of vape gear you use, whether or not the vaporizer itself is capable of high wattage (above 30W), or not, and the type of atomizer (tank) you use with it, are all components of putting together the right gear with the right e-liquid.
The above is too much to get into here, but I will say that once a vaper leaves the cig-alike behind I strongly recommend a medium wattage box mod and that excellent Kanger Subtank Mini. Any box mod that strikes your fancy and outputs at least 30w can get excellent performance from the Kanger Subtank. That being the case, as we proceed we will assume that you own a 30W+ box and the Subtank Mini, though the principal works with any sub-ohm tank and any mod that can output 30W or more.
First, let’s discuss the VG/PG Ratio issue. After that, we’ll cover the importance of nicotine.
There is no magic ratio that works for everyone. Some people prefer higher VG ratios while other prefer higher PG ratios. Some vapers even prefer 100% VG or 100% PG ratios. That said, using a 30W box mod and a Subtank Mini your best bet, your only bet, is to use an e-liquid that is at least 50:50 VG/PG, preferably a 65% VG 35% PG blend.
When I vape I like strong flavors and lots of thick vapor. Using the 30W box mod and the Subtank as the example,
My Subtank Mini is always equipped with a 0.5-ohm (sub-ohm) OCC (organic cotton coil). This set up, along with an e-liquid that consists of 65%-70% VG and 30%-35% PG provides the exact vape experience I want, especially when my box mod is set to output at 30W. Lots of strong flavor, plenty of vapor, and a heavenly, relaxing vape when I use a High VG e-liquid.
Now, let’s say the same vape gear is being used, only this time the 1.5-ohm OCC is used instead of the 0.5-ohm OCC. This coil head is going to require a different VG/PG ratio in order to get the best vape experience possible.
1.5-ohms is considered, today, as High Resistance in many circles. Just 3 years ago 1.5-ohms was considered low resistance.
Any tank equipped with a 1.5-ohm coil head will require much less wattage going through it then a sub-ohm coil head. Instead of 30 watts like the 0.5-ohm coil head needed, the 1.5-ohm OCC could use as little as 13-15 watts. Try to vape the higher resistance coil head at 30W and you will scorch your coils, your e-liquid, and probably your throat.
Less wattage to the coil head means you might want to use a thinner e-liquid than a 70% VG blend. You could get excellent taste, flavor, and vapor from a 50:50 VG/PG blend. Thinner e-liquids vaped at less wattage lasts longer than thicker VG blends at higher wattage. Vaping at 15 watts uses less energy from the battery as well, meaning your battery life per charge will last longer.
Does all this sound confusing to you? Don’t worry. My recommendations for your first post-cig-alike vape gear is below. You might want to start there until you have a firm understanding of the information parted in this article before exploring other alternatives. And there are plenty of alternatives just waiting to be experienced. However, there is one more piece of the vape-puzzle to go over.
Nicotine is a very addictive, very powerful chemical found in nature. It is also the biggest reason most people vape. We are satisfying our addiction to nicotine more than anything else, at first anyway.
If you take my recommendations to heart, using at least a 30+ watt box mod and a tank with a sub-ohm head there is something you must consider. Nicotine adsorption.
No matter what nicotine level you were using with your cig-alike, cut that amount in half. Seriously. A 30W setting and a 0.5-ohm coil head, and a 70% VG e-liquid will vaporize nicotine much more efficiently than any cig-alike on the market. It will also be more efficient than the 1.5-ohm coil head and the 50:50 VG/PG blend of e-liquid. By cutting your nicotine level in half you will not over-consume nicotine and you will be just as satisfied. If, on the offhand you are not, it is safer to go up a little in nicotine rather than over-consume and go down.
More On Flavor
Flavor is a very subjective factor in vaping. The most subjective. What I like in an e-liquid flavor you might not, and vice versa.
Flavoring is the cornerstone to vaping satisfaction. If you don’t love the flavor of the e-liquid, then the amount of vapor you are creating with it means nothing. Flavorless e-liquid, once a real demand, is used for cloud chasing competitions. In every other form of vaping flavor is at the heart of it all.
When choosing flavors to try for the first time I would suggest reading any review you can (especially Spinfuel reviews), as long as they are honest ones. Do any of the descriptions of the Spinfuel Team Member Review sound enticing? Well, that is a good place to start.
Another place to start is to think about what you like to eat. What foods do you like? Not just any foods however. You might love mashed potatoes and gravy, but I seriously doubt you would enjoy that flavor in the form of vapor. No, instead, you have to think about the flavors you like in desserts, baked goods, fruit, candy, drinks, and even tobacco. These are the flavor categories that the vast majority of vapers enjoy tasting in vapor form.
I love banana pudding, the dessert. I love the combination of bananas and vanilla pudding, with a healthy helping of vanilla wafers. Through some e-liquid exploration I discovered a few e-liquids on the market that taste exactly like banana pudding. To this day I keep a bottle of ‘The Plume Room’s Banana Pudding’ in my collection of dessert e-liquids.
As you discover more about what you like in an e-liquid flavor your collection of ‘great e-liquids’ will grow. To find great e-liquid brands and flavors you should use reviews, word of mouth, and recommendations from friends for clues to uncover what works for you.
Just a few words here about premium e-liquids, their cost, and what makes an e-liquid premium in today’s market place.
You might be surprised to learn that most (though not all) e-liquid brands today, or at least the ones that you hear about online, in vape shops, and through friends, are premium e-liquids. The days of small companies making e-liquid in their home kitchens and bathrooms and selling them online are gone.
Today, most smart e-liquid brands spend time and money developing great recipes and then outsourcing the recipe to a multi-million-dollar e-liquid manufacturer. A manufacturer that can guarantee quality, consistency, safety, purity, high quality ingredients, and so on. The e-liquid ‘Artist’ is alive and well, but the grunt work, the dangerous part, is now being farmed out to companies that have the resources. This is a great move in the right direction. Of course, there are many e-liquid brands that started small and, through a lot of hard work and investment, they continue to make their e-liquids in-house with very costly equipment and clean rooms.
A premium e-liquid is no longer decided by the cost of each bottle. Prices of excellent premium e-liquids can be as low as $14 per 30mL bottle and as high as $30 per 30mL bottle. What you decide to pay is totally up to you. For myself, I’m all about $15 a bottle, and can be comfortable with $20 per 30mL bottle if the flavor is over the top awesome. Any more than that, well, there are just too many excellent e-liquids for far less, so I just don’t bother.
Finally, the uber-premium e-liquid is a category of $25 and above e-liquids that have gained notoriety through slick marketing campaigns and super deluxe packaging. Once and a while splurging on an uber-premium bottle can be fun, and sometimes you can find an e-liquid that delivers heaven in the clouds. If you decide to splurge it might be a good idea try it out, if you can, at a local vape shop, or through a friend, or in a sample bottle at a vape expo. Choosing wrong flavor or brand can be expensive, and very disappointing.
We’ve kept our 2013 e-Liquid Primer online for the curious vaper. When I reread it I was amazed at how the world of e-liquid, and vape gear, has changed in just a little more than 2 years. If you’re new to vaping hop on over and read it to see what it was like in the stone ages of the vape community.
Today, modern vaping is all about variable wattage and temperature control (temperature sensing), High VG e-liquids and vaping at higher wattage and lower resistance. The e-liquid segment of the community has responded by creating wonderful e-liquids that work so well with these new devices. It is a wonderful time to be a Vaper. The is nothing quite like a High VG e-liquid delivered warm and luscious through a great sub-ohm tank attached to a beautiful regulated high wattage device. That was an impossibility on a mass scale in early 2013…today, it’s the norm.
If you are coming from a cig-alike we urge you to avoid vape gear that is overly complicated. You might very well want to get to the point where you are building your own coils, using RDA’s (rebuildable dripping atomizers), and learning fancy coil wrapping. That’s great, and it is fun. Spinfuel has several articles on all these things, and more. But, take it one step at a time, at least for now.
There are dozens of devices and e-liquids that fit the recommendations below. Spinfuel has dozens of reviews on vape gear and e-liquid that will do the job.
30W+ Box Mod
Glass & Stainless Steel Sub-Ohm Tank (Kanger Subtank to start)
High VG premium e-liquid