In today’s edition of Fun With Concentrates, a Totally Wicked eLiquid sponsored series, I’m going to take a look at some of the ingredients I use daily in my eJuice experimenting. I’m going to bring you up to date on what I’ve been learning and doing with eLiquids, and finally, I’m going to tell you why I chose, as my first legitimate flavor creation, Milk Chocolate Orange-covered Jelly Sticks. Yummm… – John Manzione, Flavorists in Training

Ingredients

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The two main ingredients that go into your eLiquids are propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. Commonly referred to as PG and VG, they are used together in an unlimited number of variations, to form the ‘base’ of the liquids you vape. I am going to assume that I will not need to inform you of the false claims being made by anti-smoking zealots about these two ingredients, but it is worth mentioning some of the characteristics of both.

Propylene Glycol (PG) is a derivative of natural gas. It is commonly used in a variety of consumer products and food products, including, in pharmaceuticals grade, eLiquids for vaping. PG plays a role in providing the ‘throat hit’ you feel when inhaling. (Nicotine, certain flavors, and PG/VG ratios also play a role in the quality of throat hits.)

PG can sometimes cause allergic reactions in a very tiny portion of the vaping population. I believe the allergic reaction claims are real, but overblown, like most things in life. Still, if you find that when you vape you might feel a scratchy throat or sinus issues, if you have headaches, and even feel some nausea, you may be having an allergic reaction to the Propylene Glycol. Worst-case scenarios, which are even more rare, include numbness in the face or tongue or swelling and redness in the areas of your mouth. Having said that, check the nicotine level in your juice as well because at times you might think you’re having a PG reaction when in fact you’re over-vaping and consuming too much nicotine. For those that like to vape around the clock, like myself, I cut back my nicotine levels. If you do find PG to be an issue, cut way back on it or switch to non-PG formulas.

High quality Propylene Glycol should be tasteless, though some can detect  ‘sweetness’ in it, and is thinner by far than VG. Both are colorless, and when making eLiquids you should always use the purest forms of both.

Vegetable Glycerin, or VG, is a thicker fluid that produces more vapor than PG, and is a plant-based substance. Both PG and VG are oft-used terms that form the diluents in the eLiquid recipe.

Another ingredient in most eLiquids is, of course, nicotine. Nicotine can be purchased in many ways, but for the purpose of today’s column I’ll leave it to being able to purchase nicotine as pure nicotine liquid, or a PG or VG -based nicotine solution. If you want to create eLiquids without nicotine it’s perfectly fine to do so.

Some people who have come to vaping from smoking will sometimes start off at a high nicotine level and work themselves down to zero nicotine level. From there, some stop vaping altogether and others continue because it’s basically harmless and it is extremely satisfying.

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Nicotine

In my hobbyist level experimenting I do not use 100% nicotine solution. Instead I use two products from Totally Wicked eLiquid that I believe are safer for me to handle, and safer for me to create eLiquids I will actually vape. I use a ‘Nicotine Solution’ called ‘Platinum Ice’, in 54MG nicotine level. It is an unflavored PG solution or VG solution. A box of Platinum Ice comes in two sizes, 50ML and 100ML.

I use these Products from Totally Wicked:

Nicotine Solution 1 Platinum Ice: PG-based, 54MG nicotine, unflavored solution in 100ML bottles. I also have this same solution with 72MG of nicotine in a PG solution called Titanium Ice series.

Nicotine Solution 2 Platinum Ice: VG-based, 54MG nicotine, unflavored solution in 100ML bottles. I also have this solution with 72MG of nicotine in VG solution called their Titanium Ice series.

Using the Platinum Ice & Titanium Ice series I am able to create eLiquids faster, safer, and more accurately than purchasing straight nicotine and diluting it myself.

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I trust Totally Wicked completely and I know that their products are the pure and safe. Totally Wicked has always strived to lead the way in quality control, chip compliance, and choice of flavorings. Totally Wicked owns every aspect of their eLiquid processes, from the source of the ingredients to the bottling, packaging, and handling of them. Both Platinum Ice and Titanium Ice are UK manufactured. Their nicotine comes from Ireland and is mixed and bottled in a Totally Wicked owned and operated facility in Blackburn UK, mixed in in clean rooms and operated by specialists. I am a patriot, but to be blunt, I trust UK products as bit as much as I trust US products. We are, after all, brothers and sisters.

Before I move on to flavorings I’d like to say I believe, 100%, the reason I have been able to create vapeable (“vapeable” should be a real word) eLiquids at this stage of the game is because of Totally Wicked’s ‘Ice’ series. While I’m certainly nowhere near ready to even share any juice I make with someone outside the Spinfuel office, they taste ‘almost decent’ already. For those of us that want to make our own eLiquids (in conjunction with buying our favorite ‘pro-level’ eJuice) Totally Wicked makes it easier, safer, and a whole lot more fun. The DIY hobby or eLiquids is a very cool, and very affordable hobby.

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Flavorings

Totally Wicked has two (2) lines of concentrates (flavorings) that are sold to create flavored eLiquids. The Gold Standard and the Red Label. We have several Gold Standard concentrates on hand and just this week decided to add some Red Label tobacco and other flavors from this line.

The Gold Standard is the premium flavor concentrates from TW, and are blended and manufactured in the UK from UK sourced ingredients. The Gold Standard is the line of flavorings I have chosen to work with from the beginning. The sheer numbers of choices for flavors are downright exciting. I have built up a collection of flavors with which I feel confident I could create a near-unlimited number of eLiquid flavors. Though, at this point, they might not taste as good as they should.

What I am still lacking:

Right now I am using syringes, eyedroppers and empty bottles for my mixing. I am a huge fan of using syringes for measuring ingredients, so I continue to look, and obtain, as many different sizes (they are inexpensive enough) as I can so that should I at some point create a flavor that I wish to share with Spinfuel readers I’ll have become fast enough, and consistent enough, to create them quickly and safely.

I’m not so sure yet about where to mix my flavors, in bottles or in vials. I’m still trying to decide. Right now I’m using 5ML bottles from Totally Wicked. If any pros out there want to put in their 2 cents that would be welcome, so leave your comments below.

When I approached Totally Wicked about sponsoring this DIY workshop column I did so because they have always been a stellar vendor and they give more than they get. Seriously, if you’ve ever spent time in one of the stores or online you’ll see that it seems their #1 goal is to educate the public about vaping, and to educate vapers about vaping. Spinfuel and Totally Wicked seem to be cut from the same cloth. And I love their accents as well.

Anyway, working closely with Stacey all my needs for ‘Fun with Concentrates” are taken care of so quickly that I can tell her what I need and in less than 2 days they arrive. So a huge public Thank You to both Stacey and Totally Wicked for allowing me the opportunity to share the joy of DIY eLiquid creation with our Spinfuel readers. Fun with Concentrates would not be possible without their generosity, so I want to make sure you guys know this every week. And no, they haven’t told me to say anything about them; I’m doing it because this is a first class company with great people running it.

What Happened This Week

Since my last column I have been continuing my own education by reading and viewing videos about eLiquids. I have also been very hand’s on with the ingredients.

I’ve also spent a good deal of time thinking about the “theory” of creating eJuice. In other words, I’ve been going over in my mind why these ingredients work as they do, and how I might approach creating certain flavors. When the moment arrived when I understood (not just memorized) how PG and VG work together, how and why certain ingredients work together, and how flavorings blend, I experienced a “eureka” moment. Since that eureka moment I’ve been handling the ingredients with a lot more confidence, and vaping my own creations are becoming more frequent. So far I’m still alive, imagine that.

Last week I was terrified about this column and this week I find that I am much more relaxed about it. Not so relaxed that I will be able to create an eLiquid that I would be proud to share with Ginger from Ginger’s eJuice or Steve and Brandy at Mountain Oak Vapor, and I’m probably not ready to have Stacey from TW ready to try my eJuice. But my wife, my staff, and me have tried it. No one has been poisoned (knock wood) and no one has dared, err, I mean, suggested that my eJuice sucks. In any case, the most important thing to take away from my early confidence in creating an eLiquid that doesn’t make you want to throw up is this:

Just because you can vape it, it doesn’t mean its any good

The Chosen Flavor

Now that I have a certain understanding and confidence of how all this works, what roles the ingredients play, and how ratios are of vital importance to an individual flavor I want to create a “good” eLiquid that people would actually enjoy vaping. This will be my main focus, though not my only focus, from here on out.

You will read about my recipes and the progress I’ve made each week. It is way too early to commit all my efforts into my chosen flavor, so there are many eJuice flavors to be made before being able to create the flavor I want to create.

I will divide my efforts into some standard recipes, explain to you why the recipe is the way it is, and what I might do to make that flavor my own, and in turn, your own if you too are following along with me. There are things you can do to make even the most generic flavor, say, Peach, to make it your own. Expect a lot of that kind of stuff in the coming weeks.

The Flavors that I want to perfect, the one I want to understand completely, are also my favorite candies; Milk Chocolate covered Orange Jelly Sticks and Milk Chocolate covered Raspberry Jelly sticks.

The Candy – Orange or Raspberry chocolate covered jelly sticks are an old and favorite candy that is still enjoyed by millions of people the world over. Sweet orange or raspberry flavors are drenched in sweet and bitter-free milk chocolate and when they come together it’s a joyous feeling that starts with the taste buds and goes all through the body. When I buy a box of either flavor they last no more than a day. I don’t buy them all the time; they are too special for that. I keep the taste and the happiness of enjoying them alive and desirous by only purchasing them 3 or 4 times a year.

The eLiquid – I want to recreate the sweet and carefully balanced flavors of these jelly candies in a vape that hopefully will cause the same reactions that the candy does. I want to capture that non-bitter, smooth milk chocolate flavor and those sweet orange and raspberry flavors. Can I do it? Only time will tell.

Concentrates: – For the first few attempts I went straight for the Milk Chocolate concentrate and the orange flavor concentrate. Since these two flavors seem like the obvious choices I decided not to get too creative, at least not yet, and go with these instead of some derivative or alternate flavors.

If, after tweaking the recipe many times I still can’t get it right I may switch to TW’s Cocoa concentrate and orange, then Cocoa and Marmalade, which is an orange based variation. As you can see, when attempting to create a new flavor the time involved, as well as the ingredients, is pretty heavy.

PG/VG mix – I’m going for an 80/20 ratio at first, only because I want to play with a pretty decent throat hit and a thin eLiquid, and also because PG has some built-in sweetness which might work to my advantage.

Then, I’m going to play with the ratios, going to 70/30, 50/50, ALL PG and ALL VG, and maybe some uneven ratios as well. In any case, if you are playing along with me, the most important thing to remember about ratio tweaking is to ALWAYS right your recipes down as you mix them, otherwise you run the risk of creating a great tasting flavor and forgetting what the ratio was.

Nicotine levels – Also assisting in the throat hit I’m sticking with 18mg, or 1.8% for the time being. Once I get the formula worked out I’ll create different nicotine levels.

Recipes – I have too attempts under my belt to talk about today. While the actual taste of a chocolate covered orange jelly is very far away, my first recipe came out better than my second.

First Recipe – 80/20 PG/VG, with VG-based nicotine. 18Mg (1.8%) nicotine strength; Flavoring was 20%, which I thought would be plenty, so far its not.

Using the calculator at todmuller.com my recipe called for:

  • VG Nicotine –    1.7ML
  • PG                      1.84ML of PG
  • VG                      .69ML of VG
  • Milk Chocolate .5ML
  • Orange              .5ML

Results – Because I am a novice at this I am still amazed that a brand new mix of ingredients results in a tasteless juice immediately afterward. I wanted to vape this as soon as I mixed it, so I did. I couldn’t taste anything.

It took 4 hours before the flavor started coming through. Overnight the flavor reached, what I think, was its peak.

The Totally Wicked concentrates have so far been excellent for my purposes. The Milk Chocolate concentrate was pretty-much straight on Milk Chocolate. The Orange was a very decent orange. So, vaping this recipe after an overnight steep was okay, but not at all the flavor I want.

If any professional eLiquid creator wants to chime in I’d love to hear from you. I’m thinking of upping the flavor to 30%, and going 20% orange and 10% Milk Chocolate. Any thoughts here? DIY e Liquid

For the Second Recipe all I did was keep the same recipe and switch the 80/20 ratios in reverse. 80% VG, and using a PG-based nicotine. The results sucked. Big time.

What I learned – Just because the ingredients of the candy, or whatever you are trying to create, are obvious, the concentrates that you will use to create a vapeable eLiquid could be very different. I haven’t given up using Milk Chocolate yet, because there is still a lot to play with, but it was not an immediate success. Maybe it will take some other combination of flavors to get to where I want to go, but only through patience and experimentation will I know.

I also need to look to the pros a little. Browse their website for PG/VG ratios. What do they use for “candied” flavors? 70/30? 50/50? Use “Best Practices” for now, that’s important.DIY e Liquid

I’ve also decided to stick with PG-based nicotine for now. I’m also sticking to 18mg (1.8%) for the time being. I’m toying with a move to Liquid nicotine by itself, in other words not a PG or VG nicotine solution, but that’s also down the road quite a ways.

To get warmed up for my “chosen flavor” I did mix up some standard eJuice flavors. They were pretty decent, but not professional grade…yet.

I mixed up a Pina Colada that was pretty good. I also took another swipe at last weeks Pineapple recipe. I obtained some coconut and banana and have been playing around with some good results. I will reveal my final recipe for my pineapple/coconut flavor in Chapter Three. It’s not bad at all.

In the coming days, before next Thursday, I will carve out an hour a day for mixing up several different recipes. The problem now is organization. Now that I am stocked up with supplies I need to begin to write out, or print out, recipes and notes about the recipes for easy reference and to discuss with other eJuice hobbyists. I need to set up a permanent mixing station where all my ingredients and tools are ‘at the ready’ whenever I get the urge to mix. This storing everything in the stockroom and hauling it back out is not the way to go. If you are doing this at home please remember to keep this stuff away from kids, pets, and stupid people. DIY e Liquid

Finally, I need to stay focused. I need to mix more, I need to study the results more, and I need to figure out the best way to draw out the flavors. Here is where Julia Barnes will become even more vital than she is now. Julia as taken over the day-to-day operation months ago, but I will need to step back even more, at least 2 or 3 days a week, so that I can use that time mixing. I will also spend more time at Totally Wicked eLiquid’s Mixing Forum

Last week I graded my attempts at D+ and D-, this week I feel like my efforts were a straight “C”. I have my goals, I have my ingredients, and now I must dive in like never before and mix up vapeable eLiquids.

Creating eJuice is, well, chemistry. Sadly, this was my worst subject in school. And don’t think I don’t remember yelling at everyone I knew all those years ago that I would never need to know chemistry. Funny how things turn out.

DIY e Liquid See you next Thursday!

John Manzione

UPDATE* Thursday Evening 8:41PM – After reading through a great email from a “real” eLiquid brand owner I got several great pointers for the next chapter. Looks like I’ve been doing some things assbackwards, which is perfectly befitting my skill level at this point. But, hey, this is an on-going adventure so there are bound to be screwups along the way. Consider this week one of them. Just wait till next week though! Big Things! Thank you Mystery eJuice Creator, you gave me some very valuable advice and instruction.

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