What you should know…
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You’ve decided that from now on you’re going to save money by either, A) refilling your cartomizers or blank cartomizers, or B) you’ve moved up to a larger battery and you’re now using tanks and clearos. Wise move.
Now you need to know about eLiquids, or eJuice, or Smoke Juice (The Johnson Creek word for eLiquid). Not just taste, that’s easy, you either like them or you don’t. There is more to consider when making the move to using bottles of eLiquid rather than relying on prefilled cartomizers.
You need to know about Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG), Flavoring concentrates, and other ingredients that may or may not be a part of your chosen eLiquid ingredients list. This is important stuff here, not to be glossed over. The right ratio of PG vs. VG matters. PG/VG affects taste, throat hit, sore throats and even coughing. Some people have an allergy for PG, and many of them don’t even know it. So let’s get started.
Note* This article isn’t meant to educate you on the modified risks of vaping or to educate you on the technical and scientific aspects of the ingredients used in eLiquids. Instead, I hope this article will help guide you in choosing the right eLiquids for you. This is not a primer on the ingredients, but rather how these ingredients affect the satisfaction of your vaping experience.
PG/VG Ratios are broken down into percentages of an eLiquid solution. The more PG in the eLiquid the thinner the eJuice. Higher PG ratios also produce a stiffer, or harder, throat hit. Propylene Glycol carries more flavor than Vegetable Glycerin, though not as much as some people tend to think. I’ve enjoyed some PG-free eLiquids that were as flavorful as can be. PG is less damaging to your atomizers/cartomizers as well. A high ratio of VG tends to gunk up most atomizers, whether they are housed in cartomizers, clearomizers, or tank systems. VG heavy eLiquids require more maintenance of your vaping gear than higher PG formulas.
VG is a thicker substance and the higher the ratio the thicker the eJuice. The thickness of the eLiquid will directly affect how the eLiquid will vaporize and produce that all-important plume of vapor we love so much. Some vaping gear do not perform well with high VG ratios. High ratios of VG will affect the life of your atomizers, cartomizers and even your batteries. If you are using a higher VG-based eLiquid you will not be able to refill your cartomizers as many times as you would if you were using higher PG-based eLiquids.
Finally, Vegetable Glycerin delivers a little less ‘flavor’ than Propylene Glycol and you will usually find eLiquid vendors that produce higher VG eLiquids will counter that loss of flavor with a higher percentage of flavor concentrates. VG is also easier on your throat and lungs, it doesn’t irritate as much and the portion of the population with a VG allergy is almost nil. To be honest, the portion of the population that has an allergy for Propylene Glycol is also very small, though not nil. I’ve known exactly two people that have issues with PG, out of more than 200 Vapers.
The solution to the PG/VG “problem”, if you want to call it that, is to find what works for you. There is no magic ratio that works for everyone. Some people prefer higher VG ratios while other prefer higher PG ratios. Some even prefer 100% or 100% PG ratios. Whatever floats your boat, you know?
You should assume that you wouldn’t have an allergy issue to deal with because the chances that you do is very small. So you might want to start out with a ratio that most people find acceptable, even preferable, and that is either 80/20, 80% PG and 20% VG, or 70/30, 70% PG and 30% VG. These two ratios work for just about everyone I know, and they provide the optimum throat hit, vapor production, and flavor… under most circumstances.
There are of course exceptions to the above. I personally find a 50/50 ratio works best for me when I am using a cartomizer based tank, especially a dual-coil cartomizer (twice the number of heating coils over a regular cartomizer), and pre-punched cartomizers (cartomizers with two larger holes in the side that allow a much larger amount of eLiquid to reach the atomizer). But, for now, let’s stick with using an 80/20 or 70/30 ratio.
If you are about to buy your very first bottle of eLiquid those two ratios are the two you are going to find to be the “house standard”. If the company you want to try is offering 80/20 as their standard just go with it. The same goes for that eLiquid vendor offering a 70/30 ratio as their house standard. At this point it doesn’t matter, you should be looking for eLiquids that satisfy your desire for flavor, vapor, and throat hit. Both ratios will work when hunting down the Big Three until you find out for yourself what it is you prefer down the road.
Nicotine is a very addictive, very powerful chemical found in nature. It is the biggest reason we vape. We are satisfying our addiction to nicotine more than anything else. That’s not to say that the act of smoking isn’t important. I’ve long ago reduced my dependence on nicotine but I will always enjoy that hand to mouth act of smoking. But instead of smoking tobacco and being exposed to 4000 chemicals and a slew of carcinogens I, like you, have chosen the vastly less harmful habit of vaping ‘vapor’.
Finding the right nicotine level at the beginning of your journey should be easy. Whatever the level of nicotine your prefilled cartomizers are should relate to the level of nicotine in the eLiquids you buy. They may not be exact but they will be very close. A prefilled cartomizer brand might offer a 1.2% nicotine level and the company you want to try offers a 1.1% or 1.4% nicotine level. The difference is negligible.
The Throat Hit Demystified
The PG and Nicotine Factor
What I am about to say is not 100% accepted as ‘universally’ true among Vapers. Well, one part of it isn’t accepted as universally true. In my experience, and the experience of my vaping friends and co-workers, both the PG level (ratio) and nicotine level affect your throat hit. Everyone agrees that PG affects the throat hit, a few refuse to believe that nicotine levels affect the throat hit. I’m here to say that if you want to prove it to yourself order a sample bottle of eLiquid at 80/20 or 70/30 with one bottle at 1.1% or so nicotine level and the other at 2.4% nicotine or higher. Vape them both and see which one gives you the stiffer, or harder, throat hit.
There are other factors that will affect your throat hit, such as the various equipment you use when vaping. For instance, a Low Resistance Cartomizer (LR) will produce a warmer, thicker vapor, and a stronger throat hit over a Standard Resistance Cartomizer (SR). This is because a LR cartomizer does exactly what it says, it resists LESS current. Put a better way, it allows more current IN. So, a LR cartomizer that is rated at 1.5ohm to 2.0ohm is going to allow more current to hit the atomizer then that of a SR cartomizer set to 2.5-3.0ohms.
When you use a low resistance cartomizer your atomizer coil draws more current through it and it makes the atomizer get hotter than a standard resistance one. This extra heat produces more vapor and a harder throat hit. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘cleaner burn’.
If you are looking to get more vapor from your eLiquid, or looking for a stronger throat hit without sacrificing the ratio you like, using a Low Resistance Atomizer (whether the atomizer is in your tank/Clearo or in a cartomizer) is the way to go. Generally speaking, you can get up to 20% more vapor, and a noticeably warmer vapor, with LR atomizers.
There are a couple of reasons why you might not want to use a Low Resistance Atomizer/Cartomizer though. Your vaping battery might not be able to handle a low resist atomizer, the low resistance atomizer will use more power, giving you less time between battery charges, and the cost is a little higher when you buy “some” LR cartomizers. (Halo Cigs offers LR Cartomizers for their G6 series batteries and they cost $1 more than the SR cartomizers).
The last thing I’ll talk about when it comes to heat/current is using “Dual Coil” cartomizers. This type of cartomizer looks exactly like any other cartomizer; the only difference is the coils below the absorbent (polyfill) material. There is a coil ‘arrangement’ that uses two single coils that run parallel to each other through the polyfill material, instead of a single strand of coil in a normal cartomizer.
Each coil can handle a higher resistance (more heat or current), and that makes them less vulnerable to burning up or overheating. When combined they produce an overall lower resistance and provide a greater surface area for the heat/current and that makes for a more powerful user experience, producing more vapor and a harder hitting throat hit. Sometimes a profoundly harder hitting throat hit and vapor production.
Dual coil cartomizers work really well on larger battery devices, allowing you to kick up the voltage without the worry of overheating. For users that prefer cartomizers versus clearomizers, and there are plenty, a dual coil cartomizer is a great option. Totally Wicked eLiquid makes a great Dual Coil, and even Triple Coil cartomizer that lasts quite a long time and burns exceptionally well. Although for some reason, (price?) triple-coil cartomizers have yet to take off. I like them though, but they do cost a bit more and are not for everyone. For a bigger throat hit a dual coil cartomizer is something you need to try at least once.
If you are using a 510-compatible cig-a-like or larger battery, a dual coil cartomizer is easy to find. If you are using an eGo-compatible threaded battery then you’ll need to buy a 510 to eGo adapter ($2-$3)
Flavor is a very subjective factor in vaping. What I like you might dislike, and vice versa. Easy enough, right? But there are some common areas that come into play when talking about flavors in eLiquids.
Flavoring is the backbone to vaping satisfaction. If you don’t love the flavor you’re vaping then the throat hit or vapor production doesn’t mean very much. In addition to satisfaction the flavors you choose can have an affect on the throat hit as well. Stronger flavors equal stronger throat hits, to a degree. Mountain Oak Vapors “White Leaf” delivers a much stronger throat hit than their “Legendary” eLiquid at the same PG/VG ratio and nicotine level. The same thing can be said for Ginger’s eJuice’s “Cinnamon Candy” and “Vanilla Iced Cupcake”. Ginger’s Cinnamon Candy delivers a stronger throat hit by far, though both are very satisfying eLiquids.
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, and taking the description offered by the eLiquid vendor with a grain of salt. If the vendor tells you that the eLiquid is banana flavored then yea, you can take heed in that, but if they offer some out-of-this-world description that promises to send you over the moon, ignore it. It’s called marketing, and they have to sell it.
You need to think about what you really like about the foods you consume. Let’s continue with the banana example. When choosing an eLiquid that has banana flavoring in it the first thing you need to do is decide how much you like bananas. Do you really like bananas? I mean really like them, or do you tolerate them as a source of potassium? If you really like bananas there are dozens of banana-flavored eLiquids that you are going to truly enjoy. On the other hand, if you only tolerate bananas then the chances that you will enjoy banana-flavored eLiquids go down dramatically.
Next, what ‘banana variation’ is the eLiquid vendor trying to accomplish? Is the banana flavor combined with something you also like? Is banana and graham cracker piecrust something you’ve had before? Or is a banana and strawberry smoothie something you love to drink?
What kind of eLiquid combination is being offered, and does it sound like something you would like if the flavors were combined in real food? For example; I know someone that loves banana pudding, the desert. He loves the combination of bananas and vanilla pudding, with a healthy helping of vanilla wafers. So he was naturally interested in a Banana Pudding eLiquid he was looking at on one of his favorite eLiquid vendor’s website. Because he really loves the desert he decided to try the eLiquid equivalent. Fortunately it worked out extremely well because the eLiquid vendor duplicated the taste of banana pudding almost exactly. Had he not loved the banana pudding desert, but still liked bananas, it could have gone either way. So think about it and decide if what the vendor is offering is something you’d eat as a real food.
Lastly, do not order blindly. Do not use Google Search to find your eLiquid vendor. Use reviews, word of mouth, and more reviews. There are a lot of vendors out there making their eLiquids in the kitchen sink, while making dinner at the same time. Stay away from vendors you don’t know or haven’t heard good things about. If you order blindly you’ll have no idea how faithful their flavoring is going to be. We can also talk eLiquid “talent” but there is already a great piece on Spinfuel about that, so head there and read it.
eLiquid – In Conclusion
There is plenty of information on the internet about the various ingredients used in eLiquids, so if you are interested in the chemical makeup of Propylene Glycol or Vegetable Glycerin then by all means do some research. The FDA has ruled Propylene Glycol as being generally safe for human consumption, and of course Vegetable Glycerin is safe as well. And that’s about as far as I need to take it, for myself. Nicotine is a highly addictive, naturally occurring chemical found in tobacco leaves and a few other plants. I know it’s addictive, but the benefits outweigh that addiction as long as nicotine is plentiful and I can get it. Although it is addictive, and unpleasant to go without it, you won’t die from not having it anymore than you’ll die without that first cup of coffee in the morning.
Choosing the right eLiquid for you can be an adventure or a pain in the butt. Consider the flavors you’ve been enjoying in your prefilled cartomizers and then expect about 100 times more satisfaction when you start using some American made, premium eLiquid from some of the vendors you can find in Spinfuel. If you are interested in trying out as many different flavors as possible then by all means buy the smallest bottle you can in order to save money. If you are not careful when considering the flavors you enjoy now, either in your prefilled carts or in the foods you enjoy, you can wind up spending more money than you hoped to spend looking for the right eLiquid. Being careful about it, and considering all that I’ve put forth here you can find some very satisfying and delicious flavors faster, and less expensively then going at it blindly. Then, when you’ve found some eLiquid flavors you really like, buy them in the largest bottle you can. It is cheaper that way and you run less of a risk of running out when you are in the mood for it. That’s happened to me many times and is the main reason I buy for 60ML bottles whenever I can.