At a basic level, all e-liquids are a blend of a carrier liquid, nicotine and (usually) flavouring. Even though that’s only three ingredients, there are all kinds of ways they can be mixed and matched to suit an individual’s needs and wants.
Although we just said three ingredients, in actual fact it’s usually four, as the carrier liquid is often made up of a combination of Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin.
The big advantage of Propylene Glycol is that it’s odourless and flavourless. This means it doesn’t clash with your choice of flavouring. It also has a “throaty” effect, with which former smokers will be familiar. Last, but by no means least, it’s also, quite simply, very easy to vape.
Vegetable Glycerin, on the other hand, has quite a sweet flavour and that may not be good news if you like your eliquid on the savoury side. On the other hand, it’s much smoother on the inhale. This may be good news for former smokers who’ve developed sensitive throats.
A noticeable feature however, is its vapour production. Basically, if you see a vaper producing glorious, scented clouds all around them, take it as read their using an eliquid which is high in Vegetable Glycerin.
One of the great advantages of making your own eliquid is that you can get your PG/VG ratio exactly how you like it. If you’re all about the flavour, then you’re going to want 100% PG eliquid. On the other hand, if you’re all about making those great vapour clouds and aren’t too bothered about the flavour (or you just like sweet liquids) then you may want to use 100% VG eliquid.
Of course, many vapers want a blend of flavour and vapour, hence the popularity of 50/50 e-liquids. These are simply eliquids where the carrier liquid is made up of equal parts PG and VG.
Using this ratio provides an experience which is very similar to smoking, in that it gives you a bit of a throat hit, moderate vapour and a fairly strong flavour. Many vaporizers are optimized for 50/50 liquids. Certainly, this is the ratio which is most suitable for entry-level vaporizers.
If you want to use more PG and less VG then you should still be fine with a budget vaporizer. If, however, you really want to go for those monster clouds, then you’re going to need to up the VG and for that you’re going to need a more powerful vaporizer. Specifically, you’re going to need a coil with ohm resistance of less than 1.
Basically this means a vape pen or a vape kit rather than cig-a-likes or pod kits.
The nicotine level
In principle, you can have e-liquid without nicotine. In practice, the vast majority of e-liquids do have some nicotine content. Ready-made eliquids come in various strengths to suit people in various stages of nicotine withdrawal.
The absolute maximum level available in standard, commercial, liquids is 24mg, but this is only suitable for people who are not just established smokers, but established, heavy smokers. Even for them, 18mg might be more appropriate.
Average smokers (people who go through about a pack a day), should probably try 12mg to begin with and light smokers could go for 6mg. People who only smoke occasionally could go as low as 3mg.
You can, of course, keep going even lower, but at this point in time, you might find the selection of ready-made liquids is smaller than you’d like. The solution is to make your own eliquid or use short fills.
The basics of Short Fills
Short Fills are when someone else mixes up everything except the nicotine and then puts the result in a container which is filled to just short of the top, hence the term “Short Fills”.
The purchaser then adds the nicotine concentrate to make an e-liquid of the required strength and gives the container a good shake, hence their other name of “shake ‘n’ vape” eliquids.
As well as being great for people who want a balance of convenience and customization, short fills are also good for people looking to save their pennies. The reason for this is that, in principle, “buying in bulk” applies to e-liquids too.
In practice, however, the Tobacco Products Directive limits the quantities in which retailers can sell e-liquids which contain nicotine. Short fills solve this problem by making it possible for vapers to buy flavoured carrier liquid in bulk and then just buy nicotine concentrate as they need it.
Short fills are a relatively new product on the eliquid scene and it has to be said that, in their early days, they had something of a bad reputation. The reason for this was that the popularity of the products combined with the lack of regulation meant that the door was wide open for “fly-by-night” manufacturers to make a quick buck with sub-standard products.
In theory, this door is still open, but reputable mainstream retailers have now largely come to understand whose products are worth selling and whose are not. Therefore, the moral of the story is to stick to buying short fills from reputable suppliers.
There are two forms of concentrate used in making eliquids.
These are flavour concentrates and nicotine concentrates. Using the former is, quite literally, a matter of taste. There is no, right or wrong, it’s just what suits you.
It’s worth remembering, however, that some flavours do need time to mature to be at their best, so if you’re a fan of deep, strong tastes, you’ll need to be organized and make your e-liquids before you need them.
Nicotine concentrate is about satisfying a craving rather than adding taste. The trick, therefore, is to use enough to stop your withdrawal pangs but not a drop more. If you are making your own e-liquid from scratch then you may find it helpful to use an online recipe calculator to make sure you mix it to the right strength.
If, however, you are using short fills, you can probably buy a stand-alone nicotine shot to get the perfect e-liquid without any fuss.