The Affordable Art of DIY E Juice Mixing
If there’s one thing I do know it’s that there are way better reasons to quit smoking than saving money…but still, I remember someone, somewhere saying something about vaping being cheaper than smoking!
Well: there’s exactly zero truth in that, however, that said, I wouldn’t give this up for the world. It’s a passion, a hobby, an obsession and hell, it’s a cause worth fighting for!
So, why is vaping so pricey? Other than mods, coils, atomizers, and upgrades, the real catch is the e-liquid.
Back in the days of the cig-a-like I would take a month to get through a 30ml bottle of e-liquid…my, my, how times have changed!
Sitting here vaping at 85W on a 0.2 Ohm coil in a 6ml tank, I’ll fill this thing more than 5 times today, no lie! That’s 30ml juice in a day: that’s another reason why I don’t use nicotine anymore!
Every flavor junkie knows the impossible allure of the new release: there are too many juice brands to count, too many killer flavours on the market and more arriving every day, all backed up by killer packaging and tempting marketing campaigns.
I had to get out, terminally indecisive me couldn’t be faced with 1000 options every time I needed a new flavour. My pocket simply can’t take the punishment.
If you’re under the impression that you need some kind of degree to make e-liquid…you’re completely mistaken.
Man, was I pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to make your mixes from scratch and can I say: with the same amount of cash it would have taken me to buy two bottles of branded juice, I now have supplies enough to fuel my habit for 6 months!
What’s more, Mixing up a brew that’s equal unto some of the best offerings on the market now takes me less that 5 minutes: it’s that simple!
So, I’m gonna run you through the whole process of making e juice, how it works, what you need and where to get it and how to get to the creative and cost effective plateau I’m chilling on in a matter of weeks!
Benefits of DIY e-juicing
- Cost: Can be as much as 40X cheaper.
- Control: Control what you consume, know what you consume and change your levels at will.
- The Uncertain Future: Well, luckily…the ingredients for DIY juice will still be available, regardless of what regulations, the law and taxing do to the e-liquid market. So you’ll still be able to vape, no matter what.
Firstly, a note on nicotine
Trust me, when you start making your own mixes and you realize how delicious, easy and cheap it actually is…you’ll be inclined to vape up even more juice than before, much like me.
A word of warning therefore: TAKE IT EASY ON THE NICOTINE. Vaping is about a lot more than just a nicotine addiction: I’m just as into vaping as I was when I had a 18mg habit…now I use 0mg and I vape even more, because I can. I have no lung problems, no headaches, no nausea!
When people talk about DIY mixing being dangerous, what they’re really talking about is the nicotine. Do yourself a favour, friends: if you’re sub-ohming, try and keep your nicotine levels at 3mg and under.
A tobacco concentrate or a little extra PG will suffice to provide that throat hit you’re looking for and overall you’ll experience what I can only describe as a cleaner vape. But then again, I’m a bit pedantic when it comes to what I consume, each to his own and maybe the world’s the better for it!
You don’t need to use nicotine in your e-liquid but if you do, remember: nicotine is toxic at a certain level (+/-50mg) and is by far the most dangerous (possible) ingredient in e-liquid. It is quickly absorbed through the skin and you need to wear gloves when working with it.
Another factor to consider…nicotine and nicotine containing products need to be kept in a dark and cool place to avoid degradation.
Is Steeping Really Necessary For High VG brews?
While I have definitely noticed that my mixes taste better the longer they stand and the more often they’re shaken, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a high VG mix that was made 5 minutes ago.
I go through my juice so fast anyway that I barely get a chance to steep! Depending on the quality of your VG and your concentrates, you should be able to experience just as much flavor clarity as you did with your shop bought mixes.
I buy an exceptional quality VG and my mixes are always 80% VG , I favor it for both vapor richness and flavor.
I find the sweetness and inherent flavor in my VG means I needn’t add artificial sweeteners and I end up with delicious, wholesome flavours that didn’t require any excess of ingredients in order to achieve desired sweetness.
In fact, VG is tasty enough to be vaped on its own if you’re really in a fix and there’s still nothing better for cloud chasing!
Read our Guide to Steeping E-liquid Here.
Should You Buy A Kit?
Well, a lot of people do…however, I’ve found kit’s to be a little on the expensive side, as opposed to buying your ingredients in bulk (I buy a 2l VG, a 500mlPG and flavors as I spot them).
You may also get a whole bunch of equipment that’s not entirely necessary, which also raises the cost.
On top of that, the flavors and bases you get in the average kit tend not to go nearly as far for your bucks as the things you can pick up independently for the same overall price…plus I’d rather mix and match and choose the flavors I really want, which is not always an option when you buy a DIY e-juice kit.
But.. If you have the budget and to start with while you find your e-juice mixing feet then a kit can be beneficial.
Scale: you’ll need a scale that measures in grams up to 2 decimal places if you want to use the weight measurement method, a ‘tare’ function will also be a must. I personally don’t use this method, I measure using the ml markings on my syringes.
There are plenty of cheap digital scales available on Amazon.
Pipettes (disposable): These are useful for transfer of liquids in between mixing and holding bottles, as well as dripping flavors when you’re still in the tasting phase. They’re cheaper than syringes and can be used in place of them…they don’t have measurement markings on them and therefore if you use them, you’ll need to use a scale.
Also available on Amazon.
Syringes: I use these instead of pipettes as I like to do things the fast way and the measurements on the syringes allow that.
Bottles: While I personally prefer the plastic squeeze bottles just for ease off use during mixing and for final storage, the glass medicine dropper bottles are also popular…I find that the glass bottle caps tend to give in after a while and although the plastic bottles aren’t pretty, they’re just far more economical.
You must note though that it’s important to cover your plastic bottles with stickers or opt for shaded glass, especially if you’re going to be mixing with light sensitive nicotine.
Latex Gloves: My favorite part, hehe. Gloves are ESSENTIAL when working with nicotine and also plain useful for keeping your fingers juice free. While you can use plastic gloves I find control is better with a latex glove in your size and also…latex gloves, if you don’t get them too dirty, can be rinsed and reused to save money (not pharmaceutically correct but then, neither am I).
Measuring Jug: I don’t use this method, I do all my measuring with syringes, but you can use a measuring jug also, or you can weigh out your ingredients on a kitchen/chemist scale.
Okay, so DIY juice consists of 3-5 basic ingredients, all of which can be used in varying degrees to achieve different effects.
Vegetable Glycerin (VG) -Base (Pharmaceutical Grade)
- Produces thick, delicious vapour that creates a smooth draw with no throat hit.
- It’s naturally sweet and for those who find a high VG too sweet, there are bitter drops and sour bombs on the market that can rectify this, so you don’t need to up your PG too much.
- Sub-ohmers and cloud chasers will prefer a higher % of this, it’s harder on coils but totally worth it for flavor, cloud and cloud…oh, and cloud.
Buy Classikool Kosher/Pharma Grade VG on Amazon
Propylene Glycol (PG) – Flavour Binder (Pharmaceutical Grade)
- Binds to flavour and carries it to the throat to produce a stronger throat hit.
- It produces little/no vapor (dependent on % mixed) and it has no taste.
- Smaller device users and plus ohm vapers will prefer a higher concentration of this, it’s easier on coils.
- Some people have an intolerance, if your chest closes or you experience a throat irritation, up on the VG, down on the PG.
Buy Pharma Grade PG Here On Amazon
Concentrate-Flavor (Food Grade, Oil and Sugar Free)
All your desired flavors, usually in a PG base.
You’ll either buy single flavors or so-called one-shot concentrates which are pre-mixed flavor combos without bases.
They need to be oil free, sugar free and approved for vaping, that’s why it’s best to go through a vaping company, instead of using food flavors direct…though there are some popular food brands that vapers trust.
- The Flavor Apprentice ‘TFA’
- Flavor Art
Your Flavor Types:
These are generally either a Fruit (Including Cocktails)or a Desert flavor (Including Cereals).
Many concentrate brands have developed complex concentrates like Blueberry Cheesecake to Choc Mint Crunch or Mojito, many of these are delicious on their own. I call any flavor that can be enjoyed alone a primary…but when it comes to getting creative, secondaries are very important!
Eg. Strawberry, Mango, Graham Crust Cheesecake, Fruit Loops Cereal.
These are essentials for those who want o get creative with mixing more than one flavor concentrate at a time…not only can these flavors serve to bind two dissimilar flavors into a harmonious mix, but they can take the edge of harsh flavours, spice up bland ones and hell, sometimes they’re even great on their own.
Think of these as your herbs and spices and depending how you use them and what your preferences are, another man’s primary could be a secondary for you.
Eg: Vanilla, Cinnamon, Caramel, Bourbon, Brandy, Tobacco, Honey, Creme De Menth, Custard, Cream, Butter, Mint…the list goes on.
Unfortunately, if you’re running from the unholy number of ejuice brand choices on the market, like me, DIY e-liquid doesn’t actually completely solve the problem.
There are still a huge number of flavor concentrate producers on the market and whoa, there are even more flavors.
Here are my rules of thumb: I started by trying out a secondary flavor, a common primary fruit and a common primary desert flavor from three top concentrate manufacturers and then I went with the one that delivered on all three or scored the highest overall.
From there on I tried to select flavors that I liked enough (or thought I would) to have on their own, in both the fruit and desert categories, as well as a bunch of handy secondaries, my faves being caramel, creme de menthe and custard as I’ve found that a dash of these can spice up almost any mix…particularly smoky caramel!
Understanding E-juice Recipes:
You may have read an e-juice recipe before and wondered what is meant by the percentage next to your ingredients e.g.. Strawberry 5% Custard 2% Cream 2%.
It’s simple, those percentages are percentages of your bottle as a whole, so if your whole bottle of e-juice is 100% and the bottle is 30ml then 5% Strawberry means 1.5ml Strawberry!
The reason we use percentages is so that it’s easier for you to adjust your recipe to suit your desired batch size if the measurement is given this way.
Depending on your favored concentrate brand, you might find a happy median when it comes to mixing with different flavor types, a sweet desert may require a smaller percentage in general, while a tart fruit may require a higher percentage, especially in your sweet VG.
So where do you start?
Don’t get carried away!
There are a lot of outstanding flavor concentrate manufacturers on the market… The Flavor Apprentice ‘TFA’ is one (I tend to use their flavors only), Capella, Lorann, Inawera, Flavor Art and Hangsen are also popular brands…
Decide on your ratios…
If you’re going to be using nicotine, my advice is that you buy it pure and not in a VG/PG solution as the nicotine won’t necessarily be in perfect solution but will be concentrated at the bottom.
You don’t want to end up with an inaccurate measurement of the nicotine in your product because one time you shook the VG/Nicotine bottle for a little longer than the other time and I don’t enjoy anything that requires extra shaking.
For a a great blend of throat hit and cloud production, opt for 70VG/30PG…cloud chasers or people with PG intolerance like me will opt for 80%VG or more.
Those who’re using a smaller device like a cig-a-like or a mouth to lung vape tank above 1.0Ohm …you’ll need to opt for a 50/50 ratio (60VG/40PG on some tanks), because of the thicker consistency of the VG, which can be hard on your coils.
Download An E-liquid/E-juice Calculator:
As one who seldom uses nicotine, I don’t really have need of a calculator. I just dive in with my flavors, guns blazing.
However, calculating nicotine strength can be a tricky business where you need to factor in desired strength, the strength of your nicotine solution and the intended batch size.
A good e-juice calculator is going to take care of this for you!
Best E Liquid Calculators
- E-Liquid calculator for Android – Download on Google Play
- E Juice Lab on Andriod – Download on Google Play
- E-Liquid Calculator for iPhone users – The one I have used doesn’t seem to be available. If you have any tips for an IOS juice calculator please leave a comment below!
- Make My Vape e-juice calculator – Use Here
- Steam Engine Juice Calculator – Use Here
- E-Liquid Recipes Calculator – Use Here
- Juice Grinder – Needs to be downloaded – See more here
Some Vape Calculators that are used for calculating build ratios on RDA’s etc, also have DIY juice functions, brows Google Play and iStore and try out your options if these aren’t to your liking.
If you’re ready for it, I’d advise you get creative with your own unique mixes based on flavors you know and love…I started by trying to replicate ready made mixes when it came time to get creative!
If you’re not that way inclined…check out these top e-juice recipe sites for some great ideas and if you ever stumble on a winner, why not post your recipe on one of them too?!
Best E Liquid Recipe Sites
The thing to realize is that a lot of these flavor concentrate manufacturers make concentrates that are spectacular alone…take toasted marshmallow or banoffee pie for example: start out by trying them alone with your PG/VG/Nic blend and thereafter you add and mix when you’re not 100% happy with the flavor concentrate on it’s lonesome.
I still enjoy my cheesecake with graham crust and my marshmallow without even bothering to add a second flavor!
Some of my favorite mixes involve just two flavors. Fruit creams and caramel anything (eg. caramel mint) do it for me too, you’d be surprised!
Mixing too many can confuse the senses and leave you feeling kinda gnarly so slow down and don’t get carried away!
I’m a big fan of the DIYorDIE website and their video lessons on DIY juicing, check it out.
Step By Step instructions On Making Your Own E-Liquid
Don your latex gloves and lay out all your paraphernalia on a decent sized work surface where you’ve easy access to everything. When working with larger bottles, make it a habit to close bottles directly after use. I like to decant my bases into smaller squeeze bottles.
Measure out your VG and either pipe it or pour it through a funnel into your mixing bottle.
Combine your (optional) nicotine and your PG, dissolving your nicotine in PG first will make it easier to combine with the thicker VG later, plus…you need to have your desired nicotine in solution when you’re going to start adding flavor because flavor is hugely impacted by nicotine.
Adding flavor first, or testing flavors before adding nicotine is going to throw you right off.
Combine your Nicotine/PG solution or just your PG (if you’re nicotine free) and your first desired flavor.
Shake this solution well, until it looks completely consistent…don’t taste this as it will be incredibly harsh without VG.
You may choose to follow this step or alternatively, for more add hoc mixing, you’ll combine your Nic/PG solution with your VG and then add flavor drop for drop.
Pipe/funnel your flavor solution into your VG base in a mixing bottle (I use a large, 100 ml plastic squeezy bottle for this, the same kind that you buy some vape juices in, only bigger). Shake like hell.
If you intend on steeping or keeping the liquid a while, keep in mind that any taste now will likely mature, smooth out and become a little richer over time.
If budget allows there are also magnetic e-liquid mixers available that gently heat and mix. Not used one of these yet but they look interesting!
Now’s time to taste, drip a little on your dripper (I like to use a dripper when mixing, it’s the only way to test unfinished flavors without wastage) and taste, now you’ll add extra concentrate, drop at a time to your taste.
Whether mixing something complex or simple…don’t be afraid to experiment but remember, YOU CAN ALWAYS ADD, YOU CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY!
A Harsh Throat Hit?
- There are two possible causes, your Nicotine or your PG…anything above 30% PG is going to start being harsh in the throat.
- Too much nicotine will make you slightly nauseous also and too much PG will give you a low vapor production.
- If you’ve added too much PG, add more VG to taste.
- If you’ve added too much nicotine you’ll need to make a batch with the same specs and no nicotine to add into the solution.
An Unsavory Taste.
- Well, this is a serious one… You need to mix up a batch of your PG/VG/Nic solution without any flavoring first, to make sure that your planned ratio will produce at least a base that’s to your liking.
- If you continue to struggle with the base flavors, there’s a chance your bases aren’t up to standard…be careful where you buy these!
- Once you know that the base ratios are to your taste, the only remaining problem can be your flavor mix.
- When I first purchase a flavor concentrate I make a point of starting with the smallest dose in my favored solution, without any added flavors, so that I can get a feel for that concentrate on it’s own: how does it taste in when I add a 5% solution? Is it too much when I add a 15% solution.
- If you get no joy out of a concentrate alone…set it aside, it may be of use later, when your tastes change or you may need to look to a different brand if this is a common problem for you. This will give you an idea of what flavors can be used as primaries and which ones are only suitable as secondaries.
- If you’re not happy with your mixes, try testing out other peoples recipes…learn from those who’ve mastered it.
You’re probably thinking, WTF? Nope, believe it, it’s that simple!
Sure, there are flavours on the market that I most definitely cannot match and still get the urge to buy (and more coming every day) but since I started DIY I kinda feel bad for folk who don’t realize how easy and affordable it is or who’re scared to take the plunge…it’s changed my outlook, my tastes and it’s saved me an absolute fortune.
Plus, if your friends give your flavors the thumbs up, maybe you’ve got a knew career option to look into.
Man, I was stoked recently when I went to a vape fest with my very first home mix and at one point, a rather good looking vendor had a toke on my dripper (he was working on my mech)…he exclaimed: “Damn, that’s delicious, what juice is this?!” I felt pretty awesome.
I think I’d mixed two desert flavors together, burnt caramel and cheesecake or something, I’d just squeezed out half of each 10ml concentrate into a 30Ml bottle of 80VG20PG in an absolute rush and shaken in the car. Goes to show…less is often more, you’ll learn to appreciate the simple mixes, like I do.
I obviously didn’t mention how easy it had been to make!