why does my vape taste burnt

Beginners guide To Avoiding and Fixing That Dry Hit/Burnt Coil Feeling

As a brave beginner who has recently quit the bad habit of smoking, you may feel a little overwhelmed by the fact that that a vape device, while 95% safer than cancer sticks, actually requires quite a bit of know how to operate, especially if you’re running a mod and sub-ohm tank set up or something more complex than an all-in-one.

Regardless of what type of vape device you’re rocking, there is one nasty sensation that just about every vaper will be subject to at some time or another…especially beginners…that’s the sensation of drawing in a lungful that tastes burnt and unpleasant, masking the delicious taste of your e-juice and making you wonder what went wrong.

The good news is that, regardless of whether you vape on an all-in-one, a sub-ohm tank and mod setup or an RDA and mech, a burned taste doesn’t mean the end of your vape, so no need to throw that pricey setup in the bin and pick up a fag just yet, luckily!

So… Why Does My Vape Taste Burnt?

Now, an experienced vaper’s automatic answer to this question would usually be something like, “that’s coz you burnt your coils, genius,” but the fact of the matter is, you have most likely not burnt your actual coils… the metal heating element inside your vape tank… what you’ve burnt is your wick (the cotton wrapped around the coils).Burnt Vape Coil

I sincerely hope that you’ve already got a fundamental understanding of how your vape tank does its vaporising but if not, here’s a basic rundown.

  • An Stainless Steel (SS), Kanthal (Ka), Nickel (Ni) or Titanium (Ti) wire coil or wire mesh coil inside your vape is heated when you hit the fire button
  • An organic cotton wick running through your coils (in an RBA) or around your coils in a regular tank, has been soaking in e-juice since you primed your coils and filled your tank
  • This wick keeps your coils wet and the liquid inside this wick and closest to your coils now heats to the point of vaporisation…creating the delicious vapour you know and love to breath in
  • As the liquid closest to the coils vaporizes, more liquid is drawn into the wick, saturating the cotton and preventing dry burn, PROVIDED YOUR TANK IS KEPT FULL
  • New e-juice is drawn into the wick through the openings, holes or slots around the metal casing of your coil head

Now, there are a number of reasons why your wicking material might have failed to saturate adequately to keep those coils wet, resulting in an overheating of the coiling wire (since the moisture helps to regulate the wire temperature) and causing the cotton to burn as a result of being heated while dry.burnt stock coil

How To Get Rid Of The Burnt Taste in Your Vape

Most of the following solutions are actually ways to avoid a burned hit but, should you be experiencing this nightmare, there are actually only two possible fixes and we suggest you try fix a) and only if that fails, try fix b).

Fix a):

Check out our article on cleaning your vape tank and coils, there’s a chance that cleaning your coil head could eliminate the burnt flavour. New coil heads can be expensive, so try to salvage your coil before tossing it. Your coil head may be too far gone to save but worth a try.cleaning vape coil

I’ve brought numerous burnt tasting wicks back from the brink with a simple deep clean or (in the case of RBAs) a wick change and a coil scrub.

Remember To prime, fill, dry hit and soak (keep reading to find out how) before vaping.

Fix b):

If fix a) didn’t work for you, it’s time to install a new coil head/coil.

  • Unscrew the top cap and glass to expose the vape coil in its seating
  • Unscrew the coil head from its seating
  • Screw in a fresh one
  • Prime, fill, dry hit and soak (keep reading to learn how)
  • Vape

Reasons Your Vape Tastes Burnt

Now for the 7 reasons why your vape might be tasting burnt even with a new coil…

1: Your Coils Were Not Primed

Best practice when getting ready to vape on a new coil is to open up your tank and prime your coil head, before filling the tank, allowing the wick to saturate for a few minutes and only THEN vaping on it.

Priming means wetting the wicking and coil material directly to ensure that it gets properly saturated before vaping…because dry cotton burns!

It can be easy to burn a new coil, they can sometimes be a bit stubborn. This is because the wicking is tight and the wicking material a little less porous until being adequately ‘vaped in.’ What this means is that a little more attention needs to be paid to that wick when the coil head is new or hasn’t been used in a long while, just to make sure it really soaks through.

Without priming, air pockets within the wicking compact might not get budged and you might end up with two lungs full of ‘no thanks.’

The solution:

That’s easy…prime your coils!

  • Installed your fresh coil?
  • Unscrew the top cap and/or glass from your tank base to expose the fresh coil head in its seating
  • Drop a single drop of e-liquid on the exposed wick at each of the openings or holes around the sides of the coil head (wicking ports)wismec v200 tank wick coil
  • Drip e-juice onto the exposed wick from the top of the coil head, attempting to saturate the wick and wet the coil without overdoing it… Just a few drips here, you don’t want to breath in e-liquid on your first inhalewismec v200 tank prew coil
  • Reassemble the tank
  • Fill your vape tank
  • Close the airflow to a tight/restricted flow
  • Without switching on your mod (don’t press that fire button!), take a handful of draws or dry hits, to draw liquid into the coils
  • Close your airflow
  • Wait 5 minutes (see the next section, on soaking your wick)
  • Check out the section on high wattages below, then Vape

2: You Haven’t Allowed Your Wick to Soak Through

Priming your coil is not necessarily enough to ensure the wick is saturated, so there’s a good chance that, if you didn’t allow your wick time to saturate by leaving your vape to stand after filling…you’ve started vaping while there are still dry spots in the wick, resulting in the BURN.

The solution:

  • Follow the steps for priming your coil
  • Shake the tank and turn it up and down a few times during the soaking period, in order to ensure all the air pockets are out

    zues dual wicks well
    wicks well!
  • You should see air bubbles exiting at the ports around the coil head, once your wick is saturated, there will be no more bubbles
  • Check out the section on high wattages below, then vape

3. You’ve Vaped at Too-High Wattage

I have one particular mod which I love to vape on, it has a huge touch screen which I always forget to lock and I often make the mistake of touching the screen and either dropping the wattage too low or increasing it to the mod’s 218W capacity.

OLED screen on digiflavor edge
Check your wattage before you vape!

The consequence is that I’ve ruined more than one good coil and temporarily burnt many others, which, luckily, I’ve managed to salvage with a deep clean.

If you know that you primed and soaked your coils correctly and if your coil head is still within its expected lifespan, there’s a good chance you’ve exceeded the wattage limit of your coil head while vaping.

In fact, the first thing you should do when you taste a burnt hit is check your mod, to ensure that you haven’t accidentally turned your wattage up!

The solution:

On your vape packaging or printed on the side of your actual coil head, you should find a recommended wattage range for your vape coil. Do yourself a favour and stay within this range while vaping…it’s printed there for a reason, genius!!!!!

When we vape at a wattage too high for our coil heads, the e-liquid in the wicking (cotton) vaporises faster than the wick is able to re-saturate, resulting in dry cotton burning!burnt vape coil clean vape coil

When we’ve just installed a new coil or coil head, we should ‘break it in,’ after the prime and soak phase, by starting at the bottom of the wattage range, taking 4 to 5 hits, increasing by 5 watts and repeating until we reach the top of our coil head’s range.

Should you have exceeded the range of your coil, resulting in burnt cotton, your only real solutions are the fixes mentioned at the beginning of this article, ie: a deep clean or a coil/wick change.

Tip: Just because your coil has a minimum recommended wattage this doesn’t mean you can’t vape it lower. To be super safe, start a fresh coil on a lower than recommended wattage and work your way up from there.

4: You’ve Not Kept Your Tank Full

You know those little wicking ports or holes around the sides of your coil head… they should never be exposed, this is one of the most basic rules of vaping and one of the fundamental ways to avoid the dreaded dry hit or the burnt cotton hit!

Repeatedly allowing your ports to get exposed will decrease the lifespan of your coil head and its wicking.Nautilus 2 e cig tank parts

When you take a hit on a tank with exposed ports, or a tank that is not being kept topped up, you are drawing air into your wicking instead of juice… what happens when you fill again (without priming and soaking) is that your initial hits are likely going to be on dry cotton!

The solution:

If you’ve been vaping with an empty tank, you need to prime your coils and refill, keeping your tank topped up in future and never letting those wicking ports get exposed
You may have to deep clean or replace your coil head/wicking if you’re still experiencing a burnt taste

5. You’ve Chain Vaped a Little Over-Enthusiastically

I’m probably the last person on the planet to tell you not to chain vape…I’ve been known to vape up 3-4ml in a single sitting.chain vaping burn coils

There are a lot of times when it’s just the thing to do, social anxiety, alcohol, a banging good e-juice, all these things have been known to provoke serious chain vaping reactions.

Just imagine, however, when you’re feeling socially anxious and instead of looking super cool blowing out massive clouds you end up with a lungful of burn and start splattering and swearing all over the place…or you have to keep your face straight, so no-one notices, lol!

Some coils can handle a rigorous chain vape and, as a serial chain vaper, I usually test for this in my reviews but some coils simply can’t handle it and…actually, there are levels of chain vaping that are just ridiculous, for example, when you’re trying to master a trick and you ignore the fact that your tank is getting smoking hot.

What happens when you overheat your tank by chain vaping is that your e-liquid overheats, making it thinner and making it vaporise too fast for your coils to saturate by the time you take another hit…resulting in delicious charcoal inhale with an undertone of singed newspaper and a fragrant burning jersey nose. Not very subtle or very nice.

The solution:

Keep tabs on the heat of your tank, it should never get more than just a little warm to the touch

6: You Are Not Using the Right VG/PG Ratio E-Liquid for Your Coil Head

The size of your coil head and its wattage range actually dictate the ratio of PG/VG you should have in your juice (to an extent). Smaller coil heads, like those in a small pen style or pod mod require a thinner juice.Glas Basix e-liquid reviewPropylene Glycol or PG is the thinner of the 2 e-juice constituents and the lower the vape coils recommended wattage, the higher the percentage of PG should be.

You know those wicking ports we keep talking about, the ones situated around the sides of your coil heads? The size of those should give you an idea of whether your coil head requires more VG or more PG.

Bigger and you need more VG, smaller and you need more PG. check out the image below…the coil head on the left would require a higher PG and the one on the right would require more VG.Coil comparison low and high vg

Vaping with a too-high VG liquid on small coil heads may will cause your wick to burn because the VG is too thick to enter the tiny wicking ports and saturate the coil in time whilst you are vaping.

The Solution:

A good rule of thumb is that your safe with a 50+% VG if you are vaping above 30W…and check those ports!

7: Your Wick Has Become Clogged

Juices high in colourants, nicotine or sweeteners may tend to clog your wick up with regular use.burnt stock coil

While we don’t necessarily condone vaping juices that caramelise in your wick or have a dark colour or mess up your coils, some of our favourite, high flavour (and high sweetener) juices may be just too good for you to avoid and in this case, you are going to need to do the following.

The solution:

If using a lighter juice isn’t an option for you, you’re going to need to do regular coil rinses in order to stop your coils from experiencing a short lifespan and yourself from experiencing flavour ah la burned-to-s***.

  • Check out our article on How To Clean Your Coils and clean your coil head!
  • If this fails, you’ll need to replace it.
  • Just remember to prime and soak after either a clean or a replacement!

Hopefully the above has helped answer why your vape tastes burnt. It really all comes down to prevention and good vape practice.Have any other tips on getting rid of a burnt taste in a vape then please share below! Happy vaping 🙂

Laura-ann Burgess
Greetings Vapers! I’m a 34 year old writer, editor and massive vaping enthusiast based in the beautiful Helderberg region in South Africa. My passion for vaping has steadily grown in the past 4 years since I started vaping in earnest (as has my scorn for smoking). See, I tried vaping years before that but returned to cancer sticks after a bad experience (PG sensitivity). When I finally got back on the vaping train I decided to make it my business to educate beginners and vapers in general, so that they don’t jump to the conclusions that I did. I visualise a world without cigarettes…not just for health reasons: I’m tired of picking thousands of cigarette butts up off my lawn every morning, tossed over the wall by passers by. I can’t believe I used to be one of those people!

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