DIY E-Liquid Flavor Additives
Just as we use herbs and spices in cooking, as tools to help bring out certain qualities and characteristics in our food and also add those special finishing touches, we can also do this with our own DIY e-juice flavors. Additives or enhancers can be added to your DIY e-liquid mixes very easily and it is done by countless manufacturers often in the e-liquids you buy and love.
Flavor additives are a very effective way of making those small, subtle changes to your mixes that really enhance and round off your creations. Be wary that if used incorrectly, they can however ruin what would have been a delicious concoction. As they each have a specific purpose for a particular job, we can think of flavor additives as tools to help you get the best results that you are chasing.
You may have already seen mention of these additives in various e-juice recipes that you have researched, or have come across them or heard about them from just being tuned into the general vaping scene. Understanding additives and what they can do to a mix, can really aid you in your DIY e-liquid making endeavors and take your creations to the next level. As a chef understands how ingredients all work together, you can get an understanding of how and why additives will work with your DIY juice.
I’m going to break down the various e-liquid additives into their sub groups and help you understand what they can do for you. And hopefully we can understand how and why they have the effects they do, to really level up your DIY skills and broaden your creations.
Ethyl Maltol & Sucralose are the two additives that are called sweeteners. Although they are both sweeteners, they cannot and should be used in place of each other, as they both work very differently. As they are both different from each other, it is best not to substitute one for another as the end result will be completely different. We are going to look at how they each have their place and how they are used to give their own unique results.
On its own, Ethyl Maltol tastes and smells like fairy floss or cotton candy as most people call it. You can either purchase it as a concentrate or buy Ethyl Maltol crystals and dissolve them in PG to make your own EM concentrate. The best way to think about Ethyl Maltol is that it is a sweetener that sweetens certain aromas. It will add a sweetness to certain flavors helping them seem sweeter and bring them out somewhat. If you were wanting to use an apple flavor in your mix that you think would benefit from being slightly sweeter, then the use of Ethyl Maltol will give you what you are after.
On the other hand Sucralose is an over-arching sweetener, which is like putting sugar into your e-liquid. The best way to think about Sucralose is that it will add an overall sweetness on top of your mix. A lot of e-juice manufacturers use Sucralose to blend mixes together and cover up certain inconsistencies within their recipes.
You can often taste it in a juice when you know it is very sweet but you can’t put your finger on exactly what part or what certain flavor is contributing to the sweetness. Often it can be used too much and give that sickly sweet effect, which a lot of people just do not like. If an e-juice you are vaping seems just too sweet, then more likely it is an overdose on Sucralose.
A prime example of where to use Ethyl Maltol would be when you have a recipe where some of the ingredients you are using would benefit from some sweetness. If you had a strawberry milk recipe where the strawberry is lacking in sweetness because of the thickness of the milk, then some Ethyl Maltol can be used to bring forward to sweetness in the Strawberry. On the other hand if you wanted the whole juice to have a sweeter flavor, you would use Sucralose. In which case the sweetness would be tasted across the whole mix as an over-arching experience on your palate.
Be smart when you use sweeteners, as when they are over used they can mute or numb flavors. You can certainly use too much, so it is best to start out with small percentages and work your way up to where it is just right. I personally tend to err on the side of caution and under sweeten my bulk mixes knowing that I can always go back and add a little more if necessary.
Where if you over-sweetened, you can’t really take that back by adding more flavor to the mix – it gets very messy and you will probably end up tipping your DIY batch down the sink. Think of sweeteners as a make or break situation and you will always be in good stead. Sweeteners always have a place in your DIY stash, so you will find them very useful additives for your delectable creations.
Malic and Citric Acid are the two additives that are used when you need to add a sour taste to your mix. These additives will help different aromas bring out that tart and a sour flavor from certain ingredients. Just adding Malic or Citric will not automatically give you a tart or sour profile on your palate, they have to be used wisely as they impart their effects in a subtle way. If you had lemon in a recipe that you wanted to taste a little more sour than it already was, then a touch of Malic or Citric will give you what you want and help bring that tartness up front a little more.
Malic is more widely used in DIY than Citric is because it doesn’t mute your flavors as much as Citric does. Malic Acid is the same as TFA Sour, which is a concentrate available from The Flavor Apprentice and widely stocked in DIY suppliers.
This is probably the most useful tool and easiest to use due to it being already diluted and ready to use. If you need to add some sour to your mix then I would recommend adding TFA Sour to your next order. Remember to only use it in Fruit or Candy flavor profiles as if you add this to anything else it will more than likely ruin your mix. Try not to use this with cereals, bakery or dessert recipes.
Acetyl Pyrazine or AP is an additive that portrays a grainy, nutty, bread like flavor into your DIY mixes. It helps to bring out a more of that grain texture which goes hand in hand with cereals, donuts, cookies, pie crusts and cracker based recipes. Whenever I use graham cracker in a recipe I always use a small percentage of AP which really makes that cracker pop.
The best way to think about AP is when you have a grain component that is lacking in your mix, it will aid in bringing forward that texture to the forefront and seem more apparent on your palate. If you are mixing a pie based recipe and the crust isn’t really coming through as you had hoped for, add around half a percent of Acetyl Pyrazine and it will help pop it out. Or if a donut flavor isn’t quite doughy enough or a bread flavor needs more weight, AP will certainly come to the rescue here.
Again, Acetyl Pyrazine can be overused and ruin your mix if you put too much in. It’s best to experiment with AP and start out small, keeping in mind that you can always scale it up later. If you put too much in, your mixes will taste overly bready or even worse will end up tasting like corn chips, which is no fun at all. Used sparingly and at the right volumes will complement these grainy flavors immensely.
Other uses for AP include drawing out those bitter notes in darker profiles such as coffees and chocolates. The use of AP here is more challenging to get right, however it can be a savior once you work it out. This is a staple in my DIY stash and I wouldn’t be without it.
It is pretty much what is advertised in the name. Vanillin is an additive which is a single aroma derived straight from the vanilla profile itself. Everyone knows of vanilla extract that we use in cooking. It gives an overall vanilla flavor to your DIY creations, pretty much how vanilla extract adds a vanilla flavor to pretty much anything you put it in. This differs from a vanilla flavoring concentrate because you cannot layer the vanilla flavor, it blankets everything, giving a vanilla profile that you will taste all through your whole mix.
If you were mixing a vanilla cola recipe, vanillin would be a prime example of what to use as it would cover the entire profile of the mix. If you were wanting to bring out a vanilla note in a chocolate ice-cream recipe to give that impression of biting into an ice-cream, then vanillin wouldn’t be a good move here as it would impede what the chocolate is trying to do. Here, you would just use the right percentage of vanilla flavor, or an ice-cream flavor itself. Vanillin comes in a 10% concentrated form and should be used sparingly. Remember to start low and work you way up.
Triacetin is the additive that will generally smooth out your DIY mixes. MTS Vape Wizard and TFA Smooth both have triacetin in them and are the most accessible tools to use in this manner. These can help give a sense of a thicker and smoother feeling to your DIY recipes. As with most of the additives we have talked about, MTS Vape Wizard and TFA Smooth will not automatically give you that lush thickness and heaviness of flavor by default.
They have to be used accordingly and will only compliment the ingredients that are already included in your mix. Triacetin itself is rather hard to work with as it does a good job of distracting your palate away from the flavors you want to give attention to. So I would recommend using either TFA Smooth or MTS Vape Wizard as they contain Triacetin, however they also contain other compounds that can help in more situations. If you wanted to impart more of a blended flavor in your DIY e-liquid recipe, then this is where you would use a smoothing agent.
If, for example, you had a banana custard recipe where it was too easy to tell the difference between each flavor and you were going for more of a blended taste, then a smoothing additive would certainly help here. Think of it as throwing all of your ingredients into a blender rather than layering them one by one.
However if you wanted a predominately custard flavor with a hint of banana on top, then this would not work for you. Here, I would go back to the flavor percentages and play with that before addicting a smoothing agent. Keep in mind that they will kill any subtle nuances in certain ingredients and you may no longer be able to taste what you enjoy from a particular flavor.
MTS Vape Wizard was designed for use in Tobacco profiles and it will help to bring out that smokey sensation on the palate. It will add some weight and thicken up those tobacco concentrates, while also smoothing them out so they don’t seem as harsh to vape on. It can also help to bring a tobacco recipe together if there are other less prominent ingredients in your mix and help it to feel like a legit tobacco or pipe experience.
For me, personally I don’t use smoothing additives in my mixes. However if I were to do so, I would choose from MTS Vape Wizard or TFA Smooth as these are readily available and diluted ready to go for you.
Looking to add some bubbles or that carbonated effect to one of your favourite recipes? Works best with cocktail, soda and beverage profiles to give them that slight edge. TFA Champagne is a single flavor additive or it can also be regarded as an ingredient too if you rather.
It will impart some extra acidity to your mix, think white grape and floral notes – just as champagne tastes like in real life. Start with a low percentage and work up, tweaking the other flavors in your recipe to compensate for the taste of the champagne itself. A great additive to have in your DIY stash once you get more experience and start to understand how flavors work with each other.
Koolada and Menthol – these can both be thought of as either additives or ingredients as they have a specific purpose and you need have a reason for including them in a DIY e-liquid. We all know what menthol is, it is that cool and refreshing flavor with a minty sensation that can resemble an icy blast.
Koolada has the same effect as menthol, however it does not impart the minty flavor at all. Menthol and Koolada are definitely not subtle and they have the most notable effects on your mix in comparison to all of the others we have talked about. You really only want to start adding drops to entire mixes and work your way up from there. They are really strong and can be unvapable at high volumes.
Apart from the expected uses of these cooling agents, they can give some great unexpected results on other flavors or mixes you wouldn’t naturally think of pairing them with. Think of an ice-cream recipe that you could add a few drops of Koolada to give that impression on the palate that it is actually cold. Or when you mix up a nice batch of Pink Lemonade, imagine how much nicer it would be to drink it cold.
Menthol is a great accompaniment to berry flavors or most obviously tobacco as well. Menthol comes in a PG base, but you can also buy crystals to dissolve in PG to make your own dilution ratio. Koolada comes in a PG base and is not available in crystals as far as I know.
Cooling agents are great fun to play around with in your DIY creations because they can really add some variety to plain old flavors or recipes. They can really surprise you just how different a mix tastes with just a few drops, not necessarily changing the taste per se, but the overall mouth feel instead. I guarantee you will be surprised at what you come up with even if your not a menthol / minty fan and wouldn’t usually go for that profile. Definitely good tools to have in your DIY arsenal.
I hope this has helped you understand how you can broaden your DIY e-juice making endeavors by adding and using flavor additives. Just when you thought you had everything down pat, you can always look at ways to change things up or expand the possibilities of your DIY e-liquid. What DIY e-liquid additives have you used or want to try? Please let us know in the comments below or if you have any questions, feel free to leave them as well.