The Newbie’s Guide To Steeping E-Juice
Do you want the best tasting e-juice you can possibly get?I know I do. How far would you go to transform your basic juice into the most flavorful concoction you've ever had the pleasure of sampling? I'd be ready to embark on a Herculean-style quest, but luckily, it's not quite that difficult to turn ordinary e-liquid into something more.
Confused? You might be under the impression that what you see is what you get as far as juice goes. In actuality, there's a process known as steeping that you can undertake to level up your e-liquid. If you haven't been steeping your e-juice before, you're going to want to give it a go once you've tasted the difference.
What Is Steeping?
Steeping e-juice is a catch all that refers to a variety of techniques that are used to enhance flavor by strengthening the bond between the e-liquid's various ingredients. Let's do a quick refresher, in case you forgot what e-juice was made of.
There's the base, which is either Propylene Glycol (PG), Vegetable Glycerin (VG), or some combination of the two. The base dilutes the other ingredients so that they aren't overly concentrated. They also allow you to get your nice vape clouds going, depending on the ratio.
The next component is diluted nicotine. This is the what gives the e-juice it's bite. Nicotine is a stimulant, so the higher the concentration, the more of an effect it will have.
Finally, there's a combination of water, and whatever flavorings have been used to give the e-juice its added taste. This can range from fruit flavoring to various extracts and the like.
When you first purchase you liquid, it's quite likely that it's been sitting around for a while. As a result the ingredients separate by density. The heavier stuff goes to the bottom, and the lighter stuff stays up top. This results in reduced flavor since everything isn't mixed together the way it should be. By steeping the e-juice, you force these components to bond together, while at the same time allowing the mixture to oxidize.
A few notes before I jump into the specifics. First, not everyone needs to steep their juices. You might be content with the way your liquid tastes off the shelf. If that's you, keep doing your thing, there's no law against vaping the way you feel most comfortable.
Fruity flavors tend to steep quickly, but tobacco and dessert flavors usually take longer. It's up to you to decide if it's worth the investment of time and energy.
Second, to all the nitpickers that I know are reading. Yes. You are right. Technically, "steeping" e-juice isn't really steeping at all. Not the dictionary definition, anyways. What we're doing is more akin to aging, but I didn't invent the term, OK? Great. Now let's get to it!
How To Steep E-Liquid
There are four main approaches that you can take. The length of time varies between them, but they are all based on the same basic premise: excite the liquid, then let it sit somewhere to morph into its final form.
Short & Sweet
This is the easiest method but takes the longest to complete. Just stick the bottle in the cupboard or a dark box and let nature take its course. This is great if you have a few weeks to spare and have the patience of Yoda. If not, you can cut your time to a few days to a week by employing a slightly more involved method.
The Ol' One-Two
How's your dice arm? The "one-two" involves shaking the bottle vigorously, then storing it away to transform. The thicker your juice, the harder you'll need to shake to get the ingredients to start mixing. I like to give it a thorough rattle for a few minutes, like I'm playing the shaker in a salsa band, then letting it rest and doing it again for good measure.
When storing your bottle, remember that not every dark place is suitable. You need to ensure that no light is getting in, and the air temperature is between 60F-70F. After a week, check on your juice. Has the color changed? Do you notice a change in the aroma? If not, you'll need to shake again and continue waiting.
By the end, your juice should be noticeably darker, and when you vape it, the flavor should be bolder, richer, and close to irresistible.
Pop A Cap Off
This is a variation on the previous method I described. Follow the same process of shaking and waiting. When you let the bottle sit, though, remove the cap. Done correctly, the solvents within the juice will dissipate. This is a great way to take the "edge" off of juice that might have too much of a kick for your tastes.
Your end product should be silky smooth, with much less bite than before. I like implementing this style of steeping when I get something harsher than what I expected with a nicotine content well above my norm.
Light It Up
Some will tell you that methods involving heat or UV rays don't work. Personally, I've had mixed results going this route. I'd be remiss if I hid this knowledge from you, though, so if you want to take a stab at it, I won't stop you.
The reasoning goes that applying heat to the steeping process will make the juice more viscous. Viscous fluids should mix together more quickly, so your time for steeping should be cut drastically if you do this right. A few hot shots say they can get their juices steeped within a few days, but I still like to give it week just to be on the safe side.
Warm up a pot with some water (don't boil it though, too much heat will ruin the nicotine). Shake your bottles, then stick them in. Repeat this several times, then store your bottles away like before. Once the waiting period is done, you'll have your steeped liquid.
Alternatively, you can try a consistent level of low heat to speed steeping to the max. Particularly inventive sorts recommend all manner of shortcuts:
- Slow cookers
- The heat from an appliance
- The low-heat setting on the coffee mug warmer
- The microwave
- The dryer (you'll need to secure the bottle in a bag, and only try this with glass bottles)
- The glovebox
Whatever you can muster, really. I'm not a fan of going this route, as the results have been inconsistent for me. If you can get it down and get the juice tasting the way you want, however, go for it.
Enjoy Your Work
No matter what method you go with, if you did it right your juice will emerge with an evolved taste. Deeper, smoother, overall more pleasant to vape. You may even notice that the color of the liquid has changed. The steeping process can cause the nicotine in an E-Juice to oxidize, altering the color. Oxidation also causes volatile components to evaporate, aiding in improving the flavor. If you're ready to give it a shot, you'll need some new juice to get you started.
Which Juice To Use?
Whichever one you want to. Like I mentioned, fruit flavors will generally steep faster than others. I always like to give juices with higher nicotine contents a good steeping, just to smooth them out a bit. The same goes for any liquids with overwhelming flavors that are coming on too strong.
My recommendation is to try it out on a few varieties of e-juice and see if you like it. Keep a list of the ones you know you prefer steeped, and take it from there. A bit of trial-and-error never hurt anyone, right?
That's Great, But I'm Lazy...
I get it, you don't feel like doing any of that, but you still want to enjoy the deep, succulent flavor of steeped juice. Lucky for you, there are plenty of pre-steeped e-juice varieties waiting for you to buy them.
You don't even have to do much to distinguish them. Vendors like Skyline Vapor and Safari Juice use it as a marketing tool. They're more than willing to tell you up front that their goods are pre-steeped and ready for vaping right-out-the-bottle. By most accounts, the pre-steeped stuff is quite good:
Just be prepared to drop a few extra dollars in exchange for them handling the heavy lifting.
Now that you know how to steep e-juice, it's time to make some choices. The most obvious is whether you want to give steeping a go or not. I'll say it again: your call. If you do decide that steeping your e-juice is the way to go remember the following.
You'll have to decide on which technique you want to try. The slower methods might require more patience, but they also require less immediate attention. In my opinion, they give you a superior result as well.
For you speed demons, have at your heat-enhanced steeping methods. Just make sure that you don't heat those bottles up too much, and play it safe if you're using home appliances to cut your steeping time.
No matter which route you choose, it may take you a few shots to get it right. Don't fear experimentation, and good luck in fine-tuning your flavor!