Tutorial - DIY Mixing
Mixing your own eLiquid can be very rewarding – particularly when you just "nail" the flavor. It can be cost effective. It can also be daunting ... here's a tutorial to simplify this and make it enjoyable.
Making your own juices is not as difficult as it seems. The process is actually quite simple when you break down the different parts. Here's a few basic guidelines:
- There are only three major elements: the Nicotine, the Flavoring, and the Diluent (Filler).
- The larger the quantity you mix, the more "consistent" your mix will be. If you make a 1 drop error at 30 ml, the effect is much greater than making a 1 drop error at 300 ml.
- The first main ingredient is nicotine. Nicotine is available in a variety of strengths all the way to 100 mg/ml ... since nicotine can be quite harmful when absorbed through the skin, you really need to use disposable gloves – the same kind of disposable latex gloves used in the food industry. They are inexpensive and available in local hardware stores. If you are just starting out mixing your own juices, you should start with a lower strength nicotine (like 36 mg/ml) until you are comfortable with the process. Nicotine is available in 25 mg/ml, 36 mg/ml, 48 mg/ml, 50mg/ml, 75 mg/ml, and 100 mg/ml strengths.
- You won't be able to find "pure" nicotine, it is mixed in a "base". The base can be 100% PG, 100% VG, and 50/50. There may be other base ratios available, but these are the three most common. Select the one most appropriate to yours needs.
- Once you have determined your nicotine strength level, that part of the mix is consistent for all the flavors you will be using. Let me give you an example. If your nicotine base is 36 mg/ml and your target mix is 12 mg/ml, use this formula:
(1 / (base nic / target nic)) X final bottle size
(1 / (36 / 12)) X 30
... which means that in your 30 ml bottle, your first "ingredient" is 10 ml of your base 36 mg/ml ... you can also use our DIY calculator.
- The second main ingredient is your "filler", that is either PG, VG, or a mix of the two.
- The third main ingredient is your flavoring.
Note that with flavoring, you may need to steep your mix for a few hours to a few days for the flavor to mix with your nicotine and filler. That is more typical with tobacco and darker flavorings. Without steeping, the flavor will still come through, but with steeping the flavor will develop a more robust "taste".
- In addition to latex gloves, you will also need a few other mixing tools. Those include:
– a measuring eye dropper or pipette
– a measuring cup
– empty bottles (please make sure they are either glass or a safe plastic: PET plastic bottles are the safest, you can also use LDPE. HDPE plastic will not react well with some solvents you might be using).
– dilutant (distilled water is preferable, some use food grade alcohol, others use vodka and/or grain alcohol)
The reason why we break this down into three major components is that is really how you should think of this. Once you have determined your nicotine target strength, and the size of the bottle you will be using, the amount of your base nicotine you use is always the same – regardless of the recipe. It's almost the same with flavorings with some minor variations. Most flavorings are about 10-15% of the total mix. Some flavorings might need a bit of tweaking, but if you go up on this to 20%, then both your flavorings and filler are essentially the same. Here's how this would work: 1) let's say that you have a 36 mg/ml base nicotine bottle and your target is 12 mg/ml in a 30 mg bottle. You will always be adding 10 ml of your base nicotine to your mix, always. The only time that changes is if you are mixing a larger batch. Now, let's say that you are using a recipe that calls for your flavorings to be a total of 10% of the total mix ... so, this is 10 ml as well. All that is left is the "filler" (your PG or VG) ... if you do some quick basic math, you have base nicotine at 10 ml, flavorings at 10 ml, all that is left is 10 ml for the filler. It's that simple.
Some of the "tools" you'll need are show on this page. Most of these you likely already have at home, or have something adequate. You do not have to go out and spend a fortunate for this, use what you have.
The first is a somewhat optional. These are graduated syringes. These are available for about $2 each and include a blunt end needle. They are useful, particularly when measuring in small quantities. The second is a small funnel – you'll be surprised how difficult it can be to fill a 30 ml bottle with such as small neck. No use wasting any eLiquid you just mixed when a small funnel is only about $2. The third is probably the most important part of your tool kit. These are latex gloves and you can buy a box with several hundred for about $10. Latex gloves are necessary: nicotine can be harmful and if you spill any on your skin it is quickly absorbed in the skin. For the inexpensive price of latex gloves, they are good "insurance", spill some nic, and just pull off the glove and throw it out (and put another one on). The fourth is picture of "pipettes", you really only need one or two. These help you draw from your larger bottle to get into your mixing container. At the picture at the far right is your mixing container: a measuring cylinder. The measuring cylinders is likely the most difficult part of this tool kit to find. Alternately you can use a measuring cup or a small shot glass. Note that the only plastic tools are the syringe and the latex gloves. Everything else is glass. And, at the left is a basic mason jar. I personally prefer mixing in slightly larger batches (once I have settled on a recipe that I like) ... keeping it in a sealing jar is a good idea.
The bullet above already have the formula for the nicotine. Let's skip the "filler" for a few minutes and discuss flavoring. This is where you need to spend most of your time. The flavoring will make or break your efforts at do-it-yourself mixing. I am assuming you already have flavorings picked out. If not, there are quite a number of suppliers for flavorings and you can find them through a Google search. I am also assuming you already have a recipe that you want to mix up yourself. If not, you can also find a considerable number of eLiquid recipes online. Look for those recipes that have already been tried and tested with user reviews and pick those that have 5-star (or close) with user comments that validate the recipe. We made it sound simple a bit earlier, and it is. If you have a syringe (or a pipette, or even a graduated eye dropper like the ones they use to mix baby liquids), it is easy to do. Just be patient, take your time, and you'll get it right.
Some things you need to know about flavoring your own eLiquid. Flavoring from all the different suppliers will be at varying strengths. A good orange from one supplier will not be identical to an orange from another supplier. Once you find a recipe and flavor supplier that work well, stick with it and don't switch suppliers. Because these flavorings are all at varying strengths, you will need to factor that into your recipe as part of the total. Some flavors can be so strong that they only need to be 5% of the total mix, while others are weak enough that they need to be 20% of the total mix. If designing your own recipes, this is something you will have to experiment with. For the purpose of our example, let's use 10% as the percentage of the total mix for flavoring: that would mean 3 ml for a 30 ml bottle.
At this point, we know the nicotine base total ml, and we now know the flavor ml. That would be 10 ml of nicotine base, and 10 ml of flavoring. The balance (10 ml) is for your "filler". The simplest way to mix this would be for you to take your sanitized 30 ml empty bottle, put your latex gloves on, add 10 ml of your nicotine base, add your 10 ml of flavorings, and then fill the remaining space in the bottle (10 ml) with the PG/VG filler. Shake it up and vape away!
You may have heard the term "steeping" related to eLiquids. The term means exactly the same as it does with tea. To get a good cup of tea, you let your hot water "steep" with the tea leaves for a few minutes so that the tea leaves can properly "infuse" the water with the tea flavor. It's the same with eLiquids: let your flavorings steep in the base nic and filler mix to get the flavors to "infuse" properly in the mix. Not all of you eLiquids will need to be steeped, but many will. If your flavor isn't quite right, don't throw it out right after mixing. Let is sit for at least 24 hours and try tasting again ...
Following someone's recipe?
So, you've found a recipe that sounds just like a flavor you want. Read the recipe carefully – you will want to know what their recommendation is for the total mix percentage their recipe is targeted for. If you can't find this documented in the recipe, you might want to look for another version of the recipe that would have that information, or you can start with a basic assumption of 10%. At 10% of the total mix, this would mean that the total flavorings are 3 ml of a 30 ml bottle.
If you are experimenting, you need to be mindful of your costs. The most expensive ingredient is the nicotine base followed by the flavoring. The filler is the least expensive of all the ingredients. As you experiment, you may want to leave our the nicotine base – nicotine base has no flavor of its own.
We recommend that you use the rule of 5 testing process when experimenting. That is, you first start with a mix with 5% of the total as flavoring. If that is weak, you set that bottle aside and mix another with 10% of the total as flavoring. If that is strong, you then mix a 50/50 batch of the 5% and 10% tests to get a mix of 7.5%. If the 10% is weak, you then set that bottle aside and mix another with 15% of the total as flavoring. If that is strong, you then mix a 50/50 batch of the 10% and 15% to get a mix of 12.5%. If the 15% is weak, you then set that bottle aside and mix another with 20% of the total as flavoring. If that is strong, you then mix a 50/50 batch of the 15% and 20% to get a mix of 17.5%. There are very few mixes that will exceed 20% of the total, so by now you should have found a flavor percentage to suit your taste with minimal waste.
Vegetable glycerine (VG) is a thicker liquid than propylene glycol (PG). If your mix has a greater percentage of VG, you might want to dilute the VG before your mix it in. The flow rate is called viscosity. VG is a vegetable derived liquid. Different suppliers, or manufacturers, make their VG from different vegetables. VG is extracted from fats and oils, usually coconut or palm oil. VG is sweet and has the consistency of a light syrup. To make it "flow" better and avoid burning out coils, you can dilute it up to 10%. For each 9 ml of VG, add 1 ml of distilled water. Since the viscosity can be different for each supplier, you might want to start by adding 1 ml of distilled water for each 18 ml of VG (0.5%) and work your way from there. For DIY, it is cost-prohitive to measure the viscosity. The testing equipment is very expensive and contracting a lab is also very cost-prohitive. There is a simple way for you to get an idea of flow rate, though ... find something with a hard surface that you can hold and tilt slightly (a small mirror is perfect for this). Now, on one side, put a drop of an eLiquid that you know works with your equipment and flows well (without dry hits when you vape). On the other side, put a drop of your mix and tilt at about a 30 degree angle. If the drop of your mix runs faster than the "control" drop on the left, you add too much distilled water. If it runs slower than the control drop on the left, you didn't add enough. This is a quick way to get to a reasonable viscosity with your VG.
Once you have your test mixes, add them to your base (without nicotine). After your find your perfect combination for flavors, you can then mix up with the nicotine. You may have used up a bit of your filler, but wasted no nicotine.