A Return To Old Style Mixing
When I started mixing in 2010 the devices we had were joytech 510 small stick (cig-a-like) batteries. These utilized an atomizer with a small piece of metal bridging over the kanthal coil and silicon wicking. They had a drip tip top that had a little plastic mesh piece that held juice that would drip down into the atomizer by being pushed on by the little metal bridge. Some other early devices like this used cartomizers, a coil packed in a wicking material in a tube (very similar to our current day sub ohm type commercial produced coils for tanks.) Later on joytech made tank version of their 510 stick batteries where a pin would push into the tank and drip juice onto the coil. Then Egos came out, with more battery life, but the same basic concept was happening with their atomizer. The air flow was very restricted, the air flow holes were found along the threading of the atomizer. Mixing for these found higher PG levels worked better, running at max 50/50, but preferring 60/40 pg/vg up to 80/20 pg/vg. Then came the top coil tanks with dangly little strings of wicking. These too needed at max 50/50 or they wouldn’t wick properly – and even then with high pg they still sucked pretty bad for wicking.
This was the first generation devices I began mixing for. Back then I was using percentages of flavor which in today’s sub ohm tanks and drippers that would be overpowering to most average tasting vapers. Pushing TFA flavors up to 10% or 20% and having recipes that were 25% to 35% total flavoring. When I switched over to a dripper and Max VG e-liquid mixing and started using more concentrated flavorings, I discovered mixing lower percentages with more nuanced recipes started working better for me. During this time was the explosion of e-liquid on the market. It was also the start of many of the mixing groups that moved away from the forums and small pockets of us here and there. DIY became a little more mainstream in the culture of vaping that existed in the years 2012 – 2014. It was still a rather small community, but there a lot of newcomers to mixing their own liquids during this time.
In 2015 through today there has been a massive explosion of DIY since regulations of the vaping industry has started to cut the commercial juice market and many vapers are starting to worry about not being able to have flavors they enjoy vaping. With all these new mixers into the community sprung a lot of folks who had never experienced mixing for these old style devices, having started out on drippers and sub ohm, so the information of mixing for the old devices is harder to find and all seems very confusing when newer mixers espouse methods meant for high wattage, low ohm, sub ohm vaping and they expect it to work for everything, including pods. But mixing for pods is far more like mixing for the old style devices than it is for the newer devices. This is where learning the old way of mixing (even though it’s only a handful of years old) will benefit newer mixers looking to mix for their favorite pod devices with nicotine salts.
Mixing for Pods Using Old Methods
So what are the older methods of mixing that we will be using for pods? In order to get flavors to come through they have to be mixed high enough, but not all flavors need to be pushed to ridiculous levels because each brand is different and has different concentration levels. But if you’re using the weaker regular strength flavors like TFA, CAP, FW, and LA, or some of the other weaker flavored brands like Molinberry or Decadent Vapor, you’ll be pushing these flavors up higher than more current recipes styled and vaped on drippers. So instead of using only 3% or 4% of CAP Vanilla Custard V1, you may find yourself taking that percentage up to 8% or 10% for a pod to get the same flavor levels of intensity that you’d get in a high flavor dripper with a flavor coil.
Many mixers are currently saying that bakeries and creams don’t work for pods. I have not found this to be the case. Creams and bakeries come out fine in pods, but again like with other profiles, simplicity rules supreme. Layering 5 different creams and 3 cookies and then caramels or other flavors in can be a bit of an overkill for a pod system. You won’t get the creamy nuances, or as much texture from the cookies and other flavors as you would in an RDA. Instead of adding in a little bit of this and that, with a pod system look at the profile and pick the primary flavor notes you’d expect to taste. Maybe it’s a bready element, mixed with a vanilla accented cream and a cinnamon. Going for a cinnamon roll to achieve the bready and cinnamon notes then adding in a vanilla cream or a custard with an extra vanilla may be all you need to get the primary notes out of a profile.
Maybe a strawberry cream flavor is what you want for your profile. Here layering the strawberries as you normally would for a dripper will still work, but you’re going turn those flavors up by up to 25% in order to get them to come through. A simple recipe for a pod might look like this: FW Strawberry 5%, TFA Strawberry 3%, TFA Strawberry Ripe 4%, TFA VBIC 5% and FW Bavarian Cream 5% with 1% FW Sweetener. It’s a simple layer recipe that will work for a pod. The strawberry should come through and your creams should be obvious. It will of course need a steep and if you’re a pepper taster this wouldn’t work for you. But instead you could use something like 10% LB VBIC with the strawberry flavors and have a very similar result with less peppery vanilla notes.
Could you vape this recipe in an RDA or RTA? Sure. But it might end up being a bit much in those devices and might need to be turned down some on the percentages. But in a pod system when the air flow is limited and you are fighting with higher nicotine ratios (something we’re going to talk about in a minute) you need enough flavor to punch through and still slap you in the face so you can taste it – especially if you’re an average taster. If you’re more sensitive like I am you may not need as much, but even I have to turn my normal recipes up some and simplify them in order to get good flavor results. If you’re a muted taster, you may even be simplifying and turning up even more. So that strawberry recipe might only need 13% FW Strawberry and 10% LB VBIC, and in a pod it may be perfect for you. As with all things DIY it’s about experimenting to see what is right for your palate.
The trend with pods as it was in the early days of vaping, is higher nicotine levels. Some people are pushing their nicotine levels up to 59mg by using nicotine salts – whereas with freebase nicotine 36mg is really the highest most people can tolerate in low wattage higher ohm devices. There is a drastic difference in both taste and throat hit from nicotine salts and freebase. If you’re coming into pods from RDAs and sub ohm tanks on 200 watt devices vaping 3mg freebase nicotine then making the jump to 50mg nic salts may do your head in and give you that unpleasant over nic’d feelings (also known as a nic buzz) that you may not want. You also have to take into account the amount of nicotine you are planning to use and mix your flavoring recipe according to your nicotine levels. Nicotine salt levels at 20mg or below won’t need a massive amount of adjustments in order to cover up the flavor provided by the nicotine, you can generally mix as you would for 3mg freebase adjusting for the taste differences of a the pod system. But over 20mg nicotine salts and you’re going to need to mix your flavorings even higher than just adjusting for pods.
High milligram strength nicotine mixes will have that nicotine taste trying it’s best to poke through the flavorings. This actually means the higher the nicotine the more simplistic the recipe needs to be at a higher percentage than you may consider going, or using higher concentrated flavorings at higher percentages than you’d normally use. Something like Flavorah Rich Cinnamon where you might be using it at 0.15% in a normal 3mg freebase recipe on an RDA, may need to be more like 0.75% to 1% in a pod with 59mg nicotine salts. Something like FA Red Touch where 2% or 3% in a normal device at normal nicotine levels might need to be pushed up to 5% or 7% and add in another strawberry to cover over 45mg nic salts taste.
Working with the higher nicotine levels won’t require you to worry about your overall percentage of your recipe, much like working with lower levels of nicotine, it just means you have to pay closer attention to the percentages you have of each of your simple flavorings to make sure they are working to cover the flavor of high mg nicotine. You may end up with one recipe being a single flavor at 7% or a 3 to 5 flavor recipe being as high as 35% total flavoring, it doesn’t really matter…what matters is that each flavoring being used is used at their optimal levels to provide the flavor you want in the recipe and can cover up the nicotine taste. If you’re getting a bitter, leafy, dirty note from a pod system recipe that has high nicotine, it may mean that you still need to turn up the percentages of your flavorings in order to cover it, or even use other flavorings to achieve the profile you desire that are stronger or more vibrant. The other thing to remember is that every pod system is different in both function, form, and flavor output. So if you’re trying to mix for a pod that has low flavor output and you’re tasting nothing but nicotine, it may not be your recipe that is the problem, it may be the pod itself.
Last thoughts on nicotine salts – Not everyone can use them. Some people taste funny notes from it. Some people it causes throat irritation. And for a small percentage of us can even cause allergic reactions. There is an acid added to the nic salts and how they are designed can either result in a smooth feature, an average freebase mimicking effect, or even added throat hit. You may have sensitivities to these acids. So it is something to be aware of. If you are trying them for the first time after using 6mg freebase or less in high wattage devices, don’t jump into making 59mg nic salt juice off the bat, you may not need it. Aim for 10mg or 15mg to start out with on the pods, and increase as needed by 5mg or 10mg. You may find that you don’t need the high mg nic salts if you’ve been vaping for a while and are not a new to vaping coming off smoking person. If you are coming in to vaping pods having been or still are smoking, using 25mg or higher may be what you need to kick the smoking habit completely. Back in the old days of vaping on first generation devices 24mg freebase was the common starting place for most smokers – I know that is where I started. I quickly dropped down over the first 6 months and then leveled out for several years around 6mg, and then dropped to 1.5mg to 3mg recipes for the past several years. Nicotine salts are going to be the same way, but you may find yourself not wanting to drop as quickly as we did using freebase. Nicotine salts seem to have more of an addictive quality to them given the way they behave in the body once inhaled and enter the bloodstream. The life of the nicotine molecule of nic salts doesn’t last as long in the bloodstream as freebase does, so you end up feeling that need to vape more.
If you are a person who can’t use nic salts but want to try pods, try slightly higher than your normal RDA/RTA/Subohm tank nicotine levels, so if you are using 3mg normally, try 6mg or 9mg freebase in your pods. You could even go to 12mg without too much trouble, but the throat hit will be more pronounced though you will vape less eliquid. You may need to turn your flavoring up a little compared to the normal way you mix for your other devices, but overall you won’t have to adjust for the nicotine taste too much at these average levels of freebase nicotine when compared to very high levels of nic salts.