Flavor Overkill — The Art of Not Over-Flavoring Your Mixes

Why Less is More

When Using Too Much Flavoring Kills Your Recipe

You may not be as sensitive as I am, though if you are female there is a higher chance that you are more sensitive than if you are male.  The classification of supertasters (which is kind of a misnomer since it actually is more super smellers) tends to be more likely female which is about 30% of the female population verses about 10% of the male population.  More than likely you fall into the average sense of smell, with some people falling into the classification of muted or damaged olfactory senses due to being exposed to chemicals or other extreme conditions that have damaged the olfactory cells (like putting anything up yer nose.)   However, over-flavoring your recipe might not help your ability to taste that flavor and over-flavoring may mean different things to different people.

For me, most commercial juice is over-flavored and over-sweetened.  This is one of the reasons I started mixing my own e-liquid, I couldn’t find juice I wanted to vape that didn’t taste off, weird, or just plain too sweet. I also didn’t enjoy my coils being so gunked up (back in those days of 510 bridged atomizers that were $20 a 5 pack) making me change my coil every day, sometimes twice a day, it got expensive really fast.  But even with today’s equipment, if I’m using premade coils or making my own coils I don’t enjoy having to change them once a day. I mix using cleaner flavors that are stronger and aren’t presweetened with sugars or other things.

So how does over-flavoring kill your recipes? If you are going for complex style recipes you will end up with a muddled mess if you’ve over-flavored. It may be muted. It may be harsh.  Even simple recipes that are over-flavored can suffer from these problems.  Over-flavoring is one of the most common reasons for harshness, next to bad batches of peppery harsh nicotine. The other unpleasant side effect of over-flavoring is that it can cause you to go flavor blind (not able to taste a flavor anymore) far faster than if you had not exposed yourself to massive amounts of that flavoring aroma.

How much flavor should we use?

This depends heavily on the brand and dilution of the flavoring and the individual’s tasting ability.  We can’t go by the manufacturer amounts most of the time, because they are not all designed for vaping, or they are usually an average amount expected to be used, not necessarily for best use.

The amount of flavoring used will often depend on 3 key factors, the concentration strength of the flavoring, the recipe, and your personal tasting ability and preferences. Some people might have an average tasting ability and prefer more realistic fruit, where others might have muted tastes but enjoy more floral tasting, whereas another might be on the sensitive side of average but enjoy strong candy sweet flavors; all of these result in using flavorings differently.

So what does it mean to over-flavor if there is such an array of variables that influence the amount of flavoring?  Over-flavoring happens when flavorings are used at higher amounts than needed for any of those given variables. So for example: Bob likes realistic fruit and is an average taster. He is working with some FlavourArt and CAP fruit flavors. He uses 5% of FA Strawberry with 5% CAP Sweet Strawberry, figuring 10% total flavoring is about average and this mixture should give a sweet realistic strawberry, at least that is what Bob has heard from others on the internet. He vapes this mix for a day or maybe a few hours and finds that the strawberry flavor has faded quickly and it’s just a mellow sweetness with a hint of strawberry.  Bob assumes he just can’t taste strawberry.  But, what Bob doesn’t realize is that for an average taster, a more realistic amount might be 2.5% of FA Strawberry with 3.5% CAP Sweet Strawberry. When Bob over-flavored the simple recipe he ended up causing himself a case of flavor blindness to the strawberry aromas.  He would have had a much longer period of time of vaping and tasting the strawberry if he had gone a bit lower.  For someone sensitive like myself, 1.25% FA Strawberry and 1.5% CAP Sweet Strawberry is plenty for a simple strawberry blend. If we had someone like Jack, who has spent a lot of time around harsh industrial chemicals his entire working career and smoked for 25 years, as a result ended up with badly damaged olfactory sensors, he may need to even add in a third strawberry doing FA Strawberry at 4%, CAP Sweet Strawberry at 5% and FLV Alpine Strawberry at 0.5% just to be able to taste a small bit of strawberry.

There are no set in stone rules as to how much flavoring each individual person should use, and this unfortunately is not something many new to DIY folks realize.  I know many search online for what percentages they should use of the flavorings they have gotten in their starter kits, or the first sets of flavors they ordered.  They test out recipes that seem popular, but they can’t seem to understand why these recipes are considered good. Maybe these recipes seem to harsh, or muted, or off tasting. Maybe one or two ingredients just don’t work for that individual new mixer. But, because the assumption is that we should follow other people’s percentages because they know what they are doing, these new mixers and even mixers who have been mixing for a year, may become discouraged at mixing. Many mixers get caught up in a total flavoring percentage, aiming for recipes at a max of 20% or 25% flavoring, so they mix their recipes to equal this amount.  Really we should never look at total percentages of flavorings unless it is a single flavor mix or a flavor shot (a premixed recipe concentrate in a bottle.)  I have recipes that are not even 1% flavoring and it has 5 or 6 flavors in it, where other recipes I have contain nearly 30% flavoring, the use of a premixed concentrate at 10% with 20% of other flavorings added, so it greatly depends on the flavorings, the recipe, and how you want the overall profile to taste, along with your ability to taste those flavors.

How Flavoring Concentration Changes the Percentages to be Mixed

You may have noticed on this site I have separated the flavoring notes not just by brand, but also by concentration level. CAP and TFA fall into the regular concentration level.  This means there is less flavoring molecules or weaker flavoring molecules contained within their flavorings. What this means is you will end up using higher percentages of these flavorings as more of their content is PG than it is flavoring.  For Super Concentrated flavorings like FlavourArt, the amount of flavoring molecules is far higher than in the regular concentration flavorings. This is why FlavourArt is significantly lower percentages, some of their flavors even fall into the Ultra Concentrated section too, like Blackberry or Condensed Milk or even their Honey.  These extreme concentrations are often diluted down by mixers in a 90% PG solution (making a 10% flavor mix) and then using that mixture at more reasonable levels of 0.15% or 0.25% whereas undiluted you might need to use 0.01% or even 0.005%, which is nearly impossible to measure without an analytical scale and 30 gauge blunt needle tips or extremely large batches being mixed.

Ultra Concentrates like what most of the Flavorah line falls into, are mixed at even lower rates than FlavourArt in many cases.  Like FlavourArt, Flavorah has several flavors that fall into the Super Concentrate levels, where 2% of a flavor like Pound Cake is not unheard of. But using 2% of a flavor like Alpine Strawberry or Lovage will give you pretty awful results much like 2% of FA Condensed Milk would. In comparison a regular strength flavoring like TFA Strawberry Ripe for an average taster can be used at upwards of 7% without any problems. For someone like me 5% of TFA Strawberry Ripe is about max as a single flavor, or 3.5% in a blended recipe.

Why Average Percentages on Recipe Sites Can't Be Trusted

If you are reading articles on this site the chances that you are a newer mixer are pretty good. So you’re looking to soak up as much information as possible as you begin your adventure into mixing your own e-liquid.  Maybe you’ve visited recipe sites like e-liquid-recipes.com and alltheflavors.com and you’ve looked at the percentages of some of the more popular flavorings.  You’d think it would be pretty accurate, since they are based on what people are using in recipes, but that isn’t always the case.  While All The Flavors suffers from this problem a bit less, a site like ELR has thousands of people who, to put it nicely, don’t really know how to mix yet. A lot of recipes are test recipes, they are thrown up with little knowledge of how to mix, are shared around because some people think it’s a popularity contest, and those recipes become part of the averages.  More than half the recipe on ELR are shit recipes. They are not balanced, they are thrown together haphazardly, and are obviously not going to be enjoyable to the average vaper with even the slightest sense of smell. A lot of these recipes use far higher percentages than should be used, because of the lack of experience in mixing.

So if you’re new, or newer to mixing, don’t trust the averages on these sites to tell you what you should be mixing at.  The one thing you can trust…your own sniffer. If you smell a flavor and it seems strong, start at lower percentages. If it smells like a weak flavor, the rule of 5% will generally work for the regular concentrates for single flavor testing.  Another thing to remember is that flavoring percentages used in single flavor tests may not be appropriate for a more complex recipe where you are layering flavors and trying to achieve a blended profile.

Another thing about averages when it comes to percentage of flavoring to use, is that an average my not be an average for you as an individual. This is where playing with flavors in both single flavor testers and recipes comes into play, and why there is some work involved in learning how to mix. If getting that involved in creating your e-liquid is not something you want to do, then full on mixing may not be the path for you in the DIY journey.  You may prefer to look at flavor shot recipes were the work has been done for you and all you have to do is add a certain amount to a bottle and add your pg/vg and nicotine if you are using it.  Getting into the nitty gritty of mixing isn’t for everyone, but DIY can be for everyone if you use premixed recipes or flavorings designed to be single flavor mixes.  These will be the flavors and products you will want to use if your main goal is to save money and vape decent tasting juice.  It won’t be tailor made by you for your tastes, but in most cases these products are in the very least vapable, if not downright good.

The Last Element: Equipment

This is often one thing that is overlooked or outright ignored in the DIY community as many want to focus purely on recipes and mixing. The equipment we are using also influences the recipes we are mixing.  If you are purely a tank (RTA/Sub-ohm/classic tank) user, then you will mix different from someone that maybe uses only RDAs or a combo of RDAs and tanks.  Recipes and the percentages of flavorings will taste different between different atomizers. It depends on coils, on builds, on wicking, on air flow and on heat, and changing any of those things can change the way a recipe tastes.  This even affects flavor shot and single flavor recipes.  You may find you prefer lower percentages of flavors on an RDA with a more restricted air flow, but the same recipe on an open air flow RDA or a Sub-ohm tank tastes like hardly anything.  In that case, you may need to increase your percentages to fit your equipment. You may not be increasing by much, like 0.25% or you may be increasing by 1% or 2% of each flavoring.  It will all depend on what you are vaping on and how your recipe or flavor response to that situation.  Mouth to Lung setups taste different than Direct Lung setups.

So don’t forget to look at what you are using before you toss your recipes away. Sometimes a simple change of equipment can make a recipe shine.

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  1. OMG Jenn
    You are so right, and I am so confused. Feeling overwhelmed, trying to keep up with everything. Read, read, read, but even more confused. Too many companies, too many rules, of mixing flavours. Have at least 100 flavours, unopened, recipes posted, untried. I need to regroup, pick my companies wisely, and concentrate on those flavours. Have been mixing for couple of years, but more familiar with older flavours. This is a whole new ballgame, with the newer companies. I am a new mixer again. Hard to teach an old dog, new tricks. Feelin hopeful!

    • Oh I completely get it. I get feeling a little overwhelmed when I am sitting there looking at 200+ flavorings wondering what to mix. I always go back to basics when I am faced with new flavors or am suffering from mixers block. Make a some simple profile pairings or even single flavor testers just to remember how things tasted or what I liked doing with them. I look at flavor pairing books or websites and recipe sites for inspiration or I just sit and sniff flavors until I can’t smell anything. lol I always keep the mindset that I know nothing and should experiment with everything. 🙂

  2. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. I seem to run into ego’s when asking for help from others but you havr always been so helpful. Thank you again and great article.

    • Aww…thank you Matt. You are always a pleasure to help too. You are clear in what you need help with and ask great questions. You don’t know how much I appreciate that when it comes to answering questions. 🙂

  3. I am a newbie. 6+ months into vaping and mixing wanted to mix from day one. Before reading this article kept saying to myself dont go to complex and before i know it i am adding a drop of this and 6 of that. I have finally tasted what it means to steep juice. Some of my better recipies end up at under 15% flav. And those that i am trying to master but fail like clockwork are at 25+. Guess its back to basics. Dont complicate things!!!

  4. Jennifer, how right you are regarding the stuff posted on elr…..to be honest i have been mixing for well over 4 years and although the stuff i mix for me works well i can still use too much concentrate, with chemicals at work, then having a broken nose….and you think that was enough to bugger my sense of smell, but no turns out the big man up stairs thinks i should have a stroke, so now i also have a nose that feels like i have just had an injection at the dentist..all the time..lol…I would say to new mixers…use concentrates from one manufacturer first while you get used to mixing….thanks for all the great advice..rich.

  5. Hi Jenn, I need your advice, do I have to buy utrasonic cleaner to make my liquid. I only have magnetic stirer.Thank you so much.
    PS: I want to brandy recipe ,just simple recipe.Thanks.

    • A magnetic stirrer is more than enough to get the job done. Ultrasonic bath cleaners don’t necessarily steep any better or faster than a thorough stirring on a magnetic stirrer. For the most part, the ultrasonic cleaners are pretty inconsistent with how it blends the flavors as some in one area of the bath may be more blended than other spots in the bath. You can end up with over steeped and understeeped juice in the same batch. And it still takes time, stuff out of the ultrasonic still needs time to settle and steep. But the same goes for using a magnetic stirrer. That juice also needs to steep. However both methods can shave a few days off the overall steep time, it really isn’t even noticeable. Best thing to do if you are looking for quicker steeped juices, learn to mix for yourself as shake and vapes. This requires learning which flavors you enjoy freshly mixed, then mixing recipes for batches that you’d vape within a day or two of freshly mixed if the recipe turns out to fade out as it steeps. And that means more single flavor testing and mixing test batches. Mixing really is a lot like learning how to cook for yourself. You do have to spend time experimenting with flavors and different juices or dishes in cooking, to figure out what you like. And just like trying new foods, you have to experiment with flavors when they are new to you. This is why it takes me a month or two to really get a good flavor notes review to together. I have 15 or 20 reviews going pretty much all the time.

      Oh and I do have a couple recipes for FA Brandy in the flavor notes for that flavor on this site.

  6. Hi Jennifer, Thankyou for sharing your experience in beginner mixing. I am about 2-3 months in and am only now just finding my groove with balancing basic 2-4 flavour blends. i tell ya i have made most mistakes that are possible to make hahaha. i wasn’t really aware of your website, but now that i have stumbled across this hidden gem, i can see myself spending a lot more time here in the future. i tend to do things backwards hahahah and learn the hard way….anyway enough rambling…thankyou thankyou thankyou Shane Australia

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