Learning From Recipe Failure

Describing What Went Wrong

Vaping Liquid Gone Wrong

Mixing a recipe for your vaping liquid and having it turn out rather blah, or worse, gross, can discourage even the best mixer.  I know when I mix something up, it smells awesome in the bottle and I think it’s going to vape like da bomb — and then I try it….yuck. How did such a great smelling juice go so horribly wrong in a vape? Sometimes it’s frustrating enough to make me want to not make new recipes. ever. again. But then I pull my big girl panties up and set to work to learn from the failure.  When everything turns out great do we really pay attention to what went well so we can recreate it? Not usually. More often than not when something turns out great we vape it and then mix the same recipe again and again. Do we learn very much from making a great recipe in one try? Only if we’re paying very close attention.  Or do we learn the most when we fail miserably? Definitely this one. If we can keep our cool and pay attention.

Learning more about flavors from failing

When we fail at mixing a great recipe, rather than just dumping it out, throwing in the towel, and never mixing again, we can break down what flavors may not be playing well with each other to figure out how to fix the recipe to achieve the flavor profile we were going for. Let’s look at one of my failed recipes as an example. Please, don’t mix this recipe, it wasn’t good!!!

Lovebugs Milkshake V2

0.5%CAP Banana
0.15%MF Banana
1.5%FA Vanilla Classic
0.54%TFA Malted Milk
2%FA Marshmallow
0.25%MF Nectarine
0.25%MF Peach
0.75%MF Strawberry
1%TFA Strawberry Ripe
1.5%CAP V1 Custard
0.75%FA Vienna Cream

Link to the V1 version that came out far better Lovebugs Milkshake V1

I had made the first version that I like very much, I vaped a whole 30ml of it over the course of 2 days. But I was hoping to up the amount of cream that the recipe had and boost the strawberry notes up against the peach and I wanted to expand the banana notes.  I wanted it to be more milkshake like.  However what I ended up with was an unpleasant vape.

While vaping this not so nice version I took note of what was wrong with it and what I didn’t like. The off flavor notes were a pungent sour cream note, a sharp bitter top note, and a muddled fruity note.  Once I identified what I was displeased with, I set about figuring out which were the offending flavors that were interacting negatively with each other. I already know which flavors work together from the original good recipe.

The flavors I know worked together in the recipe were the Medicine Flower Fruit flavors, as they were the same in my V1 recipe, FlavourArt Vienna Cream, FlavourArt Marshmallow and FlavourArt Vanilla Classic. The flavors that I added were obviously the offending problem.  I took each of the possible offending flavors and smelled them as I took a puff of vapor from the V2 recipe.  In order to isolate which flavoring has the offending molecule notes, I needed to keep vaping something I didn’t like.  This isn’t a fun part of the process, but it does help the learning experience.

What I discovered through this process was that the CAP Banana had a slight sweaty pungent backnote to it. This pungent backnote was interacting with the TFA Malted Milk and FA Vienna Cream to create a sharp sweaty pungent sour milk note. Malted Milk was also interacting with CAP V1 Custard and the FA Marshmallow to create a muddling effect over the fruit flavors. TFA Strawberry Ripe had a sharp top note that was interacting with Vienna Cream and the MF Nectarine to make a bitter sharp top note that was unpleasant.   So now I understand what went wrong. Is there a way to save this recipe by adjusting percentages? For me, no there was no saving this recipe. But I learned that I don’t like the way these flavors interact with each other and now I can avoid ending up with the same off notes in other recipes.

I haven’t remixed a V3 yet, but I will very soon.

Sometimes starting over is the best plan

I know I like part of this recipe, so I can salvage part of it, but ultimately I’m going to start over with the V2 recipe. Sometimes there is no saving a recipe through endless adjustments of flavorings, it is often better to scrap all the parts that weren’t working and try again with totally different flavors. This may in the end mean buying more flavorings, as it almost always does.  Buying new flavors from different brands can help us expand our palates and help us find flavorings that are far better than what is commonly used in the DIY world.

For me TFA and CAP flavors have been pushed to the bottom of the pile of flavoring brands.  I wrote in the beginner book about what percentage of flavorings I liked from different brands, and I am still there with it. TFA and CAP have less flavorings that I like when compared to FlavourArt, Medicine Flower, Flavorah, and Inawera. I’m testing other newer brands like Real Flavors, Wonder Flavors, Nicvape, Twisted Sketch Flavor Slams, and others. So why keep trying to make flavorings work that just aren’t working for me?  I see what the other popular mixers are mixing and how they seem to be popular with the average DIYer, but I just can’t mix that way. I can’t use high percentages and flavoring brands that are just not on par with the higher quality flavoring companies.

Is my way the correct way? It is for me. It might not be for you.  But you are here to learn how to mix. And I am here to show you how I mix.  In order to improve this recipe to bring it into the milk shake version that I am hoping to have, I will need to use other brands flavorings.  Replace TFA’s malted milk with FLV Cream and a small amount of their Caramel — because caramel and butterscotch usually contain those malty notes (generally from maltol). Add in a bit of FLV Vanilla Pudding and plain Custard, to give it a thicker ice cream kind of mouth feel, those two combined with Vienna Cream’s brightness gives it a definite ice cream kind of note. I’d also add in FA Strawberry instead of Strawberry Ripe, and FLV Banana instead of CAP — because it lacks that sweaty backnote.  I would also reduce FA Marshmallow to 1.25% and add in 0.25% FA Zeppola just to see if I can add a sugary thicker mouthfeel with just a hint of malty notes from the bready bakery.

Importance of Note Taking

I have to make little notes, even if it is just a small comment on the masking tape around the bottle, so that I know what is going on with that recipe. Usually I keep notes in a notebook, giving my recipes a letter and number to identify them while also writing the recipe on the bottle.  I can go to my notebook and write notes under the recipe’s code that way I can keep track of what is happening.  If I didn’t take some sort of notes I’d forget, but also writing down what I perceive from the flavor profile of a recipe forces me to really think about what I am vaping beyond just if I like something or not.  You don’t have to do this with every recipe or every flavoring if you don’t want to, it’s your mixing journey. But for me, having notes, even if they are written on private recipe pages on ELR or on a notepad on my computer, or even a note taker on my phone, gives me something to reference back to.  If I manage to think about it, I also add notes to the flavorings individual notes indicating that this flavoring didn’t seem to work with any number of flavors, or that it worked brilliantly with some other flavors. This is how I mix and how I learn.  Maybe I don’t do it every time, there are times when I throw a recipe together, don’t write it down, and can’t even remember everything that I put into it, and that will be an amazing recipe — and one I may never recreate exactly again. It happens to even the most experienced of mixers. We all have our lazy days.   Taking notes is important, but paying close attention is even more important.  That is part of the skill that we are trying to develop as we move from beginning mixer into a more experienced palate. Paying closer attention to the flavorings, to the individual notes that we perceive and really tasting our vapor, these are the things that elevate mixers who mix other’s recipes into mixers who create recipes designed for their own palates.

Final Thoughts

Mixing your own vaping juice is not just an artform, but a deeply personal experience into one of our most taken for granted senses.  We ignore our sense of smell and taste almost as much as we ignore our sense of touch.  If we were as aware of our sense of touch as we are our hearing or sight we would be able to stand wearing clothing (which is actually a sensory disorder for some people.) While we may notice bad or good smells and we notice if we like or dislike a food we are eating, we don’t give much thought beyond our like or dislike of these things on a daily basis, much like we may enjoy feeling satin or velvet on our skin at first, we stop noticing it after a while.

The goal of learning from our failed recipes is to understand the flavorings better and how we perceive them. It takes a little bit of concentration and experience. But like any skill, it is something you will be able to learn over time, but it is not an overnight or immediate type of thing.  Learning to pick out a backnote, or an off flavor from a muddled mess of a juice is challenging, but as you learn how the flavors taste as you experience more flavors and pay close attention you will find that doing so will become easier.  Eventually with enough experience and insight to your own perceptions you will be picking out notes not just in your vapor but in the world around you, from your food to the candle burning in your friend’s house when you go to visit.  There is no crash course, or instant gratification with this exercise. It takes consistent attention from you and that is something you simply must remember to do in order to improve.

DIY mixing is not just about doing it yourself, it’s about doing it for yourself.


  1. Jenn, I have throughly enjoyed your excellent “Learning From Recipe Failure
    DESCRIBING WHAT WENT WRONG” article. Your use of the actual example of the recipes really provides easily visualization and this along with the written description fills out the issue most clearly. Your use of the MF flavors is of great interest to me as I purchased some primary ones from the ECX ‘Lotus” repackaging. Pretty darn’d expensive but their(MF) concept seemed valid so thought I should get a few. So far only really used their Blueberry. Any note or comments on these flavors would be welcome.

    Finally, I sure hope you will keep your live shows being done as well as your excellent videos. I have learned much from your efforts with these. I like your style compared so some others, and I notice there appear to be more utubers getting into DIY productions all the time. I see in the news where NJ has legislation in the hopper to ban all flavored e-juices. If this were to spread, then DIY will be the only outlet for hardcore vapers. Big fan of your work.

    • Thank you Clinton. I am glad the article has helped you in your journey of DIY. I’m trying to put out as much content as I can, toddler doesn’t like me being on my computer much when he’s awake and has decided to start doing somersaults on me while I’m trying to type. lol I will have some flavor notes on MF flavors coming eventually. I’ve got a long list of flavor notes to get finished. But I can give you a few tips, with Medicine Flower, you want to start really, really low. 1 drop to 5 drops in a 30ml is usually all you need for full blast you in the face flavor. They are ultra concentrate flavorings so you will use significantly less. If you go to high you will likely get flavor muting.

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