Mixing Tips — Measuring Up

Chemical laboratory equipment - beaker with oil on the scale.

Basics on Measuring Mixtures

Getting the Flavors into the Mix

When we mix e-liquid the first step is having a way to get the flavorings into the bottles.  The question is do you want to mix by measuring volume or weight?  Volume was the way most DIYers started out, but many of the more seasoned mixers have moved on to mixing by weight as it is far more accurate and having the ability to reproduce the recipe consistently each time has it’s advantages, especially if you like sharing your recipes with others.

Volume Mixing Equipment

Mixing by volume is pretty straight forward math, but it is far easier to use one of the many calculators that are out online and in the app stores that make figuring it out faster. If you’re using someone else’s recipe — as most beginners do — then you most likely found it on one of those programs.  But if you didn’t then I recommended using one to figure out your volume measurements.  Most calculators have the options of showing mls or grams.

Pipettes are the least effective when it comes to measuring by volume, unless you go for the more expensive pipettors which will measure anywhere from 0.01ml up to 20mls in a far more precise way.  I have never used a pipettor, however I do know many mixers who do.  The one listed in the above tabs runs around $70, so it is a significant investment to your mixing equipment setup.

Mixing by Weight

Mixing by weight is quite easy, but it takes a little getting used to if you’ve been mixing by volume already. However, if you are starting out mixing by weight, you are set to create your recipes with precise measurements. Unlike using measuring implements like syringes which can be difficult to be precise with, you get the exact amount in grams that you are using in your recipe, and recreating that recipe again and again exactly every time is great when you create an amazing juice.  It also makes recreating other’s recipes exactly as they mixed them far easier as well, because as little as 0.024g can change the flavor of a recipe if you are using super concentrated flavorings in a 30ml batch.

So what do you need to mix by weight? Let’s take a look.

I was gifted the Nevada Weighing Scale (shown above) by a very special vaper (you know who you are.)   I love this scale. It is accurate, and allows me to precisely measure down to the 0.001g amount.  This is very helpful for mixing 10ml and 30ml sample sizes for test recipes and single flavor testers. However, it fails in the area of mixing larger batches. For larger batches mixed on the NW scale I measure my flavorings out on the scale and add the nicotine, then measure out the pg and vg separately to get the right amount when I am mixing 500ml batches. It is a far more expensive scale, around $300, though it does go on sale from time to time as well for around $250.

The AWS LB-501 (pictured first) works far better for larger mix batches (over 200mls).  It is the most popular of the lower cost scales and used by most mixers who are measuring by weight.  Costing only $35 on average (though it goes on sale frequently for under $30 on Amazon) it is probably the best bang for your buck.  The downside of this scale is that you don’t get the accuracy on 10ml and 30ml batches.  If you were mixing 0.25% in a 10ml, you’re going to be guessing once your scale reaches 0.02g as to if it is at 0.021g or 0.029g.  Does that seemingly tiny amount change a flavor?  Yes, it can. Does it change it drastically?  Probably not, but you won’t know if you’re using 0.20% up to 0.29% if you want to recreate the recipe in a much larger batch.

Both scales have their advantages and disadvantages, but if you have the money to spend I’d get both, if you’re working on a tight budget the AWS will work well for you.

You will want to purchase some disposable pipettes if you are using larger bottles of flavoring that do not come with twistable pour spouts, or smaller bottles with european drip caps (you know the weird things that don’t make any sense cause they don’t actually drip anything!)

I purchased a box of 300 pipettes last year and I nearly half of them left now.  Most of my flavorings are either in 30ml glass dripper bottles, 10ml drip-cap bottles, or larger twist cap pour bottles.  The only flavors I have that I use pipettes for are the 4oz TFA flavors.  I do also use 1ml syringes with various sized blunt needle tips ranging from 14 gauge blunt tips, up to 28 gauge. I usually use the 1ml syringes for when I need to measure out a significantly smaller amount than one drop from the bottle will do.  An example of this would be Flavour Art Condensed Milk, using 0.05% in a mixture, means I am measuring out a tiny bit if I’m mixing a 30ml bottle.

In a way measuring by weight is like a modified counting drops kind of measuring. You are dripping into your beaker until you get to the correct amount.

Advantages and Disadvantages to Measuring Methods

Volume

The advantages to measuring by volume is that it tends to be easier when you are in a hurry to mix a quick bottle of e-liquid.  While I normally mix by weight, there are times when I am throwing together a quick bottle when I’ve run out of my ADV and I am heading out the door to go shopping or visit family. Sometimes volume measuring is just faster. Some people also just prefer it, rather than feeling like they have to mess with an online calculator and they can quickly do the head-math to know the mls amount for the percentages they are using.

Weight

Measuring by weight has it’s advantages too.  The level of accuracy and repeatability when mixing by weight is consistent and helpful to others if you are sharing your recipes, and helpful to you when you love a recipe.  You can measure your flavoring directly into the bottle on a scale, much like you can with just a syringe.  I use beakers because I also use a hotplate magnetic stirrer, so it is easier to mix into beakers.  You will have far less cleanup if you mix directly into the bottle, but sometimes that is not feasible if you are planning to use an advanced steeping method.

Volume

The disadvantages to mixing by volume is that fluid volumes can change depending on the temperature and humidity. Syringes and cylinders may not always be 100% accurate and can vary from manufacturer and batch.  These are things that contribute to the inconsistency of mixing by volume.  I have also found it easy to forget what I was doing and measure the wrong amounts.  With weight measuring I don’t usually forget what I am doing because watching the scale as I add the liquid keeps me focused on what I am doing.

Inconsistency in mixing the same exact recipe batch has to be the biggest disadvantage.

Weight

There are a few disadvantages to measuring by weight as well.  It usually takes me a little longer to mix a recipe using weight rather than volume. I also end up with flavorings and pg/vg dribbled and splattered on my scale, often times because I’ve missed the beaker completely with the bottle or I was paying too much attention to the scale’s numbers to notice I’m now pouring VG down the side of the beaker.

Measuring with a scale seems slower to me as well.  I have to focus attention on how much I am adding to my beaker and if it’s consistent with my recipe measurements. It can also be far more expensive if you go for the more precise scales.

You will also have to read the manuals to see how to calibrate your scale as well.  I purchased a calibration set of weights, and figuring out how to calibrate the NW scale is definitely not an easy task. But 3 hours later, and a glass of gin, I figured it all out.

Some mixers find using the weight method to be faster, easier and cleaner.  I do think it is easier, but it’s certainly not faster or cleaner for me.

If you have a dishwasher it is easy to wash and dry your mixing tools. Syringes can go in the dishwasher with the blunt needles in a mesh bag, the mesh bag can be put in the dishwasher on it’s own, but sometimes it can bounce around when it is on it’s own.  If you have glass bottles you need washed at the same time, the baby bottle holders can work well, placing your bottles in the bottle and syringes in the mesh bag in the top section.

Or if you are using glass beakers, you can place your beakers into the bottom sections and syringes in the top.  This will wash, dry and sterilize your mixing equipment without much work on your part aside from loading and running the dishwasher.

However if you are like me and don’t have a dishwasher, drying your items after they have been washed can be a bit of a pain.  I have two things that I do depending on if I am in a hurry or if I am planning on leaving them out to air dry.

First method is to use the mesh bags, but instead of being put in the washer, you can either use a hair dryer on low to dry out the syringes while you hang the from something, or you can toss the bag in your clothes dryer with a couple of dry bath towels and tumble for 5 minutes on high. This may not be “sterile” in a sense, but since I am only mixing for myself and my husband having my tools sterile is not important to me, clean and dry is.  This is the quick dry method for syringes.  Obviously you can’t use this for glass beakers, but drying those out with a paper towel is usually the quickest method.

If I am going to leave items out to air dry after a mixing session I use a couple of these drying racks.  These are also designed for baby bottles, but since I didn’t use bottles for my son after 1 month old I had them sitting around collecting dust.  They work very well for drying the small items and the big items on the counter. The nipple and straw pipe-cleaners work well for scrubbing the insides of syringes as well. I don’t know that I’d buy this now at this point, but pipe-cleaners work if you have residue stuck to the insides of your syringes.

4 Comments

      • I like the accuracy of using a scale. When measuring by volume, you may be slightly over or under the desired amount. When using a scale, (as long as you’re not dribbling down the edges – LOL) you can always shoot for the exact amount required — and if you goof, it’s always on the plus side.

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