Beginner Tips- Know Your E-Liquid Flavors

French colorful macarons on black background

The Time Spent is Worth It!


photo credit: Florence Ivy Blinded by science via photopin (license)

If you’re new to mixing and you’re trying to decide what flavors you need to start mixing, or maybe you have found a few recipes you want to try and purchased the flavorings for those recipes, testing those flavors will help you.  Maybe you’ve been mixing for a while but you’ve never really tried your flavorings as single flavor test samples. If you’re unaware of this method or just haven’t done it cause you thought it was a waste of time, I’m here to tell you that it most definitely is not a waste of your time as a mixer, especially if you have desire to improve the taste of your e-liquid flavors.

How to run the tests

Getting started

You will need to get some small containers for testing small amounts, or have enough 30ml sizes on hand that you don’t mind using for small amounts of liquid. Whether you get 5mls or 10ml bottles or some other types of containers to hold your test samples it doesn’t really matter, but what matters is that you will be mixing small amounts as samples and the ability to put something on it to label it.  You can label with masking tape or any type of labels that you can find online or at a store in the craft or stationary departments. A permanent marker will also work better than a ballpoint pen.

I usually mix test samples of flavors in the normal amount of pg and vg that I use, which is 30pg/70vg.  I suggest that you mix your test samples in whatever ratio that you normally use.  If you vape nicotine, also add nicotine to your samples, but use less than you normally vape, by at least half. Reason to use less nicotine is when your testing samples you are vaping a lot and you don’t want to be over nic’d while sampling your flavorings. Nicotine isn’t necessary to sample, but if you are using nicotine in your normal mixes it helps to know how the flavoring tastes with your nicotine added.  You can also do a separate test sample if you want that doesn’t have nicotine to note down the taste of the flavoring without nicotine as it can be different.


Mixing the single flavors

When I mix my single flavor samples I always start with the highest recommended amounts, unless they seem excessively high, or the flavorings in the bottle seem extremely strong. I start with the highest amount for that flavoring in order to know how strong the highest amounts of that flavor is going to turn out to be.  Sometimes it’s far too high, sometimes I realize it could actually go higher, but I won’t know until testing.

Taking Notes

Your notes don’t have to be pretty, they don’t have to make a ton of sense to anyone except you.  My notes are normally scribbled in a notebook and consist of these elements.

NAME — (Flavoring Name) FA SOHO

DATE MIXED: 10/28/16

Percentage used: 8%

First Tasting (10/26)
Woody, leathery, smooth, caramel, vanilla, nutty (hints of walnut, but general nutty notes) slight creamy note. Fully body with dry leafy notes with a hint of smoky tones to the leaves. Cookie Biscuit base notes, with a hint of bready as well.  — Smooth, not harsh. Rather Sweet.

Equipment: Atty — Ohms — Coil type — Wattage or Temp setting — Mod used.

From there I do a second tasting at 3 days, a third testing at 1 week age, and then a testing every week for usually a full month.  With each week I make note if any of the flavor notes have changed and how it ultimately steeps out.

Full Steep Test:  Woody (oaky) notes have toned down, leafy notes have expanded into a fuller base flavor. Cookie/biscuit/bready notes are more thoroughly blended into the background.  Creamy notes have come forward more along with the caramel and vanilla top notes. Nutty notes fill out the heart-note (middle range) of the flavor.  Leathery notes are now solid base notes lingering with the sweetness at the end of the exhale. Smooth, sweet, and only very slightly dry.

Once I have taken the highest percentage notes, I take the remaining liquid and measure how much I have left (usually in a 5ml syringe) and cut the remaining liquid in half, adding more pg/vg to the remaining half — creating one liquid at half the percentage as the original) and if there is anymore left over (enough to make a 1/4 amount mix) I will mix that up as well.  In this example it would give me a second bottle of 4% and a third bottle of 2%.  These are not super accurate but it doesn’t have to be since these are only for your own tests.

Since the liquid is already steeped adding more pg/vg won’t require too much more in the steeping department but it might steep out and mellow out even more as the flavoring expands into the new base.  You don’t have to take extensive notes on the lesser percentages unless you notice a major change in the way the flavoring behaves, but this will at least give you an idea of how the flavoring performs at lower percentages and where you lowest threshold for odor detection lies with that flavoring.

When I need to make a flavoring stronger I mix a new batch at a higher percentage, as it is harder to track the actual percentage used once you’ve removed some liquid to test, so adding more flavoring to the current test bottle is not something I do.

Leaving Testers to Steep

I generally leave my tester flavors to steep for extended amounts of time.  Since I use small sized plastic bottles for single flavor testing I generally just toss them in a box or a drawer and will dig through and test them from time to time, going back to my notes and writing down how the flavor has changed after 3 months or 6 months or even a year.  Sometimes you might want to know how the flavors end up as it could tell you how a finished recipe may end up once that flavoring has steeped.  This isn’t necessary, but it’s an extra step I like to do.

Further Testing and Info Gathering

I like to do a little extra things with flavors and sometimes the results are inconclusive, sometimes they show absolutely no change or difference. But, I’m a nerd that likes to document things and run tests, so this extra part is only if you really want to try it out.

Different Steeping Methods:

Sometimes I like to mix multiple batches of a single flavors in different ways to see how the mixing/steeping method affects it.  Testing it on my magnetic mixer both with and without heat, sometimes several batches with different levels of heat, as well as if I have it open topped allowing top note molecules to escape or with a viewing glass cover over it while it’s mixing.  Different lengths of time even get tested.

Vortex mixer — I will do a batch on the vortex mixer as well, documenting how long it was shaken for and if the vg was heated first or not.

Hand shaken but heated — This can have different effects to just simple hand shaking.

Ultrasonic Heated Bath — This can be done with or without heat, sometimes I do a batch of each.

With each extra step taken I document it down in my notes.  I don’t do this with every single flavoring. Sometimes I just don’t have time, sometimes I can already tell how a flavoring is going to perform at this point with heat or other methods based on the notes I can smell, but when you are just starting out you won’t really know these things yet, which is why it’s important to keep notes on things you do.  Maybe not notes on everything, maybe you’ll forget or not have time, that’s okay.  Even if you only mix a test batch, don’t take any notes at all, but try it out just to get to know it, you’ll retain a memory of how that flavor performed and it will help you in the long run with creating and mixing your own DIY e-liquid recipes.

In Conclusion

Why do you need to know your flavors? Because knowing how each flavor compound works helps you know how to use that flavoring in the construction of a recipe.  Knowing your flavors let’s you look at other people’s recipes and you can imagine how that recipe is going to taste long before you mix it, because you know the flavors that were used in it. It gives you a better understanding of how you taste each individual flavoring and when you know how you perceive each flavor you can construct recipes fine tuned for your own palate, and you can adjust other people’s recipes to suit your own tastes.

Testing flavors on their own even at just one percentage base gives you more of an understanding of that flavor than just throwing them into recipes and hoping for the best.  Creating recipes without knowing the flavors makes it hard to decide which flavor may be causing a problem in a flavor, or which flavoring or why certain flavorings together are completely awesome.

Investing the time to learn your flavors and your preferences and your palate sensitivity will make you a better mixer for you. It will make your vaping and mixing experience more enjoyable.

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