WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.

Mixing, Steeping, Matching: All About How E-Liquids Are Made

bottles with e-liquid

Comprised of only three components, e-liquids have revolutionized the smoking industry and changed millions of lives in the process

In less than a decade, e-liquid has become a household term even among non-vapers. Anyone from a hobbyist to a medical researcher knows e-liquids (also known as "vape juice") are the highlight of any vaping experience. This is the case for all personal vaporizers, from simple electronic cigalikes to high-end tank systems and box mods. But how are e-liquids made? In this post, we'll go over the process of creating e-liquid products, as well as the current top contenders on the market.


Composition: What Makes E-Liquids Vaporize

To understand how an e-liquid comes together, it's important to understand the roles of ingredients in creating the standard formulation. In the case of common nicotine e-liquids, there are three components:

  • Base this is what creates the consistency of the product, which varies between manufacturers' production practices and strategies. A base is a mixture of two sub-ingredients.

Vegetable Glycerin commonly referred to as VG for short, vegetable glycerin is responsible for the thickness and viscosity of an e-liquid. When high in VG, e-liquids produce more dense clouds when vaporized.

Propylene Glycol or PG for short, propylene glycol is known as the carrier fluid for nicotine in e-liquid. It also acts as a thinner to cut the viscosity of VG, as e-liquids require some liquidity to be correctly vaporized by an atomizer. The higher the PG in e-liquid, the higher the nicotine content. Vapers also enjoy the enhanced "throat hit" in high-PG formulations.

  • Nicotine e-liquid typically comes in four nicotine strengths; from Ultra Light or 6mg/ml to Extra Strength, or 24mg/ml. Many manufacturers also offer nicotine-free e-liquids for those using personal vaporizers to quit cigarettes.
  • USP-Grade Flavoring this is the same sort of flavoring you'll find in juice concentrates and sherbet. Although there are tobacco and menthol flavored e-liquids available, the more popular e-liquids are based on fruity (like Peach Mango or Cantaloupe) and dessert flavors like Cinnamon Swirl or Chocolate Cheesecake.

Obviously, CBD oil is used in place of freebase nicotine in cannabidiol e-liquids, and nicotine-free e-liquids use PG strictly to maintain a balanced formulation consistency.


Formulation: Creating a Marketable E-Liquid Product

The process of creating vape juice is lengthy and complex, but not because it requires high-end machinery or plenty of manpower. Creating e-liquid is a painstaking process of balance and measurement to get the perfect proportionalities in consistency, flavor and nicotine content. While it's a subtle and intricate process, the steps themselves are fairly straightforward.

  • Measuring flavor first, the flavoring is added to the base at a ratio of 1:10 (2.5ml for 25ml of base, as an example). PG and VG should already be in their correct proportions for the desired consistency of the final e-liquid product. Common base formulations among manufacturers are 90PG/10VG and 80PG/20VG.
  • Measuring nicotine nicotine is added using a milligrams per milliliter formula of (mg/ml) x (total vol. in ml). For example, to make 25ml of 3mg/ml nicotine e-liquid, a total of 3 x 25 = 75mg of nicotine is needed.
  • Mixing a capped plastic drip tip bottle is recommended for any DIY e-liquid project with minimal investment. This is for the ability to maintain strict milliliter measurements. The base, flavoring and nicotine admixture is shaken until completely incorporated.
  • Steeping is used in the production stages of a wide range of edible fares. Popular examples of this include the aging of a cut of meat, the preparation of kimchee or the airing of a bottle of wine. Steeping allows ingredients to interact with oxygen molecules in the air for a period of time, which drastically improves the combined flavor of e-liquids.


Mixing & Matching to Make an Endless Variety

Making e-liquids is definitely more complicated than it seems. Luckily, the market is filled with manufacturers putting out thousands of quality products. And they're only getting more creative; in recent years, top-of-the-line brands specializing in CBD e-liquids have started using terpenes instead of food-grade flavoring to add taste and aroma to their offerings. Sweet flavors are helping ex-smokers stay off of cigarettes, and salt-based e-liquids are gaining popularity among vapers who favor high nicotine content. The selection available in the e-liquid market is only expected to become more vibrant and diverse in the coming years, so buckle up and keep an eye on your favorite brands.