Besides the device itself, the most important component of vaping is the e-juice. You can’t have vape without liquid, right? But with so many different flavors and options on the market — there are around 8,000 known e-juice flavors available — many first-time and new vapers find the whole e-liquid process overwhelming.
In this guide, we provide the down and dirty on e-liquid basics, from what it is to how to select the best flavor for your brand-new vape. Our goal is to help you find the best vape juice flavors possible for a next-level vaping experience.
What Is E-Liquid?
Let’s get down to the basics. E-liquid — aka e-juice or vape juice — is the liquid that vapes and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) use to create aerosol or vapor. It’s typically poured into the device’s cartridge (tank) and then heated up with an atomizer that causes the liquid to vaporize. It is this vapor that you inhale and that provides the enjoyable flavor experience or nicotine hit, if the liquid you choose has nicotine.
Here are a few important tips to know about e-liquids:
- One Juice Does Not Fit All — Not all vape juices are universal. There are some liquids that may damage certain types of tanks or devices. If this is the case, it will be very clearly labeled in the product description or on the bottle itself.
- Mileage Varies by Vaper — It’s impossible to provide a universal standard on how many puffs you can get from one milligram of vape juice because it varies widely by the device, equipment and length of each puff. Most new vapers go through a (perhaps perpetual) exploratory phase to discover what works for them.
- There Is an Expiration Date — As you’ll learn from this guide, e-liquid is kind of like food — flavor, freshness and personal preferences rule. Indeed, most vape juices do have a shelf life, with an expiration date of one or two years from the time of manufacture. Check your bottles for an expiration date.
- They May Come in Cartridges — There are two primary ways to refill your vape: pre-filled, disposable e-liquid cartridges or e-liquid bottles. Your vape may require that you use one specific type, or it may allow either. Some people prefer the pre-filled cartridges because they require no pouring and are therefore less messy.
What’s in E-Liquid?
Currently, there is no federal agency that oversees the vaping industry, so brands are not required to list what’s in their e-juices. In some states, manufacturers are required to list certain chemicals and toxins, which helps ensure the quality and safety of the product. Vape and e-cigarette liquids typically contain mostly (around 95 percent) propylene glycol and glycerin.
More specifically, liquids have a base of either vegetable glycerin (VC), propylene glycol (GC) or a mix of the two. Liquids are then enhanced with natural flavorings — anything from blue raspberry to pancakes to tobacco leaves — and nicotine, depending on the option you choose. The better e-juice brands tend to have higher-quality ingredients, and we’ll cover more about that in a sec.
Everything There is to Know About Nicotine in E-Juice
More about nicotine: One important thing to note is that there are both nicotine and non-nicotine vape juice options out there. Of course, many vapers use nicotine e-liquids to taper off cigarettes after quitting smoking while others simply enjoy the nicotine-vaping experience. If you prefer nicotine vape juice, you should know a little bit about dosing and measuring. This essentially comes down to how much nicotine you’re already used to consuming each day.
Generally, e-liquid brands measure nicotine in milligrams of nicotine per milliliter (mg/mL), which indicates how concentrated the nicotine in the liquid is with. E-liquid juices or cartridges that contain nicotine are generally available in various concentrations from 0 (contains no nicotine) to 24 milligrams (2.4 percent) nicotine. Most former smokers find that 16-18 milligrams of nicotine work best when starting out, but experimentation is key to ensuring that you have a positive experience.
If you are a former smoker looking to maintain or taper off nicotine, choose your concentration based on how much you’re used to consuming. Too little or too much nicotine per milliliter can compromise your ability to quit by providing a deficiency or an excess beyond your normal consumption. Light smokers can get away with nicotine levels of up to 6 milligrams, while medium smokers do best with 9-12 milligrams and heavy smokers typically choose between 18-24 milligrams.
What Makes a Good E-Juice?
So, besides ratings and brand reputation, how do you know if you’re getting a good-quality e-juice? One of the things to look for in a quality juice is packaging. Quality-focused manufacturers will ensure that the packaging is completely food-grade — often, that means that the bottles are made of glass rather than plastic — for safety and so that the packaging itself doesn’t compromise the quality of the product. They may also advertise that they produce “artisan” or “small-batch” liquids to show that they put time and care into each batch of juice.
Premium-quality e-liquids are made with high-quality materials and are tested again and again to ensure the best possible end result. On the other hand, poor-quality liquids may look, smell or taste terrible because they have been thrown together with cheap, low-quality ingredients. We highly recommend avoiding cheap or low-quality juices, not only because they come at the cost of a less enjoyable flavor experience, but also because poorly made and formulated juices can be damaging to your device.
Experimentation is Everything
One of the most important things to remember as you embark on your vaping journey is that experimentation and trying new things is half the fun! E-liquids are like anything else in that the experience often comes down to personal preference. You may love something that other vapers despise and vice-versa, and that’s totally fine. Don’t force yourself to keep buying something just because it’s highly rated.
With that said, there’s definitely nothing wrong with asking for recommendations from experienced puffers. Eventually, you’ll have a list of your own personal favorite e-juices and brands you love that you’ll be able to suggest to others as well. One thing’s for sure: when we vapers find a device, flavor or brand we can’t get enough of, we’re happy to share the love, so never hesitate to ask those in the vape community for tips and recommendations!