The topic of steeping e-juice (or e-liquid) is something that comes up quite often within the vaping community. Recently, a reader asked me about the steeping methods I use for the juices I review, so I thought I’d revisit the issue.
To be fair, I’ve already linked to a video on steeping and according to my site stats, I get plenty of hits to it from people searching for the topic on Google. It’s a straightforward tutorial, and well worth a look.
However, this post will address the question a reader sent me, asking what it was that I did personally – so I hope this doesn’t come off in bad form for posting about the same topic twice.
Before I dive into my methods of steeping, I want to explain a harsh reality.
Steeping doesn’t always help.
Sometimes an e-juice flavor will just suck, and nothing on earth will help it. Steeping is used as a way to help flavors get stronger; or help them mix better; and it is often thought to be a cure-all for bad juice.
It’s wise to take the chance and steep e-juice that tastes off. Because let’s face it, this stuff is expensive at times. Just don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t work. At best, the odds of steeping improving a specific e-juice are only 50/50. This is why purchasing small sizes at first is the recommended option. Once you’re sure you like the juice, then order the 30ml or 50ml size.
With that said, time will sometimes help juice taste better. Steeping is simply a process for allowing time to pass on its own, or in some cases forcing time to speed up. Then again, some juice never needs to steep – it tastes fine right out of the mailbox.
My steeping method is rather basic, and for the most part centers on leaving the mix sit in a drawer for at least 7-10 days, give or take. However, I do add a few steps to the process.
The first thing I do is open the bottle and smell the juice. If the flavor is peach-based, then I should smell peaches. If I smell nothing, or something completely different, that’s my first sign that I’ll need to set it aside to steep for a week.
Either way, every juice gets an initial taste out of the mailbox. Remember, some flavors will never need to steep. This, however, will vary from flavor to flavor and vendor to vendor – no two are alike.
With the cap firmly in place, shake the juice. Shake it so hard that if it were a person, you’d be committing a felony. Keep shaking for 60 seconds. Put it in a drawer or cabinet, out of direct sunlight, and leave it sit overnight.
Take the cap off, and if needed, remove the bottle tip. Today, we’re breathing the juice. To circulate the air in the bottle, or breathe it, take the cap off and squeeze the bottle slowly until the air inside is pushed out. Let go, replace the bottle tip if need be, and recap it. Shake as before for another 90 seconds.
Test the juice. If it tastes fine, then the steeping is done. Vape and be merry. However, if things still taste off. Repeat the steps from the previous two days. Continue this cycle twice. After that, if things still don’t taste right – you have two options.
A.) The juice is a lost cause. Nothing will help. So you can pay it forward and give it to someone to try, or dispose of it.
B.) Repeat Day 2 again, only this time don’t touch the juice again for 14 days. If that didn’t help, and you’re sure your hardware is fine, then see step (A).
I have had juice that was awful on day one turn into amazing mixes fifteen days (or a month) later. Then again, I’ve also had juices that were terrible on day one taste worse a month later.
As a side note:
You should always make sure that your *omizer – i.e. cartomizer or atomizer – is in working order. Sometimes, if they are tainted with a previous flavor, new flavors will seem off no matter what. Also, if they are about to go out, or they are caked in gunk, that too will mess with a new flavor’s taste.
So that’s my method of steeping. It works well for me, so I’ve stuck with it for the last year or so. However, there are other methods, including giving your juice a hot bath. The best description of that comes from a user on Reddit, who also happens to be a vaping hardware vendor.
Some juice needs to “breath,” other juice needs to be homogenized, some juice needs both. Breathing is necessary for juices that have a perfume like note or an ‘alcohol’ type vapor/flavor that is unpleasant.
To Breath a bottle:
Important: DO NOT SHAKE FIRST
Remove lid and dripper tip (if applicable, if it doesn’t have one, you can’t remove it…)
Place in a shallow dish, something at least as deep as the juice level in the bottle when the bottle is sitting upright in the dish. I use some flat bottom coffee cups.
Put the hottest water you can get out of your tap into the dish until it gets to approximately the same height as the juice in the bottle. This keeps the bottle from tipping or ‘floating’.
Let the bottle sit until the water has become lukewarm or room temperature. Drain water, refill with hot water again. Do this 3-4 times. DO NOT SHAKE during this process.
Juice that needs to be homogenized is pretty much any juice with more than 1 flavor component. When a juice tastes ‘raw’ or undeveloped, not perfumed or alcohol like, but just… inconsistent or “thin” it needs to be blended better.
Step 1: Shake it like a baby you really, really dislike.
Step 2: LEAVING THE TOP ON Follow the soaking instructions above with 1 difference. Every time you do a water swap shake the hell out of the bottle again. You really want to get a good slosh going on in there.
If your juice needs ‘both’ treatments – do the breath first and then homogenize. The homogenize will take less ‘turns’ in the hot water because you’ve already thinned and blended the liquids a bit.
The point of ‘not’ shaking is because the alcohols in the liquid will be closer to the top when the juice sits for a while and they cause the notes you’re trying to remove. So not shaking it makes the process go faster.
The point in heating is it increases the evaporation rate of the alcohol and other volatiles that will cause juice to have those notes in the first place it also thins the liquid and aids in blending the various constituent parts.
Homogenizing blends and marries all the flavors and various components of the liquid like the nicotine, etc. It also partially oxidizes the nicotine, which may darken your juice. Don’t be alarmed, it will only reduce the effectiveness of the nicotine by a fractional amount that would be only noticeable in lab testing.
Now with that said, some feel that steeping in the vaping community has more myth than fact, and can be done with minimal effort.
[The following was posted to Reddit, via the partner of a professional food scientist…]
The ‘mixing/blending of flavours’ is not like in, say, soup, where things like the cell breakdown of some ingredients ends up contributing to the flavour, such that it gets different and better over time. We were discussing this over the previous day’s french onion soup. The mixing in an e-liquid, according to her, should be able to be achieved by simply agitating (i.e, shaking) the liquid for a minute.
Similarly, the idea that we are steeping e-liquid “like tea steeps” is also misinformed. When tea steeps, different chemicals are released at different times. For instance, you can make tea with less caffeine that still tastes pretty good by pouring hot water on the bag, letting it sit for 45 seconds or a minute, and then tipping out that water and starting your actual brew with new water. A bunch of the caffeine has been released already but most of the tannins remains in the leaves.
E-liquids just have flavourings in them. They do not release chemicals at different rates from cell walls because there are no cell walls.
Here is what is happening:
Alcohol bases, if they have been used as a carrier liquid for the flavourings, are allowed to evaporate if the cap is off (or by removing the cap at intervals and squeezing out the air and letting fresh air in).
Also, the most volatile chemicals in the flavourings (though not necessarily the ‘bad-tasting ones’ as I’ve seen suggested) evaporate. This also changes the flavour, obviously.
Sunlight has a detrimental effect on flavours. This is why ‘dark place’ is always recommended.
Finally, flavours usually have an ‘expiration date’ of about a year after manufacture.
So there you have it. Hopefully that adds some additional useful information to the subject. If you happen to have questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me via the site.