So many options, but the solution is often simple
(Updated from original post March 2015)
To maximise the flavour and enjoyment of your e-liquids, a little TLC is in order. Just like wine, e-liquids require proper handling and a whole lotta love. Thankfully though, oak barrels, cellars and years of experience are not necessary.
See our post on storing concentrated flavours, as they’re equally important, perhaps even more so.
Intro to Steeping e-liquids
Whilst the term we all use is incorrect, steeping is essentially a blending and ageing process. Nicotine, PG, VG and flavours take time to homogenise, and certain flavours need a good 3 to 4 weeks to fully develop.
This is especially true when using higher percentages of VG in your mixes. (70% or more)
Allowing for the ingredients to blend and mature is a key factor in providing a satisfying vape. As with a homemade soup or stew, it’s always better after a couple of days or so, right?
However, knowing how long a specific mix needs to steep should be based on your palate, as well as trial and error.
Homogenising is a more appropriate term, but vapers have adopted the name Steeping. And so it is written..
Steeping - Old School method
The most basic and preferred method of steeping is placing the freshly mixed bottle, with caps on, in a dark cool location away from heat and light, for a week to a month depending on the flavours. The ideal temperature range is 18 to 22 degrees Celsius, or 64 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Anything above 30 degrees (86 F) can have a negative effect on flavours and or nicotine long-term – As does colder weather, rapid fluctuations. I’ve heard that very high altitudes is an issue too.
A good shake periodically is important too and really helps things along. The overview-tips section at the bottom lists some recommended steep times based on flavour profile. We also look at solutions to keeping your e-liquids cooler in hot weather.
The only exception to this storage method is when alcohol or alcohol-based flavours are present
Breathing e-liquid is the process of removing the top cap to allow some of the alcohol to escape and evaporate. Many like to remove the nipple or needle nose tip also, exposing the juice fully. Generally, if the alcohol content is extra potent, I’ll do this too, but will cover the opening with a tissue or thin paper towel.
There’s much debate as to how long one should breathe their mixes. Many suggest up to 12 hours, however, I find that to be extreme. It should be mentioned that irrespective of duration, you’ll never get rid of all the alcohol, nor would you want to. I’m uncertain as to the percentage of alcohol that can be evaporated, but perhaps at least half.
Obviously, there’s a difference between alcohol-based concentrated flavours, and alcohol you may add, such as ethyl alcohol or PGA – Pure Grain Alcohol.
A few notes on this subject in the Overview-Tips section below.
Many mixers, myself included, have experimented with various hardware methods in an effort to speed up the steeping process. Whilst all have an effect on the overall mix, in many cases, the negatives can out-way any positives. Potential problems can be exacerbated the longer these methods are used.
However, an argument can be made as to the potential benefits when using some of these methods for experimenting and or developing recipes. Generally, any method that doesn’t allow heat and or air is okay.
Over the past 8 years or so, I’ve experimented with warm water baths, ultrasonic cleaners, stir plates, shaker pads, vortex machines, crock pots and milk frothers. Any method that allows for the introduction of too much heat, light or aeration, can and generally will negatively impact both the nicotine and the concentrated flavours.
Crock Pots and Ultrasonic Cleaners are inconsistent, and introducing heat in this manner is rarely beneficial to flavours or nicotine.
Milk Frothers. Not something I would recommend due to the obvious introduction of air. However, I do use them occasionally when I’m experimenting with recipes, particularly when 75% or more VG is used. Once I’ve settled on a recipe, I don’t use a frother.
Stir Plates. Some models have a heating option, and the only advantage here is for thinning your VG, which can help with the blending of flavours. Unless you’re experimenting with recipes, I’d forgo this as an ongoing option. Not surprisingly, the important thing here is the container for the e-liquid. If it’s an open beaker or bottle, and you’re letting it stir for an hour or more, you’re letting in a lot of air; again, this is generally not a good idea.
Vortex Machines. These can be an option for those not wishing or physically unable to shake their mixes. Due to the fact that they blend high VG mixes in a matter of seconds, and that heat and aeration are not an issue, there is justification for this option. I’ve used them before and they do a great job, the issue, however, is that most quality, affordable models only handle a 30 ml bottle.
Of all the hardware methods, a Vortex is my favourite. They’re fairly expensive though, costing close to $250 delivered.
These hardware options are in no way a necessity, and as a rule, it’s still best to keep things simple and rely on the old-school methods for steeping. However, I do like milk frothers or vortex machines for experimenting.
There may be occasions where you need a bottle of juice within a day or so; perhaps even immediately. Other than what’s detailed above, you may try this.
- Warm water bath – Rest the bottle in a bowl of very warm water and repeat the process 3 times as the water cools
- Run a bottle under warm water as you turn the bottle around in your hand
- Shake the bottle after the water bath. Shaker pads, Vortex or a power tool can work well, best at slower rotations
If you plan on heating your e-liquid, or introducing air with methods as above, simply omit the nicotine and add it prior to placing it in the cupboard. This is also a good idea when you’re steeping-storing e-liquids in a hotter climate.
Also, fill the bottle close to the top, limiting any space for air.
The Importance of Glass
Another subject matter that draws much debate is glass versus plastic. Here’s where glass makes sense-
- For mixes that you plan to keep long-term (over 3 months)
- For mixes that you wish to heat using above steep methods
- Storing e-liquids (more than a couple of weeks) above 32 degrees (90 F)
- Mixes that contain alcohol
Alcohol in Flavours or Adding to e-liquids
Alcohol adds sweetness, flavour and even throat hit. Think of this as you would when cooking with wine or spirits. We want the sweetness and the flavour, but when we cook, we want to burn off the alcohol, yet, retain the flavour. The same goes for e-liquids.
I tend to breathe bottles for up to 2 hours and maybe up to 3 times, but generally only twice.
Keeping Flavours & e-liquids Cool
Weather here can not only be hot, but it’s common to experience fairly drastic temperature changes. Both of these can and will have some effect on our e-liquids and concentrated flavours. My mixing room in summer can reach 30 plus degrees, so I needed solutions-
I’ve experimented with placing both of these in Tupperware containers and storing them in the fridge. I’ve also used an Esky, laying one or two thin plastic ice mats underneath the flavour racks.
- I feel a regular Fridge is too cold
- The Esky option works, but it’s too hard to control
Although many may consider this an extreme, a Wine Cooler is the perfect solution! I can keep a constant temp of around 18 degrees, which is better than 30. For around $120 delivered it’s a no-brainer, especially if you own a lot of concentrated flavours. I bought mine from Kogan.
Fruits: These are generally ready to vape straight away or within a day to three days.
Bakery: Best to rest for a week; many cakes, muffins and cookies can benefit from a couple of weeks.
Desserts – Dairy: Creams, butter, cheese and ice creams will improve after a minimum of 2 weeks. Custards can take up to a month.
Tobaccos: These can take the longest, and like all flavours, it’s based in part on one’s preference. The minimum for many tobaccos is about two weeks, however many benefit from a month or more. Certain Flavorah flavours can be vaped straight away.
Obviously, many e-liquid recipes will contain flavours from two or more flavour groups. Steep time should, therefore, be based on whatever ingredient takes the longest.
Whilst there are many viable means of steeping, I must say there is ample justification for sticking to traditional methods. Time and agitation always return good results. Plus it’s nice and simple.