Taste testing flavour concentrates

How do the above 3 custards differ? Could one work better for my bakery recipe and one for my fruits?

Know your Flavours before you mix

Updated April 2018

I recently purchased FlavourArts Mandarin. There’s no question that it’s very authentic, right down to the outer peel. However, some may not enjoy it as a vape and some may even think it tastes more like an orange; I can assure you it does not. Some have said it tastes too sweet, some too bitter. I say it tastes like a mandarin, period.

“Flavour isn’t subjective, it’s more about perception.Taste is subjective though”

In order to make a satisfying, well-balanced  e-liquid, we need to get a little intimate with our concentrates. This will have a positive impact on our recipes, whilst enabling us to improve at flavour pairing.

Preparation – What we need 

As the science behind the perception of flavour is a joint effort by both our nose and mouth, we must ensure that both are in good working order before we proceed, so don’t bother if you have a cold or are ill.

  • Bottled water or Filtered water
  • Pipettes
  • Shot-glasses or small glass for each flavour
  • A spit glass
  • Plain bread or crackers and a glass of water
  • Notebook for taking notes
  • A suitable device-tank or dripper for the vape testing stage
Wine tasting
Wine tasting is similar

Some pointers to help you get the most from the process-

  • Shake each bottle of flavour before you mix your test batch
  • If you smoke, wait a while until the taste has subsided
  • Ensure there are no lingering flavours in your mouth
  • Keep hydrated and sip on water during the testing
  • Have a piece of plain bread between flavours
  • Only test 3 or 4 similar flavour profiles over a one hour period, then return later
What Flavour Percentages?

Although the manufacturer or vendor may recommend a starting point, it’s a good idea to test at various percentages. Many flavours can be suitable as an enhancer or additive, using percentages as low as 0.15-0.25%.

Generally, I test high concentration concentrates at 0.25, 1 and 2%. FlavourArt and Flavorah are good examples. Lower concentrations such as many TFA or Capella can be tested at 1, 2 and 5%, as an example. 

Don’t overlook the importance of nuances, and how flavours can be used in low percentages.

Testing Step 1: Aroma

I use a 5 ml base of water and often start with 1% which is 1 drop of flavouring.  If the recommended starting percentage is higher, and or you feel the flavour is too weak, adjust accordingly.  

In a 5 ml base of water, each drop equals a percentage point- 1% = 1 drop. 2%= 2 drops. 3%= 3 drops, and so on.

1) Place 5 ml of water into the glass.
2) Place 1 single drop of flavour into the glass
3) Mix and blend with a pipette
4) Test the aroma from the glass

For now, just focus on the aroma. Inhale a few times. What do you smell? Can you determine more than one element like my example above? Make some notes on what you think about the flavour. Is it authentic, is it mild or strong? Rich or mellow? Is there one dominant scent followed by a secondary? Write anything you can.

pineapple

Aroma of Pineapple

Sweet, sour, earthy, citrus, juicy, floral, buttery, roasted, tropical, leafy, ripe, unripe

Aroma of Coffee 

Earthy, robust, floral, pungent, spicy, fruity, winery, sweet, sour, nutty, moist 

.

coffee diy
Testing Step 2: Taste

1) Using a Pipette, place a few drops on your tongue and focus on flavour.
2) Take about 1/3 of the mix into your mouth and swirl it around, not forgetting to inhale.
3) Repeat this process

Review your thoughts and update your notes. Keep your notes on aroma and taste separate. 
As an example, here are my basic flavour notes for the mandarin I mentioned above-

I ‘m surprised that I can actually taste the outer peel. It’s a perfect blend of the whole fruit. Very authentic. Sweet, citrus, tangy, pulpy. Can taste and smell the fruit and peel. Maybe the seeds too? Slightly under-ripe, not really too sweet. I think it would pair well with cream and another fruit. Ice cream could work too.”

Now, it matters little whether I nailed it or not, as long as I think it’s right and it makes sense to me, that’s all that matters. Armed with that information I went off and mixed a mandarin, passionfruit and cream recipe; so far so good.

Tasting Step 3: Vaping

This next step or method is far more common, many even forgo the other methods but I suggest you do them all. 
Mix up a small 5-10 ml sample in a 50-50 mixture of PG &VG with zero nicotine. I suggest starting with the lowest recommended percentage and work up if need be.

Here are some important points –

  • If you can mix your flavours up a week or so beforehand, all the better. Steeping applies here.
  • You can use the warm water bath method if desired
  • Make sure you shake the bottle fairly vigorously
  • Vape at various wattage settings and note the differences
  • Use a Dripping atomiser wherever possible.

f you don’t own a dripping atty I’d suggest you use either a clearomiser tank, a starter type e-Cig, or even older styled eGo clearomisers that take inexpensive coils. The Kanger Evods and Aspire BVC eGo Clearo’s work well. You don’t necessarily need high wattage or low ohms for testing flavours. 

These notes are primarily for your benefit and will help make you a better mixer. If you vape with starter-type devices, or even older clearomisers, that’s fine. Use what you use but be aware that an RDA will offer the closest representation of a given flavour. I use all of the devices below, but mainly the RDA.

RDA for testing flavors
Vandy Vape Pulse 22 RDA
aspire pockeX aio
Aspire PockeX AIO
Vaporesso swag
Vaporesso Swag Kit
ego style clearomisers
Aspire BVC Clearomisers
Important tips to help with flavour notes
  • Improve your skills by testing 3 similar flavour profiles. Say 3 Vanillas or 3 Caramels, and make notes on the differences. Practice this, it helps a lot!
  • Know that aroma makes up for some 80 percent of how we perceive flavour
  • Don’t test too many flavours in one session. I tend to limit it to around 8
  • Taste test the actual food-liquid-tobacco that represent the flavour
  • Practice and practice more
Resources

If you wish to study flavours and pairings, or wish to have a handy reference, here’s a link to download a great book called The Flavor Bible (From e liquid recipes.com). If you’re not confident about describing flavours, start reading other notes from prominent mixers on the DIY forum on Reddit and also at E Liquid recipes.com. Set up a free account and participate, ask questions and become familiar with how flavours are described.

There are numerous methods to tasting, but whatever you do, don’t place any credence on tasting concentrates straight. They’re too overpowering and will not provide you with an accurate representation of the profile.

If you follow these tasting steps with each concentrate you buy and keep up with your notes, you’ll have a better understanding of your flavours, which in turn will make you a more proficient mixer.

From The Table,
Charles

It’s all about the juice..

2 thoughts on “Taste testing flavour concentrates

    • Hi Casper,

      Thanks for your comment. Taste testing, along with aroma is just as important, although many seem to skip this part. I hope your DIY is going well, cheers.

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