Before you start your hands-on eliquid DIY journey, take some time to get to know the ingredients that go into good quality juice.
Eliquid DIY for Beginners – Ingredients
Let me start off by emphasizing the importance of using only high quality ingredients in your DIY eliquid. There is little to save by using lower quality ingredients and much to lose. All your time, effort and money can be wasted by trying to save a little when it comes to the ingredients, you would probably end up with juices that are at best mediocre and at worst simply unvapeable.
The ELiquid Base
The base that you build your DIY eliquid on consists of Vegetable Glycerin (VG) and Propylene Glycol (PG). Make sure you use USP (United States Pharmacopeia) and/or BP (British Pharmacopoeia) grade. These are pharmaceutical grades ensuring purity and lack of contaminants.
The base ratio is normally expressed as %VG/%PG and the ratio you choose would depend on what type of equipment you vape with, and the amount of vapour (clouds) you wish to exhale. Some people are PG sensitive and may want to reduce the PG in their base by as much as possible, also known as max VG.
As a rule of thumb the following base ratios are advised:
- MTL (mouth-to-lung) equipment such as pods: 50/50 or 60/40
- DTL (Direct-to-lung) equipment (usually sub-ohm): 70/30 or 80/20
Higher VG content results in denser clouds. PG carries flavour better than VG, though only marginally.
If you are PG sensitive then maximize your VG in the base. 100% VG base is very rare in South Africa, the reason being that the flavourings used in the base are virtually always carried in a PG suspension and it would be hard to impossible to find those flavourings in a VG suspension in this country, the market for it is tiny. Usually a final ratio (after flavourings and nicotine) of 90/10 sorts out the problem of PG sensitivity, so don’t despair.
Nicotine in ELiquid
This is the single most expensive ingredient in eliquid and also the one that can ruin your DIY juice the most, so choose with care.
Nicotine is usually sold to the eliquid DIY market at a strength of 36mg/ml, in either a PG or VG base. Treat it as dangerous and certainly keep it away from children and pets. Wear latex gloves when handling, and if accidentally plashed on skin wash off under running water. Higher concentrations of nicotine become a lot more dangerous so I would not advise the DIY’er to use them unless you have acquainted yourself properly about how to handle it – something that is beyond the scope of this article.
Nicotine will start to oxidize when in contact with air, turning it a slight brownish shade. It may smell slightly peppery, if it is pronounced it will ruin your juice. Keep the bottle closed and preferably in a fridge.
A bad nicotine or too much nicotine will result in a very harsh vape – note that harshness may simply be that the flavourings haven’t yet had time to properly blend and needs steeping.
Flavouring for ELiquid
There is a seemingly unending variety of flavourings available for eliquid DIY. Getting to know these flavours, how intense they are, how they interact and affect each other and whether they fade, is the greatest challenge for the new DIY’er. We will expand on this in a later article as it is a massive subject to cover. Here we will only address the basics.
Most flavourings available to South African DIY’ers are PG based (suspended in PG). Water based flavourings can be used (be careful – menthol will crystallize in water) Never vape oil based or general food flavourings like you find in supermarkets. Though these are mostly approved by the US FDA as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), that applies to foods, not inhalation. Flavouring used in eliquid DIY must be formulated specifically for vaping.
As a general rule of thumb European eliquid DIY flavourings are much more concentrated than American flavouring so you’ll use different percentages. Always start low and tweak up.