The vaping industry has always been defined by innovation.
From the earliest days of vaping enthusiasts tinkering with their devices to the most cutting edge R&D departments in those industry leading organisations, we’ve always sought to push the boundaries of what vaping can do.
Although a lot of the focus falls on the hardware itself, some of the biggest changes have come from E-liquids.
The E-liquids we have today are a far cry from the very first vape juices, advancing by leaps and bounds in both flavour and content.
The range of tastes and smells we enjoy is unmatched; from the simple menthol and fruity E-liquids to the deep and complex dessert flavours that have gained so much attention.
We’ve also adapted the content of the E-liquids themselves, using compounds like CBD to move vaping away from its original purpose solely as a cigarette replacement.
Today you can enjoy CBD-infused E-liquids as easily as you can nicotine infused vape juices, and even those infused with nothing extra at all.
Although the modern selection of E-liquids truly is unrivalled, there’s always more to discover. For some people the regular high street stockist just isn’t enough and they turn to home brewing.
Using that same creative flair that drove the very first E-liquid innovators, these people are looking to take their vaping experience firmly in their own hands.
Many people are intrigued by the idea of making their own E-liquid, whether to create a new experience or try to emulate an existing product for a fraction of the price.
But how would we do this?
Do we really know how to make vape juice with household items?
Would it be any good?
How do we do it safely?
If this idea has been piquing your interest look no further.
We’ll get into exactly what it is you need to make your own vape juice, exploring the specifics of how it all works as well as giving you some extra tips on what to watch out for and how to make it extra special.
With luck, we’ll have you brewing away with the best of them.
What You Will Need
Before you start to brew your own E-liquids you’ll need some equipment. When you’re putting together your shopping list there are two kinds of places you’ll need to visit.
The first will be a conventional storefront, either online or in a brick-and-mortar store, for the express purpose of getting mundane mixing equipment.
Although you’ll find that a few small packs of items will serve you well, at the most basic level you’ll just need three or four items.
This consists of a few pipettes or non-needle syringes for measuring and transferring ingredients, some wider necked bottles with firmly sealing lids for mixing and storage, a set of scales for accurate measurement, and lastly a pack of disposable safety gloves.
These items can be sourced from most hardware shops, hobby shops and even some supermarkets.
The second list however will only be available from specialist storefronts designed to serve the vaping community, in particular those wanting to home brew.
Although you may find the odd vape shop that sells these items, your best bet will be to purchase them from an online retailer.
Once again there are only four main items that you’ll need, namely a bottle of raw vegetable glycerine (VG), a bottle of raw propylene glycol (PG), a selection of pre-produced E-liquid flavourings, and either some liquid nicotine or some liquid CBD (unless you want a nicotine and CBD free E-liquid, of course).
This list can also be cut down further by purchasing a pre-mixed E-liquid base consisting of both VG and PG.
So, you’ve got your shopping list ticked off and everything you need set out before you, but what do you actually do?
Thankfully this is the easy part as mixing up an E-liquid is a rather straightforward process. To start you off we’ll go through the process for making a basic E-liquid, compatible with most vaping devices.
To start with you should always be wearing a pair of disposable safety gloves when mixing, both to protect your hands and prevent any contamination to the E-liquid.
For the same reason you should wash every piece of equipment before using it, making sure it is completely dry and free from soap before proceeding.
Using a pipette or syringe, take an extract of your chosen flavouring and place it into an empty bottle.
The amount used will depend on the strength of the flavouring and the specific flavour that you purchased, but for starting off we recommend between 10 and 15 drops of flavouring for a 50ml bottle.
Next, use a different syringe or pipette to fill the bottle approximately half-way up with propylene glycol. You can either measure this with the markings on the syringe, or use your scales for a precise measurement.
If you want to add any CBD or liquid nicotine to your E-liquid, this is the stage to do it.
Once again use a clean syringe or pipette to measure out the desired amount, paying close attention to exactly how much is being extracted and following the relevant dosage guidelines.
Once this has been added, get another syringe and fill the remaining space in the bottle with vegetable glycerine. It may help to pre-measure the volumes of PG and VG to make sure you get the ratio correct.
For a starting E-liquid we suggest a 50:50 even split, approximately 24ml each.
Once the components have been added, firmly secure the lid of your bottle and shake hard. You can stop shaking once the liquid itself seems evenly mixed in colour and consistency.
Next, place the bottle upright in a cool, dark place like you would any regular E-liquid. There’s no real limit to how long you should keep your E-liquid like this, but we suggest letting it sit for at least 2-3 hours to allow the contents to properly settle.
Once you’re happy with the consistency and mix, load your E-liquid into your vape and give it a try.
Pay close attention at this stage to the taste and feel of the liquid as this is still in the window where the E-liquid is most open to adjustment, letting you add more flavouring, VG, PG or additive (nicotine or CBD) as you see fit.
Once you’re happy with the general taste and feel of your E-liquid, then you’re all done. Congratulations, you’ve brewed yourself a basic E-liquid, fit for vaping and hopefully meeting your preferences.
From here you can begin experimenting, adjusting the ratio of VG and PG, mixing different combinations of flavours and generally trying new E-liquid compositions to really make that brand your own.
This phase of experimentation is one of the most enjoyable parts of brewing E-liquids, letting you push the boundaries of possibility and discover new ways to enhance your vaping experience.
It can be tempting to try anything and everything under the sun, always looking for that ingenious breakthrough to help you make your mark as an E-liquid innovator.
However, there are a few clear rules you should always keep in mind.
Do not use oils. Oil based compounds will not evaporate properly when used in a vape, leaving behind significant residue that can cause long-term damage to a tank.
Furthermore, many oils use MCT as a base element to carry whatever flavourings or scents the oil is designed to deliver. Whilst MCT oil is entirely safe to ingest in small quantities, it is decidedly not safe to inhale.
Inhalation of MCT oil has been linked with significant damage to lung and throat tissue.
This is one element of a wider principle in home brewing E-liquid, namely that you should not use any components that are not specifically advertised as for E-liquid use.
Whilst many home brewers will have a hundred different ideas about what will make an E-liquid delicious, this can be an extremely dangerous line of experimentation to follow.
The components of E-liquids are designed to evaporate effectively, leaving minimal residue and causing no harm to your vaping hardware, as well as being entirely safe for inhalation.
For this reason many organic components are avoided in conventional E-liquids, as they can be both dangerous to inhale and can lose their effectiveness when heated by a coil.
Just because something smells or tastes good doesn’t mean that it will continue to do so once vapourised.
This rule also applies to items that are advertised as being food-safe: just because a flavouring or colouring is safe to eat does not mean that it is safe to inhale.
To make sure your home brewing experience is as safe and effective as can be, we strongly urge you to always source your ingredients from reliable manufacturers and retailers.
When purchasing specialist ingredients online this involves looking specifically for an organisation with a solid history, good reputation and easily found lab reports.
It is also worth noting that certain E-liquid components are banned in the UK due to health concerns, though are entirely legal in other parts of the world.
Being aware of some of the more suspect elements of E-liquids is a key part in avoiding a potentially dangerous vaping experience.
Be sure to do your research before ordering your supplies, looking specifically for contents that have been linked to ongoing health concerns and investigations, such as diacetyl.
Some people will suggest the use of water or even an alcohol like vodka when brewing E-liquids, claiming that it helps to even out consistency and enhance flavour.
Whilst we would advise against the use of these components in E-liquids, there appear to be no particular health risks associated with them. It may be inadvisable, but it isn’t exactly dangerous.
This has just been a basic introduction to brewing your own E-liquids, designed to give you an understanding of the core principles and some of the most basic guidelines to get you started.
From here you should be able to develop your own approach, picking up techniques as you go and finding out what works best for you.
To give you an even better chance of becoming a successful E-liquid brewer, here are a few extra tips.
Consistency in an E-liquid is key, determining everything from the size of the cloud and how quickly it evaporates, to the amount of flavouring in each drag and how much maintenance you’ll need to perform.
This consistency is determined by the ratio of PG to VG. We’ve advised you to go with a straight 50:50 ratio when beginning, but odds are you’ll find that leaning one way or the other will work best for you.
In general, if you’re going for an E-liquid with larger clouds and a smoother hit on the throat, you’ll want to skew your ratio towards vegetable glycerin.
This will make the E-liquid thicker, so keep that in mind when mixing and observing your E-liquid. It will also in general require more frequent cleaning for the tank and coil, as a thicker liquid will leave more residue.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an experience focused on flavour and with more of a throat hit, try to lean towards more propylene glycol. Many people lean towards PG heavy E-liquids for those more complex flavourings that move away from the sweeter end of the flavour spectrum.
This will also make the liquid thinner, heating faster and in general having a harsher throat hit. Of course a thinner liquid also means less residue, so less cleaning and maintenance time.
Another handy point is to remember the shelf-life of E-liquid. Generally speaking you have 2 years from opening a bottle to vape an E-liquid before it begins to lose both its impact and overall quality.
This timing goes for the raw ingredients too. This is a good rough guide for when to expect your E-liquid to be past in prime, but as with everything your own senses will be the best tool.
There’s always a chance that something has gone wrong during the process, so be sure to check for any unusual sights, smells or tastes before you devote an entire tank to potentially sub-par E-liquid.
Both nicotine and CBD are popular additives to an E-liquid, hence why we’ve listed them here under ingredients. Don’t be tempted to mix them though, it won’t give you that double-hit you might imagine.
Far from mutual enhancement, it’s widely accepted that CBD and nicotine will actually reduce each other’s effectiveness when mixed.
This is why you’ll never see any reputable E-liquid containing both: in the end it’s just a waste of CBD, nicotine and perfectly good E-liquid.
If you’re finding that your E-liquids are generally lacking in flavour, consider steeping, breathing or streathing them to potentially unlock more complex flavours.
Do be aware however that streathing and breathing carry the risk of reducing the shelf-life of an E-liquid, though never by much.
One good tip for your experimental phase is to vary bottle sizes as you go. If you’re making a big batch of basic E-liquid to potentially enhance later, consider splitting it into several smaller bottles.
This both opens up the chances for a wider range of experimentation and will in general make the E-liquid last longer, as several bottles will stay sealed whilst others are in use.
On top of this, it’s always a good idea to keep detailed notes as you experiment. This allows you to more easily figure out what went right, what went wrong, and to generally grow into a skilled brewer.
Being able to add that personal touch was the source of so much success in vaping’s early days, so it would be a shame to lose it now.
The industry has come forwards in leaps and bounds, offering products that meet so many different needs and being able to achieve flavours and combinations early vapers never dreamed of.
But there will always be a place for those who want to customise their experience, those who are seeking something truly new or unique, and in that the vaping industry has a unique advantage.
By supporting the production of raw flavouring concentrates, as well as wider distribution of VG and PG in both separate and pre-mixed forms, the vaping industry has been able to ensure the future of those personal efforts.
We know more today about vaping than we ever did and, although there is still much to learn, we have been able to ensure that people can brew up their own E-liquids safely and securely.
By sharing our understanding of the principles of E-liquids and how they work, we can help those especially eager vapers to tailor their own experiences without fear of danger and with so much more potential for success.
The more people who know how E-liquids work the more people will be tempted to try their hand at brewing, giving us even more innovations and new combinations to enjoy.
Hopefully this article has lain bare for you the process of making your own E-liquid, taking out some of the uncertainty and correcting some misinformation to leave you with a proper understanding of the process.
If you do decide to brew up your own supply, we wish you the best of luck for a pleasant and fulfilling vaping experience.