The worldwide vaping industry has grown so large that there are literally thousands of different vape juice flavors available to buy around the world at any given time. Without a doubt, the level of flavor variety is a great thing for consumers. However, it also means that you may sometimes end up with an e-liquid you don’t love. When that happens for the first time, you might jump online to look for advice on a vaping blog or forum – and when you do, there’s one piece of advice that you’re likely to see more than anything else: You should try steeping your e-liquid.
So, what is e-liquid steeping? How do you do it – and most importantly, does vape juice steeping actually work? Those are the things we’ll explore in this article. Let’s begin.
What Is E-Liquid Steeping?
We’ll begin this article by clearing something up that might be a source of confusion for you. When you think of the term “steeping,” you might think of something like making a cup of tea. The actual definition of steeping is putting something solid into liquid-like tea leaves in water – in order to extract the flavors or properties of the solid. That’s not what you’re doing when you steep vape juice because e-liquid contains no solids. Nevertheless, that’s the term that the community invented during the formative years of the vaping industry, and the term has stuck with us through the years.
So, what exactly is e-liquid steeping, then? It’s best to think of it as a process of controlled aging. It’s allowing a bottle of e-liquid to age – and encouraging it to age in a slightly accelerated way – because you hope that the aging process will improve the e-liquid’s flavor.
E-juice steeping can take place in two contexts. One of those contexts is in the original production of a bottle of DIY e-liquid or commercial e-liquid. Many e-liquid flavor combinations aren’t suitable for immediate vaping as soon as they’re mixed; they require a bit of time for the flavors to meld and develop. Some DIY e-liquid flavors don’t reach their full potential until you’ve allowed them to steep for at least a few weeks.
In this article, though, we’re not going to discuss steeping your own vape juice; we’re going to discuss steeping in the context of improving a commercial e-liquid that you don’t enjoy when you initially buy it. If you buy a bottle of e-liquid online or in a local vape shop – and you’re not thrilled with the e-liquid’s flavor when you first try it – steeping the e-juice may help.
What Are the Benefits of Steeping Vape Juice?
The first potential benefit of e-liquid steeping is that it encourages the flavor compounds in vape juice to interact and meld with one another. If you use an e-liquid too soon after it’s bottled, you may find that one particular note in the e-juice’s flavor profile is so prominent that it covers the other notes. Alternatively, you may just find that the e-liquid tastes “young” or underdeveloped. In both of those cases, you may enjoy the result that you get from steeping.
The other reason why steeping may improve some e-liquids is because there are certain vape juices that use flavor compounds set in alcohol rather than propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin. If you find that a particular e-liquid has a harsh edge or causes a scratchy sensation in your throat – or if you find that the e-liquid feels hotter in your mouth than other e-liquids – it may contain an alcohol-based flavor. Alcohol-based flavors are particularly common in e-liquids with creamy or custard flavor profiles, which is why vape juices with those flavor profiles often require longer initial steeping times than other types of e-liquids. During the steeping process, some of the alcohol evaporates. The process may, therefore, reduce the e-liquid’s harshness.
What Are the Drawbacks of Steeping Vape Juice?
The drawback of steeping e-liquid is that it simply may not always work to improve the flavor of an e-liquid you don’t enjoy. With most commercially produced e-liquid, steeping is already a part of the production process. After the manufacturer produces the e-liquid, it’s shipped to distributors and then to vape shops before finally making its way to you. At that point, the e-liquid may already be a few months old, and its flavor is probably as good as it’s ever going to be.
Steeping is most likely to improve an e-liquid that reaches your hands too soon after production – something that’s made to order and shipped directly to you by the manufacturer, for instance. In the modern vaping industry, however, very few e-liquids are made to order.
The other reason why steeping won’t always improve the flavor of an e-liquid is because the ingredients in vape juice are volatile and will degrade during aging. Nicotine will oxidize; a high-nicotine e-liquid may begin to turn yellow after it’s been stored for a long time. Likewise, the flavors in an e-liquid will also degrade in long-term storage. What some people may perceive as a “mellowing” or “rounding out” of flavors during steeping, you may perceive as the flavors “losing their punch.” Taste is subjective, and the fact that some people prefer to steep their e-liquids doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way.
How to Steep Vape Juice: Step by Step
Before we explain how to steep e-juice, we’d like to begin with a reminder that these instructions are for steeping commercial e-liquid that you do not enjoy. If you’re making your own e-liquid, steeping is as simple as storing your vape juice in a cool, dark place until you’re happy with the flavor. If you have a commercial vape juice that you don’t enjoy, though, read on.
- Open the bottle and close it. Since the steeping process encourages alcohol-based flavors to evaporate, opening the bottle for a moment allows the alcohol vapor to escape.
- Shake the bottle vigorously. Shaking the bottle encourages the flavor compounds to meld.
- Store the bottle in a cool, dark place for anywhere from a few days to a week. Shake the bottle each day during the steeping process.
- Open the bottle and test the flavor. If you’re happy, the e-liquid is ready to use. If you’re not happy, store the e-liquid for another week before testing it again.
One of the most important things to remember about e-liquid steeping is that, once you’re happy with the flavor of an e-juice, you should use it or transfer it to long-term storage immediately. When an e-liquid has reached its peak, the flavor quality has nowhere to go but down.
How to Store Vape Juice After Steeping It
Having a long-term storage plan is an essential part of the e-liquid steeping process because the flavor of a vape juice will not continue improving after it’s peaked. At that point, you want to either use the e-liquid right away or transfer it to a long-term storage solution that’s going to preserve the flavor as long as possible.
If you’re going to store a large quantity of e-liquid for a long time, it might be wise to consider decanting your vape juice from the original plastic bottles into a clean glass container. Glass is chemically inert, and that makes glass containers ideal for any form of long-term storage. Plastic bottles, on the other hand, can potentially have molecular interactions with your vape juice. Regardless of which type of container you use, keep your e-liquid bottles tightly closed until you’re ready to use them to limit further oxidation.
The ideal location for long-term e-liquid storage is always a cool, dark place that’s out of reach for children and pets. Heat, light and oxygen accelerate the degradation and oxidation of the nicotine and flavor compounds in vape juice. A high cabinet in an air-conditioned kitchen, for instance, is an ideal place for storing e-liquid. If there are no children in your home, you might also consider storing vape juice in your refrigerator. The colder your e-liquid is, the slower the chemical interactions taking place in the e-juice will become.
Regardless of where you choose to store your vape juice, you should strongly consider using it within about one year. That’s about how long you can expect any bottle of e-liquid to maintain the best possible flavor quality. After a year, the e-liquid isn’t necessarily unsafe to use, but you may find that the flavor has noticeably changed by that point. You may also find that the vape juice no longer satisfies you as much as it once did because oxidation has reduced the e-liquid’s overall nicotine content. If you’re not sure how old a bottle of vape juice is, look for an expiration date on the bottle. If an e-liquid has no printed expiration date, you may find it helpful to write the date of purchase on the label.