What is an E-Liquid?
New to vaping? This guide explains what an e-liquid is and what ingredients your vape juice contains.
There are a few key pieces we need to start vaping. One of those is a vape device, which we have talked about in detail in previous posts. The other is your vape juice, also known as e-liquid. Obviously a full vape kit needs a charger, replacement coils, and other parts, but let’s focus on the e-liquid.
In the spirit of being your one-stop-vape-shop for all things informational, we here at Vape Direct have put together this explanatory guide to vape juice. We went on a mission to explore and report on what it is, what is in it, what types of flavourings are used, and what that all means for your vaping experience.
Let’s start with what vape juice/e-liquids contain and go from there.
What are the Ingredients of E-Liquid?
There are three parts to your e-liquid bottle. We have nicotine, flavourings, and a liquid base of either vegetable glycerine (VG) or Propylene Glycol (PG). Your e-liquid may be made from a combination of both and this is becoming popular in the market. Let’s break those down into the three areas and examine some typical ingredients and what they do.
What’s Propylene Glycol (PG)?
Propylene Glycol is a food additive that lives in the same branch of chemistry as alcohol. When used in food, it retains moisture and dissolves some flavourings better than water can. It is odourless, colourless, and has no real taste. It has a similar consistency to syrup, making it ideal for vaping.
Since water is a main ingredient in most e-liquids because it is used to make flavourings, PG can help retain the water and stop it evaporating. It has no taste, so it doesn’t affect your vaping experience other than as a foundation chemical to hold your flavourings and nicotine.
What’s Vegetable Glycerine (VG)?
Vegetable Glycerine is the vegetable based version of PG liquids. It is clear, odourless, and has a sweet taste that is extremely light. It is used in cosmetics as well as in food products. Manufacturers make VG out of soy, palm, and coconut oils.
Glycerine is a natural by-product from many chemical reactions in industrial processes. It is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol compound, making it ideal for vaping solution. It can hold the flavours and tastes of your e-liquid, while having the same silken consistency of PG. It’s generally less harmful to the environment just because it is a by-product.
Nicotine as a Vape Juice Ingredient
Your vape juice may or may not contain nicotine. You can choose a nicotine free vape juice if you want the taste without the addictive qualities of vaping.
If you have chosen a vape juice which contains nicotine, it will indicate on the label the strength of nicotine it contains. Nicotine is measured in milligrams. Here in the UK, the government regulate the maximum strengths of nicotine in vape juices. Their guidance states that nicotine strength can be no greater than 20mg per 10ml of vape juice.
Typical Ingredients in E-Liquid Flavourings
The last category of ingredients in your vape juice are the flavourings. Let’s look at this interesting study into e-cigarette flavours for more data.
At first glance, the charts reveal that nutty or tobacco flavoured vape juices have the least flavourings. Fruit and sweet flavours have the most ingredients, with desserts topping 20 different flavourings.
This study found that the most used flavourings were vanillin, in 35.2% of all 100 liquids studied, ethyl maltol in 32% of all one hundred, and ethyl butyrate, at 28.4%. Other ingredients include the following:
- Menthol – which is minty
- Benzaldehyde – an almondy scent
- Peppermint oil
- Dimethyl – which helps flavours dissolve
- Damascone – rose, plum, raspberry, wine, and tobacco, all contain these scents/flavours
- Ethyl nonoate – which tastes oddly waxy
- And many more.
What is Vanillin?
Vanillin is the main chemical compound that is taken from the vanilla bean to retain its scent and flavour. Although a natural substance, it is commonly reproduced in labs. Scientists estimate that 99% of the Vanillin in use today is synthetic.
What is Ethyl Maltol?
This compound is just like an essence of malt. It is a sweet flavouring common in confectionary. It smells like cotton candy and satisfies your sweet tooth cravings when vaped. Ethyl means it shares a branch of the alcohol family tree, making it liquid enough for use in vaping devices.
What is Ethyl Butyrate?
Interestingly, ethyl butyrate is used to make things like perfume and rum. It is fruity and often enhanced with the addition of orange juices. It is soluble in glycol and glycerine, which makes it ideal as a flavouring for vape juice.
How are E-Liquid Ingredients Made?
Vanillin and other flavourings are taken from biomass sources. They are often by-products that are widely available for low rates. Vanillin is a good example of this, since scientists found a way to extract it from wood used in the paper making industry. The leftover lignin can produce vanillin once the cellulose has been extracted for use elsewhere.
Ethyl Maltol is made synthetically, using chemical synthesis. It is used with the Grignard Reagent Preparation manufacturing process. It goes through the Grignard reaction process, a hydrolysis stage, a chlorination stage, and a chemical rearrangement reaction.
To make ethyl butyrate, scientists combine butyric acid and ethanol alcohol. It’s more simple but equally as effective.
Propylene Glycol is made in the chlorohydrin process or through peroxidation. It turns propylene monomer into oxides, and this oxide is hydrated back to propylene glycol.
Vegetable glycerine is the most natural of all. You heat triglyceride rich vegetable fats under pressure with an alkali, then you are left with rich fatty acids.
What are the Different Types of E-Liquid Available?
If we look at e-liquids for beginner vapers, we will see a good cross-section of what’s on offer. You can have a VG based vape juice, a PG based e-liquid, or a combination of both. You can even try nic salts out, which we talk about in depth in another article.
How Do You Choose the Right E-Liquid for You?
High VG Liquids offer a much smoother inhale with less of a throat hit, while higher PG liquids have a rougher texture n the inhale. This makes high VG liquid better for the exclusive vaper, yet PG liquids better for those who just switched to vape devices from cigarettes. The PG will hit your throat harder, which is what you want as an ex-smoker.
Make sure you account for the strength of the nicotine. If you are new to vaping completely, we suggest you avoid nicotine and don’t get hooked. If you are an experienced vaper or ex-smoker, the strength of your vape juice can go all the way up to 20mg per 10ml.
Lastly, play around with flavourings to find the ones that suit you best. Sweet flavours will satisfy food cravings while minty flavours help keep your breath fresh. You can even opt for a good old fashioned tobacco e-liquid if that’s what your cravings want.
Where To Buy E-Liquid in the UK?
The best place to buy your e-liquid if you live in the UK, is from our online vape shop. You can check out our list of all e-liquid flavours that we currently have in store.
How To Mix Your Own E-Liquid in Easy Steps
It has never been easier to make your own vape juice that caters exactly to your tastes. You an buy the base ingredients and the different flavours that interest you, then add your own nicotine shot and mix it up. Here’s how to create your own vape juice in a few easy steps.
1 – Clean up
We learned about decontamination during covid. Clean your workspace and wash your hands or put on gloves.
Start with an empty e-liquid refill bottle and a syringe.
2 – Add Flavourings
Measure out 4.5ml of your chosen flavours. This can be one flavour or a blend of your choosing, just stick to the 4.5ml total. Use the syringe to ensure an exact amount.
3 – Nicotine Next
If you don’t want nicotine, ignore this step. Add your nicotine shot to the bottle using the syringe. Shots come in different strengths. You should use 5ml of your nic shot. Remember to clean that syringe between uses.
4 – Add the Glycol/Glycerine
A good blend to start simple with is a 7.5ml PG to 13ml VG ratio. Remember to clean your syringe between uses.
5 – Blend it Well
Put the lids back on everything, clean everything down, and give your new blend of vape liquid a good old shake for a few minutes. If you come to use it next time and it has separated back into layers, just shake it again.
Congratulations, you have created your first e-liquid blend. We hope it is the first of many.
If you have followed our guide to vape juices this far, then you now know enough about e-liquids to make informed buying decisions. Don’t forget that you can head to our shop either online or in person, should you need further advice.