They called me mad when I decided to mix chocolate and orange to produce a Terry’s-style e-liquid.
Unfortunately, they were right.
Whether it was down to the balance of flavours or the specific orange I used, the combination was more like eating an orange with the aftertaste of chocolate still in your mouth than chocolate delicately-infused with orange. I tried again, dialling back the orange and bumping up the chocolate, but it still didn’t quite hit the mark.
Most people who mix e-juice have similar experiences to this. Getting creative with your flavour combinations and seeing what you can come up with is part of the fun, but sometimes you just want something tasty to vape. If you’re pressed for time, or you don’t want the inevitable trial-and-error of the mixing process, there is an ideal solution in the form of flavour concentrates.
But what are they? How do you use them? Are they worth buying?
What are Flavour Concentrates?
Flavour concentrates essentially give you the flavouring mixtures of your favourite e-juices without the PG, VG and nicotine to make it into a full e-juice (although they’re generally diluted in PG). The idea is that instead of combining specific flavourings to produce the right combination or replicate the taste of your favourite e-juice, you simply buy the ready-mixed and perfectly-balanced combination of flavourings to add directly to your mixes.
The good news for EU-based vapers is that the lack of nicotine means that concentrates don’t come under the bottle size restrictions of the TPD. You can pick them up in a variety of sizes, but most of the time you’ll get 30 ml of the concentrate.
Pros of Flavour Concentrates
- Perfect mixes, every time
- Easy to use
- Cheaper than buying the e-juice directly
- Replicate your favourite flavours
- Purpose-made for vaping - see below!
Cons of Flavour Concentrates
- Takes some of the creativity out of mixing
- Still takes more effort than buying pre-made juice
- You need to invest in mixing equipment at first
Flavour Concentrates Are Designed for Vaping
One of the big benefits of using flavour concentrates instead of flavourings sourced from elsewhere is that they are explicitly designed for vaping.
While most home mixers use food flavourings that are repurposed for vaping, companies making these concentrates do so in the knowledge that people are going to vape them.
Juan Lopez-Belmonte, head of product stewardship at Cuts Ice which manufactures the T-Juice concentrates (which include the invidual elements of their popular Red Astare 10ml juice), emphasises that there’s a huge difference between Food Grade ingredients and what Cuts Ice call Vape Grade ingredients. Simply put, food grade testing does not go nearly far enough when dealing with ingredients for inhalation.
In the first stage there is a screen for any ingredients which could have carcinogenic, mutagenic/genotoxic, reproductive toxicity and respiratory sensitization properties - effectively, anything which science tells us is likely to be harmful or cause an allergic reaction.
In the second stage, which goes well beyond current regulatory requirements (even for 10ml e-liquid), toxicologists carry out a comprehensive of all remaining ingredients to ensure that no undue chemicals are delivered, via inhalation, to users.
Not all companies go this far in product stewardship, and it’s worth noting that concentrates, while covered by general product safety regulations, are not covered by the Tobacco Products Directive. This reiterates the importance of buying from reputable companies which go the extra mile when it comes to product safety.
A Warning: Don’t Vape Flavour Concentrates Without Mixing
Before we go on to discuss what you do with flavour concentrates, it’s important to stress what you don’t do. Directly vaping flavour concentrates is a really bad idea: always mix the concentrates with PG and VG before vaping.
Of course, it isn’t exactly dangerous to directly vape the flavour concentrates, just a really bad idea because it will taste gross. Additionally, if you vape concentrates you’ll risk clogging up your wick and killing your coil.
How to Use Flavour Concentrates
Using flavour concentrates is easy as long as you’re comfortable with mixing e-liquid. They’re designed to simplify one part of the process, so you’ll still need to be able to do the rest of it if you’re using flavour concentrates. Because of this, it’s really only recommended if you’ve been vaping for a while and understand what you’re doing.
If you already know how to mix, it’s really easy: make your e-juice as normal, but when you come to add the flavourings, simply use the flavour concentrate in place of your normal mixture of individual flavourings.
If you don’t know how to mix, the process will be a bit more of a challenge, but you can still get started pretty easily. You’ll need a bottle of PG, one of VG and some nicotine “base” (i.e. strong, concentrated nicotine) in addition to syringes with flat-tipped, large-gauge needles and (optionally) some accurate scales. On top of this, you should get some bottles for your completed mixes, complete with dripper spouts and child-proof caps.
The biggest challenge of mixing for the first time is getting the nicotine level and PG/VG ratio right for your intended mix. Luckily, calculators like Steam-Engine’s DIY mixing calculator are perfect tools for this job. Enter the size of the bottle you want to make, the details of your nicotine base (including the strength and whether it’s PG or VG based), and your target nicotine strength and PG/VG ratio. There is also a spot for you to add the percentage of flavouring you want in the mix (more on this later). The “Recipe” section on the right then displays how much of each ingredient you need to add.
The key thing to remember is that accuracy is important. While it’s unlikely to matter that much if you’re a little bit out, you should take care to measure everything out as accurately as you can. This is why accurate scales are really useful, but if you don’t have any, use the markings on the side of your syringe and remember to keep it upright as you measure. Aside from that, you just add the ingredients to an empty bottle, add the cap, give it a strong shake to mix and then you’re good to go.
How Much Concentrate Should I Add?
The best amount of concentrate for any given mix isn’t always easy to determine. Generally, companies selling concentrates will recommend the strength of the mix, with 15 to 18% being recommended for the concentrates sold here at E-Cigarette Direct.
However, generally, 5% is considered a low amount of flavouring, 10% is a medium amount and 15% is a high amount. In my experience (and to my taste), 5% and 10% are both too low, and so 15 to 18% is a good recommendation, but you can keep this in mind and experiment to see what works for you.
Concentrates Make Mixing Easy
Making your own e-liquid is always pretty straightforward, but flavour concentrates take the guess-work out of flavour creation and make it much easier to produce good mixes every time. So if you’ve been interested in trying DIY mixing, but have always felt like it might be too difficult, concentrates are a great tool for a new mixer. Give it a try and start saving money!