DIY Vape juice: a brief introduction
One of the few drawbacks of vaping is the cost of e-juice. If you use a sub-ohm setup, you can easily burn through 10 mL in a day. These costs can add up, particularly if you’re a fan of premium and more expensive e-liquid brands. And often your choices are limited. Maybe you want to vape on a non-existing profile, like pineapple tobacco or a watermelon custard juice. Or even worse, the vape shop is out of your preferred nicotine level and you leave empty-handed or with something you don’t really want.
Don’t worry, there’s a solution to all these problems: make your own e-liquid! If you already have your DIY supplies ready for making DIY e-juice, your next step will be to experiment with some tried-and-tested recipes. For everyone else, here’s an easy-to-follow guide on how to make high quality homemade DIY e-juice. We’ll cover what DIY supplies and ingredients you need, how to mix DIY e-juice, vape calculators, steeping, tips and tricks, and more.
What Is DIY e-juice?
In the simplest terms, making your own e-liquid involves mixing together the three main elements that make up e-juice: base liquid of PG and VG, nicotine, and flavor concentrates. You don’t necessarily need all of these, for instance, if you prefer your e-liquid to be nicotine-free or even unflavored. The idea might sound overwhelming, but it’s a lot easier than you might think. You don’t need advanced knowledge of chemistry – if you can make a cocktail, you can make your own vape juice.
How to mix DIY e-juice: choose your way
There are two ways to mix DIY e-juice: by volume or by weight.
When mixing by weight, each ingredient is introduced to the mix by weighing it, taking its specific gravity into account. VG, PG, flavorings and nicotine all have different weight per mL, so you will also need a vape juice calculator that includes these values to make everything easier.
Mixing by volume involves measuring each ingredient’s volume with the use of a large set of syringes (ideally one per ingredient). There is some cleaning involved, as this process is a bit messier than just squeezing liquids from one bottle to another.
Note: The simplest way to mix by volume is by using drops from a pipette of dropper bottle. It’s not ideal for scaling up or conveying to others due to a drop not being a real measurement. It’s also the least precise way of measuring for nicotine, so we caution against using drops to get your nic percentage bang-on.
We recommend mixing by weight as it’s cleaner and more accurate – especially for smaller quantities of e-liquid (like batches under 100 mL). Mixing by volume is fine, but it can get messier and will be less accurate than mixing by weight in most cases.
What you need to make your own e-liquid
Regardless of the method you are going to use to make your e-liquid, and your preferences for what you would like to vape in the end, you will need the essential ingredients and supplies. Here is your checklist:
- Base Liquid – Or in other words, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol: the two most important ingredients in e-juice. Your base liquid, which is ultimately unflavored zero nic e-juice, can come already premixed in a ratio like 50/50 or 70/30, but we would advise buying a liter of VG and 500 mL of PG to have flexibility over the final ratio of your juice.
- Water-soluble flavor concentrates – These determine what your juice will ultimately taste like. There are thousands of individual concentrates to choose from, which can be combined to make countless unique recipes. You can also buy one-shots, where multiple flavors are pre-mixed. These are ideal for beginners, and some major juice-makers already sell their own ranges as one-shot concentrates.
- Nicotine – Nicotine is totally optional. The strength of nicotine you choose to buy depends on your preferred nicotine level. A 100 mL bottle of 36 or 48 mg/mL nicotine should be enough for beginners. Nicotine is usually suspended in a PG solution, but you will be able to find it in different ratios if you shop around. Be very careful when handling and storing nicotine. Its efficacy as a poison tends to be overstated but spilling large spills of high strength could be problematic. Please keep your nicotine out of children’s reach.
Note: The TPD limits nicotine availability in the EU to 10 mL bottles of 20 mg/mL strength. These nicotine boosters can be purchased one at a time, but shops usually offer them for cheaper in packs of ten or more.
- Storage Bottles – Store your base liquid in individual squeeze bottles with nozzle tips to make it easy to add to your homebrew. A couple of 100 mL condiment bottles should be ideal. If you use nicotine, store your nicotine in amber or cobalt bottles – the dark color and solid glass helps slow the degradation.
- E-Juice Bottles – For your early experiments, buy a selection of 10 mL plastic bottles for test recipes and some 60 mL bottles to make large amounts of your favorite homebrew e-liquid. These are cheap and widely available.
- Labels – Buy some cheap sticky labels to write the details on before sticking to the bottle. In time, you may find it easier and more polished to use a label maker such as the Dymo 160.
- Gloves – Always have a box of disposable gloves handy. These are invaluable and available at any corner pharmacy.
The rest of the equipment depends on the mixing method you will choose to follow:
- Syringes for mixing by volume: you’ll need a selection of syringes. We advise getting some 10-30 mL syringes for your base liquid, and plenty of 1 mL syringes for nicotine and flavor concentrates. You’ll also need some needles – we recommend 14 gauge to make dealing with thick VG easier.
- A scale for mixing by weight: you’ll need an electronic scale that goes to 0.01 grams. This is accurate enough to deal with almost all DIY e-liquid recipes. You should also make sure that the scale can weigh at least up to 200 grams – you may think that 100 grams is enough, but if you ever decide on mixing larger quantities or use glass bottles you will need the extra headspace. You will also need at least one syringe for your nicotine – this way you can have more accurate results and avoid nicotine spills.
DIY vape juice kits
If you’d prefer to get all your DIY supplies in a bundle, there are many kits out there to choose from. Most beginner DIY kits will come with all the essentials you need to get started.
The vast majority of DIY kits are bundled for mixing by volume and will include a variety of syringes along with the essential e-liquid ingredients. If you are undecided between weight and volume, buy a starter kit and a scale. This way you can give both a try and decide on what’s best for you. But even if you have already decided to mix by weight, buying a DIY starter kit wouldn’t hurt. Chances are you will end up using all the elements included in the kit in due time.
Nicotineriver offers an excellent beginner kit that includes everything you need to start mixing. The kit includes a whooping 15 flavors — if you are not sure which ones to pick you can read our flavorings and recipes guide. You can also choose between regular nicotine and nic salts (both come at 48 mg/mL.)
If you want a reliable and affordable scale, the American Weigh Scales LB-501 is considered the golden standard by most DIYers out there. It weighs up to 500 grams in 0.01-gram increments, and it comes with calibration weights and a 10-year warranty.
E-juice calculators: an essential tool
Regardless of the method you decide to follow, chances are that at some point you will need an online calculator. A calculator simplifies the whole process by giving you all the info you need, be it the amount of nicotine needed to reach your favorite strength, or how much from each ingredient you will need to end up with a 70/30 e-juice. It may sound challenging, but it’s super simple.
Many calculators are web-based, while others are available to download for mobile or desktop. One of the easiest and most popular is the web-based calculator of E-liquid-recipes.com (eLR). Simply fill in your preferred nicotine level, ratios and flavor percentages and the quantities of the ingredients will appear in the bottom of the page. For mixing by weight, you will have to use your scale and add the equivalent amounts of grams. For mixing by volume just use the syringes to measure the appropriate amounts of milliliters that your recipe requires.
The following video gives a step by step guide to mixing, and explains how to use a calculator in depth:
eJuice Me Up (desktop) — a very detailed and highly customizable calculator with one drawback: if you are mixing by weight, you will have to register the specific gravities of your ingredients yourself. All the info you need can be found here, but with other calculators already doing it automatically, we’d only suggest this one if you are mixing by volume.
Juice Grinder (desktop) — a calculator with an intuitive interface and a lot of extras and tools to play with. The free edition has practically everything you will need to start mixing (with up to 20 flavors!), while a $15 donation unlocks the inventory feature. It even features a series of useful situational calculators, as well as backwards compatibility with eJuice Me UP.
E-Liquid Calculator – Vape Tool (Android) — an easy to use mobile calculator for mixing up to eight flavors. Mixing by weight requires an extra step in this calculator, as you will have to save your recipe first for the grams to appear. The free edition comes with ads, but they are not very intrusive in the interface.
Congratulations, you now you have your first homemade bottle of DIY e-juice! What now?
Post mixing: what to do after you make your juice
Labeling – Label your mixes with the following: VG/PG ratio, nicotine level, flavor percentage and date created. Do this immediately. You’d be surprised how many beginners don’t, only to be stumped when they find a perfect blend but with no way of recreating it. Save your recipes in a notebook, spreadsheet or on e-liquid recipes.com.
Steeping – This often confounds newcomers to the DIY e-juice world. Most homemade e-juice containing more than one concentrate needs a certain amount of time to let the flavors blend and settle. This varies with every mix but you’ll often find multi-layered dessert or cream-based mixes need over four weeks to reach their best, while simple fruit recipes might not need to steep at all. Most recipes come with a recommended steeping time. As well as this, there are various methods that aim to speed up the steeping process but these are a subject of much controversy in the DIY e-juice community.
Testing – Once your e-juice has steeped, it’s time to test it out. It’s best to use a good quality dripper or rebuildable atomizer rather than a tank. This saves wasting coils on potentially substandard e-juice and easy rewicking makes sampling different juices quicker. Be aware that ohm and temperature can greatly affect the taste – juice that tastes great at 80w on a 0.2ohm RDA vape is likely to taste very different in a 1.8ohm tank at 15w.
Storage – Sunlight, heat, and oxygen can have a negative impact on e-juice so keep your homemade juice in a cool dark place. And make sure they’re safely out of reach of pets and children.
Tips and tricks of DIY e-juice
- Take full advantage of online tools and resources. Reddit has many subs dedicated at DIY and e-liquid-recipes.com offers much more than its calculator. One of its most useful features is the flavor stash – input your stockpile and eLR will come up with a list of e-juice recipes you can make.
- Less is more! Using larger amounts of flavor doesn’t necessarily translate into a more flavorful vape. In some cases, overdoing it will end up muting the flavor of your e-liquid!
- When following existing recipes, avoid directly replacing concentrates between brands. One brand’s “Peach” might be a realistic ripe peach while another’s might be a candy or a canned peach. And flavor profile is not the only reason you should avoid replacements…
- Be aware of how potent your concentrates are. Potency varies not only between brands but even for flavorings of the same brand. Companies like Flavourart and Inawera are notorious for their potent concentrates, where 2% is more than enough to dominate a recipe, but even some of theirs can be used in the 5-10% range. A good indicator of potency is the “average mixing quantity” percentage, which can be found in each flavor’s page at eLr.
- Take Notes – After testing, make plenty of notes, either online or in a notebook. Is one note too strong? Would it be better at a 50/50 PG/VG blend rather than max VG? Keeping detailed notes will help improve your future e-liquid mixes and vastly help your homebrew/DIY e-juice skills.
- Single flavor testing – want to find out how each concentrate will affect your mixes? The first step is vaping it on its own. Go by eLR’s recommended percentages if you are not sure where to start from.
Don’t forget that, as with every hobby, e-juice DIY can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can mix a simple vape juice in less than a minute, or spend months trying to come up with the best ten-flavor combination for a traditional Thai dessert e-liquid. It’s all up to you. Have fun with it and, who knows, maybe you can start your own vape juice line one day!