Steeping in the vape world is a misleading term. Normally it’s defined as putting a solid in water to soften, or to extract flavor—like steeping tea or marinating meat. When referring to steeping e-liquid, the word takes on a slightly different meaning. A more appropriate term would be “aging” your e-juice.
Steeping e-juice involves letting it age to achieve better flavor. There are many ways to do this, which we will go into more depth later. Essentially, it means letting the e-juice sit. The most important factor in this equation is time. It allows the ingredients (PG/VG, flavorings, and nicotine) to blend together. Additionally, some juice can contain trace amounts of alcohol, depending on the flavoring used, which will evaporate during the steeping process.
There is a lot of misinformation on the topic, but it can be broken down into three categories. Steeping, breathing, and “streathing”, which is just a combination of the first two processes.
Steeping is a process that is especially relevant when making your own vape juice. In most cases, a steeped DIY e-juice will taste much better than a freshly made one. While there are recipes around that can be “shake & vape certified”, and some companies have been producing better-formulated concentrates that require much less steeping, the truth is that most flavorings require time to blend in. Steeping simply allows the vape juice ingredients to congeal. As a result, the juice’s flavor and aroma become smoother and more pronounced.
This doesn’t mean that commercial e-juice will not benefit from some steeping. You might be thinking, “Why do I have to do this myself!? Why can’t they just sell the juice when it’s ready?” Well, most juice on the market is in fact steeped—because it’s likely been on the store shelves for some weeks—but made-to-order juice is not. It’s fresh! And chances are it will get much better if you let it steep for a while.
Start by placing your closed e-liquid bottles in a cool and dark place, such as a cigar box, a drawer, or a cupboard for an extended period. It’s also recommended that you shake your bottles every once in a while, to help expedite the process. However, the reality is that real steeping takes time—although there are some ways we will discuss to speed up the process a bit.
Breathing is sometimes confused with steeping, but it is a different process. Just take the cap off and let your e-juice bottle sit for a few hours. Vape juices that contain alcohol will benefit a lot from breathing, as it speeds up alcohol evaporation. In any case, we recommend no more than 12 hours of breathing e-juice. Leaving it off for too long introduces the possibility of spills and something unwanted flying into your bottle!
Streathing is essentially a combination of steeping and breathing, hence the name. To streath your juice, start by shaking your bottles, then run them under warm tap water. Take the cap off and place them in a cool, dark place for two hours. Put the cap back on and shake well.
When you heat your bottle of e-juice with warm water, the vegetable glycerin inside thins out, making it more like propylene glycol. The theory here is that flavor molecules will be more miscible with the thinner base. After the glycerin gets back to room temperature, the juice should be back to its normal viscosity, but the flavors should be more pronounced.
This is highly dependent on the juice and your perception of taste. Fruity flavors tend to require the least amount of steeping time—vape juices that only contain fruity concentrates will usually reach their flavor peak in 24 to 48 hours. Tobacco and creamy dessert flavors on the other hand, typically need more steeping for maximal flavor. It’s recommended that you let these steep for at least two weeks.
The whole point of steeping vape juice is to get the optimal flavor out of the juice, so if it tastes good to you, then you’re done. Some people like to steep their juice for 2-3 weeks, while others might even let it go for months. It’s highly subjective. You should observe the color of your e-liquid. If it becomes slightly darker, then you know it has been steeping.
When it comes to commercial e-juice, check your bottle and see if it has a born-on date or an expiration date. E-juice has a recommended shelf life of two years, so see where your bottle is according to that timeframe to check the likelihood of even needing a steep. If your juice is just old and the flavor is off, adding steeping time won’t help.
Most people simply don’t have time for steeping. Taste your juice. If you’re already satisfied with the flavor, don’t bother. Some people even prefer the taste of freshly mixed juice. Speeding up vape juice steeping has been a subject of debate among vapers—some swear by their methods while others claim that nothing can replace good old patience. If you feel like experimenting, here’s a few speed steeping hacks that you can try:
Bath – Fill a bowl, sink, or bathtub (depending on how much juice you’re steeping) with warm water. Not room temperature or boiling water, it needs to be just right—comfortable enough for your hand. Place your e-liquid bottles in a sealed plastic bag and let nature do the rest. Easy and effective.
Slow cooker – Not only good for making chili, slow cookers provide low heat at a consistent temperature for extended periods. Just fill your slow cooker up with some water and set it to the lowest heat setting. Place your bag of e-juice inside and periodically shake its contents around.
Ultrasonic cleaner – If you own an ultrasonic cleaner for vape gear or jewelry, it can also be used to speed-steep your juice. Just fill it up with warm water and let the power of ultrasonic waves send vibrations through your juice. This will allow the molecules to mix together quickly.
Magnetic stirrer – Transfer your e-liquid into a large container, preferably a glass one. Then place it on top of the magnetic stirrer and let science do the rest. This method works great, especially if you are creating your own DIY juice.
Seed Steeping – Not a typo. Seed steeping is when you blend already steeped juice, with fresh, un-steeped juice. This “plants the seed”, which will help to speed up the process.
There are many other “creative” steeping hacks to speed up the process. You can find them all over the web. However, we don’t recommend most of them. Using an electric dryer or a microwave oven might seem like a good idea in theory, but it’s hard to control the temperature.
Get creative, but don’t get too crazy. If you’re using plastic bottles, excessive heat isn’t ideal. In fact, it can alter the taste of your juice. If it works for you, go for it, but be smart about it.
The answer is yes. Juice that has been left to steep for very long periods may start to lose its flavor, or even get stronger—both on your throat and your taste buds. That depends on the specific ingredients used, and there’s no way to know before it’s too late. On top of that, nicotine will oxidize with time and may add an off flavor to your juice, especially when your bottles are not stored in dark and dry places.
Just don’t overdo it and don’t steep past the expiration date. Check your juice periodically during the steeping process. If it passes the eye, nose, and tongue test, then fill your vape up, sit back, and enjoy!
Whether you prefer making your own vape juice or buying it from the shelves, steeping might be the final touch an e-liquid needs in order to become your all-day-vape. And while everything happens on a molecular level, it can be more of an art than a science—especially if you are not in a hurry.
But be prepared! Steeping might add a magic touch, but it is by no means a miracle cure for bad juices. If you’ve been steeping a bottle for long and it still doesn’t taste right, it likely never will. Steeping can help flavors blossom, but a bad recipe won’t fix itself just by adding time.