What is “steeping” an E-liquid?
“Steeping” is a term that you may have heard before, probably in regards to making a cup of tea. When used about the world of vaping, however, steeping has a slightly different meaning.
Steeping e-juice is just another name for letting it mature with time. Doing so causes it to reach a more pleasant flavor. There are numerous steeping methods, each with its strengths and weaknesses, but the mechanism behind them all is similar. Steeping allows the various components of the eliquid to blend more completely.
Other, less significant chemical reactions also occur, and we will explore these a bit more later on.
Three similar but different types of action are commonly grouped under the “steeping” umbrella – Steeping, breathing, and a combination of the two called “streathing”.
Why do people steep e-liquid?
E-liquid consists of several ingredients, including a base, flavorings, and nicotine (and sometimes other substances, such as CBD).
All e-liquid bases consist of a propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine blend. The ratio between propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG) varies from e-juice to e-juice. Generally, those with a higher concentration of VG tend to be thicker, while higher PG ratios result in an e-liquid that is thinner and has a stronger throat hit.
There are many flavorings, natural and synthetic, that have found their way into vape juice recipes. Unflavored e-liquid isn’t a particularly pleasant experience to vape, so it is rarely encountered in the wild.
When the PG / VG base is mixed with flavorings it can take a certain amount of time for the compounds to bind properly. Heat, light, and oxygen also cause different flavors to change at the chemical level, much in the same way that wines and spirits are aged. Some e-juice manufacturers have taken things a step further, and you can now even purchase e-liquid that have been aged in barrels for the ultimate luxury experience.
Vaping e-juice that hasn’t been steeped results in a far less pleasant, often noticeably harsh vaping experience. Many users describe the taste of unsteeped vape juice as “soapy”, or perfume-like, and more detailed flavor notes are often lost against this overarching taste.
Steeping e-juice: A how-to
Most juice bought from stores will have already steeped sufficiently enough to be able to vape it immediately. However,. vape juice that is made to order, or DIY e-liquid that you mix yourself, will need to be steeped for a varying amount of time.
The most basic approach to steeping is to simply place your containers of vape juice somewhere temperate and out of the light. A chest of drawers or a box on a shelf will work just fine.
Recommendations for how long you need to steep juice vary from 1-4 weeks, but generally speaking, the longer, the better. To speed things along, you should remove and agitate the containers of e-liquid now and then.
If you’re impatient when it comes to vaping (like us), then you’ll be pleased to know there are some additional steps you can take to speed the process along.
Breathing Your Ejuice
Breathing, as the name suggests, involves exposing your eliquid to oxygen in the air. It can be as simple as leaving the lid off your bottle of juice for a few hours. Many E-juice preparations contain some amount of ethanol (alcohol) which evaporates during the breathing process. Other compounds may also change through oxidation, and the overall result is a smoother vape with more mellow and distinct flavors.
“Streathing” – The best of both worlds?
That’s not a typo. “Streathing” is a portmanteau of steeping and breathing. As you might imagine, streathing involves elements of both practices.
Streathing can be done in many ways, but we find the most effective is as follows:
- Shake your bottles
- Run the hot tap and heat the bottles under the stream
- Remove the caps
- Place your bottles in a cool, dark place
- Wait two hours
- Replace caps and shake bottles vigorously
Streathing works through a thinning of the e-liquid when it warms up. In this thinner fluid, the flavor particles interact and integrate more easily, and the characteristics become more pronounced
How long does it take to steep vape juice?
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to this question. The length of time you will steep your juice depends on a multitude of factors, from the kinds of flavorings that were used in its production, to how old it is, to the ratio of PG to VG, to your own sense of taste.
Generally speaking, the fruitier your particular vape juice is, the less time it will need to be steeped for – typically only 1 to 2 days. Sweeter, creamier “desertier” flavors will need to be steeped for significantly longer, as will those with strong tobacco notes. Anything from 2 weeks to 2 months is recommended for these heavier flavors.
A useful fact to know is that e-juice will darken slightly as it steeps and mellows. You can use this as a visual indicator to make sure that the desired chemical reactions are occurring.
How to speed up the process of steeping vape juice
The purpose of steeping e-liquid is to get it to the point where it subjectively tastes good. The best way to tell if vape juice is done steeping is to just test it. If it tastes good, it’s done! If it still has any lingering unpleasantness, maybe stick it back in for a few more hours or days (or try the streathing technique outlined earlier).
If you are like us, and impatient when it comes to trying new flavors, some hacks may (or may not, depending on who you ask) expedite the whole process a bit.
The Sink Method
Fill a tub or basin with water that is hot, but just about bearable on the skin. Place your vape juice bottle (with the cap on!) into a plastic bag and then into the basin and voila!
Use a crockpot
A crockpot or slow cooker can work wonders when trying to speed up the steeping process. Put it on the lowest setting and pour a bit of water inside to provide consistent heat. You can then just stick your bag of ejuice bottles in, close the lid up and wait for a few hours.
Use the power of sound
Some cleaning devices for vape products use sound waves to clean. They are known as ultrasonic cleaners, and can supposedly be used to help speed along the steeping process.
To use an ultrasonic cleaner in this way, fill it with warm water, place the juice bottles inside and activate the cleaner. The high-frequency sound waves will pass through the juice, agitating the various components together and promoting faster mixing.
Use a magnetic stirrer
If you make a habit of mixing your eliquids, it would be wise to invest in a magnetic stirrer. Magnetic stirrers offer a hands-off way to speed steep your e-juice blends. Simply transfer your concoction into a large container along with the stirrer, put it on top of the stirring plate, and let magnetism take care of business.
Other e-juice steeping hacks
There is no shortage of DIY methods of speeding along the steeping process, and you may even want to experiment with creating your own. Most DIY speed-steeping methods involve aerating or heating the ejuice to some degree. When you consider that plastic is the most common material for e-liquid containers, you can see why introducing heat might pose a problem. It’s best to steer clear of items such as hair dryers or microwaves that are capable of putting out a lot of heat. It can be very difficult to control the temperature of your e-liquid if you heat it with items like this, and you will in all likelihood impact the taste and quality.
What happens if you steep e-liquid for too long?
After a certain amount of time, the benefits of steeping hit the point of diminishing returns. If left for too long, the flavor of your e-liquid will begin to deteriorate. This may result in either an e-liquid that tastes too strong, has a harsh throat hit, or an e-liquid that loses its flavor entirely.
Over-steeped juice can taste very different from how it is intended. Over-oxidation of the flavorings as well as the nicotine itself can impart very unpleasant flavors, so it’s best to avoid keeping your ejuice around for too long if you can avoid it!
To prevent any flavor mishaps from over-steeping, check your juice periodically throughout the process. This is especially true if you decide to use any of the speed steeping methods outlined above.
If you have found certain brands or flavors of e-liquid unpalatable in the past, steeping may have been the missing piece of the puzzle. Hopefully, by now you have an understanding of how to steep your e-liquids, whether store-bought or self-mixed, to ensure you are getting the best possible flavor and overall vape experience.
Whether you are in a hurry and using our speed steeping processes or you are happy to sit back and take things a little easier, regularly checking on the flavor and appearance of your e-juice can prevent it from steeping for too long.
Steeping can do wonders for the flavor of just about any e-liquid, but it can’t fix things entirely. Some flavors of e-liquid just aren’t to everybody’s tastes, and no amount of steeping can rectify that.