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10 Reasons Why Your E-Liquid Tastes Bad

  • March 8, 2017 /
10 Reasons Why Your E-Liquid Tastes Bad

Vaping in general is ridiculously convenient. It’s quick to start, easy to maintain, and clean-up is usually hassle-fee—especially when compared to traditional hookah set ups.


Still, vaping is not without its quirks, and the number one issue people seem to have is e-liquid tasting, well, bad.

After lots of trial-and-error (and a little good old-fashioned research), I’ve gone ahead and compiled the ten biggest reasons why your e-liquid isn’t tasting as glorious as it should—and what you can do to solve the problem. I'll list them out now, and we'll talk about each one of them in full detail farther​ down this article. Here they are:

  1. You're not letting your e-liquid soak long enough
  2. You need to replace your coils
  3. Your voltage setting is too high
  4. You're using way too much nicotine
  5. You need to adjust your PG/VG ratio
  6. You're not letting your e-liquid steep
  7. You may have vapors tongue
  8. Your hookah is too big
  9. The brand of e-liquid you're using is garbage
  10. You need to clean your hookah​

I’ve broken this article down into three general categories--burnt taste, weak (or no_ flavor, and general ikki-ness--so you can get to root of your problems more quickly. Also: while this website is geared mostly towards e-hookah head users, almost all of these tips are applicable to any vaping device. So you’re still at the right place!

If you want to know more about buying the best e-liquid for your favorite vaping device, then check this article out.​

Burnt Taste

This is probably the biggest issue people have when they switch to vaping. Everything is all fine and dandy for a while, and then…bam! The disgusting flavor that can only be described as “burnt” hits the back of your throat.

The most obvious problem is that you’ve run out of e-liquid, and you simply need to refill your tank. In other words, you’re literally inhaling burning cotton. But I’m going to assume that you’re smart enough to figure that one out on your own. Beyond that, here are five reasons why your e-liquid tastes burnt:

You’re not letting your e-liquid soak long enough

This one is also pretty obvious, but I’m including it here because it’s a problem I had when I first started vaping (and is evident in some of my earlier reviews). When you fill a tank with e-liquid, the juice has to soak for a while.

Why? Well, think about what vaping is: you put e-liquid into a chamber, the e-liquid soaks into cotton, the coil heats up the e-liquid on the cotton, you get vapor. If you don’t let the cotton soak up enough juice, you’re just burning it. The result? You guessed it. You’re inhaling burning cotton.

You're not letting your e-liquid soak

Allow your coils to soak up e-liquid for 10-20 minutes

The solution: easy-peasy…just wait a while! let basic physics do its thing, and give your device 10-20 minutes to soak up the e-liquid.

If you’re truly impatient, some vape mods give you the option to speed up the wick saturation process by simply holding down the “activate” button for a minute or so. If you’re an e-hookah user (and activation happens when you inhale, not with a button), you can try to take several hits without inhaling to perform what it essentially the same thing.

A disclaimer: while the “quick fix” method does work in theory, in my experience it’s not as effective as simply waiting. It also seems a little wasteful, since you’re essentially telling your device to vaporize the juice without actually inhaling it. And you still risk burning the cotton wick, since you’re heating it up before it’s ready to go.

Moral of the story? Just wait, friend. Go for a walk. Watch an episode of Friends. Play with your dog. You will be okay for 20 or so minutes without vaping.

You need to replace your coils

If you’ve been vaping on the same coil for a while, only to suddenly have it taste like someone is pushing exhaust fumes into your mouth, then you probably need to replace it.

Why? Again—we’re dealing with cotton here, and the lifespan of cotton is not infinite. After a certain amount of usage, the cotton will degrade, and it won’t soak up any more e-liquid. And, just like that, you’re inhaling burnt garbage yet again. What a disaster!

The solution: another easy one—simply replace your coil. I always have at least 5 extra coils ready to go just in case. If you use the Square E-Head or Volt E-Vapor, you can buy extra coils here (they use the same kind).

That being said, it’s always good to know when when you’re coils are getting ready to kick the bucket before you have to endure unnecessary burning. As a rule of thumb, if your favorite vaping device isn’t performing as well as it should—smaller clouds than usual, hits are harder to pull, flavor is weak, etc—it’s probably time to replace your coil.

Time and utilization play the biggest roles here. The more often you vape, the faster you’ll use up a coil. Most people say that the life-span of your average coil is about 2 weeks, and that sounds about right to me. I can usually get away with the same coil in my e-hookah heads for about three weeks before I need to replace them, but your milage may vary. All coils are a little different, and all vaping habits are a little different.

you need to replace your coils

It's always a good idea to have extra coils handy.

Your voltage setting is too high

The amount of power you use on your favorite vaping device is a very personal choice. Some flavors of e-liquid work better with higher voltage sets ups, and some people enjoy the results of higher voltage set-up. There isn’t really a right-or-wrong way to do it…if it tastes good for you, go for it.

If you’re switching from hookah to vaping, though, you probably want a smooth, easy to draw vape. If this is the case, then you probably want to stick with lower voltage settings.

your voltage setting is too high

3.5V is a good place to be for fruity, low nicotine e-liquid flavors

I’m not really prepared to give you lecture on voltage , but here’s an (extremely simplified) way to look at it: when you increase the voltage, you’re drawing more power from the battery. By drawing more power, you increase the intensity of your vaping session. Again, finding that “sweet spot” is all personal preference.

The problem, of course, is the automatic assumption that “higher voltage” automatically means “better results.”

In my experience, this is certainly not the case. If you’re using an e-hookah head, then you probably have the option to adjust the voltage from 3.2V to 6.0V. Spend too much time beyond 4.5V and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It starts behaving more like a cigarette…in other words, the throat hit comes much sooner than a hookah smoker would find ideal. While this type of “burning” isn’t the same as the literal burnt taste I talked about earlier, it can be jarring if unanticipated.

How do find that “sweet spot?” It’s pretty easy…start as low as you can go, and gradually raise it until you find it. Don’t do it the other way around.

Keep in mind that I haven’t discusses atomizer resistance or wattage here, simply because e-hookah heads don’t have typically have variable wattage and most coils you’ll find are almost always going to be 2 ohm. If you’re more interested in learning more about sub-ohm vaping with variable wattage mods, this article from the Ashtray Blog is a great resource. 

Oh, and if you’re interested, I rarely go over 3.5V on my e-hookah heads (using 3mg nicotine, 50/50 PG:VG). This is my “sweet spot.”

You’re using way too much nicotine

Nicotine plays a very important role in vaping, especially for seasoned hookah-smokers. Without it, you don’t get the “bite” associated with that classic hookah-buzzing feeling.

But you also don’t need a lot of it. This is another case of “more” not necessarily meaning “better.” Higher levels of nicotine intensify the throat-hit burning sensation I mentioned a little earlier. If you’re used to cigarettes, then this may be something you’re going for. But if you’re used to hookah, you’ll want a smoother experience. This means using less nicotine in your e-liquid.

How much less? Personally, I’d go with 3mg. It’s what I’ve been using for a while now, and it’s smooth. Real smooth.

Naturally, this is another personal preference deal. Different strokes for different folks, if you will. But If you’re doing everything else right—replacing your coils before they go bad, letting your e-liquid soak, and staying within low-voltage territories—and your juice is still burning more than you’d like, then maybe it’s time to cut the nicotine back a little.

If you’re having trouble finding e-liquid with differing nicotine levels, try ordering online from a specialty vendor. I’ve had great success with both Mount Baker Vapor and Vista Vapors.

Weak Flavor/No Flavor

Flavor and vaping. The concepts go hand in hand. The ability to utilize great, multi-faceted flavors is one of the best things about vaping, so the issue of weak (or no) flavor can be particularly heartbreaking—especially if you’re used to smoking hookah.

Unfortunately, things get a little more complicated here. Don’t get too worried, though: it’s still pretty easy to fix. You just may have to exercise a little trial-and-error to get the best results. In other words: use these tips as a framework, and adjust as needed.

You need to adjust your PG/VG ratio

When most people start vaping, they seem to harp on two specific characteristics of e-liquid: nicotine level and a flavor choice. These are both very important components, but there are two other inredients you need to worry about: propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). The PG to VG ratio plays a super important role in how effective your vape session is—and how much flavor you’re getting.

In a nutshell, e-liquid with higher PG concentrations result in a stronger throat-hit and more flavor. Higher VG concentrations result in a smoother vape session, but tend to diminish flavors. Both are important—you want flavor, but you don’t necessarily want the intense throat-hit associated with VG. You also want a smooth vape, but don’t necessarily want the flavor-killing aspects associated with PG. The key here is to find that perfect balance.

And what it that balance, you might be asking? Well, it’s up to you, really. Some people swear by an 80:20 PG/VG ratio. Some people scale that PG back to 60:40 concentration. Some people don’t care as much about flavor and go the other way, choosing 30:70 or even 20:80. You’ll even find extremists who opt for 100% VG or 100% PG.

My advice? If you’re using an e-hookah head, go for 50:50. The water in your hookah base will iron out a lot of that throat-hit from the 50% PG concentration and will still retain most of the flavor. I’ve used the same concentration with a sub-ohm vape mod, and the results are mostly similar…though I do get a little more throat-hit than I’d like.

The best way to test this out for yourself is to buy several small bottles of e-liquid with varying levels of PG and VG and see which ratio works the best. Most custom e-liquid shops online give you the option to choose the PG/VG ratio you’d like.

You’re not letting your e-liquid steep

E-liquid is like wine—it gets better with age. In order to get maximum flavor potential, you’re going to want to let it steep for a while.

Keep in mind that steeping isn’t the same as letting your coil soak. Steeping your juice means to let it sit out for a while before actually using it.

Why would you want to do that? It’s because e-liquid isn’t quite done maturing once it’s all mixed together, and the flavor has not yet come full circle. So when you buy a bottle of freshly-made juice from your favorite custom vendor, it actually needs more time before it’s actually really to use.

Steeping is an art-form in and of itself, but here’s the basic gist of it:

  1. Lightly shake the bottle for a couple of minutes
  2. Place the bottle in a cool, dark place
  3. Wait for a period of time, then use to your hearts content

How long you wait is usually preferential, but it’s mainly based on the type of flavor you’re using and the size of the bottle (bigger bottles take longer). Like I said, it’s an art, and there are a lot of variables to play with here. I like to keep my 30ml bottles from Vista Vapors in the dark for about 10 days before I even think about vaping them (I stick to fruity flavors, in case you were wondering).

Here’s the deal: the very concept of steeping is a little controversial. Some people claim that it has no effect whatsoever, though in my experience it really does. It really boils down to where you get your e-liquid. If you buy from a custom vendor online (like Vista Vapors or Mount Baker Vapor), they usually mix it up to order. This means you’re getting fresh juice that needs to steep. If you’re buying a ready-made bottle from somewhere like Southsmoke or Hookah-Shisha.com, then you probably don’t have to worry about steeping at all.

I like to buy my e-liquid in batches, and order a new batch right before I begin an existing batch. Wow, that’s a lot of batches in one sentence. In other words: I start with two orders (of four 30ml bottles). When I’m doing with the first order, I go ahead and order another one. This way I always have e-liquid steeping, and never have to worry about going a day without ready-to-use juice.

You may have vapors tongue

This is the most irritating problem of them all, because you’re never really sure if you have it or not. But if you’ve been vaping on the same exact flavor for a while, you may have the dreaded vapors tongue.

Simply speaking, vapors tongue is when you get so used to flavor that it just doesn’t taste like anything anymore. It sounds pretty terrible, and I can attest that it is (more on that in a second). Thankfully, there’s a pretty easy solution: mix up your flavors more often. Who’da thunk?!

I actually came across a pretty bad case of vapors tongue when I first started vaping. I was a strictly-mango guy, since that was my primary hookah flavor. At first, the flavor was glorious. And then, slowly but surely, that wondrous mango flavor began to dissipate as the days went by. Next thing you know, I’m puffing on what seems to me like a whole-lotta-nothin’.

It wasn’t until I decided to switch to another flavor—I think it was a Jolly Rancher wannabe—that I realized the extent of my issue. I could actually taste something! And then, after a while…that flavor went away too.

I have learned the error of my ways since then, and never order the same flavor in sequence anymore. I’m still pretty conservative with my choices, and never veer away from my three favorites, but this way I get to avoid vapors tongue and live my life to the fullest.

Unfortunately, vapors tongue may also be caused by damaged taste buds, dehydration, and sickness. Sorry, I can’t really help you with those. Maybe it’s time to see a doctor?

Your hookah is too big

This particular issue is specific to e-hookah head users, but I’m sure you figured that out by now. Anyway, e-hookah heads require the utilization of an actual hookah pipe. And size matters. Really, it does.

Allow me to cut to the chase: e-hookah heads work better with smaller (shorter) hookah pipes. Or, to be more specific: smaller hookah pipes allow for greater flavor potential.

How small? Well, dear reader, I’ve tried them all, and the best ones tend to be one-size up from personal pumpkin hookahs. The bigger you go, the lesser the flavor.

Why is this? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest. It’s not a problem I’ve had with actual shisha—when I smoked the real thing, bigger hookah pipes were usually the way to go. I think it has more to do with the overall difference between smoke and the vapor produced. Smoke from actual a shisha/coal rig is very thick, and vapor is very thin. Shorter hookahs tend to have smaller bases, and therefore there’s less water to pass through.

I’ve been using 14” Junior Hookah from Southsmoke (it’ll set you back $49.99), and it works great. They also give this particular hookah away for free with purchases over $125, so that’s something to keep in mind.


A 14" Junior Hookah works great with e-hookah heads

General “ikki-ness”

This final category is sort of the “if all else fails” of the bunch. If you really don’t like the flavor of e-liquid you’re vaping on, and you’re absolutely sure that it should be better than it is, these tips might help.

The brand of e-liquid you’re using is garbage

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the right ones. What kind of e-liquid are you using? Is it high-quality juice you bought from a reputable vendor, or is it cheap junk you found at the nearest gas station? It makes a difference, trust me.

Your vaping session can only be as good as the e-liquid you’re using. In case you didn’t know, there are four ingredients in your favorite bottle of juice: propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), nicotine, and flavor. That’s it. If you’re using a throwaway Chinese brand, who knows what else you might find in there.

So do yourself a favor. Toss that cheap crap into the nearest garbage can, and get some good stuff. Your taste buds will thank you for it.

How you go about getting the good stuff is completely up to you, but here are some suggestions:

  • Find a vape shop nearby that mixes e-liquid fresh (usually the most expensive option)
  • Find a vape shop online that mixes e-liquid fresh and then mails you the results (usually the cheapest option)
  • Stick with a reputable mass-market brand that is well known among vaping circles (can be obtained in-person or online, depending on where you like to shop)
  • Make your own e-liquid (for the adventurous type)

Like I’ve mentioned earlier, I go with online vape shops. They offer the best prices, and the flavor selections are massive. You also get to choose your own content ratios (PG/VG, nicotine level), which is a big plus in my book.

You need to clean your hookah

If you’ve been vaping on an e-hookah head for a while, you already know that it’s an incredibly neat process. And I mean that literally—clean up is so minimal, you end up wondering why you didn’t start vaping sooner! No ash, so sticky shisha everywhere, and the water doesn’t discolor after every use.

Alas, that doesn’t mean you get away with not cleaning your hookah. While e-liquid vapor doesn’t gunk up your pipe like the real thing, it still leaves residue. It still gets dirty, and if you don’t clean your hookah regularly, the flavor is going to suck.

don't forget to clean your hookah

You're still going to need one of these...sorry

This means you still need to have the right brushes to clean it with, and you need to have an extra hose or two handy. Also: make sure to change the water out regularly. At the end of day, it’s really not all that different from smoking the real thing. And the total hookah experience wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have to clean up after yourself from time to time, right?

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