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Vaping on a budget? Maybe you should make your own e-liquid

  • April 6, 2017 /
make your own e-liquid

Once you discover the joys of sub-ohm vaping, it's almost impossible to go back to regular-resistance setups. The flavor potential is just so much better. And those clouds. Those wonderful clouds...

Unfortunately, there's a literal price to pay for this luxury: sub-ohm vaping eats up a lot of e-liquid, and it eats it up fast.

So if you're worried about funding your vaping vices, but don't want to give up the glorious sub-ohm lifestyle, then maybe it's time to consider making your own e-liquid.

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Disclaimer: this article touches on the absolute basics of making e-liquid, and shouldn't be considered a comprehensive how-to guide. Before you attempt anything, it's highly recommended that you do more research on the matter. If you're brand new to vaping, or don't feel comfortable handling sensitive chemicals that could potentially be fatal, then it's probably best to leave it to the experts.

Why consider DIY e-liquid?​

  • It's cheaper. A premium bottle of e-liquid will set you back anywhere from $15 to $30. The upfront cost for DIY e-liquid supplies is less than $100, and future ingredients will cost you a fraction of your current vape juice budget.
  • It's fully customizable. You choose the flavor (or flavor combination), the PG/VG ratio, and the nicotine level.
  • It's pretty simple. You don't need to be a chemist to make e-liquid--it only has four ingredients! There is a learning curve--and plenty of safety precautions you need to be aware of--but once you get the basics down, it's smooth sailing.
  • You won't be alone. The DIY e-liquid community is strong, and you'll never have trouble reaching out for recipe ideas and helpful tips along the way.

Supplies needed to get started

At the very least, you're going to need:

  • A graduated cylinder. Make sure it has milliliter markers. You need at least one of these.
  • Syringes. These help for adding small amounts of ingredients (like nicotine). Again, they should have mL measurements.
  • Several bottles. These are where you'll store and access your e-liquid. Glass is generally considered a superior method of storing e-liquid, but plastic drip-tip ones are also perfectly acceptable (and a bit cheaper).
  • Disposable gloves. These are super important, since you'll be dealing with liquid nicotine. They're cheap, so don't skimp out on these.
  • Safety goggles. You don't want to accidentally rub any of the ingredients into your eyes, especially nicotine.

You may also want to consider picking up:

  • Additional beakers. Having one specific beaker per ingredient makes measuring quite a bit easier, and it also helps avoid unnecessary cross-contamination.
  • A digital kitchen scale. Making e-liquid by weight (instead of mL measurements) is more accurate, and generally a better way if you only intend on making small batches at a time.
  • A funnel. This will help getting your ingredients into bottles.

Required ingredients

Propylene Glycol (PG) and/or Vegetable Glycerin (VG)

PG and VG make up the bulk of your e-liquid. PG helps carry the flavor, and produces a cigarette-like "throat hit." VG dampens the flavor a bit, but produces a much smoother vape.

  • ​Note that you don't necessary need both. E-liquid can be made solely with VG--many sub-ohm enthusiasts actually prefer it this way, since it makes the vape much smoother and you get considerably bigger clouds. Max VG is also a great way to imitate smoking shisha.
  • If you're not sure, though, it's probably best to acquire PG as well. Don't worry, it's pretty cheap.
  • Make sure that the VG and PG you get is food grade. You don't want to vape anything that isn't meant to be ingested. If you're buying from a vape retailer, you have nothing to worry about on this front.

Nicotine

Nicotine isn't a required ingredient--you can make perfectly good e-liquid without it--but for many vape enthusiasts (like myself) it's a necessary evil.

  • Make sure you aren't buying pure liquid nicotine, which is incredibly poisonous. Instead you'll need nicotine that's been diluted with either PG and/or VG.
  • ​The PG/VG ratio of your diluted nicotine can vary depending on the seller. Some retailers offer a selection of ratio options--like 50/50, 70/30 etc.--and others only offer 100% PG and 100% VG.
  • Diluted nicotine also varies based on the overall nicotine content. The higher the nicotine content, the less liquid you'll be using in the final mix. If
  • Remember: in the wrong hands nicotine can be fatal! Make sure you keep it far, far away from children and pets, and always make sure you're wearing gloves as you handle it.

Flavor Base

This is probably my favorite part of home-made e-liquid: there are several different e-liquid flavor base manufacturers, and between them ​the options are seemingly endless.

  • Flavor bases are usually made with PG, though you may be able to find some made with VG. Just remember you only want to pick up ones that are specifically designed for vaping.
  • Flavor bases can be mixed together to make unique creations. It's probably a good idea to have several different ones available to you.

Starter kits will make your life easier

If you don't feel like scouring through the internet looking for every little thing you need to buy, then a DIY e-liquid kit is probably what you need.

There are lots of great options to pick from. Some of my favorites include:

  • MyFreedomSmokes. They offer a DIY e-liquid kit which you can customize to your liking. It starts off at around $53, but you can remove supplies you may already have to make that price even cheaper. On the flip side, you can also add things to it, which will make it more expensive.
  • Liquid Barn. For about $64, their DIY kit comes with everything you need plus 10 different flavor bases. Personally, I wish they had more basic fruit flavors to choose from (I'm a hookah guy, you know?), but if you like the flavors they offer, it's a great deal.

How to make e-liquid

Once you gather all your equipment--or simply buy a starter kit--it's time to actually make some vape juice.

The best tutorial I've found yet is this great video from New Amsterdam Vape. Check it out below.

Did you watch it yet? You should! If you're interested in making your own e-liquid, it's 10 minutes well spent.

Safety Precautions

Making your own e-liquid isn't hard, but it's imperative that you take safety very seriously. We've already gone over some of these things, but they're important enough to warrant repeat.

  • You absolutely must wear gloves and safety goggles. Nicotine can be absorbed through the skin, and as such shouldn't be handled without protection.
  • Do not use pure liquid nicotine! Remember: it's dangerous, can be fatal, and your e-liquid doesn't need it. Always make sure you're buying diluted nicotine specifically designed for vaping.
  • Always plan ahead with a DIY e-liquid calculator. This will help you make better vape juice, but more importantly, it'll allow you to keep the overall nicotine strength in check. You should never "guess" an amount.
  • Store your equipment away from the reach of children and pets, and always make sure you thoroughly clean your work space when you're done mixing.

Resources to help you along the way

Online DIY e-liquid calculators.

Use these to plan your e-liquid mixture amounts. ​Trust me, it's much easier (and probably more accurate) then doing the math yourself.

  • Steam Engine. This is my personal e-liquid calculator, as it has everything you need ready to go on one screen.
  • E-Liquid Recipes. Another great tool for DIY e-juice calculations.
  • Make My Vape. The most user-friendly calculator I've found, but limited in nicotine strength selection.

E-liquid recipes

If you're just getting started, it's probably best to use a template that's tried-and-true before branching off into your own creative flow.

  • E-Liquid Recipes. A massive database full of user-submitted recipes for vape juice. Not the most user-friendly layout, but if you dig long enough you'll probably find something you like.
  • 99 Juices. Another user-submitted recipe database. It's nowhere near as large as E-Liquid Recipes, but a little more organized.

Additional Information

Remember: we've only touched the very tip of DIY e-liquid in this article. You should absolutely do more research before jumping all in. Here are additional resources that will help you out.

  • /r/DIY_eJuice on Reddit. A thriving sub-reddit dedicated to home-made e-liquid. If you have a question, chances are high that it's already been answered here.
  • DIY E-Liquid on E-Cigarette Forums. Another great forum filled with valuable information pertaining to making your own e-liquid.