DIY E-Juice for big savings
Make your own Vape juice - Vape the flavor YOU want
There will always be companies out there selling juice. Some brick and mortars used to even make juice for local vapers, but not anymore (Thanks FDA!).
As an end user and vaping enthusiast, one has to wonder: If all these guys can make e-liquid, why can't I?
Pretty much any one can make their own e-juice and get a custom flavor with a big bonus. You can get some huge savings!
Keep in mind that prices vary but down at the local store, premium juice is $22 and house juice is $12 for 30ml. Since beginning to make my own juice a few years ago, 30ml of homebrew e-juice costs less than one dollar.
One dollar! No joke!
Start up costs for buying all the bottles, liquids, nicotine, flavorings and all the other little accessories can add up pretty quick. Keep in mind though, the savings pay off fast and it is fairly obvious after the first couple of weeks of not buying premium vape juices. The savings will keep adding up going forward.
The upsides are obvious here. Juice that you like to vape and can be proud of at a super low price.
Time savings are also to be enjoyed when you run out of juice and need more fast. Making one decent sized bottle of shake-and-vape all day vape juice takes me about ten minutes. Just getting to the store takes longer than that.
However, some juices need a steep period (more on that later) or waiting a period of time to produce their full flavor profile.
Be warned: DIY e-juice turns into a hobby real fast.
Once you start mixing your own juice, if you like it, you will spend a lot of time making your mixes better and trying out new things. You will even set aside space for mixing instead of just putting everything in a tub or box.
I have a dedicated desk as my mixing station with all my ingredients, flavors and accessories on and around it.
Browsing forum and reddit threads for new recipes or ideas will become something you do instead of going to the vape shop when you want to change flavors. You may even drop money on new flavor ingredients just to try out a recipe people are raving about.
Since starting making my own juice, I have acquired several dozen flavors in various quantities. Some that are used all of the time and some that have only been used a few times.
Nicotine Safety Warning!
Nicotine can be Poisonous in High Enough Concentrations
The main concern with making your own e-liquid is safety around the nicotine. Nicotine is poisonous and should stored in a safe place away from the reach of children or animals.
Nicotine safety is no joke. Be careful with this item.
In large enough doses, nicotine can cause a person to be come sick, perhaps even enough to need to go to the hospital and in extreme cases can cause death. If you have children or animals, you must lock up any nicotine on the premises instead of just putting it in in a hard to reach area.
You should be careful not to get any nicotine concentrate on your skin by wearing lab safety gear.
Your skin will absorb any chemical that is on it. If you get any nicotine on your exposed skin, don't wait! Wash any nicotine off of your skin immediately. If you get any nicotine in your eyes, it could lead to blindness, so be sure to protect your eyes. If you get any substance in your eyes you should flush your eyes with water for several minutes.
Wearing the following lab safety equipment will help reduce risks of nicotine exposure:
- Wear long sleeves - either a shirt or over coat
- prevent getting nicotine on your clothing by wearing an apron
- disposable rubber or latex gloves
- safety glasses to prevent getting anything in your eyes
Nicotine residue left of any pipettes or syringes can be concentrated enough to be toxic
When selecting your recipe options on a liquid recipe calculator make sure that your nicotine concentration level is the right one for you.
Don't try to vape high concentrations of nicotine. Nicotine as it comes is in extremely high concentrations, as high as 100mg/ml and must be diluted to a safe amount. This occurs as part of the mixing process when calculating your recipe in one of the setting boxes.
The most common desired final nicotine amount is 3mg of nicotine per ml of juice. This amount can be adjusted higher or lower depending on your needs. Most mouth to lung vapers or recent ex-smokers may desire a higher nicotine concentration.
Some flavor bases may have chemical make ups that you may personally not find desirable for your usage. Some flavor bases, such as classic butter and cream flavors, are made using chemicals that may contain acetyl propionyl, diacetyl or diketones.
Some flavorings are made from oils are for food usage only and should not be used in vaping. Make sure to read the descriptions and avoid anything that has the word oil.
Most manufacturers run chemical analysis on their flavors and publish the results on their websites. Flavor brands such as Capella Flavors also publish warnings on their individual product pages for the flavor that lists any ingredients that you may be uncomfortable using.
Large flavor manufacturers usually have alternative flavor mixes available that don't have these ingredients in them and are usually denoted in the name with something like v2 (version 2) or DX to denote it doesn't have diketones.
Not all flavors that are for sale by these manufacturers are safe for vaping. For example: you should avoid anything that has an oil in it. Be sure to investigate any flavors you are considering using in your mixes.
What to do When You First Start DIY
Getting Started Mixing your own Vape Juice
When you first get started mixing DIY e-liquids, getting all of the supplies needed can be overwhelming and seem costly. If you aren't sure you want to keep mixing, just get the bare minimum and don't get any extras until you know that you are going to keep with it to limit your investment.
Most of the supplies, other than nicotine and flavor concentrates, can be ordered from Amazon. The most time consuming part will be finding your first recipe and waiting for the ingredients to be delivered.
Acquire the Right Equipment and Accessories
We mentioned above in the nicotine safety section what kind of safety gear that will be needed when you are handling nicotine but just to reiterate, you will want:
- latex or rubber gloves (the nitrile gloves from Costco are pretty good and cheap)
- safety glasses or goggles to prevent any substance from getting in your eyes (a face shield would probably be best to prevent any splash on your face but is probably overkill)
- long sleeve shirt (or lab coat if you want to go full science nerd)
- paper towels
- access to a sink (just in case)
There are several liquid bases that are required to make DIY e-juice.
When looking at a bottle of brand name vape juice or recipe, the ratios of liquids will say something like 70/30 VG/PG. This is just saying that the mix is 70% VG and 30% PG.
Propylene Glycol or PG is the liquid used to thin out your mix but it also acts as what is known as a flavor carrier. The PG is what the brings out the flavor from the concentrates and in fact most flavor concentrates (even some nicotines) are suspended in PG for this very reason.
Since the flavor concentrates are suspended in PG, it doesn't usually require that much more pure PG is added to the recipe to get to the desired ratio but some, even if a little, is still required to add most of the time. I wouldn't buy more that one quart of PG max.
One quart (32oz.) is enough to last years even if you make a lot of juice. Make sure that it is USP grade. I try to go with the highest purity levels available just for peace of mind. 99.5% purity is considered pharmaceutical grade but PG is often available that exceeds those levels.
Vegetable Glycerine (VG) which is what makes up the bulk of e-juice. A pretty large amount, relative to batch size, will need to be added to any mix. I make a lot of juice and found it was just easier to buy one gallon at a time.
Again, USP pharmaceutical grade is best, but you also want to make sure that is is Palm derived. The FDA has warned that VG made with the Jatropha plant, which can contain toxins, including phorbol esters.
VG can be vaped on its own without any additives and has a sweet taste when vaped plain. In fact, a simple mix of VG and nicotine can help resolve some issues with vaper's tongue. It taste surprisingly isn't that bad on its own, just boring.
Nicotine, probably the most important ingredient for most vapers (HA!), can be ordered from most places that sell flavor concentrates. A general guideline here is that it is desirable for it to be made in a US lab with USP grade carriers. Nicotine can be suspended in either PG or VG and is available in varying strengths.
Since nicotine isn't known for storing well, I usually order 100mg/ml, suspended in VG, in 125ml (or less) bottles. Extra bottles can be stored in the freezer. The reason to go with nicotine in a VG carrier is because it is easy to add more PG to a recipe but not easy to take any away.
Flavor concentrates are the items which will be the most time consuming to pick and order in the right quantities. There are thousands of different choices from several manufacturers. Flavor concentrates come in small sizes, as little as a few ml, for rarely used flavors all the way up to several ounces or even gallons.
One shot flavors, with several base flavors being premixed, are also available for easy mixes or as a base for other recipes.
Be aware that flavors vary from one manufacturer to another. One strawberry may taste completely different from another and usually does. This fact can be used to make more interesting flavor profiles or can lead to disappointment.
A good digital food scale is required for mixing vape juice. Since every recipe will be calculated based on how much the ingredients weigh, the best scales to get will have a tare function, which resets the scale to zero with weight still on it. The scale will need to be accurate to hundredths of a gram (0.01g). Personally, I have found a battery operated one is most convenient, but may not be the most responsive time wise.
Pipettes, like the ones used in science class, are necessary to get the right amount of nicotine and flavors into the mix. They are easy to use, cheap and are able to be accurate down to the drip. Having one pipette for each flavor bottle without a built in drip will prevent any flavor contamination.
Clear Kitchen Condiment (Squeeze) Bottles are recommended for storing your base liquids. Keeping your PG and VG in clear squeeze bottles makes the mixing process so much easier and accurate.
To store finished mixes, get a variety of different size glass dripper bottles. They come in either amber or cobalt, brown and blue respectively to prevent being exposed to sunlight, in sizes of 15ml (.5oz), 30ml (1oz), 60ml (2oz) and 120ml (4oz). These dripper bottles are typically marketed as being for aromatherapy or essential oil mixes but are well suited for vape liquid.
At the minimum, I recommend getting several 15ml bottles for making test mixes and several 30ml or 60ml bottles, depending on target batch size.
Getting a few unicorn bottles is also a good idea as they travel well without risking any breakage. Typically, I avoid making, mixing or storing e-juice in these bottles and only use them when traveling.
A drill and a three prong laboratory clamp with extended arm make mixing a breeze. More on this later.
Other things that are nice to have are organization items.
- Several smallish boxes or tubs are nice for organizing any concentrates and other supplies.
- Having sticky labels applied to juice bottles makes it easy to keep track of them.
- A folder for keeping any recipe print outs and a notebook for keeping track of any notes, thoughts, experiences, or ideas.
Finding your First Recipe
... and acquiring the ingredients
When starting out with DIY vape juice, the best course is to follow well reviewed, widely available recipes.
Over time as you get more ingredients in your cupboard and find recipe creators that have similar tastes, the number of recipes you will be able to make with your on hand supplies will grow.
Acquiring several common flavor ingredients that are used in the recipes that appeal to your tastes may be a good idea to save time and shipping fees.
Finding a good recipe isn't very difficult these days.
There is a pretty active community for DIY juice makers on reddit in the /r/DIY_eJuice subreddit. They have best recipe contests, monthly recipe threads, lots of active users, plenty of good advice and feedback.
Another really good resource for DIY is e-liquid-recipes.com. ELR also has an active forum but the best part of the site is the searchable recipes and flavor database along with ratings and comments from the community members. The recipes automatically load into a customizable recipe calculator for easy adjustments.
For this article, we are going to be using E-liquid-Recipes, thanks to its huge database of recipes and its fantastic e-liquid calculator.
Without a certain recipe in mind, cruising around for a good one is pretty easy. Just sort the recipes on the homepage based on the rating.
There are quite a few, hundreds if not thousands, of reviewed, rated, well tested recipes that can be browsed through by page. If something doesn't pop out or if a specific flavor is in mind, just do a quick keyword search and sort by rating again.
ELR can even suggest a recipe based on individual flavor concentrates or can suggest recipes based on available ingredients linked to your user account.
There are so many recipes being shared, there could be a diamond in the rough with no reviews what so ever.
If the recipe chosen doesn't have all the details right i.e. the correct kind of nicotine concentration or amount to be made, click the wrench and then adapt.
Finding some new ideas is made easy by looking at adaptations.
If everything looks good to go, just click print.
At the calculator (adapt) screen is where any changes can easily be made. The system will default the adaptation to 10ml, a sample bottle size, and reset the nicotine time to PG base.
Adjust the levels to the correct specs and print.
Optionally, if you have an account you can save this to your private recipe stash.
Acquiring the ingredients for the recipe selected can sometimes be a chore but most ingredients are available from the manufacturer's web page such as Capella, Flavorart, The Perfume Apprentice and among others.
Buying flavors individually at each place can get pricey and time consuming. Online stores have popped up that cater to DIY vapers which stock pretty much any flavor widely available in one spot.
We have had pretty good luck using WizardLabs to source flavor concentrates. They have a pretty huge selection, several different volumes per ingredient, good prices and ship from Florida. They even include easy to use tips for the 1 oz. and up bottle sizes which is convienent.
How to Measure, Make and Mix your Vape Juice
There are different methods for mixing and measuring your e-liquid. We are going to use the method that involves measuring by weight in grams as it is by far the easiest method available.
Most recipes may have percentage based measurements but recipe calculators will make the necessary conversions to weight based on amount of liquid by milliliter that is being made.
Ingredients are inserted typically by the overall percentage the individual ingredient makes up of the total recipe.
Once the levels of the recipe are adjusted, nicotine concentration, PG/VG ratio and the ingredient percentages are adjusted, print out the recipe for easy reference and note taking.
You should already be wearing your safety equipment and have your scale along with any other items that you may need, such as paper towels set on a flat, stable surface, like a desk.
Set your flavor concentrates, PG and VG squeeze bottles, nicotine container and the corresponding pipettes in an open, clean space.
Try to keep your pipettes on a paper towel to keep the tips clean and absorb any seepage. It is a good idea to pre-label any pipettes with a permanent marker for easy reuse and to prevent any cross-contamination of flavors. Also, keep the one being used with nicotine separate from the others.
Most scales will adjust themselves automatically if there is an existing weight, such as an open glass bottle, already on the scale surface. If not just press tare to set the scale to zero once the bottle is placed. The tare function will reset the scale to zero, whether weight is present on the scale or not.
Make sure your scale is set to grams and not ounces.
Now that the ingredients are set out and the scale is set correctle, we are ready to add our ingredients to the bottle, one by one.
Quick tip: Try to avoid just squirting the pipette at full blast, take your time when adding the ingredients. Most scales have a small delay from the time weight is added and when the display is updated to the correct weight, so don't try to speed through. While you may not be able to get the exact weight desired, try to get as close as possible.
After each ingredient is added, press the tare button to avoid any mistaken measurements. It is also a good idea to either mark your recipe or just to return the ingredient to its storage box.
Typically when mixing juice vape juice, I start with the nicotine as it is the most risky ingredient. I use the nicotine and its dedicated pipette, then return to its quarantined area, where it can't be accidentally touched. If you have kids or animals, you may want to throw the pipette in the trash or place it in a plastic bag and lock it up with your nicotine.
Next, the flavor concentrates are added, then the PG and VG are added in last.
Once, all the ingredients are added, all that is left at this point is the actual mixing. This can use the old shake by hand method or any of the other clever mixing methods floating around in forums and videos.
I have found that mounting the bottle in a modified laboratory clamp attached to a drill is the easiest mixing method. This method isn't for everyone. It takes a little work but is it makes mixing e-juice easy once everything it is assembled.
The clamp can be had for about $10 on Amazon. The arm of the clamp as shipped is way too long and is easily shortened using a hacksaw. The claw can be unscrewed from the arm, which isn't desirable or even necessary, but it can be secured with some blue threadlocker to prevent it from loosening.
How To Steep Your E-Liquid
What is steeping?
Some vapers who just buy their vape juice from the store or internet may not even be aware of steeping and why vape liquid should be steeped in some cases.
Steeping is a term used to describe a process by which a vape juice is allowed to age, sometimes artificially, in order to allow the flavors to meld properly, come together and taste as the creator intended.
A lot of times, the juice is made a few days before or even the same day as you order it, particularly with online vape juice suppliers. The juice simply doesn't have the time to age appropriately on the way to be delivered. It needs to be aged or steeped for the flavors to taste right.
Anyone that has ordered a huge bottle of juice has learned that when by the time they get to the bottom of the bottle, the juice is tasting better. The contents at the bottom has aged for longer than the juice at the top.
Steeping is even more important with DIY vape juices as it doesn't get to just sit on a shelf in a warehouse waiting to be sold.
Some juices, in particular the flavored ingredients, need more time to come together than others. Fruit based juices as well as bakery flavors seem to be good fairly quickly but juices with custards and creams need some extra steeping time. Typically, fruit flavors will mellow out a bit and be smoother, while creams and custards will become more prominent and less artificial tasting.
In some cases, a recipe author will label a recipe shake and vape. As it sounds, these juices just need to be mixed.
Other times, the author will give their personal steep instructions for results they enjoy.
For the best flavor and the easiest steeping method is just simple time. Put the bottle of liquid in the closet, away from sunlight, for two weeks to a month. For even better results, agitate (shake vigorously) the juice every day or two. Some vape enthusiasts even recommend taking the cap off for short periods of time, from fifteen minutes to several hours, to allow some of the contents to evaporate and oxidize a little bit.
After two weeks or up to a month, the juice will taste better and the flavors will have had time to blend together as the maker intended.
Unless the juice is just garbage. If it smells like perfume and burnt hair on the first day, it may be some bad stuff. In that case, steeping it for a year won't make it any better.
Don't want to wait? Just go with a shake and vape recipe or use a speed steep method.
How to Speed Steep your Juice
Who wants to wait two weeks to a month to get some juice that is ready for vaping? There has to be a better way, or in the case, faster with almost as good results.
Vape juice can be artificially steeped by applying a little heat and agitation. There are a few ways to apply heat to the juice.
I usually avoid using heat on plastic bottle for obvious reasons. A plastic and heat don't play well together. Plastic can melt or even release some chemicals when heated. With plastic bottles of ejuice, I go with the slow method of wait to vape or transfer the juice to glass bottle.
Each of the following methods are similar and should take about four hours.
Simple hot water bath steep (more effort):
- put the bottles in a bowl of hot water with the water level just up to the cap
- every fifteen minutes give the bottles a vigorous shake
- if the water has cooled down, pour it out and add more hot water
- repeat for several hours
The crock pot steep method (less involved):
- place the bottles in water up to the cap
- put the temperature on low heat
- shake bottles every 15 minutes
Far and away the easiest steeping method is to use an ultrasonic cleaner with a heating element. The upfront invest may seem like a lot, but it is well worth it. Ultrasonic cleaners are awesome for steeping juice but also for cleaning tanks, particularly when they still have machine oil residue, and even wires, particularly premade clapton wires that may have machine oil or even metal dust on them.
The ultrasonic cleaner with a built in heating element will keep the water warm and will continuously agitate the vape juice. What could be easier?
Ultrasonic cleaner steeping method (easy mode):
- fill with preheated water and place bottles in the basket
- set timer
- set temperature (60 degrees Celsius is about 140 degrees Fahrenheit)
- press start
- some ultrasonic cleaners will have a maximum time of thirty minutes to an hour, so it may need to be reset a few times
Other methods that don't involve water (results may not be very good):
- the leaving the juice in a hot car method
- nestling the bottle in some uncooked rice that has been heated in the microwave
Each of these speed steep methods can be augmented by leaving off the cap to allow the vape juice to evaporate and oxidize for a small amount of time, usually around fifteen minutes at some point during the steep.
Typically after any sort of speed, warm water steeping, it is a good idea to allow it to cool to room temperature with the cap off to allow any strong aromas to escape.
After trying out a steep method, keep notes on the results to determine how it could be made better. Did it not get enough steeping? Too much and now the flavor is faint?
Eventually, your juice will be just right, most of time, after a steep and if not, you will know how to fix it.
Next Steps in your DIY vape career?
Now, the first batch of e-juice has been successfully mixed and steeped. The results may have even been outstanding.
Get some feedback from your friends. They may be able to give some helpful critiques that will allow you to refine your methods and your flavor profiles.
Finding some new recipes, flavor combinations and fine tuning the steep process will all get better with more experience, so keep trying.
Augmenting and Adjusting Recipes to Suit You
The easiest way to get the flavor you want
Find a recipe that you like to use but isn't quite 'there':
- adjust the percentage levels of a flavor up, down or even removing it
- substitution of one flavor for another or one brand profile for another brand profile
- add in a flavor in a small increment that might make another flavor taste better (example: some flavors, like strawberry, often benefit from adding in an extra type of the same flavor)
- Combine two or more similar recipes for surprising results.
- Combine two recipes may go together like chocolate cake doughnut and cream doughnut for for chocolate cream doughnut.
Coming up with Your Own Recipes
Your initial mixes may suck! When you start out making your own recipes, you will have more failures than successes.
As time goes on and you get more experience mixing your own e-juice, coming up with your own flavor profiles and developing your palette (your taste buds!), you will have more successes than failures.
When you first start out, make small batches to try out. 7ml - 10 ml batches are easy to make with a recipe calculator, which will adjust the ingredient amounts automatically for you when you adjust the batch size.
Try out your DIY vape juice on a variety of devices and builds. It will taste different in different settings. Some recipes go better on a flavor chasing rda or single coil RTA than on a cloud tank. Some mixes are great in sub-ohm tanks but are just overwhelming on an RDA. Take notes after trying the juice out on each device to get a feel for what recipe is good to drip and which is good to rip.
Another big tip is to start simple.
If you are trying to come up with your own recipe, you have to get to know the flavors you are working with. Small batches of single flavor juice will allow you to know what the flavor actually tastes like without being polluted with other flavors.
Once you have a sense of what you are working with, start combining flavors two or three at a time. This will give your recipe a good base that you can augment by adding other supporting flavors.
Disclaimer (use this information at your own risk): You are responsible for everything you put into your body and are responsible for investigating any products you consider using to make your vape juice. The information we (vapingscout.com) have provided is for informational and entertainment purposes only. We cannot be held responsible for any individuals causing injury or even death to themselves or others from the use or misuse of the information on this website.