E-juice flavour doesn’t stay constant over time. In fact, letting it age a little—in a way not dissimilar with that of wine—can improve the flavour further compared to when you vape it fresh out of production. The practice of aging e-juice for the sake of better flavour is called steeping.
Steeping usually implies submerging a solid in water so flavour can sink in more, such as leaving a coffee bag in a mug of hot water for a longer time for a more potent brew. In the case of e-liquid, you’re not mixing it with another substance. A common steeping method is to simply leave the cap on your e-juice open for several days in a cool, dark place, with occasional shaking.
Some vapers even speed up the process by finding creative ways to apply heat or to continually stir up the e-liquid, both of which age it faster. The result—at least for some e-liquids—is deeper, more refined flavour since its ingredients have had more time to interact with each other.
When to Steep an E-Juice
There isn’t a hard and fast rule to steeping. Some e-liquids will work well with steeping, while others don’t need it at all. In general, if you find that your e-liquid has an overly strong or sweet flavour, you can try steeping to mellow it out. E-liquid flavours that are complex tend to do better with steeping. Tobacco and dessert-based flavours are likely to benefit from a few weeks of steeping, while it’s not as needed with fruity flavours.
E-liquids that are freshly made actually have a sharp, chemical taste, so hands-on vapers who make their own e-liquids are likely to see improvement by letting it age for a bit. On the other hand, commercial e-liquids have probably been on the store shelves for a while so they’ve undergone steeping, and the flavours will be softer and more well-blended.
Ultimately, it depends on your tastes. Vaping in itself is highly subjective, with every vaper having their own preferred setup. The only way to tell is to taste the e-liquid initially—if you feel like the flavour can be tweaked or improved upon, you can experiment with steeping.
How Steeping Works
When you steep, you’re giving the e-liquid’s ingredients more time to congeal and bind together, gradually producing a flavour and aroma that’s smoother and more distinct. Because of chemical reactions happening in the e-liquid, including oxidation because of increased exposure to oxygen, the flavour will shift.
You’ll also notice that the colour darkens, an effect that’s more pronounced with high-nicotine e-liquids. What’s happening here has been described as the Maillard reaction, which happens in wine and seared steaks as amino acids and sugars react to create more complex flavour substances. Another reason for the change in flavour is that steeping lets volatile molecules and extra gases evaporate. These are the main culprit for the “too sharp” taste in fresh e-liquids.
However, there’s a difference between an e-juice that’s well-steeped and one that’s already too old and approaching its expiration date! Make sure to check your e-juice’s expiration, which is typically two years after production. An e-juice that’s close to expiring will taste stale, off, or bland, and steeping it won’t help at all.
The Basics of Steeping
The safest way to steep is to let your e-liquid age naturally. This might take some patience, but the flavours are likely to develop better. The more complex the flavour, the longer it’ll take to steep.
For the least amount of effort (but greatest waiting time), just store your e-liquid in a cool, dark place, like a closet or cupboard or even under the bed. Keep it away from the three banes of e-liquid: heat, light, and oxygen.
You can look to your e-liquid flavour as a loose guide for how long to steep:
- Mint and fruity flavours – less than a week, usually one to three days
- Tobacco flavours – two to four weeks
- Dessert flavours – two to four weeks or even several months
Ways to Enhance Steeping
These two techniques complement steeping:
Breathing simply means uncovering your e-liquid bottle so the e-liquid is exposed to air and letting it stay like that for around 12 hours in an appropriate storage area. This is especially helpful for e-liquids that are chemical-tasting since it’ll evaporate the alcohols and other volatile compounds, resulting in a more balanced flavour. Don’t leave it out for too long, though, because the flavour might weaken too much.
Streathing combines steeping and breathing. Essentially, you leave the e-liquid in storage for several days or a few weeks, depending on the flavour, while occasionally removing the cap and shaking the bottle twice a day. Although some e-liquids can undergo streathing for a few weeks, there will already be changes in the flavour as soon as five days in.
How to Age E-Juice Faster
Steeping an e-juice naturally can take a bit too long, and you may want to vape your e-juice already. There are a lot of easy creative hacks that will speed up the process for your e-liquid. These methods mainly involve heat, which makes chemical reactions happen faster, or agitation for greater dispersion of the e-juice flavour.
In exchange for speed, though, the shelf life of your e-liquid might shorten. This isn’t really a concern if you’re planning to finish your e-liquid within a few months or less. You also have to be careful not to overdo the heat and degrade your e-liquid. When applying heat to your e-liquid, it’s safer to stick with glass rather than plastic bottles.
For all of the techniques below, let your e-liquid breathe for a minute or two afterwards by uncapping it, then shake well and taste. If the flavour’s still too strong or sharp, repeat the entire process until you’re satisfied:
Fill a bowl with warm water or heat water in a saucepan. The temperature of the water should be comfortable enough for you to be able to dip your hand into it. Put your e-liquid bottle in a zip bag and leave it in the water for 10-15 mins.
Microwave your e-liquid bottle on high for around 10 seconds. Alternatively, you can microwave uncooked rice in a bowl until it’s moderately hot, then sink your e-liquid bottle completely into the rice so it absorbs the heat. Once the rice cools down to normal, remove the bottle.
This method also submerges the e-liquid bottle in hot water. Fill a crockpot with water, place your e-liquid bottle in a zip bag inside, and then turn it on to low. Check the e-liquid after 30 mins. If you’d prefer further heating, leave it in for two or four more hours.
This involves transferring an e-liquid that’s already steeped to your original e-liquid, then letting the mixture steep for a few days. 10% to 20% of the old e-liquid is enough to speed up the steeping time.
This technique works because of agitation. Fill up the ultrasonic cleaner with water and put your e-liquid inside, then leave the cleaner on for 30 minutes.
Put your e-liquid in a large glass container such as a beaker and place it on a magnetic mixer. You can top off the container with a paper towel or use a flask with a cork to avoid too much air exposure.
Steeping Can Make a Huge Difference in E-Juice Flavour
Whether or not to steep e-liquids is a personal choice. Aside from e-liquids naturally going through steeping if they’ve been around for a while or if you’re vaping them more slowly, many vapers choose to steep certain e-liquids to enhance the taste.
The best method is to store your e-juice for several days up to a few weeks with occasional uncapping and shaking. You can speed this up through heat or agitation, although there’ll be a compromise with flavour as compared to natural steeping. Either way, experimentation is key to finding what’s appealing for you, and steeping can make a huge difference in your e-juice flavour and overall vaping experience.