How to Steep E-liquid
Posted 24th Jul 2014 to Vaping Style and Culture
For as long as electronic cigarettes have been around there have been numerous questions regarding how to properly steep e-liquid. Most of the common questions that arise are related to which technique will provide the best steeping results, what is the fastest way to steep e-liquid, is it possible to speed up the waiting period, or how long does e-liquid need to steep for? Unfortunately there isn’t currently a universally consistent answer to many of these and other vaping questions that new users generally ask. It can often be extremely frustrating searching for this information and discovering several diverse suggestions and ideas without any definitive answers. However, one thing is for sure, steeping does not have to be complicated, scary, or even costly depending on which process is used.
What is Steeping?
First let’s start off with explaining what exactly “steeping” means, and what it does to the e-liquid. Steeping is the process by the various components of an e-liquid are further blended, while also allowing the juice to properly mature and intensify to its full potential. Essentially steeping involves providing a cool, dry, and dark environment, (away from sunlight), to place the e-liquid for a certain length of time in order for the taste and fragrance to fully intensify. Once steeping is completed, it is very common for the e-liquid to naturally darken due to the molecular interaction with nicotine.
How Do You Steep E-Liquid?
Now that we’ve discussed what steeping actually is, let’s cover some of the most popular and efficient methods for steeping e-liquids. Once you receive a new e-liquid it is advised to try the e-juice the way it arrived first in order to determine if that particular juice needs to be steeped or not. Regardless of which steeping technique you decide to use, the first step is always the same with every method. First, take the bottle of e-liquid and remove any plastic seals and the top cap, (and plastic tip or dripper if applicable). Once the cap is removed smell the e-liquid and take notice of the different aromas present upon opening the bottle. If the desired fragrance is absent or completely different from what was expected, then the e-liquid might take slightly longer to steep before reaching the ideal flavor composition. One thing to keep in mind is that all of these steeping methods provide the same results, it just depends on personal preference and which process each vapor feels most comfortable with.
Let’s start off with the easiest methods first and work our way towards the more advanced processes of steeping
This is the most common and easiest method of steeping, but it also has the longest wait time of all the processes. To allow the e-liquid to breath, remove the top cap and dripper tip and let the bottle sit for a few minutes. Grab the bottle and lightly squeeze to expel any old air inside the bottle and to let fresh air inside. When using a glass bottle of e-liquid you can either skip this step, or take a clean blunt-tip syringe or glass dripper and very carefully draw out some of the air on the surface above the e-liquid. Next place the uncapped bottle in a dark drawer or sealed container where the e-liquid can remain undisturbed for an extended period of time. Every day or two remove the bottle from the drawer/container and give it another squeeze to let fresh air interact with the e-liquid inside the bottle. Repeat these steps until the desired scent is achieved, along with a minor darkening of the e-liquid. If the e-liquid is still not at the flavor profile you are seeking, then continue the steps above for a few more days. This steeping process may take anywhere from a few days to about a week and a half.
Another easy method to steep e-liquid is to shake or agitate the e-liquid in order to continue mixing the various components inside the e-juice. This process is similar to the “Time/Breathing” method, with one difference…you shake the bottle vigorously before opening the cap. First take the bottle and shake it for approximately 60-90 seconds. Without removing the cap, place the bottle in a secure dark container for at least 24 hours. After the 24 hours have passed, remove the cap from the bottle and proceed to squeeze the bottle the same manner as previously listed. Place the opened bottle back in the dark container for another 24-48 hours. During this waiting time it is common to experience a small amount of evaporation accumulating on the rims of the bottles due to disrupting the compounds in the e-liquid. Take a tissue or paper towel and wipe away the excess liquid and continue to steep the e-liquid. After the waiting time has passed replace the caps and shake the bottle for another 30-60 seconds. Repeat this process until the desired scent and taste are achieved. The combination of shaking and breathing the e-liquid usually speeds up the steeping time to about 5 days.
Hot Water Bath
Now we get into the more advanced methods of steeping e-liquids. It should be known that not all e-liquids need this type of intensive steeping. The methods listed above can be easily implemented before attempting the more advanced and time consuming processes. To use this method of steeping, first place the capped bottles in a small waterproof zip lock bag (preferably double bagged, to prevent water from entering the bag and destroying the labels.) Next place the bag of bottles in a small bowl or coffee cup, (depending on how many bottles are being steeped), and fill with warm water, Not hot water! Make sure the water level reaches the level of e-liquid in the bottles so all the e-liquid will be heated equally and the bag won’t float. Leave the bottles in the warm water until the water becomes room temperature or cool. Remove the bottles from the water and shake each bottle forcefully to even out the e-liquid temperature throughout the bottles. Replace the bottles in the sealed bag and repeat the process with warm water another 2-4 times, shaking the bottles each time between water changes. After the final water change and shaking of the bottles, remove the caps and place the bottles in a dark secure container or drawer for at least 24-48 hours. Similar to the “Shaking” method, you may notice small e-liquid bubbles on the rim of the bottles after the 24 hour period. The purpose of using a “Hot Water Bath” is that it allows any components in the e-liquid, (like alcohol), to heat to a point of evaporation while thinning and blending the various ingredients. A notice of caution when using any method involving heat, heat is not a friend of nicotine and will break down the nicotine content in e-liquids if too hot!
Here I have detailed a slightly controversial method to the traditional steeping processes. Reports of using microwaves to steep e-liquid have been circling the internet and vaping community for some time now. This process is similar to the “Hot Water Bath” treatment, except with the addition of microwaves shooting through the e-liquid to create a process known as dielectric heating. If this method is going to be used, it is advised to place an uncapped bottle in the microwave for only short one or two second surges. Even small five second bursts of heat on half power have been known to melt or damage the integrity of the bottles. Using one second intervals, with a 10 second cooling off period in between, for a total of a minute should provide adequate heating. After the heating is completed, the uncapped bottles should be placed in a dark container to steep for a minimum of 24-48 hours.
Although this method may provide successful results for some individuals, it is recommended to have some knowledge of chemical composition and reactions before attempting this or any “homemade” steeping method. As I stated above, nicotine reacts quite negatively to heat and without proper caution and patience when using these methods your e-liquid could end up being destroyed.
A few things to remember before you grab your new e-liquid and begin to decide which steeping method to use. A good rule of thumb is to always check with the vendors you purchase your e-liquids from to see if they recommend steeping their e-liquids or not. Although there are some manufactures that pre-steep their juices before shipment, the majority of vendors recommend at least some steeping in order to enhance the juices to their optimum level. Remember, not all e-liquids need to be steeped either. If you receive a new e-liquid and love the way it tastes then there really isn’t any reason to proceed to steeping that particular juice. Every vapor has a different taste palette and preference, so if one juice doesn’t taste great to you, try steeping it and see if you can reach the level you prefer. However, steeping isn’t the “cure-all” some vapors claim it to be. Sometimes a juice just isn’t your cup of tea, so if that’s the case, gift it away and move on to discover the perfect e-liquid for you!