This is a guide for vapers who are curious to know what steeping is all about, and why it’s done. When base ingredients (pg, vg and nicotine) are mixed with flavorings, mixtures require time and patience to allow for all the chemicals to bond molecularly. Juice is steeped to get the best tasting vape, as the flavors were intended to be. Pre-mixed e-liquid that arrives fresh at your door can in some cases have a very strong chemical or perfume smell. They simply won’t taste right until they’re adequately steeped. Think of steeping as like ageing a wine or curing tobacco etc. In the case of steeping, two key components are required for the process, heat and oxidation.
Steeping will mellow and round out any unpleasantness, assuming they’re good flavor ingredients. If a juice has poor quality flavoring ingredients (in terms of taste) then unfortunately no amount of steeping will improve it. With DIY mixing steeping is mostly a necessity. For pre-mixed juices made with ethanol (Virgin Vapor) steeping or breathing with the cap off is a must, as any excess ethanol needs to evaporate. Some pre-mixed juices don’t require any steeping (T-Juice, Halo) and are good straight from the bottle, once they’ve had 24 hours to adapt to room temperature. This is because they’re pre-steeped. If you’re unsure a certain juice needs steeping, it’s best to contact the vendor you bought from and ask for their advice, I advise the same for questions regarding steeping times.
I recommend the warm dark place for sheer convenience, all it requires is a small space that’s dark, warm and secure. Always remember to keep your juice well out of reach from children and pets while it steeps. Treat it no differently than any other common household cleaning products.
Cap on in a warm dark place
Most sites state you should remove the cap and dripper, in truth I’m also guilty of giving the same advice in a previous comment. However, I stumbled across an interesting experiment carried out by a Reddit user. The results show that it makes absolutely no difference whether the cap is placed on or off while you steep. It appears to be a pointless exercise, unless it’s an ethanol base in which case it needs to be off.
Rigorously shake the bottle and leave it to sit in a warm dark place. After each day, repeat this process as the more exposure the mixture has to air (shaking helps oxidation), the faster it will steep. That’s all there is to it.
For how long should I steep using this method?
This is a difficult question to answer because like everything else vaping related, subjectivity (among other variables) can play a large part, in short there’s no definitive or all-encompassing answer to this question for any steeping method. The first port of call is to contact the vendor you’ve bought from for information on particular brands and flavors. If they can’t answer the question then ECF, Google or Reddit is your friend (any good vendor should know this info). Use it as a starting point and from there you can experiment. Steeping times vary for every brand and flavor and it’s also highly subjective.
Trial and error is the best way to find that perfect sweet spot. Test out your eliquid each day and watch out for changes in color. You should start noticing subtle but gradual changes and it’s really just a matter of pinning down the time frame that suits your personal taste. As a general guide however, more complex flavor blends normally benefit from prolonged steeping times. Simple fruit and menthol flavors can be ready to vape within a few days of steeping, or even freshly mixed. You can steep juices anywhere between 2 days and for as long as 2 months. Over steeping is also possible and certain flavors can lose some of their appeal when left too long.
A good indication that a juice is sufficiently cured is when you note a change in color, when a juice takes on a darker tone, this occurs when the ingredients create a molecular bond with nicotine, this is usually the best indication that it’s ready to vape. Some manufacturers have observed that higher nicotine levels require lower steeping times.
Utilizing higher temperatures to speed up the process
You can use heat to your advantage if you don’t have the time or patience for the warm and dark place method. You should always use glass bottles when steeping using heat, don’t exceed temperatures of 30-60 C / 80-140 F (Higher temperatures will result in faster steeping times). I’m not an expert but melting plastic can’t be good for your juice and who knows what chemicals may leach from plastic when heated. Stick with glass bottles to avoid contaminants but also for the benefit of your health.
Heat and light are like kryptonite to nicotine, if you over heat juice or expose it to too much light, it degrades nicotine. What this means is that you could start out with a 12mg juice and finish up with a lower level of nicotine if it’s heated too high or for too long. Nicotine is photosensitive and light causes oxidation which also degrades nicotine.
If you use a bit of ingenuity you can find clever and hassle free ways to use everyday things that store or generate heat to your advantage. Not everything that generates heat is suitable, for example microwaves should not be used to directly heat eliquid, but you can make good use of the heat they generate. I’ll outline a few different techniques and leave the rest to your imagination. For methods using higher temperatures I would advise removing the plastic cap.
Heat uncooked rice in a cup using microwave
Heat a ½ – ¾ full cup of uncooked rice in the microwave, remove when hot enough and place the bottle snugly in the cup and allow it to reach room temperature, shake it and repeat the process as many times as necessary until you have the desired effect.
A warm bath at a controlled temperature will give you consistent results. There are many ways of doing this, the easiest it to heat up a small amount of water in a pan and then turn off the stove, drop the bottle into it and leave it for 10-15 minutes, remove and shake the bottle and slowly remove the cap. You can vape a bit and repeat if necessary until you find your sweet spot. Other people use crock pots (slow cookers) and leave it to sit in a warm bath for anywhere between 2-24 hours.
Cup and candle warmers
Some like to leave their juice sitting on cup warmers for 4-8 hours, by which time it should be fully steeped, in the Reddit experiment the author noted that 8 hours on the cup warmer was equivalent to 2 weeks in a warm dark place (140 F). I primarily recommend methods that offer consistent temperatures.
Car on a warm sunny day
I haven’t tried this method but some vapers take advantage the heat that collects in their cars during warmer periods. Hardly an exact science but after a long day at the office your juice should be ready to vape, remember not to expose it directly to light if you try this. How hot does a car get? I don’t know, but use this method at your own risk and perhaps do a test run with a small glass bottle, before committing large amounts of your favorite juice.
Computer heat exhausts/vents
I wouldn’t expect temperatures to exceed 80 F from a PC heat vent/exhaust but this is another convenient way of speeding up the steeping process, with temperatures around this figure you can expect an increased steeping time of approx. 25% compared with the warm dark place method.
Please feel free to share your own steeping methods and results in the comment box below.