In vaping, the term “steeping” describes a controlled aging process that helps the flavors in a bottle of e-juice become more mellow and cohesive. Back in the day when many e-liquids were made to order by small-batch vape juice companies, it was common for people to receive e-juice that they felt didn’t taste quite right. The flavors were a bit too sharp, or individual flavor notes stuck out above all the others. People discovered that by allowing those e-liquids to age for a while, the flavors improved. It turns out that many people find e-liquid more enjoyable if they don’t use it right away after it’s bottled.
The process of allowing a bottle of e-juice to age is called “steeping.” You don’t see or hear this term quite as much today as you did during the early days of vaping, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s because almost all of the e-liquid on the market is now pre-steeped. In this article, we’re going to explain why that’s the case. First, though, we’ll begin with a bit of basic information. What, exactly, is e-juice steeping?
What Is E-Juice Steeping?
“Steeping” is the term invented by the members of the vaping community to describe the process of improving a young bottle of e-liquid by allowing it to age. It isn’t known exactly when or how the term came about, and it’s admittedly a little confusing since the term “steeping” usually applies to the process of using a liquid to extract the properties or flavor of a solid – like steeping tea leaves in boiling water. Nevertheless, the vaping community evidently thought the term worked well enough, and it stuck.
When you steep a bottle of e-juice, you’re intentionally allowing air to interact with the volatile flavor compounds in the e-liquid. When you do that, some of the compounds evaporate and leave the e-liquid forever. Other compounds meld with one another to form new complex molecules. These changes and interactions alter the overall flavor of the e-liquid in ways that many people find desirable.
What Does E-Juice Steeping Accomplish?
Vape juice is more complex than you might think. Although a particular e-liquid may have a simple-sounding flavor profile like strawberries and cream, it might actually contain upwards of a dozen individual flavor compounds. Creating a creamy flavor profile, for instance, might require one flavor to provide a dairy note, another flavor to provide a note of butter or cream and still another flavor to provide the sweetness of vanilla. The same e-liquid might contain strawberry flavors from several different flavor companies to provide just the right blend of juiciness, sweetness and tartness.
When a complex e-liquid is first mixed, the flavors might not quite blend together into a cohesive whole. One individual flavor might overpower the others. Returning to the strawberries-and-cream example above, it’s possible that you might be able to taste each of the strawberry flavor notes individually when the e-liquid is first mixed instead of simply tasting a single overall strawberry flavor.
Most of the flavoring compounds in e-liquids use vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol as carriers. That works well because most vape juice contains both of those compounds. There are also some flavors, however, that use grain alcohol as a base. Alcohol is an excellent carrier of flavors – but when it’s used in e-liquid, it can create a burning sensation in the throat that some people find unpleasant.
Steeping e-juice can resolve both of the problems mentioned above. When a freshly mixed e-liquid’s flavor profile isn’t quite cohesive, steeping can fix it because it encourages the individual flavor compounds to meld together. Steeping also helps to relieve the throat irritation that alcohol-based flavors can sometimes cause because much of the alcohol evaporates out of the mixture during the steeping process.
Despite all of the benefits that e-juice steeping can provide, the fact is that you may have never encountered the issues mentioned above and may never actually need to steep your own e-liquid at all because the vast majority of the vape juice sold today is pre-steeped.
Why Almost All Modern Vape Shops Sell Pre-Steeped E-Juice
When the vaping community originally invented e-liquid steeping, the industry was much younger and less developed than it is today. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, it was common for small businesses to mix and ship e-liquids as they were ordered. You might receive a bottle of vape juice in the mail only a few days after it was made – and in that case, giving the bottle a little time to age would almost certainly improve its flavor. These days, though, the vaping industry doesn’t really work that way anymore.
Today, the supply chain for the vaping industry largely uses the distributor model. It’s rare for vape juice makers to ship their products directly to consumers or vape shops. Instead, they ship their products to wholesalers, and the wholesalers ship the products to vape shops. This model allows vape shops to get all of their products from one place instead of ordering from many different manufacturers. It also means that by the time you buy a bottle of vape juice, it may already be anywhere from several weeks to a few months old. It’s already had plenty of time to steep and should taste perfect when you buy it.
How to Steep Your Own E-Juice
Despite the things we’ve said in this article, you may still be curious about the process of e-juice steeping. Maybe you’ve bought a bottle of e-liquid and aren’t completely happy with it, and you’d like to see if a bit of aging can improve the flavor. Follow these instructions to steep your own e-juice.
- Open the bottle for a few minutes and allow air to enter it.
- Close the bottle tightly and shake it well for several seconds.
- Place the bottle in a closed cabinet for a day.
Repeat the process outlined above every day for one week. At the end of the week, sample the e-liquid. If you’re happy with the flavor, you can use the e-liquid as normal. If you’re not happy, steep the bottle for another week. Continue this process until you’re satisfied with the flavor.