With all the recent news, this is a timely topic: DIY E-liquid and how to get started. It can be intimidating to be sure but once you have the basics you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. We will focus on what supplies you will need, where to get them, and links to more info to keep it simple.
The following article was sponsored by our friends over at FireVapor. You can use coupon code “VAPE.DEALS15” to get 15% off your next order.
What are the Advantages & Disadvantages of DIY E-liquid?
The main advantage at this point is easy: flavor bans are being passed in numerous states and a possible Federal ban is being considered. Advocate for your rights and let the White House and your representatives know how vaping has helped you. VAPE.DEALS is committed to this—you can find out more in the Advocacy Section.
With that said, it’s a good idea to be prepared and we’re here to help.
Saving money is always cool. That’s probably the main reason you are visiting VAPE.DEALS, so DIY E-liquid is probably something you already considered. In my home state of California, you will spend between $15 to $30 for a single bottle of juice. Making your own juice will cost you a fraction of that. Startup costs can be intimidating, but many companies have put together discounted kits to get you started. Prices range from $25 – $100, with flavors and a scale included. I will list starter kit options in the vendor’s section below.
Controlling the quality of the e-liquid you vape is a major advantage. Please never vape a product that did not come from a major e-liquid vendor using a certified lab. We are in this mess because of illegal THC cartridges, created by people who had no clue how to mix. NEVER mix any oil-based flavor or thickening agent, like vitamin e acetate which is what’s causing serious problems (and is NOT related to legal nicotine-based e-liquid). There is a plethora of information on how to safely make your own DIY E-liquid. I will link to sources down below.
The disadvantages of DIY E-liquid will be startup costs and patience, the latter can be tough. Startup costs have gone down from when I started DIY about 4 years ago, so that is great. The patience can still get on my nerves after all this time. Patience comes into play 2 ways: the first being early failures, and the second…steeping. When starting out in DIY, you will fail more often than you succeed. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and keep at it. Don’t go in expecting your first mix is going to be better than your favorite store-bought juice. It could happen, but it’s not likely. Steeping is another thing that still tests my patience to this day. A necessary evil, but still evil.
Steeping is the process of allowing the flavoring, VG, PG and Nicotine (the 4 main components of e-liquid) to fully blend together. Most major e-liquid companies will steep their products anywhere from a week to a month before shipping to the end-user. I can assure you that steeping is not a myth. Some flavors will improve over time and some will fade. Fruit flavors generally need less time to steep. Creams, custards, and tobacco flavors need more time. Don’t be afraid to try your DIY E-liquid right after mixing (although the next day might be better), then put it away in a cool dark place for a week. Steeping will not turn a terrible recipe into a gourmet e-liquid, but it can turn an OK recipe into a good one…or a good recipe into a great one. Steeping might test your patience, but you will be rewarded in the end.
How to Get Started?
Before I start listing vendors to buy from, it’s best to do a little research on flavors you’re interested in and how often they are used in recipes. There are numerous online recipe sites where DIY E-liquid enthusiasts share their passion and talent for mixing. The 3 I have listed below can also serve as a place to keep track of the flavors you have acquired and help you create your own recipes using their online calculator.
The links are already configured to show the flavors that are used in most recipes. This is important as it will give you a great starting point, as well as access to all the recipes you can make.
e-Liquid Recipes is one of the oldest and best online calculators around. A great resource for info on flavors that contain DAAP (will get more into that below) or other known info. If you see the ⚠ symbol in front of a flavor name, that means there is a note on that flavor’s page that may be of concern to some. There are 110,287 recipes posted on ELR as I write this…expect more every day. The link to the recipes is sorted by rating; note that the top recipes were mostly made 2 to 4 years ago when DIY was much more popular. In that same 2 to 4 years, there have been many new flavoring companies that have entered the DIY E-liquid scene. So, while ELR is still an excellent resource, it can feel a little dated. You can check out their forum to find up-to-date information. And be sure to ask questions—many friendly people are always willing to help (myself included).
All the Flavors is one of the new kids on the block, which is good for more current recipes, although it lacks the information on flavors that ELR provides. 7,624 recipes thus far on ATF (much less than ELR). The recipes on ATF tend to be optimized for the atomizers we currently use and flavors that have recently come out. ATF does not have its own forum but seems to be closely associated with DIY eJuice subreddit, which has a wealth of information. They have recently started an update to the First Order Flavors to help beginners out. There is also an informative FAQ post that you may find useful.
Vaping Community E-liquid Calculator is the newest addition to the DIY calculator world. It offers a lot of great features and is growing. Only 90 public recipes thus far on VCC, but they are all within the past 3 months from veteran mixers. You will find some “Simple Recipes” that G-Fog was kind enough to post there. I plan on adding some as well. Make sure to check out Woftam’s recipes too; his Coconut Sponge is one of my favorite recipes. There is a forum as well with a lot of great people. I check in there every day (Vaping Community). Woftam has an excellent thread on Flavor Bending which is using flavors and additives to improve a mix. We have also started a Flavor Buying List for Beginners which we are still adding to.
All 3 are excellent resources to get your DIY E-liquid journey started, way more info than I can post here.
Mixing by Volume or Weight
Most DIY’ers start mixing by volume, which is the process of measuring out a specific volume using a syringe, measuring cup, or beaker. It definitely keeps your start-up costs low, and if you feel DIY is not for you, then it’s not a big loss. If you wind up loving DIY, then your next step is to begin mixing by weight (much faster, more accurate, and less clean up).
First, let me start off with the scale you’ll want to buy: the American Weigh Scale LB-501 (Amazon Link). As I write this, it’s priced at $35.71 + FREE Shipping, but the price does fluctuate. The same company makes other scales, but what makes this scale the one to get is it can weigh to 0.01G accuracy. The higher models are limited to 0.1G accuracy and you really need that extra decimal point for mixing DIY E-liquid. It also comes complete with weights to calibrate the scale. It’s a complete package at a very reasonable price.
Mixing by Weight
Mixing by Volume
Now let me explain the differences between the 2 (from my experience). When I started out, I only had about 10 flavors, so I bought 10 syringes: 1 for each flavor so I didn’t get any cross-contamination. I also had a larger syringe for my VG, another for my PG, and yet another for my Nicotine. If I was making a 30ml/3mg recipe using 3 flavors, I would start with 0.90ml of Nicotine, 3.6ml PG, 1.5ml of the first flavor, 0.75ml of the second flavor, and the same of the 3rd flavor. Then I would add 22.5ml of VG to top it off. With the flavors, I had to sometimes pop the tip off the bottles if I could not fit my syringe into it. Then there was cleaning the syringes after mixing a bottle, which wasn’t too much trouble. With only 10 flavors it wasn’t that bad, but as I started to acquire more and more flavors it started to become a real hassle. I spent so much time cleaning up and finding the right syringe/pipette that it was taking forever to mix one bottle.
Then I found the Guide to Mixing by Weight and my mixing life changed. Now if I want to mix a bottle, I just throw it on the scale, add nicotine, “tare” the scale to bring the readings back to 0.00 and add PG. You keep the process going until all the ingredients are added, put the cap on and shake that sucker. The flavors are dripped directly from the flavoring bottles so no chance of cross-contamination, and best yet, no syringes, beakers, or anything else to clean up after. Soooooo much faster! The link above will walk you through the process. Thanks to Botboy141 for putting that up, such an excellent guide.
DAAP Concerns and How You Can Decide for Yourself
DAAP is short for Diacetyl, Acetoin, and Acetyl Propionyl (2,3-Pentanedione), which shook up the industry about 4 years ago and was the main reason I got into DIY E-liquid. Diacetyl was found to be the cause of workers at a popcorn factory developing bronchiolitis obliterans (“Popcorn Lung”) when handling buttery powders in the production of microwave popcorn without proper protection. When it was found that some e-liquids contained diacetyl, the industry reacted. Many flavor companies began working on diacetyl-free versions of their flavors, like Capella with their V2 line, The Flavor Apprentice’s DX line, and Flavour Art, who now only sells DAAP free flavoring for e-liquids. Most flavors are tested for DAAP these days, but I cannot say for sure if all of them are. ELR has one of the most extensive Flavor Warning Lists which includes not only DAAP, but flavors that may crack plastic tanks or contain food coloring or other potentially harmful additives.
Combustible cigarettes have been tested to contain significantly more DAAP than the e-liquids that started the scare. But if that is still a concern for you, then you can control what goes into your DIY E-liquid by purchasing only flavors that are DAAP free. This is a personal decision and you will find the pros and cons on both sides.
Here is one of the most recent articles on DAAP which covers aspects of a recent Harvard Study.
Remember, no one is saying vaping is safe, just a lot safer than smoking (RCP Report) as long as you’re not buying illegal THC vape cartridges sold by a criminal. DIY is the best way to control what goes into your e-liquid, just like cooking at home. Do some research and decide for yourself.
VG, PG, and flavorings are safe to handle. Nicotine requires care to handle properly. If you are buying your nicotine separately, please use gloves and eye protection (full face protection is not a bad idea as well). You might want to start out with a low concentration of nicotine. The strengths vary from different suppliers. Some have 3mg/ml, which is not very cost-effective but good if you want the minimum. 48mg/ml is not a bad starting point for beginners (that’s where I started). Many DIY’ers, including myself, use 100mg/ml; it’s cost-effective and safe with the proper precautions and safety gear. Please do not go higher than 100mg/ml, which is best left to the professionals and not worth the risk.
Always keep your Nicotine out of the reach of children, pets, or anyone who is not aware it is a poison. Behind a locked door or locked cabinet is ideal. If you buy a mini-fridge to store your nic, put a lock on it. If you can’t safely store your nicotine, then buy Short Fill bottles that are already mixed at your desired nicotine strength and keep that locked up in your bedroom.
Some vendors offer Unflavored E-liquid Short Fill 50ml bottles. Just choose your nicotine strength and it will come premixed with VG, PG, and nicotine. All you need to do is add the flavors. Here is an example from Liquid Barn. You can order 3mg Nicotine strength, which comes in a 50ml bottle (VG 80% / PG 20%). Every bottle leaves room for up to 16% flavoring that can be added. If you have children or pets and no way to keep higher strength Nicotine concentrations away from them, then I implore you to just use the Short Fill method. As with any nicotine product, keep that away from them too; it is our responsibility to be safe.
For flavoring, only buy flavors from companies who specialize in flavors for vaping. Under no circumstances should oil-based flavors be used. Some flavorings are ONLY to be used for cooking and are not suitable for vaping. Stay away from buying flavors at your local supermarket; these are generally used for cooking and may not be safe. You will find a vendor section below.
Many companies or even entrepreneurial DIY’ers have gotten into the One-Shot game. A One-Shot is just a pre-mixed DIY E-liquid recipe. All you do is add the recommended amount into a bottle with VG, PG and Nicotine, shake it up…and presto, you got an e-liquid. There are even big-name companies getting in on the action, like One Hit Wonder (find out more in the vendor’s section for Liquid Barn). One-Shots might be a good idea for some beginners. Use those until you get more comfortable with DIY and start producing your own tasty mixes.
Only Buy from Legitimate Vendors
The vape industry is in this mess, not because of what they have done, because of black market THC cartridge vendors. These criminals used ingredients that should NEVER go into any vape e-liquid, and you should be cautious as to what you put into your DIY E-liquid. NEVER buy anything off the streets, even if the price is too good to be true. I will list Trusted and Licensed vendors in this section.
United States Vendors
Nicotine River My go-to for VG, PG, and Nicotine. The prices are hard to beat and free shipping starts at $50. It’s a good place for beginners to get sample flavors as well since their small size starts at 15ml and are usually the same price as other vendors’ 10ml bottles. Their shipping times vary, sometimes my orders ship the next day and sometimes it’s 3 to 5 days (especially after a sale).
Nicotine River is a one-stop-shop to get everything you need to start your DIY E-liquid adventure. I reached out to them and they were kind enough to offer a coupon code (“DIY5”) for $5 off their Starter Kit (+ free shipping), which includes everything you need. It is a one-time use code and only available for the first 25 uses, so act quick.
Bull City Flavors is one of my favorite places to get flavors. They have a wide selection and fast shipping. They do carry VG and PG, but since that is not their bread and butter, expect to pay more than Nicotine River. BCF doesn’t sell nicotine, but they do carry empty bottles, accessories, and Community Recipe Packs (discounted packs of flavors for recipes that are popular in the DIY community). If you see a recipe that sounds delicious, you can buy all the required flavors at a discounted price. You’ll just need to add VG, PG, and nicotine, as those are not included in the recipe packs.
Liquid Barn is a one-stop-shop and carries its own line of flavors as well as one-shots from popular juice lines. You can buy one-shots from One Hit Wonder, Mr. Good Vape, CRFT, and DIY or Die (in their Tastemaker Collection). They also offer the Unflavored eLiquid Short Fill 50ml bottles I mentioned earlier, as well as VG, PG, and nicotine.
Wizard Labs offers a nice selection of flavors, VG, PG, and Nicotine. They also have a one-shot collection, as well as a starter kit (which is not as good as the starter kit from Nicotine River in my opinion). Their flavor prices are competitive, but their VG, PG, and nicotine prices are on the high side. I usually just shop there for flavors. Shipping is usually quick but can slow down during sales.
DIY Vapor Supply has a large selection of flavors. I shop there when I can’t find the flavor I need at other online shops. They have some great prices on Flavorah 30ml bottles. Never purchased VG, PG, or nicotine from them, but they do offer it.
Ecig Express is another one-stop-shop for DIY E-liquid supplies. They run sales every weekend on different flavor lines or nicotine. I mainly buy flavors from them and shop their sale section for goodies that pop up. They have a nice selection of Jungle Flavors, a brand I enjoy; and they even have a rewards program to get discounts on future orders.
Carolina Xtraction is considered by many to be the best nicotine you can buy. No flavors or VG/PG available—they focus on nicotine and they’re damn good at it. I have only personally used the Supercritical Nicotine but saw that they recently added a salt nic line as well as CBD. For this premium nicotine, expect to pay a premium price. A 5% off discount code is available: “Dada1”. If you vape at 3mg nicotine or higher you can definitely tell the difference between this and lower end nicotine. I cut my nicotine down to 1.5mg, so it’s not as noticeable. I only use Carolina Xtraction nicotine when making a new recipe to ensure the flavor is true.
Vapers Tek is a one-stop-shop but they’re mainly known for their clean nicotine. While not as good as Carolina Xtraction, it’s pretty close. You would have a hard time noticing the difference at 3mg or below.
**There are many other sources in the US for DIY supplies. I will post a link to a list down below. The ones posted above are just what I personally use, so I can speak to how they operate.
Chefs Flavours is the only UK vendor I have purchased from on multiple occasions. I’ve always received my packages in a timely fashion. Why would I order from the UK if I live in the US? Well, Chefs carries some flavors I can’t get here. Their sale section is one I check often as well; even with the exchange rate, I can save money. If you’re in the UK, you can get free shipping over £30 (excludes VG & PG). Unfortunately, there are no free shipping options outside the UK, so I only order when I need a bunch. They carry a BIG selection of One-Shots too.
**Here is a great list of vendors compiled by Apexified on Reddit
How Much Does a 100ml Bottle of DIY E-liquid Cost?
In general, DIY will save you a LOT of money in the long run, although the initial investment can be steep. That Nicotine River starter pack I listed above is a lot less than I paid about 4 years ago. I wish I could have gotten in for only $60.
I took the prices listed on Nicotine River’s website for 500ml of VG and PG, 150ml of 48mg/ml nicotine, 15ml Capella Vanilla Custard, French Vanilla, and New York Cheesecake. Then I added it to my Juice Calculator to make a simple Vanilla Custard. Here is the recipe for a 100ml bottle with 3mg nicotine:
You can add 0.50% The Flavor Apprentice (TFA/TPA) Ethyl Maltol or the same amount of TFA Sweetener to the mix. 0.25% Capella Super Sweet will also work (maybe 0.50% if you have a sweet tooth). Adding some fruit can be fun too, or maybe graham cracker. It’s a blank slate and you are the artist. For a Strawberry Custard try 1.5% to 2% Real Flavors Strawberry, and 0.50% to 0.75% Inawera Shisha Strawberry. The sweetener above will make the Strawberry pop.
That recipe totals out to $2.29 according to the ELR calculator; add in a $0.49 bottle and you’re looking at a total cost of $2.78. Even with the great juice deals found on VAPE.DEALS, that is still a steal. It gets even cheaper when you start buying larger bottles or taking advantage of sales (my example used the smallest bottles available with no extra discounts). You’re much better off buying the starter kit for $60, which includes the above, plus 12 more flavors, measuring tools, gloves, and (10) 60ml empty bottles shipped for free.
You will be able to make 300ml of juice before you run out of the Capella Vanilla Custard, and you’ll still have the other ingredients left to make more than 600ml before the VG starts running low (just order another $2 bottle of CAP Vanilla Custard).
For me, it’s definitely worth it, and the fun I have making up new flavors keeps me away from more expensive hobbies. It is intimidating to start, but if you’re committed to keeping off the cigs and saving money, DIY can be a lot of fun.
Beginners Pitfalls to Avoid
Probably the biggest pitfall to avoid is over-flavoring. When I first started, I would make a mix with 3 or 4 different flavors and think, “hmm, not enough strawberry,” and add more and more until it just got gross. The problem was I didn’t know my flavors. I didn’t know that 1 flavor I was using was too high and it was masking other flavors. It did not matter how much I added of the other flavors, the dominant flavor wasn’t going to yield. The solution was to reduce the dominant flavor and allow the other flavors to come through.
Single flavor testing is beneficial for this…but always start low (it’s easier to add flavors than to try and dilute the mix with VG and PG). E-liquid Recipes is a good place to start for Single Flavor recommendations that percentages mixers use in recipes. Just click on the flavor you’re interested in and it takes you to the flavor page with recommended %’s, reviews, where to buy, discount codes, recipes, and more. Know your brand too. Companies like Capella, The Flavor Apprentice, Flavor West, and a few more are not as concentrated, so 3% to 5% is not out of the question. Companies like Flavorah, Flavour Art, and Inawera are more concentrated, so a little goes a long way (0.25% to 2% is all that’s needed at times). I discovered this when I was struggling with Inawera Lemon Cake. I was about to throw it out when a friend told me to try it at 1 drop per 10ml. I thought, “Crazy, how am I going to taste that?” But I begrudgingly tried it, and…ohhh, it was a nice but mellow pound cake. You could really taste it. Not a flavor I use on its own, but I do use it to boost other cake flavors and it works well.
Although a lot of DIY veterans skip the sweetener, don’t be afraid to try it…just don’t go overboard. Start low (about 0.50%) and give the juice time to steep before adding more (many juices will get sweeter over time). Some flavors can also be used to add sweetness, like Flavour Art Meringue and Marshmallow. Ethyl Maltol (most Cotton Candy flavors are actually ethyl maltol) can add sweetness as well, but don’t go heavy with it, as it can mute flavors if used too high. Just like flavors, sweeteners can ruin a mix if used too high (and they’re not always necessary). Some flavors already contain sweeteners, so test your flavors before adding more sweetener to it. Sweeteners may play an important role for someone coming from commercial juices (since they tend to contain a lot of sweeteners), but you might find that you can skip them altogether. That should benefit your coils too, which clog up fast with really sweet juices.
Last but not least, the biggest pitfall for new mixers: patience. Most likely, your first mix won’t be amazing. You’ll get there, but it will take patience and probably some advice from veteran mixers on the forums (referenced above). It is also important to find a veteran mixer who shares the same taste as you. For me, it was when I found mixes by ThirdWorldOrder on ELR over 3 years ago. I was hooked after the first 2 I tried. That gave me the confidence to continue with DIY; it made it click on how to construct a recipe. Please note that the flavors have improved since then (as well as the atomizers we use), so his mixes might not work as well today.
If I hadn’t been patient, I would have never kept up on DIY…but I am so glad I did. It is so rewarding to make a juice that wows you and your friends. I could never go back to store-bought juices, it’s just not the same anymore.
Useful DIY E-liquid YouTube Channels
Ohm-Grown Alchemy My friend Simon (Woftam) guests there on Mondays. The man is a wealth of DIY info, and so is Tam Vapes, and they bring on other guests.
Fresh03 has a big following and provides great content for the DIY crowd.
The End is Just the Beginning
Of your DIY journey, one that can be so rewarding if you just give it time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—there are no stupid questions, we were all beginners at one time and we’re always learning new things. Sign up at some of these forums; read, ask questions, and learn. They all have something to offer and very knowledgeable people. I have learned a ton from them and continue to do so.
Here’s a list of the most popular E-liquid Calculators:
Recommended Starter Flavors (from Nicotine River):
If I was starting out, I would go with the starter kit from Nicotine River, as it includes everything to get started for only $60 shipped (or $55 if you’re one of the first 25 to use code “DIY5”). Here’s my recommended flavor list if you decide to purchase this kit:
- Capella Vanilla Custard V1 (Choose V2 if DAAP is concerning to you)
- Flavor Apprentice Coconut Candy (Not my favorite Coconut but a good one. FlavourArt Coconut is another good choice)
- Inawera Shisha Vanilla (A delicious flavor, sort of a Vanilla Pudding. Use 2% or less)
- Flavor Apprentice Strawberry Ripe (I have grown tired of it but can’t deny its popularity and it is tasty)
- Real Flavors Super Concentrate Strawberry (Good on its own. 2% or less is all you need but it gets better when you add my next selection)
- Inawera Shisha Strawberry (Sort of a glazed strawberry and many people’s favorites. I think it complements RFSC Strawberry beautifully: use 1.5% to 2% RFSC and 0.50% to 0.75% INW Shisha Strawberry)
- Capella Super Sweet (This stuff is potent so start low, 0.50% is usually more than enough)
- Capella Sugar Cookies (Choose the V2 version if DAAP is a concern. Just a versatile flavor and one you’ll find in a lot of recipes)
- FlavourArt Meringue (A great flavor to add sweetness to a mix and a little creaminess and mouthfeel)
- FlavourArt Marshmallow (Another great alternative to sweeteners and adds a nice mouthfeel)
- Flavor Apprentice Bavarian Cream (Just a good versatile cream. You will find a lot of recipes with this in it)
- Inawera Pineapple (Capella Golden Pineapple is a popular choice as well. If Pineapple isn’t your thing then maybe choose another cream like Flavor Apprentice Sweet Cream)
- Inawera Peach (A delicious Peach and potent as well. Start at 0.25% and adjust from there. If Peach isn’t your thing maybe try Flavor Apprentice Graham Cracker Clear)
- Flavor West Butterscotch Ripple (I prefer the Natural Butterscotch, but it wasn’t an option. Don’t select their regular butterscotch, it has to say “Natural” in front of it. If you don’t like butterscotch, maybe try Capella Caramel instead)
- FlavourArt Fuji Apple (One of the best apple flavors, and potent too. If fruit flavors aren’t your thing, then maybe try Flavor Apprentice Vanilla Swirl)
The DIY starter kit does not let you select all the flavors they carry. If they did, I would load up my starter kit with only Medicine Flow and Flavorah and laugh all the way (those flavors can cost up to $23 for a 15ml bottle). I would still be happy with that selection above, knowing I could make some tasty juices. Sure, there are flavors from some flavor houses that I like more than what I picked there, but I was just going on what was available, which ain’t bad at all.
Just remember: wear protective gear when handling nicotine, and store it where no one can get to it (especially children and pets). It is safe as long as you practice safety first and are mindful that high strength nicotine is poison.
I hope this was helpful to you and I will catch you in Part 2! If any DIY vendors or DIY experts would like to add to Part 2, please let me know. There’s a lot to cover, and the more info we can provide, the more the community thrives.
After trying and failing multiple times to quit a 30-year smoking habit, vaping was the only thing that stuck. I even tried the cigalikes using tobacco flavors and it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until a friend told me I was doing it wrong: don’t vape tobacco flavors, vape good flavors. I am grateful to him to this day. Something that many non-vapers don’t understand is that flavors are what save so many lives.
My free time is spent with family and friends. My free-free time is spent mixing new DIY E-liquid recipes (love free-free time!). You can also find my vape hardware reviews on most major vape forums, which is something I also enjoy. I am grateful for what vaping has done for my life, that is why I try and give back as much as possible so smokers can stop their deadly addiction.