E-liquid is made up from just a few different ingredients: Propylene Glycol (PG), Vegetable Glycerin (VG), water, flavourings and nicotine. E-liquids typically feature both PG and VG, with one of the two often more dominant than the other. Some e-liquids are 0% nicotine, and these contain exactly the same ingredients minus the nicotine.
Making e-liquid is a lengthy process, and as with any other recipe, e-liquid ingredients need to be carefully measured before mixing. This is particularly important with nicotine, as it needs to be measured perfectly to ensure that the correct nicotine percentage is obtained.
First, the flavourings are added to the base of PG and VG, and then the mix. It usually requires only a small amount of flavourings to give the e-liquid the punch it needs. Next, the nicotine is then added to mixture, which is then shaken to ensure the ingredients blend together. After this, the e-liquid is left for a few days, allowing the flavour to become richer or more profound. This process is sometimes referred to informally as ‘steeping’ and works in the same way that you might age a cut of meat or allow a bottle of wine to air before drinking.
Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are commonly used as additives in a number of different food products, including ice cream and biscuits. Both generally help preserve food and are used as a diluent in e-liquid to dilute the nicotine.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of articles online saying that e-liquid contains antifreeze, however, this mistake comes from a misunderstanding on the origin of propylene glycol. This synthetic organic compound has a very low toxicity, and it is generally confused with another ingredient found in antifreeze – ethylene glycol. Vegetable glycerin is often obtained from coconut oil or soya beans.
Using different ratios of PG and VG will result in your e-liquid giving you a slightly different vape. PG is flavourless, making it a more common base as it will have less of an effect on the taste of the e-liquid. More PG in your e-liquid will give you a thinner liquid – making the e-cig easier to clean – as well as thinner clouds when vaping. Conversely, more VG in your e-liquid will give you much bigger clouds, although its sweeter taste means that it isn’t suitable for use with all flavours.