My wife and I had a heated discussion about pudding last week. It was precipitated by a tasting session where we disagreed about a number of bakery/cream flavors. The phrase “But I DO like pudding!” was yelled.
What we finally took away from the conversation was that Aces tasted a sweet “off note” very sharply in a half-dozen or more mixes I had made. It ruined her enjoyment of certain mixes. Through process of elimination, we managed to isolate that it was propylene glycol at certain levels. For her, a neutral, basically tasteless e-liquid is 30/70 PG/VG and lower. This doesn’t happen to me — I don’t like 100% PG liquid, but 70/30 and lower is fine with me.
So let’s say you’ve read the first DIY article, and now it’s time to mix and taste. First, you have to find a baseline, control flavor for you, and that often has to do with PG/VG ratio. Other people find PG neutral in taste, and VG slightly sweet, so it may be worth trying 70/30, 50/50, and 30/70. There are also folks who can only tolerate 100% VG liquids.
You also need to keep in mind that your nicotine base (which I wouldn’t use in taste testing experiments) will affect what ratios you can use. If you’re a 24mg vaper but prefer high VG mixes, don’t buy a 100% PG 36mg nicotine base, as you won’t be able to reach the ratio you want. (In that case, I’d go for either a higher concentration base or one mixed partially with VG.)
Once you’ve got a control flavorless liquid you’re comfortable with, it’s time to start tasting individual flavors. Keep a dripper bottle of your mix on hand along with a large number of small bottles.
First, you’ll want to find a flavor concentration per flavor that works for you. Vendors differ, and you can find recommendations for percentages a number of places. Your best bet is to start with 5% (1 drop flavor, 19 drops base), and go up from there. I like to mix a given flavor at 5%/10%/15% and see where the sweet spot lies. The exception is tobacco flavors, where I’d start at 2-3% or even lower.
Give your mixture some time for the flavors to meld (which will range from a few minutes for fruits to a few days for some tobaccos) and sample. Smell first, as flavor is largely scent based (especially in vaping). Most of the time if a sample smells bad, I’ll debate whether it’s even worth trying to taste.
Here’s a couple of common issues that may come up in your taste testing.
Little to No Flavor: Either not enough (duh) or too much flavor. We describe it as “blowing out”, where a flavor is strong enough to temporarily kill your palate.
Perfumy/Flowery Smell: For the most part, you don’t want this, unless you’re aiming for a Spa Day-style (non-sweet, non-tobacco) flavor. Give the sample another day in a cool, dark place like a drawer somewhere, and come back to it later. Again, if it’s a tobacco, you may have to wait more than a day for this to go away.
Not Sweet Enough: Add sweetener, either Ethyl Maltol or Sucralose. (Other sweeteners aren’t recommended and will at minimum burn out your atomizer.) Start with 1 drop; if it’s too sweet you may want to aim for 1 drop/5ml. I prefer EM, others swear by sucralose.
Too Sweet: Rare, but it happens. Try a drop of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Bitter Wizard by FlavourArt is another option, but use low concentrations.
Flat Flavor: Some flavors aren’t great on their own, but work well in a mix with others. EM can also sometimes fix this.
Thanks to those from whom I’ve picked up some of these tricks, such as ECF and Something Awful.