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Everybody's doing it--it's the latest vaping craze! It's easy. It's obvious. It's sub-blending!
OK. I admit it. I made that up. Maybe it's called something else by others... but never mind that, because whatever you call it, it's FUN! And, assuming you're already vaping, you don't need any fancy equipment to do it--and it doesn't cost extra. If you can order a complicated cup of coffee, you too can be a sub-blender.
If you're like me, you're endlessly fascinated by all the cool, creative flavors coming on the market. You read elaborate, mouthwatering descriptions of them, you drool over gorgeous pictoral representations, and at least occasionally, you vape them. Shopping for e-liquid always makes me hungry. Sometimes it makes me downright greedy, sending me into fits of gluttonously excessive online ordering which, to be honest, I really can't afford. Oh, how I'd love to have a bottle of every crazy delicious-sounding custardy, creamy, fruity variation on the market! Alas, those (sometimes pricey) little bottles can add up, and my vape budget can handle only a tiny fraction of the flavors I want to try. The killer is that, despite the fabulous descriptions and labels, I really don't know in advance if I'm going to like it.
Then it hits me: "DIY! Yes! I've seen those do-it-yourself people talking online about making e-liquid at home--I'll save tons of money and have my pick of a zillion flavors..." So I get online, excited and inspired to learn the ways of the at-home juice-makers. Here is what I find:
--> DIY is not as simple as it sounds. Assuming you aren't a flavor chemist, flavor molecules and concentrates won't always blend the way you think they will. You can easily mix the wrong concentrates together or add too much flavor and end up with an e-juice that tastes less like fresh doughnut than day-old sock. Or (possibly worse) an e-liquid that tastes like nothing at all, because--paradoxically--you added too much flavoring! Different brands of flavoring may have radically different flavors described by the same name. (In this case, a rose is not a rose is not a rose.) Also, the strength (and therefore the total percentages used in an e-liquid recipe) can vary tremendously from vendor to vendor, which means the percentage you use in your juice will vary too. There's a lot to learn--and a lot of mistakes to make--before you can consistently make your own delicious e-juice.
So, how does, for example, one go about ordering the ingredients to make a scrumptious coconut cream custard pie e-juice? A rich, multi-layered tobacco blend with subtle notes of vanilla, caramel and nuts?
--> For starters, a substantial initial investment is required. For anything beyond the most basic and small-scale mixing, you'll need some set-aside space and a little laboratory set-up to experiment effectively and safely with DIY. Choosing and buying complementary flavors means learning something about flavor chemistry and the characteristics of the brand(s) you are using. Getting your e-juice base together the way you like it (including your preferred PG/VG ratios and nicotine level) involves specialized measuring and safety tools. There is a mind-boggling mass of resources for learning about all of this here on the amazing internets if you're willing to look, but actually doing it--executing successful e-juice recipes which can be duplicated involves money, math, research skills...and a lot of spare time.
Maybe you're not phased by the prospect--and if not, more power to you! Still, many of us aren't prepared to make the extra expenditure of time and money--but we still want to customize our vape. This is where sub-blending comes in. Basically, we're just talking about mixing single flavored e-juices together to make more complex and tasty ones--precisely to our own liking. I do it every day, and without spending an extra penny on supplies, I have exponentially increased my flavor possibilities.
Let's say we have the following ten simple flavors of e-juice on hand:
strawberry, espresso, lime, vanilla ice cream, caramel, bubblegum, tobacco, chocolate, raspberry, peppermint
While any one of these on its own is a pleasant vape, they clearly aren't all going to go well together. I wouldn't recommend mixing lime with espresso, for instance--unless you're feeling very adventurous. And I generally stop adding at three or four flavors TOPS when sub-blending. But I'm guessing you already have some sense of this stuff and that your mind is leaping ahead and putting together delicious flavor combos as you read this.
Craving strawberry bubble gum? Fill your tank with mostly bubblegum flavored e-juice and add a few drops of strawberry e-juice. Or several drops! Leave room for a little bit of peppermint, too, and you'll have a refreshing fruit and mint gum. You get the idea. This is the beauty and ease of sub-blending: you can change flavors at a moment's notice to suit your mood and your changing taste-buds. We all know the oft-repeated mantra within the vaping community: "taste is subjective". This maxim applies not only from person-to-person, but is also surprisingly changeable over time within the same individual.
Working with the same flavors, a few more possibilities: vanilla ice cream combined with raspberry will give you a delicious "raspberry dreamsicle" type vape. Add a bit of lime and you have a lime rickey float. Two thirds cappuccino flavor with a combination of vanilla and caramel added gives you something like a caramel macchiato! Chocolate goes well in small quantities with just about any flavor, in my opinion--including tobacco. It makes most things just a little darker, sweeter. And if you don't love it--no big deal. The worst case scenario is a single tank of juice down the drain and a lesson learned.
Gather a few of your favorite vape-fruits and a bottle of Slim's Cheesecake flavored e-juice, you can imagine the party that will ensue. Same goes for Slim's Pie Crust, Graham Cracker, or Bavarian Cream. These are all good on their own, but make especially wonderful base flavors, too.
A couple of other tips for "advanced" or adventurous sub-blenders:
--> Is a particular juice too thick for your equipment? Try adding a drop or two of distilled water (DS) to a 10mL bottle to thin it out. DS is an ingredient in many e-liquids already, but the water content can evaporate over time, leaving you with something a little more sludge-like than you want. Take it very slowly, one drop at a time, and this can greatly improve the quality of your vaping experience.
--> Fruit or Tobacco blend too sharp-tasting for your liking? Consider adding a miniscule amount of apple cider vinegar (ACV). Again, start very slowly--use only a fraction of a percent of the whole. You won't taste it as a sour note in your juice, but oddly enough, it can have the effect of rounding off unwanted higher or sharper tones. When using this method, you might find it continues to change the flavor of a sub-blend over time.
--> Dull fruit flavor? Add in a teensy tiny bit of lemon juice! Some people swear by this to add depth and make the flavor "pop". This will have a similar effect to DW or ACV on the viscosity of your juice, so take that into consideration when deciding how much to add.
As long as you keep your experiments very small, you're never risking more than a milliliter or two of that precious juice. So be bold, be brave... "Take it Half the Way!" (Official motto of the sub-blenders).
Using simple pre-mixed flavors (from, say, Slim's--which, frankly, has more of these and at better prices than I've seen offered from any vendor) means you can be sure that the flavor percentages, the PG/VG ratio and the nicotine content of your juice are all correct and known quantities, so that when you mix them in your tank on the fly--applying only personal preference and a little common sense--it's very likely to turn out well.
It's true that even sub-blending requires a little bit of practice to get results you love, but it's an awful lot of fun and immensely satisfying--without the price-tag and steep learning curve associated with more in-depth DIY processes. If you want to stay on the safe side, having Slim mix your customizable, complex e-juice from start to finish is equally as inexpensive and you know you're getting an expert mix every time. For those of us adventuresome types who like living--well, not "on the edge", exactly, but a little closer to it--sub-blending is the way to go.
--Nom de Plume