Guide to Steeping - The Why & How
A question often asked is “What is steeping?”
Closely followed by “How long should I steep a Liquid”?
Essentially steeping (in the context that we are interested in, i.e. for e-liquids), is a process, or number of process, used to blend, age and mature an e-liquid, to the point where the best flavour can be obtained from vaping it.
Steeping can be observed in the manufacture of lots of things, for example, alcohol and the food industry. Anyone that’s made a Christmas pudding will know about allowing it time to mature and develop, or soaking the fruit in an alcohol overnight (steeping).
Steeping will provide the best possible flavour from our e-juice by rounding out any harsh flavours, blending multiple flavours together, developing, maturing or ageing flavours.
Flavorings need to completely diffuse into the types of base liquids we use, these need time to bond molecularly with any single or combination of base liquids used in a mix (Nic base, PG, VG, etc). In addition, air is required to interact with the liquid, this causes oxidation, replenishing the air in the bottle will help oxidation and in turn quicken steeping, leaving the cap off helps (but make sure it is in a safe position). As a juice steeps it will normally darken, this can be an indication to when a liquid has matured (molecular interaction with nicotine causes this - I have noticed the higher nicotine content, the quicker a juice will mature and darker the liquid will become). Steeping methods that have been tried and tested and proved (if not always scientifically) vary and some are listed below. Steeping will nearly always improve a e-liquid, I don’t know of any that have worsened.
Various methods used to steep e-liquids
The first and most traditional method of steeping is “Time”. Leaving the top off the bottle (allowing air to get to it) will steep and improve a juice by itself, this is usually done by placing the opened bottle in a warm dark place for anything from a day or two up to a week, occasionally giving the bottle a squeeze to expel the air in it and replenish it with fresh air. Benefits are naturally steeped and matured juice, disadvantage, the length of time it takes. Steeping however, in particular the time element, can be reduced by also employing a number of additional methods.
Vigourous shaking, stirring, etc will help, allow time for the air bubbles to rise to the surface and then repeat again (as many times as you can/want).
3- Water Bath
Heating Putting the bottle of juice in a warm (not hot) water bath will shorten the time it takes to mature a juice, it firstly thins the liquid and allows interchange and fusion at a molecular level. However, Heat is an enemy of Nicotine, it will degrade the Nic content if too hot. Warm not Hot water is advised.
Another method of heating is a microwave. This acts like above, but also has another action thought to do with increased molecular particle fusion when juice is blasted with microwaves. Once again, Heat is an enemy of Nicotine, so use in short 1 sec bursts to get it warm, not hot. Oh, and take the cap off first. Using any (or a combination) of the above methods and then allowing time in a warm dark place, will improve any e-liquid considerably. Other agitation methods have been employed successfully, including placing bottles in a rotating polisher (for polishing gem stones etc), using a vibrating electrical orbital sander, one report of a person wrapping a bottle in cloth and putting it inside the hubcap of his car for the duration of his daily travel.
This method combines Vibration from ultrasonic frequency or pulses of energy, with or without a warm water bath, reports have been very encouraging when using this method, some say reducing 2 weeks of steeping time to a single day. Chemical additions. There are new developments all the time, and I am sure that development on this is ongoing, however at this time no successfully reported methods have been noted and anyway, I am not a lover of adding chemicals.
So I can see the next question is going to be….. How long do I let a juice steep?
The Answer is “As long as it takes”. No two juices are the same, or will taste the same to you or me…. I would suggest the only person that can answer that is you…. It may be as little as a day or two. But, you will have to experiment, one thing is definite, given time to mature and using some of the methods above, they will improve from the first opening of a bottle.. This is a recommendation for all shop purchased e-liquids not just ours, all will improve with some steeping, manufactures usually bottle as soon as a juice is made, this halts the steeping process to a degree, employing the "cap off and dark warm place method", will improve 99.9% of juices. I am sure that many users do not obtain the full potential from purchased juices because they do not allow adequate time for it to mature and reach its optimum flavour. Employing some of the above methods will hopefully reduce the “wait time”, and give you more pleasure from your chosen juice.