The atomizer coil is like the engine of your vaping device, and it can have a profound effect on your vaping experience. If the tank that you own has a variety of coils available, choosing the right coil can make the difference between a great experience and a mediocre one. If you’re in the market for a new tank, understanding a tank’s coil selection can help you decide whether that tank is the right one for you. Keep reading, because we’re going to bring you one step further on the road to vaping mastery by helping you understand the intricacies of the atomizer coil.
The atomizer coil is the unit housing the heating wire in the centre of your e-cigarette tank. The heating wire generates the vapour that you inhale, and a wick surrounding the wire brings e-liquid to the wire from the tank’s reservoir. The atomizer coil determines how well the tank operates and influences the quality of your experience more than perhaps any other component of your vaping setup.
No. Vaping tanks have tight design tolerances to prevent leaking, and virtually every design is proprietary. If a coil doesn’t specifically say that it is compatible with your tank, it probably isn’t. However, some vaping product manufacturers do make coils designed to work with other companies’ tanks. The Melo coil by ELeaf, for example, works with the Aspire Atlantis tank. Other companies such as Atom Vapes have built entire businesses on manufacturing improved coils for other makers’ tanks. If you’d like to improve your experience with the tank you already have, it’s worthwhile to research whether a superior third-party coil exists.
You can tell a lot about the capabilities and intended purpose of a tank by looking at its atomizer coil. A coil with large exposed wick holes allows plenty of e-liquid to flow through from the tank’s reservoir. A wide coil houses a large heating wire. Put those two features together, and you’ll have a coil designed for big vapour clouds and deep direct-to-lung inhaling. A narrow coil with small wick holes, on the other hand, helps to provide the air resistance ideal for mouth-to-lung inhaling.
In electricity, resistance measures the extent to which a component of a circuit restricts the flow of electrical current. The higher the number is, the more the component restricts the current. A 1.0-ohm component, in other words, restricts the current more than a 0.5-ohm component. If the voltage of the battery remains the same, reducing the coil resistance means that the circuit will operate at a higher wattage. The coil, in other words, produces more vapour without requiring a corresponding increase in battery voltage.
There’s a catch, though; you can’t use just any atomizer coil with any vaping device because reducing the resistance of the coil comes with a corresponding increase in the amperage drawn from the battery. Every battery has a maximum current that it can safely support. Above that maximum, there’s a chance that the battery can vent hot gas and experience a catastrophic failure. It’s important, therefore, to know the capabilities of any battery that you use for vaping.
A regulated vaping mod also has built-in safety features that dictate the minimum supported atomizer resistance. A typical minimum resistance for a modern regulated mod, for example, might be 0.1 ohm. If you connect an atomizer coil with a resistance below the minimum, the mod will display an error message. A regulated mod also has a wattage range that it supports. If resistance of an atomizer coil is above the minimum for your device – and the coil’s suggested wattage range is within the range that your device supports – the atomizer coil should work with your device. You’ll need to verify those numbers each time you buy a new tank for your vaping device.
Most companies make their vaping coils from an alloy of iron, chromium and aluminium called kanthal. Kanthal is a popular choice for heating wires because its resistance isn’t too high or low and because it tolerates repeated heating and cooling without breaking down. When you shop for atomizer coils, though, it’s likely that you’ll also see coils made from materials other than kanthal. These are the four most common materials that you’ll find.
Nichrome is an alloy of nickel, chromium and sometimes aluminium. Although it isn’t as common as kanthal, it is particularly popular among those who build exotic coils for cloud chasing. Because nichrome has a lower resistance than kanthal for a given length and thickness of wire, it’s a popular choice for higher-mass coil builds. The coils in boxed assortments of pre-made coils are often nichrome. Compared to kanthal, nichrome has two small drawbacks. The first is that nichrome’s low resistance makes it inappropriate for some devices with very low amperage limits. The second drawback is that nichrome is slightly less durable than kanthal. In practice, though, the reduced durability doesn’t matter much because residue will collect on the coil and negatively affect the vaping experience long before the coil wears out.
Note: A few people suffer from nickel allergies. If you are allergic or sensitive to nickel, you should avoid using nichrome atomizer coils.
Like nichrome, stainless steel has a lower resistance than kanthal and therefore benefits from faster heating and shorter ramp-up times. The most common type of steel used for stainless steel coils is 316 – also called “surgical” – stainless steel. This type of steel has high resistance to corrosion and is often a good coil material for those who suffer from allergies or sensitivities to certain metals. In sub-ohm tanks, stainless steel coils are becoming more common than ever. Stainless steel offers a very pure flavour, and it has enough resistance that it can work in your device’s wattage mode without a problem. Unlike nichrome, though, stainless steel also works in temperature control mode. Although vaping devices generally can’t estimate the temperature of steel coils as well as they can nickel and titanium coils, stainless steel is the only coil material that’s safe to use in both wattage mode and temperature control mode.
Nickel has an extremely low electrical resistance, and its resistance changes greatly as it’s heated. It is therefore the ideal material for temperature control vaping. All materials change their resistance in a predictable way when they’re heated. A device supporting temperature control, therefore, can estimate the temperature of a nickel coil by measuring the difference between the coil’s current resistance and its original resistance. Of all coil materials, the resistance of nickel changes the most when it’s heated. Temperature control devices, therefore, tend to be very accurate when estimating the temperature of nickel coils. The drawback of nickel is that, for some, it can trigger allergies or sensitivities. An additional drawback is that some people find that a nickel coil tends to produce a noticeably metallic flavour. Taste, however, is subjective; many people have no issues with the flavour of nickel coils.
Titanium is another popular material for temperature control atomizer coils. When a titanium coil is heated, it doesn’t change in resistance quite as dramatically as a nickel coil would. The change is far greater, however, than that of a stainless steel coil. Those who are sensitive to the taste of nickel coils often find that titanium coils do not have the same issue.
An atomizer coil has a wick – usually wrapped around the heating wire – that keeps the wire wet by drawing e-liquid in from the tank. Cotton is almost perfect as a wick material, so it’s what most atomizer coils use. There are a few atomizer coils that use alternative wick materials, though, and it’s worthwhile to know how those materials can change your vaping experience.
Cotton is the gold standard for vaping wicks. It’s a natural plant fibre, so most people are comfortable using it. Although cotton does lend a mild flavour to e-liquid, most people don’t notice the flavour because they’ve been using cotton wicks for years anyway. Cotton is a great wick material for sub-ohm atomizer coils because it’s an effective transporter of liquids and because most people find the flavour quality excellent. A few people have noted a slight “t-shirt” flavour when using cotton wicks. If you’re one of those people, you might prefer the next option on this list.
Some vaping coils use a form of porous ceramic called sintered ceramic for their wicks. Sintered ceramic is a liquid form of ceramic that’s poured into a mould and heated until it’s solid. The maker then installs a heating wire in the middle of the hardened ceramic. The ceramic wick holds liquid – and transports it from the tank to the heating wire – just like a fibre wick would. Ceramic wicks are extremely durable. Some people consider it the best wick material for flavour chasers because – unlike some other wick materials – ceramic adds virtually no flavour of its own. Ceramic does have a drawback as a wick material, though, in that it doesn’t transport liquid as efficiently as some other materials. After puffing on a vaping tank with a ceramic wick, in other words, you’ll have to wait several seconds for the wick to become wet again. For that reason, you’ll generally find ceramic wicks only in atomizer coils intended for use at lower wattage ranges.
Silica was the most popular wick material for atomizer coils until sub-ohm vaping became popular. Silica was popular for its durability and flavour quality. It’s a more efficient transporter of liquid than ceramic, but it isn’t as effective as cotton. That’s why cotton is much more popular today; modern sub-ohm tanks generate so much vapour that silica wicks can’t keep up. Some people still use braided silica ropes when building their own atomizer coils, but the rope shape doesn’t work well for sub-ohm tanks – so factory-made atomizer coils with silica wicks are rare.
Depending on the type of e-liquid that you use and how much e-liquid you consume, an atomizer coil can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. We’ll explain the reasons for the variability shortly. You’ll know when it’s time to replace your atomizer coil by paying attention to the way your vaping experience changes over time. When your coil is new, you’ll taste nothing but the flavour of your e-liquid when you vape. After you’ve used the coil for a while, though, residue from the sweeteners in your e-liquids will begin to collect on the coil. When that begins to happen, you’ll detect a note of caramelized sugar when you vape regardless of the e-liquid you use. When the residue on your coil becomes so thick that it prevents the coil’s wick from delivering e-liquid to the heating wire, you might notice irritation in your throat when vaping. The coil has reached the end of its life.
Coil gunk is the name that members of the vaping community have given to the dark residue that forms on atomizer coils after long-term vaping. When your atomizer coil displays the symptoms that we’ve described above, you’ll see a dark crust on the heating wire when you open your tank. Sweetener is the primary cause of coil gunk. Sweeteners such as sucralose don’t vaporize fully when they’re heated, and any sweeteners that fail to vaporize cleanly will instead collect on the heating wire of your atomizer coil.
The layer of coil gunk thickens until it eventually becomes a detriment to the vaping experience. Certain flavours – and even the vegetable glycerine used in most e-liquids – also contribute to coil gunk. The more e-liquid you use, the faster coil gunk will form. Owning a high-output vaping device, therefore, means that you’ll need to replace your atomizer coil more often than you would if you used a smaller, lower-output device.
If you use a powerful vaping device, enjoy sweetened e-liquids and are sensitive to the flavour of burned sugar, you may find yourself installing a new atomizer coil almost daily. At around £2-3 per coil, that’s potentially an expensive proposition. The two factors that contribute most strongly to the formation of coil gunk are the amount of sweetener in your e-liquid and the volume of e-liquid that you use. Changing one of those factors – by purchasing unsweetened e-liquids or using a less powerful vaping device – will improve coil life. If you don’t want to change either of those factors, you can make coil replacement less expensive by building your own coils. We discuss coil building in our ultimate guide to advanced vaping.
The wire, wicking and resistance of your coil will all impact your vaping experience. But the type of core that your coil features will also make a difference. There are two types of core to consider – standard wire and mesh. You can choose from single, dual, triple and quadruple standard wire cores. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of core.
This type of coil will usually give you moderately strong throat hits and modest vapour production. You will enjoy good flavour and relatively warm vapes. Single coils boast slow ramp up (heating) times.
These coils deliver hotter vapes but require more power and so will drain your battery quickly. You will experience stronger throat hits, more intense flavour and bigger clouds than with single cores. This is because multiple wires combine to provide a larger heating area, vaporising a greater volume of eliquid every time you press the fire button. Dual, triple and quad core coils burn at higher temperatures. This means that the trade off for improved flavour and bigger clouds is reduced coil life.
Mesh coils provide a good compromise between single and multiple wire cores. They heat quickly and deliver both excellent flavour and impressive vapour. But they usually require less power than dual, triple or quad cores of the same resistance and so won’t drain your battery as quickly. Mesh coils tend to be long lasting which is a significant bonus. You can read more about mesh coils in our dedicated guide.