If you are new to vaping, then welcome to the exciting world of e liquids! Your mind has probably been well and truly boggled by the massive choice of flavours at your disposal. You might also be feeling a little confused by all the vaping terminology that you are encountering when trying to choose your vape juice.
If the vaping vernacular is bewildering, gaining a good understanding of the various aspects of vaping will definitely help you to make the right choices. Base liquid ratio is one subject that is certainly worth exploring if you wish to maximise your vaping pleasure.
So, what exactly are base liquids?
When e liquids are formulated, flavourings are mixed with a base liquid to create the delicious juice. Most e liquids also feature nicotine. The base liquid produces that all-important vapour when it is heated by your electronic cigarette or vaping device. So now you know what is meant by the term base liquid, but what about ratios?
Base Liquid Ratios
There are two different substances which are used as base liquids. These are vegetable glycerine (VG) and propylene glycol (PG). Most e-liquids are made using a mixture of the two, but the proportion or ratio of each varies from product to product.
The ratio used determines the strength of flavour of the e-liquid, the nature of the throat hit that it delivers, and the amount of vapour that is produced as you vape.
When you are choosing your e juice you will notice that the product listings online and the products’ packaging identify the base liquid ratio of the e-liquid, this is expressed as a percentage. If the vape juice is labelled as being 50PG/50VG then it is simply 50% propylene glycol and 50% vegetable glycerine.
But which base liquid ratio should you choose? To make that decision, you need to acquaint yourself with the properties of the two substances.
Propylene glycol is a synthetic organic compound with the chemical formula C3H8O2. This might sound rather scientific but all you really need to know is that PG is a colourless, odourless and flavourless substance. It is found in many common consumables including pet foods and beauty products. More importantly, research has shown that PG is safe to ingest and to inhale but further research is required.
Volatile compounds which contain PG have been associated with respiratory disorders but it is more than likely that it is the glycol ethers in such compounds which are problematic and not the PG. After all, PG is used in asthma inhalers! You should also be aware that PG can adversely affect the immune systems of cats and so care should be taken when vaping around your feline friends.
Allergic reactions to PG are extremely rare but high levels of PG can result in you experiencing a dry mouth and increased thirst. These symptoms tend to subside as your body acclimatises to the liquid over time. When it comes to vaping, the advantages of PG are clear. It provides an excellent throat hit and delivers intense flavour.
A high ratio of PG is a major boon for recent smokers who are still craving that treasured throat hit.
Vegetable glycerine is also found in many products that you use every day including cosmetics, toiletries, medications and food. It is an ingredient which is added to a variety of products to act as a moisturiser and sweetener. VG is a benign substance which is derived from vegetable oils.
As with PG, allergic reactions to VG are extremely rare and are most commonly experienced by diabetics. VG is a great choice for vegetarians as the manufacture of PG can involve animal derivatives.
VG delivers a smoother throat hit than PG but much more voluminous clouds of vapour and so VG lends itself to sub-ohm (low resistance) vaping. More terminology! If you are not familiar with the concept of sub-ohm vaping, then check out our guide to vaping devices. Sub-ohm vaping is best practised by experienced vapers as the inappropriate handling of low resistance devices can be hazardous.
VG does not carry flavour quite as efficiently as PG and it has a naturally sweet taste which can alter the balance of flavour in e-liquids. It is also thicker than PG and that means that it can clog up the heating coils in atomisers. Vaping devices which have small coils such as clearomizers, can be particularly susceptible to this problem. On the other hand, sub-ohm tanks are set up to cope well with the viscosity of e-liquids which contain a high ratio of vegetable glycerine.
As propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine both have their advantages and disadvantages, most e-liquids feature a combination of the two. This ensures that the flavour delivery is good, that the heating coils of devices don’t clog up and that generous clouds of vapour are produced. But vaping is very much a matter of personal taste and there is no reason why you cannot find your own personal vaping heaven.
Hopefully you are now feeling a little more informed about PG and VG. Well, at least you know what those ratios printed on the bottles mean! But the only way that you are going to find out which base liquid ratio really best suits your needs is to engage in a little trial and error.
You certainly have plenty of e-liquids to choose from so you can work your way through a smorgasbord of different ratios and flavours to discover your favourites. It will be an interesting journey and finding your vaping nirvana really is simply a case of suck it and see!
If you would like to know more about nicotine and flavour groups, take a look at our Vape Liquid Guide next.