One of the biggest factors influencing how your vape juice tastes is whether or not it contains an added sweetener.
Sucralose is the most popular e-liquid sweetener, and it has a flavour that you can detect instantly. It tastes like a sugar-free sweet or fizzy drink. It coats your entire mouth with sweetness, and it makes e-liquids with sweet and dessert flavour profiles really jump out at you. Like so many other things in life that taste great, though, sucralose also comes with a major drawback.
In this article, we’re going to explain exactly what you should consider when comparing sweetened vs. unsweetened e-liquids.
If the e-liquids that you’ve tried up to now have all been unsweetened — and you’ve enjoyed your vaping experiences to date — you might be wondering why sweetened e-liquids exist at all.
In short, they exist because people love sweet flavours, and some flavour profiles simply don’t taste right unless they stimulate your palate’s sweet receptors.
Have you ever tasted one of the flavoured unsweetened fizzy drinks that have been so popular in the supermarkets over the past few years? Those drinks use the same flavouring compounds that you’ll find in sweetened fizzy drinks. Despite that fact, the sweetened drink tastes bold, while the unsweetened one barely tastes different from plain water.
If an e-liquid replicates the flavour of a sweet food or beverage, it’s likely that the e-liquid will taste even better with an added sweetener. An e-liquid capturing the flavour of fruit, sweets, fizzy drink, ice cream or cake will taste much truer to life if it’s sweetened.
For many people, sweetened vape juice is the thing that makes the switch from smoking to vaping possible. A cigarette can’t taste like a blueberry doughnut with frosting, but an e-liquid can. When people discover that fact, cigarettes lose their appeal very quickly.
By far, the most popular e-liquid sweetener is sucralose. If you’ve ever tried an e-liquid that coated your mouth with sweetness — that was almost indistinguishable from real sweets — you’ve vaped sucralose. You can find it sold in stores under the brand name Splenda. Pure sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than sugar.
Sucralose is also the most popular sugar substitute for diet drinks. Unlike the artificial sweeteners of the past, sucralose doesn’t have an off-putting aftertaste.
For e-liquid makers, sucralose also has the advantage of being readily available in a liquid form that’s ready for adding to vape juice. Bottled liquid sucralose contains nothing but sucralose, propylene glycol and water. Simply add a bit to any e-liquid, and you’ve got a sweetened e-liquid that’s ready to vape.
When e-liquid makers want to create vape juices with big, bold flavour profiles that really explode on the palate, they reach for sucralose. If you see an e-liquid with a bright label, a plastic bottle and a name like “Blue Raspberry Slushie,” you can bet that it’s a sucralose-sweetened vape juice.
Now, let's discuss the major drawback of sucralose in e-liquid.
If you’ve gone through more than a bottle or two of sweetened e-liquid, you already know what we’re going to talk about: coil gunk.
The problem with sucralose is that it doesn’t turn to a pure vapour when heated as the other ingredients in an e-liquid do. In a sweetened e-liquid, some of the sucralose will stick to your device’s atomizer coil and burn. As you continue using the e-liquid, the layer of burned sucralose on the atomizer coil becomes thicker and eventually turns the entire coil black. At that point, you’ll taste nothing but burned sugar every time you vape. The only way to get rid of that flavour is by replacing the coil.
The more e-liquid you use, the faster coil gunk forms. With a powerful sub-ohm vaping setup, you’ll consume e-liquid very quickly. If you use a sweetened e-liquid with high-end vaping hardware, you may only get a few hours of high-quality vaping before the burned sugar taste begins to creep in. If you want your coils to last, sucralose is bad news.
Taste is subjective, so the second problem with sucralose is something that you might not actually see as a problem at all. A strong sweetener like sucralose, however, will tend to muddle the individual flavour notes in an e-liquid a bit. Do you enjoy e-liquids with complex flavour profiles? Does the idea of an e-liquid with notes of dark chocolate, coffee, star anise and citrus appeal to you? You might find the individual flavour notes in a complex vape juice difficult to taste if that e-liquid contains sucralose.
If you like sweet flavours but don’t want to replace your vape coil every day, this article probably feels like pretty bad news to you so far. Now, it’s time for some good news: An e-liquid can taste sweet without sucralose. There are several e-liquid sweeteners that won’t destroy your coils, and we’re going to discuss a few of them.
You read that correctly. Vegetable glycerine — an ingredient found in virtually every e-liquid — has a slightly sweet flavour. It’s actually used as a sweetener in some foods. VG doesn’t contribute to coil gunk, and it can make any e-liquid taste a little sweeter. To enjoy the maximum sweetening effect of VG, try a high-VG e-liquid without sucralose.
Ethyl maltol is a flavouring agent that captures the taste of caramelized sugar. Most people liken the flavour to that of cotton candy — so if you’ve ever tried a cotton candy e-liquid, you’ve definitely tasted ethyl maltol. Used tastefully, ethyl maltol can sweeten any flavour profile without adding significant flavour of its own.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol extracted from fermented corn. Its sweetness is about on par with sugar, and it is almost completely calorie free. Added to an e-liquid, erythritol can also produce a very mild cooling sensation similar to what you’d experience with a small amount of menthol. At the time of writing, erythritol is not yet a popular e-liquid sweetener. As more people begin demanding gunk-free e-liquid that still tastes sweet, though, erythritol is likely to become more popular.