Additives & Enhancers
In the world of vaping flavors everything is subjective and when it comes to additives and their effects on flavors, the subjectivity grows exponentially, compounding the problem of second-hand anecdotal experience. All of these additives have a sweet spot for their “optimal” effects but most have a thin line between no effect and (typically) muting flavor.
Just because a concentrate says “Honey” on the label doesn’t mean you’ll taste honey and the same goes for the Magic and Wizardry on the labels below, along with their purported effects on your flavors and recipes… Take the the following advice and descriptions with a drop of saline and don’t get salty if your results vary.
Additives / “Enhancers”
- AAA Magic Mask (FA) – “Magic Mask acts at the tongue receptors level, temporarily reducing the acid perception, thus improving the overall mouth feel. Its action last 5-8 seconds and involve only the acid receptors.”
- Acetyl Pyrazine (AP) – Primarily used as an element of bakery recipes to add “nutty, bready, grainy” texture. Also common in tobacco/RY4 recipes. Used from .25-.5% it carries some notes of caramel, nuts, and butter. When used at higher percentages it can transform into corn chips/fritos.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Used to adjust pH, reduce throat hit and “round” out flavors. Commonly reported to enhance flavors initially but diminish the overall flavor after a short period of time (days vs weeks)
- Bitter Wizard (FA) – Used to combat the inherent sweetness of VG/PG in mixes where those attributes are undesirable.
- Citric Acid (CA – Commonly used to enhance fruits or make them “pop” but will quickly mute your recipe when abused. In /u/fizzmustard’s famous ‘Nana Cream clone it was used at 1 drop per ml but was later changed “I no longer recommend using citric acid in this recipe; it tends to mute the flavor over time and isn’t very gentle on coils. Up to you whether you use it or not. I personally don’t.”
- Distilled Water (DW) – Was more useful on older devices when using higher VG in mixes and isn’t as common today, due to most RTA’s and even prebuilt coils being capable of handing Max VG. Some people claim to get better flavor and others claim that it mutes flavor, which can probably be explained by adding more DW than is necessary to increase wicking. /u/_Yodai[+2] explains some of the science behind the viscosity of water vs PG.
- Ethyl Maltol (AKA TFA Cotton Candy) – Is not a sweetener in the traditional sense of adding sweetness (sweet lips) but conveys sweetness through your olfactory, so it’s effectiveness as a sweetener can vary quite a bit depending on the sensitivity of your palate. It can also alter sour/bitter flavors by taming the inherently harsh top notes. And in this case tame is almost interchangeable with mute; EM used as an additive will cause muting when used too high or when used in conjunction with flavors that already contain EM or Maltol (e.g. TFA Strawberry, Bavarian Cream, and many more)
- Ethyl Vanillin – 2-5x stronger than Vanillin depending on your source of information. /u/clinodev has some notes on usage, layering and sweetness. Recommended percentages are old, as are most well regarded recipes using it. Also worth noting it is a component of over 100 TFA flavors, so adding it to those flavors is likely to speed up olfactory fatigue.
- Flash (FA) – Specifically designed to increase throat hit and often used to replace throat hit when lowering nicotine levels. From FA “Flash, formerly known as BiteXtra, has been formulated by FlavourArt to enhance the throat feel, particularly for low Nicotine strength or high VG content eliquid. Add it to eliquid starting at 2% to ascertain your preference.”
- Flavor Toner/Enhancer (FW) – See Triacetin
- Malic Acid (AKA TFA Sour) – Stronger than, but with similar effect, to citric acid.
- MTS Vape Wizard ( FA – Mellow, Thick, Smooth) – From FA “Based on our thorough understanding of taste mechanisms, we have developed a product which we believe will increase the pleasure of your vaping experience. MTS vape wizard contributes toward softening any acidic/sour perception, it assists in making vapour thicker, and it delivers both body and depth to any e-liquid.” See also, Triacetin.
- Polar Blast (FA) – 7% Koolada (WS-3) with 3% Menthyl lactate (Frescolat ML) the included Menthyl lactate seems to alter most people’s perception of the cooling effect and mitigate the off-notes associated with Koolada.
- Saline – Although you can make your own, most people seem to use 0.9% USP sterile saline solution which can be picked up from the pharmacy. While this is well known to be safe for inhalation, it will do a number on your coils. It was once commonly used to counter inherently dry tobacco’s or as a way to thin out “high” VG mixes but saw a surge in popularity due to its inclusion in Bombies publicly released “Deputy Donut”
- Smooth (TFA) – See Triacetin
- Sweeteners – This Weeks FOTW, Monday nights episode of the Noted podcast, and next week’s FAQ Friday with /u/skiddlzninja[+28] taking up the mantle for what is sure to be a great write up.
- Tart and Sour (TFA) – A combination of citric and malic acid.
- Triacetin – Is a diluent in many flavors and is also the primary component in TFA Smooth, FA MTS Vape Wizard, and FW Flavor Toner/Enhancer and is often paired with isobutavan which TFA describes as “Sweet, and creamy vanillic character reminiscent of white chocolate, cream soda and with a soft apricot feeling.”
- Vanillin – A component in over 150 TFA flavors at various levels (according to their spec sheet) it’s also sold as a 10% dilution and by some vendors as crystals. For a great read and in depth look at vanilla check out ** “Vanilla. The world’s second most expensive spice. Some history, what it is, how to use it.”**
- WS-3 (Koolada) – This is the standard cooling agent, it’s basically menthol without the taste. But when it comes to taste a lot of people seem to get off notes when using enough to get the cooling sensation they desire. Looking at the wildly varying percentage that different people prefer to use it at gives a good idea on how subjective people’s tolerance of cooling agents is.
- WS-5 – Significantly more cooling effect and potency than either Koolada or WS-23 but limited availability. It also is reported by a lot of people to carry some of the same off notes as koolada and even imparts and almost salty effect.
- WS-23 – A cooling agent similar to Koolada but with fewer reported ‘off notes.’ It’s often described as being stronger than Koolada due to the fact that most vendors dilutions are at 30% vs the typical dilution of Koolada at 10% but Koolada is, in fact stronger. The primary difference between the two is where the cooling is felt
Basically any time someone uses a flavor to “add” something other than the flavor it is supposed to be, we can consider it an additive. I’m not sure where you draw the line between using a cream as a cream flavor and using it to enhance the mouthfeel. There’s a lot of room for subjectivity due to the fact that people’s sensitivity to flavors means that while one person might find a low percentage of FA Pear adds juiciness to their recipe, others might might taste an overripe pear note that detracts from the main profile they’re after. Consensus is just a line that divides a full spectrum of experience and while that line can often be broad enough to leave a small subset of outliers it can also, on occasion, leave a large minority wondering what everyone else is thinking.
- FLV Lovage – “This is more of a flavor additive than stand alone. The review on the Flavorah website states that it “tones” flavors, and that seems as good a description as any. It seems to round out and give volume to green flavors, for better or worse. It also works a lot like a better version of ethyl maltol on citrus and seems to really define the edges of the flavors in tobaccos.” from /u/concreteriver[+30]’s review
- INW Cactus – Often used as a way to add “moisture” or “juiciness” to fruit recipes. When wielded by the capable yet slightly twisted mind of /u/philosaphucker[+8] it goes from additive to peculiarly vital ingredient.
- FA Pear – Nondescript juiciness at <1%
- TFA Dragonfruit – “blends” fruits, makes strawberry “pop” and if you follow the clues in my flair, you’ll see that it can definitely be used as a primary flavor, as well.
Contains triethyl citrate which /u/abdada[+77] describes here “In e-liquids, the goal of triethyl citrate is to keep essential oils, flavor and aroma molecules, and base carrier solvents from falling apart. As e-liquid recipes get more and more complex, and involve more and more disparate ingredients, the need for emulsification grows.”
- TFA Jalapeno – Can be used to add throat hit at small percentages or spice up your next pickle recipe if you’re into that.
- TFA Brown Sugar – Used more often as an alternative sweetener than for its accurate flavor.
- TFA Marshmallow – Adds sweetness and smoothness.
- CAP Jelly Candy – “Solo, this has a light soapy taste. Not super dense but really fluffy mouthfeel. Little bit of residual stickiness. But this isn’t a flavor, per se. It’s primarily a textural additive so I’ve tried it with the leftovers of some testers I had. I figured it was enough to get a feel for how this works since the flavor tests are pretty recent in my mind.” from /u/concreteriver[+30]’s review with a bunch of experimentation worth checking out.
- VT Jam it – “tastes a bit like an odd take on a mango by itself but will make fruits more like jams at 1-2%” /u/ID10-T[+539]
- CAP Hibiscus – “Lingering sticky sweet mouthfeel, again more pronounced with higher wattages. Almost like the way the syrup in a slurpee sticks to your mouth long after you take a sip.”
- FA Ozone – “”A full bodied background that blends well with delicate floreal top notes. Light on vape but with personality” And it’s worth reading any review from /u/concreteriver[+30] but especially when it starts out “This is weird, even for flavourart.”
- FLV Oak Barrel – “An uncharred oak additive. This tastes a lot like smelling hardwood. Nothing like cedar or sandalwood. Also nothing resinous or like pine. No char to it either. Basically just clean oak.”
- FLV Pucker – “Tart tobacco additive with it’s own sweet tobacco note behind it.”
- FA Oba Oba – “Sweetens and adds a kind of non descript “back end” to the flavor. It’s easily my favorite quick cheat code to smooth out a recipe, add a little body, and just over all round stuff out.” /u/hocuskrokus[+19]
- TFA Quince – “The best additive I have found to enhance fruits and mix well with cream is TFA Quince. It’s got enough tart to make fruits pop and just enough bold fruit to mix well with cream.” /u/skiddlzninja[+28]
Real carbonation is caused by dissolving carbon dioxide gas into liquid under pressure. When the pressure is reduced, carbon dioxide is released from the liquid in the form of effervescence.
Our best hope in replicating this sensation is to create a convincing illusion of carbonation, or something that our brains associate so closely with carbonation that our imagination bridges the gap.
ConcreteRiver Champagne Notes comparing a few popular options.
Some helpful reviews to get an idea on how some fizzy flavors work:
- RF Soda Base
- TFA Cola Fizz
- TFA Champagne
- FA Cola
- INW Fresh Cola
- VT Fizzy Sherbet – Is the new kid on the block and hasn’t been reviewed yet, so I asked /u/ID10-T[+539] what he thought of it “has some lemony citrus flavor to work around but it does the best job of anything I’ve tried at emulating the tingle of carbonation. 2% Fizzy S 3% CAP Lemon Lime = Sprite”
There are so many more that were omitted, if you can think of any, please feel free to share them and your experience or recipes that used them.
My generic advice on using additives/enhancers
I’ll paraphrase both the typical new mixer “What additives should I get on my first order?” and the typical seasoned mixer “None.”
I don’t disagree with that advice but I’ll also contradict myself when asserting that you should find recipes that are well regarded (highly rated) or have awesome descriptions and look like a lot of time was spent developing them (none of mine) and if any of those use additives, well, you should probably get them.
Before ordering or reaching for an additive to use in your own mix, ask yourself “What are you trying to accomplish?”
“It’s better to fix the issue at hand then try to get around it.” – Phillip Rocke
If you’re trying to fix your mix with an additive it’s worth noting there is no one-size-fits-all solution to a failed recipe. It’s far better to have a well rounded knowledge of handful of flavors than to have a toolbox full of tools you don’t understand how to use and it’s much more beneficial in the long run to learn to balance flavors by themselves than to add a bit of magic in order to mask the problems.
But experimentation is fun and additives and enhancers can make things more interesting, so if you DIY as a hobby, grab all the additives that sound interesting, and if you DIY to save money–save it, they’re not a vital component of good juice.
Couple videos worth checking out