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Everything you wanted to know about steeping and then some.
This blog is based on my own experiences and is written as my own personal opinion and should be taken as that only. Please remember to follow and observe all safety precautions.
All about steeping and Breathing.
Definition of steeping
Steeping is the soaking in liquid (usually water) of a solid so as to extract flavors or to soften it. Some teas are prepared for drinking by steeping the leaves in heated water to release the flavor and nutrients. Herbal teas may be prepared by decoction, infusion, or maceration. Some solids are soaked to remove an ingredient, such as salt from smoked ham or salted cod, where the solvent is not the desired product.
Source – Wikipedia
Flavors are made up of solid flavor crystal molecules dissolved in a base usually PG or VG. These flavors need a chance to dissolve, combine, blend and meld with the carrier base (PG/VG/NIC) as well as mature. This process takes time. Time can be anywhere from a day to 5 or more weeks.
Should I or should I not steep?
Steeping is an important part of the mixing process but steeping may not be necessary in all situations. The time it takes to steep is really only learned by experience. Whether steeping is necessary is up to the individual's taste buds. I can see where confusion to new mixers comes from with all the conflicting advice given and I for one am guilty of feeding into it. The best advice that can really be given is to let your taste buds guide you. If it taste good right after mixing then don't steep and just vape. If the flavor is off or it's to strong or to weak don't just assume you over or under flavored and don't attempt to adjust the mix. Give it a day or 2 of just sitting then try it again. If after a few days the flavor improves then give it a little more time. If it's still off or there is no improvement then it could need some adjustment. Only experience can tell you what’s right and what's not.
Steeping is the most over looked and disregarded aspect of DYI. It also is the biggest reason for flavoring complaints.
A few examples are questions such as:
I added so much flavor why can't I taste anything?
Why does my mix taste so weak?
Why does my mix taste so strong?
Why does my mix taste like chemicals?
Why does my mix taste like alcohol?
My mix tasted perfect when I first mixed it but now its too weak?
My mix tasted perfect when I first mixed it but now it’s too strong?
Although there could be other reasons for this most of the time it’s that the mix wasn’t steeped or it wasn’t steeped long enough.
Note: Many people assume that a mix needs to be steeped and mix there ejuice and steep without ever tasting the freshly mixed juice. ALWAYS TASTE YOUR FRESH JUICE THEN STEEP IF NESSESSARY.
Tasting first accomplishes 2 things
1. Lets you know if you need to steep or not
2. Establishes a baseline to allow you to gauge the steeping progress over time.
Don't just assume a mix needs to be steeped.
Definition of Breathing
Basically letting a mix breath is letting a mix air off undesired alcohol and chemical odor. To air off unwanted chemical and alcohol odor simply leave the cap off a fresh mix and let it sit for 24 to 48 hours.
A chemical odor may not be as simple as airing out the mix. Steeping may be required.
Make no mistake steeping and breathing are 2 different things.
Natural steeping (Nothing but time on my hands)
Natural steeping or aging can be achieved by just letting the mix sit and let time do its job. This can take from 1 day to as many as 5 or more weeks.
After you create your mix place that mix in a cool dark place and just wait. Taste check it every week or so until it arrives at the expected flavor. Note the amount of time for future reference.
Seed steeping (Sow the seeds of a great juice)
Seed steeping is adding a new mix to an already steeped mature mix. This will speed up steeping by several days to several weeks. A good example of this is a honey tobacco mix I make. This mix takes a good 5 weeks to mature on its own. But if I leave 10 to 15% of the old mix in the bottle and add 85 to 90% new mix. This mixture will mature in 2 – 3 days instead of 5 weeks. I don’t know the science behind it but it does work.
Hot water steep (Giving your mix a nice warm bath)
This is a very common method of express steeping juice. After mixing you are going to shake it up real well and soak the bottle of juice in hot water.
Mix your juice and make sure it’s in a good glass bottle with a secure non leaking cap. Shake the mix well. Then fill a thermos cup that has a tight fitting lid with water no hotter then 150F. Place the bottle in the water and close the lid. Wait for the water to cool to room temperature, remove the bottle and shake it very well. Then repeat the whole process over 2 more times.
Although this is the least efficient form of express steeping it will get you to a some what vapeable state. Still be aware that the mix will be no where near fully steeped quality.
Recent testing and discussion has determined that 150F is the optimum temperature for steeping.
Crock pot or other efficient warmer method
This is a modified version of the above method and is as efficient as ultrasonic steeping but temperature needs to be monitored and maintained at a constant 150F. A coffee warmer, hot plate, slow cooker or crock pot can be used for this. It is often best if you can find a unit with temperature control so you can set it and forget it. If not then you need to use a standard oven thermometer to monitor the water temp. It takes the same amount of time to steep using this method as it would in an ultrasonic cleaner, it’s cheaper and the results are almost identical. Simply fill the device with water bring it up to temperature drop the GLASS Bottle of mix in and steep for the correct amount of time. It is estimated that each hour of steeping using this method equals 1 week of natural steeping time.
Ultrasonic steeping (Shake, rattle and roll)
Ultrasonic steeping (UC) is my method of choice. You ultrasonically vibrate the molecules in the juice to blend them at a high rate of speed. The waves of the ultrasonic action also keep the juice at a constant temperature (150F) which gives you the benefit of both heating and shaking the juice. There have been reports that some UC’s do run hotter so it’s always a good idea to monitor the water temperature. A Juice is 80% - 90% steeped in just a few hours as opposed to weeks if steeped naturally. It has been estimated that 1 hour of ultrasonic steeping is equal to 1 week of natural steeping. I find that no more then 5 hours is necessary to steep any juice. After 5 hours I find steeping makes little difference so there is no advantage to steeping more then 5 hours. What you will notice as the mix sits after UC steeping is it will continue to mature for an additional 1 - 2 days but will be fully vapable right after UC steeping is complete.
You will know steeping is happening because the color of the Mix will change and develop to it's fully steeped color during the UC steeping process.
It is normal for the UC to emit a high pitch buzzing sound during operation.
To reduce this buzzing sound make sure the water is filled to the maximum line and use a plastic basket that may or may not be provided with the unit.
Use only glass bottles in the UC. Plastic especially soft plastic squeeze bottles are far less efficient because the radio waves do not pass through this material as easily as glass. Plastic over time may also shed some of its molecules into the mix which could pose a health risk.
Inexpensive ultrasonic cleaners are not usually the best choice. You must think of convenience. You must weight the convenience factor to cost factor. If you buy cheap you will get cheap.
The must have minimum features are as follow.
- 30 minute or longer timer
- Large capacity (2.5 quart or larger)
- Large LED display
- Heater (Optional)
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Good luck and happy vapeing.