Ceramic Coils for Vaping: Pros and Cons
Coils are one of the most important parts of your vaping experience, and one of the biggest – and most controversial – breakthroughs in recent years is the ceramic coil. The benefits of ceramics are widely-touted: they are heat-resistant, so produce longer-lasting coils and they help you avoid the layer of oxidation that builds up on old coils. However, the downsides are just as widely-shared and are serious enough to put many vapers off ceramic coils for good. So how do ceramic coils work, and do the benefits outweigh the potential downsides?
What Are Ceramic Coils?
Ceramic coils are coils that make use of ceramics to improve longevity and protect against issues like oxidation of the metal. There are two major design styles for a ceramic coil. The coil itself is still made from kanthal or an ordinary coil material, since ceramics don’t conduct electricity. However, the core benefits can be obtained if a normal coil is simply encased in ceramic.
One approach to the design is typified by the Vaporesso cCell, which really kick-started the ceramic coil trend. In this design, the coil itself is encased in a cylinder of porous ceramic. This both protects the coil and means that the ceramic also serves as a wick – no other wick is really needed because the ceramic from the coil can soak up juice and feeds it to the coil.
The other main approach to ceramic coils for vaping is having the wire itself coated in ceramic, so the coil looks basically like any other except it has an outer layer of ceramic. This design uses a cotton wick like any other coil. Kanger’s ceramic SSOCC coil is an example of a ceramic coil using this type of design.
While the designs differ, the essential point for both is that your coils is surrounded by ceramic material, and in both cases the benefits and downsides will be essentially the same.
Ceramic Coils for Vaping: Pros
The benefits of ceramic coils for vaping are generally stressed by the companies making the coils. The positives generally stem from the heat-resistance of ceramics.
Because ceramic doesn’t conduct heat well and can stand up to very high temperatures, the lifespan of the coils is greatly increased. For example, a dry hit on a cotton-wicked, ordinary coil will burn the wick and ruin the vaping experience. The only way to fix it would be to change to a brand new coil or re-wick your existing one, with the latter being a bit of a fiddly and sometimes challenging process. With a ceramic coil, dry hits do no such damage because the ceramic encasing the coil protects everything else. This hugely increases the longevity of the coil, from the few weeks you expect from a normal coil to possibly several months.
No Burnt Taste from Dry Hits
A related benefit of ceramic coils is that they reduce the chance of getting the unpleasant taste that usually accompanies a dry hit. You won’t burn your cotton, and so the gross taste of singed wick material becomes a thing of the past.
Ceramic coils also reduce the chance of spitback, because any e-liquid that does spit out of the coil has to make its way through the ceramic before it could get to your mouth. The small pores in ceramics also make it difficult for juice to pool up around your coil, which is one of the biggest causes of spitback.
Finally, many vapers using ceramic coils and the manufacturers of ceramic coil systems claim that there is an improvement in flavor from using ceramic coils. From experience, it certainly does give a very clean flavor and there is nothing in a ceramic coil that will react or otherwise interfere with the flavor of your e-liquid. The increased surface area stemming from the porous ceramic material should also mean more juice is vaporized with each puff, which also contributes to flavor. This point is ultimately down to personal preference, though, and traditional cotton wicks offer fantastic flavor too.
Ceramic Coils for Vaping: Cons
The downsides of ceramic coils are a little different to the positives. While the benefits all relate to performance and longevity, the most important downside relates to the potential risks of vaping with ceramic coils.
Limited Options for Tanks and Coils
First of all, the truth is that ceramic coils still aren’t especially common. While you can find ceramic coils for many tanks, they still aren’t as ubiquitous as ordinary coils wicked with cotton. This might mean you’ll have to pick up a new tank to try out a ceramic coil.
Faster Juice Consumption
The benefits of ceramic coils when it comes to flavor stem largely from the greater juice consumption per puff, but this also has a related downside: they guzzle juice faster. This isn’t necessarily a huge issue – after all, higher juice consumption often accompanies benefits in performance – but it’s something to keep in mind.
Health Risks of Ceramic Coils
You can’t investigate ceramic coils for vaping without coming across this post by Uwell, manufacturers of the highly popular Crown sub ohm tank, entitled “The Truth and Science Behind Ceramic Coils.” The post centers on some observations taken of three popular ceramic coils using a microscope. The majority of the investigation reveals a jagged, glass-like structure around the edges, which is scary-looking but ultimately reflects little more than what happens when you look at apparently-smooth surfaces under a powerful microscope. Imperfections are everywhere, and the idea that you would zoom in on a ceramic coil and see a perfectly smooth surface is just silly.
Similarly, the post draws attention to dark spots on the coils, which resulted from impurities, pointing out that “The black spots could also be unrefined toxic material.” However, they could also be non-toxic material, since they didn’t actually find out what it was. This is simply flagrant speculation which has little place in an apparently scientific investigation.
However, the investigation does draw attention to some more concerning factors. Scratching the ceramic used in the coil over a black surface shows that fine ceramic dust breaks off the coils. This dust is composed of microscopic, jagged fragments of the ceramic material. If this happened during vaping – as a result of the frequent heating and cooling, or even an occasional knock to the tank – you would likely inhale this dust. The post draws attention to silicosis, a serious lung condition that results from inhaling crystalline silica dust found in ceramics, and scientific papers have also drawn attention to the risks from inhaling ceramic fibers. Silicosis usually takes around 10 years to develop, and is usually observed in industrial settings where exposures are very high.
But the risk of silicosis isn’t something that can be easily brushed aside. We do inhale directly from the tanks hundreds of times each day. While the exposure likely won’t approach that you’d get from cutting stone or working with ceramics in a professional setting, that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free.
Reviewers GrimmGreen and Phil Busardo both sounded the alarm about the potential risks of ceramic coils upon testing out the Vaporesso cCell coil, but a subsequent test revealed no apparent concern about particulates from the ceramic coils. This isn’t conclusive by any stretch of the imagination, though – it’s just one test of one ceramic coil.
The truth is we need better testing of ceramic coils to really put this issue to bed. For now, it’s still very possible that there is a risk to using ceramic coils over the long-term, although it’s likely true that occasional vaping using one won’t cause any issues. The best case scenario is that the concerns are overplayed and the test results are accurate; the worst case scenario is that long-term vaping using ceramic coils could pose a severe health risk. What you do with that information is ultimately up to you.
Are Ceramic Coils Worth It?
The potential health issues really make it difficult to recommend ceramic coils. In terms of performance, they are genuinely great. They’re long-lasting, provide great flavor and remove irritating issues such as dry hits and spitback. But the dark cloud of possible health risks is the main factor to consider: if you’re happy to take the risk, then you’ll get an excellent vape. If you aren’t comfortable until more testing is conducted – personally, this is my stance – then you can still get a fantastic vape using traditional materials.