As a smoker, all you have to do is slide a cigarette out of the pack, grip it between your lips, light up the end and inhale. There isn’t much that can go wrong. But when you switch to vaping, things start to change. While cigarettes taste basically the same from the tip right down to the filter, when you vape, the otherwise-delicious flavor of your e-juice sometimes takes on an unpleasant turn. This is most commonly referred to as a “burnt taste,” and you’ve probably experienced it yourself: the flavor of your juice seems to fade and is replaced by the taste of “overcooked” e-juice, burning cotton or a combination of both. So if this happens to you regularly, what should you do about it? Can you stop it from happening? Here’s how to avoid getting a burnt taste and to keep your atomizer heads working for as long as possible.
What Causes a Burnt Taste When Vaping?
Although there are lots of different ways you can end up with a burnt taste when you’re vaping, they all really come down to the same thing: the wick in your coil either doesn’t have enough e-liquid in it or it’s been burnt.
In both cases, the cotton that supplies e-liquid to your coil stops being able to do its job, and this means that when you hit the button to activate your e-cig, the coil heats up but doesn’t have enough e-juice to vaporize. Since some of the heat it produces doesn’t have anything else to vaporize, and it either ends up overheating your e-liquid (which can cause problems like increasing amounts of formaldehyde in the vapor) or ends up just directly burning the cotton wick. Both of these can lead to what’s described as a “burnt taste” from your e-cig.
If your wick gets burnt, then there’s no going back. The only way to get your e-cig to perform like you want it to again is to get a new coil That’s why learning to avoid having this happen at all is crucial, especially if you want to get the most out of your coils and save as much money as possible when you’re vaping.
Trust the Power Ratings on Your Coil
One of the most common causes of a burnt taste is simply having your power set too high for your atomizer (or the combination of the juice you choose and the atomizer – see below for more info). There is no hard-and-fast rule for what power setting you should use, so there is always an element of experimentation and mistakes can happen.
However, these days, most manufacturers put recommended power settings on the outer shell of the coil heads. These are basically estimates of how much power the coil can take before it struggles to resupply the wick with enough e-liquid to keep up with your vaping. For example, the 0.15 ohm V8-X4 coils for the Smok TFV8 are rated for between 60 and 150 W, and work best in the middle of this range. If you go too far over – for example, to 200 W – you’re more likely to get a burnt taste.
You can exceed these ratings in many cases, but if you’re getting a burnt taste regularly, check your coils and try vaping within the recommended range for a while.
Choose E-Liquid with the Right Viscosity
Not all e-liquids are created equal. The two main ingredients used in e-juice – PG and VG – have different characteristics, and when you’re trying to avoid a burnt taste, viscosity is the crucial factor. VG is much more viscous than PG, and this means it takes longer to soak into your wick. If you’re vaping with a high-VG e-juice (for example, an 80 % VG blend), you’re more likely to get dry hits or burn your coil, especially if you’re vaping at a high wattage.
Black Note’s naturally-extracted tobacco blends come in 50/50 PG/VG, giving them a great balance of throat hit, wicking ability and vapor production, but anything around the 50/50 mark (even up to 70 % VG on many sub ohm tanks) will generally perform without issues.
Take a Break from Vaping if You Notice a Drop in Flavor
One of the first things you notice before getting a dry hit from your tank is a reduction in flavor. A full, wick-burning dry hit tastes actively terrible, but a notable reduction in flavor is a big red flag that something is going wrong. It could really be related to any of the entries on this list, but if you’ve been vaping continuously for a little while, it might be time to take a break. Like vaping with your power set too high, “chain vaping” is very demanding on your wick. Before it has time to fully soak, you start vaping again and further deplete it. And the more you keep vaping, the problem is exacerbated more and more.
The solution is simple: take a break from vaping for a bit and give your tank time to re-wick and cool down a bit.
Get a Temperature Controlled E-Cig
The best thing you can do to avoid getting a burnt flavor is also the most expensive solution: buy a mod and a coil that supports temperature control (TC) vaping. TC is all about avoiding burnt hits, and it works by limiting the temperature your coil can reach. When you don’t have enough juice in your wick, the temperature of the coil increases a lot and this is what causes the burnt taste. By limiting the temperature, the burnt taste simply doesn’t happen.
Even better than that, getting a TC device means you don’t have to worry as much about all the other entries on this list. This is because if you vape too frequently, at too high a power or anything else, you’ll be protected because your coil can’t exceed a certain temperature.
Don’t Vape With an Empty (Or Near-Empty) Tank
If your tank is almost empty, there isn’t as much juice there to keep the wick supplied and it takes longer to soak in properly. You can usually twist or otherwise move your device around to make sure the wicks are soaked, but there is always a risk of dry hits when your tank is low on juice. The best advice is to simply fill up again when your tank is getting low. With a TC device, though, you can vape right to the end of the tank without issues.
Prime Your Coils
When you get a brand new coil, the wick is completely dry. However, as you know, it has to be well-soaked with e-liquid to let you vape without getting dry hits. This is why one of the times you’re most likely to get a dry hit is on a brand new coil, and why “priming” your coil is important. This means manually soaking the wicks with e-liquid before you fill up.
On most atomizer heads, you’ll be able to see a tube of wick when you look in from the top, and there will be several windows around the sides of the casing to let juice get to the wick. To prime your coil, drop some juice directly into the top of the atomizer so it soaks the wick around the edges. Add enough so that the wick is visibly soaked, and then go around the sides and apply some directly to the wick through the windows there too.
Finally, when you do fill up, the best advice is to leave the full tank for about five to ten minutes before you start vaping. This just makes absolutely sure your wicks will be ready to go when you hit “fire.”
Choose E-Liquid Flavors With Less Sweetener
Sweeteners can really gunk up your coils. This can be an issue on bakery-style flavors and other heavy dessert blends, but it’s also an issue with many NET e-liquids. Some of the sugars in the e-liquid can get left behind as a caramelized residue, and this stops your wick from doing its job properly. It won’t be able to soak up liquid as well, and this makes you much more likely to get a dry hit.
Clean Your Coils
If you have a coil that’s not looking too healthy and you don’t want to (or can’t) get a new one, cleaning can often revive a coil and improve its performance. Really you’re just cleaning the wick, so all you have to do is remove the atomizer head from the tank and run it under some warm water. Ordinarily, dirty wicks are stained brown from several tanks’ worth of e-juice, and you should see the color of the wick noticeably get lighter as you rinse. Once you’ve done, you just have to leave the coils to thoroughly dry before you fill up and vape again. Although some people try to speed up the process, the best thing to do is leave it sat on a paper towel for a day or so before trying to use it.
Change Your Coil
If you’ve tried to prevent the problem from happening, and cleaning either hasn’t worked or you don’t want to try it, then you might just have to get a new coil. The lifespan of a coil can vary a lot, but generally after a month or so, the coil will be past its prime and will start to perform worse. Of course, following the steps on this list should maximize the lifespan of your coil, but there comes a point when the coil will just be done for. The good news is that as long as you look after your coils, it’s really not too expensive as a running cost of vaping.
The Golden Rule for Avoiding a Burnt Taste: Look After Your Wick
The advice throughout this post all really comes down to one thing: looking after your wick. If you notice a burnt hit, it almost certainly means that your wick isn’t getting enough e-juice, for one reason or another. Finding out the reason isn’t easy, but if you know the general tips and remember that reduced flavor is a warning sign, you’ll be able to avoid burning your wicks, and might even save some money on spare coils in the process.