As things stand, the “best before” date you’ll find on bottles of e-juice is something of an educated guess. PG and VG both have a long shelf life – around 2 years each – but specific flavorings can pass their prime much quicker. Because there will be many different flavorings used in an e-cig juice, this makes it pretty hard to estimate how long a juice will last.
In general, the conclusion reached by most mixers is that your juices will be good for a year from the mixing date. However, if you store them well, it’s entirely possible that your juice will still be good to vape after 18 months or even longer.
Don’t worry too much about vaping “expired” e-juice, though: the flavor will suck, and the nicotine content might decrease a little, but overall there don’t seem to be any health risks.
“Steeping” e-juice is the e-juice equivalent of letting wine or whisky age and improve with time. In many ways, it’s a process of purposefully breaking the storage rules above to take advantage of what happens as e-juice gets older.
Steeping can help round out some of the harsher elements in a flavor and bring others to the forefront, and most vapers stand by it as a method of improving an e-juice.
So how do you do it?
The basic process can be broken down into two components, steeping and breathing. Steeping e-liquid is effectively just like ordinary storage, except you vigorously shake the juice at least daily.
This allows the flavor components to fully mix together, so the flavor molecules bond to the PG and VG and are carried to your tastebuds more effectively when you vape. Aside from the shaking, the main difference between steeping and ordinary storage is that many vapers put the juice into warm (but not hot) water to speed the process along a little.
The other main component is allowing your e-cig juice to “breathe.”
This is just leaving the cap off your bottle for a few hours (but no more than 12). As we pointed out above, this can degrade the nicotine content of your juice and the flavor, but the first things to disappear will be the more volatile elements, so any alcohol-like tones can be softened out by letting your juice breathe.
Combining these two processes is the main approach to steeping. You can alternate between steeping and breathing until you find the “peak” for a particular flavor.
There is no definite timeline for steeping, because it’s all down to when it suits your tastes. Some juices may be perfect for you right out of the bottle, but others might take a month of steeping or more to really start to shine.
Generally, at least two weeks of steeping is recommended, but periodically tasting the juice will give you an idea of when it’s at the right point for you.