Back in the day, every vape was pretty much the same and vaping experiences between vapers had more similarities than differences. To illustrate: you would break out your cigalike, put it in your mouth, and then you huffed and puffed like a maniac, trying to inhale as much vapor as you could, with the end result being a small stream of vapor trickling out from your mouth.
Of course, things changed dramatically since then. The vaping industry was never the one to dilly-dally - users experimented with tons of things, from batteries and tanks to coils and resistances. Naturally, manufacturers followed suit. Today, every vaper has the ability to completely customize their vaping experience and not one of those experiences is the same.
Everything played a part in that diversity but one thing that often gets overlooked is airflow. With the advent of sub-ohm vaping (vaping at resistances below 1.0 ohm), airflow, naturally, became a very important thing to consider - you had to have sufficient air coming into the tank to produce cooler vapor and facilitate bigger clouds.
So, with the addition of adjustable airflow control, vaping changed forever. You can have a completely same setup as someone else and still have a different vaping experience, depending on how you adjust your airflow valve. Today, we’re going to explore that close relationship between vaping and airflow so let’s dig in.
It All Comes Down to How You Vape
The first thing we need to mention is mouth to lung vaping and direct to mouth vaping. M2L and D2L are two vaping terms that are relatively familiar to even beginner vapers but let’s break them down for clarity.
- MTL - Mouth to Lung Vaping - a process of filling your mouth with vapor prior to inhaling it into your lungs. Most new vapers will start off with this type of vaping because it’s similar to smoking - indeed, with cigalikes and cartomizers it was the only option available.
- DTL - Direct to Lung Vaping - once upon a time this was a relatively new and emerging vaping style but it’s pretty much the norm these days. It means that the vapor is inhaled directly into the lungs, without using the mouth as a pit stop. The vapor has to be reasonably cool in order to do this comfortably - bigger air intake, lower, nicotine level, and higher VG to PG ratio all contribute to a pleasurable D2L hit.
What it comes down to for both vaping styles, is the amount of air that is mixing with vape juice droplets. In M2L vaping you are looking for a flavorful draw. This means that airflow needs to be minimal (or restricted) so that less air enters the chamber. Less air means hotter vapor that carries more flavor. In D2L vaping, things do get a bit more complicated. Generally, D2L vapers are more interested in balancing vapor production and flavor, with some leaning towards the vapor production end of the spectrum.
Bottom line, constricted airflow will provide you with a flavor-packed hit and it’s more suited for M2L vaping. On the other hand, open airflow generally means more vapor but it does leave you with a slightly lower overall flavor.
The Mechanics of Airflow and Vaping
Now that we know what type of airflow we want for two distinct vaping styles, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of vaping and airflow. As we mentioned, airflow is directly proportional to the quantity of vapor but it’s also related to cooling - the more air you can get to the coils, the lower you can keep the temperature. This is important because it allows you to avoid dry hits and burning your coil.
That increase in air intake allows your tank to create more vapor. Consider this - a tank (any tank, even RDAs) has a limited capacity. As your vape juice evaporates the space inside that tank gets saturated with vapor. There’s only so much it can hold before vapor droplets revert back into vape juice. Pushing air across the coils and through the drip tip into your mouth negates this saturation - it removes the old vapor and allows for new vapor to be created.
What speeds up that vapor creation process is another effect called the Joule-Thomson Effect. What this means, in a nutshell, is that you’re not inhaling vapor ‘per se’ when vaping - what you are inhaling is aerosol, a mist of liquid drops. What’s accomplished by the Joule-Thomson effect is faster condensation. Air pushed through a smaller valve comes in colder, cooling the vapor inside and creating that aerosol quicker. Colder air equals more vapor, which, in turn, equals bigger clouds.
As long as you have enough breath to pull that condensate out of the chamber, you’re going to have better vapor production. That extra air also fluffs up the vapor, making it billow-y, which adds to the effect and makes so many cloud chasing tricks possible.
There is a point of diminishing return, however. When your coil can’t heat the vape juice fast enough to deliver the droplets to the air that’s being inhaled, you will notice a drop in both vapor production and flavor.
Nope, We’re Still Not Done With Vaping & Airflow - Airflow Positioning and Drip Tip Size
Of course, airflow is not the only thing that will affect your overall vaping experience. We might all wish for it to be that simple, but it isn’t. When it comes to open airflow vaping there are nuances in style and design that will also affect your overall vaping experience.
Wattage is definitely one of the factors that contributes to vapor production - the higher it is, the more vapor you’re going to get - and more air you’re going to need to cool it down. However, that’s a vast subject that we’re going to touch on in a different post.
What’s still in the realm of airflow and airflow control that we haven’t touched on is the position of the airflow and the size of the drip tip.
Let’s take a look at the position of the airflow first:
- Bottom airflow - air coming down from the bottom of the tank (RDA). Arguably the best position for an air inlet in terms of flavor production as the air is forced around the coils, picking up more flavor. The downside is that there’s a real possibility of leakage and over dripping, which will result in a mess.
- Side airflow - air holes are cut in the middle, preferably right next to the coil (coils). This allows for the air to pass over the coils, picking up more flavor droplets, but slightly reduces the chances of over dripping.
- Top airflow - air holes are drilled above the coils, sometimes close to the drip tip or on the drip tip. There’s virtually no chance of over dripping but some vapers comment that this produces less flavorful hits since the air doesn’t come very close to the coils. Some manufacturers have developed a workaround - air comes in on the top but it’s diverted down over the coils before being inhaled.
Drip tip size will also matter when it comes to airflow and vapor production. Larger drip tip means that you can inhale faster (and harder), supplying the chamber with greater amounts of cool air, which will then create denser vapor, playing a part in the Joule-Thomson effect we mentioned earlier.
The Verdict - The Effect of Airflow on Vaping Experience Is Huge
But then again, so is the effect of power, coil resistance, coil materials, VG/PG ratio - a whole bunch of things play an important role in your vaping experience. Which is good - we want as many customizable variables as we can get so every single vaper can toy with the settings to create their personal vaping bliss.
However, out of everything we listed, airflow is probably the easiest thing to play around with when finding your personal vaping sweet spot. So do it - give your RBAs and tanks a ride on different settings and see how things are working out for you. Compare vapor production, flavor intensity, juice consumption and other things until you finally strike gold - it’s going to be worth it!
In the meantime, drop us a comment below. What’s your preferred method of vaping - MTL or DTL? Are you a cloud chaser or a flavor chaser? And finally, is this obsession with huge air holes and massive vapor production just a fad waiting to blow away in the wind?
We’re all ears!