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Why Does My Vape Taste Burnt?

Published 28 September 2023, Updated 9 April 2024

Why Does My Vape Taste Burnt?

A burnt taste in a vape is a harsh and unpleasant flavour that often tastes or smells like burnt cotton. Terminology such as "dry hit", "burnt hits", "burnt taste", or "singed taste" are often used interchangeably. A dry hit occurs when there's no e-liquid on the wick and leads to a scorched wick and burnt taste if the wick is not immediately re-saturated with e-liquid. A burnt hit occurs when you inhale vapour from a scorched cotton wick, leading to an unpalatable taste that can irritate the throat and lungs.

There is little scientific literature on the health effects of taking burnt and dry hits from a vape. Users report coughing and wheezing as temporary anecdotal side effects.

Here are the eight main reasons your vape tastes burnt.

  1. Low E-Liquid Level
  2. Incompatible E-Liquid (VG/PG Ratio)
  3. Clogged Coil (Coil Gunk)
  4. Exceeded Lifespan of Your Coil or Pod
  5. Incorrect Priming Process
  6. Excessive Vaping (Chain Vaping)
  7. Excessive Power Delivery
  8. Faulty Disposable Vape

1. Low E-Liquid Level

A burnt taste from your vape is a sign that your vape needs to be refilled. The e-liquid in rechargeable vape pods and vape pens depletes with usage and requires regular refilling. Continuing to vape with a low e-liquid level increases the likelihood of burning the cotton wick resulting in a burnt taste.

Refillable vapes have a minimum e-liquid level indicator that is identifiable as a faint line on the side of your vape tank or pod. Continuing to vape after the amount of e-liquid in your vape has fallen below the minimum e-liquid level indicator increases the likelihood of a burnt taste while vaping.

How to Fix a Vape That Tastes Burnt Due to Low E-Liquid Level

To fix a burnt taste caused by a low e-liquid level, refill your vape to the maximum e-liquid level indicator and then wait for 5 minutes to give your coil a chance to re-saturate the cotton wick.

2. Incompatible E-Liquid (VG/PG Ratio)

Experiencing a burnt taste, despite your coil or pod seeming fine, is a sign that your chosen e-liquid is incompatible with your vape. E-liquid incompatibility occurs mainly when using a high VG e-liquid in a low-wattage device that is designed for low VG (high PG).

High VG e-liquids are incompatible with low-wattage devices as these vapes, such as pod vapes, mouth-to-lung vapes, and vape pens, do not typically have enough power to adequately vaporise VG (Vegetable Glycerine), which is approximately 22.6 times more viscous than PG (Propylene Glycol), according to The Engineering ToolBox. As such, the coil overheats and clogs start to form around the coil, leading to inefficient vaporisation that you experience as a burnt taste.

How to Fix a Vape That Tastes Burnt Due to Incompatible E-Liquid Usage

  1. Drain the high VG e-liquid from your vape.
  2. Flush your vape by filling and emptying it twice using a lower VG, compatible e-liquid (refer to your vape manual for the recommended VG/PG ratio).
  3. Refill your vape again with the lower VG e-liquid.
  4. Allow your vape to sit for 5 minutes.

3. Clogged Coil (Coil Gunk)

Continuing to experience a burnt taste after refilling your vape is a sign that you have a clogged coil. Vape coils and vape pods become clogged and gunky for two main reasons. Firstly, using an incompatible e-liquid (mainly a VG that is too high) encourages the build-up of residue around the atomiser. Secondly, a coil that has reached the end of its lifespan will no longer vaporise e-liquid efficiently, encouraging clogging and residue build-up resulting in a burnt taste.

How to Fix a Vape That Tastes Burnt Due to a Clogged Coil

  1. Soak the vape coil in ethanol, vinegar or clear alcohol such as unflavoured vodka for two hours.
  2. Wash the coil in running water thoroughly.
  3. Wait 24 hours for the coil to dry.
  4. Refill your pod with compatible vape juice (refer to your vape manual for the recommended VG/PG ratio).

A clogged or gunky coil or vape pod that continues to output a burnt taste after cleaning indicates that it is expired and needs to be replaced with a new one.

4. Exceeded Lifespan of Your Coil or Pod

Noticing a burnt smell coming from your vape or experiencing a weird taste is a sign that your vape coil or pod has reached the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced. A darkening of the e-liquid inside your tank or pod often accompanies the burnt or strange smell, indicating that your coil needs to be replaced.

The lifespan of vape atomisers varies from brand to brand and according to usage levels. Vape pods for mouth-to-lung devices typically last for 1-2 weeks of moderate usage before requiring replacement. Vape coils for sub-ohm vapes typically last for 7 days (1 week) before expiring and requiring replacement.

How to Fix a Vape That Tastes Burnt Due to Exceeded Lifespan

The main way to overcome an expired coil or a vape pod that has reached the end of its lifespan is to replace it with a new one.

5. Incorrect Priming Process

Experiencing a burnt taste from your vape despite using a new coil is a sign that you have incorrectly primed your vape coil or pod. Priming is a process of saturating the cotton inside your vape coil prior to taking a draw to ensure a smooth, unburnt taste when you first hit the vape.

The three steps to correctly prime your coils are outlined below.

  1. Install the vape coil into your vape tank.
  2. Fill your vape tank with e-liquid up to the maximum allowable level.
  3. Wait 5 minutes for the e-liquid to saturate the cotton.

While waiting for your coil to be primed using the above 3 steps, your e-liquid level slowly reduces as the cotton soaks up the e-liquid. Once the e-liquid level has stabilised, the priming process is complete allowing you to take a vape hit without experiencing a burnt taste.

Noticing a burnt taste after correctly priming your vape coil indicates that your coil needs to be replaced.

6. Excessive Vaping (Chain Vaping)

Getting a burnt taste after heavy usage of your vape is a sign that you are vaping too much. Chain vaping is taking hit after hit of your vape without breaks between draws. By vaping too much, you do not give the cotton enough time to re-saturate with e-liquid, causing the cotton wick to burn with each hit.

How to Fix a Vape That Tastes Burnt Due to Excessive Usage (Chain Vaping)

Here are three changes you can make to your vaping style to avoid experiencing a burnt taste from over-vaping.

  1. Use a higher nicotine strength: Increase the nicotine strength of your e-liquid or vape so that you vape less and reduce the risk of a burnt or dry hit from an unsaturated coil.
  2. Take longer breaks between vape sessions: Allow longer intervals between your vaping sessions to give your device and coil ample time to cool down and re-saturate.
  3. Buy a secondary vape: Alternating between devices reduces the strain on any single device and prevents overheating.

7. Excessive Power Delivery

A burnt taste from your vape right after charging indicates that your power setting is too high. The duration of your draw also contributes to the amount of power your vape uses - the longer your draw, the more power you deliver to your vape, increasing the likelihood of a burnt taste.

How to Fix a Vape That Tastes Burnt Due to Excessive Power

  1. Reduce the power setting: Lowering the power settings immediately after charging devices prevents a burnt taste by ensuring the coil doesn't heat up faster than the wick can absorb the e-liquid.
  2. Limit your draw duration: For vapes without a power setting, taking shorter draws after charging prevents a burnt taste by preventing the e-liquid in the wick from depleting faster than it can be replenished.
  3. Opt for a low-power device: Using low-power devices reduces the chance of a burnt taste by heating the coil slowly, allowing the wick more time to absorb e-liquid.

8. Faulty Disposable Vape

Experiencing a burnt taste from a new vape that you have just purchased or after 1 or 2 days of moderate usage is a sign that you have a faulty disposable vape. Manufacturing defects that result in an unpleasant burnt taste include a malfunctioning coil that causes overheating, a leak in the e-liquid reservoir that results in insufficient saturation of the wick, or a faulty battery that delivers inconsistent power.

How to Fix a Vape That Tastes Burnt Due to a Manufacturing Fault

If you're experiencing a burnt taste from a faulty disposable vape, return the faulty disposable vape to the retailer, ideally within 48 hours of discovering the issue. Reputable retailers such as IndeJuice will exchange the faulty disposable vape for a new one.

What Are the Side Effects of Taking a Burnt Vape Hit?

A burnt vape hit, often associated with a burnt coil, results in a harsh and unpleasant taste. The vapour produced is hot and dry, irritating the throat and lungs and can lead to coughing and wheezing.

The long-term health effects of vaping a burnt coil are not scientifically documented. Direct links between inhaling vapour from a burnt coil and acute respiratory distress lack concrete evidence. Claims about the presence and harm of unhealthy polyaromatic hydrocarbons in burnt coil vapour are speculative and lack sufficient scientific backing.

Assertions that a burnt coil might cause inhalation of metal particles if the coil is oxidised are speculative, with insufficient evidence to confirm this as a common risk.

Proper usage of vaping devices as directed by the manufacturer is necessary to minimise potential harm and avoid unpleasant Vaping Side Effects.

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