Wicks and Coils in Electronic Cigarettes
Vapers who’ve been using e-cigs for a while and have moved on to mods and/or rebuildables need to know the wick and coil setup that’s right for them. Otherwise, frustration will get the better of them. This is because different wicks have their own properties that determine the flavor and juice flow of an atomizer. As for coils, the type of wire used, the number of coils, and the diameter can make a world of difference.
Even those who use disposable atomizers or tanks with replaceable heads should understand wick and coil setups to ensure they get the perfect vape. That said, there is no, one correct setup, and what works for some may not work for others, so some experimentation is needed.
This guide aims to shorten the experimentation phase to spare you from many a bad vape. Use this only for reference, since the final decision is, of course, entirely up to you.
The Wicks of the Trade
In the early days of vaping, wicks used were mostly made from silica. Silica wicks are heat resistant, wicks juice well, and the flavor is decent. Most of the disposable atomizers then used silica wicks, and some rebuildable users still prefer it over the other types.
Silica wicks are also very easy to use. Vapers just wrap a coil around one, then attach it to the atomizer. Moreover, since they are heat resistant, users can dry burn them to remove any gunk that might have built up. This also means that under dripping will not burn the wick, thus not requiring immediate replacing. It also lasts long, with some users getting about a month’s use from each wick.
Also made of silica, Ekowool has the same properties of silica wicks. However, it is braided and has a hollow center for better wicking and ease of use. Some vapers braid their own using regular silica wick; however, making one with a hollow center is difficult. The hollow center is used to insert a paper clip or toothpick to act as a stabilizer while wrapping a new coil around it. It also allows more e-liquid to pass through, improving the flow, thus the flavor as well.
There is also a variant with cotton in the center though users just insert their own cotton inside the regular versions to get the same effect. Adding cotton improves the wicking of e-liquid, and enhances the flavor even more. The only downside of Ekowool though is its price. However, if one can afford it, or at least source some from a cheaper vendor, Ekowool makes for a great wick.
Stainless Steel Mesh
Most often used with genesis style atomizers, stainless steel mesh wicks last a very long time. Since steel is conductive, it also prone to shorts so users have to oxidize it properly. It is a long process that involves torching the wick, cooling it quickly, then repeating the process several times. It is also difficult to coil, with users having to adjust it after installing to make sure there are no hot spots. Coils should touch the coil correctly, if just one part is loose, this can result in a hot spot, which can taste terrible.
However, once the mesh is prepared correctly, it gives a very pure taste, wicks well, and won’t need replacing any time soon. One can also easily dry burn the wick since mesh does not burn. However, dry hits can taste nasty and give an awful throat burn so always make sure that the mesh stays saturated. Some people wrap cotton around the mesh to improve its wicking ability. However, this also means one cannot dry burn it anymore.
While not recommend for dripping atomizers, advanced users can make it work if they wish to have the same pure taste on their atomizer.
Arguably the most flavorful of wicks, organic cotton is popular among many rebuildable users. However, it is not easy to use. Users have to coil a wick – using a jig, drill bit, or a toothpick – attach the coil to the atomizer, then thread the cotton through it. Too much cotton can result in reduced juice flow while too loose will cause hot spots. It takes some practice, but it will be worth it in the end.
Also being cotton, it is easy to burn, so users have to make sure it is properly saturated at all times. One dry burn and the cotton is ruined, requiring immediate replacement. The good thing, though, is that it is easy to replace. One just pulls the burnt wick out, then thread in a new one.
Using ordinary cotton is not recommended since these are treated chemically. The chemicals give a bad taste, which is why users prefer organic. Some still use off-the-counter cotton, but before using it, they boil it in water first to remove the chemicals.
Organic cotton is very cheap too, so despite the relative difficulty in using it, many users prefer it over others.
There are other wick types vapers use, but these are the most common and readily obtainable. Some use ceramic, hemp, and many others materials for wicks, but these are hard to source, so it is best to stick to the more familiar types.
The Science Behind E-cig Wicks and Coils
Before getting into coils, one must know the science behind it. There are many factors that can influence the overall effect a coil has – the type of wire used, the number of coils, the diameter of each loop, the number of individual coils, and more.
The benefits of building your own coils include: total control over vapor production, it is cheaper in the long run, it can be fun, and the amount of customization it offers is massive. It does not matter what type of mod or atomizer one uses, if one understands coils, they can create their own to match their setups to produce the perfect vape.
There are several types of wires used in coils, and the most popular is Kanthal. Other kinds include Flat Kanthal, Nichrome wire, and stainless steel mesh, among others. However, about 90% of the time, one will probably use Kanthal with the occasional Nichrome.
However, choosing Kanthal or Nichrome is not as simple as just picking it out from a lineup. One has to know what gauge (AWG) of wire they want. Kanthal gauges range from 24 to 34 while Nichrome gauges range from 14 to 25. When choosing your wire, the general rule is that the lower the gauge, the higher the resistance; the higher the resistance, the more power is needed to produce denser vapor. For Kanthal, the most popular measure is 28 and is a good place to start experimenting.
For the coils itself, the number of coils also determine the total resistance of the atomizer. The more coils used, the higher the resistance. The same with the diameter of the coils, the larger the coils are, the higher its ohm reading.
While single coils in atomizers are the norm, vapers who wish to produce more heat, and more vapor, will have to make multiple coils. Dual coils and triple coils are used by many cloud chasers though it is not unheard of for someone to have quintuple or even sextuple coils.
For those who want to experiment with multiple coils, know that each coil is usually built with high resistance wire. Some people use lower resistance wires, but there are risks involved with it that only advanced vapers should attempt it. To compute the resistance of multiple coils, users take the resistance of each coil, add them, then divide by four. For example, dual coils with two 1.5ohm coils each will have an effective resistance of 0.75 ohms. While it is easier to divide 1.5ohms by two, sometimes two coils will not have the same resistance, making it harder to compute.
When working with coils, it is best to have a multimeter so one can determine the resistance of their coils. This lessens the number of recoiling one will eventually have to deal with to get the perfect vape. A time saver and a sound investment for any serious vaper.
Putting It All Together
Wicks have their own properties, as do coils. Now, it is up to the user to combine the two to get their perfect vape. It may take some time to go through all the combinations, but if one is dedicated enough, they will find the right setup.
Silica wicks are easy to work with and are great for beginners. If it is combined with single coils, this setup will give users a great, everyday vape. For those who want more flavor, SS mesh and organic cotton are the way to go.
Vapers who want more clouds should try organic cotton with multiple coil setups. The more coils, the more vapor it can produce. If one has a mod capable of firing sub-ohm coils, a multi-coil setup at about 0.5ohms or below will provide enough vapor satisfy cloud chasers. For flavor seekers, SS mesh or cotton with a single coil at about 1.2ohm and above will give one all the flavor they need.
But of course, it all depends on what the user wants. If you can, try all the combinations in every configuration you can think of, and tweak it to taste. It does not matter if one prefers Ekowool over cotton, triple coils over dual coils, or Nichrome over Kanthal. As long as one is having fun and is off cigarettes, the setup does not matter.