Flavor Testing. The Lab, The Equipment, The Criteria

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Testing, can be a PITA !!! There, I said it. It’s not always, but it can be a real pain. Money, time, and more. I made a post like this on Reddit, and someone asked me why I didn’t have one here, so here, it is.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, isn’t it just GREAT to get FREE flavors LOL ?? Yeah, kinda, but when you factor in the amount of consumables you blow through, plus the time invested, including posting the reviews on numerous web sites, the “gains” seem to diminish rapidly. So, you better love doing it, or you’re going to hate it.

The Rig:

Consistency has been the key for me since 2017 when I really started doing tests. If I had changed my setup, coils, wattage (and more) during tests, or between different series, there would be NO way to directly compare my results. SO, with that said, the heavy burden was to find the ONE setup, that reproduced ALL of the ranges of flavors, consistently. I actually tested a LOT of equipment at the time, and many reproduced SOME of the flavor ranges, but not all. Once I got heavily into the SteamCraves, I knew that ONE of them would be the one. I narrowed it down, to the lowly 3ml SteamCrave RDTA v.1.

SteamCrave had JUST released the Velocity Deck, and I started experimenting with Vertical Coils, and heights to nail the airflow for max flavor, and they proved to be VERY forgiving. I had SUCH good luck running 24 ga. Kanthal coils, that I never stopped, and still run them to this day.

One of the MOST important reasons why I chose the SC RDTA v.1, was that I needed a test bed, that wasn’t soo high end, or esoteric, that it would be completely out of PAR with everything else being made. Yes, it’s old by today’s standards, BUT, it’s flavor reproduction is still SPOT ON, and that is what you need for testing.

Testing numerous different wicks I found that Koh Gen Do cotton seemed to offer up some of the best flavor, with no perceivable break in period. I do peel off the very thin outer skins before wicking.
I typically try and run about 65 watts for ALL of my tests, again, for consistency. I dry burn the coils after every test, and run fresh cotton as well.

The Criteria:

I’ve recieved all kinds of questions on the scoring system I use, why I use it, how it came about, etc. In the beginning, the scoring system was really JUST suppoed to be for MY records, and no one else. I think I accidentally posted them on some of my VERY early Real Flavors SC tests, and the scores were a HIT. Or at least, people seemed to like them. I continued scoring to this day because of that.

Hehe, there you go, that’s as TOUGH as it gets, at least for me. For my tastes, and palate, the ACCURACY is almost everything, because if it isn’t an accurate flavor, what’s the point. Intensity, Complexity, and Off-Notes are in there, but if the flavor is good, and accurate remains the main focus.

In Closing:

If you want to be a tester/reviewer, you SHOULD. The MORE of us there are, the BETTER it is for all of us, as no one tastes everything the same. Reading my, or any other reviewer’s reviews CAN help you, BUT, there is NO BETTER way to decide on a flavor, than to test it yourself. I think ALL too often, the amount of work gets forgotten about, and the focus seems to be more on the FREE flavors, but once you factor in all of the time, work, and supplies, it takes on a new meaning.

If you do decide to jump into the testing/reviewing fray, DO IT. You can start out testing and writing notes JUST for yourself, and after ironing out the kinks, you too, can start to post them. Remember, the easiest way to do it, it start writing (or typing) RIGHT when you are testing, to get ALL of your FRESH thoughts, as they happen. Short hand, scribbling, whatever it takes to get it all down. You can ALWAYS edit it later.

Happy Testing, and thanks for taking the time.



Dilly Dilly :tada: I agree with all of that. I’m glad I only have to rate worst to first. Doing the BCF contest judging it took me quite a bit longer with actually having to score them. I test on the same set up as well, Dead Rabbit v2 because I know the flavor is spot on accurate. I tried the wasp nano, the Elderdragon and I’ve always come back to one of my Dead Rabbit v2’s with dual tri-core aliens.

It’s definitely time consuming. It definitely helps in my personal mixing and hopefully it helps others who actually watch Noted. I do enjoy being a part of the community. Unfortunately I’m not given all the concentrates so it’s not only using my vg/pg but spending money at Nomz, BCF, and other places to source the odd balls like NF, SA, etc. I’ve learned I can’t deep dive flavors anymore. I’ve learned my limits.

I can’t stress enough to folks that single flavor testing helps learn exactly what the flavor is, and what place it’ll take in a recipe. If it’s basey, if It’ll sit on top or fill in the middle.

Cheers :beers: to those taking their time to help other mixers!

I love this post!


Can’t say i envey your job Of SFT tester Yep they may say free stuff but I’ve not got enough time to vape the juice I make(when I can grab time to mix that is) having your notes saves a shoop load of time and I for one thank you
I know it can be argued that taste is subjective and what tank you use but sometimes a good description can swing the discussion to use or not


Excellent post!


Nah, you’re doing it wrong. This is not the way how you should be reviewing and rating your flavors. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Just kiddin’. Please continue doing what you’re doing, the Legend! And thank you for countless hours of testing and sharing your insights and knowledge to the community.


Hehe @Mikser.

My mixing mentor …


Thank you very much …


and as always the guy who keeps ALL of this straight @mikser.


A solid summary to testing and SFting. Thanks for taking the time and effort to do this sir.


Thank you @SquirrelSmash. It may not be the perfect process, but it’s accurate and repeatable.


I will ponder using a velocity deck in my own. Although, I do currently rely on quadcore fused Claptons at 0.09 Ohms on an Asgard or Goon.


It’s really (most times) about where the airflow hits the coils. IT depends on the tank/deck.


I can only imagine the time it must take you to conduct all the testing and like most I thank you for all your efforts.
The minuscule amount that I try to post takes me a very long time when you factor in rewicking etc. I generally use a Wasp Nano as I’ve got three and I find them quick and easy to clean and rewick. I generally rebuild after three flavours and use 26g kanthal aiming for 0.8 ohms with the airflow reduced to basically a circle.
Unfortunately I have to unpack everything and then put it all away again once finished as I haven’t the room for a dedicated work area or a wife that shares my passion for vaping!
As I vape and test I make notes on my iPad and that’s the bit that really takes the time as I struggle to understand every flavour and actually translate my thoughts into words. I do worry that my efforts aren’t good enough but quite honestly it’s the best I can do.
Once I’ve formed my opinion and everything is ready to go then I have to find the time to post. With the time constraints of modern day life I struggle so I very much appreciate everything you.


I appreciate it @Gazza7. I was trying to better explain how much time and effort it takes to do these, and I know you know. As I stated in the OG, I think sometimes people hear “FREE FLAVAZ !!!” and that’s all they hear LOL.

Nice. Rebuild after three flavors, wow !!!

Oh yes, I KNOW that well. I’ll hunt around, because I think people see my Vape Cave now and assume it’s ALWAYS been like that, hehe. Ummm, NO.

Same here, BUT, as long as you blurt everything out, and capture it, no matter if they make sense or not, that’s the key. Edit/Re-Writes.

No, no, and MORE no mate. Myabe you, and I are our own worst critics ?? I like how you write them up, clear, easy to read, and just enough details.

The IRL (In Real Life) struggles ARE real. You’re very welcome.

Question. Did your perspective on testing change at all, after you started doing them ?


Although I find your taste buds to be a bit more sensitive than mine, I do appreciate the effort it takes to do what you do. Thanks for doing it.


Thank you very much @Lostmarbles. This might be the FIRST time I was called more sensitive !!!



As usual, great post @SessionDrummer!
People don’t realize how hard it is to do a new line review, the same people that reading this are thinking I wish it was me… but it’s not like that.
Let’s say you received the latest line of flavours, usually from 15 to 30, if you get a complete line brace yourself for a couple of months worth of work.

Assessment time, because:
People give you flavours because they think you’re an expert, that you will write a review, that you will improve their sales and want a feedback to improve for the next line, we all know that nothing is for “free”.

Off you start, write down what you’ve got, divide them, open the bottles, smell them, knuckle test them so you get a first idea and see what are the best and closest to what the label says, by the end of it your nose is gone weird… you do an initial rating and you write your first impressions down.
You know that fruits will be the fastest and creams the slowest to develop.
Start with fruits, and then creams, on what atomizer? What percentage? mesh or cotton? Push the temp up or keep it cool?
You start preparing the testers at different percentages, usually three to four of them for each flavour, you get the creams ready now, knowing it’ll take at least a week to come out.
Out of 15 flavs you’ve got yourself at least 45 to 60 bottles of 10ml (you might be thinking why not 5 mils, no, 5 mils won’t get you anywhere to truly assess the flavor and flavor atomizer do “drink” a lot, SD uses a double coils Steam Creave Aromamizer)
Just that took you 5 to 6 hours work (you have to label each one of them) and that is if you’re fast.
Next day you vape some of them and write down your impressions you start to go through the analysis, evaluation and comparison process.
You get the good ones but you might get the runty ones, the good ones are easy, you had an idea on percentages, but at the end you have just been lucky and they might be easy to work with, at that point is easy to write a good review.
It’s the runty ones that are the most difficult, are they really runty or did I do something wrong, didn’t push it high enough or does it have be lower, did I wait long enough? Is that banana really runty? Or is it just an offnote? What does it compare it with?
All sorts of questions rise up, at the end you’re writing a review for others for who sent the flavors and for yourself, at the end of the first process you’re exhausted,but it’s just the first round, you have to start over again to see if your impressions are solid and/or some of them have changed in time.
That is without thinking about flavors you might not particularly like (SD is not an aniseed fan if I remember correctly) and it’s not easy task writing a review for something you don’t like.
A week is gone and you start with creams and bakeries (you already tried them to give you an idea) and you write, write, and write again.
You have to be good at it, have to be careful on not writing something useless, have to be witty, have a wide knowledge of comparisons, if it’s better or worst then MF/FA/FLV/CAP/VSO/TPA/SSA (most of them reviewers gets lost on that one) and it’s the reasons why our SD takes high on account accuracy, you won’t get lost on the highly subjective comparing nightmare, if sometime he does it, it’s because it’s blatantly close or if it compares to the known top of that flavour range.
SD also defines usability or feasible pairings great job SD!

After that do you still want your “free” flavors?


I’ve always tested solo for myself and always steeped for a minimum of two weeks. I keep thinking I’m not buying anymore flavours and then read something which changes that. Then I think it’s stupid to buy one flavour so I buy ‘several’ more and it seems like I’m back to square one again!
If by perspective you mean did my original method change then the answer would be no but of course my couple of lines in my vape book wouldn’t make any sense to anyone else. What does change when I post is the amount of time and thought that goes into each individual flavour. Followed by the extra time taken to compile and post my opinions.
There’s no way I could spend the amount of time and effort you do and that’s not me being a fanboy but merely stating the truth as I see it.

Personally I still believe that the only way one truly knows what a flavour is like is to try it for oneself but I have read many reviews or opinions on concentrates and have always appreciated that those people took the time to post anything at all.
Hence my small effort to give back if possible.


Hehe Frank, it’s like you’ve done this BEFORE lol.

You are correct, and correct Sir.


Thank you @Iv3shf. Very well written, doesn’t seem to come close enough.


Very well said.


I stopped being envious about the free flavors a long, long time ago :grinning: This thread is an opportunity to express my gratitude to all the experienced mixers on ELR that have helped me along the way. Some don’t even know they’ve helped me because we never met, I’ve only read their excellent notes. As you always remind people, taste is subjective so please test for yourself. However, I still know that I can ask, “Hey SD, you know these two flavors, would one be a good sub for the other?” The same goes for many other mixers here with extensive flavor knowledge. So, no I don’t envy your free flavors and I wouldn’t want your job but I thank you for all the time you put in and the willingness to share it. Just curious…what made you decide to do this in the first place…free flavors? :rofl: