Why does my vape taste burnt?

When your vape tastes burnt, you know about it.
It tastes like charred newspaper and the burnt vapor cloud scratches the back of your throat all the way down to your lungs, where it can make you choke or even vomit. When this happens you should stop vaping immediately and take steps to fix the problem, but you'll want to anyway.

It’s not nice. But why does it happen?

Why your vape tastes burnt
The first thing to say is don’t worry if your vape tastes burnt. This happens to everyone and it is easy to fix. It tastes burnt because the wick inside your atomizer coil has dried out and burned up when it was heated. The wick is the part of your vaporizer that soaks up the eliquid from the tank. The wick holds onto this eliquid before it is turned into vapor when the coil heats up. If the wick is not fully saturated with eliquid when you take a puff, this material can char and leave a foul taste in your mouth. Vapers call this a ‘dry hit.’

How long should a coil last?
All coils fail eventually, but different vapers go through them at different speeds. Some heavy users may change their coil every week, while others might only need to swap coils once a month. It varies from device to device, but we expect most vaporizer coils to last for about two or three weeks. Once a coil has been burnt there isn’t much you can do to get rid of the taste, except change the coil. But there are some things that you can do to extend the lifespan of your coil. Everyone experiences burnt coils, but many new vapers will burn coils out quickly because they don’t know how to protect them. With this in mind, this troubleshooting guide is geared more towards newer vapers who use less advanced devices. But that doesn’t mean that experienced vapers won’t learn a thing or two as well. Read on to find out how to save money on coils and get the best flavor hit out of every vape.

Two notorious coil killers
We estimate that these two killers are responsible for at least 70% of all coil burnouts. If your coils aren’t lasting as long as you think they should, these should be your chief suspects. The two most likely coil killers are:
1.chain vaping
2.not priming your coil.

Chain vaping
If you've just changed to a new coil and still getting a burnt taste it could be due to chain vaping, when you take puff after puff with barely any break in between. It is probably the most common cause of coil burning, especially for new vapers. Most vapers chain vape at some point. Even experienced vapers can be a bit too handy with the ignition button when they have a tasty vape juice in the tank. Chain vaping can damage your coil because it doesn’t give the wick enough time to soak up more eliquid between puffs. This causes the wick to dry out and burn.

How to stop chain vaping
Stopping burnout by chain vaping sounds easy. Just leave 15 or 20 seconds of breathing space in between hits. In practice though, it is often trickier than this. Most vapers, particularly new vapers, are ex-smokers and are in the habit of taking lots of short puffs like they would with a cigarette. Many vapers are also hooked on nicotine and chain vaping can help satisfy these cravings. If you are chain vaping to satisfy nicotine cravings, try switching to a vape juice with higher nicotine strength. You might also want to switch to an vape juice with a high PG content, as these liquids can provide a more satisfying throat hit, which many ex-smokers crave. You can also practice taking longer, slower hits and putting your vape right back in your pocket to prevent temptation.
If you like chain vaping and don’t want to stop then you might consider switching to a rebuildable dripping atomizer (RDA). These need re-dripping every few puffs, but you don’t have to wait very long for the juice to soak into your wick. These are an advanced product however and not recommended for a new user. Alternatively, you could buy two different devices and cycle between them.

Coil priming
Ever had a fresh coil taste burnt after the first few hits? You aren’t alone. Most vapers have experienced this at some point and it is incredibly frustrating. Some vapers are quick to blame it on a faulty coil, but new coils usually get burnt because they haven’t been primed before use. Priming your coil basically means preparing it and getting the wick nice and saturated with ejuice. If you don’t prime your coil and you heat the wick dry, it can cause it to burn straight away, giving you that nasty dry puff taste.

How to prime your coils
Priming a new coil is easy. First, check that the coil is compatible with your device and make a note of the wattage range printed on the side of the coil (make sure you don’t exceed this while you’re vaping or the coil could pop). Before you put the coil in your tank, you need to saturate the wick by dripping a small amount of e-liquid down each of the coil holes. Most coils will have two small input holes on the side and one larger hole on the top. You should be able to see the cotton-like wick through each of the holes. Apply two or three drops of vape juice to each hole, stopping when the liquid starts pooling on top of the hole. Once you have soaked the holes with vape juice, you should leave the new coil to rest for a while.
People disagree over how long you should leave the juice soak in. Some just leave it for a few minutes - some say the liquid tastes better if you leave the device to rest for a few hours or overnight. However long you choose to leave your device, just make sure that you take a few dry ‘primer puffs’ before you use it. A primer puff is where you take a short sharp breath through the device, without hitting the ignition button. This will help guarantee the tastiest possible first puff when you’re ready to vape for real.

Other reasons why your coil might fail
Too much chain vaping and not priming your coils are public enemies number one and two when it comes to burnt coils, but there are other reasons why your coil might burnout faster than it should. These factors are not as likely to lead to coil burnout, but remember that vape devices are complicated and coils might burn out for a combination of reasons.

High power vaping
High powered vaping can damage your coils. If you exceed the recommended power (measured in Watts) on the side of your coils then they are likely to pop or fail more quickly. Vaping at a higher temperature also leads to the eliquid being vaporized faster than the wick can soak it up. If you are puffing on your vape often enough, this can cause the wick to dry out and burn. If you are using a device with variable Wattage or Voltage then make sure it is not turned up too high – particularly if you also like chain vaping and taking extra-long puffs.
This is also a common issue that occurs when sub ohm vaping. If you enjoy vaping at a higher intensity then you might want to think about upgrading your tank system or switching to a rebuildable atomizer or a drip tip.

Vape Juice running low
Do you like to squeeze every last drop out of your tank before refilling it? It could be damaging your coils. Letting your tank run dry or nearly dry can leave your wick without enough juice to soak up, which can cause it to burn. When you are down to your last few squirts of juice it is tempting to let your liquid level run near the bottom, but if you can see that the juice does not cover the input holes of your coil then you risk hitting your vape dry. The easiest way to stop this happening is to keep your tank topped up to a good level, at least enough to make sure it is covering the input holes on the side of your coil. When you want to switch flavors, just pour what’s left of the juice back into the bottle and insert your new juice (or combine the flavors in your tank). If you can’t easily see what level your e-juice is at, then make sure you don’t let the tank drop below about a quarter full.
Your vape juice choice

Some vape juice are a problem for coils and can cause them to gunk up. This is a problem for juice that have a high VG content and those which contain a lot of sugar. Vape Juice with a higher VG content tends to be more viscous than liquids with a predominantly PG base. This means that high VG vape juice are thicker and harder for coil wicks to absorb, which can cause them to fail. To avoid this, we recommend sticking with lower VG vape juice (below 70%) or upgrading your tank system to one with a more reliable wick. Eliquid that is very sweet can cause similar problems for your coil. When it heats up, sugary eliquid can caramelize on the coil blocking it from absorbing more of the juice. Gunk build-up can also affect the taste of your juice, which is a shame because sometimes the most satisfying flavors are the big coil killers.

This thread on ECF contains more information on coil killing eliquids and how to overcome them.