Wicked Wizard E liquid Pimp My Vape: The Rise of E cigarette Hackers
Pimp My Vape: The Rise of E cigarette Hackers
It's foggy outside the Henley Vaporium in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. Gray clouds, swirling like ghosts, cling tightly to the sidewalk and century-old brick buildings.
The haziness from the street matches the air inside the shop. It's a different type of cloudy, though — lighter, with a sweet aroma. Water vapor from e cigarettes.
"You can barely see two feet in front of you when these guys are in here," laughs Peter Denholtz, the shop's co-owner.
He points to a handful of twenty-somethings near the back. The men and women, most of whom don button-up shirts and flat-brim hats, chat anxiously around a glass counter covered with screwdrivers, wires and small metal tubes.
The scene looks like a snapshot from a high school shop class. They discuss "heat compression" and "propylene glycol."
Kyle Yan, 20, left, fiddles with a rebuildable atomizer at Henley Vaporium in New York City.
The group is part of Denholtz's customer base, which has created hobbies out of rebuilding and customizing "mods," metal tubes, similar to e cigarettes, designed for "vaping" flavors and nicotine. By hacking these devices, they're able to produce stronger flavors and — more importantly — create more impressive vapor clouds.
Some enthusiasts mix their own flavors to share with friends; most hang out at the shop every night to exchange ideas and show off their newest upgrades.
Since the store opened in September 2013, Denholtz says, the majority of his customers have been smokers hoping to quit. Some come in looking for a cheaper alternative to hookah.
This new rebuilding trend, which he refers to as a science-rooted subculture, is only beginning to grow in popularity. Denholtz is just trying to keep up.
Nick Yuan, a 'vapologist' at Henley, puffs on a vaping pen behind the counter
"I'd say a good 20% of the people who come in here want to rebuild like this," says Tristan Ambat, 25, a "vapologist" at Henley. The title's even stitched into his white lab coat. For the most part, he specializes in customizing atomizers, a central component in both e cigarettes and mods. Today, surrounded in a cloud of white vapor, he's rewiring the insides of one device.
To start, he takes a mechanical mod and a rebuildable atomizer; the former sends voltage from the device's battery to the atomizer. You can buy both at a vape shop or online. Prices vary. Depending on the models, you'll pay around $30 for the cheapest.
Ambat says most people like to lower the standard resistance, measured in Ohms, to send more heat to the device's coil
Ambat says most people like to lower the standard resistance, measured in Ohms, to send more heat to the device's coil. Doing so creates more heat for the inhale and a larger vape cloud for the exhale.
"You just open your atomizer. On the base are the coils," he says. "Unscrew them and slip your own wire through the small holes."
Mods come with different numbers of coils. The one he's using contains one coil, but some go as high as eight. More coils means more potential power.
He adds the wire — heating resistance wire is best, he says — and tightens the coils. He uses an app called Ohm's Law to check the Ohm level; it also calculates watts and amps. This device's Ohm level measures .08, below the standard 1.2 on most models.
"This is good. This means I'll get a little more heat than normal," he says, "and as you can see, it says I'm pulling about 4.6 amps of my battery."
Battery powers vary by device, too. To avoid overheating, it's best to use batteries with amps 14 or greater. Ambat uses a 30-amp battery. If he'd used a smaller one — say, an eight-amp battery — it'd be too close for comfort if the Ohm's levels pulled close to five amps, as they are now.
Next up, cotton creates a makeshift wick. "Organic cotton is essential. Most 100% cotton has bleach in it, so you don't want to be inhaling that," he says.
Organic cotton also helps bring out the most flavor. He tears off a small piece, rolls it into a wick and drops in a few dots of liquid flavor.
And that's it. Ambat takes a drag and exhales. A sweet-smelling gray cloud, grander than most others in the shop, swirls playfully and vanishes above us.
"This is my friend's blend. It's vanilla custard," he says of the flavor. "It's really good."
Ambat says it's easy to make your own flavors. The basic ingredients are propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin; from there, you can mix it with either candy flavoring or natural food extracts. You can add nicotine if you want, he says, but it's certainly not required.
Looking like Rick Ross and smelling like ice cream at the same time? Not a bad deal.