Coffee flavors, in general, are a nightmare. It’s all about the gradation of said nightmares though. Is it the kind of nightmare where you’re back in high school and inexplicably in your underwear? Or is the full-stop dead relatives clawing at the door of the cremation oven kind of nightmare? THE NUANCES MATTER. While this doesn’t necessarily make vaping coffee pleasant, it does present a friendlier brand of terror.
I’m not a chemist, or even particularly smart, but as far as I can tell the leading culprit for the general unpleasant nature of artificial coffee flavors is probably “coffee furanone” which sounds like a great idea in theory, but vapes pretty poorly overall. Most coffee flavors have this weird burnt note to them, which I guess might be something related to a dark roasted coffee but comes across more like burnt popcorn to me. Some flavors seem to have a lot (shoutout Flavourart Dark Bean) and some manage it a bit better but it’s sad subtext to most attempts at vaping coffee.
What I’m getting here isn’t good coffee, far from it. It’s percolator coffee rather than anything approaching your pourover shade grown triple fair trade certified Ethiopian organic blonde roast. It’s a coffee from a tear-open package that doesn’t even bother to specify the brand. It is “coffee.” It is elemental. It’s the low bid and the bare minimum. The best part of waking up is the race to bottom and subcontracting.
Here is where we enter the wonderful world of lowered expectations, because while this is not good coffee, it really isn’t a bad coffee flavor. If you can deal with the mediocrity of the coffee note, the more remarkable part is what isn’t wrong with it. It seems to have a much more mellow take on the typical coffee off-notes.
Down at 1%, I get black bitter coffee. Like the bottom of a percolator pot when the grounds have just been absolutely hammered with boiling water. But I don’t get a ton of those skunky burnt notes. It’s a fairly clear flavor that low. Not a lot nuance and no real dairy or cream notes. It’s a relatively thin flavor, but that style of coffee is also kind of a thin flavor? It’s just a monotonous “coffee” kind of flavor. But hey, very few popcorn notes. I do maybe pick up something lightly fruity here, but it feels more like a general tartness than a lot of the more complex fruit flavors you’d pick up from a better coffee or preparation of said coffee.
Taking coffee up higher is usually the wrong play, but this honestly isn’t that bad at 4%. It’s picked up some kind of biscuit-y almost malty notes. The down and dirty coffee flavors doesn’t feel all that much more vibrant but there is a bit more a scaffolding around that one-note coffee flavor. I don’t think that these ancillary flavors are particularly useful if you’re using this a “beverage” context, but it could work out in a recipe that also had some bakery notes. Either some kind of roll your own tiramisu or a coffee and whatever bakery combo flavor. I’m picking up a bit more the usual burnt popcorn trauma, but it’s really not that bad here. It’s not an intense off-flavor, and that’s actually relatively impressive.
So, this isn’t the real silver bullet you may have been hoping for… but it is a workable option. I’d go so far as to say that it’s a competent black coffee note if you keep it fairly low, definitely under 1%. Just because of the nature of coffee flavors, you’ll probably want to dump a bunch of cream or whatever on top of it, but it should sell the coffee without being too aggressively unpleasant. You take the small victories, and for all of my complaining, this still represents sizable progress in the genre.
Setup: Recoil w/ flavor barrel, Dual 12 wrap 24g 3.5mm SS316 @.32 ohms. 60w power, 450F temp limit. Full Cotton Wicks.
Testing: Vape Train Arabica Coffee, 1 and 4%, 60/40 VG/PG base, Steeped 29 days.
Profile: Percolator black coffee. The bottom of a pot of hammered Folgers but with a lightly tart, slightly fruity note.
Off-Flavors: Relatively light burnt popcorn, skunky notes… but less prominent than a lot of other options. Gets biscuit-y up higher.
Throat Hit: Light. Gets a bit tart and acidic but nothing major, especially used low.
Percentage Recommendation: Under 1% for a coffee beverage application. Could go higher for a coffee bakery or bakery and coffee type of application but that’s all on you. I ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY.
The Product Page:
The ATF Page:
The ELR Page:
This concentrate was provided to me by the manufacturer with no additional compensation. There was no editorial influence. I have no ongoing business relationships with Vape Train or its employees.