Layering (Advanced DIY Mixing Techniques)

What is Layering?

There seemed to be a lot of confusion about layering in my first video which you can find here, intro-ing the layering segment. Part of the reason may have been my explanation of what layering is, so I partly blame myself, and the other part might have been the fact that "layers" and "layering" are both inherently different. But let me explain. Layering is a process, it's an act, it's an actual doing. It's not the different levels you taste when you vape an eliquid; those are layers. Layering is the process within the blueprinting process to help you create your flavor profile. Now, your flavor profile can contain layers (and it most likely will) and layering will help you achieve that. But you can also participate in layering to only create a one layer, one dimensional flavor, if that's what your flavor profile calls for. So I think you'll understand it a bit more now that I've found a way to really tell you what it is. Before I go any further I also want to weed out those who don't want to put in the work. Layering is a process in the recipe development realm. Recipe development is creating a recipe specific to a flavor profile with no compromise. That means you're not adapting and recipes online, you're not tweaking other recipes. In those situations, you're taking a compromise on flavor. Recipe development's sole reason is to  have no compromise on flavor. With that being said, it's a very advanced technique. It's something needed for mixers who create recipes for clients, other eliquid companies, or professionals rather, who need to reach an exact flavor. If you're a mixer who doesn't need to do this, or you're a mixer who just wants a nice vape, then layering and recipe development isn't really the course you should go down. You absolutely can learn professional techniques for your own personal aspirations. But just know that it takes a lot of work...a LOT of work. 


When do we fucking start?

Ok now enough bull shit. I know why you're all here and despite me telling you recipe development is for professionals and those who work with clients, your dumb ass is still going to want to learn so you can give it a go in your next recipe and realize I was right that it would take a lot of work and then you'll give up and go back to adapting and tweaking recipes off Alltheflavors. So the first step in layering is to get rid of any preconceptions of flavors in your head. When jumping into recipe development, always start with a clean slate up stairs. Wipe that hard drive, and get ready to build a flavor on paper. After you've done that, you need to write down the EXACT flavor you're going for. In this experiment we're going to start with an easy strawberry and cream recipe. Now, just writing "Strawberry and Cream" is not nearly specific enough. Get back to your desk and write down everything you want to taste. So for me, I want a nice sweet strawberry syrup like flavor as the main note or top note. That's the note that takes all the attention from the palate. It's the star of the recipe. Next, within the body of the vape, I want a nice thick creamy flavor. In that creamy flavor I want notes of dairy, marshmallow, vanilla bean. It needs to be thick, it needs to be rich, and it needs to have a tremendous mouthfeel. Make sure you write all that down. This is no joke. Last, on the tail end, I want notes of white sugar to really sweeten the pot up. This is going to be a simple layered mix, but a strong complex body. The next step, after we decided exactly what flavor we want (also, to you mixers who are working for clients, this is where you want the client to help you. Make sure they explain exactly what flavor they want so you can take that into your blueprints. Tell them to best help you "taste" what they want before getting any further. Trust me, the worst thing is having a client give you vague flavor descriptions, only being upset at the recipe you give them because they weren't descriptive enough.)


The Blueprint

Next step is to figure out your blueprint. If you don't know what blueprinting is, purchase the Full Collection of InTheMix Magazine and read up. I talk about it many times and explain  how it's the base of recipe development. A good blueprinter will always make better recipes in less time, than anyone not blueprinting. So definitely learn the blueprint before going any further. But during this blueprinting phase is where your "Layering" will take place. It takes place within the outline of the recipe before you mix...obviously. Now understanding layering is easy. You want to break your recipe down in layers, and fit in each layer to create the whole of the recipe. The work that comes with layering is knowing how to make the layers fit. For instance, the Strawberry Cream recipe, we need to figure out first how many layers WE WANT. Not how many we need, or how many we think we need, you start with what you want. In this recipe my flavor profile is a simple 2 layers, the strawberry top with creamy body. But this doesn't mean that when we go to "layer" our blueprint we'll only have two layers. I'll explain. First I want to start building my creamy body. I'll start with a CAP NY Cheesecake and TFA Vanilla Bean Ice Cream foundation to build off of. I know the two work best at CAP NY Cheesecake 5% and TFA Vanilla Bean Ice Cream at 3%, so that's what I'll use. Now I know the two work at that ratio because I've already tested that "layer". It's a layer that has the exact flavor I'm looking for in THIS recipe. Remember, we're focusing on this specific flavor profile. So you need to test EACH layer. When you test every layer you build, you end up with the exact recipe you (or your client) is looking for no questions asked, every time. It just takes a lot of work, as well as a lot of time. But as you can see that CAP NY & TFA VBIC is one "layer" but it will fit inside another "layer" which is the body. I need to add more "mouthfeel" to this recipe, as well as a brighter vanilla bean flavor. So adding another "layer" to this body is probably a good idea, and that's where I'll add in my CAP Vanilla Custard at 1%. Now...I'll test both those layer and make sure it's where I want it, and if it's not I'll tweak the concentrations around. But I'm happy with this body layer and it's time to work on the next layer which is the strawberry top. I know CAP Sweet Strawberry is a great strawberry to use with heavy cream like vapes, so I'll give that a go and I'll look into my notes to see 5% is a great place to use it at. I want to add some softness to it so I'll pair it with TFA Marshmallow, which will also help blend those two layers a bit better and then I'll test that. If I like it, I'll do my final adjustments, maybe add in some sweetener or ethyl maltol, and that's it. My recipe is complete. 


That doesn't look so hard?

Like I said, understanding how layering works is not the hard part, and neither is actually layering your blueprint. The hard part is getting the layers to work cohesively. Anyone can build a "layer" but getting that layer to fit your recipe to reach exactly the flavor you want is the difficult part and it's going to take a lot of testing. Ratios are VERY important (another topic I talk extensively about in InTheMix Magazine, purchase the full collection to learn more about it) because that will determine how best your layers blend in with eachother. Also, having a large set of notes on your flavorings will help drastically. You'll see above that I knew that CAP Cheesecake with TFA VBIC gives me a flavor I like, and that's something I'll write in my notes. "This flavor at ____ mixed with this flavor at _____ gives me this flavor that is perfect for a body of an ice cream" etc. The more advanced you get with your mixing, the more advanced your notes should be. Because it only helps you SAVE MONEY AND TIME. Less trial and error, means less testing, means less ingredients wasted, means less time wasted. When you have a client who needs a recipe in 2 months, you don't have time to test each layer and wait the 2 weeks steep time for each. So make sure you're writing notes all the time. Now this is the most simple way layering works. I used a very simple flavor with a simple profile and built a very simple recipe. The process of layering can go much much deeper. You can absolutely have layers within layers. Much like how I added that "mouth feel layer" with the CAP Vanilla Custard to fit within that "body layer", you can really dive deeper into your recipe like a russian doll recipe. For instance, my Rhodonite recipe has many layers within layers. It was the reason it took so long to create, because of the amount of layering that took place which called for an immense amount of testing. It's really up to you, or rather up to the flavor profile you're after. If your recipe calls for it, you might need to build more layers within layers, but remember, an extremely "layered" recipe doesn't always create a "layered" flavor. The two are separate. Example, in the recipe above, I can absolutely infuse even more layers within that "body" layer, but the vape still only giving that one "body" dimension. So always remember that the least amount of flavorings used and the least amount of layers used will always result in a more vibrant recipe. But it's all about that flavor profile, whatever is the simplest way to get that exact flavor you're after is the best. Lastly, the hardest part about layering is knowing when a layer isn't working. There's been plenty of times a layer I tested tastes great, but then I pair it with another layer and the recipe falls apart. I keep tweaking the layer that isn't the issue, and leaving the problematic layer, until I realize that the combination of those ingredients creates a completely different result. Or, I'll try and make a layer work that just doesn't quite fit. Or a layer I'm testing taste horrible, but when paired with another layer creates a beautiful match. All these things will come up and it will be hard to catch. It's just a matter of understanding your ingredients and knowing when best to drop something or keep something. 


A Bigger Picture

So I hope this helps you understand how to layer your recipes. It's such a useful technique that has helped me really cut down on my recipe development allowing me to get more clients and ultimately make more money. And that's the bigger picture. Layering is just another technique that you can add to your tool belt. It's not a "must know" technique that you need to do in order to create a flavor profile. It's just a tool you can use in situations to help speed up your recipe development and to increase your recipe output. That's the bigger goal. Being able to sit down in front of your mixing station, write up a blueprint knowing exactly what the resulted flavor will taste like is really a rewarding process. It's a culmination of your skills. Whether you're an at home mixer looking for a better vape, or your a professional international recipe developer, these skills are always useful and can only help you. So get out there and start layering. I promise you it'll save you a ton of time and money.