Taking notes is one of the most fundamental parts of mixing. Note taking and mixing have become synonymous with each other going as far back as the first instances of vaping. Mixing is one of the most subjective arts we can delve into, with everyone's palate drastically differing from one another's. So taking your own notes is vital for the rapid success of your mixes. What you taste is very different than what I taste, and your own notes will help you keep track of these differences and identify profiles you may or may not enjoy. This article will go into how and why you should be taking notes, the apps that will help you take them and organize them, and the ways you can archive all your information to store for the long term.
Seems Like a Lot of Work
So why should you take notes? Well, let's talk about if you SHOULD take them, to begin with. There are many mixers out there who craft great recipes, but haven't taken one note in their entire mixing careers. Note taking to them, is an unnecessary step that only adds to their workflow and impedes on the time they can use to test flavorings or develop recipes. Some just aren't good at writing, and don't enjoy the dredge of note taking. Because let's be honest, unless you love to type or write, note taking can be a bit of a chore. So this is something I want you to understand. You should only take notes if you WANT to take notes, if it's already embedded within you to do so. If you take notes because you feel like it's something you should do, even though you don't enjoy it, you will end up making half-assed notes that will inevitable end up just wasting your time. But if you're interested in the notes you're taking, if you feel encouraged to write notes whenever you test a new flavoring or test a recipe, then your notes will absolutely be a great service for yourself down the line. And let me be clear, just because you're not a note taker doesn't mean I want to discourage you from trying. There are tons of pro's from note taking and you might even enjoy it, so give it a try first to see if its for you or not.
Now let's get into some of the tools you can use to help with your note taking
Note Taking Apps
One Note: One Note is my go-to for note taking. It's a wonderful note-taking app that works seamlessly with Microsoft and Windows 10. Click the link to download the app on your PC or Laptop (or both), and don't forget to download the app on your phone for easy access when you're away from your devices. There's also a great searching system implemented that allows me to type a word or tag and it quickly scans every single note I've taken to bring up the hits. This allows me to write #apple in a flavoring note in its recommended pairings, so when I'm looking for flavorings that work well with apple, I can just search #apple and all the flavorings I've tagged pop up. This makes it SO easy to find the notes I need. Add this with the great organizational tabs and colors you can use to put folders and notes where they belong. I currently have 4 One-Notebooks with around 8-10 folders that have at least 6-12 tabs within them, and I can find the information I need in wo seconds. And because its so seamless, all my notes sync to all my devices to allow access to the entire collection of notes anywhere I'm at.
Evernote: This is what I originally used. It has pretty much all the same features as One Note. It also works so seamlessly across devices. The only real reason I switched was because One Note has native implementation with Windows 10, which is what I use. But if you're not a Windows 10 owner, and you want all the features that One Note has and more, Evernote is your best bet. I haven't used it in a long while, so I'm sure even more features have been added, but the core functions I mentioned above absolutely work in Evernote.
Real Notebook: This is an option for all you old-school note takers. Those who like to actually use a pen or pencil and write. If you need to take notes but are less technologically adept, this is the standard. I don't recommend it though, as the electronic options are just far superior in their features.
Greenshot: The best screenshot app for pc/mac that I've used. Allows you to take quick screenshots. VERY useful, trust me. And its super lightweight.
Excel: This is the Pro's method of tracking your flavorings. I'm not the most talented Excel user so this is something I haven't dove to far into. But I've seen some professional mixers who have endless amounts of spreadsheets that track every flavoring they own, cross-play with the notes they take on the flavorings, track their inventory and amount of each flavoring they have in ml's, track their usage, price, and profits, as well as track their most used flavorings. If you're an accountant or someone who knows the in's and outs of excel, using it for tracking is amazing.
Alltheflavors.com: This site doesn't have a true note taking feature on the site, but it does have limited functionality to input the flavorings you own, the amount you have, the cost of the flavorings, and the "score" you give each flavoring. It's limited and doesn't do much, but good for those who might not know how to fully utilize excel.
E-liquid-recipes.com: The most popular DIY Eliquid app in the world, ELR has a great note taking and flavor tracking features. With ELR, you can find the flavorings you want to take notes on, add them to your stash, write your notes on them, and add your score to them. This is a great way to take notes on your flavorings in an organized way, but also compare your notes to others in the community. This also has a feature that shows you ALL the recipes that are posted on the site using that flavoring , the flavorings most commonly used pairings, and other peoples ratings. A wonderful note taking app for DIYer's that does all the organizing for you and adds a level of social curation to your notes.
Now I want to quickly talk about how I exactly take my notes. This is something that has been requested many times, so I will do my best to explain my process fully. I use One Note as well as Excel for my notes and my tracking. My One Note is broken down in different sections, or "notebooks" and "tabs." I have one notebook strictly for Flavor Notes. Within that, I have tabs or folders broken down by brand. So TFA has its own folder, CAP, FA, etc. Within that, I have section broken down by the flavor profile genre. So Candy, Fruit, Dessert, Tobacco, etc. Within those tabs, are the individual notes for my flavorings. So if I'm taking notes on TFA Strawberry, it go into my Flavor Notes notebook in One Note, then into TFA, then into Fruit, and then I write my notes. My notes are broken down pretty much exactly as you see in the Flavor Book. So the first part is FLAVOR, then the recommended concentrations, then RECOMMEND PAIRINGS & PERCETNAGES, then VAPE EXPERIENCE. After that I have my tagging area where I write the tags I think the flavoring needs. For TFA Strawberry, I'd tag #STRAWBERRY #APPLE #CANDY #COTTONCANDY #MILK #CREAM #ICECREAM, or anything I think that would pair well or define, TFA Strawberry. This is for when I am looking for a flavoring for a recipe. I go to the top and search the tag I need.
I also have another notebook for my Recipes. This notebook is broken down into genres. So, fruit, candy, dessert, etc. In the individual recipe notes, I have the link to the recipe as well as a screenshot of the recipe itself. Then underneath that I have sections where I'll take my notes on the recipe itself. Sections include, FLAVOR, ACCURACY, STEEP, & VAPE EXPERIENCE. Each of these recipe notes are within their own "batch date" note so I know what batch the notes are taken on. So let's run through it. I make a recipe on ATF. This recipe is 3rd batch of MISTY. I'd go into my RECIPES notebook, then go into the CANDY section, find MISTY, and then make a new page for the 3rd batch after the first two. That's where I'll post in my link for the recipe, a screen shot of the recipe, the note sections, and at the end, again the tags for easy identification. When you're mixing as much as I am, and you need to know absolutely every thing about every batch for every recipe, you need to stay very organized. This way, when I'm working for clients, I can trace back recipes and identify issues immediately. You can even go so far as implementing the recipe's ingredients, with the notes of the individual flavorings. This is what works for me, and while I understand many of you may have no need for this level of detail in your notes, it sure does help and sounds a bit more intensive than it really is.
Now that we determined if you should or not, and the tools necessary to do so, let's list the reasons why and what you should be taking notes on. In my years of DIY, the main subject you should be writing notes on is your flavorings or ingredients. The other subjects that you should take notes on are your in-progress recipes or batches, your inspirations or ideas, and your flavor pairings or combinations. There are many other subjects that your notes should be focused on, but they are less important and those who don't mix for a living don't really need to worry about them. If you're interested in the kind of notes Commercial Recipe Developers should be taking (it's a lot more), then feel free to leave a comment below and I can put together an article about that for the members. But anyways, these reasons will give you an insurmountable amount of information that you can utilize. But before we get into what to takes notes on, let's talk about the programs I use to take them
Flavorings / Ingredients
Flavor Profile: If you take a look at the FlavorBook, this will give you a good understanding of how exactly I take my personal notes. When I test my flavorings, one of the most useful notes I take is the actual flavoring of the ingredient. I break down the flavor to the best of my ability, really analyzing every facet and aspect of the flavor. The best way to put this is to think of taking these notes like you were trying to get another person to taste exactly what you're explaining. You want to be as detailed as possible, marking down the main or top notes, the off-notes, the weird aspects of the flavoring, and everything else in between. The more accurate you are with describing the flavorings, the more useful the information is when you need it.
Accuracy: Accuracy of the flavoring towards what the flavoring is TRYING to portray is important to note as well. Does FW Tres Leches really taste like a Tres Leches Cake? Be as specific as you can be, marking down exactly how close or how far off the flavoring is to its profile. I also like to note down if the flavoring is not only accurate, but better, than the original source material.
Vape Experience: How does the flavoring vape? Is it nice and smooth? Is it rough and harsh? What is the mouthfeel like, is it dense or fluffy? Does the flavoring have multiple dimensions or layers, or is it linear and straightforward? I also like to note if the flavoring contains any questionable contents like DAAP, Cinnamaldehyde, corn syrup, or alcohol. Noting all this stuff down will help you identify what flavorings might be the cause of harshness or contrasting mouthfeel in your recipes.
Recommend Pairings and Percentages: This is the second most important aspect of ingredients aside from flavor. What concentration does the flavoring work best at? What concentration will give you only its accents, or what concentration will give you its full experience? Making concentration bold in your notes will help you easily identify what concentration to use in your recipes. Again, look at the FlavorBook to understand how I do this. And then the pairings. What does this flavoring work with? Does this flavoring have any contrasting flavor profiles that do not work in its favor? What specific ingredients does this flavoring benefit from? For example, "TFA Strawberry works really well with CAP Sweet Strawberry to produce a nice candied strawberry flavor." Now the more you mix with an ingredient, the more pairings you will be able to note down and utilize from. The experience you gain should be noted down!
Recipe / Batches
Writing notes for your recipes is very simple to the notes for your flavorings, just organized a bit differently and you want a stronger focus on how your recipe tastes at different steep times and batches. You obviously want to take note of the flavor of your recipe. Write down every main note, every nuance, every subtle off-note, write EVERYTHNG! You want to note down how accurate your recipe is towards the profile you're going after. You also want to note down how your recipe vapes, the mouthfeel, etc. You don't need to worry about pairings or percentages, but what you should note down is how your recipe tastes at different steep times. This allows you to see how flavorings taste after time when in conjunction with other flavorings. And you want to note down the difference in flavor between batches. One thing I want to point out is that you should be as critical as you can be with your notes on your recipes. Don't give yourself any leeway. Be hard on yourself. It does no one any good if you over-sell the flavor of your recipe, noting down its better than it actually is. Or saying its closer to a profile than it really is. If there's a time to be extra critical, it's when you're taking notes on your recipes. I also want point out that when you take notes on your recipes, this is a great chance to add to the notes of the flavorings included. Your recipes put those flavorings in predicaments that might be new to you, so you want to note down how these flavorings act when paired together. Your notes on your recipes will directly affect your flavoring notes.
Inspiration / Ideas
This is the more "fun" notebook of the bunch. I have one entire notebook where I just jot down ideas. It's actually kind of illegible to anyone but myself. Just more of a consciousness string of thoughts that pop into my head that I put down. If I eat something interesting, I'll snap a pic of it on my cell phone and upload to this notebook for future reference. It's a great way to gain inspiration for your recipes and allows you to put your ideas in writing so you don't forget them.
And that really covers the extent of my note taking. Now, I know it might look like a lot. And I know it might look a bit unnecessary to write and organize the amount that I do. But it looks a lot worse than it is. Once you've figured out your note-taking routine, and you get in the groove of writing down your notes as soon as you hit your mixing station, it becomes second nature. Now you don't have to go to the extent that I do with your note-taking, especially if you're mixing just for yourself and have no interest in recipe development. But like I said previously, I urge you to at least try it, because the information is invaluable. Whenever I sit down to mix, I have my One Note open ready to go just like I would my scale or VG/PG. It's become apart of my mixing experience now, and it's only made me a better mixer. Most importantly, it's made me a faster mixer and a more efficient mixer. Because of my notes, I'm sure I've saved thousands just on wasted material and wasted time. And my notes are always evolving. They're always changing. The more experience I gain, the more I can add to my flavor notes because they're always being put into new situations. And the more experience I have, the better my notes are. The better I get at describing flavors and connect with my palate. Overall, just have fun with it. Don't burn yourself out by writing hundreds of paragraphs on the accuracy of TFA Cotton Candy. Keep things easy for you to understand, but packed with enough info that you can refer back and immediately understand what you're looking at. If you do that, your note taking will be apart of your mixing routine as well.