A vape coil, also known as an atomiser coil or just an atomiser, is the part of your e-cigarette that vaporises the e-liquid to produce the vapour that you inhale. The coil is one of the most important elements of your vape and other than the e-liquid, it is the part that will need replacing regularly to ensure your e-cig is working optimally and providing great flavour and vapour production.
But what is a vape coil and why does it need changing? Here we’ll break everything down for you so you’ll have a complete understanding of how it all works.
Beginners guide to vape coils
Your vape is made up of a few simple parts:
The battery, the tank, the coil and the mouthpiece.
You will find the vape coil inside the tank or pod on your e-cigarette. Most coils are removable and will either screw in or have a push fit design.
What are the components of a vape coil and how do they work?
Coils all consist of a few simple elements, each of which has a specific purpose.
- A wrap of wire (or coil of wire, hence the name) – power from the battery is used to heat the wire which then vaporises the e-liquid.
- Wicking material (usually organic cotton) – the wick draws e-liquid from the tank or pod to feed the coil/wire which then vaporises the e-liquid. The wire is usually wrapped around the wick.
- The coil housing – this is the metal part that houses the wire and wick. It usually has a threaded section that allows you to screw the coil into the tank or pod, although many recent designs use a push fit coil that simply needs pushing into the tank or pod rather than screwing in.
What do the different coil resistances mean?
Coils often come in different resistances. The resistance is the ohms (Ω) of the coil, and this can be anywhere between 0.15ohms and 2.0ohms.
A lower resistance coil will allow more current through the wire and will require more power (wattage) to heat the wire to produce the desired vapour. A higher resistance will let less current through so will require less power to heat the wire.
Let’s take a look at one of the most popular vape coils, the Nautilus coils by Aspire, and how the different resistances perform so we can better understand what it means in real life vaping.
The most popular resistance option of Nautilus coil is the original 1.8ohm version. The manufacturer’s recommended wattage range for this coil is 10w to 14w. In essence, if you want a cooler and smoother vape go for 10w and if you want a warmer and more intense vape you can increase it up to 14w. This coil option is the perfect place to start if you’re new to vaping as it provides a MTL (mouth the lung) vaping experience that is much like puffing on a tobacco cigarette. This coil will also work well with PG or 50/50 e-liquids.
Another popular option is the 0.7ohm coil. This is best run between 18w and 23w, so again it will be smoother on the low range and warmer and more intense on the top. Notice that the wattage range is much higher for this coil as it requires more power to heat the wire to the desired temperature. This higher wattage will produce slightly more vapour but as the power is higher you will have to compromise slightly on the battery life of your device.
Standard v sub-ohm; the pros & cons
You may have heard the term ‘sub-ohm’ and wondered what it means?
‘Sub’ just means ‘under’ and an ohm is a unit of electrical resistance. In relation to vaping, sub-ohm simply refers to any coil with a resistance below 1.0ohm.
Sub-ohm is synonymous with large vape kits that generate large clouds of vapour. While this is somewhat true, not all sub-ohm coils produce these large vapour clouds. Many pen and pods kits now come with coil resistances below 1.0ohm but still produce modest vapour clouds. The large clouds of vapour are not produced exclusively by the resistance of the coil as other elements play a large part in this process, such as the wattage selected, the airflow through the tank/coil and the type of e-liquid you use.
The term ‘sub-ohm vaping’ will continue to be associated with large clouds or cloud chasing but this should not put you off trying a coil with a resistance below 1.0ohms if you don’t want large clouds, because as we’ve already discussed, other factors are often at play.
In general terms, sub-ohm coils have the following benefits:
- Increased vapour production
- A greater nicotine hit from a lower strength e-liquid
- Greater flavour production due to the increase in the amount of vapour
- Greater airflow and the ability to inhale the vapour directly into the lungs (DTL)
- Higher power and more sophisticated devices
The downsides to sub-ohm coils:
- Less discrete due to the amount of vapour
- Can be more expensive to run due to the increased use of e-liquid and potential decreased lifespan of coils
- Does not replicate smoking tobacco cigarettes so may not be recommended to people trying to quit smoking
Standard coils are the type found in most pen and pods kits. They generally have a resistance above 1.0ohm and create a vapour that is most similar to traditional tobacco cigarette smoke. This vapour is first inhaled into the mouth and then taken into the lungs (mouth the lung or MTL), which is just how you would inhale a regular cigarette. Standard coils work best with PG, 50/50 and nic salt e-liquids with nicotine strengths such as 6mg, 12mg and 18mg in PG or 50/50 variants or 10mg and 20mg if you’re using nic salts.
How do you create large vapour clouds?
If you are looking to create large clouds of vapour you will need a sub ohm tank or atomiser that is designed to use high VG liquid. This style of tank or atomiser will often use a larger coil than a MTL tank to allow the thicker liquid to wick efficiently and will have much more airflow so the user can take larger direct lung inhales to maximise the amount of vapour produced.
For an in depth explanation into sub ohm vaping, see our Ultimate Guide to Sub Ohm Vaping.
Buying the correct coil for your device
Most new kits that you will find come included with at least two coils and quite often will be of different resistances to allow the user to try them out and see which one suits their needs the best. Some manufacturers make several different coils that are compatible with that particular device but the supplied coils will often be a higher ohm coil and a lower ohm coil which at the very least allows the user to narrow down their coil selection even if they haven’t tried every one available. If you struggle to remember which device or coil it is that you need, take a picture of a new pack or the coil itself on your phone to show the member of staff on your next store visit or to email to us before ordering online, it is always good to double check so you don’t purchase the wrong ones.
Further reading for beginners on vape coils
Now you have an understanding on basics of vape coils we've put together some useful articles that will help you get the most out of your vape and your coils. Click the links below to learn more on each subject or move on to our Advanced Guide to vape coils if you want to become a true pro.
- How to prime a vape coil
- How to change a vape coil
- How do you know when to change a vape coil?
- Why does my vape taste burnt and how to fix it?
Advanced Guide to Vape Coils
Different types of vape coil
There are many different types of vape coil, they all pretty much do the same job but different materials for the coil itself or the wicking materials can have a subtle effect on the performance. Here we’ll go through some of the more common ones with a brief description of each.
Vape coil materials
Mesh coils - A grid like sheet of metal that offers more surface area for vaporisation of e-liquid.
Stainless steel coils – a hybrid material as it can be used in both standard wattage mode and also in temperature control mode.
Ceramic coil – made of ceramic materials that offer longer lasting coils as they don’t suffer with coil gunk or oxidisation like metal coils typically do. The heating up time can be a little longer than a metal coil but they retain heat much more effectively.
Titanium coils – similar to Stainless Steel in that they can be used in both wattage or temperature control modes. Titanium is often a more expensive material but will last quite a bit longer than a standard Kanthal coil.
Kanthal coils – Kanthal is probably the most common material used in vape coils as it is inexpensive and offers great performance. If you have vaped before it is almost certain you have used a Kanthal coil. Will need to be changed more regularly than a Titanium coil but will be much cheaper per pack.
Nickel coils – exclusively for use in temperature control devices and cannot be used in wattage mode due to the makeup of the metal itself. Some devices do still offer temp control but it is becoming less popular. Temperature Control is a different way to power the coil which uses a set temperature rather than an applied wattage with an aim to alleviate dry hits as the temperature is set below the burning temperature of the wicking material making it virtually impossible to get a burnt coil.
Nichrome coils – Nichrome is a very similar vaping experience to Kanthal with a couple of small differences. Nichrome is a softer material than kanthal so it can’t fire at as high wattages as Kanthal, it also gains and loses heat much faster than Kanthal. Nichrome has a lower resistance than Kanthal too so if you are looking to build your own cloud chasing sub ohm coils Nichrome is the one to choose.
Vape Coil Designs
Dual coils - A dual coil is exactly as it sounds, two coils are being used to vaporise the liquid instead of one. This does have a big affect on the performance, obviously the amount of vapour produced is going to be more but it also has quite an effect on the resistance of the coil too. When using a dual coil setup the resistance of the coil will be halved while needing more power to heat the coils up effectively, so if you have 2x 1ohm coils the dual coil will read as 0.5ohms on your device. It also goes without saying that this will use more liquid and deplete your battery faster but the flavour will be increased.
Vertical coil - A vertical coil is again pretty self explanatory but the theory as to why a coil would be positioned this way is quite interesting. When a coil is set up vertically rather than horizontally the main benefit is much less spitting from the coil as the pops and crackles hit the walls of the tank rather than up and out through the mouthpiece. Vertical coils sometimes don’t wick as well as horizontal coils as they only wick from one end so with thicker VG liquids this could be a problem. In general vertical coils are better in tank atomisers but not ideal for RDA’s (Rebuildable Dripping Atomisers).
How to make your own vape coils?
Making your own coils is a fun and interesting process that starts off fairly simple but has limitless possibilities. Most people start off by making a simple round wire coil which is very similar to the ones found in most pre made coils but then you can progress into making more complex coils such as Claptons or Aliens. We’ll briefly take you through the process of making your first vape coil:
Tools For The Job
To make your own coils you will need; wire, a tool to wrap the coil around, wire cutters, a pair of tweezers (preferably ceramic tipped tweezers) and something to test the ohms of the coil on, either your mod itself or an ohm meter.
We would suggest getting a coil making kit like the GeekVape mini tool kit. This will have all the tools you will need for the job plus a tool to help wrap your coil.
It is important to think about what atomiser you are using and which wire is going to give it the best chance of performing at its best. The holes the wire must be passed through when installing will dictate how thick the wire can be, the thickness of wire will also have an affect on the resistance of the coil once it is made. Usually you will use a thinner wire if you are installing the coil into a tank or a thicker wire if using a dripper as a tank will usually be run at lower power and higher resistance than a dripping atomiser.
Wrapping the Coil
Cut off a small piece of wire (roughly 100-150mm long) and lay it on top of the coiling rod you are using with about 10mm over one end, this will need to be long enough to install into the atomiser with enough left sticking out to make a solid connection and enough room to get in and clip it off cleanly.
Now begin to wrap the wire round slowly, paying attention to keeping the coil nice and tight with each turn as close to the last as possible without overlapping. Wrap around 5-7 turns and leave enough wire at the end so both leads are facing the way the post holes are situated, now install this into your device leaving enough space so the coil isn’t touching the posts or the body of the atomiser itself or this will cause a short and tighten down the screws to secure the coil leads in place.
Strumming your coil
Once the coil is secured into your atomiser and the leads are clipped off it is now time to make sure the coil will glow evenly when the fire button is pressed. To do this you will need to take your tweezers and gently rub your coil with the tweezers from one end to the other, if you are using metal tweezers the device cannot be activated when strumming your coil as this will cause a short but if you have ceramic tweezers (which are much better) you will be able to strum your coil while the device is activated which is much quicker and easier. Once the coil is glowing evenly from the middle outwards you are ready to install your cotton.
Wicking your coil
The cotton wicking material is what soaks up the liquid and feeds it to your coil ready to be vaped. There are several types of cotton you can use and most are very good, make sure it is organic cotton and has no bleach or other chemicals added, you don’t want to vape those, if the cotton is brilliant white it is almost certain to have been processed with chemicals so avoid these.
Pull off a strip of cotton and roll it into a long thin strip and put it through one end of your coil, you don’t want it too thin where there is no resistance but you don’t want it too thick, you just want a nice snug fit as this will give the perfect amount of wicking. Leave enough length of cotton to sit in the wicking channels on your tank or enough to fill the well of your dripping atomiser. Now apply a few drops of liquid to soak the coil and press the fire button on your device where you should see lovely vapour appear. Now just put your atomiser back together and fill with liquid and you’re good to go.