**Disclaimer: All vaping products are meant for adult consumers. Please use products responsibly**
As vaping is becoming a popular alternative to smoking, more and more vaping devices pop. As a result, vaping technology develops most of the time faster than we think. One of the critical components in vaping devices is the coil. Coils come in different shapes and are made of a wide variety of materials and metal alloys. This array of choices can confuse many people who want to take on vaping.
There are many types of vape coils, such as single coils, dual coils, Kanthal mesh coils, and the list goes on. You can find all these vape coils in either vape mods or disposable bars (disposable e-cigarettes).
Vape coils didn’t just fall from the heavens one day to let the world know that there is a better way to enjoy flavors and create big clouds. There had to be someone who had the idea of using different materials combined with physics to make it all happen.
Vape Coils - History and Evolution
During John F. Kennedy’s presidential term, more precisely in April 1963, a man named Herbert Gilbert filed for a patent on a revolutionary technology he coined “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette.” The technology in question was not developed in time and didn’t make it to the stores. Gilbert’s patented idea fell through the cracks and said patent, sadly for him, expired.
Herbert A. Gilbert’s Patent registered in 1963
Four decades had to go by before the whole idea was reborn. In 2003, Hon Lik, a Chinese doctor, developed a three-piece setup similar to analog cigarettes. Dr. Lik based his design for the electronic cigarette on ultrasonic atomization. Ultrasonic atomization refers to transforming liquid into gas or vapor by applying ultrasonic frequencies to said liquid. Mind-blowing, I know, but relatively simple technique. This is the technology used by atomizers, as you can infer.
Hon Lik’s 2003 Patent
2004 was the year that saw the first generation of e-cigarettes into full production and saw the beginning of a global sales spurt.
The next significant innovation in the vaping industry came in 2006 when the cartomizer came to light. By today’s standards, the cartomizer is a bit of an old technology but quite innovative for the mid-2000s. It consists of an atomizer, and a flavor cartridge put into one piece. Ultrasonic atomization technology had nothing to do with how liquids were converted into vapor.
Enter the Coils! Inventors Umer and Tariq Sheikh developed a simple heating element consisting of a resistance wire wrapped in cotton fibers. It is the wire technology you find in virtually every coil on the market today.
Coils caused quite a snowball effect on the development of the industry. Resistance wire technology set the foundations for a speedy evolution of consumer technology, quite comparable to the speed of computing technology’s evolution.
However, at their early stages, coils could not output much power. Their resistance didn’t fall below 2 ohms until around 2011. These cartomizers enjoyed quite some popularity in the second half of the 2000s until the industry made further progress.
The industry emphasized capacity, introducing twin or dual coils in their designs. These dual coils were part of larger vaping devices that started rolling out in the early 2010s. One of the cooler results of dual coils in larger devices was the production of larger vape clouds. Some variants of the cartomizer started sprouting as a result of larger vaping devices and improved coil technology. The “cartotank” made its first appearance in 2012, setting the stage for what would then become the mod vapes. Cartotanks consisted of a cartomizer inside a glass or plastic reservoir, with a larger e-juice capacity and wicking system instead of packed cotton.
Arry Carto Tank 2011. Image Source
By 2013 the industry’s DIY sector erupted like a raging volcano and the standard of vapor production followed suit as the number of hobbyists also exploded. Rebuildable dripping atomizers appeared in 2012, becoming the weapon of choice for hobbyists as they allowed large multi-coil sub-ohm setups.
Towards the end of 2012, mass-market plug-and-play devices began flooding the market. Vape coils became swappable and customizable. These devices also began featuring adjustable airflow systems, opening a pandora’s box of cloud production possibilities.
Vapers were blessed with plenty of options to satiate their appetite for cloud production and tantalizing flavors. But it doesn’t end there. Back in 2010, the first variable wattage mod appeared.
Already by 2014, you could purchase systems with a single coil and dual coils, with resistances that went down all the way to 0.8 ohms. After the first variable wattage device came to light in 2010, temperature control was introduced to the masses. Vaping devices with temperature control worked with nickel coils, Kanthal coils, or NiChrome alloy coils. Nickel’s ability to change its resistance as the coils changed temperatures made it one of the preferred vape coil production options.
Nickel’s resistance compared to other materials. Image Source
Different chipsets made it gradually onto the market, and by 2015 many mods could output more than 100 watts.
Safety was a great concern during the whole period of the evolution of vaping devices (and there are still some concerns with specific devices). Technology advances very fast in the industry. As a result, this concern is slowly but surely dropping positions in the list of things to worry about when purchasing a vaping device.
Nickel soon saw some fierce competition as other metals started nudging their way into the vaping scene. Some of these metals are titanium and stainless steel, which can be used for temperature control or wattage.
Nickel-Chromium vs. Kanthal vs. Titanium Vape Wires vs. Stainless Steel
Nickel-Chromium Vape Wires
The first metal alloy to kickstart the vaping revolution was Nickel-Chromium (more widely known as NiChrome). In 1905 scientists discovered it possessed anti-oxidant properties, which allowed the alloy to work at high temperatures without getting damaged through oxidation.
NiChrome is widely used in many devices that use wires to heat objects, like many electric heating systems, household appliances like toasters, and others.
NiChrome can heat up pretty quickly, reaching high temperatures in a matter of seconds. It is the preferred alloy of e-cigarette manufacturers in China. This quick heating ability is an actual disadvantage because the metal alloy has a shorter lifespan due to its lower melting point, compared to, for example, Kanthal. Anyway, this should not worry the user as it is infrequent to reach melting point temperatures in today’s devices, regardless of the metal alloy used in their manufacture.
Some people are allergic to Nickel. If that’s you, then you should consider getting a vaping device that is made with Kanthal.
Kanthal Vape Wires
Kanthal is a nickel-less alloy made of Iron, Chromium, and Aluminum. One of Kanthal’s advantages, as explained in the previous section, is its longer lifespan. But it doesn’t stop there. Kanthal is also widely available, low-cost, and can be found in many different gauges. Kanthal has a higher melting point than NiChrome, hence a higher operating temperature maximum.
On the downside, some people report a slightly metallic taste, perhaps due to iron composition. However, other people do not say the same. So, I guess we can’t assume for sure that this is a fact. Kanthal wires’ ramp-up time is not as fast as, say, stainless steel or NiChrome.
Kanthal makes an excellent choice for beginners interested in building their own mods due to its great functionality. Another plus for Kanthal wires is their good oxidation resistance. Most vapers use Kanthal wires in straight wattage mode. Kanthal wires are inexpensive and widely available.
Pure Titanium Vape Wires
Titanium is the ninth most abundant element in the earth’s crust and one of the least toxic and most environmentally friendly metals. No wonder e-cigarette and vaping device manufacturers have set eyes on this “hot” metal. For more experienced vapers who want to make their own coils, you can find titanium wires fairly easily on the market. Titanium wires are strong, resistant, easy to work with, hold their shape quite well.
On the other hand, some people report concerns over titanium wires’ potential health hazards due to titanium dioxide gas production when overheated. But, do not worry because for titanium to produce titanium dioxide gas, you’d have to burn it at temperatures of over 1200 degrees Fahrenheit (600 Celsius). Remember that these days vaping device technology is quite advanced, and most mods and vapes come with very reliable state-of-the-art temperature control capabilities. The truth is, most metals can and will become toxic if you inhale the gas they produce when you burn them up to and past their boiling point. Always read the safety instructions and manufacturer’s documentation.
Stainless Steel Vape Wires
Composed primarily of chromium, nickel, and carbon, this alloy is the most unique of the standard vape wires. It can be used for temperature control vaping or straight wattage vaping. Stainless steel contains nickel, not in very high percentages (usually between 10% to 14%), but enough to deter those who are allergic to nickel.
Stainless steel vape wires come in different grades. These grades are expressed numerically. For instance, the most commonly used grade for coil building is SS316L, followed by SS317L.
An attractive advantage of stainless steel vape wires is that they are easy to work with. They also hold their shape quite well and are widely available. They are not suitable for allergic to nickel people and should not be burned at high wattages on the downside. But they do have a relatively fast ramp-up time.
Well, now that we’ve educated you with some history and chemistry of vape coils and the different alloys they can be made of, it’s time to dive into the Types of Coils.
Function of Vape Coils
By now, you should know what a coil is, or at least you have seen one, or you have a mental picture of it. But what does it exactly do and, more importantly, how?
Chances are you have a car, and your car has a battery. The principle of coil builds is quite similar to that of car batteries. One end of the coil is attached to the battery’s positive end, while the other end is connected to its negative side. As you trigger the vape, the battery current runs through the coil, generating heat that heats up the e-juice and produces vapor. That is how it works in layman’s terms. Without coils, there are no e-vaping devices.
But the core of this article is not just to talk about single coil vaping devices but also about dual-coils, triple-coils, and even quad-coils.
The more coils, the more output. Sounds logical. It actually is. But the heat is also divided between the coils, so no individual wire from the coil will heat up more than the others. In other words, as you add coils, heat and vapor generation increase.
You can produce more vapor clouds as you add coils. The amount of time for the device to heat up and produce vapor clouds also diminishes with every added coil.
However, there are some factors to consider when deciding to double, triple, or even quadruple your coils. The more coils, the more heat, and therefore the quicker your e-juice will burn. This directly proportional relationship also affects battery life. You will have to charge or replace your batteries more often.
I like the analogy of a V8 vs a 4-cylinder car. The more cylinders, the more oomph, power, dopamine production in the driver, speed and overall muscle. The total opposite happens with a 4-cylinder car. But a V8 will burn more fuel at a faster speed, and it can become an expensive hobby.
There are three main types of vaping devices, and they have different coil configurations. These are atomizers, clearomizers, and cartomizers.
Atomizers, Clearomizers, and Cartomizers
People who are just starting to vape are usually confused as to what device to buy. Should you get an atomizer? Should you get a clearomizer? Or should you get a cartomizer?Let’s break them down so you can make an informed decision.
Atomizers are what convert e-juice into a mist or vapor so that the user can inhale it. Atomizers are measured in Ohms, which is a unit of resistance. The lower the number of ohms, the higher the output, the bigger the vape clouds, the faster your battery will drain. You may have heard of the term “sub-ohm.” This term refers to an atomizer equipped with coils that offer a resistance level of less than 1ohm.
Atomizers aren’t the coils. Many people (including myself at the beginning) think of atomizers as the coils. The coils are basically contained within the atomizer, so they are not exactly the same thing. Other words for an atomizer are RDA (rebuildable atomizers) or sub-ohm tank.
How do atomizers work?
The way an atomizer works is rather simple. As you switch on your vaping device, the battery activates, feeding power to the device’s components. This process allows the atomizer to start doing what it is supposed to do. The coil or coils will heat up inside the atomizer and cook that e-juice to produce vapor.
Above the coil, we can find the wick, which is just fibers mainly made of cotton, but they come in other materials too. The wick gets soaked with e-juice when it comes in contact with the hot coils. The e-juice’s temperature rises until it becomes vapor.
Types of Atomizers
There are mainly three types of atomizers: disposable atomizers, replaceable coil head atomizers, and rebuildable atomizers.
These are the most recommended atomizers for new vapers. These atomizers are the ones that are usually included with the starter or beginner’s kits. Inexpensive and easy to find, these are the preferred choice for the rookies or those who are taking on vaping. However, it is recommended to switch to a replaceable coil atomizer or a rebuildable atomizer once you have some experience because it can hurt your wallet and the environment in the long run, as you’ll have to replace them very often.
Replaceable Coil Head Atomizers
These are perhaps the most common atomizers out there on the streets of Vapeland. As their name implies, they contain replaceable coil heads within. They are not as inexpensive as their disposable cousins, but in turn, they offer more customization options for the vaper. They are highly recommended for the intermediate vaper. These atomizers are washable too, which is useful for swapping e-juice flavors.
Also referred to as RDAs, replaceable atomizers are what most experienced vapers use because they allow them to build their own coils, handing the reins of total control to the vaper. Customizing your RDA requires quite a bit of experience, expertise, and time. They are usually more expensive than the other types of atomizers as the individual parts can be bought and replaced separately. However, if the customization affects the taste of the e-juice negatively, you should definitely get acquainted with these devices.
These guys are the new kids on the block in the vaping realm. A clearomizer is a see-through atomizer, mainly made of plastic or glass (usually referred to as “glassomizers”). Clearomizers and glassomizers operate fundamentally in the same manner, meaning they both have e-juice reservoirs, coils, and a mouthpiece in one single unit. This unit will connect to the battery and produce vapor when the coils heat up.
Glassomizers are principally made of Pyrex glass, making them quite resistant and cleaner than the plastic clearomizers. Clearomizers instead may have a shorter lifespan as they tend to wear from the e-juices’ acid. That is not the case with the Pyrex glassomizers. However, glassomizers might break easily if dropped, so that can be a disadvantage.
The design of a cartomizer doesn’t differ much from that of an atomizer. The main difference lies in the polyfill that’s wrapped around the heating coil. The polyfill absorbs e-juice and allows for a longer vaping time than an atomizer. An e-cigarette is basically a cartomizer. Cartomizers hold more e-juice than an atomizer, are cheaper, easy to refill, and quite easy to rebuild. However, a cartomizer may not be the best option if you just want to heavy-vape.
There are claims that the polyfill alters negatively the taste of the e-juice. This is perhaps because it retains some of the flavonoids of the previous e-juice, so if you want to change e-juice flavors often, it might not be the best option for you. We may also bring to your attention the fact that, unlike clearomizers and glassomizers, a cartomizer doesn’t let you see the amount of e-juice left in your device.
Now that you’ve probably decided what device is best for you, let’s break down all the coil configurations available on the market these days.
Single Coils: Usage, Pros & Cons
Earlier, we learned about the metals and alloys used in coil manufacturing, their pros, and cons. Now let’s look at whether you should get a single-coil configuration or go further than that.
Single-coil is the most basic configuration of them all. Just one lonely coil to heat up your e-juice and give you that so longed-for hit. But what are the pros and cons? Let’s discuss them.
The biggest advantage of a single-coil configuration is its simple mechanism. Practically any inexperienced vaper can rebuild one. This configuration guarantees the longest-life battery. Single coils are usually cheaper, and anybody can enjoy them regardless of experience and expertise.
Single coils take longer to heat your e-juice and produce vapor. The cloud output is not as abundant as what other configurations have.
So, to sum up, the pros and cons of single coil configurations, let’s look at the following list:
- Vapers tend to run a single coil configuration at a lower wattage than any other setup.
- Single coil configuration usually consumes less battery power.
- Single coil will save you anywhere from 10% to 30% battery.
- It does not require much experience to rebuild due to its more basic design.
- New vapers may purchase them as a pre-made, ready-built kit.
- Pre-made / ready kits prevent users from messing with the coils.
- Cheaper to purchase.
- If you build single coil units, you’ll save time and wick.
- Single coil configurations will not produce massive clouds of vapor.
- Single coil configurations will take a little bit more ramp-up time. That is the time it takes to heat up the coils enough to transform your e-juice into vapor.
Dual Coils: Usage, Pros & Cons
The more, the merrier, as the saying goes. Two coils will output more heat and therefore produce more vapor clouds than the single-coil configuration. More coil, more wick. More wick in the coils means more e-juice will soak the wick, creating more clouds of greater size and wow-factor.
A dual coil atomizer will reach its ideal temperature in a much shorter period of time. The throat hit will be more significant, too.
Watch this video to learn more about dual coils and how they work:
So, let’s summarize the pros and cons of dual coil below:
- They will produce higher amounts of vapor, and therefore clouds. It is because the two coils are soaked in e-juice, heating it faster.
- Heating time is shorter and more efficient for the reasons explained in the first point.
- The battery will deplete much sooner than with a single coil configuration.
- E-juice will also deplete much sooner because each hit will vape more e-juice than a single-coil vaporizer does
- The dual coil configuration isn’t as easy to rebuild as the single-coil one.
- It may not be suitable for newbies.
Coils vs Mesh
We talked already quite a bit about coils. What they are made of, and their different configurations. However, there is another type of heating component we haven’t addressed: Mesh.
Both regular coils and mesh have their particular characteristics, advantages and disadvantages.
Mesh Coils: Usage, Pros & Cons
What Is A Mesh?
Mesh is a kind of grid-like strip of metal that can be made of different alloys, such as Kanthal or NiChrome or Stainless Steel. We already discussed the features of both these metals in their traditional coil forms. But now, let’s see how they liken to and differ from each other.
Both coiled wires and mesh, work in similar ways, but their effects are slightly different. Mesh is becoming more common in the industry, although they are mainly used in sub-ohm coils (coils with resistance lower than 1ohm). At the same time, MTL coils (mouth-to-lung) have resistances above 1ohm and are commonly used as standard wire.
When you press the firing button, both of them act as the heating element, and both of them evaporate your e-juice for you to inhale it.
You get a greater metal surface to heat up your e-juice with a mesh. A mesh also offers much more even heating because the current is evenly spread out across the whole mesh. It translates into a cooler vape with fewer dry hits because the mesh doesn’t heat up as much. Mesh can also have a longer lifespan than traditional coil wires. Mesh is much more robust and overall resistant.
When you purchase a sub-ohm vaping device, you will likely find a mesh inside rather than coil wires. Mesh coils are usually a much better choice for producing more vape clouds and delivering richer flavors.
Watch this video review of Freemax Mesh Pro double and triple coils:
Mesh coils are here to stay despite having hit the market not so long ago. The mesh coils’ primary function is to provide a more even, less wasteful, and more evenly distributed heating. Mesh coils expand over a larger surface when compared to coil wires. When heat travels through coils, whether it’s a single-coil, dual coil, triple coil, or even a quadruple coil configuration, said heat does not distribute itself evenly across the entire field made up by the coils, so some uneven distribution of heat occurs.
Mesh coils are here to bridge the heat distribution gap, allowing for much more efficient heating across the entire field.
Let’s think of it using the following analogy. Let’s think about the heating systems in different homes. We can have a room or entire house heated with a radiator on each wall. Each radiator will produce a certain amount of heat to keep the inhabitants of that house or space quite comfortable. However, a section of that room will be warmer than the other sections of said room, right? The closer you get to the radiator, the warmer it is. Logical, isn’t it? So this analogy would relate directly to the coils in a vaping device.
Now let’s tackle the mesh coil with the same analogy, but this time we will use central floor heating. A dwelling equipped with floor heating will radiate heat evenly from the floor’s entire surface, providing more efficient heating to the dwellers. No matter what part of the room, or house you are in, the amount of heat will be the same (provided the copper pipes that run under the floor carrying hot water were evenly installed and distributed across the whole area).
That should be enough to grasp the engineering behind heating and heat distribution, whether it is to warm up your mother’s basement or your vape mod.
Now mesh coils may sound like a wonder of modern engineering. Well, it actually is. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be so popular these days, like the FreeMax Quad Mesh Coil 0.15 ohm.
Bear in mind, though, that mesh coils will consume more cotton than standard wire coils. They have a thicker wrap around to hold more e-juice. But, in turn, you’ll get more intense flavors and longer-lasting performance out of your mesh coils.
So in order to sum up the pros and cons of mesh coils, let’s have a look at the following list:
- Very short ramp uptime
- Produce more intense flavor
- Vape is more consistent
- Does not require as much power to produce efficient results
- Mesh coils can be cross-compatible with a large variety of tanks
- Mesh coils last longer than wire coils due to less burnt coil
- Mesh coils consume more e-liquid than regular wire coils due to the thicker cotton wrapped around them.
- Mesh coils might hold and exude more nicotine, which may concern some people trying to decrease the amount of nicotine consumption.
A downside of mesh is that they consume more cotton wick than standard wire coils. But mesh coils will last 30 to 50 percent longer than the average standard coil wire. Having a good quality mesh tank will get you about 15 days of excellent performance. It is one of the reasons why they are so popular in the sub-ohm tank scene.
Kanthal Mesh Coil
As we spoke earlier, Kanthal is an alloy consisting of iron, chromium, and aluminum. Cheap and easy to work with, make it a great alloy to make mesh and other heating materials. It is also relatively easy to find, it holds its shape quite well. Even though not many people build their own mesh, it is an excellent material for coil wires, too, as we discussed already.
However, Kanthal mesh is not compatible with temperature control devices. It requires wattage mode instead.
Want to learn more about FreeMax Mesh Pro Quad coils? This video might help:
So, to sum up, the pros and cons of Kanthal, we have:
- Easy to find in most places online or in physical stores
- High availability
- It holds its shape very well.
- Wattage mode required
- It does not work with temp control.
- Flavor profiles not as intense
- Ramp-up time can be slower than other wire types.
Stainless Steel Mesh Coil
Stainless steel works similarly to Kanthal. They share some fundamental physics and shapes. However, stainless steel contains nickel, as we had mentioned before, so it is something to bear in mind if you present any kind of allergies to nickel.
One advantage of stainless steel over Kanthal is that stainless steel can work in both wattage and temp control options. Kanthal lacks in that department. If you like to switch between these two modes and are not allergic to nickel, stainless steel is your best bet. Stainless steel comes in different grades, for instance, 410, 413, 316, 316L, and so on. Stainless steel can be dry-burned without nocive effects. Holding its shape quite well is another feature of stainless steel, but so is of Kanthal. Kanthal and stainless steel both have almost identical ramp up times
Let’s sum up the pros and cons of stainless steel, shall we?
- Very easy to work with
- Holds shape very well
- Fast ramp uptime
- Great flavor profile
- Very affordable
- Compatible with temp control mode and wattage mode
- You may not find all the stainless steel grades in all available gauges.
- Most grades can be relatively high in nickel content.
- Different gauges and grades may be challenging to work with
Dual, Triple, Quad Mesh Configuration
Just as with standard wire coils, mesh coils also come in different configurations. The principles are the same. The more coils you have, the more power you get. The result is the more vapor, the more clouds, the more flavor, and so on.
On the other hand, the more mesh or coils, the sooner your battery depletes, the harder the hits you’ll get, the less recommended for newbies they get, the more cotton they consume, the sooner your e-juice will run out.
3D Mesh Coils
The latest innovation in the industry of vaping and coils is the 3D mesh coil. There is no doubt that regular mesh coils increase performance compared to their predecessors, the wire coils, but 3D mesh coils take the whole experience to a whole new vaping level. As the name implies, 3D mesh covers a greater surface on the RDA inside, wrapped around in a tube-like fashion. They require less wattage without compromising in performance. Actually, performance is enhanced due to the physics involved in the development of this mesh.
Summary and Conclusion
That was a lot to cover, and there can be more. We learned about the different coil configurations, the difference between single and dual coils, the different types of vaping devices, the various metal alloys used to manufacture coils, and plenty more.
We also brushed up on the difference between standard wire coils and mesh coils, their pros and cons, and who they are for.
For new vape users, it is always best to start with a cartomizer fitted with a single-coil configuration, whether it is a standard coil or mesh coil. The more experience and knowledge you get, the more complex vaping devices you can get your hands on later.
If you would like to build your own mod box or mod pod, you should have at least some experience with an entry-level vaporizer.
Remember that if you are allergic to nickel, you should do thorough research and even ask the manufacturer or retailer about the nickel content in the coils or any part of your vaping machine or tank.
Always read the manual of the manufacturer to know how to operate your vaping device properly.
Still wondering which coil to choose? Watch this video: