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Getting Started with Shortfill E-Liquids

Getting Started with Shortfill E-Liquids

John Boughey |

Last fact-checked 29 April 2024

As soon as you’ve learned the basics of vaping with 10ml bottles and you have found a flavour you enjoy, you may be thinking about moving on to shortfill bottles. Shortfill is usually a cheaper way to vape, and allows you greater control over your nicotine intake.

But what actually are shortfill e-liquids? How do they work, and how do you mix them correctly?  Here at Gourmet E-Liquid, we want to make it as simple as possible for you. I’ll explain everything you need to know in this beginner’s guide:

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What are Shortfill E-Liquids?

Shortfills are bottles of nicotine-free e-liquid with enough room in the bottle to add a separate shot of nicotine. Shortfill bottles are typically filled to five-sixths capacity. So for example, if you buy 50ml of shortfill it usually comes in a 60ml bottle (leaving just enough room to add a single 10ml nicotine shot). 100ml shortfills usually come in a 120ml bottle, which is big enough to take 2 nicotine shots, and so on. 

Shortfill bottles were created in response to the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), an EU-wide law that made it illegal to sell any “nicotine-containing liquid” in bottles bigger than 10ml. Shortfill contains no nicotine whatsoever, so it’s perfectly legal for a UK vaper to buy a 25ml, 50ml, 100ml or 200ml bottle, then add their own shot of nicotine at home. 

Nicotine boosters are usually sold in 10ml bottles at a strength of 18 or 20mg/ml (the legal maximums under the TPD are 10ml and 20mg/ml). When you mix these shots in with shortfill, you end up with a strength of 3-6 mg/ml depending on what you add. Other nicotine strengths, and the nicotine-to-shortfill ratios you’ll need to achieve them, are explained further down in this article.

Shortfill bottles are great because they allow committed vapers to buy more than 10ml of e liquid at a time. A 50ml or 100ml shortfill bottle is more convenient for the vaper, better for the environment (less packaging) and slightly cheaper, too. 

When to use shortfills

It takes time to get used to vaping and find your favourite flavours, so we don’t actually recommend starting out with big bottles of shortfill. If you’re a new tobacco quitter and you’re starting to vape for the first time, it’s best to start with a few smaller bottles of e-liquid of different flavours and VG/PG ratios.  That way, you’ll waste less money if you don’t like a flavour, and you can get a feel for how the VG/PG balance changes the flavour and density of your vape. A mystery box is a great place to start (learn more here).

Once you’ve got past those first few weeks of vaping, you’ll know what you’re doing. You’ll have a bit more confidence about the brands you like and the flavour profiles you enjoy. At this stage, shortfills are the perfect option. You can buy a bigger amount of your favourite vape juice, punch it up with a nicotine booster if you need to, and get on with your day.

How do you mix shortfill e-liquid?

If you’re looking for a simple 3mg/ml or 6mg/ml strength, it’s a very simple four step process…

  1. You open your shortfill bottle, 
  2. You pour in your nicotine shot(s),
  3. You close and shake the shortfill bottle
  4. You give the liquid a moment to settle, then you’re good to go. 

Safety Notes: The nozzle lids are often very tight, and it can be tricky to get these off. We sell a shortfill bottle opener if you need one.  You should always mix your shortfill on a level surface like a desk or kitchen table (these bottles are tiny and you don’t want to spill any). Wash your hands afterwards just to get any nicotine off your fingertips.

First Timer's Guide to Adding Shortfill Nicotine

How much nicotine do I add to shortfill?

Should you go for a 3mg/ml or 6mg/ml strength? What about other strengths like 1.5mg/ml and 9mg/ml? The nicotine-to-shortfill balancing act can be confusing if you’re new to vaping, but it doesn’t take long to learn the basics. 

We have a table with some basic nicotine strength calculations further down in this article, but if you’re completely new to vaping, you first need to understand how nicotine is measured in shortfill e-liquid. Bear with me here…

Nicotine in a cigarette: it’s always mg

Before the rise of vaping in the late 2000s, the nicotine content of pretty much anything could be measured in straightforward milligrams (mg). If you were smoking a single cigarette, using one patch or chewing a piece of nicotine gum, you could find out exactly how many milligrams of nicotine your body was getting from that one ‘dose’, often just by reading the packet. It’s slightly more complicated with vaping, however. 

Nicotine in an e-liquid: it’s’ always mg/ml

You can’t use a simple ‘mg per dose’ measurement with shortfill e-liquids, because everyone’s idea of a ‘dose’ is different. Some vapers might take five or six long draws on their device and call that a dose. Others might take fifteen or twenty short puffs every hour throughout the day. Vaping devices also burn through e-liquid at different rates, and that affects how much nicotine-infused vapour you inhale. The same goes for the VG/PG ratio of your liquid. This makes it impossible to give a reliable, universal ‘milligrams of nicotine per vape’ number. What we can do, however, is measure how much nicotine is in the e liquid before it’s vapourised. That’s why the nicotine content of an e liquid is always measured in milligrams per millilitre (mg/ml). 

So how much nicotine is right for you? Ultimately, you have to make your own decision on this, but we can tell you is how much nicotine you’ll find in a cigarette or patch, and what most of our shortfill customers buy in a given month. 

How much nicotine is in cigarettes and patches?

Let’s take a look at cigarettes and nicotine replacement products…

    • One cigarette carries anywhere from 0.5mg to 1.6mg of nicotine
    • 24 hour nicotine patches deliver anything from 7mg to 21mg over a 24 hour period
    • Nicotine nasal sprays and ‘quick mists’ deliver anything from 0.5mg to 1mg of nicotine per dose (max. 64 doses a day) 

Safety Note: We’ve taken the mg measurements quoted above from reliable UK sources ( and Please bear in mind that cigarettes, patches and e-cigarettes all deliver nicotine in different ways, so the rate of absorption into the bloodstream changes in each case.

How to measure nicotine content correctly

When you buy a shortfill on our site, you’ll normally see an “Add Nicotine Shot For...” option on the right-hand side. You can choose from 0mg, 3mg or 6mg, and we then send you enough nicotine shots to boost your shortfill to the strength you’ve chosen.

How to make 3 or 6 mg/ml strength shortfill:
Shortfill Bottle + Nicotine Shot(s) = E-Liquid Strength
50 ml + 1 x 18mg nicotine shot = 3 mg/ml
50 ml + 2 x 18 mg nicotine shots = 6 mg/ml
100ml + 2 x 18 mg nicotine shots = 3 mg/ml
100ml + 4 x 18 mg nicotine shots = 6 mg/ml

If you want to mix high nicotine strengths, you will need a few empty bottles for decanting any excess shortfill. We sell empty unicorn bottles in 60ml and other sizes - just visit our vape accessories department

We prefer to send you the right amount of nicotine up-front so that all you have to do is add one bottle to another and shake (it’s a much simpler way of doing things). If you really want to customise your shortfill nicotine dose yourself, you can still do this. To calculate a more precise nicotine strength than 3 or 6, you just have to follow three simple steps:

Step 1: Figure out how much nicotine you’re going to add
Multiply the mg/ml value of your nicotine shot(s) by the number of millilitres in the nicotine shot bottle. So for instance, if you have 2x 10ml bottles of 18mg/ml strength, that would give you a total of 360mg of nicotine (20ml x 18mg/ml = 360mg).
Step 2: Figure out how much vape juice you’re creating
Add the amount of fluid in your nicotine shot(s) to the amount of fluid in your shortfill bottle. For instance, if you add 2x 10ml nicotine shots to a 100ml shortfill bottle, you’ll end up with 120 ml of vape juice (100ml shortfill + 10ml shot + 10ml shot)
Step 3: Divide the total nicotine by the total vape juice
Take the total mg of nicotine (step 1), and divide it by the total ml of vape juice (step 2), and you’ll get your nicotine strength in mg/ml. Using our example above, 360mg of nicotine divided by 120 ml of vape juice gives us a strength of 3 mg/ml

To increase the strength beyond 3mg, you’ll probably need to decant some of your shortfill fluid before you add the nicotine shot. For a strength of less than 3mg, you’ll probably want to use a fraction of one full nicotine shot. 

Do Nicotine Shots Dilute Flavour?

Nicotine shots are flavourless, but they will still dilute your vape juice when you mix them into your shortfill, just like cordial in a glass of water. It’s not just the flavour that can be affected - the VG/PG ratio can change when you add a nicotine shot, too.

If you’re making a custom nicotine strength, you’ll need to find a nicotine shot that matches the VG/PG of your shortfill liquid - otherwise you won’t get the balance of vapour density and flavour you’re expecting. Here at Gourmet E-Liquid, we always try and send out flavourless nicotine shots that complement the VG/PG ratio of the e-liquid we’re selling.

You shouldn’t need to worry about flavour dilution too much. Nowadays, most major e-liquid manufacturers make nic shots that match the flavour of their shortfill. If you can't get a matching nic shot, we might be able to match you with a very similar flavour. 

I don’t feel like I’m getting enough nicotine. What do I do?

If you don't feel like you’re getting enough nicotine from 3mg or 6mg strength shortfills, you might need to stick with a stronger pre-mixed bottle for a while, just until you can safely wean yourself off those higher nicotine doses. 

Remember that the first goal is to get off cigarettes, and the second goal is to wean yourself off nicotine. Nicotine addiction is powerful and it will take a few months - and possibly more than one attempt - to wean yourself off nicotine.

The NHS quit smoking service is worth signing up for if you haven't already. It's free, it's completely grounded in peer-reviewed scientific research and it works. You can go online to find your local NHS Stop Smoking service and get tailored advice and support that helps you quit tobacco for good.

In summary…

I hope this guide has given you a good starting point on how to use shortfill e-liquids, make vaping a little more convenient for you and help you save money. If you do have any questions, drop us a line! We're always happy to help. 

Stay safe and happy vaping!

John Boughey

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