Published on March 20th, 2013 | by Trick2
Ceramic Wicks: How Justified Is the Hype?
Over the last couple days, we’ve been been trying a batch of ceramics wicks we obtained through an ECF co-op. We’d heard a lot about these things, and have been anxious to put them through their paces to see how they compare to the stainless steel we’ve come to know and love.
We discovered one huge advantage to these wicks right out of the mailbox: they are incredibly easy to work with. With ceramic wicks there’s no oxidizing and no rolling: they come ready-to-use. The only thing you need to do is break off enough that the wick is the right length, put a coil on it, and vape.
That part about the coil is a lot easier, too. Unlike with stainless steel, there’s no need to worry that wrapping the coil too tight will cause a short. Since ceramic is non-conductive, it’s a non-issue. There’s also no need for complicated coil-wrapping techniques or drill bits. You can just wrap the wire directly around the wick (being careful, of course, not to break the fragile wick in the process).
In our tests we found that a tight wrap works best. We assume different wicks from different makers will vary in how much juice they bring to the coil, but we found ours to do this slightly less well than the 500 stainless mesh we typically use, and slower to move juice up from the tank. We assume this is due to the ceramic’s somewhat lower ability than stainless steel to transfer heat. While they did a decent enough job, we found we had to tilt a bit more than we would with a well-rolled stainless wick to avoid dry hits. Wrapping the coil tightly allowed more contact with the juice that did get transferred, giving better vapor and being less prone to burn than a loose coil.
So, what’s the trade-off? What do you need to give up to use a wick that doesn’t require any of the usual hassles of stainless steel? A few things.
First, they’re not cheap. One online vendor sells these wicks at $20 for 3 wicks; much costlier than the equivalent amount of stainless steel. If such wicks become more common, we imagine the price will go down, but as of now ceramic wicks are difficult to find and quite expensive.
Second, you lose some of the customization options of stainless. Rolling your own wick allows you to choose the material, the tightness, and whether you want a solid or “straw” wick, all of which will affect the vape. With ceramic, you won’t get choices like these. Your choices, if you have any, will most likely be limited to the diameter of the wick.
Another potential concern is the composition of the ceramic. While questions have been raised recently about possible carcinogens in oxidized stainless steel, few seem to be talking about the potential health implications of ceramic. Lead, for example, is a common component in ceramic, and none of the vendors we saw selling these wicks gave much detail about what they were made of. Possibly even more troubling is the recent trend to use any ceramic available for crafting wicks, such as aquarium air stones. Such stones will be of completely unknown composition, and possibly treated with chemicals such as algaecides with potential serious health risks.
All in all, we found our ceramic wick samples to vape acceptably well, if not quite as well as stainless steel, but the ease of setting them up was leaps and bounds beyond that of traditional stainless. Does that ease of use justify the much higher cost, or the hype surrounding these wicks? So far, based on our limited testing, we’d have to say that we don’t see them replacing stainless any time soon. It’s certain many will love the ease of use that ceramic wicks provide and be willing to pay the high prices, and live with the limitations. For now, though, we suspect mesh is going to remain king.