When you started vaping, you probably used a standard e-cigarette, which was about as plug and play as this practice gets. But, like the rest of us, you started reading more about the topic. Though the e-cig might have done its job satisfying your cravings, you soon learned about refilling. Then tank atomizers. Then more powerful mod devices. And eventually you discovered re-wicking and building coils. That's the time vapers first begin caring about the best wires for vaping. I’d venture to say vaping is one of the few things on the planet that can get better by becoming more complicated. It can. But it can also become confusing and – if you’re not paying attention – maddening. Thankfully, we’re here to help. Let’s dive into the different types of wire used in vape mods, to help you make a decision that’s right for your style of vaping.
Let’s start with the most-common wire used in vaping, an iron-chromium-aluminium alloy known as Kanthal. Chances are, even if you don’t know a spool of wire from a spool of thread, you’ve probably vaped on Kanthal wire. From cigalikes to 400-watt box mods, Kanthal remains the wire of choice by vapers who want proven performance with minimal fuss. First off, Kanthal is affordable, so beginning coil makers can afford to try different things -- and make mistakes along the way! With a pliable, elastic feel, and a very high temperature threshold, Kanthal is long-lasting, durable and forgiving. You would need to heat Kanthal to 1,500 °C before you’d have to worry about it melting – a temperature unlikely to ever be possible with a vape mod.
The trade off for all this convenience and usability? Kanthal does not offer the best flavor or vapor production, when compared to other wire types in this list. And it cannot be used effectively in temperature control devices. This is a straightforward, no-frills wire for those who want to power up, puff and go. But Kanthal IS a “jack of all trades” wire that performs consistently and satisfactorily for vapers of all experience levels – and given the lack of parity between even the simplest vape products these days, consistency is welcome whenever possible.
This is an alloy blend of nickel and chromium wire that is somewhat similar to Kanthal, but sometimes preferred by advanced users because of its rapid ramp-up heating time. Within milliseconds of firing up your mod, a nichrome coil will instantly deliver a blast of warm, flavorful vapor. Though it contains nickel as part of its makeup, nichrome is best used in wattage mode only, as its rapid heating make it potentially dangerous for temperature control devices. And without iron as part of its blend, the flavor is as pure as any coil wire available. Many will argue that Kanthal and nichrome are interchangeable, and equally easy to use. But others say that nichrome’s rapid heating can make it prone to dry hits. When factoring in its cost – which is well above the cost of Kanthal – there may not be much of an advantage to using nichrome beyond ramp-up time.
One of the more versatile vape materials around, stainless steel (most commonly known as SS316) is a popular choice, because of its ability to work with both direct wattage and temperature control applications, and because of its tremendous durability when compared to other coil types. Stainless – as its name implies – doesn’t get nearly as gunked up as Kanthal, even when using thick, sugary e-liquids. Simple, brief dry burns are usually more than enough to clean excess residue from the surface, and before long, these coils are ready to go once more. Likewise, stainless steel coils also have a rapid ramp-up time when compared to Kanthal, leading to pure tremendous flavor from the moment you fire. The only trade-off is that certain juices – in my opinion, brighter, fruit-flavored liquids – tend to become sharper and more acidic on stainless, vs other coil types. Stainless steel coils can also tend to cool more slowly than other materials, meaning juice will continue to vaporize longer, making the coils less cost-effective for e-liquids.
Advanced vapers have sung the virtues of titanium for several years now. And with good reason. When titanium is used in a highly precise temperature control application, the coils produce tremendous flavor and vapor. But that’s the major hurdle – titanium is extremely temperamental, and a poorly made coil can lead to terrible flavor and possibly even damaged atomizers. Though the wire is relatively expensive, fans say that titanium’s rapid ramp-up and cool-down times make it worth the money. However, when compared to other types of coil wire on this list, titanium has a low heat threshold, with degradation beginning around 650℃. We don’t know if there is any merit to concerns about titanium dioxide poisoning, but we DO know we like to vape as safely as possible, making this a worry. However, when used properly, we ALSO know titanium coils can produce a flavorful vape experience.
We are closing this list with the most temperamental of all wire types. Nickel (most commonly called Ni200) is widely used by advanced temp control vapers who enjoy unbelievably fast ramp-up time and flavorful, warm vapor. In fact, of all the materials listed here, Ni200 is by far the fastest heating wire type on the market. However, nickel is also extremely sensitive to excessive heat, making it unusable (and unsafe) for direct wattage devices. With too much heat or power, Ni200 coils can melt and vape erratically. A quick scan of YouTube shows most Ni200 builds with spaced wraps, to reduce the amount of concentrated heat. In other words, there are a lot of variables that need to be considered before vaping nickel. This isn’t to say Ni200 is beyond the capabilities of newer vapers, but this is where understanding of Ohm’s Law, resistance, temp control features and the like are important when using a high-end device. The resulting vape will be delightful, but no one can blindly grab, wick and fire an Ni200 coil and expect positive results. Do your homework and take your time. Some things in life are worth the effort – and this just may be one of them.
At the end of the day, vaping is all about personal preference. Me? I will always prefer simplicity and stability, and after trying all possible coil combinations, I find that a simple 26-gauge Kanthal coil gives me everything I need to relax and enjoy my vape. Other people couldn’t possibly live without elaborate titanium coils and laser-precise TCR customization. In the end, we all love our vapes, regardless of coil materials. So experiment as much as time and needs allow. But remember the most important thing: a great vape!