What is a dripper?

A dripper is a rebuildable atomizer without a tank. Although that makes for less independence than one with a tank, this is largely offset by real advantages for the vaper. To continue our guide to vaping, here is everything you need to know about this type of atomizer.

What is a dripper?

It’s the lack of a tank that makes the dripper what it is. Users have to moisten the wick directly by regularly pouring, or “dripping” drops of e-liquid onto it.

Schematic view of a dripper

By definition, a dripper does not have a tank like an atomizer does. But there are a few that do, with a lower, 1 cm-deep part designed to hold the cotton wick. A 25 mm-wide dripper can hold 1.5 ml of e-liquid or more, which is not far off the 2 ml capacity of some atomizers. It is this dripping action, i.e. pouring the liquid directly onto the cotton that differentiates drippers from other types of atomizers. So why bother dripping when you could just buy an atomizer with a tank?

Things to remember

A dripper:

  • is a rebuildable, tankless atomizer
  • needs direct application of the e-liquid onto the wick
  • is quite compact

Compact size

Not having a tank obviously saves space. Drippers like the Mulciber or Concorde are tiny – no atomizer can compete in terms of size. Even though large drippers are bigger than small atomizers, if they already have a large combustion chamber and a larger tray, a tank would make them even bigger. Size is relative anyway, since drippers need a bottle of liquid next to them. The size of the air hole doesn’t necessarily benefit from it, but the battery and atomizer setup do.

Changing e-liquid

One indisputable benefit is that drippers allow you to change e-liquid very easily. You just have to wait until the cotton wick is almost dry, which happens quickly. Then you simply change the liquid by soaking the wick with a different one. The first few puffs will taste of the previous liquid, but if the liquids taste similar this will soon pass. This method works less well with stronger flavours, e.g. when you change from fresh mint to a gourmet flavour. You may have to change the cotton wick and rinse the dripper or the flavours might clash. This is still easier and faster than cleaning an atomizer, so just take it apart and rebuild it when you need to. You may be better to have two drippers, one for strongly flavoured e-liquids and another for fruity ones, allowing you to change the liquid for each flavour type as you wish.

Rendering flavours

It’s the way drippers render flavours that have made them popular, or at least the drippers designed for flavour. It’s hard to match the Hadaly, Mulciber, Flave, Kennedy, and Concorde on their playing field. The design, for example not having a chimney that runs up the length of the tank, is one reason they are so well-liked. The quality and experience of the manufacturers also help. In fact, the best flavour-oriented drippers offer users the unrivalled ability to savour every nuance of an e-liquid.

Vapour production

In the mists of time (i.e. about three years ago, which is an eternity in vaping), the only way to get a lot of vapour was to use a dripper. Unicig’s Mutation XS was unbeatable. But, unlike the subtle alchemy of flavour rendering, all you need to make a lot of vapour is a lot of power, with big rigs, high airflow and a good supply of liquid to exceed 100% VG. This is where drippers have an advantage over atomizers, but it’s actually very small as some atomizers can now easily make 200 W.

The squonker

A dripper requires a bottle of liquid nearby, but squonkers (bottom feeders) hold the e-liquid inside the box. There is an opening for a squeeze bottle which pushes the liquid through a pipe and through the cap. It is fed into the tank and soaks the wick. This requires a bottom feeder box, a bottle and a compatible dripper. This solution is practical and usually can hold 8 to 11 ml. Most drippers now come with a bottom feeder option, i.e. a pierced pin that can replace the standard pin. The Serpent BF, for example, is only available as a bottom feeder.

Another way to drip

Their compact size might seem to be the only benefit of drippers over RDTA atomizers, which are a kind of dripper with a tank underneath. The atomizer can be the same as the dripper, the operating mode will be the same as the dripper, too. This is also the main reason for the recent success of RDTAs. Nevertheless, the dripper offers an alternative way to vape which appeals to the more meticulous amongst us. Vaping using an atomizer and a tank can be mindless. Having to add liquid regularly makes for a more conscious vaping experience. We have to build a dripper with care, to optimise it, to maintain it. Partly because it’s there in front of you, and also because it requires a different approach. As with mechanical mods, which are very similar, drippers epitomise this alternative mindset.

The history of the dripper in 3 dates

2013: The first tankless atomizers appeared, including the Origen by Hungarian maker Norbert. Its design was revolutionary and increased flavours tenfold. Mystery surrounds its unidentified creator. The Origen V3 remains a benchmark product.

2014: Filipino company Paradigm Modz released the Magma RDA, which became a prime example of a dripper with good flavour rendering, thanks to the airflow holes located just below the resistance coil.

2015: The American Insignia Design Group unveiled the Velocity RDA. Its tray innovated with 2 posts and 4 holes and became famous overnight. This system has since been included in most atomizers designed to produce large vapour clouds.

The best drippers

No time to read the hundreds of articles we publish on new devices? No problem! We keep a regularly updated list of the best drippers to help you choose and save you time.

Dripper FAQ

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about drippers. If you can’t find an answer to your question, please send us your question via the comments box below.

How do I choose a dripper?

Your choice of dripper should first and foremost be guided by your vaping style. Do you want a dripper for direct or indirect inhalation? Do you want a dripper that makes a lot of vapour or one that lets you taste every e-liquid flavour? Would you like a dripper with a very airy draft or a very tight draft? These questions will help you decide which model to choose, but also consider how much you’re willing to spend as drippers can cost up to 8 times more than they used to.

How do you clean your dripper?

Cleaning a dripper is easy. Just take the cotton wick out of the resistance coil and rinse the dripper in warm water. Just remember to take out the battery!

What resistance to make for your dripper?

The choice of resistance coil you use in your dripper is completely personal. It can vary depending on what you want from your device, e.g. whether flavour or a lot of vapour is more important. A dripper can offer hundreds of resistances, so the best thing is to keep trying until you find a resistance that best suits your vaping style. The lower the resistance value, the more vapor will be made and the less emphasis there will be on flavour.

A guide to vaping

What is a clearomizer?

What is an atomizer?

What is a box mod?

What is a vape pod?

What is a coil?

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