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Humidors, Humidity & More...

Over the past few months, I’ve seen the same questions asked over and over again. “How do I set up my humidor?”. “What temperature and humidity is best?”. “Why are my cigars splitting when I smoke them?”. Before we get deep into those questions and answers, there’s a little bit of science we’ll need to go through. Also, this is NOT the end all be all of the subject. There are many different ways to accomplish the same goal. My objective is to teach you the ways I’ve learned over the last 24 years in the cigar lifestyle. I will also go through my failures and the lessons I’ve learned. So, let’s begin…

What is a humidor? This is a more complicated question than meets the eye. Traditionally, it is a wooden box that was lined with either Spanish cedar or aluminum that maintained an RH suitable for preserving cigars. Today, this definition ranges from airtight travel containers to elegant refrigerated cabinets, all attempting to do the same thing, protect our investment. Each individual unit has its advantages as well as a few pitfalls, and we’ll go through a few of them so you can get the idea.

Let’s start with the tupperdore/cooler. This type of “humidor” is easy to set up as well as maintain, and it is very inexpensive. You can line the inside with Spanish cedar or place trays, depending on the size. You put a humification system inside, maybe a Bluetooth hygrometer, leave it in a cool place, and boom!! Instant humidor!! Seems too good to be true! Now here are the issues, tobacco needs to breathe, and there is no air movement/exchange inside this humidor. Every few weeks to months, you’d have to open the unit and rotate the stock to change out the air. Sure, if you don’t have a lot of cigars, this is a fun little project to enjoy the lifestyle, but if you’re like me, that would be a nearly impossible task.

Next, we move on to the tried and true, the wooden humidor. This style will vastly range in price, but be warned, you will get what you pay for. Originally, these humidors would have been made of solid wood with a thick Spanish cedar or poplar lining. Now, they’re made with pressed composite woods and a thin veneer lining. Of course, you can still purchase a solid humidor, but you will pay the price. Setting this style up takes patience. At one time, you’d take a clean rag, moistened with distilled water, and wipe the inside of the humidor. Repeat this setup three to four times over the course of a few days, leaving the wet rag on a plate inside the humidor. After about a week, you’d place the cigars, close the lid, and allow the cigars to acclimate to the new environment. Here’s what I’ve learned about this method, DO NOT DO THIS!! Exposing untreated wood of any kind to direct moisture will raise the grain and can not only warp the wood, thus destroying the humidor but will also tear the wrappers of any cigars that do not have cellophane..

Now here comes the science; sorry, people, I’m a nerd.. The best way, through my experience, is to season the humidor through osmosis. “Great, he’s talking about stuff I haven’t thought of since high school.” Don’t worry, I’ll tear it off like a bandaid ® and move on.

What is osmosis? Per Webster’s dictionary, it is the movement of a solvent (such as water) through a semipermeable membrane (as of a living cell) into a solution of higher solute concentration that tends to equalize the concentrations of solute on the two sides of the membrane. This means by humidifying the air inside the humidor, the wood will inherently absorb the moisture in time. (Insert photo – boveda and oasis beads). Place either a Boveda ® inside the humidor (depending on the size, you may need several) or a bowl of Oasis beads ®, and leave until the desired humidity is reached and can be sustained. Try not to place a container of water in the humidor; if it spills, then the game is over. Though this process takes a much longer time, it is known to be the safest for your humidor and will ensure the environment will be perfect and can be used for any humidor that requires seasoning.

Acrylic humidors are next. This style I find interesting, you place the cigars inside, you place the humidification pack, maybe a digital hygrometer, and boom, you’re done. My concern is I love the flavors that storing my cigars in cedar has, and exposure to direct sunlight will ruin the tobacco.

Finally, at least for this segment, are the temperature-controlled / cabinet-style humidors. I love these!! I can store a large amount of cigars and display them proudly. These are a bit of a pain to set up, however. I still follow the seasoning through osmosis, I’d fill the humidor and wait. Over the next few weeks, I’d see humidity fluctuations and severe differences between the top shelf and the bottom shelf. Also, this style is easy to overstock and impede the airflow. The solution was to place small computer fans throughout to circulate the air. One pitfall that no one tells you about “refrigerated” units, they will dry out your cigars. As long as you strategically place digital hygrometers where they’re needed, maintaining them will be easier.

Humidity is next on our list, and when I first started, this subject made me itch. Something I’ve learned is that depending on where the cigar is from, it will depend on how much humidity is needed. I’m sorry, but I can’t separate my cigars by country of origin, so I’ve tested my cigars at varying humidity levels and found what works for me. Yes, that is the answer; there is no answer. It’s whatever works for you, but within reason and depending on where you live. These numbers will vary in your home environment as well. There is a range of temp/humidity that, in my opinion, you should stay away from. Anything above 75 degrees F and 72% RH, and anything below 50 degrees F and 45% RH. What will this do to my cigars? Well, it's too hot and humid, and the tobacco will not burn properly; the wrapper will split, and you’d have a large amount of tar build-up that will taste horrifically bitter. Also, you’d provide the perfect environment for the tobacco beetle, but that’s a whole other lecture. Too cold and too low of humidity, and the cigar becomes brittle; think of dried leaves on the sidewalk, all crunchy. If you manage to keep it together, then it will burn too fast, again causing the flavors to be muted or harsh.

In all of my years in the cigar life, I’ve destroyed more cigars and humidors than you can imagine. I didn’t have someone guiding me and explaining the art of cigar smoking and preservation. I’ve had to learn these valuable lessons the hard way. I hope you find this information not only educational but useful.

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