*Bloggers Note – I originally wrote this piece as part of an application process for an online content site. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of people asking about proper cigar storage on the social media sites so I thought I would publish this article on my blog.
Are you are new to cigar smoking? Or perhaps you have decided to move up from enjoying the occasional single cigar at your local fine tobacconist to making larger purchases.
So, there you are with a handful of premium tobacco cigars or perhaps an entire box. Now, your tobacconist will put the singles in a zip lock bag for you to bring home. A box of cigars will be sealed in some fashion. Neither the zip lock bag nor the sealed box qualifies as proper cigar storage.
In this article, I will discuss the various factors and methods used to properly store and humidify your growing cigar collection. The three main subjects I will discuss are temperature, humidity and storage containers.
A premium cigar that is maintained properly is a beautiful sight to behold. The wrapper leaf will have an oily sheen in the light and you can feel a slight spongy give if you gently pinch the foot. These indicators are just two aspects that an aficionado will look for when selecting a cigar.
To properly maintain cigars you need to create a perfectly balanced environment of 70 percent humidity and a temperature of 70 degrees. The best way to maintain this environment is by using a humidor.
A basic humidor is a solid container with a thermometer, a hygrometer and some type of humidification device. The container should be lined with Spanish cedar because this particular wood is best at holding a consistent humidity level over time. The thermometer and hygrometer can be either analog or digital. This is a personal choice that will be influenced by how much you can or want to spend. The humidification device can be as simple as wet florist foam or some form of humidification beads.
The most popular humidors are made out of wood. You can use anything that is airtight however. Examples of containers that have been used for humidors are Tupperware, large coolers and even converted wine refrigerators. Other people have converted closet space or even whole rooms in their homes into humidors.
Once you have selected your humidor, you need to “season” it. This seasoning process is critical for proper cigar storage and you should take your time with this preparation. Basically what you will do over the next 48 hours is gradually build up the humidity level inside the humidor.
When the 48 hours are up, you will check the humidity level with your hygrometer. But first, how do you know if that hygrometer is accurate? Here is a simple test you can perform with a few household items. All you need are a zip lock baggie, a medium sized bottle cap, some table salt and your hygrometer.
Fill the bottle cap with the table salt. Add enough water to make a paste out of the salt. Place the hygrometer and the bottle cap into the baggie and zip it shut. The combination of table salt and water will create an environment of 75 percent humidity. After 8 hours, record what your hygrometer is reading. If it indicates 75% humidity, it is right on the money. If it doesn’t and you can calibrate the hygrometer, do so. If not, just remember how much the device is “off”.
To season your humidor, you must use distilled water only. Regular tap water will only turn your humidor into a breeding ground for mold. Take a fresh, clean, unscented sponge and dampen it with the distilled water. Wipe the interior surfaces of your humidor with the damp sponge, taking care to wipe down the seal as well. Do this process twice to make sure you get every square inch of the interior.
Now, fill a shot glass or a small bowl with distilled water, place it into your humidor and close the lid. Leave the humidor alone for 24 hours.
After 24 hours have passed open the lid and wipe the interior wood down again. Remove the shot glass or bowl from the inside. Leave the humidor alone for another 24 hours.
Once 48 hours have passed you are ready to test the humidor’s environment. Take your newly tested hygrometer and place it into the humidor. Close the lid and leave it alone for about 20 minutes. Hopefully, if all has gone well, the hygrometer is reading somewhere between 70 and 72 percent humidity. If it is too low, repeat the wipe down process one more time and check the humidor the next day. You may also want to wet your humidification device and install it in the humidor at this time to assist in the seasoning process.
Once your humidor’s humidity has been stabilized, you are ready to fill it full of cigars. If you have not already installed the humidification device, do that now.
You will have to monitor your humidor at least once a week to see if distilled water needs to be added and to make sure the temperature / humidity levels are correct. One small tip: a humidor full of cigars is easier to keep properly humidified than an empty one. The cigars themselves retain humidity and help regulate the environment.
Enjoy your new humidor and the treasured cigars inside. A well maintained humidor will keep your cigars in top shape for many years.