Lesson 11: Cigar Care and Storage
Let’s dive right in and go over how to care for cigars. The ideal storage condition for a cigar is approximately 70% humidity at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Air at different temperatures will hold completely different amounts of moisture. Warm air can hold a tremendous amount of moisture. If your cigars are stored in a warm place, you will have to continuously add water to the humidifier.
The result will be very spongy cigars. Cold air holds almost no moisture. Air with 70% humidity will be dry at freezing temperatures. Relative humidity is defined as the percentage of the maximum amount of water that air can hold at a given temperature without condensation.
As a general rule, when the air temperature is reduced from 68 degrees by one degree, the humidity should be increased by 1%, and vice versa. Therefore, if your cigars were stored at 58 degrees Fahrenheit, the humidity should be kept around 80%.
Dry cigars can be moisturized, but will never be quite as good as they were from the factory. To remoisturize, a cigar, put it into a properly humidified environment for a very long period of time (6 months or more).
The cigar will gradually absorb the surrounding humidity. Overhumidified cigars that have become damp should be thrown away. The binder and filler of a cigar make up about 90% of the total mass of the cigar.
Therefore, the binder and filler will also absorb over 90% of any excess humidity. When this happens, the body of the cigar swells, forcing the wrapper to expand. When you attempt to dry out a damp cigar the following will happen:
- The body shrinks rapidly.
- The wrapper will be loose and wrinkled.
- The wrapper will peel when you attempt to smoke the cigar.
A humidifying device is any device that keeps your cigars fresh. The following products have the unique ability to give off moisture when the environment is too dry and absorb moisture if the environment is too damp.
- All the various humidifiers on the market today
- Sponges or paper towels
This is a large piece of Oasis or synthetic clay. This is the same material that is sold in home and garden centers. The Oasis is housed in either plastic or metal grills that are created to disperse perfect 70-75% humidity throughout the humidor.
Depending on size, they keep anywhere from 50-100 cigars fresh. They range in price from $6.00 all the way up to $50.00. In essence, they all do the same job. Many times you are just paying for a fancy case or popular brand name.
Sponges or Paper Towels – Homemade Humidification
The least expensive way of keeping cigars fresh is as follows:
Put the cigars into a plastic food storage bag or container. For every 25 cigars stored, put a damp sponge or paper towel in the bag or container. Store the bag on a shelf or in a closet. A plastic food storage bag or a Tupperware-type container is a sealed environment that holds humidity.
Always Remember: Use distilled water when filling any humidifying device.
Humidification is the only way to keep your cigars fresh indefinitely. Cigars should be stored under the following conditions:
- 70-75% humidity
- 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
A cigar that is dry smokes:
A cigar that is too moist will:
- Be hard to puff.
- Allow mold to form and/or the wrapper will swell and split open.
The best way to store cigars is with humidors. The purpose of a humidor is to recreate the mild, humid climate of the Caribbean, where the cigars are made. Every humidor contains some kind of humidifying element.
It is important that distilled water be used with this element because tap water causes mold to form and contains minerals that can destroy the effectiveness of some humidifiers.
Over a period of time, the molded device will alter the flavor of the cigars. It is always a good idea to check the humidor’s moisture level at least once a week and make sure that no patches of mold have started to form on the cigars.
If mold has started to form, the offending cigars should be removed and the humidor should be cleaned with a dry cloth and aired out. A light-gray dusting of bloom on the wrapper is permissible because that is a sign that the cigar is properly aging.
A humidor can also be used to age cigars. While aging, cigars of the same brand should be kept together, without the cellophane, in a cedar-lined humidor.
The benefit of this is to draw out any excess moisture and allow the cigars to “marry.” Marriage is when the cigars absorb each other’s oils and create one unique flavor.
The cedar will also add to the flavor of the cigars. About once a week, the humidor should be opened for a few hours to let the air hit the cigars or they will acquire a musty taste.
Another popular lining for humidors is unstained mahogany. This is a fine lining if you do not want to age cigars or do not want the flavor of cedar to permeate your cigars.
Mahogany-lined humidors do not have to be checked as often as cedar-lined ones because mahogany does not absorb as much moisture as cedar.
Breaking In Your New Humidor
- Activate and attach your humidifier and hygrometer (optional)
- Add a cup of distilled water into the humidor and close the lid or scrub the humidor with a lint free cloth.
- Wait 24 to 48 hours, then fill the humidor at least halfway to regulate the humidity.
- Check your cigars every day for freshness. Gently squeeze the foot of the cigar; it should have some spring to it like a loaf of bread.
- Slowly begin adding more cigars to the humidor and continue checking them every day. Eventually, you will be able to go several days
without checking them.
- Even after your humidor is completely broken in, it is still a good idea to check them every day for freshness.
The hygrometer is a device used for measuring the relative humidity inside of your humidor. There are two varieties.
- Analog – This is the standard type of hygrometer. They are the least expensive and also the least reliable. They operate with a needle controlled by a hairspring that points to the correct percentage of humidity. They range in price from $3.00 and up.
- Digital – Far more reliable, but also considerably more expensive. The digital hygrometer operates on a standard camera or watch battery and digitally reads the humidity as well as the temperature. This device is by no means perfect but is still much more accurate than the analog hygrometers. They range in price from $27.00 and up.
Calibrating An Analog Hygrometer
Wrap the hygrometer in a hot damp towel. When the needle is buried at the highest humidity possible, unwrap it and leave it exposed to the needle points to 70-75% humidity and place it back in your humidor. Most likely it still will never be perfectly accurate.