Keeping Your Cigars Fresh
While smoking a cigar is a rewarding experience, some preparation is in order to make sure your cigars are ready to smoke. And to keep your cigars in tip-top shape, they need to be kept as fresh as possible at all times. To do that, you need to have a proper storage unit for your cigars. After all, why invest in a top-drawer, hand-rolled cigar only to have it dry out on you – making it impossible to smoke, or leaving you with a mouthful of bitterness? Conversely, a cigar that’s swollen with humidity, making it difficult to get a decent draw, or may even have the wrapper burst from the buildup of heat inside. In either case, the pure pleasure of smoking a cigar is lost.
Cigar tobacco is humidity-sensitive. It can both absorb and release moisture from the surrounding air. In a dry environment, a cigar can also lose its essential oils and flavor. Many cigar smokers cite the “70/70 Rule” as ideal: 70% relative humidity (RH), 70 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. Other aficionados prefer a slightly lower humidity level, closer to 67%, for a slightly drier smoke – while a slightly higher level, closer to 73%, makes for a more supple cigar. Whether you like 67%, 70% or 73% humidity, by maintaining a level within the range of 65% – 75% RH along with an average temperature of 70 degrees, your cigars will keep and age well and maintain their factory-fresh bouquet.
So how do you best store your cigars to protect them? Get a handcrafted wooden humidor.
Where the Cigars Call Home
A humidor is the traditional container in which almost all avid cigar smokers store their cigars. With the right equipment (see below), your humidor will maintain the proper relative humidity and temperature. There is a virtually limitless variety of humidors available ranging from very economical to very expensive, from travel size to tabletop, from end table and even to tall cabinet models. Following are two key components to look for when purchasing a humidor:
A Good Seal
This is the most important part of a humidor. If it doesn’t seal well, the humidity will escape, and your cigars will dry out. For desktop models, you should hear a slight whoosh of air when you drop the lid from at least the halfway open height. You can also test the seal by placing a dollar bill half in, half out of the humidor, then close the lid. Now, try to tug the bill out. If the seal is good, the bill will drag the humidor several inches. If the bill slips out easily, the seal is not as tight as it should be.
Regardless of what material the outside of the humidor is made of, the inside should be lined entirely with Spanish cedar. This fragrant wood works well in humid conditions because it absorbs moisture and retains it without warping. Moreover, it won’t impart negative flavors or aromas on the cigars – you want the flavor of the cigar not the container. Spanish cedar is also resistant to cigar beetles (a.k.a. tobacco beetles); that’s essential, as an infestation of cigar beetles can destroy your collection. Although it’s extremely rare, beetles can hatch in your cigars, but they won’t get into the wood.
Bigger is Better - Here’s Why
It’s recommended you buy a humidor that is somewhat bigger then the number of cigars you pan to store inside of it, and here’s why: First, you need enough headroom to compensate for the hygrometer and humidifier, or other humidification devices that may require placement either underneath the lid, or inside the humidor. Second, you need room for air circulation. So, if your collection at the time of your humidor purchase is 40 – 50 cigars, consider a humidor that holds at least 75 cigars. This will allow air to circulate around the inside of the humidor, keeping your cigars more evenly humidified. Keep in mind wider ring gauge cigars, like Robustos, Toros and Churchills will take up more room than thinner ring gauge cigars, like Coronas, Lonsdales and Lanceros. Finally, once you really get into premium cigars, you may find your collection growing faster than you imagined, so you’ll already have the extra space to accommodate them.
Location, Location, Location
Where should you place your humidor in your home or office? It should be away from a window or glass door since direct sunlight can cause heat to build-up in the box. Even lamplight can increase the temperature, so don’t place your humidor directly under a light, either. If you live in a region where you experience cold winters, keep the humidor away from windows or doors. Drafts of cold, dry air may find their way into the humidor and lower the humidity inside. Put the humidor in a place that’s cool (but not cold), somewhat shady, and where it won’t be disturbed. Avoid using it to prop up another object, and don’t set drinks or other objects on top of it. Keep in mind that a good humidor is also a fine piece of furniture.
Before you put your precious primos in your humidor, it needs to be seasoned. This process makes sure the relative humidity inside is at the correct level from the beginning so your cigars enter an ideal storage environment. For a step-by-step guide on how to properly season a humidor, watch this video:
How to Monitor the Conditions in Your Humidor
Maintaining the right humidity and temperature levels in your humidor might seem challenging at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bicycle. The hygrometer – an instrument that measures humidity – allow you to monitor the amount of moisture inside the humidor. Because of variations in hygrometer measurements, you might need to adjust the readings up or down. But once you learn the quirks of your hygrometer, you’ll have a better understanding of the conditions inside your humidor and what you need to adjust.
There are two types of hygrometers for humidors: analog and digital. The analog version is a mechanical device with a spring element that can adjust the needle with a small screwdriver. Some cigar smokers find analog units a bit inaccurate, since there can be a variance of up to 10% – but other cigar smokers like that the calibration can be adjusted. Moreover, some of the better-made analog models can be quite accurate.
Digital hygrometers are electronic and tend to read more accurately – often within one to two percent. One other advantage to digital models is that they include a temperature reading, so you get the best of both worlds. Some digital models will also offer calibration adjustment.
Before you can use any hygrometer, it should be calibrated. Watch this video to see how it’s done.
Remember to keep the hygrometer a small distance from your humidifying device. If you place the hygrometer too close to the humidifier, it may give you higher humidity readings, and you could risk drying out your cigars trying to correct an inaccurate reading. Since most humidifiers reside in the center of the underside of the lid, the hygrometer should be placed near a corner of the lid, but not so close to prevent the humidor lid from closing.