How to store cigars in a humidor

If you are new to the world of cigars or considering delving into it, you may have heard of the phrase ‘humidor’ and know that it is important for storing your cigars.

Chances are however that you may not know how it works. We all have to start somewhere and here is the right place too.

Maybe you are looking to buy a gift for that love in your life that is cigar aficionado and you just want to know more about what a humidor is and how it works, that is great too!

You have sure come to the right place. Let us walk you through this important part of your cigar hobby.

Why a humidor?

How to store cigars in a humidor

The Purpose of a Humidor

The humidor not only stores your cigars but also utilizes a few components to create an ideal environment for your cigars to be stored in and remain usable.

This ideal environment controls the temperature and the relative humidity of the inside of the box, which allows for the right amount of moisture inside helping preserve your cigars without getting them too wet or too dried out.

cigar aficionado accessories

On both ends of the spectrum, the cigar’s taste will be negatively affected, and trust us no one wants that. Keeping your cigars in that sweet spot of perfect temperature and humidity is what will keep your cigars tasting great. Also, maintaining that balance of humidity comes down to two components of your humidor working in conjunction with each other: the Spanish cedar that makes up the box and the humidifier kept within.

Spanish Cedar

Most humidors on the market have a lining of Spanish cedar. This wood is used mostly used because of its properties to absorb and release moisture slowly, creating an even humidity as often as possible. This is also why many cigar trays for humidors are made of the same cedar wood. If there is more moisture outside the wood, it will absorb the moisture to try to reach balance.

This is why you need to season your humidor by moistening the cedar before storing your cigars; otherwise, the cedar starts to pull moisture from the cigars themselves, which would defeat the purpose of a humidor.

Humidifier

The humidifier is what really keeps the moisture and humidity in the box on point. Once the humidor has been seasoned and loaded with cigars, a humidifier keeps providing the moisture for the insides of the box, allowing the cigars to stay at the right humidity and the cedar to absorb any excess moisture, and release it back, should the humidifier run a little low.

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There are many kinds of humidifiers on the market, with options ranging from florist foam based blocks that absorb distilled water to more complex pouches or beads or gel based humidifiers.

Whichever version you like best, make sure to follow the instructions on when to recharge with more distilled water or other moisturizing agents. These humidifiers will also only last for a certain amount of time, so be sure to replace them as needed.

Monitoring Your Humidity with a Hygrometer

Another key component to any humidor is the hygrometer (a hygrometer measures the relative humidity) inside the humidor, allowing you to monitor when you need to recharge the humidifier and adjust the humidity inside. You want to get an ideal relative humidity of 70%, and an optimum temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Getting a hygrometer (either digital or analog) to monitor this will help you notice any shifts in the humidity or temperature so you can adjust it accordingly and not damage your cigars. Make sure to check the hygrometer at least once a week to make sure the humidity is staying at the right level. Be sure to also calibrate your hygrometer every now and again, in order to keep the readings as accurate as possible.

How to store cigars without using a humidor

How to store cigars without using a humidor

If you fall in the category of those, for one reason or the other do not have a humidor to use to preserve your cigars? No problem. We got you covered with these three cheap and easy hacks for storing cigars without using a humidor. We have all been there; be it at your friend’s bachelor party or the wedding or the birth of your friend’s child where someone hands you a cigar you may want to smoke someday.

The issue here is whether you have or do not have a humidor to store it in else that cigar will dry out and become unusable in only a matter of days.Whatever it is you do, please do not follow your best friend’s advice and put it in the freezer or refrigerator because that will ultimately ruin it.

Luckily, there are a number of easy ways to keep cigars fresh without an expensive humidor, using items you probably already own.

Alternatives to a humidifier

Ziploc bag

If you are just looking to store a cigar or two, a common Ziploc bag and a moist sponge are all you are going to need. Just take a large freezer bag and place the sticks inside. Next, wet a new sponge and ring out any excess water. Place the sponge in the bag and seal tightly. The sponge will keep the setup humid for several weeks. The one thing you have to do is to be sure to check in on the cigars occasionally to make sure the sponge does not dry up.

Tupperware container or jar

If you are looking to use a little added protection, a Tupperware container or glass jar can make for a very nice makeshift humidor. This can be especially nice if you want to store more than a couple of cigars. You can still use a sponge to keep the humidity up, but this time around, you should use distilled water, for the reason that it helps prevent mold and ensures that the cigars will not be exposed to any chemicals found in standard tap water that could affect its flavor.

Small cooler

If you are planning on keeping the cigars around for more than a few months, the best option, asides getting a humidor would be to use a standard cooler. Any cooler of any size can work depending on how many cigars you are looking to store. A cooler will do a nice job of keeping the relative humidity where it needs to be to be for an extended period of time.

While a wet sponge will certainly do the trick, you may want to consider picking up a gallon of distilled water, a proper humidification device, and a hydrometer. For less than a couple bucks, you can have a full-time humidor that requires very little babysitting.

How to season a humidor

As already stated, a humidor is a special wooden box that is used to store cigars, cigarettes, and other tobacco products to keep them from getting dried out. 

How to season a humidor

When you first buy a humidor, you have to season it, which is also the process of adding moisture so that the box will better retain humidity. A well-seasoned humidor will keep tobacco products preserved better and for longer. Note however that the seasoning process takes several days, so you may want to make other arrangements for your tobacco products in the meantime.

First and foremost, gather your supplies. Humidors are typically made of wood, and because its wood is porous, it will allow moisture to escape. Seasoning the humidor increases the moisture content of the wood, helping it maintain the humidity inside better.

To season your humidor, you'll need:

  • A clean dry towel
  • Distilled water
  • Propylene glycol (is a synthetic liquid that will coat the wood, help control the humidity, and prevent mold and bacterial growth).
  • Small bowl
  • Cigar humidifier
  • Clean sponge
  • Plate
  • Hygrometer

Follow these steps

  • Charge the humidifier. Place the humidifier into the bowl with the humidifying solution. Let it soak in the solution for about 15 minutes, until it’s completely saturated.
  • Remove the humidifier from the solution and place it face down on a clean towel. Let it dry on the towel for 30 minutes. This will allow excess water to drain out, and protect the humidor from water damage.
  • Place your seasoning equipment into the humidor. Remove any shelves and drawers from the humidor. Place the humidifier into the empty humidor, as well as the hygrometer. Then, dampen a clean sponge with distilled water, and wring it out to remove the excess. You want the sponge damp, but not dripping wet.
  • Place the sponge on a plate and place it inside the humidor. If you don’t have a sponge, you can also use a shallow dish filled with an inch (2.5 cm) of distilled water.
  • Close the humidor and let it rest. Replace all the drawers, trays, and shelves inside the humidor. Close the lid and set the humidor aside for three days. Avoid opening the lid during this time, as this will allow moisture to escape, and will slow the seasoning process. Seasoning generally takes between three and five days.
  • Check the humidity. After three days of seasoning, open the lid on the humidor and check the hygrometer to see what the humidity inside is at. The humidity may be anywhere between 60 and 85 percent, but you can only proceed if it’s at 72 percent or higher.If the humidity is below 72 percent, add more water to the sponge, close the lid and leave it for another day. Check again in 24 hour interval until the humidity reaches 72 percent or higher.
  • Remove the sponge and let the humidity stabilize. Once the humidity inside the humidor reaches at least 72 percent, remove the sponge and plate, and close the lid again. Let the humidor rest for another two days, giving the humidity level time to stabilize. After two days, start checking the humidity level every 24 hours. You want the humidity to stabilize at 70 percent. Once the humidity reaches 70 percent, leave the humidor for another one to two days. Continue checking daily that the humidity stays at that level.
  • Do not otherwise open the lid during this time, as it will affect the humidity level inside.
  • Add your tobacco products. Once the humidity in the humidor stabilizes at 70 percent, you can add your tobacco products for storage. Over the next few days, the tobacco will absorb some of the moisture, and the humidity may drop. That is very fine, as long as the humidity stays between 65 and 70 percent, which is the ideal range for a humidor.
  • If there is too little moisture in the humidor, the tobacco will dry out. Too much humidity, however, and the tobacco could go mouldy.

Note: Always keep an eye on the humidity level in your humidor to ensure it stays within the safe range.

Setting up your humidor

Use this easy step by step guide to setting up your humidor correctly. Most people, when they get their new humidor they are anxious to fill to immediately fill it up with their collection of cigars. If you do this without first re-humidifying the wood in your humidor, you will ruin your cigars.

Why? For the simple reason that the wood is kiln dried Spanish cedar and has not had a chance to reach its equilibrium of 65% humidity. It will literally suck the moisture out of your cigars. This is not good. To solve this problem thoroughly, all humidors should be re-humidified before their first use.

how to properly set up your humidor

To break in your humidor, follow these easy steps:

  • Place a shot glass filled with distilled water or our humidification solution in the bottom of the humidor.
  • Charge your humidifier and place inside the humidor.
  • Place your calibrated hygrometer inside the humidor.
  • Close the lid.
  • Check the humidity daily using the hygrometer. When it reaches the 65% range, the wood has been properly stabilized.

Note: Do not wipe the interior or your humidor with tap water. This will ultimately ruin the wood.

The Hygrometer

Most cigar smokers believe that if their humidor does not keep 65% humidity, they are broken. This is not true. There is a safe range for your cigars, anywhere from 60 to 75%. In fact, some experts even say that the ideal smoking range is closer to 80% while storage should be done at 65% (obviously, they have two separate humidors for this purpose).

As long as your humidity falls within this zone your cigars are safe. There are some people like their cigars very moist, while others prefer them slightly drier. You will soon learn your pleasure zone and keep your cigars at that humidity. The placement of the hygrometer is not critical, as long as you are happy with its location. It is best to allow a flow of air around the hygrometer to ensure an accurate reading. Mounting on the lid or a try in the humidor is the best solution.

The Humidifier

The humidifier is what maintains the humidity in your humidor. To charge your humidifier, follow these instructions:

  • Remove the humidifier(s) from the humidor.
  • Use a humidification solution (distilled water and propylene glycol) or distilled water and squirt it into the humidifier through the grate.
  • Do not overfill the humidifier. You want it wet not soaking.
  • Take a cloth and wipe any excess liquid from the front of the humidifier.
  • Re-attach back onto the humidor.

If you find that your cigars are a little on the dry side per the ‘pinch’ and the hygrometer, rinse the oasis with distilled water and add adjust the mixture of propylene glycol/humidor solution and distilled water as needed. The humidity in homes varies by location and time of year and it may take a little experimenting to come up with the right combination for yours. A good rule of thumb is that distilled water increases humidity, solution decreases it.

Calibrating the hygrometer

Calibrating the hygrometer

How do I calibrate my hygrometer?

In order to check if the hygrometer is reading correctly, we can use the salt method. Here's how to test your hygrometer using the salt method;

  • Place a teaspoon of salt in a bottle cap or small cup and dampen it with a few drops of water (without dissolving it).
  • Carefully place the wet salt and the hygrometer inside a see-through container and close tightly. You can use a zip lock bag provided it seals well and you leave some air inside as well.
  • Let it sit for at least 6 hours and note the reading on the hygrometer without opening the container. The hygrometer should read 75%. The difference is how much your hygrometer is off. For example, if your hygrometer reads 70% during the salt method test, this means that to obtain the real humidity level you should add 5 points. If you have an analog hygrometer, you can correct the reading. You will need to adjust the needle to the 75% mark by turning the screw on the back using a small screwdriver. Your hygrometer is now ready to be placed inside your humidor.

Caring For Your Humidor

If you want your humidor to last long enough, then there are things you have to do. With proper care and enough attention, your humidor will give you plenty years of service. In order to help you care for and maintain your investment, here are some basic tips:

  • Do not keep your humidor where it will be in danger of being knocked over and also fall and hurt anyone.
  • Never store your humidor in direct sunlight. The resultant effect may fade the wood and heat the inside past the safe range.
  • Do not place objects on top of your humidor.
  • When carrying out maintenance on your humidor, always use a soft cloth when cleaning your humidor.
  • Use either furniture polish or beeswax when cleaning your humidor. There are also good products which can be safely used on your humidor to clean or polish it.
  • Carry out regular dusting; this will keep it looking like new.
  • Do not wipe the interior of your humidor with water or any other liquid, as it can and may ruin the wood.

How long can cigar last in boxes

As we already know and stated, the best place to store your cigars is in a properly maintained humidor. However, there are some cigar humidors, like cabinet style humidors that are big enough to accommodate entire boxes of cigars. One of the most often asked questions about this type of storage is whether the humidity from the humidor will reach the cigars in their factory boxes.

IF the conditions are right, cigar box storage is easy. Cigars that are kept in their factory boxes will stay fresh up to a month on average, even after opening the boxes. By placing the entire box in your humidor, the cigars will remain fresh indefinitely, just as they would if you removed the cigars, but it depends on how you plan to store the boxes, too. For simplicity sake, we will assume you are storing your cigars for the long haul and that your humidor keeps pretty stable and ideal conditions.

Cigar box storage

Cigar box storage is easy and helps keep large amounts of cigars on hand and fresh for smoking By keeping the cigar boxes sealed with their outer cello on them, this is not much different from cigar box storage in a humidified warehouse or a cigar store humidor; the cigars should be just fine. However, it’s better to remove the outer cello from the box, which will allow more humidified air to seep into the box.

Moreover, cracking the lid or in other words, lifting it an inch or so, will allow even more humidified air in, and it is recommended that you do this every so often. You can use any number of small objects to prop the lid open. Anything from an extra cigar cutter to a cedar spacer block, even a rolled up business card will do. You can keep the lid propped up for as long as you deem necessary. A time frame of 24 hours is usually plenty of time.

Of course, removing the lid entirely permits the most air flow, and this practice is also quite popular with many cigar smokers who have cabinet type humidors. Finally, cardboard boxes are packed tighter than wooden cabinet style boxes in which the cigars themselves are also not protected by cello. Wooden boxes are also preferred because they are made from Spanish cedar, thereby augmenting the positive effect Spanish cedar has on aging cigars.

Now go ahead and enjoy your cigar!

About the author

Mike Baxter

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