Fine cigars are natural products that are environmentally sensitive. Rooms that are air-conditioned or heated for our comfort can dry out cigars. Pamper your cigars in a good humidor. A humidor is a climate controlled cigar storage box that maintains cigars in an optimal condition. Cigars can last for years in a properly maintained humidor.
A humidor is a simple device that replicates the temperature and moisture conditions of the natural state in which the tobacco grew, fermented and was prepared for consumption. It should maintain an internal humidity level between 70 and 75 percent and an internal temperature that ranges between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Humidors today also come with a gauge measuring the internal moisture levels. To fit the diverse needs of cigar aficionados, humidors are available in a number of sizes. Serious smokers prefer keeping several humidifiers, as there can be subtle flavor shifts when different cigars are stored next to each other.
The ideal humidity in a humidor is around 68-72% of relative humidity. Though it can go higher or lower depending on the cigar smoker's preferences, it should never go higher than 75% due to the possibility of hatching tobacco beetles. The more empty space, the more readily the humidity level of the box will drop or rise.
All humidors contain a humidifying system which keeps the air moist, which in turn keeps the cigars moist.
Most humidifying elements are passive, releasing stored humidity through evaporation and diffusion. The use of a 50/50 solution of propylene glycol and distilled water is recommended for replenishing the passive humidifying element as it has a buffer effect on air humidity, maintaining it at approximately 70%. Retailers and manufacturers claim it also has mild anti fungal and antibacterial properties. In lack of propylene glycol, distilled water should be used, due to its lack of minerals, additives, or bacteria which keeps the contents neutral and healthy.
Electronic humidifiers are also available,
although usually reserved for very large humidors. A sensor measures the outside humidity and then activates a ventilator, which blows air over a humid sponge or water tank into the humidor. Once the preset humidity level has been reached the ventilator stops [relative humidity]. This way electronic humidifiers can maintain a much more stable humidity level than passive humidifiers. Also they typically will activate an alarm to notify when the humidifier needs refilling, before the humidity actually drops. The accuracy of electronic humidifiers depends primarily on the integrated type of sensor. Capacitive sensors are the preferred type of sensors.
Usage of silica gel beads is a third alternative. These also have a buffer effect on relative humidity, and are moistened with distilled water when necessary. They can absorb or release humidity at RH 50%. Silica gel is commonly used to remove moisture from packaging containers. For use in humidors it is typically calibrated (by the additional coating of mineral salts) in various ranges of humidity including - 65%, 68%, 70%, and 72%. Unlike the passive devices, silica beads only require distilled water, and can be ruined by propylene glycol.
Each humidor has to be seasoned after being bought or having been out of use for a while. The seasoning process brings the wood inside the humidor close to the relative humidity level that it will be operating at so that the wood itself will buffer moisture. This can be done using different techniques including placing a small container of distilled water inside the humidor and allowing the wood to absorb the evaporated moisture for 1 to 3 days. Another technique involves wiping down the entire inside wood with a lightly soaked cloth, although this method is not recommended because the wood may warp. After the wood has been wiped a small container of distilled water is stored inside or a lightly soaked surgical sponge on top of plastic is stored in the humidor until the wood is sufficiently humidified to 65-72% RH. An unseasoned humidor will absorb humidity from the closed environment, which in turn will reduce the humidity of the cigars to the point of drying them out.
To discourage eggs of tobacco beetles from hatching, the humidor temperature should be kept below 25°C/77°F, as well as below 75% relative humidity. At lower temperatures below 12°C/53.6°F, the desired aging process of the cigars is impaired. Therefore, cold wine cellars are only suitable for cigar storage to a limited extent. Similarly, temperatures over 25°C/77°F can lead to worm infestation and cigar rotting. For this reason, the humidor should not be exposed to direct sunlight.