Cigar Humidor Basics
If you are anything like me, you like to keep a stash of your favorite cigars at home. I enjoy being able to admire my growing collection, and showing it off to my guests. To me there is nothing like coming home from a hard day of work, sitting back in my favorite chair, and puffing on my favorite stogie. Lighting up a stale, dried out, moldy or off tasting cigar would be very disappointing to me, if I was expecting to relax and enjoy one of my favorite cigars. Those are all possibilities if I didn’t store my cigars in a humidor. A cigar humidor is the only way you can ensure maximum freshness when storing your cigars at home.
A cigar humidor in simplest terms is just an enclosed space where cigars are stored. This could be a small box or or cabinet. The inside of this small box or cabinet is set up to maintain the ideal humidity levels for storing cigars. This ideal range of humidity is between 65% to 75%, and is a crucial factor to keeping cigars fresh and flavorful. Humidity is the single most important factor when it comes to storing cigars.
Cigar humidors come in lots of different sizes. There are smaller sized humidors that can hold any where from a few cigars to 25 cigars and can fit in your desk drawer. To full room-sized humidors that can hold 1000’s of cigars. Most humidors are made of wood, but some other materials that are sometimes used are acrylic, glass and metal.
The inside of a good humidor is almost always lined with Spanish cedar. Spanish cedar helps maintain the proper humidity levels, helps to repel pests such as the tobacco beetle which will damage your cigars and also has a positive effect on the flavor of the cigars.
When it comes to the many different humidors available, the prices can vary widely. Depending on the type of material that it is made of, the humidification system being used and the overall design of the humidor, can be the difference in a humidor that cost $30 to one that costs over $1000.
While cigar humidors have been around for 100 plus years, portable humidors are relatively new and were invented by Gerry G. Schmidt in 1998, in Newport Beach California.
If you don’t have more than a few cigars, and don’t plan on starting a collection anytime soon, then you may not need to buy a humidor. There are some simple, cheap ways you can keep the humidity levels good enough for storing just a few cigars, but keep in mind that these options will not be as efficient or effective as a real humidor when it comes to assuring the quality of your cigars. Click Here to see how you can make a simple humidor container to store your stogies on the cheap.
But if cigars are a true passion of yours and you plan on collecting and storing more than 10 cigars at a time, a humidor is definitely something you are going to want to have. Not only will it keep your cigars fresh and protected, but I consider a humidor to be a beautiful display piece, and badge of pride when it comes to my cigar collecting hobby.
Types of cigar humidors
There are three main types of humidors and depending on the size of your cigar collection and how much cigars you plan to store, this will determine the type of humidor that best suits you.
3. Room/walk-in humidors.
These are the beginner level of humidors and are perfect for those who don’t plan on storing more than a few dozen cigars at a time. This kind of humidor is also sometimes called a “desktop humidor”. There is a large selection of humidors in this category and prices for a decent one can range anywhere from $30 – $1000. These humidors are generally lightweight and small in size, which makes them perfect for the inside of a desk drawer, displaying on top of your desk or for taking some of your favorite cigars with you on your next vacation. With these types of humidors, if purchasing one on the cheaper side of the spectrum, it is a good idea to buy a digital thermometer which also measures the humidity. Leave it inside of your humidor to have as a backup hygrometer, to make sure that the hygrometer that came with your humidor is keeping an accurate reading. Here is an example of this kind of thermometer/hygrometer:
In order to make sure your hygrometer on your humidor is working correctly it is very important to make sure you have it properly calibrated by following any instructions that were given to you when you obtained your new humidor.
My personal recommendation for this type of humidor, which was also the first humidor I ever bought, is the “Mantello 25-50 Cigar Desktop Royale Glass top”. This model holds up to 50 cigars, is a #1 Best Seller on Amazon and will not break the bank. This is a great starter humidor and also makes for a great gift for the new cigar collector. After 5 years of having this humidor I still keep it on top of my office desk at work and it continues to work just fine. Even though its not the best most expensive humidor I don’t see myself getting rid of it anytime soon, as now it holds sentimental value to me. Being my first ever cigar humidor from my rookie collecting days, its built up quite the charm and character over the years.
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These humidors can hold anywhere from hundreds of cigars to thousands of cigars. This type of humidor is not necessary for someone who doesn’t plan on ever having a collection of cigars that big. These types of humidors are heavy and bulky and are pretty much a piece of furniture in themselves. The designs of these types of humidors can range from beautiful wooden end tables and cabinets, to more industrial looking humidors, that look closer to being a mini fridge than a humidor. The style you choose just depends on your style and personal preference. The price range in this group of humidors is also very wide, with prices starting as low as a couple hundred dollars and going up all the way to the thousands of dollars. My favorite humidor in this category, which I currently have in my basement and have for almost two years now is the Whynter CHC-251S Stainless Steel Cigar Cooler Humidor, 2.5 Cubic Feet. Originally I was set on getting the Whynter CHC-120s, which is basically the same exact humidor made by the same brand but smaller, but after comparing the prices It seemed worth it to me to pay a little extra for a lot more storage in my opinion. This humidor/cooler is perfect for my current cigar needs and the price was right. I don’t see myself needing anything more than this anytime in the near future, as I usually don’t have more than 200 cigars in it at a time and this unit holds 250+ cigars. This humidor looks like a mini fridge and looks great next to my trusty beer fridge.
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These are the separate rooms they have at the cigar store that usually have glass walls and are full of cigars and when you walk in you get that strong but pleasant tobacco smell. Most people would not find this type of humidor to be a necessity to have at home unless you are a major collector with lots of money and extra space. The picture below is an example of a walk in cigar humidor inside of a store.
Humidors have various designs that range from beautiful and elegant, to industrial and functional. it all depends on your own personal preferences. From basic rectangular boxes to fancy and elegant ornamental boxes with decrative features, such as round edges and beautiful wood finishes, and everything in-between. With all the variety and options there is when it comes to humidors, it’s not hard to find the perfect humidor that fits with your style and personality. Basically if it looks good to you and and it can keep the proper humidity levels, then its a good choice for you.
Some humidors have glass lids which allow you to see inside, while others don’t and are more simplistic in design. The most common choices of wood used in the construction of humidors are cherry, maple, pine, oak, walnut and mahogany.
Cabinet and table humidors are sometimes made of heavier materials like marble or granite.
Spanish cedar is ideal for the interior because not only does it look beautiful, it withstands humidity well. Unlike other woods that have the tendancy to warp and lose shape over time if exposed to humidity. As your cigars age, the Spanish cedar will slightly impart a nice subtle flavor to your cigars, that most people find appealing.
Setting up and caring for your cigar humidor
It is very important that you properly take care of your humidor to ensure the freshness and quality of your cigars.
The basic guidelines for setting up and caring for most personal/portable cigar humidors to ensure proper long-term use are as follows:
Do not put cigars in your humidor until the inside humidity levels of your humidor have stabilized to the range of 65% to 75% relative humidity. In order to achieve this, you must first activate your hygrometer. To do this you must first wrap the hygrometer in a damp, warm towel for 30 minutes. After removing the towel you will need to calibrate the hygrometer to read between 95% to 97%. Once you have done this your hygrometer is calibrated and you are ready to season your humidor.
To season your humidifier first you need to moisten your humidifier inside of your humidor. If using water to moisten the humidifier that goes in your humidor only use distilled water. Tap water can impart unwanted tastes and leave mineral deposits on cigars due to the minerals and impurities in the water.
Next, wet and ring out a brand new sponge with distilled water and wipe the whole interior of the box just enough to darken the wood. Do not soak the wood. If there are any water droplets it is too wet and it can damage the wood.
Next, put a plastic zip lock back on the bottom of your humidor and place the sponge dampened with distilled water on top of the plastic bag. Now close the lid for 12-24 hours. This should allow the Spanish cedar to have taken on the proper amount of moisture to bring the humidity levels inside of your humidor to around 65% to 75%.
Now that the humidity levels inside of your humidor are good you want to take the plastic and sponge out of your humidor and refill the humidifier. Now keep your humidor closed for another hour and then check your hygrometer again. At this point if the humidity level reads 65%-75% it is now safe to put in your cigars. If the humidity is still under 65% at this point then repeat the seasoning process again for another 12 hours.
Once your cigars are in the humidor, you need to follow some simple routine maintenance steps to ensure your humidor produces optimal results:
Keep your humidor preferably in a cool area, away from direct sunlight, and away from lights or heat sources. Leaving your humidor in a hot area can cause the cigars inside to become brittle and can dry them out. The recommended temperature to store your cigars in is around 70 degrees fahrenheit which is considered to be room temperature. If excess moisture is combined with to high of temperatures, it can cause the air inside of the humidor to become stale and smell like mildew. If these conditions are left for to long, mold growth can occur inside of your humidor and on your cigars. High temperatures could also lead to an infestation inside of your humidor of the infamous tobacco beetle, which are very difficult to manage and will quickly destroy all of your precious cigars.
Good practice to maintain proper humidity levels inside of your humidor, is do not open your humidor very often. Opening the lid to your humidor to often can cause the humidity levels to fluctuate and your humidor to lose to much moisture. If the humidity level drops below 65%, refill the humidifier.
Remove the plastic wrapper from cigars before putting in the humidor for better curing properties as well as to maintain their freshness. While this is a highly debatable subject in the world of cigar collecting, I myself prefer to remove the cellophane wrappers, I feel it does help a bit with the aging process, but to each there own.
Rotating your cigars once a month, by moving the ones from the bottom of your humidor to the top helps redistribute moisture in your humidor and helps to keep humidity levels steady.
Once a month or even more in desert type areas and areas where you have a very hot and dry climate, you will need to refill your humidifier inside of your humidor. In order to maintain the proper humidity and to keep your humidity levels inside of you humidor from dropping below 65%.
Constantly check if your cigars are fresh by doing the following:
Look for any cracks or splitting which may be caused by large fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
Check for any mold on your cigars as this will indicate that it is being exposed to too much humidity.
You can also do the “pinch test”. The pinch test is when you squeeze a cigar between your thumb and forefinger. If the cigar has been stored properly then it will have a feel that is slightly springy and will bounce back. If it’s too moist then when you press it together with your fingers it will bend, sag and remain dented after squeezing. If it cracks, then it’s too dry.
Don’t store non-flavored cigars with flavored cigars. This should be obvious but if you do it will make all your cigars smell and taste like the flavored ones, which would not be good. Personally though I don’t like the flavored ones so I don’t have to worry about this.
Choosing a humidor
Good cigars are not cheap, so special care is necessary while storing them, in order to ensure you still have a quality product by the time you decide to light one up. That’s why it is important to be well informed and to take your time when choosing a humidor. While there are many affordable options out there a really good humidor will not come cheaply. So make sure the humidor your choose for yourself will function properly and will be something you don’t mind looking at for many years down the road. Consider that fact that a quality humidor will last many years if taken care of and properly maintained. If you are new to the cigar hobby and looking to get yourself a humidor I would recommend clicking HERE and reading my article on what I believe to be the best humidors for beginners.
Some other things to consider choosing a humidor:
Depending on the number of cigars you have, or plan on having, you should double that number. This is because it’s good to store cigars in a larger space that has good air circulation, rather than having your humidor completely full with the cigars packed tightly, which will limit the amount of air circulation.
Get to know the type of humidor you plan to acquire, whether it be a personal/portable humidor, cabinet and table humidor or a complete room humidor devoted to your finest cigars and fine wine.
Consider the type of material you would prefer your humidor to be made of for functional and aesthetic reasons.
Have a budget in mind when shopping for your new humidor and try not to go to cheap, as with mostly all things you get what you pay for. Consider this purchase to be an investment.
Once you have found out what you want, it is important to do some research. Read reviews from others who have purchased the same humidor that you are interested in, to get a general idea of what to expect performance wise and quality wise.
Make sure the humidor you plan on purchasing has an interior lined with Spanish cedar wood.
In conclusion when it comes to collecting cigars and long term storage, the most important factor is keeping proper humidity levels to ensure your favorite expensive cigars stay fresh and are not ruined by factors such as mold or other problems that are caused by storing cigars improperly, and at improper humidity levels. Not properly stored cigars can easily become ruined and can leave you wasting a lot of money if you have to throw out your expensive cigars. With your new knowledge of cigar humidors you should now know what to look for and what to consider when shopping for a cigar humidor. If you are a new cigar collector please check out: The Top 3 Best Beginner Cigar Humidors.
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