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Cigar Humidification – Separating Opinion from Science

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Cigar Humidification – Separating Opinion from Science

I’ve been challenged to do a piece on cigar Humidification and help us all separate facts, opinions, superstitions, and bad habits from each other. Bring your comments over to our Discord for further discussion:  . I’m sure I’ll see a few there after this!

Humidity – What is it?

The full term that we’ll be looking at is relative humidity, typically expressed as a percentage of a temperature. The reason is that this is not an absolute measure, which would require much more accurate tools to read. So, as temperature changes, the humidity will change relative to the temperature. The chart below will show us some general information, including where mold growth will begin and where you’ll see condensation on surfaces, usually windows, first if your humidor has them.

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So what is our goal with humidifying cigars?

We are attempting to create a microenvironment that most closely resembles the tropical environments where tobacco is processed, aged, and rolled into cigars. The most general rule of thumb is to keep this environment as close to 68%rh and 68*F. We will discuss later why that is and possible exceptions or modifications to this rule, but it is the general best practice.

So how do we create that environment?

First, we’re looking for a stable environment. Ideally, a spot for your humidor that won’t be receiving direct sunlight, and won’t be directly under an aircon vent or above a floor vent. Best in an internal wall corner. The next thing we need to address is temperature. If you have mini splits and can comfortably keep that room at 68 degrees I envy you, sir! For the rest of us using a portable temperature gauge placing it in that spot and monitoring it a few times over a weekend is the first step. We can then look at the chart above and adjust accordingly.

Say your spot is most stable closer to 76 degrees, which is fairly typical for those of us in the southern US. Well then, we’ll see we need to be careful to keep our Relative Humidity below 80% to avoid mold, however, if we want to keep the same ratio as 68/68 we would consider a range between 72-76 to be more ideal, for example. The chart below from shows how the relationship between RH and temperature is inverse, and you can plot these numbers up and down for yourself if you’d like.
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Wait for the example you can a range? I thought 68/68 was concrete.

Ah, you caught that eh? It’s true, there are reasons to vary your humidity by a few percentages. The first one is the question of purpose. Are you merely storing these cigars for the maximum amount of time and don’t feel they need additional aging? Well then you you want to stick to the top of the range, or 68/68 for example. This ensures none of the internal oil dries out or crystalizes changing the cigar’s combustibility or flavor. This end of the range also requires the least rotation of the cigars, but the keenest eye on your humidification. Passive systems such as 2-way humidity packs and 2-way humidity beads are best for this use, though, in a dry environment, you may consider an electronic/smart system with a larger water capacity.

What if you want to give additional aging to improve or deepen flavor, improve combustion, et al? Then you’ll find somewhere in the middle of the range best, usually about 3% below your maximum storage RH. So if your storage is a 68%RH, keep this one closer to 65%RH. This allows the oils to continue mixing, and the leaves to reach an RH closer to late stage fermentation effectively. This can also be useful if you find a cigar a bit bitter but generally like all the base flavors, as the ammonia will also continue to reduce in levels.

What if you only keep Cubans? Or you are only using this smaller humidor on your desk as ready-to-smoke? Then some schools would say to keep this one a bit dryer. The general rule of thumb is about 5% below your maximum, so in the case of 68/68, these would be 63%RH maximum. This allows combustion to reach its maximum and RH to “even out” within the fillers and can improve the light and smoking experience for many.

NOW you mentioned Cubans, are some countries’ tobaccos not aligned with this 68/68 rule?

The short answer is yes. Conversely, this is the largest case of your mileage may vary, especially with your tastes. Typically the island countries like lower humidity as well as African wrappers, spots like Ecuador and Peru tend to smoke better towards the middle of the range, and many Nicaraguan wrappers prefer a higher humidity to smoke their best. Considering that most cigars aren’t puros you can start by going with the wrapper leaf’s origin, and adjust from there to your preference. I’ve found that when a cigar that shouldn’t be presenting as spicy is, bumping up the humidity it’s stored at will correct that.

Did I catch something about electronic humidification, some kind of pack, and some weird-sounding beads? Which is best?

Ah yes, another where your preferences will be the greatest deciding factor, though occasionally your humidor as well. If your humidor is fully hermetically sealed and properly seasoned and stable Heartfelt beads are typically seen as the best option, however, they do take up a good volume in your humidor, in a multi-shelf unit typically the entire bottom shelf will be dedicated to the bead’s bin and some room for convection to begin. Heartfelt is the primary brand I’ve used, other forums may recommend others.

The most common beginner-friendly option is 2-way humidity packs typically referred to by the largest brand’s name “Boveda” However other manufacturers have a variety of options as well. These are rated by how many sticks they can handle which removes the guesswork from how many to purchase, and going over won’t hurt anything because they will reabsorb any over-humidification.

Finally, there are electronic systems. I prefer ones that use hypersonic like your bedside humidifiers typically use. Some use a wet sponge and a fan but they are louder, and you have to watch out for mold growth on the soaked medium or it’ll turn all your cigars dank and mushroomy. Not my favorite.

So how do I purchase a humidor? Or if you were given one how do you know it’s good? How do you set it up to be most stable?

On that note, we’ll end this one, as that is a whole other article in itself! Similarly riddled with pitfalls, superstitions, and as many how-to’s as the whole of YouTube!

Thanks for reading along, and you’re welcome to discuss in the Discord, I’ll be around!



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