If you plan to store your cigars for longer than a day or two, you'll need a humidor.
Cigars are a lot like fine wine: Both are organic products with their own special characteristics, and both need to be stored properly to preserve the delicate flavors and aromas that make them so special.
If you plan to store your cigars for longer than a day or two, you'll need a humidor. Humidors can be as simple as a wooden box or as complex as a refrigerator, and there are several factors to consider as you shop. This cigar humidor buying guide will walk your through the basics, including the main types of humidors, their major features, and how to season and maintain your humidor once you've made your choice.
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What Is a Humidor?
At its most basic, a humidor is a storage container designed to maintain steady humidity levels on the inside. A humidor may look like a simple wooden box, but a plain exterior often hides some important features. To keep humidity levels from fluctuating with changes in the weather, a humidor needs a tight seal around the door or lid. Relative humidity varies as temperatures change, so humidors should also be well insulated.
In addition to the container itself, a humidor has a humidification system that adds moisture to the air inside. Humidifiers can be as simple as a water-soaked sponge or florist foam. There are also specially designed crystal gel beads and Humidipaks that release moisture more evenly. High-end electronic humidifiers have sensors that test the humidity level and automatically add moisture as needed.
Why do you need a humidor?
Tobacco grows best in warm, humid climates, and the process of curing cigars also requires steady heat and the right amount of humidity to allow leaves to dry slowly, without rotting. The best cigars are produced in the humid island climates of Cuba and other Caribbean nations.
The bottom line? Cigars are born and raised in humidity, and they should be kept that way to prolong their lifespan and maintain their delicate flavors. Here's what a humidor does for your cigars:
Protects Essential Oils
The unique flavors and aromas of your cigar collection come from the essential oils and other volatile compounds in the tobacco leaves. These are easily damaged by sunlight, heat, or cold. A humidor provides a dark place and steady temperature to keep cigars at their best.
Maintains Proper Burn Temperature
When cigars dry out, the leaves burn hot and fast when you light them. This leads to an acrid, unpleasant smoke. When cigars are too damp, they burn unevenly and can even be hard to smoke at all, thanks to expanded leaves that make it difficult to draw air through them.
Prevents Insect Damage
Tobacco beetle larvae can survive curing and even aggressive fumigation, lying dormant inside your cigars until humidity and temperatures rise and encourage them to hatch. An infestation can destroy an entire cigar collection, but a humidor will keep humidity too low to trigger tobacco beetles' life cycle.
Improves Flavor During Aging
Storing fine cigars for a year or more can enhance their flavors, which undergo subtle changes as they age. A humidor made of aromatic Spanish cedar protects cigars for the long haul and imparts its own flavor for the complex, mellow results that are sought after by aficionados.
Types of Humidors
Humidors come in a wide range of sizes, styles and prices. In general there are three main types of humidors to choose from:
Humidor Boxes: Traditionally, humidors are boxes with lids that feature a baffle to create a tight seal. Though they are usually made of wood for heightened insulation moisture absorption, modern versions are also made of acrylic or ceramic and shaped like jars. Travel humidors may be made of plastic.
Humidor Furniture: Cigar collectors looking for more space to store their favorites may gravitate toward humidor furniture. End table and coffee table humidors integrate cigar storage with useful storage or work surfaces, while dedicated chests and stand-alone cabinets are an attractive way to store hundreds of cigars in one convenient location.
Wineadors: A wineador is a refrigerated humidor that allows you control the temperature of your humidor with ease, thanks to excellent insulation and door seals. You can choose from compressor cooling, which is just like a standard wine fridge, or thermoelectric cooling, which is more gradual and doesn't dry out the air inside the humidor.
Each type of humidor can be low-tech or a modern marvel. It all depends on which features are included enhance a basic humidor's functionality.
Major Humidor Features
A quality humidor comes with built-in features that make it easy to maintain proper humidity levels and preserve your cigars' flavors. Here are the top features to consider when buying a humidor for your collection:
In general, a humidor's capacity is measured by the number of Churchill cigars it holds. (A Churchill cigar is typically 7 inches long with a 48 ring size.) To maintain proper airflow in your humidor, choose one with a capacity about 30% larger than the number of cigars you plan to keep. This will leave room to grow and allow humidity to reach every cigar evenly.
A humidor lined with Spanish cedar is a must for aging cigars and adding flavor. Spanish cedar also helps repel insects and maintain even moisture levels. Spanish cedar expands and contracts to absorb excess moisture, which helps prevent condensation build-up. Appliance-style humidors are unlikely to be fully lined with Spanish cedar, but shelves and drawers made of this premium wood provide excellent results.
A hygrometer measures the humidity levels inside a humidor, making it easier to track and maintain proper moisture levels. The best hygrometers are easily read without opening the humidor so you don't risk disturbing the interior climate. Digital hygrometers are easier to read and often more accurate than analog meters.
All humidors require you to add a humidifier to boost moisture levels. Simple solutions are sponges, beads, and Humidipaks that you add on your own. These methods require you to check your hygrometer regularly and add water as needed. Electronic humidifiers automatically measure the relative humidity in your humidor and add moisture on their own. They cost more, but they protect your cigars from accidental neglect and sudden environmental changes.
Humidors should be kept at a steady temperature, as changes in temperature also cause changes in the relative humidity. For boxes and furniture, this means placing your humidor out of direct sunlight and taking care to keep your room temperature steady throughout the year. Wineador-type humidors are great for cooling cigars down in hot, dry climates. Some wineadors are also designed with heaters to help aficionados in cold climates keep their cigars in good condition throughout the winter.
Style and Appearance
There hundreds of humidor styles to match anyone's tastes. Simple boxes have Spanish cedar on the inside, but the exterior can be any type of wood. Inlays and unique grains are very popular. Wineador-style humidors look like kitchen appliances, so you may want to match existing finishes in your home. Black and stainless steel are the most popular.
Humidors come with many other helpful features. Good ones to look for are a lock, an LED light, and digital controls that are easy to set and read. A glass door is a nice feature for collectors who want to show off a bit.
How to Season and Maintain Your Humidor
Before you add cigars to your new humidor, you need to season it. This process allows the wood in the humidor to absorb moisture so it doesn't dry out your cigars. When the humidity levels are right, you're ready to add your cigars. Here's a general how to get started:
- Moisten a sponge and squeeze out the excess water.
- Place a plastic bag in your humidor and put the sponge on top.
- Close the humidor and wait 24 hours.
- Check the hygrometer. It should be between 72% and 73% humidity. If it's too high, wait another day. If it's too low, add more water to your sponge and check again in 24 hours.
- Once the humidity levels are right, you can add cigars. They will absorb additional humidity to bring the total down to 70%.
Check your humidor regularly to make sure you're following the 70/70 rule. Cigars should be at 70 degrees and 70% humidity. If temperatures rise, you'll need to decrease the humidity by opening the door and allowing some moisture to escape. If temperatures fall, you'll need to increase it by adding more water. For best results, temperatures should stay between 65 and 73 degrees. Relative humidity should be between 65% and 74%.