A wineador is a wine cooler that has been modified to be a humidor for storing cigars. Like wine, cigars need to be stored in an environment with a stable temperature and humidity. Almost all cigar enthusiasts come to decide that they need a better storage solution as they increase their collection or begin to buy more expensive brands that they want to protect. Old fashioned humidors can be expensive, especially if you need additional cooling because of hot summers or fluctuating temperatures.
What to Look for When Storing Cigars
Just leaving your cigars unprotected can dry them out in a week or less, properly taken care of cigars can last almost indefinitely; collectors are known to wait 25 years to smoke a fine cigar, aged just like you'd age a nice wine. If you are just getting into smoking cigars, you'd probably start off with something small, like a desktop humidor.
However, a desktop humidor usually can only hold 12-50 cigars, which can very quickly be too small, and isn't good for keeping your cigars long-term. Maybe you're tired of keeping your $25 dollar cigars in a Tupperware bin, or have been stashing your cigars in the refrigerator even though it will dry them out. If you want to expand your selection and upgrade your storage you'll need something better (and bigger!).
What are the important things needed for a humidor? You'll need a good seal, Spanish cedar, and something that maintains an even temperature and RH (relative humidity). While the common and most agreed on ratio is 70/70 (70 degrees and 70% relative humidity), there is an amount of personal taste involved. Some like a 65/65 ratio, or even 60% humidity.
The reason that humidity is important is that the tobacco leaves that make up the cigar are grown in a wet tropical environment. If the cigar gets too dry, the paper will loosen, the leaves become brittle, and it will burn too quickly and taste harsh. If the cigar gets too damp, the leaves become soggy, and the swelling can cause the outer wrapper to break open and ruin the cigar. A cigar that is swollen and too damp will be hard to smoke and will have trouble staying lit. Mold can grow if your cigars have been stored in an area too wet and too warm.
If you are making an investment in your cigars, are a collector or often have visitors, you probably want something that looks nice and matches your decor.
Making Your Own Wineador
First, you'll need to find a wine cooler, or convert one that you already have. A 28 bottle wine cooler can accommodate 300-400 cigars. You don't want to overload your wineador, air needs to pass between the cigars to keep them fresh.
1. Compressor vs. Thermoelectric
- Some compressor cooled wine fridges can have condensation and this can affect the humidity level. Thermoelectric wine coolers do not have this problem
- Thermoelectric coolers also have less parts and are easier and cheaper to replace, so that you can maintain your wineador for many years
- They are also much quieter than the compressor cooling system and are vibration free
2. Seal it up
- If there is a drain, you'll need to plug it up
- Use silicon sealant or electrical tape
- Make sure the both the outside and inside of the drain is sealed
3. Clean it and remove smells
- If you have a new wine cooler, or even an old one that has lingering smells, you'll want to wash the whole thing.
- Use warm water and a nonabrasive non-scented soap and/or warm water and baking soda to rinse the inside of the wine cooler.
- Fill the wine cooler with crumpled up newspaper. Replace the newspaper every day for a week (or less, if the smell goes away quickly).
- You can also sprinkle in some baking soda to help absorb any plastic or "new" smell.
4. Add in your shelves
- Make sure everything is dry and clean and then put in your shelving.
- You should make sure to line any drawers or boxes with Spanish cedar. All hard wood helps with humidity, but Spanish cedar is very good for maintaining humidity and has been traditionally used in humidors. Not only does it help with humidity, but it can repel tobacco beetles, and many people think it adds a nice smell and taste to their cigars.
- If you don't have the desire or know-how to make yourself shelves, you can have some custom made. There are places online that will cater to your measurements, although custom orders take time.
- You will need a hygrometer.
- You may want to invest in a digital thermometer if your wine cooler only has an analogue one or if you're not sure of its accuracy.
- You can get a device that records both temperature and humidity levels.
- There are also remotes that let you know from a distance what the temp/RH levels are in your wineador.
6. Getting the humidity right
Temperature should be easy to set, choose what your preference is (between 60-70 degrees)
The cheap way to change humidity is kitty litter
- Buy one or two large mesh bags (you can use bowls set along the bottom if you wish, but you get more surface area from a bag and will have to use less litter to obtain a stable humidity number)
- Fill with several pounds of silica-based cat litter (some people recommend Exquisica brand because it has larger crystals and less dust)
- Spray the outside of the bag to get it wet, but do not soak it
- Check back after several days, or when the humidity level reaches your deserved level
An easier way is to use silica humidity beads
- Higher upfront cost, but it is a one-time investment.
- Beads are already set at different humidity levels (such as 60%, 65%, and 70%)
- Known brands are Heartfelt, HCM/Shilala
- How many beads should you use? If you buy specific beads, like the Heartfelt ones, their website has a calculator to work out the volume of your wineador and how many beads you'll need to maintain its humidity.
You can also use humidifier packs. Boveda Humdipaks can be placed directly on your cigars, but they need to be replaced every couple of months.
Install an active humidity system
- Typically they use electric fans with water to cool and maintain humidity.
- Usually recommended only for those with over 400 cigars who have to deal with harsh environments.
- Some need replacement cartridges, to be cleaned and watched for mold, or water basins that need to be refilled.
- Examples of active humidity systems are: Cigar Oasis, Hydra humidifier, Avallo Accumonitor
- Make sure to use distilled water, tap water can add minerals and build up.
- After humidity and temperature has stayed at the correct ratio for several days, place your new cigars in your wineador
Even a very small desktop humidor can cost $150. Buying a nice humidor that can fit several hundred cigars can range in price from $500-$2000, and even higher, especially if you are buying a cooled version. Making your own wineador can run between $500-$1000 depending on your cooling/humidity system and the size of the wine cooler that you are modifying, and whether you need to buy materials to make your own drawers or get them custom made.
You can also buy already modified cigar coolers, from ebay or from websites that do custom work. At least one company has decided to start modifying their wine coolers into wineadors, in which case you can buy an already converted one.
Cigar Storage Tips
- Never store your cigars in direct sunlight. This causes the cigar itself to dry out and can also fade the wrapper
- Don't store flavored cigars next to unflavored ones. If you are storing flavored cigars, double wrap them in cellophane or put them in an airtight container like Tupperware or a tin.
- Your cigars can develop mold, but that white dust on it is something else. It's called "bloom" and happens when storing cigars over a longer period of time, due to the rising of oils from the cigar. It is not dangerous, and in fact many people prefer it because it means that the cigar will have a very strong taste. You can wipe it off with a damp washcloth or towel.
- That blue or green furry stuff on your cigar is probably mold. Some people still try to salvage the cigar by removing the mold, use your best judgment.
- Fresh check! Pinch your cigar. A cigar at the right humidity will feel springy and go back to its form after you release it. A cracking sound means it's too dry, and a saggy or squishy one means that it's too wet.
- Well-preserved cigars can last a very long time (over 25 years), just make sure to check them occasionally to make sure that they are being stored correctly and aren't developing mold or been infested with tobacco beetles.