When we go and open up that new package (either in a plastic resealable bag or metal tin can) of pipe tobacco, we notice the feel of it being soft and moist. That latter is the most important, as every pipe tobacco being packaged is always moist and easy to handle. However, you might be wondering why that is and what happens if it somehow loses a lot of its moisture? Well, we’re here to answer all these questions today.
Why Does Pipe Tobacco Need Moisture?
Pipe tobacco needs a certain level of moisture for a few key reasons, as each can have a definite impact in terms of taste, amount of smoke, and overall quality.
Reason #1: Flavor (Flavonoid) Preservation
Moisture in tobacco is crucial for maintaining its flavor. Dry tobacco can lose its aromatic qualities and might taste harsher when smoked.
Reason #2: Combustion Control
Properly moisturized tobacco burns at an appropriate pace. Too dry, and it burns too fast and hot, leading to a less enjoyable smoking experience. Too moist, and it might be hard to keep lit or smoke evenly.
Reason #3: Physical Quality
Moisture helps to keep the tobacco leaves supple and intact. When tobacco gets too dry, it can become brittle and crumble, making it difficult to pack into a pipe.
Reason #4: Smoke Smoothness
The right moisture level can also influence the smoothness of the smoke. Dry tobacco can lead to a more intense, sometimes unpleasant smoke, while adequately moisturized tobacco tends to provide a smoother experience.
Reason #5: Aging Potential
Similar to how wines or cigars are aged, some pipe tobaccos can develop more complex flavors over time if stored with the right moisture level. This aging process is hampered if the tobacco is too dry or too moist.
What Humidity Level Should Pipe Tobacco Actually Maintain?
Pipe tobacco stored at 55% humidity level will contain a moisture content of up to 20%. It's also necessary to account for the temperature, though. The higher the temperature, the less humidity is needed. So, consistent temperature is required for testing different moisture levels.
For instance, if you were to weigh a quantity of tobacco, then bake all of the moisture out and reweigh it, it would weigh 18%-22% less afterward, as its conditional on where you began. It's a direct function of weight. If a tobacco is at 22% moisture level, that means that percentage of its weight is water.
How to Get the Right Moisture Level for Your Pipe Tobacco
As you can see so far, getting the right moisture level in your pipe tobacco is essential for a pleasant smoking experience. However, going about doing so is where it can be a bit of a challenge. So, below are some tips in order achieve the perfect moisture level.
Tip #1: Use a Humidification Device
Invest in a specialized humidification device designed for tobacco. These devices often use distilled water to maintain a consistent humidity level inside your tobacco storage container.
Tip #2: The Paper Towel Method
Dampen a paper towel with distilled water and place it in the tobacco container, but not directly touching the tobacco. This adds moisture to the air inside the container, gradually increasing the humidity of the tobacco.
Tip #3: Terracotta Discs
Soak a small terracotta disc in water for a few minutes, then place it in your tobacco pouch or jar. These discs release moisture slowly and are great for long-term humidification.
Tip #4: Bread, Orange Peel, or Apple Slices
Place a small piece of orange peel or apple slice, or a slice of bread in the container with your tobacco. The natural moisture from the fruit will transfer to the tobacco. Be cautious with this method as it can also impart flavors to the tobacco and needs to be monitored to avoid mold.
Tip #5: Commercially Available Humidification Packs
These are pre-made packs that maintain a specific humidity level. Just place one in your tobacco container, and it will regulate the moisture level for you.
Tip #6: Distilled Water Mist
Lightly mist your tobacco with distilled water. It’s important to do this sparingly and evenly distribute the mist to avoid over-moisturizing.
Tip #7: Store in a Humidor
Similar to storing cigars, a humidor can be used for pipe tobacco as well. Humidors are designed to maintain a consistent humidity level, ideal for tobacco preservation.
Tip #8: Avoid Direct Sunlight and Heat Sources
Store your tobacco in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. This helps maintain the natural moisture level of the tobacco.
How to Rehydrate Pipe Tobacco
Rehydrating pipe tobacco is a simple process that can help restore its freshness and improve your smoking experience. Here's a step-by-step guide:
- Identify the Dryness Level: Before starting, assess how dry your tobacco is. If it's slightly dry, it will need less rehydration than tobacco that's very dry and brittle.
- Choose a Rehydration Method: Refer to some of the above tips we touched upon.
- Monitor and Rotate: Check the tobacco periodically. If using the towel or bread/apple peel method, you may need to rotate the tobacco to ensure even rehydration.
- Test for Proper Moisture Level: The tobacco should feel springy and pliable when pinched, not wet or soggy. If it feels too damp, leave the container open for a short period to let some moisture evaporate.
- Store Properly: Once rehydrated, store your tobacco in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place to maintain its freshness.
- Prevent Future Drying: To prevent tobacco from drying out again, always store it in an airtight container and avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or high temperatures.