When a cigar smoker becomes a cigar collector, they often end up with a LOT of sticks. Some want them to age for a long time, and others they buy to collect, smoke, and maybe share with friends or trade. Whatever the reason they get into collecting, the point is that proper storage with respect to relative humidity (RH%) and temperature becomes even more important and costly. If the collector is going the traditional route of desktop humidors, or even a standing humidor chest, the price tag can get into the thousands of dollars depending on the capacity.
Enter the Wine Cooler Humidor, or “wineador”. This ingenious piece of equipment is the modification of a home wine cooler – similar to a mini refrigerator in size and shape – into a humidor capable of safely storing and aging several hundred cigars for a fraction of the price of multiple desktop and larger, standing humidors. There are several factors to consider before attempting to make your own wineador, so let’s get right down to it:
What’s Inside Counts
A Thermo-electric wine cooler is what you should look for, as they do not have a traditional condenser, like a refrigerator, and will not produce extra condensation. Remember, the trick to storing and aging cigars is proper temperature and humidity management, so extra humidity from the condenser will hurt, not help. Aside from making sure you have the right kind of temperature management, you also need to consider how you will manage the humidity. Many people recommend using pure silica unscented kitty litter with low dust for the most economical. Others say that you need to use silica pellets. You should price both and make the best decision for you.
Get it Ready
Most wine coolers will have a drain somewhere on it. You need to plug this to keep humidity inside and other nasty stuff outside. You could use caulk or something that will create an airtight seal. The second step would be to wipe down the inside with either distilled water or a slight mixture of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol. If you bought the cooler new, it might have a plastic smell to it. You could leave it open and off for a few days, put some baking soda in a dish, or even get a bunch of newspapers, filling the cooler with it and leaving it be for a few days. If you decide to put cedar drawers or shelves in it, that smell will soon overpower anything in the wineador, anyway.
Set it and (Don’t) Forget it
Once you get it set up, plug it in, and adjust the temperature to the desired setting (remember 65-70 degrees is “recommended). Once you reach that, put your humidifying agent in the appropriate place. Many people simply place it in large, flat containers at the bottom shelf, others will have smaller containers at each shelf. Do whatever gives you the best result. If using the kitty litter, don’t bother wetting it first, simply watch your hygrometers and see where the RH% is. If you do need to add water, a very small amount is usually sufficient – like a few sprays from a dollar store spray bottle.
Always remember to check the sticks at least once per week for mold and other issues. The same kind of rules apply to the wineador as a regular humidor. You need to be careful of mold, improper storage, light exposure, temperature control an RH%. However, with the right amount of care a wineador can really save you a lot of money that you can then spend on more cigars!