A cigar humidor is a specialized box or room designed to store and preserve cigars within an optimal humidity range. This is crucial because cigars are sensitive to environmental conditions and can degrade if they are too dry or too moist. With that being said, we are going to go over how newbie cigar users can go about setting up their humidor (box) properly.
Understanding the Key Aspects of a Humidor
Before we cover how to set up a humidor, it’s good to know what its key aspects are and how they work. You see, it’s those aspects that provide a controlled environment, in order to ensure that cigars remain in the best condition for smoking, as well as preserving their flavor, aroma, and overall quality.
Key Aspect #1: Humidity Control
The primary purpose of a humidor is to maintain a consistent and appropriate level of humidity, typically around 70%. This is achieved through the use of humidifiers and hygrometers. The humidifier adds moisture to the air, and the hygrometer measures the humidity level.
Key Aspect #2: Temperature Control
While humidity is the main focus, temperature control is also important. A stable and moderate temperature is ideal for cigar storage, usually around 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit (20-21 degrees Celsius).
Key Aspect #3: Materials
Most humidors are made of wood, with Spanish cedar being the preferred choice due to its ability to hold moisture and its aromatic properties, which can enhance the flavor of cigars. The interior is often lined with this wood, while the exterior can be made of various materials and designs.
Key Aspect #4: Sizes and Styles
Humidors come in various sizes, from small boxes that hold a few cigars to large cabinets or even walk-in rooms for extensive collections. They can range from simple and functional to elaborately designed pieces of furniture.
Key Aspect #5: Preservation and Aging
Besides maintaining the quality of cigars, humidors can also be used to age cigars. Aging can enhance the flavor and overall smoking experience.
Key Aspect #6: Odor Prevention
Proper setup and maintenance help prevent the buildup of unwanted odors inside the humidor, which could transfer to and alter the taste of the cigars.
Key Aspect #7: Accessories
Many humidors come with additional accessories like dividers for organizing different cigar types or trays for better air circulation.
How to Properly Setup a Humidor
Setting up a humidor correctly is crucial for maintaining the freshness and quality of your cigars, along with longevity. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do it:
Seasoning the Humidor:
- Wipe the Interior: Lightly wipe the interior of the humidor with a damp sponge or cloth using distilled water. Avoid over-saturating the wood.
- Set Up Humidification Device: Fill the humidification device with either distilled water or a propylene glycol solution, then place it inside the humidor.
Calibrate Hygrometer: Ensure your hygrometer (which measures humidity) is accurate by calibrating it, often through two methods:
- Boveda Method - Place a Boveda Pack and your hygrometer in a Ziplock bag and seal them together for 12 hours. After that time, check the hygrometer to ensure the reading is identical to the relative humidity of the Boveda pack. So, if you’re using a 75% humidity Boveda pack, your reading should be 75%. If the reading is off, you will need to adjust your hygrometer. For digital hygrometers, there’s typically an adjustment knob or a +/- button. Analog hygrometers will have a hole in the back where a small screwdriver can turn the hand. Once the hygrometer is adjusted in agreement with the Boveda pack, it’s not a terrible plan to reseal them in the bag for another few hours just to be sure they are in sync.
- Salt Test Method - The salt test is suitable for its accessibility with household items. This is the same as the Boveda pack method, but in the default of a Boveda pack, you’re essentially creating your own with a solution of salt & water that supplies a reliable 75% humidity. Simply fill 3/4th’s the capacity of a bottle cap with table salt, about a teaspoon. Then add a few drops of distilled water into the cap. There shouldn’t be enough water to pool, just dampen the salt, you don’t want it to dissolve. Finally, abide by the same steps as with the Boveda method.
- Wait and Monitor: Close the humidor and wait for about 24-48 hours. Monitor the humidity level to reach about 70%.
Maintaining the Humidor:
- Optimal Conditions: Aim to keep the humidity level at around 65-70% and the temperature near 70°F (21°C).
- Regular Checks: Regularly check the hygrometer to ensure the humidity level stays consistent.
- Refill Humidification Device: Refill the humidification device as needed with distilled water or a propylene glycol solution.
- Adding Cigars: Once the humidor is properly seasoned and the humidity stabilized, you can start adding your cigars.
- Rotation: Occasionally rotate the cigars to ensure even humidity distribution.
Avoiding Common Issues:
- Direct Sunlight: Keep the humidor out of direct sunlight to prevent temperature spikes.
- Avoid Tap Water: Use only distilled water to prevent mold growth and mineral buildup.
- No Overcrowding: Ensure there's enough space for air to circulate between the cigars.
- Regular Cleaning: Clean the interior of the humidor occasionally, ensuring it's dry before adding cigars back.
- Re-seasoning: If you notice fluctuations in humidity levels or after a long period of use, you may need to re-season the humidor.