What is a humidor? By definition a humidor is a room, or a box, of varying sizes, designed to preserve or promote the proper storage and aging of cigars by maintaining a relative humidity level of 70% and a temperature of approximately 65°F to 70°F.
Why do cigars need to be stored in a humidor? Cigars are affected by several different elements, temperature, humidity, light and friction. Humidity is relative to temperature, thus the term "relative humidity” (RH). As the temperature changes so does the humidity. Most people prefer their cigars at about 70% RH, however your cigars will not be harmed at levels ranging from 65% to 75% RH.
Warm air has a higher moisture capacity than cold air. All hygrometers measure the moisture content of the air at a given temperature. If you change the temperature in an enclosed space without changing the amount of moisture, the RH will change. For example, in the morning the hygrometer in your humidor indicates 70% (if it is a round, brass analog unit it could actually be between 60% and 80%) and the room temperature is about 72 degrees. As the day progresses the temperature in the room rises to 80 degrees. If your humidor follows the room temperature, you will see that the hygrometer will indicate that the relative humidity has dropped to about 60%. Where did the moisture go? It didn't go away; rather, the elevated temperature has changed one of the criteria (temperature and humidity) that the hygrometer uses to indicate the relative humidity. The actual humidity or moisture content on your humidor is unchanged.
There are different factors that will affect your humidors temperature and environment. The use of air conditioners, heaters and open windows can drastically change the environment in your humidor.
Light is also an important factor that goes into the care of cigars. Ultraviolet light will bleach and reduce the elasticity of the cigar wrapper, making it more vulnerable to tearing. Try not to keep your humidor near windows where it is susceptible to light.
Friction will cause more damage to cigars than most of the other factors. For proof, just take a close look at some of the loose cigars in the walk-in humidor of your tobacconist. When loose cigars are moved, they can become scuffed, rubbed and jostled so that the wrapper tears. Once a tear starts it's hard to stop. There are several vegetable-based adhesives on the market that will allow you to repair small wrapper tears but it is better to prevent tears by avoiding friction altogether.
Before buying a Humidor there are two things to consider, size and construction. Generally when you acquire a humidor for the first time the thought is to start off small. Just from experience a 25 count humidor will be of no use after a while. Unless you plan on storing a few cigars at a time you will probably want to start off with a larger 50-100 count humidor. They fill up fast.
The next thing is construction, solid wood verses MDF. Contrary to popular belief, solid wood humidors are not always superior to MDF. Solid wood humidors have a tendency to expand with internal and external humidity differences. MDF in this case does not expand as much, reducing cracking and warping of the lid of your humidor. Warping of your humidor’s lid will make maintaining humidity extremely difficult. The interior of your humidor is the most important part of the construction. Make sure the inside of your humidor is constructed of "kiln dried Spanish cedar”. Proper drying of the cedar is vital when it comes to humidors. If the cedar is not dried properly the resin in the wood can seep out in to your cigars. Cedar has multiple advantages in regards to humidors and cigars. First Spanish cedar holds more moisture than most woods which in turn will create a more stable environment in your humidor. Cedar will also aid in prevention of mold, bacteria and hatching of tobacco beetles.
Tobacco beetles can destroy your entire collection of fine cigars if they hatch in your humidor. Tobacco beetles are identified by small pin sized holds in your cigars. If you notice that tobacco beetles have hatched in your humidor remove all of your unaffected cigars immediately and put them in a zip lock bag and place them in the freezer for 3 days. This will kill all of the beetles and their eggs. After three days in the freezer move your cigars in the refrigerator. Make sure to defrost the cigars slowly to prevent the tobacco leaves from cracking. After one day in the refrigerator you can remove the cigars and place them back in your humidor. Use a few strips of cedar to absorb any excess moisture that will be in the cigars after defrosting.
So you finally got the humidor you have been looking for. The first thing to do when getting your humidor is to calibrate you hygrometer if needed. Some hygrometers like the Western Digital Caliber III do not need calibration. If you are going to use the analog hygrometer supplied with your humidor it does need calibration. The easiest way to calibrate your humidor is to use the One Step Calibration Kit.
To calibrate your hygrometer without using the calibration kit you can do the salt method. Place a teaspoon of salt in a bottle cap or small cup and put a few drops of water to make a salt paste. Do not dissolve the salt. Carefully place the salt mixture and your hygrometer in a sealable clear container or zip lock bag leaving air in it.
Let it sit for at least 6 hours and check the reading on the gauge without opening the container. Your hygrometer should read 75%. The difference between the number on the hygrometer and 75% is how far your hygrometer is off. For example if your hygrometer is reading 80% it is off 5%. At this point if you are using an analog hygrometer you can adjust the screw on the back to the correct humidity level. If using a Hygroset digital hygrometer you can turn the knob on the front to adjust the setting. Once calibrated your hygrometer is now ready to be used.
Humidification of your humidor. There are several different was to maintain humidity in your humidor. The first and least reliable is usually supplied with your humidor, a round or rectangle humidifier with a foam pad of some sort that uses distilled water or a propylene glycol solutionto maintain humidity. Generally this is not the most consistent way to regulate humidity, and as we all know consistency is the key to cigar safety.
A more consistent way to maintain humidity is to use humidifying crystals or ice crystals. Crystals can come in a jar or in a round or rectangle humidifier. Humidifying crystals will regulate your humidor at 70%. When the Humidity goes above 70% the crystals will absorb the moisture in the humidor. If the RH goes below 70% they will release moisture in the humidor. The humidifying crystals are good for small to medium humidors. If you have a large humidor that has a lot of space in it you may want to consider an electronic humidification device such as the Cigar Oasisor Hydra. This is a great way to make sure your cigars will never get dried up. The Cigar Oasis uses a small microprocessor to read and regulate your humidors humidity. The Cigar Oasis also has a small fan to circulate air in your humidor. This is the ultimate in cigar protection. The Cigar Oasis is factory preset at 70% and also enables the user to manually control the humidity in their humidor with the push of a button. The Cigar Oasis also will display RH in your humidor so there is no need for a secondary hygrometer.
Seasoning your humidor. This is a process that allows the cedar in your humidor to absorb moisture so that you may properly store your cigars. When you get a new humidor or utilize one that has not been in use for some time, it is imperative that the humidor is seasoned. If cigars are put in to a humidor that has not been seasoned the cedar in your humidor will absorb all the moisture and remove essential oils in your cigars and they will be ruined. Now some people like to use a clean sponge and distilled water to wipe the inside of the humidor. We do not recommend this. Doing this may warp the cedar in your humidor causing the humidor not to seal properly. Instead you want to get a small dish and fill it with distilled water. Place the dish inside your humidor with your calibrated hygrometer. Close the lid and let it sit for a couple of days. Do not open the lid. After 3-4 days check the humidity level on your hygrometer, once it has reached 80% remove the dish of distilled water and add your humidification device. Make sure to fill you humidifier with distilled water or a propylene glycol solution prior to putting it in your humidor. Let the humidor sit for 2 more days until the RH has settled to 70%. Now your humidor is ready for use.