Are you interested in engaging in the long-standing, globally adored hobby of cigar collecting, and curious about where to start? Everyone, from the friends you make at your local cigar bar to your well versed tobacconist, would recommend one essential piece of equipment as you are getting started: a humidor.
But, if you have already started amassing a cigar collection, but have not yet invested in a humidor, all is not lost. Read on for information that will help you understand why the purchase of a humidor could protect your collection in the long-run. Then, learn more about a few handy stop-gap solutions that could ensure your burgeoning cigar collection is well protected in the short-term, even without a humidor on hand.
First Things First: What is a Humidor?
The two basic ingredients of a cigar are tobacco leaves and water, and while this may seem like a banal point it’s actually crucial information when learning about proper cigar storage. Because tobacco leaves are humidified, cigars need to be kept in optimal conditions if they are to maintain peak freshness. In other words, moisture must be maintained up until the moment you light up. The two most common reasons for a cigar losing its optimum flavor are a lack of moisture or too much moisture. Enter: the balance you achieve when storing your cigars in a humidor.
If a cigar loses its moisture, it will dry out, which can damage its quality, taste, consistency, and even construction. On the other hand, when exposed to too much moisture, a cigar will taste soggy, burn out quickly, or have a plugged draw. Overly humid cigars can even develop mold, which is a cigar smoker’s worst enemy. Mold on one cigar can spread to the rest of your supply, and before you know it you’ll be out on a whole lot of money and even more pleasure. Not to be mistaken for “plume”—white crystals that form on properly humidified cigars and which can easily be brushed off, mold is bluish or green in color, has a musty smell, and cannot be wiped away. If you notice signs of mold, toss away the cigar in question ASAP.
Storage in a humidor is the difference maker in whether a cigar lasts indefinitely or dries out and becomes unsmokable. It is basically a storage container that monitors temperature and humidity, both of which are essential to keeping cigars fresh. Humidors should be kept at a temperature between about 68-73°F, with a corresponding humidity level of about 65-72%. Whatever the temperature or humidity level you choose, those settings should be kept constant because fluctuations in heat or humidity can cause cigars to crack or split. The goal is to keep your cigars at the same temperature and humidity as the shop from which they were purchased.
Alternatives to a Humidor for Cigar Storage
If you already have a few cigars to your name but no humidor, things can get a bit trickier. Most cigar makers maintain cigars only stay at their peak freshness for three days once removed from their humidified store or factory setting. But rest assured, there are a few solutions for storing cigars without a humidor.
Alternative 1: A Humidity Pouch
Perhaps the simplest way to store cigars without a humidor is through the use of a convenient tool called a humidity pouch. These pouches easily fit into a Ziploc bag alongside your cigars, and can be purchased from most tobacconists. The pouches are designed to release moisture through a porous skin at a predetermined temperature. Because the pouches self-regulate and require no maintenance, you can leave your cigars in their care with minimal anxiety, so long as you tightly seal the exterior Ziploc bag. It’s recommended that you leave your Ziploc bag at room temperature, as nothing is worse for a cigar than its being stored conditions that are too hot or cold.
Alternative 2: The Tupperware & Sponge Method
Another, more DIY option is the Tupperware & Sponge Method, which functions exactly how it sounds. All you need to do is wet an unused kitchen sponge (even a chunk or half will do) with distilled water and place it in a sealed Tupperware alongside your cigars. Though not an exact science, the method is a decent option if you don't have access to a tobacconist or online humidity pouch retailer. Of course, it's important to both avoid touching the wet or damp sponge to the cigars themselves, and to avoid any water drain-off reaching the cigars. Damp cigars do not smoke well.
Alternative 3: The Cooledor
If you have a cigar supply that won’t fit into a tupperware, you could try storing your growing collection in a food cooler—a makeshift storage option colloquially referred to as cooledor. Do know that if you are going the cooledor route, you’ll need more humidity than a single sponge can provide, so it is best to invest in some humidity pouches to outfit your cooler and ensure your cigars are properly humidified.
Alternative 4: Stick to Dry Cured Cigars
Though it might be a classy look, a cigar box is not a good alternative to a humidor, as most don’t come with any kind of moisture regulation system. With that said, there are some cigars specifically designed for great smokeability, without requiring preservation in a humidor. Enter: dry-cured cigars. Subjected to a baking process during manufacturing, these cigars require only 12-15% humidity to stay fresh. This means you can store them at room temperature and experience no problems. Dry cured cigars are typically rolled with Indonesian, Sumatran, or Brazilian tobaccos, and are smaller in size than your typical humidity-rich cigar.
Storing and preserving your cigars without a humidor is not ideal, but alternative solutions are available! If you’re an occasional smoker, or are in the process of identifying a humidor that is right for your needs and growing cigar collection, definitely take advantage of the DIY humidifying options available to you. Though there is no picture perfect substitute for a humidor, striking the right, consistent balance in temperature and humidity is the most important element in caring for your cigars in the long run.