The subtle science of the humidor can affect your cigars in a big way. Humidors come in a baffling array of shapes and sizes, materials and complexities. In this article we will discuss the basic science of humidors, the materials of humidors, and some common sizes.
How Do Humidors Work?
The standard goal of the humidor is to maintain a 70 degree Farenhieght environment with a 70% humidity. Many aficionados and experts in cigar storage nuance this by ranging their humidity from 62% for long storage back up to 68-72% for active smoking. 62% humidity is better at preventing mold in cigars. Temperature control also helps prevent this.
As with all things cigar humidors are a matter of personal taste and personalized adjustment. Some prefer a more moist cigar others the dryer taste. A big note here as well is that your native environment, Arizona versus Florida, plays a big role in both humidity storage and best humidity for personal smoking.
Humidors are also for helping to discourage eggs of tobacco beetles from hatching; this prevents the cigar from rotting. Internal temperature of a humidor should always be kept below 77 degrees fahrenheit and the internal humidity should not top 75%.
A big mistake beginners make is allowing humidors to have sun exposure. Whether your humidor is wood or acrylic it should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Nor should it be in an environment that increases and decreases temperature often. Consistent oscillations of as little as 10 degrees can cause mold even in high quality humidors.
You are crafting a careful microclimate to optimize the lifetime of your cigars. Cigars are a natural product of the tobacco leaf and most are sourced from humid climates naturally. Preventing those supple leaves from drying out is a key goal of the humidor. Accurate storage extends the flavorful life of your favored sticks. The microclimate crafted in your cigar humidor can be affected by the materials the humidor is built from.
What are humidors made of?
Materials matter. Wood, acrylic, and glass being the predominant players.
Wood is losing ground to more impervious materials such as acrylic for long term storage. This is due to the fact that a perfectly airtight environment is achievable in plastics but not woods. An airtight environment requires less maintenance and doesn't need as much of a nuanced approach to the care of the cigar humidor. The seasoning of a wooden humidor is a lengthy topic of much debate that we may approach at another time.
However the classic look and feel of that wooden box cannot be denied. The historic aethstetic may be worth the cost and maintenance to you. It can also be a fun challenge to dive into the history and care of an older humidor. Common wood types within this category of humidor are: spanish cedar, honduran mahogany, and american red cedar.
In the world of wood the most known is Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata). This elegant, attractive wood helps maintain moisture, has a pleasant cedar scent that it will softly impart to your cigars, but this scent also discourages tobacco beetles. This wood has a natural effect of regulating humidity and overall wooden humidors have a slight insulative effect helping to regulate the temperature.
Spanish cedar while the most effective wood is also very expensive and can be environmentally contentious. Despite its name spanish cedar is sourced from the Amazon rainforest. Like all precious woods derived from this source the wood may come from illegal logging. If your budget allows and wood is your preferred, then spanish cedar is going to be your humidor wood of choice.
The moisture absorption and dispersal rate in Honduran Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) closely match that of Spanish Cedar. It is a fraction of the cost of making it attractive to new smokers. However mahogany unlike cedar does little to deter and sort of pest. Tobacco beetles and worms may be more of a concern with these boxes. Moisture control and temperature maintenance become key with these boxes. Or simply a shorter storage period. Burning a cigar is the surest way to enjoy it.
American Red Cedar
Third in popularity, American Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a lovely wood. Its stunning red tones make it a very attractive option. The strong scent can indeed deter insects, however, it can also deter smokers. The strength of the scent of American Red Cedar makes it a double edged sword for use in humidors. Overtime the strong scent can permeate the tobacco of the cigar creating a ‘woody’ taste. From a temperature and humidity perspective it is almost identical in those properties to the Spanish Cedar. The low price point of American Red Cedar makes it a great choice for beginners, although most long term aficionados shy away from the taste altering wood. Shorter storage periods tend to offset this downside so a small beginner box might be perfect while you save for a bigger box and a bigger collection.
You might be familiar with the glass window style humidor or the glass storage jar. Glass can make for a good humidor. Its largest downside tends to be the risk of oversaturation. Unlike wood humidity cannot easily escape a glass environment, instead fogging and recondensing in the microclimate.
The glass window in a wooden box is for display of course allowing you to see your collection. However the seals around the window should be watched and checked. Wood and glass expand and contract at very different rates, wood being affected by both moisture and temperature and glass being little affected by subtle changes in either.
Glass jars that are paired with humidity control mechanisms are often favored by cigar lovers. While some debate the upright storage often seen in jars. The biggest downside is under filling, if the cigar is at an angle it might cause damage to the foot. If you want to isolate certain cigars so the flavor of one does not affect the other the glass jar can be an easy option.
The largest downside of glass is that it is clear. Kind of obvious if light is the enemy of flavor in a cigar a glass jar lets in more UV light than is desired. Sunlight can also heat a glass jar even in a temperature controlled environment.
If you are starting out or want to isolate certain cigars glass can be a great option.
A popular newer option is acrylic. The sleek modern look of an acrylic box can be an amazing desk ornament. More than any other type of containment an acrylic humidifier showcases your collection. The largest benefit of acrylic is the seal. Unlike wood that swells and contracts, plastic is plastic is plastic. While there is some expansion and contraction in typical living environments this is a non-issue.
The biggest advantage is they look cool. You can see your cigars and thus monitor the environment as needed. The other bg advantage is maintenance there is little to none. While occasional cleaning and humidity monitoring is advisable the regular check of humidity is far less necessary. This is a set it and forget it sort of humidor.
Sun exposure is the biggest downside with this type of box. You should ensure that it is out of direct and even indirect UV light. The other downside compared to wooden classics is temperature buffering. Wood is naturally insulative and acrylic is not as much. If your storage environment is particularly cold or the temperature varies this might not be the cigar humidor for you.
There are several sizes of humidor. They are fairly straight forward so we will blaze through them quickly.
If you are a tobacco shop or a baseball team this is the humidor for you. Massive amounts of cigars can be stored here. Fun Fact: Humidors are used for baseballs, cigarettes, pipe tobacco, and even cannabis. Moisture levels in baseballs can affect their performance. After much controversy over fairness and records teams in dry environments such as Denver and Arizona use humidors to prevent their balls from drying out.
The Cabinet Humidor
High end units that are functional furniture hold and optimally store 1000-5000 cigars. The newest have regulators, temperature controls, and even wifi and bluetooth connectivity so you can check on your humidor digitally. While prices and styles vary they typically are sized similarly to a mini fridge.
The most common type of humidor.Typically holding 25 - 500 cigars, these humidors are complex elegant desk adornment or basic simple functional pieces. Most commonly wood with some more modern acrylic options.
Holding 2 - 20 cigars these little cigar humidors, typically black plastic cases most of these are more functional than elegant. Some look more like ammunition cases than cigar humidors others are thick leather wallets lines. The most iconic is probably the shaped tub styled for shirt pockets. The downside of these being their limitations on containing the unusual sizes and shapes of cigar.
From conditioning your humidor to the variance in humidifying packs there is even more to explore on this topic. But for now we will end this introduction to the cigar humidor. The proper storage of your cigar is as important as a good cigar holder for maintaining the dignity and majesty of your cigars. A dashing humidor can be not only an enjoyable addition to your home decor but also a functional and surprisingly complex piece of