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Whether treating oneself on a whim or sharing with company, it's always a pleasure to have some premium cigars at the ready for whenever the occasion may arise. But in order to keep a personal supply of cigars, it's important that they are stored in the appropriate conditions so that they do not dry out. For this, you need a humidor.
A cigar humidor may refer to anything from an entire room conditioned to shelve and preserve cigars to a small container meant for a handful of cigars. It’s any space that achieves the internal environment suitable to keeping cigars fresh—68% - 72% relative humidity—but for our purposes in this piece, we’re referring to the smaller containers for personal collections.
These personal humidors come in various capacities. You should consider your smoking routine in deciding what works best for you.
What makes them more effective than any old box is the seal they create when closed and the material, either made from or lined with cedar wood. They also come conveniently arranged, often with insertable shelves and a divider and often include a hygrometer and humidifier you can mount inside the humidor.
There is a process to setting up a humidor to ensure the longevity of your cigars. Let's start with the materials you will need.
First, you'll need to assemble a few things. Since there are different approaches to some of the steps of setting up a humidor, I've added asterisks to those items that may or may not be necessary depending on what methods you decide to use. I've then specified the alternatives below.
- Hygrometer - also make sure you have a small screwdriver if it is an analog hygrometer.
- Ziplock bag
- Distilled water
- Humidor Solution
- *Boveda Pack
- Table salt and plastic bottle cap - this is alternative to the Boveda Pack. See: Step 1.
- *Unused sponge
- HUMI-WIPES - alternative to sponge and distilled water. See: Step 2.
1. Calibrating a hygrometer
Calibrating the hygrometer is crucial to setting up and maintaining an effective humidor. If you’re not getting an accurate reading on the relative humidity, the whole process of seasoning will be undercut.
We’ll go over two methods for calibrating your hygrometer.
Place a Boveda pack and your hygrometer in a Ziplock bag and seal them together for 12 hours. After that time, check the hygrometer and make sure the reading matches the relative humidity of the Boveda pack. So, if you are using a 75% humidity Boveda pack, your reading should be 75%.
If the reading is off, you’ll need to adjust your hygrometer. For digital hygrometers, there is usually 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 correspondence with the Boveda pack, it’s not a bad idea to reseal them in the bag for another few hours just to be certain they are in sync.
Salt Test Method
The salt test is convenient for its accessibility with household items. This is the same as the Boveda pack method, but in the absence of a Boveda pack, you are essentially making your own with a solution of salt and water that delivers a reliable 75% humidity.
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. Then follow the same steps as with the Boveda method: sealing the hygrometer and the cap together for 12 hours and recalibrating to 75% relative humidity if necessary.
2. Seasoning a humidor
Now that we can be confident that our readings our accurate, we can get to seasoning our humidor. Again, there isn't a single approach here.
Slowly condition without introducing excessive moisture with a new sponge. First you will soak the sponge in distilled water, then squeeze out some of the excess. You don't want it dripping, but don't squeeze too much out.
Place the sponge in Tupperware so that the sponge isn’t making contact with any surface, then seal in the humidor with the dividers and shelf included. It could take a few days to a week, but regularly check the hygrometer until you have around 80% relative humidity. This is high, but it will settle when the sponge is removed.
You may also use HUMI-CARE seasoning wipes for the seasoning step. You will start by removing your humidifier, hygrometer, and any shelves and dividers from your humidor. Then wipe the entirety of the inside walls and the shelves and dividers. You’ll see the cedar darken—this is good but be careful not to over saturate—excess moisture can cause the wood to warp. Put the shelving back in the humidor and seal it.
The Humi-care seasoning wipes instructions recommend you repeat this process 2-3 times in 24 hour intervals.
You can also use 84% Boveda packs for seasoning your humidor. Each pack is good for a 25ct humidor, so you will need two packs for a 50ct, three for a 75ct, and so on. Simply seal the packs inside and wait just as with the sponge method. It's good not to be too eager, as you want the cedar to absorb enough moisture, but don't let it go too long. This can lead to swelling and warping of the wood.
3. Preparing a humidifier
Next you want to use a humidor solution to fill your humidifier. Products such as Humi-Care Cigar Juice or Brigham’s Humidor Solution are perfect for this. Pour the solution through the grate and keep going until it will no longer absorb. You may need to let it sit to give it a chance to absorb. Give it a few minutes and then flip over onto a towel so that there is no excess moisture.
You can also use distilled water to fill your humidifier.
4. Reassemble and check regularly
You should be all set now. With your calibrated hydrometer and filled humidifier affixed, you can introduce the cigars.
Keep in mind, seasoning isn't a one and done procedure, especially for a brand new humidor. You may need to re-season a bit more frequently as the wood settles. It's good to have some large, quality, sealable bags and Boveda packs so that you can always relocate your cigars for the interim should you need to re-season. It's also a good practice to recalibrate your hygrometer twice a year to be certain it’s still reading accurately.
It's best to keep your humidor at room temperature where there is little fluctuation of temperature or humidity. Especially be mindful of checking with the season changes.