How to Store Cigars
There's nothing quite like the experience of puffing on a perfectly aged cigar. A properly stored cigar can stay fresh for years while you wait for the perfect occasion to enjoy it, but even slight environmental changes can quickly spoil even the highest quality tobacco. While storing cigars takes a lot of work, it pays off in the end by preserving the flavor and aroma of your favorite varieties.
Key Point Module
- 1 Temperature and humidity control are essential to preserving the flavor, texture and aroma of a fine cigar.
- 2 Beginners should start by trying to keep their cigars at around 70 degrees F and 70% humidity, though experienced cigar aficionados often have other preferences.
- 3 Inexpensive, do-it-yourself options are available, but serious collectors should consider investing in a humidor.
- 4 Always use distilled water in humidifiers and humidors to prevent mineral build-up that can affect the flavor of the cigar.
Climate Control Is Key
Cigars are made from delicate, natural materials that are highly sensitive to environmental changes, so proper climate control is the most critical aspect of cigar storage. The ingredients in cigars are grown and produced in warm, high-humidity tropical areas, so those tend to be the best conditions for them to be stored as well.
If you store your cigars in an environment that is too dry, the essential oils that provide much of the flavor and aroma will evaporate, creating harsh, tasteless smoke. The cigar will also burn too quickly instead of providing the slow, steady puff that allows you to enjoy the experience. However, too much moisture is also a problem. It creates a spongy, slow-burning cigar that’s hard to smoke. In addition, too much heat and humidity can cause tobacco beetle eggs to hatch, leading to an infestation in your collection.
Finding the right balance can be difficult, so many experts recommend that beginners use the 70/70 rule. That means that the storage environment should be kept at 70 degrees F and 70% humidity, which will preserve any cigar well enough to give you a nice, pleasant experience when you smoke it.
Some aficionados prefer to adjust the temperature or relative humidity a bit to create slightly different smoking experiences that suit their personal tastes, but that is a delicate process that requires some experimentation.
Cold air doesn’t hold moisture as well, so if you lower the temperature, be sure to add more humidity. If you raise the temperature, reduce it. A good rule of thumb is to add 1% humidity for each degree you lower the temperature.
To Wrap or Not to Wrap
Most cigars arrive in an individual plastic sleeve to protect them from damage during shipping. If you plan to store your cigars long term, you may want to consider removing this wrapper, particularly if you have a cedar-lined humidor. This allows the flavors to mature and develop better.
However, if you tend to move your cigars around often or are worried about exposure to dust and pests, you can keep your cigars stored in their sleeves. Some people also prefer to do this if they’re storing multiple brands of cigars together, as the cigars can absorb the flavors and aromas of the ones around them. A good compromise is to open one end to allow some air flow while still protecting most of the cigar.
Humidors and Other Storage Solutions
If you plan on developing a serious cigar collection, a humidor is an essential purchase. These boxes or cabinets are specifically designed to create an ideal environment for cigars. Basic models are essentially just sealed wooden boxes that use a reservoir or sponge soaked in water to add humidity, but plenty of high-tech models are available as well. These use digital thermostats to constantly monitor the humidity and temperature levels and adjust as needed.
Both types are good at preserving cigars, but the low-tech options require more consistent care and monitoring. You may also need to purchase additional supplies, such as a hygrometer and thermometer, if they don’t come as built-in features.
High-tech options are typically better if you plan to store your cigars away from home or simply don’t want to spend a lot of time caring for your collection. They let you program the thermostat and forget about it, aside from periodically checking the water reservoir. Some even automatically alert you to low water levels or other issues. Large digital humidors typically need an outlet to plug into, but there are also smaller battery-operated ones available.
If you’re just getting started and don’t know if you want to invest in a humidor, you can also create a do-it-yourself one. To do this, simply place a sponge or paper towel soaked in water inside a plastic bag or container with a lid, and then place your cigars inside as well and seal the bag or container. This method requires regular monitoring and is much more likely to spoil your cigars, but it’s better than simply leaving them out in the open.
As a middle ground, you can also purchase a special humidification pouch. These are relatively inexpensive so they are a good choice for people just getting into the hobby, but they’re a little more reliable than simply using a soaked sponge. They’re designed to fit inside standard plastic baggies to lock in the moisture, and they use porous materials to let moisture gradually permeate the interior.
Regardless of which type of humidification system you use, always use distilled water only. Tap and spring water contain minerals that can build up inside your humidor or container, which can ruin the flavor of your cigars.
Although cigars are fairly low-maintenance, once you get your storage space set up and running smoothly, there are a few things you’ll need to do. Monitoring the temperature and humidity on a regular basis is important if you don’t have a humidor with a built-in thermostat, as is regularly refilling the humidification system with distilled water.
In addition, experts recommend rotating your cigars every four to six months. No matter what kind of storage system you use, there’s likely to be some uneven moisture levels. Rotating your cigars periodically ensures that they all receive even exposure over time.
Some people also recommend letting your humidor or storage container sit open for a few hours once a week. They believe that this helps prevent stale air and potential odor buildup that can affect the flavor of your cigars. Others prefer to keep their humidors sealed except when moving cigars around or doing other maintenance, so you may want to experiment a bit to find what you prefer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 72% humidity too high for cigars?
Not necessarily. It can be too much at high temperatures, but many cigars do well stored at 65 to 70 degrees F and 72% humidity.
What happens if you over humidify a cigar?
Over-humidified cigars can swell, crack and become difficult to light. They also often develop a bitter taste and may become moldy. Cigars that are only mildly over-humidified can generally be dried out and enjoyed, but soggy ones are usually ruined.
Can dried cigars be re-humidified?
Yes, dried-out cigars can generally be fixed by simply putting them in a humidor and letting them slowly rehydrate. This process typically takes about six months.