How To Care For Your Cigar Humidor
Temperature and humidity are two of the most important factors to consider when choosing a cigar cabinet humidor. An unfit environment can result in the loss of flavor, mold growth, drying out or dampness. Even though it is important to know how each of these factors affect your cigars, you also need to be aware of how they affect each other.
There are multiple ways to report humidity levels. The two most common are Relative Humidity (RH) and Absolute Humidity (AH). RH is the most common because it is used in weather forecasts and therefore more widely observed. To explain relative humidity you first have to understand that humidity is water vapor trapped in the air. If you take the greatest density of water vapor that can be in the air at any given temperature and divide that by the density of water vapor that is actually available you get the RH percentage.
AH refers to the actual amount or density of water vapor. This moisture is what comes into contact with your cigars and in turn preserves or destroys them. The AH level increases as the temperature increases. If you have the same RH reading for two different temperatures, one low and one high, you have two different AH levels. This means you can easily dampen cigars when your hygrometer reads 50% humidity or dry out cigars when it reads 70% humidity. To keep a consistent and healthy environment in your cigar humidor, the relative humidity level should decrease as the temperature increases and vice versa.
The 70/70 Rule
The most common rule of thumb for your cabinet humidor climate is commonly referred to as the 70/70 rule. Keeping a temperature of 70°F and a RH of 70%, means that you will have the right level of AH or water vapor pressure to store your cigars. Each temperature has a corresponding RH level that helps maintain the correct AH to keep your cigars aging nicely, as displayed in the chart below. If your temperature changes from 70°F to 72°F the RH should read 65% in order to keep an AH comparative to the standard of 70/70. There are exceptions to the rule, though. Once the temperature goes below 60°F, there is no corresponding RH level that will give you an appropriate AH. The air simply can not hold that much moisture.
Cigar Storage Humidity
Many problems can arise from having the wrong humidor environment. When your humidity is too high the cigar will swell and be hard to smoke. You may also experience mold growth, which will lead to the death of the cigar. If your humidity is too low you will find that the cigar wrapper is more brittle and smoking the cigar becomes difficult due to a faster burn. It will also have a strong and undesirable smell when smoked.
An incorrect humidity level is not the only potential problem to monitor. Temperature extremes will also affect your cigars. If the temperature is too high, and your humidity remains constant, you may encounter tobacco beetles, small insects that can devastate your cigar collection. If you notice small holes in the cigars or a reddish residue in your humidor the larvae have hatched and the beetles have begun to devour your collection. These cigars need to be disposed of immediately. Your remaining cigars, the ones that seem to be unharmed should be:
- Removed from the humidor and placed in freezer-safe, zip lock bags.
- Placed in your freezer, at the coldest setting, for about 36 hours.
- Slightly warmed in your freezer and left for an additional 48 hours.
- Moved to your refrigerator after the 48 hours have passed.
- Refrigerated for an additional 24 hours.
- Ready to be placed back in the humidor and warmed slowly to prevent cracking.
Cold conditions will dry out and lead to the loss of oils (and thus flavor) in the cigar wrapper. Below a certain temperature, in the low to mid 60s, the cigar will dry out. However, collectors who want to age their cigars for a long time will often go a few degrees and percentage points lower to retard the aging process. This is okay as long as you don’t go below the 66 +/- temperature degree and 67% +/- humidity range.