Over the course of five blog posts, I share my advice on how to become a cigar smoker in 5 easy steps. Step One discusses buying your first cigar. Step Two describes the various types of cigar cutters and how to cut a cigar. Step Three educates readers on how to light a cigar.
Step 4: How to Buy, Prepare, and Maintain a Humidor
You are now an expert in cutting and lighting a cigar. You likely have a plastic baggie with a handful of sticks and want to store them properly. Step Four in our series addresses how to buy, prepare, and maintain a Humidor. As a reminder for the expert cigar smokers out there, this post is for the beginner. I’ve left out many of the subtleties so our new cigar brothers and sisters can have enough knowledge to join the club without being overwhelmed with tons of info.
What is a Humidor?
Dictionary.com defines a Humidor as “ of tobacco
- Plastic Baggie: Plastic Baggies includes a Ziploc or similar bag, or the bag your cigars come in from your local tobacconist. Plastic Baggies are perfect for short-term storage of cigars. Unfortunately, Plastic Baggies do not completely seal and the cigars will lose humidity over time. You can extend your storage time by adding a Humidification Device (described below). Without a Humidification Device, you can store your cigars in a plastic baggie for a week or two depending on the outside humidity and temperature.
- Plastic Container, aka Tupperdor: A Plastic Container works well as a Humidor, especially if it has a rubber seal. There are hundreds and hundreds of articles and videos on the Internet focused on creating a Plastic Container Humidor, aka a Tupperdor. In the old days, it was quite a task to keep the humidity level correct in a Tupperdor as they did not have rubber seals. You can still use any old Plastic Container but don’t waste your time. Pick up a Plastic Container with a rubber seal and save yourself the hassle. Amazon.com sells a variety of Plastic Containers with seals such as this one available for a mere $13.00 as of this writing.
- Pelican Style Case, aka Travel Humidor: A big step up from the Tupperdor is a Pelican Style Case, aka Travel Humidor. These come in a variety of sizes from a 5 cigar version to versions that hold 40 or more cigars. The Travel Humidor is airtight and most are lined with foam cushioning to keep your precious cigars safe while you travel.
- Cigar Jar: A Cigar Jar is simply an airtight jar for storing cigar. Not much else to add here.
- Cooler, aka Coolador: A Coolador is a cooler that has been transformed into a Humidor. There are tons of videos on YouTube on how to create a Coolador. The hardest part is creating a seal to keep the humidity in the Coolador. They are cheap and easy to make.
- Ammo Can, aka Ammodor: Ammo Can Humidors are fricking awesome! An Ammodor is simply a military Ammo Can that has been cleaned and lined with cedar. An Ammo Can makes a great Humidor as it retains humidity. In the old days, these were a pain because the Humidification Device had a tendency to expel too much humidity for such a small space that is airtight. This led to mold. Using the Humidification Device I recommend below, this is no longer a problem. You can leave your cigars in an Ammodor for the long term with no worries.
- Wine Cooler, aka Wineador: A Wineador is a Wine Cooler that has been transformed into a Humidor. You can buy super fancy Wineadors with Spanish cedar drawers, shelves, etc. The beauty of the Wineador is that you can maintain a consistent temperature regardless of the temperature in your house. I have one and it works great. I’m a cheapass so I bought a Wine Cooler from Amazon and added Spanish cedar shelves. The trick with a Wineador is to maintain proper airflow to keep the humidity levels consistent throughout the Wineador. Xikar sells a cool device called a HumiFan that circulates air every few minutes to alleviate this problem.
- Traditional Wooden Humidor: Do I really need to explain this? I guess so. A traditional Wooden Humidor is a wooden box, typically lined with Spanish cedar, that hopefully has a decent seal to maintain the proper humidity. The quality of Wooden Humidors is all over the map and price seems to have little or nothing to do with price.
For a new cigar smoker, I highly recommend buying an Ammodor. They are as simple as it gets. You are guaranteed a perfect seal to retain humidity. They are inexpensive and last forever. I have six of them running right now. Yep, six Ammodors. Don’t ask how many other Humidors I am running and please don’t tell my wife! You can buy an Ammodor HERE. I recommend The 50 model which is available for $124. If you are handy, you can buy a kit and build it yourself for $44 if you already have a 50 cal Ammo Can or you can throw in an Ammo Can for $24. I usually buy my ammo can from eBay on the cheap, run it through the dishwasher (no heated dry cycle), and build my Ammodor with a kit. It takes about 15 minutes to build it and truthfully, if you know how to use glue, you can build it.
Note that I have no affiliation with Ammodors.com. I simply love their Ammodors. There are other Ammodor manufacturers out there and I’ve tried a few. None are close to the quality of Ammodors.com. Here are a few photos of The 50 Model Ammodor:
According to the Tobacconist University, the ideal humidity for your newly beloved cigars is between 68 and 72%. A Humidification Device serves two purposes. First, it emits humidity when the humidity is too low and second, absorbs humidity when the humidity is too high in your Humidor.
There are a number of different Humidification Devices available, including activator beads, crystals, generic green foam, and even kitty litter! (This is special kitty litter. Don’t scoop some out of your litter box and dump it in your Humidor!) As a new cigar smoker, I am going to cut to the chase and just give you a recommendation as an explanation of each deserves its own post and there is a single solution that works in almost all cases.
The simple solution is to buy a Boveda Humidification Device. The other options are inconsistent and have to be managed. The only Humidification Devices I use now are Boveda Humidification Devices. They are ready to go straight out of the box, are disposable, and just work. Boveda sells cigar Humidification Devices at five humidity levels: 65, 69, 72, 75 and 84 percent. They sell other humidity levels for musical instruments and for your marijuana. Check out our sister site: www.guitarsandmarijuana.com for more details. C’mon, don’t be a schmuck. We don’t have a sister site called guitarsandmarijuana.com but it sounds like a great business opportunity for those who play guitar and smoke marijuana at the same time. . .
So what humidity percentage should you buy? Start with 72%. You can buy a starter kit which includes a Humidor seasoning pack (see below) and four Boveda Humidification Devices for around $19. This should last you a year in an Ammodor. I personally use 69% as I like my cigars a tad drier. Here’s a picture and link to purchase a Boveda 72% starter kit:
How to Prepare a Humidor
Before you put your expensive cigars in a new Humidor, you need to season the Humidor. Sounds pretty cool. Toss in some basil and cumin, and you’ll have a seasoned Humidor. OK, let’s not do that. When you season a Humidor, you bring the humidity level of the Humidor to the ideal humidity for your cigars. If your Humidor is lined with Spanish cedar, seasoning the Humidor also includes allowing the Spanish cedar to absorb humidity to help maintain a consistent and ideal humidity. To season a Humidor, you need to put a device that emits humidity in your Humidor and wait until the humidity level hits the magical ideal humidity. You can put a shot glass of distilled water in the Humidor or toss in a few Boveda Humidification Devices to accomplish this. Or, you can take the easy way out and buy the Boveda starter kit discussed above which includes a seasoning pack. And no, I am not an employee of Boveda. They just work so I don’t see any reason to not take advantage of their superior product.
A Hygrometer reads the humidity level in your Humidor. There are a bunch of Hygrometer manufacturers out there and the accuracy of these Hygrometers is all over the map. I have Hygrometers that are up to 15% off on their readings. It gets a little old doing basic math to figure out what the humidity level is in my Humidor, e.g., 72% + 15% = moldy cigars. There is a simple way to test your Hygrometer readings. However, since this post is for beginners, I’m once again going to cut to the chase. Buy a Xikar Hygrometer. They are accurate and you don’t have to worry about testing the Hygrometer. Buy one and toss it in your Humidor. You can pick one up for less than $27. Here’s a picture and link to purchase a Xikar Hygrometer.
Optimal Storage Conditions
As stated earlier, the ideal humidity level for a Humidor is between 65 and 72%. The optimal room temperature for your Humidor is a consistent 70 degrees. In reality, this is not possible unless your Humidor is in a museum. However, you should keep your Humidor in the area of your house that has the most consistent temperature that is as close to 70 degrees as possible. Usually, the best place is in your basement if you have one. It is important to minimize temperature changes or you will damage your cigars.
Summary of Recommendations
Here are my down and dirty recommendations for a new cigar smoker. Your all in cost is around $200. If you can’t afford the Ammodor, buy a Plastic Container wiht a seal. Buy these three items:
You are now an expert in the basics of how to buy, prepare, and maintain a Humidor. Yes, being an expert at the basics is kind of an oxymoron but you are well on your way to become a cigar smoking expert. The final post in this series discusses how to become part of the cigar smoking community. Until then. . . light up a cigar!