Whether you are a certified cigar aficionado or just curious about cigars, knowing how to properly store one is important. Proper storage will keep your cigars fresh and lively. Once you know the basics about storing your cigars you will be better able to keep your cigars in optimal condition for an extended period of time. See Step 1 for more information.
Quick-Storing a Cigar
Take a quick measurement of the climate. A good cigar is like a living, breathing thing: it needs to be in an evenly-controlled climate, or it can dry out in a matter of hours. If you’ve come across a good cigar but don’t want to smoke it that day, you can take a few precautions to make sure it’ll stay fresh before you plan to smoke it.
A cigar should be stored around 70 degrees F, with a humidity of around 70%. In some climates, like Miami, a cigar can be left in its wrapper and stored for a short period of time without much concern for freshness. If you’re in Arizona or Alaska, however, the dryness will likely need to be addressed if you need to store the cigar for more than 24 hours.
The tobacco in good cigars was grown in a tropical climate, somewhere between 65 and 72% humidity. Cigars are made from whole wrapped sheets of tobacco, and the construction relies upon them staying oily and moist. Cigars not stored at the optimum temperature and humidity can dry out, crack, or mold.
If you’re a burgeoning aficionado and want to store lots of cigars for any length of time, you need to purchase a humidor and store your cigars in it. Skip to the next method.
Store a few cigars in an open plastic bag until you’re ready to smoke. If you’ve got a cigar or two but can’t smoke it right away, the best way to store it is in an open ziplock bag with a slightly-moist towel at the mouth of the bag, in a dark space kept at around 70 degrees.
Humidor bags are commonly sold at many cigar retailers, which can keep cigars fresh for several weeks. At good cigar shops, the tobacconist will often ask you about how long you’re going to keep the cigar, and might pack the cigar in one of these bags anyway. Talk it out and ask; you stand to learn a lot.
The towel should be clean and only very slightly moist, preferably with distilled water. After a few hours, check on the bag to make sure no dampness is accumulating inside. If so, open the bag more and pull the towel back slightly. Cigars can and do mold.
Alternatively, cigars can be stored in a clean plastic tub, covered with a very-slightly damp, almost entirely dry towel and kept at the proper temperature. However you choose to store your cigars, the temperature is the most important factor.
Keep it in the cellophane or tube while in transit. If your cigar came wrapped in a cellophane wrapper, or came in a cedar sleeve, or other type of tube, it’s perfectly fine to keep it in the wrapper until you plan on smoking it. Cellophane will allow air to get to the cigar, while other types of tubes and sleeves will protect the cigar during transportation.
Cigar enthusiasts differ on the topic of removing cigars from sleeves or storing them in sleeves for longer periods of time. For short periods of time, there’s nothing to worry about. All cigar smokers agree, though: for longer than a day or two, you either need to smoke it or get it in a humidor.
Keep it out of the fridge. It’s a common misconception that freezing or refrigerating cigars is an effective way of keeping them fresh. Nothing could be further than the truth, unless you want a cigar that tastes like refrigerator. Even if the cigar is overheated, or the temperature is too humid, or not humid enough, never keep your cigar in the refrigerator. Cigars aren’t stored in perfectly-sealed environments, because they need to breathe. Don’t put a cigar into a plastic box with a sealable lid, or keep it in the freezer, unless you want to ruin it. Cigars stored with a moist towel in a plastic box will likely become over-saturated, and could even mold after a short time.
If there’s absolutely nowhere to store your cigar at 70/70, keep it in a relatively cool place in your house, if you live in a warm climate during summer, or keep them in the kitchen (the warmest room in the house) if its winter in a cool climate. Spritz some water periodically into the air to work a bootleg humidifier into the equation. It’s not ideal, but you can save a good cigar some grief. Or you could always just smoke it.
Ask for a box at the cigar store. When you’re buying, if you know you don’t have someplace to store the cigar, and you know you won’t want to smoke it right away, ask for advice at the store, and ask if they’ve got an old cigar boxes lying around, preferably cedar for purchase or for free. Sometimes, they’ll just give them to you. Kept in a cigar box, in a cool room, cigars’ll be fine for a while.
Choosing a Humidor
Consider price. Humidors are available in many different sizes, styles, and price ranges. You don’t need to break the bank to get a good-quality humidor in which you can keep great cigars fresh. Online, or at the cigar store, explore options in your price range.
You should be able to get a handsome glass-top humidor in which you can control the temperature for less than $60 or $70.
Another big cost-difference tends to be temperature and humidity control elements, the quality of which can vary slightly. It would be better to get the smallest-possible humidor for your uses, with the best-quality components.
While good-quality cedar chests are the best and most reliable way to store cigars, it’s possible to make your own from household ingredients, if you’re less of a stickler for supreme quality. Skip to the next method if you want to make your own humidor.
Consider the number of cigars you’ll likely have on hand. There’s no sense in investing in a 7-drawer humidor chest that can hold a couple hundred cigars if you only smoke one every now and then. Try to anticipate how many you plan to keep on hand at any given time and get the smallest-appropriate humidor. Desk-top humidors will hold about 25 cigars, while larger cases can hold upward of 150. Humidors with multiple drawers can offer organization solutions, allowing you to keep full boxes of different varieties of cigar in different areas of the humidor, hundreds of sticks on each. These are the most expensive option, several hundred dollars.
Travel humidors are small, durable, plastic-backed cases that hold 10 or 15 cigars at a time. If you’re going on the road and end up collecting a few cigars, or if you just want a small and durable option, a travel humidor can be a cheap alternative to more expensive desktop varieties.
Make sure the humidor you buy is lined with cedar. It’s important to buy humidors lined with cedar wood, which helps to regulate the humidity and the airflow in the humidor. Plastic or metal humidors, even with the proper humidifying agents, won’t maintain as even and optimal a temperature as a cedar humidor. It looks handsome, smells great, and maintains temperature and humidity.
Select a humidifier for your humidor. Most humidors will come with a humidifier in the case already, but being able to distinguish between the different types and styles of humidification will allow you to make the most informed choice.
Sponge-style humidifiers are the most common humidifiers, and the cheapest. These usually line the lid of the humidor, and are soaked with propylene glycol solution, commonly called “PG,” which regulates the humidity in the box. The liquid is commonly sold at cigar retailers, for between $6 and $10 a quart. Xikar and Cigar Mechanic are popular brands for soaking the humidifier.
Humidor beads are made of moisture-sensitive silica, and are extremely long-lasting, easy to use, and can be recharged periodically to maintain the humidity in the humidor. A package of humidor beads costs between $18 and $20, but will likely never need to be replaced, just recharged. To use them, you’ll soak them in distilled water and spritz them with distilled water periodically to maintain humidity. Keeping them stored in a new women’s stocking is a perfect way to store them in the humidor.
Digital humidifiers are somewhat expensive, but also the most efficient. You can set the electric humidifier to the proper specifications, set it, and forget it.
Purchase a hygrometer and calibrate it. A hygrometer is used to measure the humidor’s humidity levels, and are available in both analog and digital models, which can be installed in the humidor, or on the outside. Some humidors come with clock-style hygrometers on the front lip of the humidor, for easy access. Digital hygrometers are ready to go out of the box, but analog hygrometers need to be calibrated before use, to make sure they’re reading correctly.
To calibrate your hygrometer, close it in a plastic bag with about a tablespoon of salt in a cap for between 6 and 12 hours. When you remove the hygrometer from the bag, it should read 75% humidity. If it doesn’t, use a screwdriver to calibrate the back of the hygrometer so it reads 75% and it’ll be ready to go.
Season the humidor to create the microclimate. Before you load your humidor with cigars, you need to spend about 7 days humidifying the humidor and preparing the optimum microclimate. It’s a simple process, but an important one to prime your humidor and give your cigars the best possible home. To season the humidor, prime the humidifier of your choice, either by soaking the humidity beads, the sponge, or setting the digital humidifier, and putting it in place in the humidor.
Pour about a cup of distilled water into a clean cup and place it in the humidor, then blot the walls of the humidor with a very-slightly damp towel. Don’t wipe them down, just blot them very gently.
Close the humidor and leave it alone for about seven days, watching the temperature and the humidity levels. At the end of the week, you can remove the glass of water and you should be ready to load up the humidor with cigars.
Making a Homemade Humidor
Find a suitable container. Homemade humidors can be made from plastic bins, old ammo cases, or cigar boxes. While these options may not keep cigars fresh as long as a humidor, they can do the trick for an mid-to-extended amount of time. If you are planning on storing the cigar for more than a week but don’t want to buy a humidor, it’s a good idea to make one.
After you’ve selected your container, wash it thoroughly with antibacterial soap and warm water. Let dry completely. The container should be big enough to hold cigars while they’re all laying flat.
Make sure the container closes completely, with some air circulation. This will keep the flavor from your cigars from mixing or losing their flavor. If the container is air-tight, make sure to expose your cigars to fresh air every two weeks, at least.
Humidify the container. Just as you would with a store-bought humidor, you need to find some way to keep the air in your homemade version around 70% humidity. Add a jar of Xicar humidifier beads/gel to the container, soaked in distilled water, then drained.
At the very least, a small, very-slightly dampened household sponge in the bottom of the container in the corner of the storage container will work in a pinch. This will ensure that moisture will be available inside the container once its shut. Securely close the lid on your container with the cigars inside.
At a local cigar store, ask if they have any cedar dividers from cigar boxes lying around they wouldn’t mind parting with. You can use these to either create cigar tubes to store individual cigars in, or to line the walls of your homemade humidor. This will help regulate the humidity.
Store the container in a cool, dark place. Monitor the temperature of the area you are storing them in and make sure it stays around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). Keep a thermometer close by to monitor the temperature, and smoke the cigars as soon as you get the chance. Check you cigars periodically to make sure they’re not suffering from too much humidity, or becoming too dampened or wet. Look for any signs of mold, or beads of dampness in the humidor. Remove the humidifier, or let some air in, if this is occurring.
Storing Cigars in a Humidor Long-Term
Store the humidor at the proper temperature. Humidors can only control humidity, which makes it your job to watch the temperature. Humidors should be kept in climate-controlled rooms between 68 and 72 degrees F at all times.
Keep like cigars with like cigars. A common point of confusion and interest for aficionados with a large collection is where to store the different cigars. If you’ve got 15 Maduros and a variety of other miscellaneous cigars, of various strengths and flavors, can they all age next to each other? Yes and no. Keep natural cigars with natural cigars, and flavored cigars with flavored.
It is possible for flavors to bleed between cigars, but not between all cigars. A good rule of thumb is to definitely separate (remember those cedar dividers at the cigar store?) any flavored cigars you might have, from any natural tobacco cigars. A cognac-flavored stick, for example, can leech onto natural tobacco sticks it shares space with, making everything taste the same. In general, though, natural sticks should stay together, regardless of strength or flavor profile.
If you must store a variety of cigars in the same box in a humidor, or the same humidor next to one another, consider storing them in cedar sleeves, or create your own from old cedar at the cigar store.
Consider aging quality cigars “naked.” Another debatable topic in the cigar-collecting world is whether or not to store cigars in the cellophane wrapper, or “naked,” having been removed from the wrapper. If you’ve got a quality-humidor that you maintain effectively and want to age a high-quality cigar for a long period of time, it’s recommended that you remove the cellophane by some, though it largely has to do with preference. If you plan on smoking a cigar shortly, in less than a month, it’s perfectly fine to leave it in the cellophane wrapper for that length of time, and even longer if you wish. It’s just as common to leave cigars in the tubes and wrappers they arrive in, especially cedar-lined wrappers.
Rotate cigars you plan on storing for more than a month. To make sure the air doesn’t get stale in your humidor, it’s good practice to move cigars around every month or so. If you’re an avid smoker and are constantly moving them around because you’re taking some out and replacing with others, you probably don’t need to schedule rotations, but if you’re a collector of fine cigars that you’ve been aging for a long time, it’s best to move them around. In general, cigars should be stored flat, to promote air circulation. Don’t store cigars on top of other cigars. Keep cigars in a humidor with plenty of room for more.
Maintain the humidifier depending on the climate. It’s good practice to check your hygrometer at least once a week to make sure the humidity levels are staying steady, and to change the fluid in the humidifier every couple of months, depending on the climate in which you live.
In especially cold and dry climates, it’s a good idea to change your humidifier fluid, or recharge the beads every 3 months or so, and certainly any time you see the levels dipping. In more tropical-climates, you’re safe changing it every 9 months to a year.
It’s a good idea to recalibrate hygrometers once every six months, by removing it from the humidor, storing it in the bag with salt, and checking to make sure it’s giving an accurate reading. Faulty hygrometers are responsible for most user-errors in storage.
If you decide to get a humidor, make sure to test it out prior to purchasing. Lift the lid of the humidor 3 inches (7.62cm), and let it drop. Listen for a “whoosh” sound of air escaping. This will prevent the lid from slamming and signifies that the humidor is quality enough to create a tight seal.
Things You’ll Need
Sponge or paper towel
How to Buy a Cigar
How to Enjoy a Cigar
How to Preserve Cigars
How to Cut a Cigar
How to Roll a Cigar
Sources and Citations
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