Cigars, like any other consumable item requires proper storage and maintenance, otherwise they will quickly go bad. Unless you plan on smoking your newly purchased cigars within a day or so, you will need to store them in what’s called a humidor. Humidors come in all sizes, from very small (only able to store 5 or so cigars) to very large cabinet size humidors (which can store up to 5,000 cigars).
When looking to purchase a humidor, the most important thing is that it has a good seal. You should be able to open the lid, and then drop it shut and it should make a whooosh sound. If it slams closed, you have a bad seal. You can pick up a nice 50 count humidor for around $50 online. If you are new to cigars, or only smoke a few at a time, then consider getting a baggy and toss a small humidifier in there with your cigars. This will get you by, however is not intended for long term storage. If you are purchasing expensive cigars, then you really want to make sure they are kept in a good quality humidor (again, make sure it’s lined with cedar and has a good seal).
What’s a cigar humidor consist of?
Humidor – a box or cabinet lined with cedar which helps protect your cigars.
Humidifier – a device which helps to regulate the amount of humidity in your humidor.
Hygrometer – a device for measuring the level of RH (ie: relative humidity) in your humidor.
It’s important you store your cigars in a humidor so that they remain fresh. Believe it or not, you can store cigars for years, many years if kept in a properly controlled environment. There are cigar shops today who sell pre-embargo Cuban cigars, which are 60+ years old! Cigars will mellow over time, so don’t be surprised if your cigar has a more robust flavor today then compared to the same cigar which is 10 years old.
If you do not properly store your cigars in a humidor with the correct RH, they will quickly dry out. When a cigar dries out, the oils evaporate and the wrapper/binder cracks or falls apart. When this happens, there generally is no repairing a dried out cigar.
Proper RH and Temperature
Everyone has their own opinion as to what the proper RH and temp is for cigars. Most books will tell you that the humidity must be no less than 70% RH. Based on my many years of experience, and my MANY interactions with fellow seasoned cigar smokers, 70% is a bit high. My recommendation is to store your cigars at 68%, and Cuban cigars at 65%. Storing cigars any higher will result in what’s called “wet” cigars — they become over humidified, too spongy to the touch, and flavorless. You’ll also notice burn issues with over humidified cigars — they tend to go out often. Even worse, mold will begin to grow when you go above 70% RH.
Most humidors do not offer a method for controlling the temperature; generally the ambient temperature in your house will suffice. As long as your humidor remains in an environment where the temperature is less than 80F, you’ll be fine. When your cigars are exposed to temperatures consistently at 80F or higher, you risk cigar beetles from hatching. Cigar beetles are your worst enemy! Unfortunately these little pests sometimes lay eggs in cigar tobacco, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Many retailers and manufacturers will freeze the cigars momentarily to help kill the eggs. It’s always a good idea to make sure your temperature remains below 80F to be on the safe side. Some more expensive humidors (the cabinet types) have built in AC units. Unless you live in a region which is consistently warm, I would not waste the money on an AC controlled device. Some people will place their humidor in a closet or basement during the warmer months.
Humidity level – 68% for most cigars; 65% for Cuban cigars. Don’t go above 70% RH or you risk mold and beetles.
Temperature – keep it below 80F. Occasional spikes above 80F are not a big deal, however consistent temperatures above 80F are not good.
Don’t become overly concerned about the RH. Some people become obsessive about keeping their cigars at an EXACT RH, good luck! You’re going to have fluctuations and there is no way to maintain an exact RH 100% of the time. As long as your cigars are between 65%-70% most of the time, you’re fine. There are accessories to help maintain a certain RH, such as humidification beads, gel’s, cigar puck, etc. The beads seem to work the best, and are the easiest to use.
How to store cigars without a humidor
If you just purchased a few cigars from your local cigar shop, and don’t yet have a humidor, don’t worry! You can still store your cigars safely with items you already probably have at home.
A couple of common storage devices, assuming you don’t have a humidor, are tupperware or zip lock bags. If using tupperware, lightly dampen a paper towel with distilled water, and place it on one side of the tupperware container. Place your cigars on the opposite side of the container, and leave them in the cello they came in. If you don’t have tupperware, then use a freezer zip lock baggie. Place a lightly dampened paper towel (again, distilled water only) in your baggie, and place the cigars on the opposite side. These two methods are not meant to be long term storage solutions, rather a quick fix for when you’re in a pinch, and you don’t want your cigars to dry up and go bad. If you need to store your cigars without a humidor temporarily and use this method, be sure to leave them in a cool dark area. Check your cigars often to be sure that they do not become too humidified.
An even better option is to pick up a humidity pack from your local cigar shop. They are cheap (only a $1 or so), and will ensure that the proper humidity is maintained in your tupperware container or ziplock baggie. This is a better, longer term solution.
Cellophane on or off?
This is a question that comes up all of the time from new cigar smokers. My recommendation is to leave the cellophane on for a couple of reasons… If you are storing different varietals in your humidor and the cellophane is off, then your cigars will “marry” over time. That means they will begin to pick up each others flavors. Imagine going to a cheese shop, purchasing 5 different types of cheese. Let’s pretend we purchased swiss, cheddar, jalapeno jack, feta and limburger. As you see, we have 5 very different cheeses, all unwrapped and we store them in a Tupperware container. After a day, all of the cheeses will pick up flavors from each other; the limburger will most likely expel its unique flavor on the cheeses the quickest. Now, image you kept the cheeses wrapped in baggies; the flavors won’t marry.
Cigars are the same way; if you unwrap all of your different varietal cigars, they will eventually lose their unique flavors and begin to marry. Also, removing the cellophane will no longer protect your cigars from bumps and scrapes. Never, and I mean never store flavored cigars with traditional cigars, even if you leave the cellophane on. If you smoke flavored cigars, then keep them in a separate humidor. So, my recommendation is to leave the cellophane on to prevent marrying of flavors and to protect your cigars.
If you don’t want to invest in a humidor, then you can get some Tupperware to store your cigars in. Just be sure to place a humidifier and hygrometer in there to ensure proper humidity. If you purchase a traditional humidor (which you should), then always be sure to season it properly. Your humidor will come with instructions on how to properly season it. We also have seasoning instructions here at CigarPass (located on the homepage).
If you outgrow a desktop humidor and don’t want to invest in a large cabinet humidor, then consider building a coolidor. A coolidor is a homemade humidor made out of a cooler. The cost to build a large coolidor is around $65, and they work remarkebly well! Maintain a coolidor is often easier then maintaining a cabinet humidor. We have instructions located on the CIgarPass.com homepage on how to build a coolidor.
Good luck with your new hobby!