Yuck – Squishy, moist cigars are about as appealing as smoking a wet sponge. Whether you bought your cigars overhumidifed, or neglected your humidor for a bit too long, over-humidification is a common issue with at-home humidors. So how do I get my cigars back to smoking condition? First let’s look at the why and how humidification affects your cigars.
How Humidification Works
Humidification isn’t exclusive to cigars alone, several industries including musicians rely on humidification devices to keep their instruments in pristine condition. So how does the humidification process affect cigars? The answer is quite simple, however, proper humidification is easier said than done. Much like an exoctic pet, cigars need to be kept in an environment similar to which they originated. In the case of cigars, high humidity and warmth are preferred.
The optimal conditions for cigar storage is between 70℉ (21℃) and 65%-72% humidity. When a cigar is stored at too high of a temperature it can rot or turn moldy, possibly ruining your humidor. When the heat is too low, the cigars wrapper can go into shock when lighting and the wrapper will crack. Humidity is an equally important factor as it affects burn and flavor. Too low humidity, and the cigar will burn too quickly and embitter the flavor, too high and the cigar will burn unevenly and lack flavor.
The Pinch Test
A common term in the cigar industry, the pinch test will be essential knowledge for fixing an over-humidified cigar and for regular maintenance. For those who don’t trust hygrometers or are cigar shopping on the go, the pinch test is always reliable for checking a cigar’s freshness. To do the test simply; take your index finger and thumb and gently squeeze the foot, body, and cap of your cigar. A perfectly humidified cigar should feel slightly spongy yet firm, with a little give. If your cigar feels hard or cracks, it’s under-humidified and dry. If your cigar feels very spongy or damp even, it’s over-humidified.
How to Fix an Over-Humidified Cigar
Step 1: Check Your Hygrometer
If you have an analog hygrometer, it’s highly recommended to upgrade to a digital hygrometer. If you suspect it may not be working properly, recalibrate to ensure its accuracy. If you can’t rely on your hygrometer, you’re going to have a tough time maintaining your cigars.
Step 2: Add Extra Cedar Wood
Most boxes or packs of cigars come with strips of Spanish cedar as part of the packaging. By adding these strips, the wood can soak up some of the extra humidity without having to do any unnecessary work to your humidor. Some humidors even come with blocks of cedar for this purpose. If you notice it’s not enough, proceed to…
Step 3: Remove Your Humidifier
Be it a humidifier pack or an old-school florist foam humidifier, your best bet at balancing the humidity is by removing the device so the wood can dry out. Place the humidifier in a zip-lock bag and keep an eye on your hygrometer. If the humidity is taking too long to get under 70%, try leaving the humidor lid open for 8-12 hours.
Step 4: Drybox your Cigars
Dryboxing is when you store your coveted cigars in a non-humidor box, such as a cigar box, without a humidifier. To do so, carefully remove your cigars from your humidor. Find an old or empty cigar box made of Spanish cedar to store your cigars in. If you don’t have one, many local tobacconists are usually willing to part with old boxes for free. Add a hygrometer and monitor your cigars, make sure to do the pinch every few hours or so. Gradually, the sponginess should give way over time.
What to Do if My Cigars are Under-humidified?
While an over-humidified cigar is an easy fix, repairing an under-humidified cigar is a more urgent matter. High-quality cigars often retain about 12-15% humidity, mostly in natural oils. Once a cigar goes dry, these oils dissipate and cannot be replaced. Smoking a dry cigar is not recommended, it’s often very brittle and can crack while smoking. Additionally, the dryness will increase the burn temperature and emphasize a tarry, bitter flavor in the cigar. While the humidor will need to be inspected for leaks, here’s what you can do to rehydrate the cigars:
Step 1: Inspect the Cigars
Inspect the wrappers of your cigars for cracks. If cracked badly enough, they may not be salvageable. Also, inspect the wrapper for its oily shine, if the oils are gone, the cigar will not taste or smoke right and is better off as fireplace tinder.
Step 2: Begin Rehydrating Your Cigars
If your humidor requires additional repair or is not cause for concern, the process of rehydration can begin. It’s important to not shock the cigars with humidity up front; so low and slow is going to be our style. Place your cigars in an empty cigar box, or a tupperware, with a 65% humidifier pack and a hygrometer.
Step 3: Be Patient
Rehydrating cigars is a delicate process that can take weeks or even months to accomplish. If the cigars are responding well to the 65% humidifier, gaining a slight sponginess back, replace the humidifier with a 69% pack. Monitor and perform the pinch test often to ensure the cigars are rehydrating. Once properly rehydrated, bring your cigars back to your humidor and let rest for a few days before smoking.
How to Maintain a Humidor
To avoid these issues in the first place, proper humidor maintenance is a must for any cigar smoker. The first element of humidor maintenance is the storage location. Avoid rooms with direct sunlight or places subject to extreme temperatures. The seal of your humidor is essential, having an improper seal allows humidity to escape and de-regulates your humidor. Checking the seal of your humidor is equally as simple as it is essential. To check the seal, open your humidor and place a dollar bill half-way inside the humidor. Close the lid, leaving half the bill inside and half out. Pull on the bill, if it doesn’t budge or pulls your humidor you have a healthy seal. If the bill comes out right away or with some slight struggle, your humidor isn’t properly sealed.
Additionally, you should:
- Regularly rotate your cigars inside your humidor to ensure they are being properly humidified.
- Perform the pinch test in addition to checking your hygrometer to ensure its accuracy.
- Clean the inside of the humidor as loose bits of tobacco can accumulate over time and even grow mold in the right conditions.
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