The Humidor Guide

The Humidor Guide

If you enjoy smoking cigars, but you haven’t yet began to start your collection; purchasing a humidor should really be your first step – even before buying cigars.

As we’ve discussed before, a humidor is the vault you lock and store your cigars in. It’s made with a specific purpose in mind and that’s to allow you to safely store and age your cigar collection in a pristine environment that is made to exacting standards ensuring your cigars remain fresh and healthy for years to come by generating a precise level of humidity so they don’t dry out.

In most cases, a humidor is a term used to describe a room or a box that is capable of maintaining a very specific temperature and humidity level. While it’s most commonly used to store cigars, it can really be used to store a variety of tobacco products including cigarettes and pipe tobacco. In fact, humidors throughout history have been used to store many different products that require a certain level of humidity. One famous example is the Colorado Rockies baseball team which stores its baseballs in a humidor to counteract the the high altitude in the area.

Regardless of what the humidor is being used for, or whether it’s a small box or a large room, all humidors are made the same and rely on a few tools to keep them regulated.

Types of Humidors

There are three main types of humidors. One is wood and the others are acrylic glass and metal. Personally, I use wooden humidors which are typically found made of mahogany or spanish cedar. My personal preference is a spanish cedar humidor as the wood doesn’t warp or bubble from the humidity, it doesn’t impart any negative flavors or aromas on the cigars, and mostly because most cigars come lined or wrapped in Spanish cedar sheets which tells me there’s a reason it’s done.

Another big benefit is that the Spanish cedar repels cigar beetles which can be devastating to any cigar collection big or small.

There are a variety of types of humidors that are determined by their size and function. Here’s we’ll focus on the most popular styles.

Walk-in humidor

A walk-in humidor is a room that has been designed to maintain a perfect humidity level. These are mostly found in cigar shops or lounges, but can also be found at private residences and some offices. Many cigar enthusiasts will opt to have a room in their home renovated to house cigars under perfect conditions. A walk-in humidor can be built and designed from scratch or it can be a room that undergoes significant renovations.

Furniture humidor

These humidors are just that, pieces of furniture that can be used to store cigars. Most often, these are in the form of cabinets or tables.

Cabinets are usually found in cigar shops and bars, but can again, also be found in private homes. Many home cigar cabinets are multi-use spaces such as a credenza or a hutch with a portion of it dedicated to cigar storage. These humidors usually hold a significant number of cigars in comparison to their smaller counterparts. Many of them are capable of holding upwards of 5000 cigars and usually start at the 1000 count.

One common humidor found is often coffee tables that open to reveal a large humidor. These are especially useful when space is an issue, but can sometimes be manipulated when objects are placed on the table such as a hot tea cup or a stack of heavy books. A standard rule with any humidor is that it should be kept free from obstruction and not be used to hold or prop anything up. A table humidor, depending on the type of table, can usually hold anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand cigars, often embellished with various materials in addition to wood such as marbles, leather or even glass which reveals the cigars below.

Personal Humidor

Personal Humidor

Personal humidor

This is the type of humidor I have and I own quite a few of them. These humidors are great for everyone from the semi-regular smoker to the avid collector and aficionado. Most of these humidors will hold anywhere from 20 to 75 cigars, but I have one that holds up to three hundred. Often these can be found on a desk at the office or on the mantle at home. Funny enough, that’s exactly where I keep mine. A rather nice benefit to these is that when you own multiple, you have the ability to organize your cigars. Cigars of varying types should ideally be stored separately so their flavors and aromas don’t imprint themselves on other sticks. Of course, there are separators that can be purchased for organizing one humidor, but having separate humidors for light, medium and full bodied cigars, cigars from various brands or countries, or even new cigars vs. aged cigars is always a great benefit.

If you’re a new collector, sometimes you can find deals where cigars are sold in a small humidor. These perks can prove to be a good way to begin your collection.

The one piece of advice I have however, is to always buy a larger size than you need. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve run out of room in a humidor or had to recalibrate my humidor because the cigars were soaking up all the humidity. In contrast, it’s a good idea never to buy cigars you don’t have room to store.

Travel humidor

Travel humidors are fantastic and versatile. I’ve owned my fair share of these humidors over the years and the amount of times they’ve come in handy exceeds the fingers on my hands. This category can also be broken up into sub categories which include, but aren’t limited to some of the following:

Golf caddy humidors – made specially for those who enjoy a cigar on the golf course, and are often able to be attached to a bag or worn on your hip.

Vehicle humidors – humidors made for those who enjoy a smoke on their commute. While you can buy them from a cigar store many luxury cars such as Rolls Royce offer built-in humidors that can be found in the glove compartment or center console of the vehicle.

Pocket humidors – these humidors come in a variety of shapes and sizes but typically only hold two or three cigars. This is a very temporary storage solution and really can only be used for a few hours since they aren’t usually controlled at all. Often these are made to fit into a breast pocket or sit securely in your briefcase. Over the years I’ve owned ones that look anything from a leather wallet to a cylindrical metal tube with a built-in hygrometer, to a small box.

Humidor Maintenance

Ideally, the humidity you want to consistently achieve is between 68-72%. As a steadfast rule, I keep all of my humidors at precisely 70%. Anything above the 72% can result in the development of the dreaded cigar beetle.

The humidity level of your humidor can vary based on a variety of factors that need to be taken into consideration:

Light – Ideally, a humidor should be kept in a dark, cool spot in your home or office. The introduction of light has the ability to increase the humidity and temperature levels drastically.

Weather – Living in Canada, I have to really monitor my humidity levels, especially in the winter. Since we live in an old house (built in 1911), the humidity and temperature of the home can change throughout the day based on the weather outside. Especially in the winter, the dryness tends to really affect my humidors which requires me to (sometimes) place a small shot glass of distilled water inside. Every area and house is slightly different. Hence, make sure to monitor your hygrometer often for the first few weeks and then seasons, so you learn about the correct levels and how your specific surroundings impact your humidor.

Surroundings – As we mentioned before, your humidor should ideally be kept in it’s own area. My main humidor sits in the middle of our mantle in the living room with nothing on either side of it or on top. If the humidor was tightly packed on a book shelf, the surrounding objects could potentially affect the levels.

Stock – The more cigars that sit in the humidor, the lower the humidity level will drop. As the cigars begin to soak up the humidity level, you’ll need to monitor it to ensure it doesn’t plunge. In contrast, a fairly empty humidor can cause the levels to rise.

Wooden Dividers

Wooden Dividers

Movement – Anytime you move a humidor you run the risk of interrupting it’s stability. This is why travel humidors aren’t intended for long term use. Once your humidor is set up, ideally, you want to leave it in the same place where it is easily accessible without having to pick it up and move it.

Seal – A humidor is only as good as its seal. Since it must remain airtight, you want to ensure that you’re humidor doesn’t offer any chance for the humidity to escape or outside air to get in. Many humidors that are commercially manufactured offer Sureseal technology and come with a warranty that protects you from leaks. Whenever you buy a new humidor, the seal is one aspect that should not go unchecked before purchase. If the seal is broken, the humidor is useless.

By taking these aforementioned factors into consideration, it should give you a better understanding of how to manipulate and monitor the humidity and temperature levels in your humidor.

For more information on maintaining and setting up your humidor, check out our introduction to humidors and the other articles in this series.

Parts of a Humidor

Aside from the inside and outside of the box, most humidors have similar features.

Lock – Since a cigar collection is so precious and expensive, most quality humidors come with a locking mechanism to not only prevent theft, but also wandering eyes that just want to peek to see what’s inside. Since the humidity level is affected every time you open the lid, by keeping it locked you can ensure it stays sealed even when you’re not there to monitor it. I learned this lesson the hard way when my wife had people over and I was out. Someone asked if they could see my collection and opened the humidor but (somehow) didn’t close it completely. Luckily, I caught it on time and was able to save my cigars, but since then it’s been under lock and key.

Trays – Most medium or large humidors feature trays. Sometimes one, sometimes multiple. Trays are a way to layer your cigars ensuring that two different cigars aren’t touching. It makes it easier to organize and offers more room. High quality trays will be made of spanish cedar with slits or holes in the them to allow air flow. It’s important to only use trays that are designed for use in a humidor as other materials can impart new flavor or aroma onto the cigars; or worse, affect the levels of the humidor.

Dividers – A divider is one of those little knick-knacks you just can’t have too many of. Really, all a divider is, is a piece of wood that sits in the tray and separates one type of cigar from another.

Hygrometer – The hygrometer is a device that allows you to monitor the humidity level of the humidor. Most commercially made humidors will come with an inexpensive or built in analog hygrometer but I always recommend investing in a digital one. Analog hygrometers are rarely accurate whereas a digital hygrometer can potentially save your investment.

Humidifier – The humidifier is exactly what it sounds like. This is where the humidity comes from. There are a variety of humidifiers available on the market and the number and size of humidifiers required is based on the size of your humidor and the collection inside it. I highly recommend going with a commercial electric humidifier as it is the most consistent humidifier available on the market today.

Accessories

There are a number of accessories you can procure to help ensure the safety and quality of your collection.

Activator Solution

Activator Solution

Activator Solution – Just like you need to eat and drink, so does your humidifier. Regular charges can be done exclusively with distilled water but the results are far better if you use a mixture of propylene glycol and the water. This is what activator solution is. The PG is basically the Mom of the humidor. It keeps everything in line and in check ensuring that no more than 70% humidity is released into the air. While you can purchase PG separately, activator solution is an easy solution (no pun intended) since it’s already premixed. Every few months simply squirt a few drops into your humidifier and it will recharge for another round.

Boveda Packs

Boveda Packs

Boveda Pack – A boveda pack is basically a regulated humidification system. Once you select the humidity level you want, you simply put the pack in your humidor and it releases the precise levels of humidity you asked for. The standard rule of thumb is that you need one pack for every 50 cigars in your humidor. I’m just a writer – you do the math.

Humidity Beads – These are the same products used in art galleries around the world to protect famous paintings. It’s one of the easiest ways to ensure accurate and consistent humidity levels. Simply place the beads in a shallow container and spray them with distilled water until they’re about 70% wet. The beads last indefinitely and let you know when they need to be showered again by changing color – usually once a month or so. I can recommend these here.

Conclusion

By now you should have a rudimentary level of understanding on how to select, purchase, maintain and troubleshoot your humidor. For information that wasn’t covered in this article, I would encourage you to read the other guides in this series which cover how to buy a humidor, how to troubleshoot, how to set up and how to properly manage your humidor.

Stay tuned for the next part of this series.

9 replies
  1. Blake
    Blake says:

    I find that keeping cigars (especially Cubans) around the 62-65% mark is best, but I do live in the Southeast.

    Reply
  2. Luke Brown
    Luke Brown says:

    I’ve made a few humidors, but it’s hard to find the right wood for them. The aromatic cedar I find around here really affects the taste of the cigars. I’ve tried using mahogany and walnut, but both have a distinct smell and taste that isn’t conducive to good cigar storage. Mahogany has the least effect, so I’ve stuck with that recently.
    Great article, nothing like a good cigar.

    Reply
    • J.A. Shapira
      J.A. Shapira says:

      Mahogany isn’t a bad choice if you can’t import treated Spanish cedar. Many humidors are made of mahogany. Glad you enjoyed the article. I’d love to see some of your handy work.

      Reply
  3. winston
    winston says:

    What about getting mold; to much humidity? Are the cigars safe? can they be salvaged? what about the humidor itself, mold on the wood; can it be rejuvenated?

    Reply
    • J.A. Shapira
      J.A. Shapira says:

      It’s important to distinguish between mold and bloom. Mold will appear as a grayish / green spot on the cigar whereas bloom will look like dust or little crystals – sometimes white spots. Bloom is fine – it just means that your cigar has been sitting at proper humidity levels for an extended period of time. In fact, many enthusiasts prefer to smoke cigars after they’ve bloomed.

      Mold on the other hand isn’t as much fun. If you do have mold on the cigars you’ll want to remove them from your humidor and thoroughly clean out the humidor with isopropyl. That or take it in to your local tobacconist for servicing. Mold is caused by moisture so it’s important that you determine what the contributing factor behind it was. Once you’ve removed the cigars, wipe the mold off and let them sit outside the humidor for a few days. They should then be safe to place back in the humidor. If it’s more than just a few little spots, throw out the cigar. Best of luck – hopefully it’s just bloom.

      Reply
  4. MichaelClay
    MichaelClay says:

    The wood used to make the humidor matters the most. When I bought a humidor I checked the quality of the wood of which the humidor was made.

    Reply

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  1. […] with its consistency and regular quality – this is still one of my favorite cigars. My humidor would feel empty without one, and I know I’m not […]

  2. […] that you’ve purchased a humidor for your collection, it’s imperative that you set it up properly. Despite what many novices […]

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