Thursday, July 6, 2023

Humidor Thoughts

The proper storage of cigars is a frequent topic of discussion among enthusiast. It's also something that people may fret over too much, especially new smokers. I was telling someone recently about my "custom" setup, and thought I'd share here as well. 

If you're buying a few cigars to smoke in the near term, the plastic bag they came in from the shop, along with a Boveda pack is sufficient and economical. But if the cigars are more than a few in number, more long term protection is required. Plastic storage containers with good seals are a nearly perfect solution and are available in various sizes. In fact, if one searches for "cigar storage" on Amazon, several of these containers are included in the results, along with the more traditional options. For a long while, this was my choice. I still use them for some boxes that don't fit in my "main" humidor.

Eventually I wanted a bit more though. Wooden desktop humidors seemed too unreliable for long term, so I opted for one of the many mid-size "wineadoor" offerings. These electronic storage units typically provide cooling and sometimes heating, and many of the newer models contain built-in humidification systems. A few years ago I purchased a (now discontinued) 250 count NewAir unit. The unit is unobtrusive enough that was deemed okay to keep in the dining room. In the years since, it's undergone several modifications to fit my needs and preferences.

One of the first things I did was replace the two shelves with drawers. The slats on the shelves were oriented across the width of the unit and allowed cigars to roll out when the drawer was opened. The original unit came with an analog hygrometer. Those cheap units are not accurate and serve more as decoration than functionality. An electronic replacement required only minor modification of the opening. A Dremel tool made easy work in the soft Spanish cedar. In the larger space at the bottom, two trays are stacked to add even more storage. 

For humidification, I have 8 60 gram 69% Boveda packs spread out among the shelves. This keeps the humidity between 67% and 69% consistently even with frequent opening of the door, akin to standing in front of the open refrigerator deciding what to eat, or in this case, smoke. How did I come top with 8? Simple, the Boveda are sold in packs of 4.

The biggest "customization" made involves the cooling functionality. I originally kept the unit set to 69°. That's pretty close to an average house setting as well. The unit worked, and though fairly quiet, still had the persistent hum of the fan going. On day I noticed the temperature setting had gone to the default of 64°. I thought maybe I had inadvertently hit the adjustment button, or perhaps we had experienced a brief power outage. I reset it to my preference, and a few days later noticed the same. Again I made the adjustment back. A few days later we were sitting in the living room and heard a beep. I went in search for the source and saw the unit was lowering the temperature setting -- all on its own! Must be a glitch in the circuit board or the push button switch. I unplugged the humidor, and it has been like that for a couple years now. To no ill effect.

The temperature in my house sits at a perfectly acceptable level for the cigars. If you are comfortable, your cigars will likely be as well. The NewAir serves now as a well-sealed environment to maintain the humidity of my cigar collection. No hum from fans, and a moderately attractive piece of furniture.  

Though rated for 250 cigars, that rating represents a tighter stuffing than practical. My collection averages between 100-150 at any time. I find that getting down to 100 or lower makes the humidity slower to adjust and maintain. (Or maybe that's just my justification for buying more.) I buy few full boxes, preferring the variety of buying in singles or 5 packs. (How or why 5 became to standard small pack offering is a mystery to me.)

I keep the plastic containers on hand for the occasional box purchase, until the number of cigars left in gets down to 5 or less. I also frequently keep a few from the box in the humidor for easy access. I often think that if I hear of someone disposing of a non-functioning, but intact unit like mine, I'd attempt to acquire it specifically for box purchases. I actually saw a very inexpensive one for sale online recently but the seller was a couple states away. Naturally, I still dream of a large cabinet humidor someday.


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