Most of the world’s cigars come from tropical or subtropical areas, where the heat is strong, and the humidity is high. Because of this, you’ll need to store your cigars inside a humidor to create an environment that prevents them from deteriorating.
Because cigars are hygroscopic, they can dry out easily if they’re left in an overly dry climate. In an overly moist climate, cigars can absorb too much moisture and become damp and difficult to smoke.
Cigar humidors are designed to maintain a specific humidity, usually between 68 and 72%. This humidity level keeps cigars moist and preserves their taste, all while preventing them from ever becoming too moist to smoke.
How humidors work:
Most can vary hugely in size and design, but most share a few common features:
- They’re made of wood or stainless steel, with an internal cedar lining to hold moisture and maintain a consistent humidity level (usually Spanish cedar, although American cedar is also used in some humidors)
- They have a relatively tight seal that prevents outside air from entering
- They have a hygrometer that lets you monitor the humidity level
- They’re designed to hold an external humidifier (usually gel beads or a foam block)
Each one of these features plays an important role in helping a cigar humidor keep your cigars in great, smokeable condition.
The humidifier is one of the most important parts of any humidor — after all, it’s the component that keeps your cigars moist. A humidifier is a source of moisture that keeps all of your cigars at a steady, consistent humidity level.
Humidifiers come in a variety of designs and types. The most common cigar humidifiers use a large number of absorbent polymer crystals that contain distilled water. Other humidifiers have “pack” designs that release moisture to achieve a specific humidity level.
Because humidifiers only contain a certain amount of moisture, they need to be replaced over time to keep your cigars at the right humidity level. Most humidifiers last for 3-6 months before they need to be replaced.
The cedar lining
The majority of cigar humidors have a Spanish Cedar interior lining. The reason so many cigar humidors use cedar because it holds a large amount of moisture compared to other woods, meaning it will keep cigars moist once it’s been seasoned.
As long as you “season” the cedar, there’s no risk of it absorbing excess moisture and drying out your cigars — a surprisingly common problem with other woods.
Spanish cedar also has a second advantage — it repels tobacco beetles. These tiny bugs, which measure 2-3 mm in size, are a common annoyance in warm climates. After they grow, they can infest cigars and other tobacco products to lay eggs and reproduce.
A hygrometer is an instrument used to measure the moisture level within a specific area. For a cigar humidor, a hygrometer gives you an accurate reading of the current moisture level, letting you make sure there’s no risk of your cigars becoming overly moist or dried out.
Most hygrometers are analog, with a dial similar to a stopwatch or pressure gauge. Some newer hygrometers are digital, with separate displays to show your humidor temperature and humidity level.
Because a hygrometer lets you monitor your humidor’s humidity level, it’s an important tool for the setup and seasoning process.
A humidor is only as good as its seal. If a humidor isn’t properly sealed, the moisture will quickly escape, and the humidity level will either fall (if the humidor is stored in a dry area) or rise (if the humidor is stored in a humid area).
Most humidors have an imperfect seal, meaning some moisture can enter or escape from the humidor. However, as long as the seal is relatively strong, the humidifier inside your humidor won’t have any problems keeping your cigars moist and ready to smoke.
Ready to set up your humidor?
Since humidors are designed to maintain a humidity level, you’ll need to set up and season your humidor before you can use it to store your cigars. Without the proper setup, your humidor won’t maintain a steady humidity level, and your cigars will become overly moist or dry.
Our guide to storing your cigars in a humidor explains exactly how to set up your humidor, from seasoning the humidor to storing your cigars for optimal humidity and flavor.