After many years of dabbling a good friend of mine has taken the plunge and started buying, keeping and regularly smoking cigars!
So this has begun a lot of back and forth between us as to: What sticks he should buy next? Cutters, Smoking, Drink pairing and of course the best way to store his newly purchased cigars.
I've decided to do a series of 101 posts about the topic so that we can all benefit from the info.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
In order to know how to best store cigars we need to know what the optimum storage values are; for this we look at two things: Temperature and Humidity.
A temperature of 18-21°C (64-70°F) is considered ideal while the optimum humidity is 65% - 70%.
We then want to store them in something that will do its best to maintain a regular temperature and humidity, i.e a Humidor.
Simple enough right? Well it is, but there is also one vital part that many people overlook and that is that humidity is relative to temperature.
Humidity is a measurement of moisture in the air, and air at different temperatures holds different amounts of moisture. Warm air can hold a tremendous amount of moisture where as cold air holds almost no moisture. This means that at 0°C air temp with 70% humidity, it will be dry. (Problems for people down in Wanaka areas).
Relative humidity is defined as the percentage of the maximum amount of water that air can hold at a given temperature without condensation. For cigar storage, a general rule is, when the air temperature is reduced the humidity should be increased and vice versa.
This is why you can buy different percentage (%) rated values in Boveda humidity packs etc.
THE NEXT STEPS
So now that we understand the values we want and what effects them we can make good decisions on where and how to store our cigars.
The first thing that we need to do is have something to store them in, such as the aforementioned Humidor. There are many types of humidors available, most vary based on ascetics more than anything else but my advice would be to:
- Buy a humidor that is all wood and lined with Spanish Cedar.
Spanish Cedar holds more moisture than most woods, so it helps maintain humidity and it is not prone to warping or cupping in high humidity.
Things like Glass top humidors, while looking fancy, let in outside light and have a large section of the box that is not cedar lined so really they are counter productive to keeping your cigars as good as possible.
- Buy a humidor larger than you think you need.
Not only will it be helpful when you decide to buy a box of cigars or stock up for a celebration, it will also give you room to separate sticks out and give them some space etc.
OK NOW WHAT?
Now that you have your humidor and your cigars sitting happily in it, we need to keep it somewhere that is going to get the best results. I suggest finding a location that is the least effected by temperature fluctuations, i.e not in direct sunlight, not in a conservatory, that sort of thing.
Once you have found your spot, you need to measure the temperature to determine what % of humidity you will be targeting. You may need to do this a few times a year and adapt unless you have an HRV or something to keep your house at a stable temperature.
As a general guide. Auckland has an average temp of 15-20°C and very high natural humidity, therefor I suggest targeting 65%-69% humidity in the humidor.
Down in Wanaka its harder as in the Winter we have an average of around 4°C and in the summer is can be up to 40°C some days. Its also very dry here so I keep my humidor at 72% in Winter and 62%-65% in Summer.
You can purchase Boveda packs for cigar-storage in 69% and 72% (the 84% are for seasoning your humidor not for storage - more on this another time...)
BUT HOW DO I KNOW ITS RIGHT?
Ok, so a few last parts. You need to be able to measure your humidity and temperature regularly to make sure you are keeping in your 'window'. You can do this a few ways.
Manually: By placing a hygrometer into your humidor and checking it often. There are a few different digital hygrometers and they are fairly cheap, get one you like the look of and calibrate it with a Boveda calibration kit.
The 'Smart' way: Xikar make a sensor called the Xikar PuroTemp. This will sit in your Humidor and give you an external display. You can set up alerts to notify you if your humidity or temperature is outside of the desired window and it will track and show you the history of your humidor too. All pretty flash.
Now that your humidor is all set up, its a great spot and you have visibility of its humidity and temperature the only other thing you need to do is rotate your cigars and give them some air.
This just means that every couple of weeks you want to move the cigars around so they are not sitting in the same spot all the time, and let a bit of air flow into the humidor so it doesn't get stale. - If your like me and open it daily to get a cigar out then its not going to be an issue ;)
Hopefully this 101 will help you keep your sticks nice and fresh!
ONE FINAL NOTE
Humidors work best when maintained - every 3 months or so, use your PG solution to moisten the wood that creates the seal (the "lips" of your humidor); doing this will ensure your humidity is better maintained.