This is a guest article from Denis K. of Cigar Inspector. It is part of the Cigars 101 series on EG.

So you’re new to the world of cigars, and you’ve at least gotten as far as knowing how not to look like an idiot when smoking one.

One thing you’ll find out quickly is that cigars need to be stored properly in humidors in order to preserve them in all their glory.

Installing a humidor in your own home allows you to keep your cigars in top-notch condition, just like when you buy them from your local tobacconist. This can be an intimidating prospect for a newbie, however.

Maybe you’ve seen some of the posh, upscale humidors which are designed as much for looks as they are for functionality. If you have that kind of money to spend, by all means, be our guest.

If you don’t though, read on for advice about purchasing your first humidor without breaking the bank.

But first, let’s take a look briefly at where humidors came from.

History of the Humidor

The concept of the humidor is usually traced backed to an Irish furniture craftsman named Terence Manning, who in the year 1887 returned home to Ireland after spending time abroad honing his skills. The Manning family created and distributed the earliest known humidors, and they are still in the business today.

Early humidors were made of fine wood and were quite expensive. Nowadays there are many less expensive versions of humidors made of cheaper materials which still get the job done—usually wood board, metal or acrylic glass with an internal layer of wood.

Portable humidors were invented in 1998 by Gerry G. Schmidt in Newport Beach, California. Collectible wood humidors remain popular among cigar smokers however, and can make a great addition to your household if you have the budget.

Classifications of Humidors

There are several different types of humidors, classified according to capacity and purpose. The type of humidor you should buy depends on your needs. We’ll discuss size and capacity later on in the article.

Room / walk-in humidors. You would only need a room humidor if you were operating a shop, were a cigar supplier or distributor, or if you were a major collector. This is literally a room which has been converted into a humidor.

Cabinet and table humidors. These are high capacity humidors which can hold thousands of cigars. Cabinet humidors are pieces of furniture in their own right, while table humidors are more portable, but rarely moved since they likewise are generally huge and heavy. You probably do not need or want either of these types of humidors as a beginner, but you may want one later on.

Personal and portable humidors. These are both humidor types which may interest you. A personal humidor is the first humidor you will likely buy, and will allow you to hold a few dozen cigars. These containers are small, relatively lightweight, and movable. Portable humidors are miniature versions which allow you to carry up to around a dozen cigars. They’re great when you’re traveling.

Humidor Design

Jesus, the shop owner at Cava Cardenal Cisneros in Madrid, Spain.

Jesus, the shop owner at Cava Cardenal Cisneros in Madrid, Spain, showing the expansive Cohiba collection in his shop’s walk-in humidor. Via Cigar Inspector

In terms of design, there are all kinds of different aesthetic choices out there, ranging from the most simple rectangular boxes to ornate wood boxes with rounded edges and artistic flourishes. You also may find humidors with glass lids which allow you to see inside. The design you choose is entirely up to your personal preferences.

As mentioned before, materials for modern humidors typically include wood board, metal or acrylic glass. Other modern humidors are made entirely out of wood. Common choices for wood include mahogany, cherry, walnut, oak, maple and pine.

Larger humidors like cabinet and table humidors may be made out of a heavier material like marble. Some may even have leather exteriors.

The ideal material for the interior of a humidor is usually considered to be Spanish Cedar. This type of wood is beautiful, but the choice is also functional. It can withstand humidity that would cause other types of wood to warp and lose shape over time.

Do You Even Need a Humidor?

First off, how many cigars do you actually have?

If you still don’t have a big collection, you may not need a humidor yet, especially if you have some handy household supplies like zip lock bags.

At that rate, if you have a cooler, you can actually use that as a makeshift humidor. This is such a common solution that there’s even a colloquial expression for a cooler-turned-humidor: a coolidor. As your collection grows though, a real humidor is something you’re going to want.

How Large Should It Be?

Ask yourself how many boxes of cigars you think you’ll have around at a given time. Consider that a box of cigars may hold up to 25 cigars. So multiply by that number to figure out how much space you’re going to need.

Buying a humidor which is just slightly larger than what you think you’ll need is usually a good plan since it gives you more flexibility without wasting space.

Spanish Cedar is beautiful, but also functional. It can withstand humidity that would cause other types of wood to warp and lose shape over time

Believe it or not, you can get a small humidor online at a website like CheapHumidors.com for just $10-20. There is a wide range of prices available if you’re interested in buying used gear.

You can get a nicer or larger one for a bit more money, but you don’t necessarily need to be ready to shell out hundreds of dollars. Humidors with minor cosmetic defects but perfect functionality typically sell for a discount, used or new.

If you had some cigars lying around before your investment in a humidor, chances are they are really dry. Don’t just toss them in the humidor, you need to progressively re-humidify them.

Setting Up Your Humidor

Xikar digital hygrometer

Xikar digital hygrometer

You’re definitely going to want a thermometer to put inside your humidor, as well as a hygrometer (that’s an instrument that measures humidity, make sure it’s a digital one; sometimes you might need to calibrate it so check the manual that comes with the device).

That way you always know if your humidor is working at its ideal settings: try to keep the humidity between 68% and 72% and temperature at about 65-70° F.

To prepare your humidor, you’ll need to complete a few steps.

First, prepare your humidifier, it’s the device that is placed inside the humidor to keep the humidity level stable. Usually it will involve filling it with distilled water or propylene glycol, depending on the humidifier type.

Then you’re going to want to wipe down the inside of the humidor with distilled water and wait about an hour for it to dry.

In the last preparation step you’ll need to put a small glass of distilled water inside, along with your hygrometer and thermometer. Close the humidor and then leave it there for 48 hours, adding more water if necessary while it is being absorbed by the inner walls of the humidor.

After this, your humidor should be operational, just watch the humidity level for a few days to make sure it stabilizes.

Remember, you need to let some fresh air in at least once every few weeks, but this is rarely a problem (except, perhaps, in winter).

It may take some experimentation to decide what works best for you. Enjoy the hobby!

Any other useful humidor advice you’ve picked up over the years?

Let us know in the comments.

If you’re enjoying these Cigar 101 articles from Denis, let’s hear it below. What else would you like us to cover? We welcome your suggestions.

You can visit Denis’ site at cigarinspector.com.

 

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PUBLISHED April 24, 2013




  • Andrew Thorne

    I’m disappointed that this otherwise wonderful site is encouraging the use of a substance that kills 400,00+ people every year and causes millions of others to live with debilitating illnesses. Many argue that cigar smoking is safer than cigarette smoking, but this is not true. Good, peer reviewed, scientific studies have shown cigar smoking to be very unhealthy, even if you don’t inhale the smoke.

    As a health care professional, I’m unhappy to see this included in the content of your site.

    • John Wallace

      Ok. Lets see the “Good, peer reviewed, scientific studies” then.

    • I think my audience is smart enough to make decisions on their own. They don’t HAVE to smoke cigars. I know that personally, I enjoy them, and so do a significant number of my readers.

      If a reader is uninterested in the subject or disagrees with cigar smoking in general, it’s pretty easy to scroll down past the article, onto the next one.

  • Keith B.

    Actually my best humidor is a large acrylic jar purchased at a local store. With humidipaks and an electronic hygrometer it works just fine.

  • BON BIEN COUT UN PAQUET DE SIGAR

  • This is some decent advice but many, many enthusiasts will disagree about wiping down the wood in order to season it. That move can promote mold. I saw that there is a mention on calibrating the hygrometer but the importance of that cannot be overstated. humidors can be a very frustrating experience for the novice. Most people when they start out want the nice box sitting on a desk or table but there is a lot to keeping it stable. There’s nothing worse than spending $25 bucks on ultra premium sticks only to have the disintegrate in a few months due to bad seals or poor stabilization. It would have been good to talk about the seal test as well to understand how good or bad the seal is on the box. Like Kieth B.’s recommendation, I always recommend to the novice the tupperware with some Bovea humidity packets and a calibrated hygrometer and read up on humidors before spending any money. Puff.com is a great resource for all things cigar related and a very friendly forum to the novice. We’re men, we make our own decisions to smoke or not to smoke- don’t push your views and criticize for giving people information to be better informed if the want to know about how to care for their cigars.

    • Hi Andrew, thanks for the extra humidor advice. From my experience, I have never got mold if using distilled water.
      Using Tupperware is a good idea for a novice smoker too, it’s indeed easier to use.

  • Lance Allen Humidors

    I can only speak for myself, but I have found that many humidors are made with only a spanish cedar veneer. Veneers are paper thin and therefore cannot very much moisture. I have been designing custom humidors for the past year and construct them out of solid wood exteriors and solid 1/4″ spanish cedar interiors. The humidity stays very stable at 70%. Check out my website: LanceAllenHumidors.com or visit Montes Cigar Shop in Albuquerque to see my line.

  • mark

    Acriylic jars!! Air tight and do not suck up any moistue keep huminidy constant at whatever level you want, just add a puck or a humidity pack from Mikes Cigars also very inexspensive
    There are even acriylic box humidors but they are pricey

  • Will Holden

    Amazing overview of cigar humidors and just the advice people need to find out that will suit their particular needs. Many people don’t know exactly what they are looking for — desktop, portable, wood, glass — and this lays it out so well. http://bestcigarhumidorguide.com/

  • Peter Brown

    Great article on how to choose your first humidors. The best quality humidors make use of dove tails and are made of striking woods. For gaining more knowledge, you can visit: http://www.lacasadelhabano-brussels.be/en/46-humidors