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Cigar Humidors 101: What They Are, How They Work, and the Best Picks

cigar humidor
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If you’re a newbie to cigars, once your interest turns into something more than an occasional cigar indulgence, you are going to have to start thinking about cigar storage. Cigars require specific temperature and moisture levels in order to keep them fresh for long-term storage, and without a humidor, you won’t be able to keep them at the right humidity. So when it comes to your cigar collection, a humidor is a must-have if you’re planning to store cigars for longer than two weeks. Our humidor guide will help you learn about what a humidor is and how they work. Lastly, we’ve rounded up our favorites to help inspire you when choosing a humidor for your home.

What Is a Humidor?

A humidor is a storage container that is designed to help maintain a relative humidity level which is critical for cigars because the tobacco leaves in them will naturally expand and contract based on the relative humidity of the air around them. When a cigar gets too dry, it shrivels up and loses its aroma and flavor, which are two critical parts of smoking cigars. And by contrast, when a cigar is exposed to extremely high humidity, it can lead to mold, rot, and even an infestation of tobacco beetles (that’s right, beetles).

Humidors come in all shapes and sizes and can be as small as a box to use as a travel humidor or as large as a walk-in closet, mostly used in cigar shops. Regardless of the size, each humidor will have a good seal to maintain the internal temperature and provide a thermostat and hygrometer to help its owner maintain optimal conditions.

How Do Humidors Work?

Humidifier: The most important part of a humidor is its humidification system, which can be simple or complex, depending on the size of the humidifier. The purpose of the humidifier is to add moisture to the humidor so that the cigars can stay plump and burn slowly, and also preserve essential oils which provide the flavor and aroma you expect from your favorite cigars. A humidor should always aim to be at 70% relative humidity for optimal storage conditions. In order to achieve this, the humidor needs a source of water. There are several ways to introduce moisture to the interior, including sponges, which are the simplest humidifier of all. A sponge soaked in distilled water will release moisture inside. It’s vital that distilled water is used to avoid introducing minerals and mold to the humidor. Floral foam (the green blocks used for flower arrangements) hold plenty of water and releases it gradually, but it also absorbs cigar odors and will need to be replaced yearly. A foam humidifier works best with propylene glycol instead of water because it will automatically maintain 70%  relative humidity. Crystal gel small beads also work as they are designed to hold up to 500 times their weight in water, which they then release into the atmosphere of the humidor. There are also electronic humidifiers which are small machines used in larger humidors.

Hygrometer: A hygrometer is another crucial component of your humidor. It measures the humidity levels inside to let you know whether you need to add moisture or absorb some excess water to dry things out. A hygrometer can be digital or analog (which will look like a needle that spins in a marked circle or semicircle). In a humidor with electronic humidity controls, it will be connected to the humidifier. It’s critical to check your hygrometer regularly — once every week or two — to make sure all is well in your humidor.

cigar humidor gauge
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Thermostat: Cigars also need to be kept at a steady temperature to keep them in top condition. This should be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit in most situations, though you could keep your fresh cigars as cool as 60 or as warm as 72 degrees. For humidors without temperature controls, a simple thermometer will still provide valuable feedback about conditions inside. If the humidor has a heater or cooler that allows you to control the temperature inside, your thermostat will directly control these for your convenience. This also helps keep humidity levels even, as warm air holds more moisture while cool air tends to be drier. Keeping your temperatures steady also helps keep humidity steady — and that means more effortless cigar storage.

Spanish cedar: The traditional choice for a humidor interior is Spanish cedar. Some come with cedar lining on the walls while others use Spanish cedar wood for the shelves and or drawers inside. Just like a cedar closet, Spanish cedar humidors repel insects and protect the contents from decay. Spanish cedar also has some absorbent qualities which allow it to absorb and release water to help keep conditions evenly moist inside the humidor.

The only purpose of a humidor is to house your cigars in a pristine environment that maintains consistent levels of humidity, at around 70%. Regardless if you spend $40 or $40,000, at the end of the day so long as it does the job, the rest is all about aesthetics.

Best Humidors

Liebherr XS-200 Freestanding Humidor

Made in Austria, this freestanding humidor can house 400-plus cigars in its dual-presentation drawers or on the two adjustable Spanish cedar shelves. It features an insulated glass door that protects the cigars from UV rays. Not only does the door lock, but it also has an alarm to alert you if someone opens it without your consent. A second alarm monitors the temperature and humidity of the humidor. It has a touch-controlled digital display humidor with several temperature and humidity adjustment options.

Daniel Marshall Ambiente Humidor

This gorgeous matte black humidor goes with everything. Capable of holding up to 125 cigars, it features two separate dividers that are perfect for storing various styles of tobacco. Unlike the standard brass hardware, this humidor uses gold plating on the hinges, lock, and key.

Quality Importers Tuscany Cigar Humidor

This 120-cigar humidor comes with a brass analog hygrometer, a large rectangle humidifier, and a Spanish cedar tray with a divider on the top and two larger dividers for the bottom compartment. The bottom of the humidor has a felt lining which is great for placing it on hardwood furniture.

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