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Picking a Humidor for Dry Times
The humidor in its simplest form is a storage medium for cigars. Cigars are perishable products and if not stored properly they will dry out, become brittle, and lose their wonderful smoking pleasure. However, cigars can't simply be stored in a box. Why? Because to keep them at their peak freshness and flavor, they require a critical element: humidity. It is commonly agreed that a 70% humidity factor is the norm. Now, imagine trying to maintain your house at a 70% humidity level. Not to many people are interested in creating a tropical hot house in their homes. Even with household humidifiers. Homes are very comfortable at about a 45% humidity level. Humidors solve this problem very nicely. Features of a humidor: Almost all humidors have three features in common.
Spanish Cedar --- This type of cedar is considered the finest as it will not absorb the flavor of the cigars nor will it act as a sponge and remove the moisture. The interior of the humidor is lined in cedar. On the least expensive humidors, the interior may be made of any type of wood, then a thin veneer of cedar (sometimes not Spanish) is applied to the interior surface. In some cases, it is not applied to the lid of the humidor. In the more expensive units, a 1/8th inch to 1/2 inch layer of Spanish cedar is applied to the interior, which allows a greater surface to absorb the moisture and will require less maintenance.
Humidification Unit --- A device attached to the inner lid of the humidor that includes a housing unit and a substance to hold the moisture. The most common type is one that contains a sponge material to hold the moisture. The casing that holds the sponge comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials which is a matter of preference and may be square, rectangle, round or other. The shape has no bearing on the quality of the unit. The size of the device is related to the size of the humidor. Naturally the larger the humidor the larger the humidification device. The most common material used for the casing is plastic. In more upscale models, brass is used. The material used has no influence on the quality of the device and is selected principally for cosmetic reasons.
A Hygrometer --- A gauge which indicates the humidity present in the humidor. They may be dial or digital models. Regardless of the type, it is important to realize that the quality of the hygrometer is critical. The least expensive models are not very precise and can vary plus or minus 5% from actual readings. Since we want to keep cigars stored in a humidity setting of 70%, the accuracy of the readout must be as precise as possible. While a less expensive hygrometer offers you an approximate read on the humidity, it is not to be used as gospel. The more expensive models are generally more precise and sensitive. Digital humidiguides are more accurate than their dial counterparts. Many digital humidiguides also show temperature readings as well, which is a nice feature to have.
The features described above are all common to every humidor. They are in affect what makes a box a humidor. However there are other factors to consider when evaluating the value of a humidor. First, the construction of the humidor is very important. Look at its edges. They should be smooth and securely joined. Its lid should fit snugly and precisely. Look at where the lid meets the frame. You should not see any gaps, as they are sure signs that humidity will be lost. The hinges that connect the lid to the side walls are generally of two types. The first type is the piano hinge. This will usually be the full length of the lid. The second type is the quadrant hinge. These are usually found on European manufactured humidors. Whichever hinge is used should create a smooth and solid feel during the opening and closing of the lid. Hinges are made of any type of metal alloy, but the higher end humidors consistently utilize brass in their construction.
To cure the humidor, you must first prepare it. This means making sure the Spanish cedar has been properly moistened and the humidity is maintained at the proper levels. It is not the humidification device that directly adds moisture to the cigars. The humidification device provides the moisture for the Spanish cedar which, in turn will supply the moisture to the cigars. If the cedar has not been properly moisturized, or cured, the humidor cannot do its job. To properly cure the cedar, wet a sponge or paper towel with distilled water and wipe down the complete interior. Make sure you use distilled water and there is no standing water. Repeat this step after an hour or so, checking the humistat as to the humidity, or take that sponge and make sure it is damp. Place it on the bottom of the humidor (preferably on a piece of plastic, not directly on the cedar), and let it sit for about 24 hours. Check the sponge for moisture. If it is relatively dry, add more water and repeat the procedure. If it is wet, then the cedar has absorbed all the moisture it needs. Check your hygrometer to verify this. Once the humidor has been cured, use your humidification device to maintain the proper humidity. Don't use tap water as it can damage your cigars as well as the humidification device.
Now that we have taken care to the "technicals" required to make a box a humidor, we may proceed to the basics of sizes, shapes, materials and cosmetic details. There are many sizes of humidors to choose beginning with those small enough to fit in ones pocket. These humidors store approximately five cigars and have a humidification device set into their tops, so cigars can be stored for several days. A slightly larger humidor, the travel variety, stores approximately 10 cigars. There is even travel humidors slightly larger in size that resembles a small briefcase for those who wish to carry several boxes of their favorite smokes.
The most common humidors are desktop models. These range in size from those that store approximately 25 cigars to those that include a shelf for stacked storage. They can store up to 250 cigars. Desktop models are extremely popular and are purchased for the office as well as the home with styles that complement any decor.
For those cigar smokers that want to store more cigars than a desktop humidor will hold, there are several larger styles available. These humidors can store many boxes worth of cigars and can be found in many shapes and sizes to match the tastes and needs of the customer. In addition, they can be custom made to blend in with the furniture of a room.
The ultimate in storage are walk-in humidors. They can be custom built to any size required by the customer. These units can have humidity control that is automatic, similar to thermostats in a home making them literally maintenance free.
The most common shape of the desktop humidor is rectangular, and we have seen several new shapes such as the pyramid and oval. Custom humidor builders will design and shape to your specifications with your imagination and cost restraints the only limiting factors.
The materials used on the exterior of humidors are endless. Most humidors are constructed of wood. On the less expensive models, stains and veneers are used. The more upscale models are made from solid woods, such as mahogany, cherry and maple. Inlaid veneers of exotic woods, such as birds eye burl are popular and of course pricier.
For those who want a humidor made from materials other than wood, there are those made in leather and acrylics and even metals. These can come in a vast variety of colors. The acrylic models can have designs or patterns inlaid into the panels. Leather models can be made of any grain to complement a favorite smoking chair, desk chair or particular taste.
A finishing touch to a humidor is the hardware. Handles, locks and nameplates are all items that can add to the beauty of the humidor. They can be made of an allot, brass, pewter or even gold plate.
Now that the humidor is ready to accept cigars, in order to get the most enjoyment from them they must be properly maintained. A little "tender loving care will go a long way to insure the maximum enjoyment from your cigars. Once the humidor has been cured, make sure your humidity and temperature are within the 70/70 rule. A degree or two off will not affect the cigars. If you live in a hot and humid area of the country, Florida for example, you might want to maintain the humidor at 68/68. If you live in the mountains of Colorado, where the humidity and temperature are low, 72/72 might work a little better. Just remember to check your cigars by pinching them occasionally. "The pros" can tell freshness by this method better than any hygrometer. Since most people keep their homes between 68 and 72 degrees, it is actually easy to maintain the proper temperature. In fact, very little needs to be done. Accordingly, humidors rarely come with a device that measures temperature. Since most people who have a humidor will be using it on a daily basis, it is very easy to check the cigars for freshness and the hygrometer for humidity. If the humidity falls below 70%, add a little distilled water to the humidification device, In the average home, this might have to be done weekly. If you live in a wet climate you may get away with doing this less often. If you live in a dry climate, you may have to do this more often. If the humidity becomes too high, leave the lid open for a short time and watch the hygrometer. Once it falls back to the proper level, close the lid. You can also add additional cigars which of course will absorb some of the excess moisture. After a short while, you will become quite adept at maintaining both the humidor and the proper humidity level!
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