To season a humidor, you need to follow these simple steps that allow for the right humidity inside the box and the wood itself, leave it for at least three days, and then it is ready to use. It’s easy to do – there are no particularly ‘special’ items included – and will render your humidor ready for keeping cigars in top condition.
So, you want to buy a humidor? It’s a good idea if you are getting used to quality cigars as it is the best way to keep them fresh for as long as you need. But what is a humidor, and why does it need ‘seasoning’?
When you think of a humidor, you may think of the large, complex, and very expensive types that are found in the drawing rooms of the rich and famous. It doesn’t have to be like that! Humidors come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and types – they are usually wooden – and are not always absurdly expensive. If you are a relative beginner to the world of cigars you will need a humidor for as many as you keep at once, so start small with a humidor for 20 or 30 cigars, perhaps, rather than one that holds 300!
A humidor is basically a sealed box that keeps the interior at the right humidity – we’ll deal with the numbers in this article – so they keep fresh for too long. Not to dry and not too moist is the key. When you buy a humidor it needs seasoning; all we mean by this is preparing for use. Wood absorbs moisture, and you want just the right amount in there, and no more.
Wen you purchase a humidor it should come with some accessories. These should include a humidifier – a simple item involving a reservoir of some sort for water – and a hygrometer, which measures the humidity. The latter may be built in, or separate. The first thing you must do is calibrate your hygrometer for accuracy. Talk to your humidor supplier about a calibration kit as this is a useful thing to have around.
So, you’ve bought your humidor, and you’re ready to start seasoning it. First, let’s look at what you need.
What You Need to Season a Humidor
The items you need to carry out the process of seasoning your humidor are as follows:
- A hygrometer
- A calibration kit
- The humidifier
- A gallon of distilled water
- A bottle of charging solution – known as 50/50 or polyglycol
- A fresh kitchen sponge (with no soap)
- A large bowl
- A plastic sandwich bag
- Paper towels or clean rags
That may look like a motley collection of items, but all will become clear! If you are unsure about the 50/50 or polyglycol your humidor supplier should be able to point you to a supplier.
Assuming you have calibrated the hygrometer – this really is essential as accuracy is vital – by following the given instructions, you’re ready to begin the process of seasoning. Calibrating will take several hours, so make sure you get it done in advance. Be aware that your humidor will not be ready for use for at least three days, but as with all things to do with cigars, patience is part of the deal.
Let’s have a look at the process of seasoning a humidor.
Seasoning the Humidor
Here are the steps you need to follow:
You’ve calibrated the hygrometer and are happy with its accuracy; now you need to start the process for real. This involves getting the accessories ready and in place. Here’s how to do it:
- The humidifier will have a base unit. This should be affixed to the lid of the humidor – inside – in the centre of the lid. Now, place the hygrometer in a different location – away from the humidifier, perhaps in a corner of the lid – so that it is ready for use. So far so good, and they should both be fitted with adhesive fixings. There will be instructions with your humidor, so don’t get too concerned.
- Next you need to fill the humidifier itself with the distilled water or 50/50 solution, whichever is recommended for your humidor. There are two types of humidifier: one is the old type of foam filled device. With this one, put the water or solution in the bowl and place the humidifier in it, shake it around until it is soaked. Leave it for at least 15 minutes. The other type is the crystal humidifier; with this one, fill as instructed with distilled water only – there is no need for the 50/50 solution in this case – and make sure it is full. You’re now ready to start the seasoning process.
Now you get into the real business of seasoning, and it’s here you start to get insight into what it’s all about. You’re probably wondering what the sandwich bag is for – and you’re about to find out!
You now have your humidifier in place and full, and your hygrometer in place and calibrated. Take the sandwich bag and put it on the floor of the humidor. Refill your bowl with more distilled water. Now, drop the kitchen sponge into the water.
While your sponge is soaking up enough distilled water, make sure that any dividers or trays are in place in the humidor, as these need to go through the seasoning process.
Next, take the sponge out of the water and – making doubly sure there is no soap in the sponge – squeeze it until excess water has run off, but it is still saturated. Put the sponge on top of the plastic sandwich bag inside the humidor and close the lid.
Put the humidor in a place where it can be left undisturbed for a few days and leave it! That’s it, you’ve completed the parts you need to do and all that is left is to wait.
That’s all very well, but what actually happens in the next few days, and why is it important?
What Happens During Seasoning?
The humidor is an airtight box, and a good one will be made from cedar wood. Inside your humidor now it is nice and moist. What happens over the next few days is that the water in the sponge will be absorbed into the cedar wood. The more the better, which is why many humidor manufacturers will recommend you leave it for a week.
What is the purpose? As we said above, you want your cigars to be dry enough to smoke, but not too dry that they lose flavour. The humidity in the humidor will keep them fresh and ready, but only if it is kept to the right humidity.
Back to your humidor now, which is happily seasoning. After a few days – as we said, perhaps leave it a week if you can – check the hygrometer reading. This tells you how humid it is inside the box. It should read more than 85% but not more than 90%. If this is the reading, you’re ready to move to the next step.
Open the humidor and take out the sponge and the bag. Now close the lid and leave it – you’re not ready to add your cigars just yet – until the hygrometer reads around 70%. Now you can add the cigars! After a couple of days you should see the reading drop to around 67% – that’s when your cigars are at the right spot for maximum enjoyment, so take one out, smoke it and savour it!
Some Good Advice
Seasoning a humidor is easy, it simply takes a bit of time. Now you have your humidor ready, here are a few tips that will help you get the best out of it and your cigars.
- Keep your humidor 50% full to ensure the air and humidity inside is able to stay as it should.
- If the reading drops below 64%, add more distilled water to the humidifier; not too much, but enough so that you see the reading rise again to around 67 or 68%.
- The humidor also needs to be at a regular temperature of between 65 to 70 degrees, so choose where you keep it carefully.
- Do not place it under direct light or in a spot where it will be subject to direct sunlight, as this will lead to too much variation in temperature.
- Do check the hygrometer reading every couple of weeks, as too much or too little humidity – the latter especially – will damage your prized cigars.
There’s a lot of joy to be had from smoking good cigars, so make sure you follow the above tips – and any that come with your humidor – to be certain it is properly seasoned and ready for use.