Humidor 101: Humidity & Temperature:
Last time around, we reviewed how to get the humidor running to its most optimum level. Now we will review the varies options and equipment available to achieve these results.
Humidity levels, hygrometers, Humidifier.
Optimum level of humidity, high and low
As previously mentioned, cigars should be stored at a relative humidity between 65-72%. Generally, it is assumed that the typical cigar flavors can best evolve in such a climate. This level of humidity supports an even burning of the cigar. Keeping the humidity levels lower, or higher than those levels, creates problems, as noted in the last entry.
Hygrometers. Analog or digital?
Having a precise hygrometer will be important to know how your cigars are doing. However, the best way to know how your cigars are doing is simply to see if they look good, smell good and feel neither too soft, or too hard. Some humidors such as Davidoff, do not even come with Hygrometers.
Most humidors are generally offered with analog hygrometers. Three systems of analog hygrometers must be differentiated:
Analog hygrometers with a metal spring: Hygrometers with a metal spring are used in the majority of all humidors. These hygrometers are less expensive, but are only of limited accuracy.
Analog natural hair hygrometers: Hygrometers with natural hair are more accurate. Unfortunately, the maintenance work required to maintain the accuracy of these hygrometers is substantial. Therefore, these hygrometers are generally not the first choice for use in humidors.
Analog synthetic hair hygrometers: Synthetic hair hygrometers are approximately as accurate as natural hair hygrometers. However, they do not require any maintenance on the part of the user. Therefore, they should be the first choice for use in humidors.
The German brand Adorini, offers hair hygrometers that measure humidity based on high-quality synthetic hair. From experience, they are very accurate and reliable. Hygrometers reach the highest accuracy within a limited interval of humidity. They also are shipped pre-calibrated, so generally, no laborious calibration is required prior to operation.
Alternatively, the humidor can be equipped with a digital hygrometer. Digital hygrometers allow for an easier readability and may require calibration. Digital hygrometers are not necessarily more accurate than analog hygrometers, but do have certain advantages. They may have the ability to display high and low readings, and a temperature reading, which can come in handy. Depending on the model, the replacement battery required is not always the easiest to find, and that should be factored in when purchasing. The brands Xikar, and Siglo make decent quality and fairly priced digital hygrometers.
Hair hygrometers tend to show the changes instantaneously, whereas digital ones require some time to adapt to the changes in humidity.
Humidifier. This is essentially what is used to emit humidity in your humidor.
Sponge or acryl polymer humidifier
Until recently, all humidifiers employed the same simple mechanism. They were equipped with a plastic or metal case containing a sponge as a humidifier. The most prominent manufacturer of these humidors was the French company Credo. The term Credo is therefore frequently used a synonym for such sponge-based humidifiers. Since it is not particularly difficult to manufacture these items, they were soon copied by manufacturers who offered the humidifiers for a fraction of the price of Credo humidifiers with comparable functionality. When using sponge humidifiers, the use of special propylene glycol solution is recommended, which improves the characteristics of sponge humidifiers.
Recently, humidifiers based on polymer acryl have become widely established among the various humidor brands as an alternative to the still prevalent sponge-based humidifiers. If the correct polymer is used they have the very positive feature of being able to stabilize humidity at a level of approximately 70-72% and adjust to fluctuations in the humidity level faster than traditional sponge-based humidifiers. The high-tech acryl polymer inside the humidifier element can absorb large amounts of liquid. It must be filled with distilled water only.
All in all, acryl polymer humidifiers are very recommendable since they maintain a more stable humidity level and require less frequent monitoring and maintenance by the user. In addition, the danger of bacterial contamination is lower in polymer humidifiers than in sponge-based humidifiers. However, the danger of bacterial contamination cannot be completely eliminated, as is often claimed. In order to minimize the danger of bacterial contamination, each humidifier (sponge or polymer based) should be replaced after two years.
The secret of the correct liquid or the magical effects of propylene glycol.
Please note that new polymer humidifiers should be filled with distilled water only. The use of propylene solutions with acryl polymer humidifiers may result in a decrease in the humidifier’s humidification performance. Therefore, the following explanations are only applicable for traditional sponge-based humidors. The following two liquids should be used for filling sponge-based humidifiers; Distilled water (available in auto part stores, pharmacies, etc.), Special solution consisting of 50% propylene glycol and 50% distilled water.
Propylene glycol is a colorless innocuous liquid, which has two extremely favorable characteristics for its use in humidors. Firstly, the formation of mold as well as bacteria is actively prevented. Secondly, propylene glycol forms a thin layer on the surface of the humidifier, which absorbs humidity at humidity levels of over 70% and which emits humidity at humidity levels below 70%. In this way, the humidifier is self-adjusting and will automatically stabilize the humidity level at an optimum level of approximately 70%. It might take a few days in the beginning until the propylene glycol forms a surface layer and an optimal humidity level is reached.
Certain manufacturers, like Xikar, offer a crystal solution humidifier. These contain small white crystals that expand and create humidity when the appropriate solution is used. Distilled water is not to be used with these humidifiers. From experience, these are a good alternative if you are not satisfied with a sponge based humidifier. The only drawback is that you need to purchase the solution meant for your humidifier instead of distilled water.
BOVEDA 2-way Humidity Control
Boveda works on the scientific principle that certain salts mixed with water will naturally add or remove humidity as necessary to maintain a predetermined RH.
Many aficionados are using the Boveda system to maintain humidity in their humidors. Boveda are simple humidity packs that will maintain humidity at the level indicated on each package. They come in 62%, 65%, 69%, 72% and 75% packs. There is also a 84% activation pack for humidor seasoning.
Some advantages to using the Boveda system include; Absorb excess humidity if needed, you can select the humidity level you prefer, won’t over-humidify, preventing mold. There is also no maintenance or refilling and no activation required. Proximity & direct contact won’t damage cigars, emits purified, water vapor.
You should check with your retailer to see how many Boveda packs are required for your specific size humidor. Boveda recommends using 1 pack for every 25 cigars and will last 2-4 months depending on size and temperature.
Boveda packs can also be used to give a boost in humidity during dry seasons, working together with your humidifier.
Next time around, we’ll look at Cigar Maintenance.
NOTES: Some of this text was taken from the Adorini humidor info guide.