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Cigar 101

What is a Humidor & How to Choose a Good One

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

A humidor is a place to store your cigars and keep them fresh. Humidors come in many shapes and sizes. Some are cheap; some cost a fortune. Some guys try to build their own humidors or convert household containers like Tupperware and ice coolers into humidors. We’ve seen plenty of novices assume the refrigerator or a desk drawer is a safe place to store their cigars – wrong. A lot of folks believe cigars will stay fresh in the box they’re packaged in, especially if the cellophane is still on. That’s also wrong. You need a humidor. Cigars should be stored at roughly 70 degrees and 70% RH (relative humidity). That’s what a humidor is for.

What Is a Humidor?

What does a humidor do? A humidor is a box designed to store your cigars at a consistent temperature and humidity. What makes a humidor different from a plain old wooden box is its materials and construction. Many humidors are made of Spanish cedar. Cedar absorbs moisture and encourages your cigars to age well. Humidors can also be made of alternative materials like heavy duty plastic, ideal for traveling. All humidors are manufactured with a seal to keep the humidity inside the box and most come with a reservoir to hold the water.   

Why Do You Need a Humidor for Cigars?

Before you decide on the best humidor to meet your needs, let’s take a moment to consider the function of a humidor. The ideal conditions for storing cigars are 70 degrees and 70% humidity, but a general range of 65-72 degrees and 65-72% humidity is acceptable. Most humidors are equipped with a humidification device, or reservoir, which serves as the humidity source, and a hygrometer, which measures the humidity. Digital hygrometers measure both temperature and humidity.

All humidors need to be prepped (humidified) before you can store your cigars inside. The process may vary a bit from one humidor to the next, but it’s pretty straightforward. For most traditional models, you simply need to fill the humidification unit (using distilled water only) and gently wipe the interior of the box down with a moist cloth. Close the box up and let it acclimate for a day or so until the humidity level on the inside reaches approximately 70% humidity. Larger humidors may take a bit longer to achieve a 70% equilibrium.

Once your box is in the vicinity of 70% humidity, you can start arranging your cigars inside. If your box doesn’t include with a traditional reservoir, there are many alternative humidification technologies to consider, including beads, crystals, humidity pouches, and more. Regardless of the method you choose, monitor your humidity regularly (at least once a week) by checking the hygrometer to ensure your humidor is maintaining a consistent humidity.

How to Choose a Good Humidor

If you’re shopping for your first humidor, here are some things to consider. How much does a good humidor cost? What’s the best brand for the money? Can I get a good humidor for under $50? Are all humidors the same? Let’s take a look.

Choose the Right Size

Most humidors are available in 25, 50, 75, and 100-cigar capacities. They can go up to several hundred, though. If you’ve only got a handful of cigars to store, you don’t need a gargantuan 300-cigar humidor. A humidor’s capacity will vary based on the size of your cigars, too. Many humidors are rated based on how many Toro-sized cigars you can fit inside. The classic Toro is 6 inches with a 52 ring gauge. That’s a touch larger than the typical 5 x 50 Robusto, but shorter than a 7 x 48 Churchill.

Choose a size that’s a little bigger than what you think you’ll need. It’s good to leave approximately 20% of the space on the inside of your humidor free. This gives the air and the humidity a better chance to circulate. Leaving some breathing room around your cigars is a good thing.

Reliable Materials

Most humidors are made of hardwood or a composite wood lined with a cedar veneer on the inside. Hardwood, especially solid cedar is best, although it can be more expensive than a box made from composite woods. Premium Spanish cedar is found inside the best humidors, such as the Savoy Executive series or an ultra-high-end brand like Elie Bleu. The advantage solid cedar offers is that it absorbs moisture more aggressively and will facilitate the aging of your cigars in the best way – especially if you plan to age your cigars for years. Many premium models also feature interlocking or dovetail joints for the soundest possible construction.

There are plenty of affordable options to consider, too, like the classic Savoy line or the Artisan Series. Sturdy brass hinges, durable walls, and a reliable humidification system guarantee your humidor will perform reliably and for a long time to come.

The exterior of a humidor is important too, but for aesthetic reasons. The exterior wood is often a veneer. Choose a finish that you enjoy looking at, one that matches your man cave or office. Finishes range from traditional mahogany or walnut veneers to exotic, rare, and ornate works of art.

Check the Seal

The most important quality in a well-made humidor is the seal. The seal is where the lid meets the box. Often, a short wooden lip encompasses the interior edge of the box, either inside the lid or running along the interior walls. When the lid closes, you should hear a slight “whoosh” from air escaping as opposed to a “clunk” – a sign the box may not be constructed as tightly as it should be. Also keep in mind, the wood will swell after the box has been set up and humidified. Checking the seal after you’ve seasoned your humidor is essential. A quick visual inspection is critical. If you notice any gaps, interruptions, or unevenness where the lid meets the box, the humidity will escape. When the lid closes and reflects a tight fit, your humidor is going to keep the humidity on the inside.

Humidification System

Most humidors come with a humidification unit, or a reservoir, but not all do. If your box is not equipped with a reservoir, there are plenty of humidification options to choose from. Traditional foam units, beads, crystals, or humidity pouches like Boveda are available. Remember to use only distilled water or propylene glycol solution when filling your humidification unit. Review our tips for preparing a new humidor if this is your first box.

After you’ve set up your humidor, pay close attention to your hygrometer. That’s how you know your humidor is maintaining moisture and working correctly. A hygrometer measures the humidity on the inside of the box. Most digital models will also include a temperature gauge. In addition to monitoring your hygrometer, occasionally squeeze your cigars. They should exhibit a soft firmness, but won’t be overly spongy or too stiff. Your cigars should reflect the same condition you would expect them to be in at the time of purchase from a premium retail cigar shop.

How Much Should You Spend?

A basic Artisan humidor goes for $29.95. That’s about as affordable as it gets for a humidor. It’s a simple box that can hold roughly 25 cigars and is available in a handful of stylish colors. You may not keep it for ten years, but it’s a great starter box that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Savoy is a superb brand. Standard models range from around $80 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the size. They are well-made in a large variety of sizes and finishes. Smaller desktop and travel sizes are available, as well, if you only need to store a dozen cigars or fewer.

The Savoy Executive series is the best bang for your buck. Manufactured exclusively from premium hardwoods, Savoy Executive humidors are designed to last a lifetime. Choose from a handful of stunning finishes and sizes that range from just over $250 to around $450, depending on the size. They are designed to age your cigar collection and perform just as effectively as the exclusive Elie Bleu brand, which is handmade in Paris. While Elie Bleu humidors are breathtaking inside and out, prepare to spend north of $1500 on a box. The company is known for making elite, heirloom-quality humidors. Elie Bleu is considered the Rolls-Royce of humidor manufacturers because their boxes are made exclusively from kiln-fired Spanish cedar finished in intricate detail.

Picking out the perfect humidor is easy when you know what to look for. A quality humidor is a great gift when you’ve got a cigar lover on your gift list. And if this is your first box, remember your cigars are an investment. They will stay fresh indefinitely and improve in flavor if you have a safe place to store them.

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