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Cigar 101

What is the 'Pinch Test' for a Cigar?

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

The pinch test for a cigar is a simple and subtle way to measure a cigar’s freshness. By gently squeezing a cigar, you can quickly determine whether it is too dry or too moist. Disclaimer: many cigar lovers abuse this technique by squeezing a cigar too hard and proclaiming it isn’t fresh unless it’s as soft as a sponge. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Follow our advice below to use the pinch test correctly.

How to Do the Pinch Test on a Cigar

Gently press the foot of the cigar between your thumb and index finger. A properly humidified cigar will yield slightly but won’t be overly soft, and it will return to its original shape when you stop pressing. A lot of guys like to squeeze their cigars from head to foot to check for any unwanted soft spots or crunchy veins. The best-made cigars are consistent from end to end, but remember to pinch your cigar delicately. You can crack the wrapper by squeezing too tight.

Not all premium handmade brands are crafted with the same density of tobaccos. Some cigars offer a looser draw by design. Others are made with a greater concentration of binder and filler tobaccos on the inside. A well-made brand, however, will reflect the same consistency from one box to the next with every cigar you smoke.

Under-Humidified or Dry Cigars

Cigars that are under-humidified or too dry won’t compress when you squeeze them. They may crunch or crackle. If your cigar seems a bit stiff, you can always re-humidify it by letting it rest in your humidor for a few days or weeks as needed. However, if you pinch your cigar too hard and the wrapper cracks, there is little you can do to remedy the situation.

The pinch test is a fast and reliable checkup to ensure your humidor and hygrometer are functioning properly. If your hygrometer is reading 70% RH, but you’ve got a handful of cigars that can’t pass the pinch test, you may need to recalibrate your hygrometer. Or, if you tend to smoke seasonally and you haven’t recharged your humidification unit for a while, consider seasoning your humidor again like you did when it was new.

Pinch Test Cigars After They’re Shipped to You

The pinch test is also a great way to assess the freshness of cigars you order online. If you buy a box of cigars and they’re in transit for a week, a simple pinch test can tell you if you should let the cigars rest in your humidor for a few days before you smoke them.

It’s good to be familiar with the consistency of the cigars you regularly enjoy. That way you’ll know what to expect when you perform a pinch test.

Over-Humidified and Under-filled Cigars

At the other end of the spectrum, the pinch test can tell you if your cigars are over-humidified – or, if they are under-filled. When you squeeze an over-humidified cigar it will compress like a sponge, and generally, it will do so throughout the length of the cigar no matter where you squeeze it. If you’re cigars are over-humidified, dial back the humidity in your humidor. Consider transferring your cigars to a Ziploc bag for a day or so to let the humidity gradually dissipate. Some aficionados routinely let their cigars sit out of the humidor overnight before they smoke them.

If a cigar is under-filled, it will also contract like a sponge, but it may not fully return to its original shape when you pinch it. A cigar can be under-filled in an isolated area, too, not necessarily the entire length of the cigar. Sometimes under-filled cigars are the result of inexperienced rollers or brands that are made to a poor standard for quality. The pinch test can alert you to avoid lower quality cigars.

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