Freezing Your Cigars – How Risky is it?

Gary-Korb-CigarAdvisorOver the years, I’ve received many emails asking me about freezing cigars and whether it’s OK to store cigars in the freezer or the refrigerator. Let’s start with the latter. NO WAY JOSÉ! True, refrigerators are made to keep foods fresh, but even though cigars are somewhat related to veggies by their nature, the humidity in the fridge is much too low to keep the leaves moist, and your cigars will eventually dry out.


So what about the freezer? Now that’s a different story. Though I’m really not a fan of storing cigars in the freezer, which I’ll get to in a moment, I feel there are only two reasons that warrant putting premium cigars in the freezer:

  1. You’ve discovered that some of your cigars have beetle holes and are most likely infested.
  2. You have absolutely no space for your overstock cigars, and it may be a while before you get around to smoking them.

The first reason is the most common, because if you find that you do have a beetle problem, the only way to kill the larvae is to freeze them. Many cigar smokers will keep their infested cigars in the freezer for a full 24 hours, but it only takes an hour or two to ensure the larvae will kick the bucket.

The second reason is questionable, because if you run out of storage space there are better solutions than exposing your cigars to icy-cold temperatures. Maybe it’s just irrational paranoia, but though the risk of ruining your cigars by freezing them is low, I can’t help but think that, by doing so, their character is somehow altered. (I’ll leave it to those who post comments to either confirm or deny my suspicion.)

The best solution is to make yourself a “coolerdor” or “Tupperdor;” in other words, a large beer cooler or plastic storage bin with a good seal in which you can also put a humidifier. You can even keep your cigars in their boxes. Actually, you should keep them in their boxes. This will mimic warehouse conditions.

freezing cigars tobacco beetles

Tobacco beetle infestation can be prevented by freezing cigars

So what if you decide freezing cigars is your best option? Fine, but getting them back to out-of-the-box-fresh condition depends on how you thaw them. Like many things that have to do with the care and feeding of your cigars, patience is a virtue. Don’t just take them out of the freezer and let them thaw as you would a steak. And whatever you do, DO NOT DEFROST THEM IN THE MICROWAVE. That’s instant death. Since cigars don’t freeze as solidly as meat, the fillers will dry-out from the inside, and there’s no turning back.

Here’s the deal: When you’re ready to thaw your cigars, move them from the freezer to the fridge where they will thaw SLOWLY. This should take about 24 hours. Since they’ve been frozen, there’s no risk of them drying-out within that time frame. After they’ve thawed in the fridge, place them in a cool, dark space and let them sit for one more day out of the humidor. By day three they should be humidor-ready again. Let them settle back in for a couple of more days, and by then they should be good-to-go.

Author:

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for CigarAdvisor.com since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

Comments

  1. Clancy Adams says:

    I have been asked this question a time or two myself. However, I’ve never heard of people wanting to store their cigars in the fridge or freezer for long term storage. Freezing of cigars is a preventative measure used to kill tobacco beetle eggs, and nothing more.

  2. Russell says:

    I always freeze new cigars, regardless of where them come from. Overnight in the freezer, then one day in the fridge, then as stated to a cooler part of the house for maybe 4-6 hours, then into the humidor. In my experience doing it this way, never had a problem with wrappers cracking or anything, and the gars smoke just fine. To me it’s worth preventing an infestation.

  3. Gary Korb says:

    Re Russell’s comment: Though I’m more in-line with Clancy’s remarks, I’ve heard of this, too. Again, I see no reason for it, especially from the better factories, but then, I guess some cigar smokers are more “paranoid” than I. To each his own, as I always say. ;-)

  4. Kyle says:

    I’m a little new to smoking but it seems to me that if you are out of room in your humidor then maybe you just shouldn’t buy anymore cigars. And if you buy from a good dealer, then you won’t get beetles. So why would you ever even think of risking your fine cigars in the freezer?

  5. Marco Lebron says:

    I feel that if you’re going to make the investment of buying cigars, you should make the investment in buying enough humidors to keep them in. After all, there is nothing more rewarding than having a smoke that’s been aged for a year or so.

  6. Travis Lovellette says:

    I have thought of doing it to prevent beetles, because by the time you see the holes it is too late to do anything about it. I have heard that you should put the cigars in a plastic zip bag before freezing.

  7. Gary Korb says:

    Per Travis’s post: True. When being placed in the freezer, the cigars should be in their factory box, bundle over-wrap, or a large zip-lock type bag.

  8. Russell Breckwoldt says:

    I guess being a tropical fish hobbyist (and a vet), everything is quarantine quarantine quarantine. The experts say, and believe me I’m no expert, that freezing and slowly thawing does little to alter the taste and quality of the cigar. A point was made about trusting your local dealer, which I do, but the beetles come over from where the cigars are made, not from the store usually. And yes the fermenting process kills most of them, but every now and then…and then closer to home, my friend did get an infestation once, caught it in time, but lost 4 of his favorite cigars. To me, the extra day or so it takes to freeze/thaw them is worth it and doesn’t damage them as far as I can tell. But I also agree with another comment, it’s a personal choice of whether you do it or not. Thanks.

  9. exjersey says:

    Since every manufacturer tells you that they freeze-treat (at the very least) their cigars before shipment, how DO the beetles even make it to the consumer?

  10. Gary Korb says:

    I’m not sure about “every manufacturer,” but this is a good question. I heard that some use some form of infrared light or some other type of prophylaxis. Generally speaking, the way the beetles make it to the consumer is by the factory not being more diligent in this regard. I’d also be curious to know if beetles are more often found in cheaper cigars. If it’s true, that should tell you something.

  11. Russell Breckwoldt says:

    I was unaware that some manufacturers already freeze their cigars. Hmmmmm, interesting, might write to a few companines and see how common a practice that is. Great info Exjersey, thanks.

  12. Gary Korb says:

    Actually, I was unaware of it, too, and if so, it must be only a few of them. I’ve been on a number of personal factory tours, and no one ever showed us the freezer, so I remain skeptical on this issue.

  13. Russell Breckwoldt says:

    Glynn at CO said that General Cigar does in fact freeze their cigars before hand, at the factories. In his opinion, freezing by the consumer is not really an issue, the beetles don’t like the near 70F that most humidors are kept at. Interesting input from everyone, I really appreciate it, has definately helped me.

    Regards,
    Russ

  14. Big E says:

    I’m relatively new to cigar smoking (about 3 months now) and was told by the guy that introduced me to them to put them in the freezer first to kill any bugs in them. But he never mentioned the slow thaw out time. But I’m glad to see that he did actually know what he was talking about. Thanks fellas for the confirmation on that.

  15. exjersey says:

    I first learned about the freezing from Steve Saka at an event last year. He made it sound as though it were common practice. Certainly safer for us than some of the chemicals that used to be commonly used. And you can fumigate with liquid carbon dioxide, but I’m not sure how common that is.

  16. Gary Korb says:

    If Steve Saka intimated that freezing was “common” I would take his word for it, and I agree it would be safer. I’ll have to look into this more. I think the deal with the liquid gas is that it’s so cold, like the butane you use for your lighter, that it instantly kills anything that would be moving. Moreover, I’m sure it’s done in a very controlled way. Thanks for the interesting comment.

  17. Rondo says:

    Back in the 70′s my brother who was in the Navy, would bring me Cuban cigars (Punch, Montecristo) on his worldly travels. I was an occasional smoker and would store them in the crisper section of an old fridge we had in the cellar. When I wanted a smoke, I would wrap one in a damp paper towel and place in the clothes dryer for a few minutes. I never had a problem with breakage, and they always drew/burned nicely. The first few puffs were always very strong, but I smoked them down to the nub.

  18. Gary Korb says:

    Hey Rondo. Well, that has to be one of the more bizarre tips I’ve ever heard. Don’t get me wrong, if it works, it works. Thing is, you should never store cigars in the fridge. The humidity is just too low for them to survive very long.
    Good one! ;-)
    G~

  19. Cigar50 says:

    This article gave a lot of insight into the cigar process.

  20. Adam says:

    Freezing cigars seems like an interesting idea. Thank you for this amazing post. Now I can find more ways to enjoy my cigars!

  21. Todd says:

    Well, I’m fairly new and confused. I’ve 60 en route, my last 40 I kept upwards of 7 humidified and rest wrapped up. Smoke bout 1 a day, roll ‘em in an’ roll ‘em out. Always looking for better ways, so thanks guys. All of my life, Trial and Error lol.

  22. Angeline says:

    Very nicely written blog. It gives very vital information to the people who are unaware of this kind of topic. Keep posting like this. Thanks a lot!! It will really help me to explore my mind with these blogs. Thanks Again!! And Please Keep sharing!

  23. Will says:

    If people are reluctant to freeze cigars, test it with one, follow this method, then smoke it. That way, when you want to freeze 10-20+ you know what you’re getting into. I never though of freezing a cigar, but I have this problem as we speak (too many to smoke in the next few months), so I’ll be trying this for the first time. Thanks for the tips.

  24. James says:

    Really interesting discussion here. I wonder if there’s any scientific evidence one way or another on what freezing does to a cigar as compared to storing it in a humidor? As far as factory freezing goes, there are a lot of processes that take place in factories for industrial scale manufacturing purposes and not because it is absolutely the best for the product. I too am skeptical of freezing but it seems like a good preventative measure or method for recovering from infestation.

  25. Chris says:

    I am not really a cigar smoker, so I hope some of you can help me. I am stationed in Afghanistan. I am going home for my wedding in a few weeks. I picked up some Cuban cigars at one of the European Exchange stores as gifts for my groomsmen not thinking about storage. I don’t have a humidor over here. Can I store them in a freezer for a few weeks before I head home? Once I get home I can put them in my brother’s humidor for the week up until the wedding. Thanks in advance. Chris

  26. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Chris,
    First of all, thank you for your service and congratulations on your upcoming nuptials.
    Based on your plan, the cigars should be fine. Better to freeze them than chance them drying out in the Afghan heat. As long as they’re well sealed, by the time you get them to your brother’s, they will be fully thawed and should survive. Open the box when you get to your brother’s and see if they’re still supple. If so, you’re in good shape.

    All the best,
    Gary

  27. Steve says:

    I have been freezing my cigars for years and I’d say the quality is there but nothing close to a fresh well kept custom cigar. I’ve had my fair share of Cubans, but I’ve been getting into the “custom cigar” game lately. Nothing like a fresh cigar, custom cigar made for my taste. They also, freeze well.

  28. Chase says:

    I’m a newer smoker and I’ve just bought my first humidor and sampler packs to find out what I really like. With regard to not storing in the fridge; I’m supposing that you mean ‘naked’ in the fridge? If you were to keep them in a small humidor you would have a Tupperdor wouldn’t you? If someone had a spare fridge in the garage (like I do) would keeping them properly humidified and cool be something that would effect taste and ‘smokeability”?

  29. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Chase,
    Thanks for chiming in.
    Re storing in the fridge: I mean never, regardless if the cigars are naked or in a box. The humidity is just too low.
    As far as your fridge in the garage, if it’s anything like the one in your kitchen, you’ll run into the same problem. That said, there are some wine fridges that are specially made to keep the wine at a specific temperature and humidity, so you might want to look into one of those.
    Frankly, I would get yourself a good, well-crafted wooden humidor, or make a tupperdor; especially if you’re new and buying a lot of packs to find your ideal smoke. If the cigars are fridge cold, you’ll have to wait until the one you smoke gets back to room temp, anyway.
    Hope this helped.

  30. Chaser says:

    Thanks for the good advice Gary; I’ve got the humidor on the way and have all my materials for seasoning. Great forum, I’ve enjoyed the conversations. Thanks all for chipping in and enriching the cigar culture!

  31. Gary Korb says:

    Our pleasure Chaser. That’s what we do. Let me know how you make out once the humidor arrives and the cigars have been put to bed. Ciao.

  32. Chaser says:

    Update from 04.30.13 comments:
    The humidor arrived, has been seasoned and is now holding smokes. My next problem is choosing a smoke that isn’t going to break the bank since I’ve found that I enjoy smoking rather frequently, and I like a Churchill size at least. Even if you nub the smoke it seems like your missing out on some of what you paid for so a longer stick gives you more ROI. I have some Famous Nicaraguan Churchill Connecticut’s on the way, we’ll see if they’re a good daily smoke.

    About freezing my first sticks: The first batch of sticks went through a 24hr freeze, then a 12hr refrigerator thaw, then a 12 hr room temp sitting. They registered 70% RH (without humidification) as soon as they began the 12hr room sitting and maintained their RH until put into the humidor. Since I didn’t have a sufficient frame of reference for their taste beforehand, I can’t say how or if it affected their flavor. In my opinion the CAO’s I smoked were great anyway!

  33. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Chaser. I was happy to read that your cigars survived their freezing ordeal. Whether you had a frame of reference or not, if the cigars taste good, that’s all that matters. If you’re looking for a good value, the Nicaraguan Churchill CT is a good buy. I should caution you tho about one thing: Every cigar size offers a different character, which is why there are so many shapes available. I wouldn’t stick with Churchills just because you’re getting more for your money, but rather because you enjoy that size the most. Suffice it to say, don’t rule out other shapes and sizes because of budgetary concerns. Proportionally speaking, the amount of tobacco in a Toro (my shape of preference) is similar to that of a Churchill, so keep experimenting, too. I’m sure you’ll find several other sizes you enjoy just as much, or more. Thanks again for your comments and happy smokes!

  34. Chaser says:

    Gary,
    Thanks for the adivce. I look forward to the selection of smokes available and I think, “I only have one mouth and so little time!” Here’s to a lifetime of good taste!!