You'd been keeping your cigars in a Tupperware container for months, and nearing the point of overflow, you broke down and invested in a good humidor. But before you put your cigars in that shiny new box, you have to "season" it. Why? Since the wood that makes up your new humidor is dry, the walls need to absorb moisture, and seasoning your humidor contributes to the ebb and flow of moist air to help your cigars settle and age properly. It's real easy, but you need a few days to do it the right way. Patience is definitely a virtue here, but it will pay-off in cigars that will smoke and taste better. So here's how to season a cigar humidor "by the numbers":
- Place your cigars in a Ziploc baggie or an airtight plastic container, and place it in a cool, dark place.
- Put both the hygrometer and humidifier in place to make sure each of them fits. (Set the hygrometer aside for now. (We'll discuss calibration later.)
- Soak the humidifier in 100% DISTILLED water (about 79¢/gal at most grocery stores) for half an hour. Make sure it’s drained completely, without dripping, and put it back in place under the lid.
- Soak a NEW, clean kitchen sponge in a clean stainless steel pan or plastic container filled with distilled water, and squeeze any remaining chemical residue that may be present within the sponge. (Look for soapy-looking bubbles in the water.) Replace the "dirty" water with FRESH distilled water. Soak the sponge again, leaving enough distilled water to saturate the sponge without it dripping.
- Place the saturated sponge on top of a sandwich baggie on the bottom of your humidor to protect the base of the box from any leakage.
- Close the lid and wait three days; checking after two days. By the third day the hygrometer should show a high reading very high (in most cases above 85%).
- After the third day, remove the sponge and baggie, being careful not to allow water to seep onto the bottom of the box. (Actually, it’s a good idea to check this after the first day, just to be safe.)
- Even though the hygrometer will likely be showing a high reading, go ahead and place your cigars in the humidor. In a few hours you'll notice the needle dip back down. Once it stops, take a reading. If it’s within the 65% - 75% RH range, your hygrometer is likely OK, but for those of you who prefer accuracy, make sure to follow the next step.
- Most digital model hygrometers are accurate by design, but if it's an analog model, you’ll want to complete the hygrometer calibration salt test. Make sure to follow the directions carefully. (Note: the hygrometer calibration salt test will also work for digital models.)
It will take several months, or even more, for your humidor to fully season. Just keep an eye on things and you'll be fine. A good average RH is 67%, with a temperature of approximately 70ºF.
Keep the humidor out of direct light (natural or artificial) because it can negatively affect the temperature and RH.
There’s another method we’ll cover in a later blog, but this method is pretty fool-proof. Whether you store your cigars with or without the cello, you’re sure tonotice an improvement in your cigars within a month.
Keep in mind, there are cigar smokers who prefer their cigars more, or less, supple. So as you smoke cigars over time, , you’ll likely find yourself adjusting the RH to your personal liking.