In my previous blog, How to re-hydrate stale cigars, I spoke more to the issue of whether stale or dried-out cigars can be re-humidified. In this column, I will explain the actual “how-to” of proper re-hydration for both loose and boxed cigars.
Re-hydrating cigars is a procedure that requires a lot of patience. The idea is to allow slow absorption of moisture. You don’t want to “shock” your dry cigars with too much moisture at once. They can actually swell and even split, which is the last thing you want to do, especially if some of them are expensivos.
- Place them in a humidor or a sealed container with a humidifier that isn’t fully charged. It helps to have a digital hygrometer / thermometer in there as well, so you can keep better tabs on the amount of RH your cigars are getting. Give them a few days to absorb what little moisture remains in the humidifier. Check the humidifier to see if it’s just about dried-out. If so, move on to the next step.
- Next, add only a little distilled water and/or recharging solution to the humidifier – no more than one-third absorption – and let the cigars settle-in again for about a week, maybe two, depending on how well they’re coming back. Once they begin to feel less like sticks, move on to step 3.
- Fully re-charge humidifier and let your cigars continue to rest until they are re-humidified to your satisfaction. Rotating them every few days will help keep things even during the process, too.
If you’re re-hydrating your cigars in a very large or cabinet-style humidor, you should start by placing the cigars as far away from the humidifier as possible. Move them a little closer to the device about every 5-7 days.
Remember, this process can take several weeks to well over a month, or even longer, so, be patient.
If you keep your cigars in their factory boxes and notice they’re beginning to dry out, one of the simplest methods is to place the entire box inside a plastic zip-type bag. Don’t completely seal the bag; leave it open about one-half-inch, because you want a little air to get in there. Plus, it will help trap any moisture still left in the cigars. Placing a clean piece of sponge dampened with distilled water or 50/50 solution in the bag will help. Or, in lieu of a piece of sponge, you can add a Boveda 69% humidity pack. As noted above, the idea here again is slow absorption of moisture.
Rotate the cigars every few days from the bottom to the top of the box. Keep this up until you’re satisfied with their suppleness. After that, you can place the Boveda pack inside the box, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to pick up a box of Boveda packs to prevent this from happening again, or in the first place.
Remember, as I pointed-out in my prior column, when cigars lose too much moisture they also lose a lot of their bouquet, so, unless you nip it in the bud, don’t expect them to be as flavorful. Finally, regardless of their condition, never resort to drastic measures to revive your cigars or you’ll ruin them permanently.
One of the most often asked questions I get is, “Is there anything you can do if your cigars dry out?” Actually, there is, but it also depends on how far gone they are when you discover the problem.
If the cigars are very hard, like kindling wood, then it may be time to move those cigars to the woodshed. However, if there’s even a little bit of moisture left in them, they may be salvageable.
The best way to test this is to gently pinch the cigar at the foot. If it crumbles, you’ve got trouble. Other signs of trouble could be unraveling and cracked wrappers. So how does this happen?
If you don’t have good, consistent humidification in your humidor your cigars will begin to lose their oils, and it’s the oils that give tobaccos their flavor properties. Here’s the rub: By re-humidifying your cigars they will eventually regain their suppleness, but because the oils evaporated during the period in which the cigars were drying-out, its unlikely the flavors will return. IOW, you can usually save stale cigars, but don’t expect them to be as savory as when you first opened the box. Note that this applies to cigars that have been going stale over a period of months, not a few days. Cigars which may have dried-out during your vacation or business trip will probably retain most, if not all of their flavor after re-hydration.
The best advice is to try to prevent this from happening in the first place. I have a lot of faith in the integrity of my humidors, but I check them pretty regularly. If, for some reason I’ve gone more than a week without checking the temperature and RH (relative humidity),
I get a little paranoid, but so far, so good.
Finally, make sure you have the right size humidifier for your humidor and a reliable hygrometer. My theory is, it’s better to have a humidifier that’s a little more than you need. It’s easier to control the humidity that way, too. Make sure you also rotate your cigars from the bottom to top every couple of months to ensure all your cigars are getting the proper air flow and moisture. In a future article, I’ll explain the proper way to re-humidify your cigars, so stay tuned…