Nestor Plasencia Jr. joins Cigar Advisor’s Gary Korb for another Master Blenders video podcast: watch them talk about the Plasencia family’s 154 years of tobacco growing, the success of Alma Fuerte cigars, how they grow and create hybrid tobaccos, and more.
Cigar Beetles – and Freezing Cigars
It’s like a horror movie:
“Hello? Honey? Is anyone home? Helloooo? Nice, house to myself.”
Nobody is home, so you take this opportunity to smoke a cigar in peace. You walk down a dimly lit hallway, floorboards creaking with every slow, unsuspecting step you take. You round the corner and you see it on the counter. Your humidor; sitting there like the golden idol on the pedestal in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. You creep towards it, mouth watering for the perfect cigar. The cigar you’ve been waiting all day to have. Placing your hands on your sacred humidor, you flip open the lid, reach your hand in and grab your treat. But what is this? A hole? And another! What is this? Holes are riddled throughout your cigar! You drop to your knees and let out a scream: “WHYYYYYY?!?!”
Pretty tragic story, right? I know, I should be a screen writer. I had you on the edge of your seat, admit it. Anyway, this is the handiwork of the dastardly cigar beetle – and it can be a real nuisance to any cigar smoker or collector. It can turn your entire inventory of hundreds of cigars to a pile of broken tobacco leaves if you have enough of them to terrorize you. The worst part is it is hard to inspect for cigar beetles and their eggs at the manufacturing plants simply because they can be hard to see. One beetle that is carrying eggs, or just a few eggs on a tobacco leaf, can turn into dozens; thus wreaking havoc if they hatch. This is when it becomes a tragedy: once you introduce those beetles to your humidor, they can multiply and destroy your collection.
So what happens when you meet this tiny foe? Well, fear not, as your cigars can be protected during a possible break-in through freezing. That’s right, freezing your cigars will kill off any beetles that may do harm to your cigars. This is how I usually go about the process: first, identify which cigars are damaged. If they are still in the cellophane, your other cigars are 99% safe from beetles because it is hard for beetles to escape the sealed plastic. Simply throw the affected cigars away and keep the ones that look fine. However, we always recommend, especially if the cigars have been removed from their cellophane and have been introduced to your humidor, to toss any infested cigars, and freeze the remaining.
To do this, place all of your cigars from your humidor in an air tight bag, preferably a sandwich bag, and try to remove most of the air from the bag. Place the bag in your refrigerator and let it sit for at least 4 hours. From there, move the bag to a freezer and let it sit for no less than 8 hours (overnight). It is recommended to let them sit in the freezer for a full day just to make sure all the beetles are dead. After this time, transfer them back to a refrigerator for a couple more hours to start warming them up, and then bring them to room temperature. It takes a long time simply because you must gradually cool down and then warm up the cigars to prevent swelling and cracking of the cigars.
At this point, your cigars are good to go, but you do need to make sure your humidor is safe as well. You should never freeze your humidor because it is obviously designed to hold water. If you freeze it, the water will certainly freeze and can crack and warp the wood, rendering your humidor useless. The best way to protect your humidor it to vacuum out any excess tobacco leaves and debris, and then wipe down your humidor with a cloth dampened with distilled water to clean it. As long as you make sure there is no debris, there should not be any more cigar beetles.
The best way to deal with cigar beetles though is to simply take preventative measures against them by following the 70-70 rule. Do not allow your humidor to reach over 70% humidity and 70 degrees. If you’re at or above 70% humidity, once your humidor temperature reaches 75 degrees or higher you begin to run the risk of beetle eggs hatching. By keeping your humidor at the sweet spot of around 67% humidity and out of direct sunlight at room temperature, you should not experience this problem.