Cigars 101

Why Cigar Humidification Matters and What to Use


Humidification is the most important part of keeping your cigars in top smoking condition.

It’s also the one thing that causes cigar smokers the most concern: dried-out cigars are a cigar smoker’s biggest fear. But keeping cigars fresh is easy, with a little attention to detail – and some tools to help make sure you’re doing it right.

Why is cigar humidification important?

Give your cigars a properly humidified home, and they’ll stay fresh forever. But once removed from a humidified environment, a premium handmade cigar has its limits: a few days, maybe a week, given the surrounding conditions. As it dries, the tobacco becomes brittle; the cigar may crack when you cut it or come apart as you smoke it. Even if the wrapper leaf survives, a too-dry cigar will burn quickly and taste flat or harsh.

This is one of the reasons why we caution against storing your cigars in the refrigerator: it’s too dry inside.

Only a limited amount of moisture is needed to keep a cigar fresh: while a wet leaf doesn’t burn, properly humidified tobaccos are allowed to retain their oils – which contributes to the cigar’s overall flavor.

Consistent climate conditions – from when the cigar was rolled, aged and prepared to be smoked – makes all the difference in how a cigar tastes. So it makes sense, then, that tobacco burns and tastes best when stored as close to the climate in which it was made. That’s why we keep cigars in a humidor: an environment designed to replicate the conditions the cigars were kept in the factory aging room.

Life Inside the Humidor

Once you close the lid of your humidor, an impressive miniature ecosystem sets about its work of keeping your cigars fresh. Think of it as life inside a bubble, or a terrarium: you’ve created a world that exists exclusively to provide the ideal conditions to protect what’s inside. And ideally, it’s a climate that’s consistent with – or at least similar to – the one where your cigar was made.

Whether you’re storing cigars for your enjoyment or for home aging, it’s important to choose a good humidification system for your humidor.

Types of Cigar Humidification Devices

Years ago, even the best humidors were limited to the one type of cigar humidifier that was included when you bought it. Today, you have several tools at your disposal to keep your cigars fresh. Deciding on the right device depends on two things: first, decide how much time you want to spend doing humidor maintenance. Second, consider how many cigars you have – a humidification device that’s made to keep 25 cigars fresh won’t stand up to the moisture demands of a 100 cigar collection. So be sure to buy the right size humidifier for your humidor.

One important note: for any cigar humidifier that requires the application of water, use ONLY distilled water. NEVER use tap or spring water, which can lead to mold growth or mineral deposits in the unit.

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Green Oasis Foam

The most basic type of cigar humidifier; thanks to advances in cigar humidification, they’ve become less popular, but many humidor makers still include them. Though they require a little more attention, a green foam humidifier will do the job. Just dribble distilled water or 50/50 solution on the foam until it’s saturated, then shake off the excess and place in your humidor.

Average Lifespan – 1 year; recharge every few weeks.

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Crystal Gels and Silica Beads

Recognizing the need for a humidification device that lasts longer (and requires less maintenance) than green foam, several companies – including Xikar, DryMistat and Cigar Classics – have introduced polymer crystal humidifiers that include a mold retardant. Once filled with distilled water, the crystals expand to form a gel substance that emits a cigar-friendly 70% RH. Soak the beads or crystals with distilled water, and wait a few minutes for the beads to expand; drain out the excess liquid, and place in your humidor. The disc-shaped humidifiers attach under your humidor’s lid; the jar humidifiers stand up on the bottom of the humidor, usually in a corner.

Average Lifespan – crystal gel up to 2 years, silica beads up to 6 years; recharge every 1-3 months.

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Cigar Humidification Packets

Perhaps the easiest way to keep your cigars in tip-top condition – and Boveda makes the best packet in the business. These packets require the least amount of work; simply add one (1) packet for every 25 cigars in your humidor (and yes, they can touch the cigars). Boveda packs are available in a variety of relative humidity options – particularly helpful if you live in a warm, dry climate like the Southwest. They’re also great if you prefer to give your cigars an environment other than 70% RH.

Average Lifespan – up to 6 months; replace when stiff/dry. Or if you’re crafty, recharge them.

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Electronic Cigar Humidifiers

If you have a large cigar collection and keep your cigars in a cabinet-type cigar humidor or other large unit (like the wineador in our office), you may want to opt for an electronic cigar humidifier. Cigar Oasis has been the leader in this field, offering a model for practically every type of humidor: a fan helps to distribute moisture, and a built-in digital hygrometer/thermometer – accessible on some models via Wi-Fi connection – make sure your cigars are being treated to the proper conditions. It also warns you when it’s time to refill the water cartridge, which only requires about 5 minutes of maintenance.

Average Cartridge Lifespan – 1-2 years; recharge cartridge with distilled water as needed.

Now that you know your cigar humidification options – choose the one that’s right for your humidor, and enjoy a great-tasting cigar every time you light up!