Cigar Humidor 101: All the Basics You Need to Know

Justin R.
Justin R.

Cigar Enthusiast, Chief Editor

what is a humidor
Table of Contents

Knowing how to keep your cigars fresh is by far the most important factor for cigar aficionados. After all, fewer things in life are worse than reaching for one of your favorite cigars, only to find out it’s completely dry and tasteless.

Understanding proper cigar storage starts by knowing how to set up and maintain your humidor. Cigar Amigo has taken the time to explain everything you need to know about cigar humidors in this neat little guide.

We’ll talk about humidor basics, how to reach the right humidity level, and all optimal storage conditions. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh cigars for the rest of your life.

But first, what is a humidor?

What Is A Humidor?

close up of cigar humidor

Cigar humidors are sealed containers that maintain optimal storage conditions to keep cigars moist and fresh. They are vital for cigars, since tobacco leaves dry out and expand depending on the humidity level.

When a cigar dries out, it loses it’s desirable flavor and aroma. Moreover, the cigar will burn incredibly fast and won’t be as enjoyable. However, a cigar that’s too moist can rot or become infested with tobacco beetles. To stay fresh and to one’s liking, cigars need to be at an ideal relative humidity level of around 70%.

What Is a Cigar Humidor?

What Is a Cigar Humidor

A cigar humidor can be any sealed storage container that can maintain an ideal humidity level. Most humidors are made from Spanish cedar wood, since Spanish cedar does an excellent job of retaining moisture. Meanwhile, the cedar wood doesn’t produce intense aromas that may affect the taste of your cigar collection.

The earliest form of a humidor is believed to originate in Ireland around 1887. An Irish furniture maker designed a wooden container using exotic woods he collected in South Africa. The concept caught on, and cigar humidors became popular throughout Europe and the United States.

You can use other storage containers, but nothing offers more effortless cigar storage than a humidor. 

What Does A Humidor Do?

cigar on top of a humidor

A humidor is designed to store cigars in an encompassing environment that keeps them moist and at a steady temperature. Keeping your cigars in these conditions will also allow them to age properly. Like whiskey, cigars get better with age. However, it only works if they’re stored at the right temperature and humidity levels.

If you keep them in just a box or without any humidity or temperature controls, they will dry out and lose their freshness within a couple of days.

What Is A Humidor Used For?

single cigar in a box

While the primary purpose of a humidor is to maintain relative humidity levels, they also can do a lot more for your cigars. Here are some of the top reasons to own a humidor:

Cigar Storage

different cigars being stored

If more effortless cigar storage is what you’re after, look no further than Spanish cedar humidors. As long as you practice good humidor maintenance, you can place your cigar collection inside the humidor and never have to worry about losing freshness.

What’s more, it keeps your cigars stored in an organized location so that they never get lost. You can typically fit around a dozen cigars inside a humidor at once. You can also use a travel humidor for cigar smoking on the road.

Added Protection

premium cigar with added protection

Premium cigars can be extremely delicate. Not only do they need a steady temperature and an ideal relative humidity to stay fresh, but they also need protection from direct sunlight, cool air, and pests.

Tobacco or cigar beetles can quickly turn a premium cigar collection into a worthless pile of stogies. Keeping your cigars in a basic humidor will ensure that no bugs can munch on your pride and joy.

Furthermore, the humidor passes the perfect amount of cool air and warm air to prevent mold from growing on your cigars. Warm air holds more moisture, and the excess moisture could potentially rot your cigars.

Enhanced Flavor

premium cigar humidor for enhanced flavor

A unique cigar punch cut is a step apart from many cigar smokers. Since the humidor keeps the relative humidity at a suitable level, it keeps the cigars moist and retains the essential oils that deliver the outstanding flavor and cigar odors. The longer you keep them in the storage container, the better.

The cigar odors will seep into the tobacco leaves, giving your stogies a bigger flavor punch when smoked. Some woods can also increase the aroma of your cigar stash. However, Spanish cedar wood offers the best balance.

How Long Does A Humidor Last?

how long does humidor last

Humidors are exceptionally reliable, especially if well taken care of. A new humidor should last you several years or even decades under the right conditions. Moreover, the cigars inside the humidor can last and  enjoy a nice long life if you set it up right.

Depending on the cigars and how you set up your humidor, the stogies inside could last up to 5 years. That means you can enjoy your stogies half a decade after buying them legally online or from local cigar shops. That said, you need to constantly monitor the humidity levels and internal temperature if you want your cigars to last that long.

What Do You Need For A Humidor?

the need for humidor

While humidors may seem complex from the surface, they are actually made up of only a few basic components. Here’s a breakdown of each vital part of a humidor:

 Humidification System

Humidification System

Since the goal is an ideal relative humidity level, a humidor needs some sort of humidification device to regulate moisture. Some containers have a complex humidification system, where others use simple materials to maintain the right humidity.

There are a few options when it comes to adding moisture:

  • Damp Sponge. Sponges are by far the easiest humidification source to get your hands on. All you need to do is soak a sponge in distilled water and leave it inside your humidor. Make sure you only use distilled water to avoid any minerals or other compounds from building up inside.
  • Foam Humidifiers. A foam humidifier works really well for cigars and flower bouquets. They typically come in small blocks and periodically release water into the container to maintain an ideal relative humidity level. However, a foam humidifier works better with propylene glycol over water. The propylene glycol and foam keep your humidor at around 70% humidity, so there’s no chance of excess moisture building up.
  • Electronic Humidifiers. Electronic humidifiers are also an excellent option for introducing moisture to your cigars, especially for larger humidors. Many cigar shops use electronic humidity controls to keep their fresh cigars ready for sale at all times. These devices use sensors to detect when there’s a drop in humidity, and add more moisture to the air inside. An electronic humidifier can also detect extremely high humidity, and hold off on adding additional moisture to the container.
  • Humidification Packs. These packs are incredibly easy to use and allow you to maintain proper humidity with virtually zero effort. However, you’ll need to replace them every couple to keep conditions evenly moist inside your humidor.

Hygrometer

Humidor Hygrometer

Now that you know how to introduce moisture into your humidor, how do you measure and maintain it? That’s where a hygrometer comes in handy. A hygrometer lets you know the exact humidity inside your humidor so you can make adjustments.

You can get either an analog or digital hygrometer depending on your preferences. Digital hygrometers tend to be a bit easier since you can hook them up directly to your humidifier. You should monitor your hygrometer at least once every 2 weeks to make sure you have conditions evenly moist inside your humidor.

Thermostat

A thermostat is another crucial part of the humidor, as it helps you keep temperatures steady. In general, your humidor should sit at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can fluctuate a little up and down without significant effects.

If you have a newer humidor that comes with a cooler or heater, you can adjust the internal temperature controls and calibrate it to your thermostat. Doing so will make it effortless to keep temperatures steady.

Wood

Every good humidor contains some sort of wooden lining, as wood is the only suitable material for maintaining the right conditions. Above, we mention that Spanish cedar humidors are the most popular, and for good reasons.

The Spanish cedar lining deters pests and protects the stogies inside from decaying. The Spanish cedar also absorbs and releases moisture to retain the essential oils your stogies need to taste good.

What Makes A Box A Humidor?

You might be wondering if any wooden box can be used as a humidor. While some people do store their stogies inside wood and cardboard boxes, these containers don’t offer the same protection a humidor does.

For starters, a humidor needs to be completely sealed. Otherwise, too much air can get inside and dry out your stogies. Moreover, a humidor needs to have some sort of humidification system. Whether it’s a sponge soaked in distilled water or a complex electronic device, there needs to be some elements that keeps the stogies moist.  

Getting Started With Your Humidor

If you’ve just got your hands on a brand new humidor, refrain from throwing your fine-grade stogies inside right away. Before you can use your humidor, you need to make sure you season the cedar lining.

You can start by gently cleaning off the wood using a rag or sponge soaked in distilled water. Then, make sure to leave the sponge or rag inside the humidor for about 12 hours. You also need to add your humidification source inside and let it sit overnight to activate the humidor.

Repeat this process for about 2-3 days, and your humidor should be ready. You can calibrate your hygrometer and keep an eye on the humidity until it reaches around 70%. Meanwhile, try to keep your container out of direct sunlight or other harmful weather conditions.

Conclusion

Becoming a seasoned cigar collector sure is fun, but it’s a lot of work. Understanding how to set up and maintain your humidor is an integral part of being a cigar lover.

If you’ve never owned a humidor before, it might take a while to learn exactly how to season the wood and manage it. However, you’ll learn as you go and everything will eventually become second nature.

Remember, the sweet spot is 70% humidity and around 70 degrees Fahrenheit Extremely high humidity can potentially cause mold, where too little moisture will make your cigars dry out. Monitor your humidor regularly and try to have fun with the process!