Welcome back to another episode of Smoke Rings University. Throughout my career, I've often been asked, "How do I keep my cigars from drying out?" Well, today, we'll be discussing exactly that: the various methods and equipment designed to keep your cigars stored at the proper humidity levels and temperatures. We'll cover five basic humidification methods, including floral foam, crystal gels, silica beads, humidification packs, and electric humidification.
Floral foam is the oldest and simplest humidification method, and it's also the hardest to mess up. Floral foam typically comes in a black plastic case with green foam inside. Before use, you simply submerge it in distilled water for about 10 minutes and let it absorb the moisture. Then, you take it out, set it onto a towel to drip-dry, and then simply put it back into your humidor. While it's quite easy to do, one of the disadvantages of this method is that it's very hard to control the humidity levels, because floral foam is a one-way system meant only to increase humidity. It doesn't help absorb excess humidity in your humidors. Floral foam cases also usually need to be refilled every one to two weeks, and they have a shelf life of about six months to a year. In short, floral foam is a quick, easy, and effective way of increasing humidity levels in your humidor, but there are likely better, more comprehensive solutions on the market.
The second method is using crystal gels, which work to absorb excess humidity in your storage environment. They are pre-soaked with a solution of propylene glycol and distilled water, and usually grow about 500 times their original size. When using crystal gels, you need to refill the jar with distilled water about every two to four weeks. They do have a shelf life, so you need to swap them out after about one year. Like floral foam, crystal gels are likewise a one-way system. They are very absorbent, but they can lead to sub-optimal humidity levels, because they only work to absorb excess humidity.
Another option, of course, is silica beads. Unlike floral foam and crystal gels, silica beads are a two-way system, which means they will both absorb and emit moisture to regulate controlled environment. While silica beads have a shelf-life of up to two years, you do need to refill them with distilled water every two to four weeks. So while they're great for regulating the humidity levels of your humidors, they're a bit high maintenance and can be time-consuming. They're also quite small and recommended only for up to 25 to 50 cigars.
One the most popular humidity control solutions is the humidification pack. Humidification packs likewise operate on a two-way system, meaning they will either emit or absorb moisture as needed. The equilibrium is determined by the RH level (relative humidity) listed on the pack, and these range from 55 up to 84, which makes them great choices for a variety of tasks such as seasoning your humidor, packing cigars for a trip, or long-term aging. They are also very pliable; you can stick them anywhere you need to — in the lid of your humidor, underneath your cigars, or even in between cigars. Once the packs try out and become hard, simply throw them away and add a new one into your box. Each pack, generally, is good for about 25 cigars. The best part, though, is that, even if you put 12 packs into a small humidor, you won't run the risk of over-humidifying, because they only absorb or emit moisture to achieve the equilibrium (RH) listed on the pack.
Today, there are two main brands of humidification packs you'll want to check out: Boveda and Humi-Smart. Up until about a year ago, Boveda kind of ruled the market, and for good reason. They are highly effective and precise, with very little margin for error. You don't need to add water to them, and you cannot and should not try to refill and reuse these. Some people do, but they will likely lose all of their effectiveness. They are also quite cheap, running about $4.00 per pack, and will last for about three to six months, depending on how often you open and close your humidor.
Though something of a newcomer, Humi-Smart packs are also excellent choices. They use the exact same setup as Boveda packs and work the same way: drop one in your humidor and forget about it. The difference is that Humi-Smart packs are completely organic and are biodegradable. They also come with handy indicators that advise the user when to replace the pack. When the indicator turns blue, you simply throw the pack away and swap it out with a new one. It's a subtle feature, but is quite convenient, as you needn't touch or feel the pack. If you have a humidor with a glass top, for example, you can determine whether you need to swap out your Humi-Smart pack without ever having to crack the lid. Generally, like Boveda packs, you'll need to replace Humi-Smart packs every three to six months.
Electronic Humidification Unit
The fifth and final humidification method we'll cover is probably the best solution on the market: the electronic humidification unit. Electronic humidification units work similarly to an air conditioning thermostat. When humidity levels drop too low, a sensor signals the unit to turn on and increase the relative humidity; if levels drop too high, it siphons moisture out. Of course, the major drawback to these units is their sheer size, which is why they're generally only advised for humidors storing over 100 cigars. You also need to add water, usually to a reservoir outside of the humidor, to these units about once a month. Unlike the disposable options we've covered previously, however, you'll never have to replace them, as long as the electronics don't fail. One word of advice, though: always power your unit through a surge protector; otherwise, if you there's a power outage or a storm, it can completely reset your humidification unit and you will need to start from scratch.
So there you have it: a brief introduction into five of the most common humidification methods. Personally, for most customers, I recommend using Boveda or Humi-Smart packs, simply for their tremendous ease of use. You don't need to worry about them; you can simply put them into your humidor and forget about them until a later date when they dry out, usually in about three to six months. They're easy, they're effective, and they're precise. What about you? Which humidification techniques do you use in your own humidors? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Tagged in: Boveda Cigar Basics Cigars Humidity Humi-Smart Smoke Rings University