Friday, September 12, 2008

DANGER: High Humidity!

I received an email this week from a reader who told me he can't seem to keep the humidity in his humidor under 77% to 79% RH.

"I use a humidity controlling liquid and distilled water. Will this excess humidity harm my cigars? I have always been under the impression that the 68% - 72% humidity range is ideal, and your cigars will age well and last indefinitely."

If you can relate to the above scenario, you've got a problem, or you're going to have one at some point. Assuming the average temperature in the humidor is around 70 degrees, your cigars are going to smoke more like a ShamWOW! than a cigar. If your humidity levels are running as high as 77% or higher, you risk mold and possibly hatching of tobacco beetle eggs.

One thing that contributes to high RH levels is oversaturation of your humidifier. You may be recharging the device too often, or you're using too much solution (a.k.a. polyglycol) and/or distilled water when it comes time to recharge your humidifier. My cigar humidors are now well-seasoned enough that most of the time I only need to add a little squirt of a 20% solution to 80% distilled water mix I made up. So if you're completely soaking the humidifier each time you recharge, you may be overdoing it.

In recent years, the 70/70 "ideal" standard has had some holes punched in it. Your cigars will fare much better at an average relative humidity of more like 67%. Even at that number, some cigars can be overly moist, but try not to stray too much farther down from the "norm" than 65%.

If your RH is running well over 70%, remove your humidifier/s from your humidor/s until the RH has had time to dip. Let the humidifiers dry out some, too. (You can even leave the lid up for several hours to help it along.) Note how long it takes to get the RH down to about 67%, and see how long it stays that at around that mark. Check a few of your cigars every day by giving them a little pinch to see how supple they are. Once the RH hits 64%, replace the humidifier/s and try to keep the RH at an average of about 66-67%.

Your cigars will age better and last longer at a cooler temperature and lower humidity, more like 65º/65 RH as opposed to 70º/70 RH.

~Gary Korb

ShamWOW!® is a registered trademark of Shamwow, Inc.


OrganicVeggie said...

What effects do temperature and changes in temperature have on the storage/aging of cigars?

For example, I live in the Midwest and temperatures in my house fluctuate between 64F and 78F, depending on the month. Although cooler overall, the basement shows a similar temperature variation, shifting from 68F in the summer to 56F in the winter. Meanwhile, I also have a wine cellar that stays at a constant 57F all year.

What's the best storage location in this case? Should I move the humidor depending on the season (e.g. basement in the summer and main level in the winter)? Or would the cigars be better off at the constant 57F in the wine cellar?

Anonymous said...

Good advice! I, too, had problems with too high humidity, mistakenly taking published advice that a 50/50 mix of PG & distilled water would positively keep the RH @ 70% -- it does not, BTW! So yes, less is more (65-68% RH) and a good, calibrated hygrometer is critical to know the correct RH of your cigars. I am, however, under the impression that tobacco beetle eggs are more common in cigars than most people believe, but the eggs will not hatch unless the actual temperature reaches 80 degrees F. or higher for 2-3 days or longer? A related comment, sometimes, the "infected" cigars can be saved by placing them (tightly wrapped) in the freezer for a couple days, which (supposedly) kills the eggs/larvae/beetles?

Gary Korb said...

Re OrganicVeggie's comment: Yes, the cigars will fare better in the wine cellar at the lower temperature, especially for long-term aging, but I would make sure the humidity is also consistently within the average range of 68% RH.

Re Anonymous's comment: True, I neglected to add that very high humidor temperatures will contribute to the hatching of beetle eggs. Good catch!


Anonymous said...

This is great advice for people that live in cooler climates, but what about those of us that live in warmer climates such as Houston? It seldom gets down to 70 degrees in my house. Digging a hole in the back yard is not the answer, because in 30 minutes the humidity would be 100%.

stphen said...

Heat and humidity add up to danger. High humidity makes heat more dangerous because it slows the evaporation of perspiration. well you had really given concern to very important aspect. thanks for this exclusive information.

Mcgee said...

I just bought a humidifier. My friends told me in some situations humidifier can danger for human. Beside the high humidifier, can anyone tell me another thing which can turn the humidifier to danger?