If you’re an avid cigar smoker, even as a novice, chances are good by now you’ve had a few bad stogies that weren’t stored properly at the optimal temperature and humidity. Maybe your humidor malfunctioned or you didn’t have one yet, or you purchased a cigar from behind a counter at some convenience store.
If cigars are not stored properly, they develop problems.
Cigars that become too damp through high humidity:
- May form patches of mold
- May be hard to light
- Can go out suddenly after they are lit
- Sometimes may have a tight draw
Cigars that become too dry through low humidity:
- Lose aroma and flavor through the evaporation of essential oils
- May burn hot
- Can become harsh
- The wrapper may also crack
Just as you need to control the humidity level your cigars are stored in, you also need to maintain control of the temperature.
Cigars stored in temperatures which are too hot can develop the following problems:
- They may be susceptible to beetle/worm infestation
- They may rot outright
Cigars stored in temperatures which are too cold:
- May also become dry, and crack as a result, losing flavor and aroma and becoming hot and harsh when they burn
- May not age properly. Temperatures which are too cool do not allow the flavors in your cigar to blend or mature.
What Are the Optimum Temperature and Humidity Levels for Cigar Storage?
If you are reading this article, you probably have a humidor (if you don’t – check out our buying tips for your first humidor).
You will also need to pick up a thermometer and a hygrometer (read our article about differences between digital and analog hygrometers) which will give you accurate readouts on the temperature and humidity inside. You will also need to set up a reliable humidification system.
Now you know what happens if you do not control the conditions in which you store your cigars. So what are the proper conditions to maintain? You want to try and keep your stogies at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21° C) and 70% humidity. There is an acceptable humidity range from 65-75%. Some people prefer their cigars a little drier, others prefer them a little wetter. In particular, many smokers say that a slightly lower humidity level makes for a better smoking experience with Cuban cigars.
In terms of temperature, you definitely want to stick close to the 70 recommendation, but you do have a little bit of leeway. If you want, you can store your cigars at a slightly cooler temperature. But you do not want to go much cooler, or you will start having the problems associated with cold temperatures mentioned previously. If your cigars do not seem to be aging right, then they may be too cold. And you definitely do not want them much warmer than 70 degrees.
Some cigars are made to be enjoyed immediately. Others become better with age. If you’ve got time, patience and money to afford aging your cigars for years, you might want to adjust a little the general settings outlined above. For instance, it would be preferable to keep the humidity level a tad lower, around 65 instead of 70. I don’t think there are any necessary temperature adjustments, 70 degrees / ~20-21° C is perfectly fine.
Don’t forget to sample your cigars from time to time (I try to sample at least one cigar from every box every year) and note how they evolve, so you don’t miss their peak.
What if you just need to store a handful of cigars for a couple of weeks? You usually can get away with just stashing them inside a Ziploc bag and making sure they are not exposed to extremely hot or cold temperatures.
Another tip is to use dry boxing. A dry box is an un-humidified container that allows your cigars to shed their excess moisture, but not dry out completely. This is very useful when your humidor has a rather high humidity level. Pick out a handful you plan to smoke over the next week or so, and transfer them to the dry box for that time span. They will reach optimal smoking condition by the time you are ready to smoke them. There is more than one type of dry box you can get, but the plastic “road cases” designed specifically for cigars are generally the best. And they are actually excellent for travel!
You now should have a better understanding of not only the proper temperature and humidity levels to store your cigars at, but why it is so important that you do so. Be sure to let us know any special recommendations or tips and tricks you have for storing your cigars in the comments below!