A humidor is any kind of box or room with constant humidity that is used to store cigars, cigarettes, or pipe tobacco. For private use, small wooden boxes holding a few dozen cigars are common, while cigar shops may have walk-in humidors. Humidors can be used to maintain consistent humidity level for other goods; the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball team stores game balls in a large humidor at their home stadium, Coors Field, to counteract the effects of Denver's low humidity. Many humidors use hygrometers to monitor their humidity levels.
Most common in cigar bars or stores. One room is built as or converted to a humidor where all the cigars are stored.
Usually placed on the floor as a piece of furniture. Typically holds 1000-5000 cigars.
A small humidor kept in a convenient location in home or office for personal storage, special events, or aesthetics, usually holding 20-75 cigars. Also known as a "desktop humidor".
Portable, usually holding 2 to 10 cigars.
Commercially made humidor cases are typically made of wood, although other materials, like acrylic glass and metal, are not uncommon. Carbon fibre, silicon carbide, and polyethylene have also been used. Disregarding aesthetic qualities, the casing's purpose is to protect the interior and create a closed environment, so any durable and airtight material can be used.
The interior is typically a veneer of Spanish-cedar, which possesses the following desirable characteristics for cigar storage:
- It holds more moisture than most woods, so it helps maintain humidity.
- It is not prone to "warping" or "cupping" in high humidity.
- It imparts its aroma to cigars. For the same reason, some cigars are wrapped in Spanish-cedar sheets before they are sold.
- It can repel tobacco beetles, pinhead-sized pests which can ruin entire stocks of cigars by eating the tobacco and laying eggs, causing further infestation. They can also be discouraged by ensuring the humidor does not get hotter than 20 °C (68 °F). The beetle eggs usually only hatch at around 25 °C (77 °F), although there are also instances where they will hatch at cooler temperatures if the humidity is too high.
Humidors are typically commercially produced, though most walk-ins are custom built and some humidors are homemade. They range considerably in material, size and complexity. Capacity is determined by deducting the space required for the humidification element and some extra room between the element and the cigars. It can also be calculated online for the most popular cigar formats.
A humidor needs to be seasoned when new or having been out of use for a while. Wood in an unseasoned humidor will absorb moisture from within, drying stored cigars out. The preferred technique for bringing the wood close to an optimal relative humidity level where it will buffer moisture is placing a small container of distilled water inside the humidor for 1 to 3 days.
All humidors contain a permanent humidifying system which keeps the air moist, which in turn keeps the cigars moist. The ideal relative humidity in a humidor is around 68-72%. Though it can vary slightly depending on the cigar smoker's preferences, it should never go higher than 75% due to the possibility of hatching tobacco beetles. The more empty space, the more readily the humidity level of the box will drop or rise.
Most humidifying elements are passive, releasing stored humidity through evaporation and diffusion. The use of a 50/50 solution of propylene glycol and distilled water is recommended for replenishing the passive humidifying element, as it has a buffering effect on air humidity, maintaining it at approximately 70%. Retailers and manufacturers claim propylene glycol also has mild antifungal and antibacterial properties; distilled water should always be used, due to its lack of minerals, additives, or bacteria.
Electronic humidifiers are also available, although usually reserved for very large humidors. A sensor measures the outside humidity and then activates a ventilator, which blows air over a humid sponge or water tank into the humidor. Once the preset humidity level has been reached the ventilator stops. This way electronic humidifiers can maintain a much more stable humidity level than passive humidifiers. Also they typically will activate an alarm to notify when the moisture supply needs refilling, to prevent humidity drops. The accuracy of electronic humidifiers depends primarily on the integrated type of sensor; the capacitive type are preferred.
Silica gel beads, familiar for removing moisture from packaging containers, are a third alternative. These are "calibrated" with a coating of mineral salts to absorb or release humidity in various RH ranges (including 65%, 68%, 70%, and 72%), providing a buffering effect on relative humidity. They require only distilled water when necessary, and can be ruined by propylene glycol.
A humidor should never be exposed to direct sunlight. To discourage eggs of tobacco beetles from hatching and prevent cigar rot, its internal temperature should be kept below 25 °C (77 °F), as well as below 75% relative humidity. At temperatures below 12 °C (54 °F), the desired ageing process of the cigars is impaired, making storage in wine cellars problematic.