When it comes to smoking cigars, the words ‘humidity’ and ‘moisture’ will often be mentioned in relation to your cigar, but what does this mean? While you may be aware that you require a humidor to keep your cigars at their optimum humidity level, you may not know why this is necessary. Our guide to cigar humidity and moisture will help to answer any of these questions.
What should the moisture levels of a cigar be and why is it important?
When a cigar first leaves the factory it has been made in, it will have between 12-15%, and it is best to try and keep it at this level of humidity. If the moisture levels of your cigar are higher or lower than this when you go to smoke it, the burn can become uneven and destroy the smoke, flavour and aroma of the cigar, or it will burn too hot, creating an unpleasant taste.
What happens if there is too much moisture in a cigar?
If a cigar is kept in too humid conditions, then it will become damp. Most cigar smokers will agree that anything above 70 percent humidity is too much. A cigar that is damp will become difficult to draw smoke through, as the tobacco leaves swell as they absorb moisture. The burn of the cigar will also be affected, typically causing a tunnelling effect where one side of the stogie will burn faster than the other. The excess moisture in the cigar will also produce far more smoke than a properly-stored cigar would, and this can overload your senses, muting your ability to properly enjoy the tastes of your cigar.
You can tell that a cigar is too damp if it feels spongy and soft. Excess moisture and humidity can lead to other problems, such as mould or holes from tobacco beetles, which both thrive in damp and humid conditions. If there is evidence of these issues on your cigar, then it should be thrown away, and your humidor should be thoroughly cleaned.
What happens if a cigar is too dry?
Cigars gain, retain or lose moisture from the environment depending on the conditions they are kept in. A cigar left in the sun, or near a heater, might dry out within a few hours. If left for too long and the cigar dries out completely, the oils found in the cigar will have evaporated, taking much of the cigar’s flavour with it. While introducing the cigar to high levels of humidity can help the cigar to regain some moisture, the cigar will never taste as bold and delicious as it once did. A dry cigar will also present issues with its burn, causing it to smoke fast and hot. This will again cause damage to the oils, making any flavour that remains evaporate before you get the chance to appreciate it!
A dry cigar will feel brittle and may show some cracks in the wrapper. A cigar that has been stored at the right temperature will have a smooth wrapper with a slightly oily feel.
How to keep cigars in the right condition
The best way to keep cigars in their optimum conditions is to use a humidor. A humidor is a humidity controlled box, often made from Spanish cedar wood, that regulates the humidity levels within it, allowing you to store your cigar collection safely. Our definitive guide to cigar humidification will explain everything you need to know about these essential cigar storage containers.