Cigar Humidification Systems
The type of humidor you choose and the brands of cigars you fill it with are important, but without the proper humi-care, all of the time and money you put in is lost. Without an effective humidification system inside your humidor, the humidity levels get too far out of sync, and your cigars become difficult to smoke, unpleasant, or even permanently damaged.
Cigar humidifiers come in two different styles: active and passive. Your choice depends on your personal preference and the amount of control you'd like to have. Both are unobtrusive and easy to use.
Active Humidification Systems
Active cigar humidifiers plug into the wall, and use a special sensor to measure the moisture in the air. They carry a high price tag, but they're worth it, especially if you have a large collection kept in a cabinet humidor. There are a few similar to this made for smaller storage systems, but they're rare. Most will only add moisture to the air. If you'd like a humidification system that also pulls moisture from the air, you'll have to look at the very top of the price scale.
Passive Humidification Systems
If you prefer a more conventional system, you'll want a passive humidification system. Also called "Credos" after the leading manufacturer in the industry, Credo Company, this style works on the basic principles of water evaporation. They don't have all the features of an active style system, but they're relatively inexpensive and last for a long time.
Typically, they're made from a container with a series of small holes in it, with some florist foam, clay, or a sponge inside. This material is dampened with a 50/50 mix of distilled water and propylene glycol. All three of these materials work, but each has its own benefits: the foam is better at regulating humidity because its holes allow it to absorb more water, whereas the clay will last longer.
What is Propylene Glycol?
It sounds a little scary at first, but manufacturers of everything from pharmaceuticals to animal food and hair care products use propylene glycol. Often called "regulating solution" in smoke and cigar shops, this hydroscopic agent is completely safe to use or consume and acts as an antibacterial solution to prevent molding.
The propylene glycol causes the material to absorb excess water when the humidor is too moist. To dampen dry air, the propylene forces water out of the sponge to increase the humidor's humidity level. This can be a problem if you've overfilled the humidifier at some point, since the water will spill over the container and ruin your cigars.
As the humidor sits, you'll notice the water evaporates, particularly if you live in a dry climate. To refill it, top it up with distilled water. You won't have to add more propylene glycol because it already has enough.
Most new commercial humidification systems come prefilled with propylene glycol. If you're unsure of how much chemical it has, however, clean and dry it thoroughly before you add the water and propylene glycol solution. You'll also want to repeat this process once or twice a year in order to replenish the regulation solution that will have evaporated from the humidifier with prolonged use.
If you need to purchase propylene glycol, you'll find it at most specialty cigar and smoke shops for around $20 for two ounces. To save some money, ask the pharmacist at your local drug store who sells an entire pint for around $7.
A Modern Passive Humidification Alternative
Manufacturers recently released a new style of passive cigar humidifier called a 'crystal based humidifier'.
This form of humidifier uses silica gel beads coated in a salt derivative to regulate the relative humidity of your humidor. The beads use the same principles as propylene glycol, but after trying them, many cigar enthusiasts prefer the new crystal based humidifiers.
Make Your Own Humidification System
1. Container -- Some examples include film tubes or a travel-sized soap dish.
2. Wet florists foam -- WET Oasis for live floral arrangements is available from most craft stores and floral shops. Do not use DRY Oasis foam.
3. Propylene glycol -- Ask at the pharmacist's counter, and you can find this chemical for approximately $7 per pint. This is the active ingredient in commercial solutions such as Credo's Special Care solution.
4. Distilled Water -- You can find this at grocery stores.
The container you choose must be small enough to fit your humidor with a sufficient number of holes in it to allow for proper airflow. Drill more, if you need to. Then, you'll need to cut the foam so that it fits loosely in the container with enough space on all sides for air circulation. Finally, mix a 50/50 solution of distilled water and propylene glycol, moisten the foam (don't saturate it!), close the container, and you're done.
Homemade humidifiers cost considerably less than commercial versions you find in stores, and you'll find they work just as well. Also, remember that humidifiers take a few days to regulate your humidor and bring it to the correct moisture level.
Tips and Hints
To find out how many humidifiers you'll need and what size they should be, take into account how often you open the humidor, its construction, how many cigars you have, and the outside climate.
As a general guideline:
- 100-200 cigars use two Credo Precision 70s
- 40-100 cigars use one Credo Precision 70
- 40 or less cigars use one Credo Rondo
For the best results, select the widest cigar humidifier you can find rather than thicker ones. Only distilled water to keep the humidifier free from mold and bacteria, and be careful not to overfill it. Finally, remember that the humidity in your humidor will fluctuate, so don't panic if it differs by a few percentage points either way.
What Style Of Cigar Humidifier Should You Use?
Cigar humidifiers are an important accessory for any cigar connoisseur to have in his humidor. However, don't be too overly concerned with which style of humidification system to choose. Active, passive, and homemade humidification systems will all regulate humidity levels effectively, and require very little care on your part.
So long as you have one in place, you can sit back and enjoy your favorite blends without worry.