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Facts About Tobacco:
HUMIDIFICATION

 
     
  As important an investment as your Tabaco de la Cordillera cigars are, you might be interested in a discussion of the problems of preventing damage to them by unstable humidification. The following provides some valuable and previously unknown information on the subject.  
     
  Published with permission by the author, Dale Scott. The opening and closing paragraphs are his personal experience and evaluation of the humidification device described.  
     
  Quoting Scott:
"Here are excerpts from an article in Smokeshop magazine ). It introduces and explains what I have found to be the all-around best and most innovative humidification system. I used the typical wet-element personal humidor humidification systems for decades, and found them all to be much the same. You soak a sponge-like material in water, maybe with a little humidity-regulating chemical (usually propylene glycol, a water-soluble alcohol).
 
     
  "They all worked ... but only part of the time, as the following example shows. We start with a thoroughly wet element, with the relative humidity (RH) in the high 70% range. Over time, it sacrifices its water content to humidify the box, from which the moisture is escaping. At one point, its contribution of moisture balances exactly with the leakage rate from the box, and it is in the desirable RH range of 68-72%. But, it continues to dry down as the box dries. Time to recharge the elements, which then "blasts" the dry box ... and the cigars. Depending on the RH in the box, the cigars may have lost some, or a lot, of their moisture as well as their suppleness and springy resilience to the touch.  
     
 
     
  "So, my cigars were only exposed to the desirable 68-72% range when the RH passed through it, on its swings up and down. I also noticed the feet of the cigars were "belling out" noticeably. Worse, the wrappers and even some binders (inner wrapper leaf) were splitting open for up to 1/4."  
     
  "Then, I met Howard Ingber, a chemical engineer. I had been involved in a passio-filled humidification debate on a cigar Web site forum. Howard approached me with information from the "Chemical Engineers Handbook," a professional book of data, that proved I was wrong. This article resulted from my association with him.  
     
 
  A Smokeshop owner in Tucson told me once, "Even here in Arid-Zona, it's easy to keep my cigars fresh. Every morning, when I come to work, I throw a bucket of water on the walk-in's porous clay tile floor" It provided humidification, all right, but his shock treatment subjected his stock to one of the biggest dangers of intermittent humidification.  
     
  Cigars react indignantly to alternate drying and humidifying. In a sense, they "pout," at least at the foot, where they swell and split. Howard Ingber, a chemical engineer and creator of Cigar Oasis active electronic humidification devices, has contributed much to the knowledge of what happens when a cigar dries down or is rehumidified. Prior to his breakthrough research, the industry knew little about the process. How did moisture escape or enter a cigar? Did moisture pass uniformly through the wrapper, or via the open foot? Why did otherwise intact cigars swell and crack at the foot? Most importably, how could smokers and tobacconists prevent the loss of expensive inventory this caused?  
     
  Ingber, whose work benefitted the industry greatly, experimented with drying down cigars from 70% relative humidity (RH) to 55% RH, and humidifying them from 55% to 70%. The results settled the debate as to whether the moisture entered or exited through the wrapper from head to foot, or only from the open foot. Well, sort of ... both occur, depending on the RH in the room and inside the cigar itself, if the two differ. During dry-down from 70% RH to about 65% RH, moisture exits the open foot exclusively ... the wrapper is impervious to the transfer of the moisture in this humidity range. It does so in a matter of minutes, to boot. As the cigar's internal humidity drops below 65%, the wrapper leaf becomes porous, allowing moisture to escape right through the leaf. The cigar then dries down more slowly, until it reaches the relative humidity level of the surrounding air ... 55% in Ingber's experiments.  
     
  The problem was much worse when Ingber humidified a dry cigar from 55% RH to 70% RH. Up from 55% to 65%, the process is reversed, with moisture entering the cigar uniformly along its wrapper's length. But above 65%, the wrapper loses its permeability and acts as a barrier to the transfer of more moisture. Only the open foot allows the entry of humidity, and a severe humidity gradient between moist foot and dry head occurs. Disaster! The humidified foot swells more than the rest of the cigar ... as the foot swells, the wrapper splits in that area.  
     
  The solution to protecting your investment, therefore, is to keep cigars at a constant humidity level. Cycling up and down by throwing water on the floor, or introducing a just-filled porous material into a dry humidor, falls short of that objective. Most tobacconists take the approach of humidifying the walk-in humidor. For home humidification of your cigars, whether in a converted closet walk-in down to a desktop humidor, there is a solution.
(Excerpted from "Fresh Cigars Keep Sales Fresh," Smokeshop, April, 1999)
 
 
     
  "Cigar Oasis has an adjustable electronic humidity sensor, which turns a tiny fan ... used to cool computer chips ...on and off as needed. The air from the fan opens a couple of simple plastic flapper valves, to a sealed reservoir of distilled water, and blows the vapor into the humidor. When the humidity reaches the desired level, it all shuts down. A second chip fan runs all the time, and distributes the moisture uniformly throughout the interior. The unit only takes up the volume of a few cigars. An AC wall adaptor powers it through the crack in the box's hinge via an ultra-thin ribbon cable, so no leaks are introduced into the box. About every 9 months, you replace the sealed water reservoir unit.  
     
  "The original Cigar Oasis ($99) is designed for personal humidors holding 50 to 500 cigars. They have introduced other models, the Cigar Oasis Plus ($129), for end-table humidors and small display cases, and Cigar Oasis II ($229), for large armoires and stand-up display cases. For those interested, their Web site is at www.cigaroasis.com. I notice they have a new, interesting article on it, 'Information Update on Cigar Oasis' that tells how to season and freshen humidors, using the Cigar Oasis.  
     
  "In summary, I have no personal interest in the company, and this evaluation is unsolicited by them. I found Cigar Oasis to provide the most stable environment for my cigars, with no more swollen cigar feet. The unit was totally reliable, controlled the humidity without my attention, and could be set to whatever RH I wanted, between 60% and 80% RH. They're the best way I know to protect your precious investment, if you're serious about your cigars."  
     
     
 

  CASE A

 
 
  3 weeks at 70% RH
A test cigar is dried to 50% RH and placed in a humidor at 70% RH. Wrapper and foot reach 70% RH in about one hour. Wrapper now begins to act as a barrier to humidity, which continues to enter mostly from the foot. Wrapper tends to crack and foot tends to bloom or swell because humidity of wrapper and filler are so different. Softness progresses slowly from foot to head, taking three weeks to fully humidify.
 
     
 
  CASE B  
 
  1st Week at 55% RH
Cigar is dried to 50% RH and placed in a plastic bag (Lazarus’s Coffin) at 55% RH for one week. Wrapper, foot, and most of the filler tobacco reach 54% RH. Wrapper does not act as a barrier to humidity, and shows no cracks. No swelling occurs at foot, and softness is uniform from foot to head.
 
  2nd Week at 60% RH
Wrapper, foot, and most of filler reach 59% RH in one week. Wrapper is only a slight barrier to humidity. No cracks or swelling develop, and cigar is uniformly soft from head to foot.
 
  3rd Week at 65% RH
Wrapper, foot, and most of filler reach 64% RH in one week. Wrapper is a major barrier to humidity, but no cracks or swelling develop. The foot is slightly softer than the rest of the cigar.
 
  4th-8th Week at 70% RH
Wrapper, foot, and a very small percentage of filler reach 70% RH in one week. Softness is very non-uniform from foot to head. After two, three, and four weeks, uniform softness progresses from foot to head.
 
     
 
  CASE C  
 
  Placed in a 20% RH Room
A perfect cigar at 70% RH is removed from humidor in to a a room which is heated, such as New York City in December or Las Vegas outdoors at any season. Humidity leaves from the foot for the first few minutes until the wrapper dries to below 65% RH.
 
  70% RH
Wrapper drops well below 65% RH. Cigar loses humidity from filler — uniformly from foot to head — through wrapper at a fast rate. Wrapper cracks or unravels and becomes detached from filler. If cigar is lit before wrapper drops below 65% RH, moisture generated by burning tobacco could prevent the wrapper from cracking.
 
     
     
 
       
       

 


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