The main thing is to store tobacco in as airtight (and impervious) a container as possible. I don't trust plastic bags or opened 'cans'. Plastic containers (e.g. Lock&Lock) and glass jars both work well. Keeping tobacco away from high temperatures (mold friendly environment) is a good idea but, refrigerator or freezer storage is overkill and does nothing to preserve 'freshness' (i.e. moisture content).
For tobacco to be good smoking and easy to stuff, it needs to have the right amount of moisture. Tobacco in an environment with a 65% RH (relative humidity) is a good start (low 60's to low 70's can be fine). Some tobaccos can be moister than others. If you have to pull the tube off the machine and tobacco stays stuck in the nozzle, the tobacco is too moist. Harsh tobaccos are typically dry tobaccos and will benefit from an increase in moisture.
Tupperware containers aren't perfect but they're inexpensive and user friendly. I've stored tobacco for more than a year in dollar-store plastic containers with no noticeable loss of moisture. The plastic smell bothers me but even the mildest tobaccos seem to have more effect on the plastic than the plastic has on the tobacco. I've got containers that have been empty for months and they still smell like tobacco.
I've started storing all my tobaccos in in glass jars with plastisol type seals (like canning jars). I like the purity and clarity of glass. Most good tobaccos come in 6-10oz. cans and wide mouth 1/2 gallon jars work well. The gallon jars should work well for storing a pound or more (its been a long time since I bought a pound).
Regular 'wide mouth' canning jars, bigger than a pint, have too much of a neck and don't work well. The pint size canning jars are great for storing a few ounces of tobacco, or quite a few cigarettes, indefinitely. They're great for keeping a bit of premium (Charles Fairmorn, Auld Kendal, Three Castles) and/or discontinued (Look-Out vanilla, Export-A, Galouses halfzware, etc.) tobacco for an occasional smoke..
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There's a number of ways to reduce the moisture content of tobacco. What's working for me is a plastic container with two lids. The lid pictured has most of the plastic cut out. I lay a piece of paper toweling on the top of the container and then snap on the plastic ring. The paper toweling acts as a buffer, keeping the relative humidity (RH) inside the container higher than rooms RH, so that the tobacco will dry out slower and more evenly (it also keeps out potential contaminants that could result in mold). I now use mostly glass jars and have found that a coffee filter, on big and small jars, provides a good buffer.
The thicker the layer of tobacco, the slower and more uneven the drying will be. The lower the rooms RH, the faster and more uneven the tobacco will dry. When the tobacco seems to be getting close to the moisture content I want I leave the container closed until the RH stabilizes. Depending on how fast/uneven the drying, it can take days for the moisture to evenly distribute throughout the tobacco and for a measurement of RH to accurately reflect the tobaccos moisture content.
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For rejuvenating dry tobacco you can use a cigar humidifier. Pretty much anything that holds distilled water will work. There is no ideal, one size fits all, set and forget solution. Some tobaccos stuff and/or taste better with higher/lower moisture content than others. The Boveda Humidity Packets are the best at providing a controlled, set and forget, environment. They'd be ideal if not for the slight bleach? smell. The buttons, beads, gel, ceramic, etc. all work. Most if left indefinitely will result in tobacco that is too moist. Putting the tobacco container inside of a larger container with distilled water, beads etc., also works. The advantage of a cigar humidifier is that it provides a more regulated environment and, in many cases, can be thrown in with the tobacco. Organic humidifiers (apples, lettuce, cellulose sponges, etc.) provide a mold friendly environment and are not recommended. Like drying tobacco, hydrating dried out tobacco doesn't happen overnight.
[ page | comments (67) - Monday, 14-Jan-2008 | top ]
Hygrometers can be useful for determining the moisture content of tobacco. Hygrometers come in two forms, mechanical (dial) and electronic.
Most dial hygrometers are inexpensive and unreliable. Out of the box, the number they read is almost guaranteed to be inaccurate. Their readings aren't consistent and they don't stay calibrated. Overall I've found them to be more of a PITA than useful.
Electronic hygrometers are more consitent, accurate, and user friendly. My Western Caliber III has been well worth the $20 investment.
You can calibrate dial hygrometers using table salt (Boveda packet will get you in the ball park). Place a teaspoon or two of salt in a lid and add just enough water to dampen the salt (castle building sand consistency). Put the lid and hygrometer in an airtight container and let it be. After a few hours (some say 6-8hrs.) the hygrometer should read 75% RH at 70deg.
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Relative Humidity (RH) is a fairy accurate way of measuring tobacco water content. To insure accuracy, use a digital hygrometer and an airtight container. Because RH measures actual/potential water vapor in the air and we want to know how moist the tobacco is, the container needs time to equalize. After opening and closing the container, the air inside the container is more like the outside air and a measurement of RH won't tell us anything. It will take an hour or so for the moisture in the air and tobacco to reach equilibrium, for the RH of the air to accurately reflect tobacco moisture content. If you've been drying the tobacco and just put it in the container its going to take a lot longer.
Note: Relative humidity measurements of tobacco inside an airtight container are only temporarily affected by changes temperature. Tobacco is hygroscopic, it will absorb/release water vapor from/to the air until the air has a relative humidity corresponding to the moisture content of the tobacco. Like opening and closing the container, the tobacco and air need time to equalize after changes in temperature.
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- Bargain Humidors
- Apr. 05: The Climmax Premier Media is gone. Promising products are ConservaGel @ $29LB and Boveda Humidity Packets (word is that it is possible to recharge them). June 05: Shipping now starts at a very reasonable $3.85 but there's also a $2 handling fee (YMMV).
[ page | comments (4) - Saturday, 16-Jun-2007 | top ]
- Bulk Tobacco Storage
- The Pipe Tobacco Aging, Storage and Cellaring FAQ : Bulk Storage Issues page, while slanted towards aging and long term storage, covers the pros and cons of various storage materials/containers.
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- Fante's Kitchen Wares Shop
- The link is to their jars page. They have the 2 Liter Luminarc glass jars that Mike mentioned (qty 5 = $7.29ea shipped). They don't say what size the opening is. All the wire bail jars I've seen have a 3-5/16" opening (a bit too small IMO). They also have some neat looking square jars with label holders (qty 3 = $12ea shipped).
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- Heartfelt Humidification Beads
- It doesn't look like anyone is stocking the Climmax Premier Media any more. The Heartfelt beads look to be the same thing at roughly the same price. They come rated to maintain an environment of 60%, 65%, or 70% RH. I like these because they are just silica, nothing to affect the tobacco in any way. What I don't like is the cost, particularly when you buy it in tubes or 'pucks'. Using the media loose will eventually cause you some grief ;-). Instructions for usage is here. Bulk media runs $29LB (cheapest shipping to me is $7). Silica bead kitty litter may be a cheap alternative.
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- Specialty Bottle
- I went looking for large wide mouth glass jars and this is what I came up with. The half gallon jars easily hold a typical cans worth of tobacco (up to ~10oz, the gallon ones should hold a pound). The 3-7/8" mouth is big enough that I can reach in and grab a hunk of tobacco. I wanted a good seal and these have metal lids with plastisol seals. The seals are like canning jars but the lids can be hard to open because they don't have the separate ring like canning jars do. While it bugs me that some (~1/2) of the lids don't seal 100% (slight irregularities), it appears to be a non issue. I haven't found any better or cheaper (qty 6 = $3.58ea shipped to me) alternatives and ended up buying 6 more. I now store most of my tobaccos in these jars. Well packaged and quick delivery.
Kmart has square ones with metal lids and cardboard seals. Specialty's shipped cost is significantly less.
Oct '07: Bought another dozen and the new jars have have what's known as a 'twist lug lid' which is easier to open/close and has a nice consistent seal... I like these a lot better.
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- Water Pillows
- They don't say what's in the packets (except that its non-toxic) but I would be surprised if its not fine ground Polyacrylamide (see Water-Gel Crystals). While they don't regulate humidity, they are handy for reviving dry tobacco. They have a non-porous bottom and can be set directly on the tobacco. Putting the pillow in the plastic bag will slow things down considerably because of the pillows reduced exposure to the air. They typically sell for around $1 each (e.g. LB) but can be found for as little as $.50.
[ page | comments (15) - Saturday, 01-Oct-2011 | top ]
- Water-Gel Crystals
- Water-Gel Crystals are non-toxic biodegradable polyacrylamide (polymer) crystals that will absorb up to 400 times their volume in water. Like the silica beads, these need a suitable container and aren't particularly handy. Unlike silica beads you don't wonder if you need to add water because they shrink back down to their original size when dry. Minimum is 1oz (1 gallon when wet) for $5 shipped.
See also: Hydration crystals
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