Most cigar humidifiers, also known as humidors, are made from wood. They're usually lined with Spanish cedar or, less often, mahogany. These woods retain moisture well and are naturally resistant to mold. Humidifiers must be seasoned before use. To season them, the interior of the box is wiped down with a clean cloth or sponge that's been dampened with distilled water. Tap water is avoided because of the water's mineral content, which can build up inside and stain the humidifier. The wet sponge is left inside the humidifier and, as water evaporates off the sponge, it adds humidity to the humidifier. The box is wiped down with a damp cloth or sponge every day until the humidifier reaches 72 percent humidity. At that point, cigars can be stored in the box.
Cigar humidifiers are used primarily to maintain a certain constant level of humidity. The humidifier is airtight so it can maintain that humidity. Cigars are best kept at 70 percent humidity. In this level of humidity, a cigar will retain 14 percent of its weight in moisture. At 70 percent humidity, the cigar's flavor best matures. As they are stored in the humidifier, they develop a more balanced, smoother flavor. Cigars will also burn more evenly if they are kept in humid storage. If cigars get too dry, they become fragile. They'll burn up more quickly. Humidifiers not only keep humidity high, but they make sure that humidity doesn't get too high. Damp cigars can become bitter and will not burn evenly. At more than 80 percent humidity, cigars are at considerable risk of becoming moldy, and therefore, ruined.
A cigar humidifier uses a hygrometer to measure the humidifier's internal humidity. Hygrometers contain a filament that either shrinks or swells, depending on the surrounding humidity. The hygrometer measures this reaction to determine humidity levels.
The most common cigar humidifier contains a plastic or metal container that holds a wet sponge. If the humidifier doesn't have a container for a sponge, the sponge can be placed on a piece of plastic wrap. It is important that the wet sponge not rest on or touch any of the wood in the humidifier or the wood will soak up too much water. This wet sponge provides the water that creates a humid environment inside the humidifier. Wet it down on a weekly basis, or whenever it begins to dry out. These sponges are replaced at least every 2 years to minimize bacterial contamination.
Temperature and Light
To a small degree, cigar humidifiers will help maintain the cigars' storage temperature. Cigars are ideally kept at 65 to 70 degrees F. Storage temperatures below 55 degrees F can slow down the cigars' aging process. Temperatures of more than 75 degrees F can cause the cigars to rot. Direct sunlight can also cause rotting and, more directly, humidifiers play a role in minimizing light exposure.
Length of Storage
Because cigar humidifiers maintain an ideal environment for cigar storage, cigars can be stored in these humidifiers for long periods of time. Cigars are often stored in the humidifier for several months to ripen or mature. Premium cigars are often stored for several years as the tobacco's flavor is allowed to ripen fully.