Seasoning Your Humidor By Heath Published: Sun January 20, 2008 9:15pm PrintEmail
Getting a new humidor is an exciting experience and can be very exciting if it's your first one. If you are not familiar with what a humidor is, check out our article on humidors here.
Some humidors are genuine works of art, but even a plain humidor can bring a tear to cigar smoker's eye when he/she looks inside and sees many well kept cigars ready for smoking. One step every humidor must go through before putting any cigars in them is seasoning. According to Dictionary.com, down around 11 or 12, it is defined as:
11. to mature, ripen or condition by exposure to suitable conditions or treatment: a writer seasoned by experience. 12. to dry or otherwise treat (lumber) so as to harden and render immune to shrinkage, warpage, etc.
We want to do all of the above except we are not going to dry out our humidor, it has already done that during manufacturing, shipping, storage, and display. That is the key reason all humidors need to be seasoned. We are going to otherwise treat...
Hydrating your humidor is not really a complex operation, but it can go horribly wrong if you try to hydrate it too quickly. One thing that can happen is you warp the wood inside and then your lid might not seal properly. Humidors are not air tight, there is a slight transfer of fresh air from the outside to the inside. This is why you have to refill your humidifiers every so often, to keep the proper humidity. If this seal is warped, it could hinder this slow transfer of fresh air causing humidity spikes.
Before we go any further, I need to mention one thing. Hydrate your humidor using distilled water only. The main reason is distilled water does not have any odor, which, will not taint the taste of your smokes. Also, each method I outline needs to be accompanied with a calibrated hygrometer. If you are unsure what a hygrometer is, if your hygrometer is calibrated, or do not know how to calibrate a hygrometer, check out this article. That said, let's get started...
First, know that it will take several days to season a humidor, and depending on the size of your humidor, could take up to 5-7 days. A desktop humidor will be ready in about 2-3 days, and a cabinet humidor could take the longer 5-7 days. Patience is key. If you rush the seasoning process, and put your cigars in a humidor that is dry, the wood inside will still seek to keep equilibrium by "soaking up" the relative humidity inside...and that means taking that humidity from your cigars. A humidor full of bitter cigars can also bring a tear to cigar smoker's eyes, but not tears of joy. If you are not familiar with how humidity affects your cigars, check out this article. If your humidor is new, and you have already seasoned it but are having trouble keeping the humidity level up, you may have rushed the process. Take your cigars out, put them in a ziplock bag with a Humi-Care Water Pillow or some humidity beads, and redo the seasoning process.
There are a few different ways to season a humidor. Here are the ones I am familiar with:
The wipedown. This is personally my favorite, as I have seasoned every humidor I own this way, combined with active seasoning (described below). This concept can be used with all the seasoning options, but needs to be done with care. The idea is to dampen a sponge, clean cloth, or clean cloth with distilled water and wipe down the inside of the humidor, removing dust and debris. I have always used a paper towel, but have since learned that paper products can leave a paper residue on the wood, and should be avoided. This is where warping can happen if you use too much water. Only use as much dampness as necassary to see a change in color on your cloth or sponge, and a change of color on the wood itself. The cloth or sponge will lightly be colored an amber color, signaling your picking up the dust, and the wood will get a "stained" look to it. It is important not to "wet" the wood, but to "dampen" it. Again, use only as much dampness necassary to slighty change the color of the wood toward that stained look, too much water will warp it. If you are unsure as to whether you used too much, then you did. Better safe than sorry, so go lightly. I repeat this step twice a day, and include a humidifier as well. In 2-3 days, the humidity should stabilize, at which time you no longer need to wipe down the wood. I usually dont wipe down the wood after the first 2 or 3 times I do a wipedown. Use this method at your own risk, a warped humidor is a frustrating humidor.
Active Seasoning. Active seasoning is using an active humidifier to season your humidor. Active humidification is any humidifier that will "adjust" to the needs of the relative humidity levels as you define it. For example, a Cigar Oasis XL Plus, or a Hydra. You set the humidity level, say 65%, and the humidifier kicks on when humidity drops below 65%, blowing humidified air all around your humidor.
When the hygrometer inside the Oasis or Hydra senses 65% has been reached, it turns off. The nice thing about active seasoning is that it is the closest thing to "no touch" seasoning you can get, needing only your attention if the resevoir of distilled water becomes dry. As I mentioned, I use this method combined with a wipedown, and as the humidity becomes stable, the active humidifier will run less and less. If you use this method, set your humidifier to about 80%.
No touch seasoning hydration "packets". You just set them inside and wait a few days. This is simple, easy, and a no brainer. This might be the right step for someone who has the little extra cash to buy the packets with your humidor, as it takes several packets to do this properly. I personally have not used these, but have heard people praise this option. These types of humidity packets are available here as well as local and web retailers of cigars and humidors. If you choose this option, grab some canned air as well, this way you can blow out any dust that might be in your humidor that you would otherwise have gotten rid of with a wipedown. In fact, in place of canned air, you could also use the wipedown method before placing the seasoning packets inside. Follow the directions on the packet, and you should be good to go within a few days.
The shotglass. Seasoning your humidor with a shotglass of distilled water is an old "stand-by". It is a direct supply of water, and the principle follows that of a fish bowl losing its water level over time as the water evaporates into the air. Simply fill a shotglass with distilled water, and refill it twice a day untill your humidity level stops falling and becomes stable. This is a method that is accompanied nicely by a wipedown.
Choosing one of these methods to season your humidor is an exercise in personal taste. Any of the above will work well, and should indeed be done to prevent your cigars from becoming tumbleweeds. Use any and all of them at your own risk. CigarStudent.com does not take any responsibility for any damage done to your humidor by using these methods.