Mr. Brian’s Opus: How To Buy, Make And Season A Humidor

A number of months ago, right around the time I started this blog, I realized I really needed to buy a humidor. Through the wonder of duty-free international travel, I’d come into the possession of a unusually large number of cigars. (At least for me.) And as I was rustling around through my cabinets looking for a lighter and a cigar cutter, I kept finding old, desert-dry cigars. It started to bug me. A lot. And it made me realize that the cigars I had just acquired were going to suffer the same fate if I didn’t take decisive action against it. I needed to buy a humidor.

Judging by the volume of hits to my humidor-related posts, there are a lot of people out there in the same boat. If you are, and you’ve come here looking for humidor information, you’re in luck. I’ve grown from one very expensive humidor to around six humidors of varying sizes, quality and much lower price tags. And I’ve learned quite a bit since I authored those early humidor posts. And of course, I’m completely independent and unsponsored here, so you know I’m not going to tailor my recommendations to maximize kick-backs. (Though I kinda wish I could. Kick-backs are my favorite kinds of kicks. ;) ) This is how I do it.

Buying a Humidor
I think a lot of people are tempted to go all-out when they buy their first humidor. Because a humidor can be a status symbol or an elegant piece of furniture, most newbies expect to pay a lot of money for their first humidor. Accordingly, there are a lot of places you can spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on swanky humidors.

But there are also places where informed buyers can spend very little for the same thing. So not only is high price tag expectation wrong, it’s probably the reason people like me avoided buying one for so long. If I had known it was possible to buy, say, a small 20-cigar humidor for as little as four bucks, I would have done so many, many years ago.

First Step: What kind of humidor do you need?
You know what? You probably already have a humidor and you don’t realize it. It isn’t pretty, and it won’t help get you considered for membership at the exclusive country club, but beverage coolers and and zip lock bags will absolutely work to keep your cigars properly humidified. (In fact, I use and recommend zip lock bags for flavored or “aromatic” cigars.) If you spend much time on cigar blogs and websites you’ll hear people referring to their “coolidor”. That invariably means that the person has dispensed with formality, and is using a converted beverage cooler for their cigar collection. (It also usually means they have a huge and fast-growing cigar collection, leaving little money for traditional humidors. More information on coolidors toward the end of this post.)

Of course, plastic baggies and giant plastic coolers aren’t the right choice for everyone. And in fact, I think everyone should have at least one, proper humidor. A humidor that you enjoy looking at. One that looks nice on your desk, your shelf, or heck, on your boat, if you happen have one! (Brian doesn’t yet, but rest assured, when he does, it will have a humidor.)

Second Step: How big a humidor do you need?
Going forward, I’ll assume you’ve decided to go with the idea of buying a proper humidor. But before you go out and buy one, you need to give some thought to the number or cigars you plan to keep. The rule of thumb (which I’ve found to be a good recommendation) is that you should double that figure to determine how large a humidor you need. For example, if you only buy a one box of cigars at a time (which is usually 20 or 25 cigars, depending on the brand), you should probably get a 50 cigar humidor.

Buying a humidor that’s larger than you think you need will accomplish two important things. First of all, it allows you some wiggle room. If you pick up a couple of singles, or your new box comes in before you have finished off the last box, you have a place to put them. Secondly, a humidor that’s too full or too empty will not do as good a job keeping your cigars properly preserved.

Third Step: Buying the humidor
You have a huge volume of options available to you when it comes to buying a humidor. But I’m not going to fill your head with a bunch of general guidelines for selecting a humidor. I’m going to make this easy. I’m going to tell you exactly what I would do, right now, if I were buying another humidor. Exact steps. If you follow my steps, I can assure you that you will: 1.) get a great humidor, 2.) save yourself a lot of hassle and 3.) save a ton of money.

If you only need a 20-cigar humidor, the best place to go is CigarBid.com. Go there, and search for “humidor”. As of the time of this writing, there were 78 humidors of that size, all selling for under ten dollars. These inexpensive humidors bear the logos of such cigar makers as Carlos Torano, Greycliff, Rocky Patel, CAO and Camacho, to name a few, so it’s likely you’ll find one that’s to your liking. I would advise finding one that’s recently been listed (they usually start for a dollar) and placing your bid, with an auto-bid (maximum bid) up to $7. If the current trend continues, you’ll probably snag it for $4.

If you’re looking for a larger or fancier humidor, CigarBid may also be a good way to go. However, the variety of humidors of larger sizes isn’t quite as great or as reliable as the 20-cigar humidors. I’ve also noticed the tendency for some humidors to be overbid and actually more expensive than they can be found through some internet retailers.

That’s why I recommend visiting CheapHumidors.com for larger humidors. Their humidors are top notch and consistently less expensive than I’ve seen elsewhere. They have such a large variety of humidors, that I’m certain you’ll find one that you like in the size you need.

But before you make your purchase there, I encourage you to check out their selection of “Imperfects“. As the name implies, these humidors have imperfections, but they are cosmetic in nature. Meaning that you’ll probably be getting a good looking, perfectly functional, humidor with a scratch at a very reduced price. (Around 15% by my math, as was the case with my recent purchase.) If you pair that up with a the coupon code from the Dog Watch Social Club for 10% off, you’ve got yourself one hell of a deal! (Sorry, I’m not giving the code out, I don’t want the DWSC or CheapHumidor guys getting mad at me! Listen to the show, they’ll tell you what it is!)

I have one last recommendation for your first humidor. Consider buying a humidor with a glass top. If you’re new to cigars, you will undoubtedly want to open your humidor and admire your beautiful puros so often that it will be tough to keep the climate stable. And you’ll probably be overly concerned with the humidity and temperature. With a glass top, you can ogle to your hearts desire, and check the humidity and temperature every 5 minutes without disturbing your cigars’ idyllic habitat.

Fourth Step: Essential humidor gear
Now that you have your humidor, there are a few things I recommend you pick up. Trust me, these are things that will make your life a whole lot easier.

A Digital Hygrometer/Thermometer

I believe you can upgrade to one at CheapHumidors for a fee, or you can probably score yourself a good deal on one at CigarBid. Either way, a digital combination hygrometer/thermometer is the only way to go. Analog ones look really nice, but they’re less accurate, and more of a hassle to get calibrated properly than a digital hygrometer. It’s hard to beat getting the exact temperature and the relative humidity all in a single glance.

Distilled Water

You will need to have a supply of distilled water on hand at all times now that you own a humidor. Fortunately, a gallon jug of it is very inexpensive (under a buck-fifty), and lasts a very, very long time. (To give you an idea, I’m still working on a gallon I bought in April.) Anyway, this is the only water that should ever be used in your humidor. Using filtered water or tap water is just begging for mold, mildew or an infusion of weird chlorine flavors in your cigars. (I know, I know, somebody is going to tell me that they use tap water all the time without any problems or weirdness. You can, but I don’t.)

The Puck

Most humidors come with some sort of inexpensive humidification unit that’s basically green florist foam housed in a vented plastic block. It’ll work in a pinch, but your humidor will take forever to stabilize if it’s your main humidifier. And by forever, I mean at least a couple of months. I know, I did my first that way. Lemme tell ya, you get really, really sick of the humidity roller coaster.

The good news is that you have a better option. Head over to Cigarmony.com and pick up “the puck” (small puck, large puck). For a mere $15 or $18 bucks (depending on the size you need), you can drop that in your humidor and forget about it. The puck is full of little beads that are designed to maintain 70% relative humidity. Which means that if there’s too much humidity in the air, they’ll suck it out. If there’s too little, they’ll let off the humidity they’re retaining. And they really do work! It literally transforms your humidor from a high maintenance headache to a no maintenance pleasure. OK, I better stop before I break into love sonnets for the Puck.

If you do head over there an pick one up, tell ‘em I sent you. They don’t know who I am (yet) and I probably won’t get anything for it, but maybe if enough people tell them, they’ll send me some extra pucks or swag out of gratitude. :)

Fifth Step: Seasoning your humidor
OK, now you’re ready to prepare your humidor for cigars. I’ve done this often enough now that I can boil the process down to quick and easy steps.

  1. Wipe down the interior of your humidor with distilled water and a paper towel. Don’t soak the wood, overdoing it might cause some warping.
  2. Close the humidor and wait for the water to soak in. Give it an hour or so. Less if you live in a really dry climate.
  3. Get your puck ready for action. (Follow the instructions it came with to prepare it.) Or your other humidification unit, if you go that route.
  4. Once the interior appears dry, fill a shot glass (or other small glass) with distilled water and put it in the bottom of the humidor. Put the puck or your other humidification unit in there also. If you haven’t already, put your hygrometer in there also.
  5. Close the humidor and let it sit over night.
  6. In the morning, your humidity reading will probably be a bit high. Take out the shot glass. And load your humidor up with cigars. The time it takes you to arrange everything will probably bring the humidity down to a reasonable level. (No need to hurry, make ‘em look nice. :) )
  7. Close it. You’re good to go.
  8. Keep an eye on the hygrometer. You probably don’t need to check it every day, but if this is your first humidor, I know you will. :) (Eventually the humidifier will need some additional water. Your hygrometer will tell you when.)

Pretty easy, huh? If everything goes right, it’ll take more effort to buy all the gear than to get it ready.

The Indie Path: Do-It-Yourself Coolidor
This post so far has focused on the more traditional approach to acquiring a humidor: buying it. But you don’t have to take that path. There are plenty of resources available online that will show you how to convert that old cooler you have in the garage into a gargantuan tobacco treasure trove. I’ll be honest here, I’ve never “made” a coolidor. I do have a smallish cooler I use to store some of my odd-ball cigars, but all I did was clean it out, air it out, and throw in the cigars, humidifier and hygrometer. It works, but it’s not a work of art. So I’ll leave the instruction on this topic to the experts. Here are a few guides to get you started:

The Stogie Review‘s How To Make a Coolidor Video

Previous Humidor Posts
This isn’t the first time I’ve written on the topic of humidors! (Though it is probably my most opinionated.) If you’d like to learn a bit more, or just enjoy reading my humidor musings, check out the links below.

Have A Better Approach?
If you have a better, easier or cheaper approach of going from humidor zero to humidor hero, feel free to leave a comment! There’s always room for improvement. :)

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15 Comments

  1. Travis said,

    October 9, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks a lot!

  2. nick said,

    December 6, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Hi, I would like to know if you would be willing to share links?
    Nick
    http://www.nickbadabingtobaccoking.com

  3. Cory said,

    February 21, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks for the info – just got all set-up based on your recommendations and my 5 Vegas Series A’s appreciate you for it.

  4. Brian said,

    February 22, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Glad I could help, Cory! Enjoy those Series A’s (but watch out, they’ve been known to explode!)

  5. Smoked said,

    May 8, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    I don’t usually wipe them down unless I am in a hurry. Great guide though. Thanks.

  6. Brian said,

    May 10, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks Smoked,
    A lot of people I’ve spoken to about seasoning a humidor agree. Some people just put a small cup or shot glass of water in the humidor with a hygrometer and keep an eye on it. This approach will take a bit longer, but it’s a good way to avoid over humidifying your humidor.

    On the most recent YQMA (Your Questions, My Answers) Episode (#33) we recorded over at The Stogie Review, we actually discussed this a little bit. It seems everyone has a different approach. One thing that we discussed that I overlooked here is that your hygrometer may read low when you don’t have cigars in it, because a humidor operates at it’s best in terms of stability of humidity when it’s at least half full. Just something to keep in mind.

    Thanks again for the comment!

  7. Anthony said,

    August 21, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Hey everyone! New to the site. Great article and great info!

    Just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve found that Clorox Fresh Step UNSCENTED cat liter (of all things) is 100% silica gel. Which is the magic beads for humidors (coolidors, tuppidors, etc.).

    It’s about $12 for an 8 lb bag! Sure as hell beats $30 for 1 lb. This should bring down the cost significantly when putting a “-idor” together.

    Hope this is helpful,
    Anthony

  8. Laura said,

    November 17, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Love your article :-) Very interesting read

    Take care

    Laura

    http://www.humidorsonline.co.uk

  9. kenzaburo said,

    August 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    found your site while surfing the net. I own a humidor for a couple of years and just bought my 2nd one. this is great advise, perfectly explained and the shortest “how-to” for humidors I have ever read with all infomation you need!

    thanks a lot and regards from germany!
    kenzaburo

  10. Brian S. said,

    August 25, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Thanks for the great article, Brian. Was a great place for me to start my humidor research.

    And thanks to Anthony for the great advice!!! That’s easily the best money saving advice I got out of all the humidor money saving tips I found. Also, a lot of people just repackage the cat liters and resell them at a higher price. I almost bought the $31.99 for a pound from cigarmony plus $10.35 shipping and handlings. Now I can get 8lbs for around $10 and use the other $32 toward my box of PADRON SERIE 1926 80TH ANNIVERSARY MADURO.

  11. November 14, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Brian,
    Thanks for this article! In wanting to buy my first humidor I googled “how to buy a humidor” and your site was the first to come up. I read it and it was all great advice! I bought an “imperfect” from Cheap Humidors and the thing is great! Can barely see the damage on the back corner and it was a $99 humidor for $39! Love it. Also upgraded the hygrometer to the digital and ordered a puck. Still waiting for that to arrive.

    Anyway, thanks so much for all the info. Found it VERY HELPFUL!
    Simon

  12. Mark Neff said,

    January 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    FYI Sam S – The RH Beads and Puck-ifier are NOT the same as the “kitty litter” silica.

    The RH Beads and Puck-ifier utilizes medical grade silica and is engineered and preconditioned to maintain a precise level of relative humidity. The kitty litter not only uses a inferior quality silica and is not preconditioned (you have to condition it yourself).

    Additionally, the RH Beads and Puck-ifier silica tests as being the most efficient in regulating relative humidity in the range that most of use store our cigars – 60-70% range. Many others who have tried to imitate the Puck-ifier & RH Beads test more efficiently outside of the 60-70% RH and use an inferior quality silica which costs much less wholesale (even though they don’t seem to charge less retail).

    I hope this helps

    ~Mark

  13. September 3, 2011 at 10:18 am

    [...] Mr. Brian's Opus: How To Buy, Make And Season A Humidor … If you're looking for a larger or fancier humidor CigarBid may also be a good way to go. However, the variety of humidors of larger sizes isn't quite as great or as reliable as the 20-cigar humidors I've also noticed the tendency [...]

  14. Debbie said,

    December 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Am trying to buy a present for my husband but know nothing about humidors. I found your article informative and am now feeling in control of what I want and need! Many thanks.

  15. February 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    [...] looking to buy your first humidor, look into a local cigar shop in which you can build a relationship with. Building a relationship [...]


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