It might be cold where you are, but reader Angga is in Indonesia and it’s apparently quite warm.
As part of our weekly Ask halfwheel segment, Angga wanted to know how best to store cigars in high heat. Here’s the full question:
Hey guys i am one of your fan from Indonesia.
As you may know Indonesia is a tropical country and the temprature hovers around 86F. As far as i know the recommended temperature for cigar storing is 70F of which is quite impossible for me to be in this condition (unless i have an unlimited money to pay for the electricity bill for turning on the AC 24 hours).
My question is. Is it true that it is impossible to store cigar at a higher temprature such as 86F or 30 C? If that is true? How do people in Nicaragua and Dominica REpublic store cigars? They are tropical country as well.
Appreciate the input
Before we get started, we should talk about the two most important things for storing cigars: temperature and humidity.
In regards to temperature, most people are concerned about one: lasioderma serricorne, beetles. Tobacco beetles generally hatch in higher temperatures, this article from Stogie Fresh says around 73 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. That said, it’s not a hard and fast rule, some people can get away with storing cigars at warming climate, others might have issues with even lower temperatures.
Humidity is another concern; too little and your cigars will dry and out and eventually crack—too much and your cigars won’t stay lit and eventually you run the risk of mold. It’s also important to note that as temperature increases, the relative humidity will likely increase as the warmer air can hold more moisture.
I experienced similar issues to Angga at various times a handful of years ago, living in places that had central a/c and it sometimes got warm, albeit not 86 degrees warm. The best advice is to buy a cooled humidor. These come in all shapes and sizes, though they generally are going to hold at least 500 cigars. Some are basically converted wine fridges, while other companies make intricate humidors with cooling capabilities.
You also can convert a wine cooler into a humidor.
In the event that that is not an option, your next best bet is a combination of preventive care and making the most out of a not so great situation.
1. Freeze your cigars — Many cigar factories go through preventive methods to avoid beetles by both fumigating tobacco a few times per year and then freezing cigars before they are shipped. My recommendation has always been:
- Put your cigars in a Ziplock bag, no humidification
- Place the cigars in the fridge for 48 hours
- Place the cigars in the freezer for at least 72 hours
- Place the cigars in the fridge for 48 hours
- Place the cigars in your humidor
This is not perfect, but it should stop any beetles from hatching as a result of higher temperatures during shipping. I would do this with every cigar you have and any cigar you acquire from this point forward. For those wondering about the fridge time, it’s made to help the cigars better adjust from the warm climate to freezing and then back to warm. If this happens too quick bad things can happen.
2. Do not store all your cigars in one container — I would recommend storing your cigars in a variety of smaller containers or humidors rather than one larger one. This is to reduce the risk that all of your cigars could be ravaged by beetles or mold in one time. My best bet would be either tupperware containers or even Ziplock bags.
3. Be very cautious of your humidity — If you aren’t using Bovedas or an electronic humidification system where you can precisely control the humidity, I would start. Many times people are just concerned about the temperature and don’t realize the risk they run with the humidity. Mold is a bigger risk at higher temperatures because the air can carry more moisture.
4. Store your cigars in the coldest place in your home — Preferably in a dark place, out of sunlight, preferably the coolest place you can find. This is oftentimes the bottom of a closet, but if there’s another place that’s cooler go for that. I highly doubt, no matter how small your home is, that the temperature is uniform throughout.
5. Smoke ’em if you got ’em — I’m guessing this probably doesn’t translate in Indonesian, but the point is: smoke your cigars, don’t let them sit around too long. If you are going to be risking temperatures as high as 86 degrees, I would not personally be letting cigars sit for that long. The problem with beetles is that all it takes is one egg to hatch and that cigar as well as any around it could be destroyed. My recommendation would be to go through the steps above, but ultimately not age cigars too long as you only are risking the chance of a beetle.
You asked for how people in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua store their cigars.
The Dominican Republic is a big place, but let’s say we are focusing on Santiago which is where the majority of the cigarmakers are based. While it does get into the 90s for some parts of the year, even at its warmest the temperature drops down into the 70s at night.
I think you also have to remember the socioeconomics of cigars in general, but also in the Dominican Republic. Most people smoking cigars—particularly to the point of owning a humidor—in the Dominican Republic are likely towards the top end of the socioeconomic spectrum, meaning they likely have air conditioning. Do I think their houses are kept at 70 degrees year-round? Absolutely not, but it’s likely somewhat similar to many median American households.
As for Nicaragua, it’s quite different. Most cigars are rolled in Estelí, which is in the mountains and while it can get warm during the day, it’s certainly not a tropical climate. While there certainly is air-conditioning in some homes in Estelí, many don’t use it all that much because of how cool it can be. To an even greater extent, the people with cigar humidors in Nicaragua are towards the top of Nicaragua’s economic range and air conditioning is quite common amongst that class of people.
Now, if you are asking how cigar factories deal with this, the answer is simple: air-conditioning, though not entirely for cigar beetles.
Aging rooms have air-conditioning and it is always running. Sure, it helps avoid beetle infestations, but arguably its primary job is to help dry the cigars. When cigars are rolled, the filler leaves are damp, but the binder and wrappers in particular need to be very wet so that the tobacco doesn’t break when rolling. While that’s ideal for making a cigar, wet tobacco does not stay lit, so cigars need to dry—generally for a minimum of 30 days. The air-conditioning units help keep the aging rooms at a drier climate so the internal moisture can leave the cigars.
Angga, thanks for your question. I hope that helps—and good luck.
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