The more current (and I must say better for a number of reasons) use of water beads and salt solutions (ie. Boveda packs) is becoming more of the norm for oasis in humidors. These come in packs made of permeable material and they release enough moisture to adequately take care of your needs. They are cheap and easy to use, and quite accurate. Some of those offered are available in different Rh zones. And, they maintain the Rh both from not enough humidity and from an over humidified state. Bargain hunters out there can easily find “water beads” and Boveda "Humidipaks" online, and construct your own humidification device with little effort or expense. A step up from portable (disposable) bead packs is the permanent humidifier which includes a moisture source (usually beads) and one, or multiple, small electric fans that circulate humidified air throughout a large cabinet humidor. Overcoming the downside of these being somewhat expensive, they are exceptionally efficient and accurate, and are highly recommended for any humidor over the size of 300 cigars.
So, how do I maintain this magical 65-70% RH?
Deciding on the correct, and most suitable, humidification device (sometimes called an oasis) is probably the hardest decision that has to be made, (until you start filling your box with cigars, that is).
There are two methods for maintaining the RH in your box.
One; Passive. That is you use a substance that will absorb a great deal of water within itself, then naturally release it at somewhere close to RH 70, generally controlled by just how much of that substance you put into the box. Relatively cheap and requires fairly regular maintenance. You can get florist's WET foam at Walmart and make your own oasis with a plastic pill bottle or something, as I have done for years. Water beads, available on the internet, are a more stable water storage/release mechanism. Just add some to a small, porous container and put inside your box. Check regularly to make sure they are wet. Now days, there are also pre-packaged, pre-measured humidy packs that can be just thrown into your humidor, that not only keep the RH in your box UP to 68-70% but also make sure it doesn't go over that. Read the section below for more information about these.
Two; Active. A device that will utilize a mechanical action to increase or more thoroughly distribute the moisture given off by either a passive substance, or from some type of chemical/mechanical activity that produces moisture.
While maintaining an RH of 70% is the goal, it should be remembered that too wet is almost as bad as not wet enough. If your humidifier gets above 70%, the use of propylene glycol (available online) will remove excess humidity. This is sometimes required when using green foam oasis and an extreme seasonal climate swing affects your humidor environment. Of course, there are charging liquids available that contain distilled water and propylene glycol already mixed.
For more information on the Relative Humidity needed for cigar storage, follow this link:
Inside the humidor, cigars should be stored at a relative humidity of approximately 68-72%. Generally it is assumed that the typical cigar flavors can best evolve in such a climate. This level of humidity supports an even burning of the cigar. At a relative humidity level of 70%, and a temperature of 64°F (18°C) the air contains approximately 10 grams of water per cubic meter of air. In such an environment, the cigar should absorb the ideal rate of humidity of 14% of its weight. Dry cigars become fragile and burn faster since their burning is not slowed down by the cigar’s natural humidity. The cigar takes on an aggressive and slightly bitter taste. The wrapper of a dry cigar is very often subject to becoming broken or cracked, and the whole cigar may actually fall apart.
Damp cigars, on the contrary, burn unevenly and take on a heavy and acidic flavor.
A few aficionados appreciate these modifications to the cigar flavor and therefore intentionally store their cigars in a drier or damper environment. In the 65-75% range cigars can be stored for long periods of time without any concern. Caution is required, however, if the humidity level should fall below 60% as the cigar will begin to dry out, the construction become strained until it can be eratic, and the flavor will be dryer and more bitter. On the other hand, if the humidity exceeds 80%, the cigar can begin to take on an oily, greasy feeling, smoke slower and heavier, and even begin to rot and mold.
For an excellent, in depth, essay on cigar storage, go here:
Humidors: 70% RH...
So... What's the big deal about keeping the inside of your humidor, read that "your cigars", at a Relative Humidity (what is THAT anyway) of 70%? What if it goes down to less than that, or up to more than 70%. What about temperature? Is temperature as important as relative humidity for your cigars? Why is it SUCH A BIG DEAL?
Now, check out the link to the page on Boveda Humidipaks and other new type of humidification that will make all of our lives better, and our smoke storage worries go away.
Glass Bead Humidifier Packets, Active Type Humidifiers of Today
Humidors, oasis and humidifiers, and supplies for all are easily found at your local cigar shop, or at most of the online suppliers listed on the Links and Contact page of this site.
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Foam based Passive Humidifiers