The Horrors of Overhumidification: A Case Study
I've discovered that there are many, many cigar enthusiasts who either lack the knowledge or lack the desired effort required to properly maintain their humidors. Many just don't understand that a humidor is not a "magic box" that they can simply add cigars to and expect them to remain in the same condition they were in upon purchase, ultimately leading to their disappointment from the perceived underperformance of their humidor. Though it may be globally understood that the primary purpose of a humidor is to keep cigars within an optimal environment for long-term storage and aging, there is a huge gap in the education of consumers who purchase them.
Generally, clients who seek my Humidor Season consultation need assistance setting up their humidors for proper cigar storage; however, here is a case study of recent client who, unbeknownst to him, has been met with chronic frustrations from a beautiful humidor that has been suffering from the horrors of overhumidification.
Reason for Consultation
"Major problem keeping (the humidor) humidified and keeping my sticks in healthy condition"
Utilized various hygrometers (analog and digital) and humidification devices over the years
Humidity levels never surpassed 50-60%
Humidor never seasoned
Brown wooden Abbey cigar humidor, approximately 75-100 capacity
Purchased circa 2007
Unused green foam humdification device
Non-functional digital Caliber III thermometer/hygrometer
One cedar tray with small cedar divider
Two large cedar dividers
Condition of Humidor
So what's wrong with this picture?
MOLD! Mold is a result of storing cigars in an over-humidified environment, when the relative humidity is maintained above 75%. It's this same mold that grows in and on cigars that can also grow on the surface of the humidor. As mold does not grow overnight and grows quite slowly, the greenish-white spots noted on the surface of the humidor's interior was indicative that this was the result of multiple attempts at reaching target humidity using analog hygrometers that were never calibrated properly; providing inaccurate readings. In addition, the water stains noted at the left lower quadrant of the humidor lid was another dead giveaway that this client had previously overfilled the humidification devices at one point in time.
Another indication that this humidor suffered from overhumidification was the abundance of tobacco dust that had accumulated on the floor of the humidor. It was suspected that the cigars that were removed from the humidor prior to sending it in for service may have been infested by tobacco beetles - which are as natural as the tobacco itself, but hatch and wreak havoc in overhumidified environments.
Unseasoned cedar will rob moisture from cigars and dry them out, so it's critical to ensure its adequate preparation, which will equate with adequate cigar conditions. Prior to conditioning, this humidor, including the tray and cedar dividers, required cigar mold decontamination to kill any remaining visible and invisible mold spores on the surface of the cedar. Only after decontamination could the humidor can be properly seasoned as normal.
Here is a case of a humidor that was definitely salvageable. After replacement of the digital hygrometer battery to regain functionality, replacement of the green foam humidification device (which only provides one-way humidification) with a new crystal gel humidification device, and mold decontamination followed by proper seasoning, this humidor may provide a lifetime of excellent service. However, this will only be achieved in the hands of an educated consumer who will maintain the humidor year-round and give it the TLC it needs and deserves - which it will return ten-fold by virtue of a perfectly stored and aged cigar stock.
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