Why Store Tobacco & Its Benefits
First of all, it’s important to make a distinction between storage and cellaring. When referring to cellaring, it tends to imply a long-term storage process, which can last years or even decades. Meanwhile, normal storage can be for weeks, months, or even just a few years.
When undertaking a cellaring process, the objective is to age the tobacco or to preserve it for a long period of time. Otherwise, you might just want to store your tobacco because you simply can’t smoke it fast enough. You can learn more about cellaring with our dedicated guide.
Both processes are practically identical in every way except for the length of time that they will be in storage. Likewise, they have similar benefits but they won’t always have the same level of impact.
Keeping Pipe Tobacco Fresh
Whatever your storage plan, the key objective is to keep the tobacco fresh and pleasant to smoke. Essentially, you want to prevent tobacco that you purchased from going dry and reducing into flavourless crumbs.
If you have unopened tins, that’s usually quite easy. As they’re vacuum-sealed, they don’t release any moisture. However, if you want to try a tin and open it, the seal breaks with a pop and it will require a proper storage solution.
If you were to just leave the tin to its own devices, it would take only two or three weeks to go completely dry. Meanwhile, if you buy the tobacco in bulk, it usually comes in a ziplock bag. Consequently, it will dry out even faster.
Therefore, it’s important to keep your tobacco properly stored even if it’s just for a short period of time. Should you only be an occasional pipe smoker, this is an essential measure to take.
Can You Age Pipe Tobacco?
Like wine and cigars, pipe tobacco does indeed improve with age. In fact, pipe tobacco has arguably more potential to age than the other two products!
During the production process, pipe tobacco is usually blended from several different varieties of tobacco. While these are often aged for a short period of time together, they don’t necessarily realise their full potential.
However, if they’re given more time to mature together, the different tobaccos will marry their flavours over time. As a result, ageing harmonises the blend and can produce rich, mellow flavours.
We provide a full and detailed guide on how to cellar pipe tobacco. Yet, we recommend that you read this one on short-term storage first so you will be familiar with the concepts.
Where To Store Pipe Tobacco
Before we begin exploring the various environmental conditions in which pipe tobacco can be stored, we’ll first discuss the various containers that can be used.
Firstly, the storage solution’s success depends entirely on its ability to contain the environment that you will be creating to store the pipe tobacco. Therefore, it needs to be airtight otherwise the moisture of the carefully configured humidity will simply escape, leaving the tobacco vulnerable to the elements.
Of course, if you have a number of unopened tins, these are still airtight as we detailed above. Nevertheless, they will still need to be placed in a suitable environment to prevent temperature and humidity spikes as well as exposure to sunlight.
Otherwise, there are plenty of different storage containers that you can use, which all have their own benefits.
Can You Use Cigar Humidors To Store Pipe Tobacco?
Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that pipe tobacco can’t be stored in a cigar humidor. This cannot be further from the truth!
Generally, it is believed that humidors are designed to store tobacco at high levels of humidity. Yet, a humidor can be easily calibrated to a relative humidity (RH) level of your choice with the right tools.
We’re particularly fond of using Boveda humidity packs to achieve this and we’ll talk more about them later on in this guide.
However, this does come with a major caveat in which pipe tobacco should in no circumstances share a humidor with cigars. As pipe tobacco and cigars are both quite aromatic in different ways, their flavours will certainly marry over a period of time.
Additionally, cigars require between 65% to 70% RH whereas your pipe tobacco may require an altogether different level.
Nevertheless, humidors are actually one of our favourite storage solutions for pipe tobacco. Not only are they highly decorative pieces but they’re easy to organise and have an authentic tobacco heritage.
Furthermore, a cigar humidor can be quite affordable. While some wooden ones can be pricey, one of our favourites is the Old Glory by Quality Importers and costs only $75. Meanwhile, there are also acrylic humidors such as the one made by Boveda. Head to our guide to the best humidors to see more!
Jars For Storing Tobacco
Indeed, jars for storing tobacco is a traditional solution and a firm favourite for many pipe smokers. These can be made from ceramic, glass or even acrylic. Typically, these are often used to store a single variety of tobacco that is simply poured loose into the jar.
Indeed, a single tin just requires a small jar. Yet, if you want to keep your tobacco in the tins, it’s not the most versatile solution. Nevertheless, it’s a great option if you have a favourite tobacco that you use every day.
While older ceramic and glass jars don’t offer an airtight seal, this can be relatively easy to retrofit by adding a rubber gasket.
Meanwhile, if you prefer glass, Le Parfait mason jars made for storing preserves are perfect for the job. Thanks to their rubber seals and wire fasteners, they ensure your tobacco is stored in airtight conditions. However, there are plenty of different types of canning jars that also work well.
Alternatively, acrylic jars are a cheaper and less breakable option. Prestige Imports has designed their AJ25 acrylic jar with a very similar design to the Le Parfait mentioned above.
Yet, the only downside with glass or acrylic is that they expose the tobacco to sunlight. As we’ll explain later, tobacco needs to be kept in the dark to avoid being damaged by UV light.
Tupperware & Tupperdors
One of the most frugal and versatile storage options for storing pipe tobacco is by using tupperware to make what is called a tupperdor.
Many pipe enthusiasts may baulk at using plastic for storing pipe tobacco, especially during a long period of time. After all, loose tobacco will stain it over time and cheap plastic contains toxins or odours that can damage your collection.
However, there are ways that you can approach this safely. Firstly, you can use high-quality tupperware such as the Sistema 1870 Klip-It, which is made from 100% virgin plastic and free of BPA phthalate. Alternatively, you can also use glass, but they tend to be much smaller.
Otherwise, given the size of these containers, the tobacco can be stored in smaller glass jars or even their tins. As a result, they won’t come into contact with the plastic and remain perfectly safe.
If you want to learn more, our guide to tupperdors offers a great tutorial on how to set one up. There are also much bigger versions called coolidors, which are great for large collections. We also have a detailed coolidor guide for preparing these too.
Boveda Bags For Storing Pipe Tobacco
Another excellent and frugal storage solution for pipe tobacco is Boveda’s humidor bags. Although designs for cigars, they’re an excellent option as they come in different sizes.
Unlike regular ziplock bags, they’re made with a double-laminated coating and feature a heavy-duty zipper. Therefore, they produce an airtight seal. Additionally, the larger sizes are big enough to hold tins.
Otherwise, you can comfortably store loose tobacco inside for decent periods of time. Nevertheless, if left too long inside, the tobacco may stain the plastic. Therefore, we’d prefer to use it for holding the tins themselves.
In Cardboard Boxes
Indeed, some pipe smokers will simply take their unopened tins of tobacco and place them directly in a cardboard box. This is then left in the basement or in a cellar.
Overall, the idea is that the excess moisture is absorbed by the cardboard before it causes the tins to rust. Since the cardboard box is in the basement, it theoretically stays in a dark environment with a consistent temperature.
As we’re cigar enthusiasts too, we’re not overly fond of this approach since we’re pretty intense of precision. However, it’s often used by many pipe smokers when cellaring tobacco for long periods of time.
From what we’ve heard, they swear by this and have never had any issues. Nevertheless, we feel it leaves too much room for error by our standards.
Pipe Tobacco Storage Conditions
As we briefly mentioned earlier, the key to successful pipe tobacco storage is consistency. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the concept, it’s important that you maintain your storage solution once it has been set up.
Therefore, we’ll break down the basics first so you can begin to figure out what configuration best suits your needs.
Creating A Biosphere
Once you have chosen your storage solution, you may need to prepare it before the tobacco can be introduced. For instance, wooden humidors and boxes may require a process known as seasoning.
With only a few exceptions, most humidors are made from Spanish cedar. This wood has natural characteristics that are beneficial to tobacco. However, Spanish cedar is often quite dry when left to its own devices and a brand new humidor only offers a barren environment.
Nevertheless, wood is a natural material and performs like a membrane. When exposed to ambient moisture, it naturally absorbs it. Therefore, when you introduce something moist like pipe tobacco inside a dry humidor, it will begin to release moisture and the wood will naturally absorb it.
Consequently, the humidor will then begin to dry out the tobacco, which can result in a ruined collection!
Therefore, the wood needs to be prepped beforehand so its relative humidity is the same as the environment that you wish to create. In our guide to seasoning a wooden humidor, we detail a variety of techniques. However, our favourite is by using Boveda’s 84% seasoning packs.
Although this process is longer than traditional methods, it is the only one that offers such deep seasoning that the wood will have absorbed sufficient moisture for long-term storage. Meanwhile, other methods may require reseasoning within just a year.
If you want to learn more about this, simply head to our guide on how to season a wooden humidor. Conversely, the advantage of a metal, glass, acrylic or even a plastic container is that they won’t require this process.
How To Maintain Humidity For Pipe Tobacco
Once you have prepared your airtight container, you’ll need to introduce something that will help maintain the desired level of humidity.
Just decades ago, pipe smokers would have rudimentary techniques that included placing a carrot or a sliced apple with the tobacco. You can imagine that this was both inconsistent and had varying results! Fortunately, technology has caught up to make it more science than art.
We detail a variety of devices in our guide to cigar humidifiers. Nevertheless, very few of them are appropriate for storing pipe tobacco. In fact, the cheapest and most accurate way to store pipe tobacco is simply by using Boveda humidity packs.
Firstly, Boveda has produced one of the only devices that performs two-way humidification. This means that they release moisture when necessary but can also absorb excess amounts too. Additionally, they only release distilled water with no additives whatsoever.
Furthermore, Boveda has produced a multitude of packs for different RH levels. For cigars, you can choose between 62%, 65%, 69%, and 72% RH. Yet, Boveda also produces packs with 49% and 58% that can be used for pipe tobacco. Therefore, you can choose the right one for your needs.
Finally, depending on the size of your collection, they also have packs at different sizes such as 60g and 320g. There are even small 8-gram packs that can be used for your trusty cigar pouch when travelling!
You can learn more about these in our full Boveda guide.
Creating Micro-Climates For Different Relative Humidities
Another small trick that you can use in order to consolidate your collection is by creating multiple environments within a storage solution. As we’ll mention later, varieties of pipe tobacco perform best at different RH levels.
Therefore, you can always create additional environments when necessary. For instance, your humidor or storage container can be set at 62%, which has glass jars inside it at 58% RH.
As long as they’re airtight, the different levels won’t interfere with one another. Not only will you be able to keep your collection in one easy-to-manage location but the glass jars will be kept somewhere that’s cool and dark.
At What Relative Humidity Should You Store Pipe Tobacco?
Since there are so many different types of pipe tobacco, the most appropriate humidity level can greatly vary from as little as 55% RH (relative humidity) to as much as 75%.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell you precisely at what humidity level you should store your tobacco. Indeed, this is one of those things that comes down to personal preference and requires a little trial and error.
For instance, some people may prefer ribbon tobacco to be a little moist while they like cube cuts to be drier. Additionally, your preferred blends may perform best at different relative humidity levels too.
Nevertheless, from what we’ve heard from other pipe smokers, there seems to be a general preference for around the 62% RH mark. Therefore, you can easily start with this then work your way up or down, depending on what you prefer.
Unlike cigars, pipe tobacco is quite easy to dehydrate when too humid or moisten if too dry. We’ll soon provide a detailed guide on how to do this.
Nevertheless, if you have a versatile storage solution and the tobacco is only slightly too moist or dry, you’d need only replace your Boveda pack with one at a different level and it will eventually change the environment.
That said, if it’s far too dry or moist, you’ll need to have a more aggressive approach and use multiple packs with much higher levels than you need to overcompensate.
Avoiding Sunlight & Ensure Consistent Temperatures
Even if you have one of the most robust, airtight storage containers with the best humidifier possible, you shouldn’t overlook these last key steps!
Firstly, tobacco needs to be kept at a consistent temperature. Like wine and cigars, it can be quite sensitive to heat spikes, which can also cause the humidity to fluctuate.
When storing over shorter periods, an ambient room temperature of between 15°C (59°F) to 21°C (70°F) is absolutely fine. That said, if you plan on ageing them for decades, an environment of between 10°C (50°F) to 15°C (59°F) can be quite beneficial.
Gentle fluctuations of temperature, such as a day and night cycle, isn’t all that harmful for tobacco and perfectly fine. Nevertheless, sudden drops or spikes are best avoided.
Furthermore, direct sunlight can change both the colour and flavour of your tobacco. While transparent containers are the most vulnerable, even metal tins can be harmed by prolonged exposure.
Furthermore, direct sunlight will cause a miniature greenhouse effect and heat up the contents on the container. Therefore, be sure to keep your cigars somewhere dark.
Monitor The Storage Conditions
Finally, you’ll need a device that allows you to track your storage environment. While some pipe smokers are happy to just open their collection and get an idea by feeling the tobacco, this isn’t always a convenient approach.
Instead, you’ll need a hygrometer, which allows you to track the humidity level. We’re not particularly fond of analogue models as they have a tendency to be inaccurate and require frequent calibration. Yet, digital hygrometers have the added advantage of also tracking the temperature.
Once you have one of these introduced into your storage solution, you’ll be able to confidently track your storage environment and check whether it needs any maintenance.
Another device that you can use is a smart sensor. We’re quite fond of using these ourselves as it allows you to conveniently check the environment from a smartphone. Furthermore, you can track any fluctuations as they often give you a record of the previous days or weeks.
We love the Boveda Butler as it’s quite inexpensive and offers all of these benefits. However, we have tested a number of different ones in our guide to smart sensors.
Alternatively, if you just want a classic hygrometer, head to our guide to the best ones to buy online.
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