Cigars 101: How to get the Best Humidification Levels in Your Humidor
Humidifiers are an integral part of how to keep your cigars properly moist and preserved, as well as correcting any issues with them being too dry or too wet upon arrival - and if you order cigars online, this may happen quite often, so having a good humidifier in your humidor is essential. To keep cigars stable at a proper humidity level, many humidors include a hygrometer so that you can monitor the temperature and amount of humidity within the humidor, as well, though they can be found separately, as well.
As for the humidifier itself, there are several styles of humidifier that are generally used in humidors. All of these methods of humidification work very well when they are used properly, and determining the best one is a matter of determining which qualities in a humidifier are most important to you. No matter what kind of humidification system you choose, always refill it with distilled water - NEVER tap or spring water, as they contain compounds that are much more conducive to growing mold within the humidifier and the humidor, which in turn would ruin your cigar collection.
The most common and most cost effective humidification for humidors is green floral foam soaked in distilled water. Floral foam is highly absorbent, and releases humidity over the course of 1 to 2 weeks, after which it will need to be refilled - a hygrometer takes the guesswork out of knowing exactly when it needs another soaking. Replace the foam every 6 to 12 months. This type of humidification only releases humidity, rather than absorbing it as well, so it does not take the top spot for best humidification for humidors.
Crystal gel-based humidifiers are a step up from foam in terms of humidification, as they both release and absorb moisture once they have been placed within the humidor. When they are dry, they are in crystal form; they convert to gel when they come into contact with moisture. When too many crystals are visible in your humidor, it is time to refill the humidifier; this usually happens in about 2 to 4 weeks. Again, only use distilled water for your humidification system, and replace crystal gel humidifiers after 1 to 2 years of use.
Silica bead humidifiers are the next step up in terms of quality humidification for humidors, and they work similarly to crystal gel humidifiers in that they also both release and absorb moisture. They also have to be refilled with distilled water every 2 to 4 weeks, but these will last 3 to 6 years, making them more cost effective in the long run than the previous options, though be warned: depending on the amount of moisture in your cigars themselves, the beads may absorb some of their oils, as well.
Cigar humidification packets are the least labor-intensive option of those listed, which may put them in the running for the best humidification for humidors. With different relative humidity (RH) levels suited to different climates, humidification packets contain specific amounts of salt and water to release a precise amount of moisture through a semi-permeable membrane, and they can absorb moisture if there is too much in the humidor, as well. Humidification packets are self-contained, meaning you do not have to refill them, but they do dry out over the course of about 3 months, and will have to be replaced regularly.
Electronic humidifiers may be the most expensive humidification for humidors, but rightly so: they are the easiest and most convenient humidification option available. With built in hygrometers and electronic sensors that automatically release or absorb moisture depending on the immediate conditions of the humidor and automated notices to remind you when the battery is low or the water needs to be refilled, electronic humidifiers are the top of the line humidification system for humidors - and if you are a serious cigar collector, they are well worth the price tag.