How Do Analog Hygrometers Work?

How Do Analog Hygrometers Work?

As any cigar smoker knows, the enjoyment of a good cigar is dependent on the taste of it. These experienced users know that they need to maintain the proper levels of humidity in order to have the best smoking experience. These desired levels are achieved through the use of a hygrometer. Therefore, for anyone who is considering becoming a cigar smoker, hygrometers are an incredibly important aspect of the cigar experience and should not be disregarded.

Relative Humidity and a Good Cigar

The majority of cigar smokers continue their habit because they like the taste they get from a cigar. This taste is cultivated in large part by the humidity of the cigar itself. For example, a cigar that is too dry is almost completely without taste, while a cigar with very high humidity is too moist to even be lit and may have mold growing inside of it. This overly wet flavor can create an unpleasant, musty taste. Both of these situations can quickly ruin any cigars smoking experience.

Most cigars are stored in a humidor, a specially developed case meant to trap the perfect amount of moisture for the optimal cigar humidity. However, humidors are not digitally controlled, so the amount of moisture inside the cases can vary greatly. This is where a hygrometer becomes important.

Hygrometers measure the relative humidity of a humidor. This is a measure of the amount of water in the air compared to the amount of water the air can actually hold at a particular temperature. Cigar manufacturers and cigar aficionados agree that the perfect humidor relative humidity level is between 65-70 degrees at around 65-70 percent. Those that fall below these levels often become too dry, and those above these indications are too wet to be enjoyable. This temperature combined with this percent of air saturation produces the best amount of moisture in cigars, therefore providing the best taste.

Although hygrometers cannot be used alone as a means of correcting the relative humidity of a humidor, these measurement tools can be the basis for understanding why some cigars taste much better than others. Once a cigar smoker notices that his humidor is not registering at the optimal levels of humidity, he can take action to correct the situation and save his cigars from becoming ruined. Of course, hygrometers are not 100 percent accurate all the time, but they do an excellent job of monitoring the humidity levels. Cigars that are consistently stored at these levels will have the best texture and taste available to the smoker.

Hygrometers are available in digital and analog forms. Which type is the best for monitoring cigar quality is a matter of debate between stalwart smokers, and there are a number of advantages and disadvantages to each kind. Most humidors are outfitted with an analog hygrometer when purchased, so they are typically the most common.


How To Use an Analog Hygrometer

The original type of hygrometer, analog tools are available in both antique and modern forms. These are largely considered the most attractive type of hygrometer, known for the wound springs and elegant faces made famous on humidors. No matter their internal humidity measuring tools, these hygrometers display their readings in gauge or dial format.

In keeping with the original technology when hygrometers were developed, some analog types still use horse hair inside the wound machinery to measure the air’s humidity. When the relative humidity begins to rise inside the humidor, this hygrometer’s horsehair begins to expand. The ever-expanding horse hair, as the relative humidity of the humidor continues to rise, eventually moves the wound springs inside the hygrometer, thereby indicating high levels of humidity on the hygrometer’s external gauge. When the humidity begins to drop, the horsehair contracts, the springs retract into tightly wound coils again and the hygrometer’s gauge drops.

Other hygrometers are created using a metal spring to trigger a relative humidity reading. These are possibly the most popular of all types of analog devices because they are less expensive. However, reoccurring loose springs do make this type extremely unreliable.

A few psychrometers, or wet and dry bulb thermometers, are also used in analog hygrometers. In this type, there are two thermometers, one a dry bulb and one a wet bulb. The relative humidity of a humidor is determined using a psychometric chart. Temperatures are taken from both the wet- and dry bulb thermometers, and where those temperatures intersect on the psychometric chart equals the relative humidity. The extra steps required to determine this figure prevents psychrometers from becoming a popular hygrometric option for humidors.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Analog Hygrometers

Of course, using any type of hygrometer to measure and track the relative humidity of stored cigars is an improvement over no method at all. However, these analog devices have a number of drawbacks that cannot be ignored. Because they were the original type of hygrometer, analog devices have earned a reputation for being rather poorly manufactured with cheap and unstable mechanisms.

However, the main issue with these hygrometers, which led to the development of a digital version, is the need for routine tune-ups and resets throughout the lifespan of these instruments. Because the springs are wound tightly and the entire system of hardware involves tiny moving parts, the accuracy of this hygrometer can often be affected. The more time that passes between adjustments, the more inaccurate this type of hygrometer becomes. At times, the gauge readings can be off by up to 25 percent, a figure that can drastically affect the moisture and taste of any stored cigars. Since the enjoyment of cigars is based largely on their storage conditions, this percentage can ruin an otherwise perfect cigar.

Because this type is more attractive and most likely to be sold with a new humidor, many cigar smokers continue to use these hygrometers. Luckily, these analog devices can be sustained through frequent and thorough maintenance. Re-calibration is not overly difficult or time-consuming, but it can require the expertise of a specialist, and this can be an added cost to the cigar smoking hobby.

For those cigar smokers who would prefer to maintain their own hygrometers, manufacturers have created a number of methods for measuring the accuracy of these devices. First of all, most producers have tightened hygrometer calibrations at the factory before the devices are shipped. Furthermore, these manufacturers have developed a wide range of easy-to-use products that allow avid smokers to test and calibrate their hygrometers at home.

How to Choose the Right Hygrometer

The need for any cigar smoker to have a hygrometer is pretty clear. Ideal levels of relative humidity inside a cigar humidor create the most enjoyable smoking experiences. However, cigar smokers have the option of choosing a digital or an analog hygrometer to measure these all-important levels.

Many cigar smokers prefer the classic elegance of an analog hygrometer because it is often sold with humidors and because it fits the image of a typical smoker. However, inaccuracies and consistent re-calibration needs can be a lot of work for many cigar enthusiasts. Luckily, there are a number of analog hygrometers on the market, and there is almost sure to be a version that fits each cigar smoker’s needs.