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Levels of humidity in tobacco

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Kea

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As I am getting older, I am getting pickier with the levels of moisture in my tobacco.
I want to smoke a pipe then and there, without having to wait a couple of days because that specific tobacco is too dry or too humid ( for my taste).

With cigars is easy ( digital/analog hygrometer), but I am not that sure with pipe tobacco .
What instruments do you use for measuring humidity? Which method do you use and which parameters?

Thank you
 

Carlos

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My fingers usually. Seriously. I base my packing and expectations on how the tobacco feels. Then when smoking I think about if I need to make an adjustment next time. Not very precise. But it works.
 

Justpipes

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Same here Kea. I just judge by feel. I like my tobacco fairly dry so I usually take out a few days worth at the time and dry it to my liking if necessary. I probably smoke approximately 2-4 oz. per week, some weeks more. Just depends on what I am doing.
 

ftrplt

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I go by "feel" also; since in my early smoking days I tended to keep my tobacco much to damp. I was sternly instructed to pinch/press the tobacco between your fingers. If it stuck together, it was way too damp. Conversely, if it just fell apart, it was way too dry. I look for a "spongy" feel to the tobacco; with a slight bent toward the drier side for me. It took a bit of time (a few weeks) and experience, but I got it figured out! Always remember one important aspect about tobacco...it will adapt to the moisture level it is exposed to. Pipe tobacco, cigars, primed leaf in a barn; all will "stabilize' to its environmental moisture level. Nature of the beast! FTRPLT
 

Kea

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Thank you for your feedback, gents.

I may be getting my brains fried with so many hours in front of the computer :shock: , but I was thinking something along the lines of soil moisture meter like this Soil Moisture Meter and I am not sure if this would work with tobacco :cyclops: .

The "finger" method sometimes is failing me with twist and flake tobaccos ; I was looking for an objective/measurable method.

Anyway, I think I will follow you with the KISS ( Keep It Simple, Stupid) theorem and apply the ancient "thumb&index" method.

Cheers
 

jeffya2

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I have an old cigar humidor & I am considering putting my open tins in there. I just hate the last 1/2 tin when it gets too dry
I have heard a cigar humidor keeps tobacco @ 70% humidity but pipe tobacco s/b @ 50%. Does anybody have an answer or input here
 

Kea

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jeffya2":9loe4ree said:
I have an old cigar humidor & I am considering putting my open tins in there. I just hate the last 1/2 tin when it gets too dry
I have heard a cigar humidor keeps tobacco @ 70% humidity but pipe tobacco s/b @ 50%. Does anybody have an answer or input here
For cigars, it is adviced a relative humidity of 60-70% at 21C ( I am metric, sorry); above that humidity level, you will risk having mold .I personally prefer 60% .
I don't know which relative humidity should be for pipe tobacco: I'll join you, waiting for an answer :)
 

glpease

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Kea":yqwh7qjs said:
jeffya2":yqwh7qjs said:
I have an old cigar humidor & I am considering putting my open tins in there. I just hate the last 1/2 tin when it gets too dry
I have heard a cigar humidor keeps tobacco @ 70% humidity but pipe tobacco s/b @ 50%. Does anybody have an answer or input here
For cigars, it is adviced a relative humidity of 60-70% at 21C ( I am metric, sorry); above that humidity level, you will risk having mold .I personally prefer 60% .
I don't know which relative humidity should be for pipe tobacco: I'll join you, waiting for an answer :)
Unfortunately, this isn't quite as easy a question as it may seem, as different tobaccos have different hygroscopic natures. However, you can get pretty close. An RH of between 61% and 64% will equillibrate most tobaccos to the 12-14% moisture range. This may be too moist for some smokers. To get to an average moisture content of 10%, you'd need an RH of about 56%, according to my experiments. Of course, if there are humectants used in the tobacco, these figures will not apply.

For packaging and long term storage, a moisture content of between 13-15% is ideal. Most smokers also find this to be a good moisture level for smoking. Personally, I prefer it at about 11-12%, sometimes even 10%, depending on the tobacco. (Virginias require more moisture to deliver their full flavour than Latakia blends do. The moisture helps solvate some of the sugars, delivering them in the water vapour/smoke stream, rather than simply burning them, which will tend to produce a sharper, tangier taste from the acidification of the smoke.) By the time it's down to 10% moisture, the tobacco will be rather dry; below this level, it quickly becomes friable.

It's essential to keep tobacco moist during packaging and storage. Biologically, some moisture is necessary for the aging process to occur. Mechanically, the moisture keeps it from turning to dust when it's blended, packaged, shipped. Too, given that it's much easier, in most climates, to dry tobacco than to rehumidify it, we're always better off with tobacco that's slightly on the moist side, rather than too dry.

Your fingers are actually a pretty good gauge of a tobacco's moisture content. If the stuff crumbles, it's below 10%. If it sticks together in a ball, it's over 14%. If it's springy and malleable, bouncing back when compressed, it's in the right range of 12-13%. It's remarkable how a little difference in moisture content can make such a big difference in the way the leaf feels.

I like your icon, by the way. Give my regards to Rorschach.
 

thomas james

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Aren't we trying for a one size fits all here?

I don't adjust the moisture of any blend. I smoke it as it comes. The "adjustments" I make are in terms of how much I put into the bowl and the technique I use during the actual smoke; ie, puff rate, tamping, ash removal. how often I pass a cleaner during the smoke, etc.

For example: I have three english/balkan blends going at the moment. Commonwealth, Pirate Kake and Ashbury.

Pirate Kake works best if gravity fed, light on the amount, little tamping, very few cleaner passings, slow puff rate, shallow puffs,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,very responsive to "breath smoking."

Ashbury likes a medium pack, faster puff rate, deeper draws, a little more attention with pipe cleaners.

Commonwealth likes a fuller initial pack, moderate tamping, does not mind aggressive puffing, frequent passes of the pipe cleaner.

Only having a few blends open at a given time enables me to zone in on what each blend responds to.

I have taken pipe size, shape, bowl configuration out of the list of variables. All of my pipes are group 5/6 straight billiards.

I don't smoke aromatics or blends with humectants.

All GLP blends except Haddo's are pretty much a perfect moisture level for me. I pack H very lightly and nurse the smoke along. I am also finding amazing changes in every blend at the four year old mark. Everything changes with a bit of age.

The early 06 Ashbury is phenomenal. Especially good after a bowl of Greg's chili. Eatin good in the neighborhood.

:bounce:
 

jeffya2

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Great explanation Greg. I think I'll just start smoking faster so it won't dry out
 

Kea

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Cheers, Greg for the info. I was looking for something along those lines. That's a fascinating path you are in, as a tobacco "createur" ( I envy you). I hope it doesn't spoil your enjoyment of a good smoke while "off duty". :D ( Rorschard! ;) )

Thomas, I understand what you mean .
Besides,I like smoking the pipe in a very specific way ( gentle puff, easy draw, pipe in my mouth nearly all the time, inhaling/smelling through my nose the smoke I expel from my mouth); that is the only way I enjoy smoking a pipe: that way, or no way . :pirat:
If it is too dry, is draws too fast and may overheat ( besides, it doesn't smell right for me).
If it is too wet, the pipes goes off or I need to puff faster or harder than I like.
For that reason I like adjusting the humidity (up/down).
Cheers and enjoy the "holy smoke". :pipe:
 
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