So you started smoking cigars, thought it would be your new “light” hobby, maybe you joined the Cigar Dojo app, then BAMB! Next thing you know, that 50-count humidor just can’t keep up with your lust for fine cigars. Think quick, this hobby is already expensive enough, and those premium, hand-rolled stogies are priority #1 – what are your options?
- Convert your closet into a custom walk-in humidor (Pump the brakes, we’re on a budget here!)
- Buy another 50-count humidor (classic newbie mistake, your collection is getting out of control, it’s not stopping at 100)
- Build a wineador (Getting closer, but let’s save that for the advanced class)
- Set up a coolidor (Sounds… cool, let’s take a closer look, shall we?)
A cooler that has been modified to store fine cigars and tobacco at the desired relative humidity
A coolidor is the perfect option for the cigar lover on a budget. Think about it – the cooler is already designed for temperature control, something every enthusiast should keep a careful eye on (generally, cigars should be kept under 70°, and NEVER over 80° – prime conditions for beetles…). Now, should your cooler also happen to have a somewhat tightly sealed lid, well it’s starting to make sense how this could be ripe conditions for our little stogie friends.
Now let’s put together a shopping list and get to work, we do have to get back to priority #1 (BUYING CIGARS) after all.
How to build a cigar coolidor
The basic idea here is to make a cooler habitable for cigars, now what do cigars like? Humidity, temperature control, and the appropriate aroma – ala Spanish cedar (which also helps ward off those nasty beetles). The main concern we’ll be facing is that offensive, plastic-y smell coolers posses, I don’t want a shred of that smell contaminating my seasoned stogies, and neither should you. But more on that later, here’s what you’ll need to buy.
Your coolidor shopping list
- 1 cooler (the larger the better, trust me)
- Cleaning supplies
- Cigar boxes
- Humidity beads
Let me give you another “quick tip” – buy a new cooler, I know we’re thinking cheap on this project, but shell out a little cash on this important investment and you’ll thank me later (new = clean = happy cigars). A used cooler has a serious risk of existing bacteria and mold and there is no sense in taking any chances therefore buy a new one. As I mentioned before, you’ll probably want the biggest one you can find, for me it was a 120 quart Coleman (which really could be bigger). You’ll want to fill the cooler at least half-full with cigars, this will go quicker than you’d think because the cigars will be in cigar boxes (ah, the Spanish cedar…).
Buy a clean rag or two, non-scented bleach, and baking soda. Your best bet for the bleach is to grab the store brand, we’re trying to remove the smell after all, not add one.
Head over to the local B&M and grab a few Spanish cedar cigar boxes, usually they’ll run a dollar or two a piece. Pick out an assortment of sizes and make sure they are raw Spanish cedar (preferably not lacquered ), it should smell like a walk-in humidor. You may even be able to score a few Spanish cedar sheets, we want as much Spanish cedar as possible people!
Save a couple of the cigar boxes for your humidification, humidity beads are the way to go! Take a look at our how-to on humidity beads if you’re not aware of these amazing little gems.
We need to keep a watchful eye on our temp and humidity, especially in the beginning stages when the coolidor is seasoning. You can pick this up at the B&M when you get the cigar boxes.
Assembling your cigar coolidor
Bring that brand new cooler home and place it in the bath tub – we’re going to fill it up. Pour in a cup of your plain bleach and fill the cooler to the top with warm water. Use clean rags to wipe down the inside of the cooler with the bleach water. Now close the lid and let it sit over night.
In the morning you will empty the cooler and let it dry in the sun all day. Assembling in the winter? Use a new rag to dry the cooler and leave indoors (it’ll have to do).
Place a bowl of baking soda in the cooler and close the lid, let it sit over night.
Repeat until all unwanted smells are gone.
Fill the cooler with cigar boxes! No cigars just yet, we just want all the Spanish cedar your can find, it’s seasoning time.
Remember those cigar boxes we set aside for humidity? Grab ’em! Depending on the size of your cooler, you will probably need anywhere from 1 to 3 cigar boxes for humidity. These should be smaller, cube-like boxes, as opposed to a flat, rectangular sized box (gotta keep the beads together!).
What we’re going to do is fill the boxes with our humidity beads, but first we need to modify our cigar boxes a bit. Take a drill and find a drill bit that’s somewhere around the size of a pencil (this is personal preference). Evenly space holes throughout the lid of the boxes.
Fill the cigar boxes with our humidity beads. For this step we’ll need to measure the inside of the cooler. Multiply the width, length, and height to find the volume of your cooler (math is fun!). You’ll want to use around 1 ounce of humidity beads for every 500 cubic inches of cooler space.
As an example, my cooler measured 34″ x 15″ x 14″ – 7,140 cubic inches. Divide that number by 500 and voilà, I need about 14 ounces of beads.
Place your beads in their boxes and spray with distilled water. I used a little extra beads just to be safe. Remember, extra beads won’t hurt, too few beads will.
Step 4 – The finishing touches.
Place a hygrometer in the cooler and watch that humidity, we want to see it climb up to around 80%. Also, be vigilant of the temp, you may have to move your coolidor to a cooler area of the house, mine is kept in the basement in the summer.
Let it sit for a few days, if the humidity doesn’t reach the high 70’s, add more water, if it’s too humid (mid 80’s) leave the lid open for an hour.
When the humidity is consistent, it’s time for the most fun part – adding your cigars! Try to keep them evenly distributed throughout the coolidor, we don’t want humidity settling in one area of the cooler.
Keep checking that humidity and temp! The cigars will soak up a ton of the humidity, bringing the relative humidity (RH) down just below 70%. Ideally, we want to see the RH levels around 65% and the temperature at around 68°. Obviously this is up to you, but I feel that those are good starting point numbers.
Now sit back and enjoy the magic of perfectly seasoned cigars on a budget. Believe me, it’s well-worth the effort.
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