The hygrometer is a device that measures relative humidity levels in an environment. In our case we will be discussing hygrometers as they relate to cigar humidors. Many cigar enthusiasts take their hygrometer for granted. After all, as long as your cigar collection is in good shape, your hygrometer is doing a fine job. If it’s not broken why fix it, right?
Well, yes and no. If you're new on the cigar scene you’re probably aware that there are a lot of accessories and tools that make the experience of enjoying a good stogie even better. After all, the right punch or cutter gives you that essential draw you need to fully enjoy your smoke. And without the right lighter you may end up with an uneven burn, or worse, corrupt the taste of your favorite cigar.
But surprisingly the one accessory vital to the integrity and quality of your cigar is the hygrometer that monitors your humidor. And it’s probably the one you know the least about. Let’s take a deeper dive into why hygrometers matter.
The History and Evolution of The Hygrometer
First, a little background. You already know the purpose of the hygrometer; to measure humidity in the air or another type of gas. The hygrometer dates back to 1480 when none other than Leonardo DaVinci crafted the very first and very crude version. Over the next several hundred years the hygrometer was improved upon.
The concept was pretty basic and fairly ingenious. Organic matter, human hair for instance, tends to contract or expand in relation to the amount of humidity in the air. Those early hygrometers used human hair as a means to measure humidity. The hair would swell or not depending on the moisture in the air. When it swelled it would move the needle.
Hygrometers became a useful tool in all kinds of areas such as weather analysis, agriculture, science and cigar humidors. Thankfully today we have some remarkable hygrometers available to us to ensure the environment of the home humidor is ideal for keeping our cigars fresh and ready to enjoy.
Why Are Hygrometers So Important?
The taste of your cigar is dependent on the integrity of its structure. In other words, your cigar mustn’t dry out or become too damp. If it dries out you suffer an uneven burn and a harsher smoke. And if your cigar becomes damp you risk mold and an uneven burn. Many an expensive and amazing collection of cigars has been lost to mold or made far less enjoyable due to dry conditions in the humidor.
By keeping a proper range of humidity inside your humidor you avoid damage to your cigar collection. Most cigar aficionados maintain a relative humidity within their humidors of 65%-70%. This is safe and slightly more humid than the humidity found at the average room temperature. That’s why keeping your cigars in a humidor and not at room temperature is best.
The hygrometer measures your humidity levels and allows you to maintain the proper range. You will need to know how to read your hygrometer, however, in order to keep your humidor environment at its best.
How to Read a Hygrometer
How to read your hygrometer depends on the type you use. An analog hygrometer uses a gauge or a circular dial. The sensors in the hygrometers mechanism moves the needle depending on the relative humidity it senses. The needle points to a number on the dial. The dial shows numbers, usually by fives or tens, to indicate the percentage of relative humidity within your humidor. You can judge the humidity percentage by the number the needle indicates.
Many cigar fans find the digital hygrometer easier to read. That doesn’t necessarily mean it's better, but if you prefer the digital display then it might be better for you. The digital display shows the exact measurement instead of a range. There are some digital hygrometers that mimic the appearance of an analog hygrometer for aesthetics and some of those display a range of humidity percentage.
Once you know the relative humidity level in your humidor you can make any necessary adjustments to bring it up or down as necessary. Or, if the relative humidity measurement is to your liking then you can opt to leave it as is.
Are Hygrometers Always Accurate?
You may wonder if the reading you see is actually correct. After all your bathroom scale is often off by five pounds or more, right? Critics take both digital and analog hygrometers to task every new and again but if you take the time to calibrate your hygrometer, as is suggested when your device is brand new, you’ll know you can trust the reading.
There are a few different ways to calibrate your hygrometer but the easiest and most accurate way is by purchasing a calibration kit. They are inexpensive, easy to perform and not very time-consuming unlike some of the other DIY calibration methods.
How to Choose a Humidor Hygrometer
You’re probably thinking “why should I purchase a separate hygrometer when my humidor came with one?”. Well, you don’t really need to but maybe you want to for accuracy and for the preservation of your favorite cigars.
Standard issue hygrometers, the ones that come with the humidor, aren’t accurate most of the time. In fact they may be off by as much as 10%. You’ll find yourself calibrating and recalibrating to ensure proper measurement pretty often with a standard issue hygrometer.
Digital hygrometers are considered by many to be the most accurate. But, not all digital hygrometers can be calibrated. Analogs are less accurate and provide a range instead of a specific number but you can calibrate them yourself to keep your readings accurate.
Finding the right hygrometer is mostly a matter of preference. Do you like the old school look and have a knack for keeping watch over your collection? You may prefer the analog hygrometer for aesthetic reasons. If you don’t have a lot of time to devote to your collection of cigars beyond enjoying them then digital may be your best bet. Some of the most devoted cigar lovers will actually use both.
Consult The Experts
At Northwoods Humidors we take pride in helping our customers discover the joy of cigars through our products. We offer the finest humidors for every budget and our selection of hygrometers helps ensure your humidor provides the best environment for keeping those stogies in top condition. Contact Northwoods Humidors for more information on choosing the right way to protect your cigar collection.