Pipe Tobacco Storage     June 22nd, 2009

 

By Bob Tate

storage

A lot of pipers wonder if and how they can store their pipe tobacco. There are ways to store your tobacco and it will last for years and if done properly, it will allow the tobacco to age and this is a good thing. Aging a tobacco allows the blend to ‘marry’ together for awhile longer sometimes creating a slightly different taste than what the blend originally started off as. But seeing as this article is not about aging, but storing, let me begin.

Storing tobacco is economical for pipe smokers as it allows you to buy tobacco in bulk which is cheaper than buying in tins. Storing pipe tobacco is not hard at all, it is actually pretty simple. Remember to take your location into consideration. If you live in a region with high humidity, the tobacco will stay moist longer than in regions that are dry and arid. Also keep in mind that the proper RH (Relative Humidity) of pipe tobacco is only in the range of 10-18%. It doesn’t need to be very moist and actually too much moisture or humidity will encourage mold growth.

Let’s start off with what NOT to do when storing pipe tobacco.

•Do Not Store Pipe Tobacco and Cigars Together
If you also smoke cigars do not store your pipe tobacco and cigars together. Cigars are like little sponges and they will eventually absorb any moisture, aromas, and flavors that are in their vicinity. So if you store the two together, you will eventually infuse your cigars with the aroma and taste of your pipe tobacco. The last thing that I want is to grab a nice cigar and when I light it, it tastes like Dunhill Nightcap or some other pipe blend. I want my pipe blends and cigars to taste the way they are supposed to taste.

•Do Not Store Pipe Tobacco in a Humidor
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that storing pipe tobacco in a cigar humidor is a good thing as it keeps the moisture in the tobacco. This is false. If you store your pipe tobacco in a humidor a lot of negative things can and will happen. The cedar in humidors actually absorbs moisture and it will suck all of the moisture from your tobacco. It will also absorb the aroma of the tobacco blend and you will not be able to use that same humidor for cigars for a very long time. The cedar could also impart a cedar aroma and flavor to your pipe tobacco. If you do try to store your pipe tobacco in a humidor the same way as cigars, by introducing humidity by using a humidity device, it will make the tobacco too moist to smoke. Remember 10-14% RH. Leave humidors for their intended purpose, storing cigars.

•Do Not Add Moisture to Tobacco When Jarring it for Long Term Storage
In my opinion, adding moisture to tobacco before jarring it up for long term storage is not a good thing to do. It can cause mold growth on the tobacco during storage and that will render the tobacco only suitable for the garbage. There is nothing worse than going to open 8oz of tobacco a year or two later and find it all moldy and un-smokable. I would rather jar it up a little on the dry side than too moist. It should be stored in an airtight container so you will not lose any more moisture anyway. I always jar my bulk tobacco as soon as I get it. The moisture level is normally spot on or a little on the dry side which, in my opinion, is perfect for storing.

•Do Not Use Old Pickle Jars for Storage
The reason why you don’t want to do this is; even though the glass itself does not hold odors, the rubber in the lid does. It is impossible to get rid of the pickle smell from the lid of pickle jars. Trust me, I have tried. The smell left in the rubber of the lid will invade the jar not long after the lid is replaced on the jar making the jar smell like pickles again. But if you don’t mind a pickle flavored tobacco, you can give it a try.

——————–

Now we will move on to what to do and what you can do with no adverse affects to the tobacco. Storing tobacco is kind of like storing wine and actually most pipe smokers refer their tobacco as their tobacco cellars the way that wine enthusiast have wine cellars. This does not mean that you have to have an actual cellar like you do for wine; you just have to keep it stored in the proper conditions.

You want to keep an eye on temperature, humidity, and light. Ideal storage for pipe tobacco is a cool dark place without a lot of temperature fluctuations. Ideally you want the temperature to be in the range of 60-70 Degrees F. Humidity is a factor as well, even though the tobacco should be in airtight containers. High humidity can cause corrosion to metals and it could compromise the seal by causing rust to the tobacco tin or the metal lid of mason jars. You do not want to store your tobacco where it is exposed to light for long periods of time.

Tins will keep for very long periods of time with out having to do anything at all as long as the vacuum seal is not broken. If you are going to store them for long periods of time, check them out to make sure they are not damaged. Look for damage to the tin especially pin holes that have occurred. Make sure the vacuum seal is good and then store it away for later.

Airtight glass jars are preferred for long term storage (anything over 2 months) of bulk, loose, and opened tins of tobacco. Glass is used because it is a non-porous material and can be disinfected very easily. Some people use airtight plastic containers for short term storage, I have done it myself in a pinch, but I still prefer glass. If I do use plastic, I make sure that it is new and has never contained anything before, especially food. I also leave my tobacco in the bags that it came in and place the bag of tobacco in the plastic container. I prefer to use glass Mason or Ball jars or glass bail top jars with an airtight rubber seal.

Mason and Ball jars are relatively inexpensive and can be bought almost anywhere. They also come in a variety of sizes from 2oz up to 1 quart in size (a 1 quart size jar holds about 8oz of tobacco). That way you can either jar and store a whole quart of tobacco or get the smaller 2oz jars and store your own tin size containers. That way when you want to smoke a particular blend, you won’t have to open up 8oz of it. So make different sizes of tobacco to enjoy at later dates.

Preparing the jars for storing/jarring/canning is one of the most important steps in the storage process. Make sure that you sterilize the jars before use. With Mason and Ball jars, I wash the jars, lids and rings by hand with hot soapy (dish soap) water and then place the rings and jars in the dishwasher by themselves on the hottest setting to sterilize them. You can not place the lids of Mason and Ball jars in the dishwasher, so just wash them very good with dish soap in the hottest water that you can stand. I then dry the excess water off of all the pieces with clean paper towels and then jar up my tobacco. Some people boil the jars and rings in boiling water to sterilize them. This is a good idea if you don’t have a dishwasher. Since most dishwashers get the water so hot, I do not boil them.

I then place the tobacco in the jars and screw the lids on tight. I then label each jar with the contents and date and put them in storage. Some people prefer to do the whole canning process of placing the filled jars in boiling water to heat them up and then placing the lids on to create a vacuum seal. I have never done that and I have had no problems. I have found that some of my older jars have created their own vacuum while in storage. With bail top jars, I wash them the same way and then place the tobacco in the jar and clamp the lid shut. I then label the contents and put it away.

Happy Cellaring!

 

 

 

36 Responses to “Pipe Tobacco Storage”

  1. Kevin said:

    That’s is an excellent article Bob. I definitely learned some new and valuable information on storing pipes tobacco.

    When I first started out years ago, I was mistakenly storing my pipe tobacco in those glass jar humidors that had a little humi device for cigars. Now I know why it was too moist and burned the crap out of my tongue. LOL!

    This article should be useful to lots of people for a long time to come.

  2. usa2traveller said:

    Bob,

    Excellent article. I have also been cellaring a lot of tobacco. Most of it is in tins, some in bail-lid jars, and the rest in Mason jars. No mold after several years of Texas humidity!

    One thing I have learned is that once a tin is opened, the clock is ticking. I keep all my tobacco in an old file cabinet (so it is out of sunlight). I have learned the hard way that an open round tin with the plastic lid (like McClelland’s) can keep tobacco for about four months or more with little to no detrimental effect. However, the rectangular tins (like Samuell Gawith) only keeps the tobacco for a month or so before getting too dry. The round tins (Aston, Peterson, etc.) might keep tobacco for a couple of months, though some dry out pretty quickly as well. So once you open a tin, use it or transfer it to a Ball jar.

  3. bloodhound said:

    I learned a lot…thanks…I want to start jarring some tobacco and aging it…this is a huge help…I’m headed to the store to get mason jars.

  4. James said:

    I’m new to pipes but have enjoyed cigars for a while now. I’m glad I read this article as my pipe tobacco is sitting side by side with my cigars in a humidor as I type this. Yikes! But I stumbled on this article while searching for the proper way to store your pipe. Any advice in that regard?

  5. Kevin said:

    You should store your pipes in a Pipe Rack so the stems are pointing upwards and the bowl downwards.

    Here is an article that shows a pipe rack at the beginning and the end of the article.
    http://pipesmagazine.com/blog/put-that-in-your-pipe/pipe-tools-part-2/

  6. cortezattic said:

    Bob,
    Thanks for the article. I started using Mason jars for cellaring about two years ago. I just used the jars my wife had on hand, and they were the larger variety (8oz., I guess.) Great advice in recommending the smaller sized jars; and I might add that the wide-mouth types facilitate filling and accessing. I discovered that Ace Hardware stocks all sorts of canning supplies, including replacement rubber(?) gaskets for bail-top containers.

    While on the storage topic, I found an effective way to preserve tobacco in opened pull-top tins. Rub some bee’s wax along the rim, press aluminum foil over it, and snap the plastic cap back on the tin. This has been very handy for storing opened tins of leftover blending tobaccos. I think any wax, like candle wax, will work so long as it makes the aluminum foil adhere to the rim.

    I do have some questions. How tightly do you pack your tobacco in the mason jars? Does this make any difference in the speed or quality of the aging process?

  7. Bob said:

    I pack my jars kind of tight, but I do leave some room at the top.
    It is my understanding that tobacco does need some air in order to age.

  8. csgunsmith said:

    O.K. I had to let you all know just how I have been storing Tobacco. Its simple easy and no jars to break open. Here goes I use my wifes vacume sealer and sealer bags. I have been doing this for a while I buy pounds of my favorites bulks Tins and cans are already sealed from the manufacture any way I divide the tobacco up in the amount I will smoke in a week. Usually thats 4 oz or 2 oz depending on the blend follow the sealers instructions and then place the sealed bags in a large tupperware tub I stack mine in the basement there you have it. I thought it would ruin the tobacco but I havent run into a problem yet. When you cut a bag open the tobacco is like a brick just gently break it apart over your humidor. Only one nich to this process dont let any shards or flakes of tobacco in your wifes vacume sealer!!!

  9. cortezattic said:

    csgunsmith,
    GL Pease, at
    http://www.glpease.com/FAQ.html#AGE
    says:
    Vacuum sealing is great for vegetables and coffee, but is pointless for tobacco. Tobacco needs some air to be locked in with it , at least to begin with, in order for it to age. A perfectly vacuum sealed container will likely keep the tobacco “fresh,” but it may not really age the way we expect it to. I’m more than a little suspicious about the heavy plastic “bags” used by most of these machines. They hold moisture in just fine, but they really don’t prevent gas exchange, and I’m not sure they’re truly able to stand the test of time. Tins are best. Jars are a close second.

  10. FurnaceFighter said:

    Do Not Store Pipe Tobacco in a Humidor
    I purchased an old cigar humidor. It is solid wood, oak I think. It has a metal lining, not cedar. It is not tin, but some very bright metal. Not sure what it is, but, hasn’t oxidized. I store bags of tobacco in it without any problems. I just don’t put cigars in there, or have that humidifying device in there. When closed the lid overlaps the bottom, the tobacco is pretty much sealed and is somewhat like a big tobacco tin. Can’t say it is air tight, but, I have not had any problems. What I like about it, it looks nice on a desk.

  11. DAVID EDWARD BRADY said:

    I HAVE JUST PURCHASED 500GR OF VIRGINIA TOBACCO AND HAVE STORED IT IN GLASS SEALABLE JARS WITH A SMALL PIECE OF POTATO SKIN TO KEEP IT MOIST IS THIS CORRECT OR IS THE POTATO SKIN GOING TO DAMAGE THE TOBACCO PLEASE

  12. Bob said:

    Potato skin might encourage mold growth. I would remove it from the tobacco.

  13. someguy said:

    Ok this looks like great info but how long can you store it? I would love to find a good way to store it for 10+ years.

  14. Bob said:

    If properly stored, tobacco can last forever.

    There is a discussion about it in the forums where you can read more about it here:
    http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/how-long-does-tobacco-keep

  15. juozapas said:

    Thank you for the excellent advice.
    Joe N.

  16. staypuff said:

    Great article!! I’m a noobie and this is great because I was curious on how to keep bulk tobacco fresh thanks

  17. firedragonx said:

    Following the jarring and labeling of my tobacco I then store them in 50 caliber ammo cans, this protects the jars from damage and the cans stack very easily and are very sturdy. I’ve found a pint wide mouth jar holds about 4 oz. of tobacco rather well and a half pint jar is great for 2 oz. of the stuff.

  18. krgulick said:

    Great article, Bob. A lot of great info.

  19. muntajab said:

    Thank you for the helpful tips

  20. wallbright said:

    I have a friend who works in the dairy industry. He used the same testing method they use to make sure their machines are clean on mason jars. He took one that he cleaned like you stated above and one brand new from the box. The test concluded that both were equally sanitary. Therefore, I would say only clean the mason jars if they were packed with the lids separated from the glass body, or if you have used them for something else before.

  21. drjhale said:

    Excellent information!Thanks for the article.

  22. [...] Routine Tobacco Pipe Cleaning (With Videos) Dedicating Tobacco Pipes to Pipe Tobacco Blends A Few Pipe Lighter Reviews Flake Pipe Tobacco Preparation Tobacco Pipe Packing Methods - Part 1 Tobacco Pipe Packing Methods - Part 2 (Videos) Reading Between The Lines - Pipe Smoking Tips Pipe Smoking Tips Re-Hydrating Pipe Tobacco Pipe Tobacco Storage [...]

  23. smokingspiritualized said:

  24. Bob said:

    Vacuum sealing can be done if you desire to do it. The main problem with it is that the tobacco will probably not age correctly. You need some air inside of the container to promote proper aging.

    Another thing is that I find it an unnecessary step. You do not have to vacuum seal the containers. Just fill them up and screw the lid on tight.

  25. briarup said:

    Hi Bob, great article….
    What do you think about those Lock&Lock plastic jars, 100% hermetic?
    I use them for the short term storage, but how about the long term, cellar?

  26. Bob said:

    As long as they are airtight, they should work fine. The problem with using plastic is that plastic absorbs odors, so it might be a problem re-using the jars for different blends.

  27. Lukas said:

    Great article, Bob. I have a question about those small “humidor” things (that you put in water for 10 min and then put in the tabacco container), do you think it is ok to use those in the jars with the tabacco?

  28. Bob said:

    Lukas, I do not add anything to the jars when I close them up. If the containers are airtight, they will not lose moisture and will be fine.

    By adding extra moisture to the container, it could cause mold to grow over time from it being too moist.

    I do sometimes use the small humidifying disks when I need to re-hydrate tobacco. I remove the disk once the tobacco is back to proper humidity.

    You can read more about that here:
    http://pipesmagazine.com/python/pipe-tobacco/pipe-tobacco-re-hydration/

  29. purplecow53 said:

    I have asked several people about storing tobacco. Since I have read this article I am going to purchase some ball Mason’s. It’s almost canning season in the Pacific northwest and you can buy jars reasonably cheap. Thanks for all the info.

  30. nabottle said:

    This is just what I needed to know. Thanks Bob. Like a moron, I just assumed that my pipe tobacco should go in a humidor with my cigars. At least I only had it in there for a week. Now I’m on the right track.

  31. nabottle said:

    Like James, I originally had my pipe tobacco in one of my humidors with my cigars. I immediately took it out. I only did this because In the book, The Ultimate Pipe Book, Richard Carlton Hacker says to store your tobacco in a humidor @70% humidity. Since my humidors are all at that humidity for my cigars, I though it sounde right.

  32. tantor said:

    I have some old antique pint mason jars with the zinc lids. Will the zinc hurt the tobacco or are these okay to use?

  33. Bob said:

    To be honest, I really don’t know. This would be a good question to submit to our Ask G.L. Pease column. Maybe he can give a definitive answer.
    I wouldn’t imagine that it would have an affect on the tobacco, but I can’t say one way or the other.
    But if you are unsure, it is better to be safe than sorry. Mason jars are relatively cheap and they also sell replacement lids that you can use.

  34. Sean said:

    Great article. I have one question that never seems to be asked anywhere: Is it OK to place different blends in baggies and store in the same jar? i would like to buy just one huge jar as it is easier to move around just one jar. Will the blends absorb each others flavors? And also, what is your favorite blend! Mine right now is Butternut Burly or Perfection, whichever I find first among my 14 small jars.

  35. Bob said:

    Sean,
    You could store them that way, but there may be some cross contamination between the blends as they could absorb each others aromas/flavors.
    -
    As far as my favorite blend, I don’t really have just one. I love variety and I have quite a few different favorites.

  36. adzpipes said:

    great advice - I was storing in my humidor, no cigars - but took all the pipe blends out and now using glass airtight jars….phew!

 

 

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