Tobacco storage---airtight or not

Discussion in 'Pipe Tobacco' started by Sniper, Jul 31, 2012.

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  1. Sniper

    Sniper Member

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    In my experience, storing tobacco in airtight containers can retain aroma better. Several days ago I visited a pipe store and found a Davidoff tobacco jar which claimed to have a breathing port and a humidifier to optimize the storage condition. Does tobacco really need fresh air for a better aging?
     


  2. nesta

    nesta Well-Known Member

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    This is a tough question, because I have heard two answers as to why. The first answer, and the one you'll most likely receive here, is that airtight storage is necessary to properly age pipe tobacco.

    The second answer is that, at least some breathing is good for aging cigars, which is why commercially available humidors are rarely airtight and the humidifier needs to be replenished with water periodically.

    Why should one type of tobacco need a closed environment to age, yet another type of tobacco need gas exchange? Well, could be that there are at least two different processes that come into play. Aging simply requires passage of time, it is not anything that inherently benefits tobacco.

    When it comes to aging pipe tobacco, as I understand it certain leaf types benefit more from aging than others. They are typically tobaccos with a high concentration of naturally occurring sugars, such as Virginia leaf and oriental tobaccos (which are generally very unique varieties of Virginia tobaccos which contain less sugars than most others, but which contain more than burley). If I'm not mistaken, some level of fermentation takes place. If this is true, then there will be chemical changes which result in the development of different flavors than the blend originally possessed.

    Another thing that happens is that when two or more leaves of tobacco are in close contact with each other, there is some melding of flavors as compounds present in one are transferred to another, and vice versa. This may not require a closed environment, and being able to breathe may be beneficial to this process. Since cigars generally are much lower in sugar than the Virginia tobaccos used in pipe tobacco, there is a good chance that this is the main, if not sole, factor in the change of flavor that results from aged cigars. Fermentation would likely require a higher sugar content than found in most cigar leaf. Since cigars are created from a blend of several varieties of tobacco all rolled into one dense package, one can see how a marriage and mellowing of the flavors could benefit the blend and create a superior product.

    My guess is that conventional wisdom holds more or less true for the respective types of tobacco. Aging pipe tobacco, in general, IS probably more effective in creating desirable flavors when gas exchange is avoided, and aging cigars probably IS best when a small degree of gas exchange is allowed. But this may not always be the case.

    I do wonder this, though: Davidoff isn't strictly in the pipe business. A substantial portion of their income is based on sales of their super premium cigars, as well as other tobacco products such as cigarettes. There are also jar style humidors made for cigars. Unless the jar is labelled otherwise or is shaped awkwardly for cigars (anything other than a regular cylinder) then it may actually be designed for cigars rather than pipe tobacco.
     
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  3. Sniper

    Sniper Member

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    Wow nesta, thank you so much for the detailed and scientific explanation.:thu2:
    I don't have so many jars and space for various pipe tobaccos, and some cans are not airtight from the beginning, I am placing them in separate snap lock bags for storage.
     
  4. nesta

    nesta Well-Known Member

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    I would say that as long as a pipe tobacco stays moist, it is likely staying in close to the quality it started, but probably not improving with age if it's "breathing." That said, some gas exchange CAN be a bad thing. If you can smell it through the container in which it's stored, you're smelling particles which make up part of the flavor of the blend - particles which, once outside the container, have been lost forever. A non-airtight container which manages to keep the tobacco moist is fine for short term storage, but if you're talking about keeping the stuff around long term (more than a year or so) it will probably deteriorate in flavor over time. Keeping it moist enough to be smokeable is all well and good, but if the flavor suffers, then the blend has pretty much died. This is just hypothetical, I've never had it happen, even with a totally non-airtight tub of Prince Albert I've been working my way through for over a year. Aromatics, despite being sweet, are probably most likely to suffer from extended open time.
     
  5. Sniper

    Sniper Member

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    That has happened to me before, I have a tin of Black Cavendish and Virginia mix, opened for a year and became extremely dry (crispy is probably the correct term as the leaves break into pieces just by picking them up), smoked it and it tasted like the forehead section of a leather hat :puke: (leather and sebaceous oil mixture----gosh I know that's gross but I couldn't find a better description).
     
  6. Mount Mandolin

    Mount Mandolin Active Member

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    I think tobacco ages quite well in a mason jar, but I don't know too much about the specific science involved. I have a jar of FVF that has been dipped into periodically that has vastly improved over the past couple of years, so yeah, I think it can age well in mason jar, albeit a tightly sealed one. You don't want it losing too much moisture. I know that sounds like a non-sensical answer, but the jar does get some fresh air in it every once in awhile, and I don't think that it has taken away from the aging quality of it.

    I remember we had a discussion about something like this recently, and Russ from Hearth & Home/P&C.com came in here and explained the differences between aerobic and anaerobic fermentation, and it was fascinating. Wish he would chime in.
     
  7. Sniper

    Sniper Member

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    Besides air-tightness, I recall one old puffer says, "Keep that piece of paper inside the tin of tobacco, don't throw it away, it keeps your tobacco in great condition." This is not scientific but I do respect and believe in old puffers' experience.
    I would try to keep my tobaccos as air-sealed as possible.
     
  8. nesta

    nesta Well-Known Member

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    Keep in mind what I have said is mostly speculation based on bits and pieces I've read and heard about. And yeah, some pipe tobaccos really come into their own a couple weeks after the tin has been opened. The moisture settles down and the blend sort of "opens up" a bit. I found this to be true with McClelland #14, among a few others.
     
  9. FlatbushPaul

    FlatbushPaul Cellar is located in an undisclosed bunker

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    If you want to age tobacco in a mason jar the idea is to not open it until it has aged to your target time. Once opened you will stop the ageing process and although it might restart you have interrupted it and it may not age to its optimum any longer. I believe it has to do with enzymes and oxygen.
     
  10. Mount Mandolin

    Mount Mandolin Active Member

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    Interesting. I would think it would restart after being opened though, because obviously it had to be put in there somehow, you know? Or maybe it can only start up that one time, I don't know. The FVF (and other things) that I am saving specifically to age does stay in the tin unopened, though. Oh, and make sure to check your tins every once in awhile, folks, especially Samuel Gawith stuff. Sometimes the seals will break on them.
     
  11. Sniper

    Sniper Member

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    Don't worry about the seals, just place all tins into separate snap lock bags :bag: You can check the seals indirectly by smelling the inside of the bags, if the seals are broken, tobacco smell is strong.
     
  12. Morse

    Morse Active Member

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  13. SouthBound

    SouthBound Active Member

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    This discussion has prompted an experiment. I've taken equal amounts of FVF and placed it into two 8oz Mason jars. One jar will be left unopened for 5 years. The other will be opened once a year to allow aerobic activity to restart. I'll visit them both in 5 years and note any differences.

    A good experiment requires repetition. Anyone else want to get involved?
     
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  14. Mount Mandolin

    Mount Mandolin Active Member

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    I need to get some more mason jars, and then I'm in. My B&M even has FVF in stock, so I think I'll go get a new tin for the experiment. Don't want to open any of my aging ones. Oh, by the way, we should open them more often than every year, so as to simulate someone actually dipping into the jar every once in awhile. Just a suggestion. Or maybe that's not what we're trying to figure out here.
     
  15. Sniper

    Sniper Member

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    Great experiment SouthBound, please make sure you use high quality Mason jars, I once bought some which were made in Italy, the whole jar is made of glass to ensure a most inert environment, one year later the rubber band decomposed and omitted foul smell.
     
  16. SouthBound

    SouthBound Active Member

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    The hypothesis is two part. First, opening the tin only once a year will allow both aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen) aging to occur. Second, that will cause subtle changes in the flavor profile.

    Some microbial lifeforms thrive in an oxygen-rich environment, others in a oxygen-depleted environment. According to Greg Pease's article, both are necessary for aging. However, if you never open the tin then the time that the aerobic microbes have to do their work is much shorter than the amount of time that the anaerobic ones enjoy. I would like to see if a little equality among microbes positively or negatively affects the flavor of a Virginia blend. At the end of the experiment, we'll introduce our control group, a fresh tin of FVF. It will be the one to which the other two are compared.

    What do you think? Am I missing a variable?
     
  17. SouthBound

    SouthBound Active Member

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    Good point. Only Mason, Kerr, or Ball brand jars will be used.
     
  18. Sniper

    Sniper Member

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    Dear SouthBound, the missing variable is the leak of aroma when you open the lid.
    Learning from tea and wine collectors, the larger the volume of tea or wine, the better the aging process, since the aroma is much better preserved. Aging tea in a large tea cellar is always better than aging a small can of tea at home, on the other hand, wine ages MUCH MUCH better in magnum bottles than in half-bottles. Aroma leak is an extremely important concern.
     
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