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Old 02-18-2005, 09:12 PM   #1
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Humidification Beads; Frequently Asked Questions

I have noticed recently that there seems to be a lot of questions about humidification beads. Some of the questions are repeated when new folks join this fine place. I was prompted by a fine BOTL, steamnjn23, to write up some information about the use, care and feeding of humidification beads so here goes.

Let’s start with the basics.

Humidification beads are a moisture sensitive silica material which absorbs and desorbs moisture in order to offset changes in relative humidity (RH) in your humidor. The beads are generally available preset to a specific RH, in the case of cigars 60%, 65% and 70%. Opinions differ as to what is the “best” RH for cigars but most BOTLs seem to prefer 65% and that is my experience as well.

Humidification beads were first developed for the art and museum industry and are used extensively by that industry for the stable storage of priceless artifacts and art. The manufacturer I purchase the beads I sell also supplies places such as the Smithsonian and The National Archives.

A question that is often asked; “Are humidification beads the same as ordinary desiccant silica gel?” Definitely NOT! Humidification beads give off water vapor, as well as absorb it, to maintain a specific RH which is ideal for a cigars particular need. This is not the case with silica gel which can only absorb water then must be dried out after it is saturated. By nature silica gel is not meant to control humidity, only lower it. Humidification beads are the premier product for precise control in terms of performance, cost effectiveness, and simplicity.

One good point to remember is humidification beads have an indefinite life span. There is nothing to wear out and all that is needed to maintain them is either the addition of distilled water or the drying out of the beads if they become water logged.

You will notice that every time I mention the fluid that is added to the beads I will state “distilled water”. This is extremely important, anything other than distilled water will ultimately ruin the beads. All the impurities in tap water will be drawn in by the beads and remain there. Ultimately the beads will get plugged up and not work anymore. The same is tru with any type of humidifier solution (also known as 50/50 solution) this will also ruin the beads in the long run.

The question I get asked the most is, “How much do I need for my ______?”

Here are some quantities for various containers.
5 cubic feet requires 1 pound of humidification beads.
1/3 pound of beads per 50 quarts (coolerdors)
1 ounce of beads per 50 count in a desktop humi (so a 100 count would need 2 ounces, 150 count 3 ounces etc.)
For our metric friends: Each pound of beads will condition 141,584.233 cubic centimeters.

Calculating the cubic area of your humi:
Measure the depth, width and height of you humi (example is 24” depth, 36” wide and 48” height)
Multiply the three; 24x36x48=41472 cubic inches
Divide 41472 by 1728 (number of cubic inches in a cubic foot) 41472/1728= 24 cubic feet
Divide the cubic feet by 5 (number of cubic feet per pound) 24/5 = 4.8
You would need 4.8 pounds of humidification beads for this humi.

Remember that these calculations and quantities are the minumum amount you should put in a given space for control of RH. You can however place more in your humidor than these amounts without the chance of harming your cigars or the humidor, the right RH will still be maintained. The additional beads will only increase the amount of stored moisture which will just extend the amount of time before any distilled water needs to be added. They will also help the humidor recover to the proper RH quicker after the lid or door is opened.

Another question that keeps coming up is; “How do I add distilled water to the beads when they get dry?”

There are a number of ways to do this but whichever method you chose only add enough distilled water to make 70-75% of the beads clear and the rest either opaque or white. This gives the beads the ability to absorb excess humidity introduced by more moist cigars you may add to your humidor.

The method I use and prefer is using a spray bottle. I purchased an inexpensive spray bottle at the grocery store and filled it with distilled water. When the beads need water I just spray them until they have absorbed enough distilled water. This method will work well if you have the beads in a bag or dish.

You can just pour distilled water on the beads and pour off the excess. A lot of folks do it this way but the beads can fracture when it is done this way. One thing to remember, fracturing will not affect the efficiency of the beads or ruin them in any way, they will still do their job.

You can put a container of distilled water, like a bowl, next to the beads and let them absorb the distilled water in this way. When they have absorbed all they can remove the bowl. This method is effective but takes a while for the beads to absorb the water.

A method developed by a BOTL at Cigar Utopia is very easy. Place a paper towel that has been wet down with distilled water on the beads. They will soak up the moisture and re-charge.

Another question is; If my beads are going white, should I add distilled water until they are all clear?

The optimal is to have about 70-75% of them clear. Don't try to get them all clear because if you do they cannot absorb any sudden rise in humidity in your humi.

Another question is; “What do I put the beads in?”

A great variety of containers are possible. You can use a drawstring mesh bag, place the beads in a shot glass or small dish, put them is a leftover container with holes drilled in the lid, nylon stockings (be careful stealing them from your wife or significant other), the aluminum cases I sell to contain the beads (replaces the black plastic rectangular humidifier that comes with alot of humidors) or any other container. The main point of whatever container you choose is to have the greatest amount of surface area as possible exposed to the air. If possible the beads should be no more than 1 to 1 ½ inches deep, this way they will work the best.

Lastly we will deal with; “How can I tell when the beads need water?”

This is very easy. The color of the beads is the dead give away. When they are full of distilled water they are pretty much clear and when they are completely dried out they are a bright white. Believe me you will be able to tell the difference.

As I think of other things or as questions rise I will edit this post and add that information. I hope this helps. One thing I do want to make clear is that I am still happy to answer any questions that you may have. This post is in no way meant to keep you from asking me.
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Aging cigars, Cellophane, cigar accessories, Cigar aging, Cigar Maintenance, Cigar Storage, Climmax Media, Humidification, Humidification Beads, Humidification Devices, humidifiers, humidity, humidor, Humidors, long-term cigar storage, long-term storage, Relative humidity
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