Building a Coolerdor
AKA, the Rise of Coolerdorazilla!
Cigar cigars humidity storage humidor coolerdor
So you're at the point in your cigar smoking life where your collection has overwhelmed your storage capacity -OR- maybe you want to start aging your cigars and you know you are going to need something larger than a desktop humidor.
Custom-build cedar-lined humidors can be very costly. Even a bargain 150ct humidor will cost you somewhere north of $175.
A coolerdor is a cheap but effective method to store your cigars for months and even years if it's done correctly.
So where do you start ?
Step 1. Determine what size cooler you will need.
To give you a sense, I was able to get just about 300 cigars into my 85qt coolerdor, storing both in boxes and larger Tupperware containers. To be honest, I felt this was a little crowded and worried about circulation, which I why I decided to upgrade to a 150qt monster! I'll be using that build as an example for this article.
Here's an out-of-focus shot of my 85qt coolerdor. I ended up including a Tupperware container which sat on the left side and another largish open cigar box not show here. This gave me roughly about a 300 cigar count capacity. And yes, that box on the right is a humidor in a coolerdor. Don't judge.
Step 2: Procure your cooler.
Hey, you may even have one just sitting in your garage. In that case, cost = nothing! I went big and bought the Coleman 150qt Marine Cooler. It wasn't the cheapest solution to be sure, but after Christmas I had some Amazon gift cards to use anyway and ended up ordering this while waiting in one of the interminable lines one finds when trying to do anything in Oahu.
Ever been to Oahu? It's kind of like the Detroit of the Hawaiian islands. Imagine Santa Monica, only with more humidity, homeless, and traffic. The only real reason to go is to visit Pearl Harbor. There you'll have your patience tested watching Japanese girls giggling and taking their Instagram pics while flashing uninterpretable hand signs on the Arizona Memorial. Resist the urge to push them into the ocean. Or don't, who am I to tell you what to do?
You can usually get some good deals on coolers at the end of summer in sporting goods stores. I found Amazon had the cheapest prices and it allowed me to get the behemoth delivered to my house.
Step 3: Wash it out
At the very least you'll want to wash the cooler out with dish detergent and water.
My 85qt cooler barely had any plastic odor and soap & water was fine. The 150qt cooler however had an almost overpowering smell of plastic. I started with soap & water, then scrubbed it with some baking soda. That did absolutely nothing. So, I filled the whole thing with water and poured cup of bleach into it. I wiped down the inside of the lid with the bleach/water mix and let it sit for about an hour. I hosed it out, then let it sit open in the California sun for the rest of the afternoon.
After the sun went down, I brought it back into the house and let it sit open overnight. Just for giggles I left the open box of baking soda at the bottom of the cooler reasoning it might help absorb some of the odor. The next day it seemed fine. No discernible scent of plastic.
If you are planning on using a cooler that has been used for food storage, I would highly recommend you also do the bleach routine. The last thing you want is your cigars tasting like bologna.
Step 4: Fetch thee a hygrometer
The purpose of the coolerdor/humidor is to maintain your cigars' environment within a certain range of relative humidity (rh). In order to measure the rh inside your coolerdor, you will need a hygrometer.
Hygrometers fall into two categories, analog and digital. I have used both in the past and either are fine. I prefer to use wireless digital so that I can monitor the rh of my coolerdor without having to open it. Here are some examples:
Here's an photo of the hygrometer monitor I'm using now. The "outdoor" channel is actually the remote sensor inside my coolerdor.
You can see the coolerdor is keeping it 13 degrees cooler and maintaining near perfect humidity despite the dry California air.
I like being able to just glance up from my computer monitor to check the condition of my cigars.
Step 5: Calibrate your hygrometer
Regardless of what type of hygrometer you have, you need to calibrate it. I've seen analogs off as much as 15% and digitals off by 8%. If you really, really dont want to do this next step, I would suggest you try to keep your humidity level at 65%. That way if your hygrometer is off calibration, at least you'll be keeping the levels roughly in the right range, generally accepted to be 60-70% rh. To be honest, I really dont suggest you use an uncalibrated hygrometer, particularly an uncalibrated analog hygrometer. Calibrating is easy to do, why not just do it?
There are dozens of sites detailing this process, just Google "hygrometer calibration salt" and you'll find them. They basically all suggest the same steps:
Step 6: Achieving the proper humidity in your Coolerdor
Now that you can accurately measure relative humidity, how do you use that information to maintain a proper environment for your cigars?
The process falls into one of two categories:
There are many mechanisms and systems you can use to control humidity. Probably the easiest and most reliable are the Boveda Humidity Packs or the Heartfelt beads. People swear by them as they are easy to use and reliable. You can go crazy and buy electric humidification systems if you like. To me that's a bit of overkill. What I dont suggest is trying to just use the cheapo humidity trays that come with desktop humidors. They are inefficient, unreliable and ill-suited for use in a coolerdor.
For this build, I chose to use kitty litter. I used it in my previous coolerdor with great success, so I didnt feel the need to switch or start experimenting with other methods. Plus it's the cheapest method!
You can NOT just use any type of kitty litter in a coolerdor, the litter has to be unscented and made from silica. The Exquisicat brand is preferred amongst cigar owners who use kitty litter and it's usually easy to find in larger pet stores. You can see from the picture above what I have done. I took two old cigar boxes and drilled holes into the top. I filled the boxes with litter and sprayed them with distilled water. You want to wet the litter, but not over saturate. Although it might take longer, I would suggest erring on the side of using too little water at first and working your way up.
Note: some people will tell you to remove the blue crystals from the litter. I'm not sure why. There is no scent at all to them and I've never noticed any ill-effects. If you are really concerned about them, just pick em out.
All of the methods listed above are TWO WAY systems; meaning they both add and absorb moisture depending upon the conditions. What you do not want to do is just add wet towels, cups of water or desiccant to your coolerdor (for a variety of reasons).
After spraying the litter, I closed the boxes and put them on the bottom of my humidor. Trivia: did you know humid air is lighter than dry air? So humid air tends to rise, which is why I'm putting the boxes at the bottom. Once you've established the proper conditions, you wont have to worry about it though.
Here's a bit of a tricky part. It's hard to establish proper conditions in an humidor without it being full of cigars, BUT, I didnt just want to take all my cigars out of my existing humidor and put them in a less than ideal environment. So what I did instead was to add a bunch of cigar boxes to the coolerdor and all the bits of Spanish cedar I have lying around. The great thing about the cooler I bought are the slots for the plastic shelves. I bought some Spanish cedar planks and cut shelves to fit into the slots (Spanish cedar is great for humidors because it aids with the process of humidity control). With a coolerdor full of wood, I added water as needed until my humidity stabilized. To speed the process up, I put a shot glass full of distilled water at the bottom for day. It takes the wood some time to stabilize depending on how much moisture it contained to start with.
Once I reached a stable humidity level, I began slowly adding cigars to the coolerdor over the course of the day. I didnt see much at all in the way of fluctuation, so mission accomplished. By late afternoon I had transferred all my cigars.
I've decided to call this beast Coolerdorazilla.
Things to note:
Well, I think that's about it. All I need to do now is just monitor the humidity, add water when needed and enjoy my well-rested cigars!
Cigar Reviews, Recalibrated
I decided to archive my own reviews online as I find 90% of all cigar reviews to be as useful as a bottle of Jack at a Mormon wedding.