The first step to storing cigars (besides getting a humidor) is to make sure you calibrate your hygrometer every 4-6 months. Also replace your batteries in digital hygrometers every 6 months, as weak batteries can give inaccurate readings as well.
Do this while you are seasoning you new humidor, it is the only indicator that you have to reply upon to ensure your cigars are being stored at the proper RH level.
Improper RH levels can create draw, burn and flavor problems and long term and result in less than stellar aged smokes.
Digital hygrometers are typically off by 1% and as much as 8%, so salt testing in essential is determining the exact RH level in your humidor and analog hygrometers should be thrown away and replaced with a digital.
Digital hygrometers are usually more accurate and reliable than analog. Regardless of what kind, it is important to maintain a humidity level of 68% to 72% inside of a humidor to properly preserve and age cigars. In order to monitor and adjust the humidity level inside of your humidor, the reading on the hygrometer must be somewhat accurate (plus or minus 2%).
How to Test and Calibrate a Hygrometer:
1. Fill a milk bottle cap or other small container with salt, and add a few drops of distilled water - NOT enough to dissolve the salt, just enough to moisten it. You want the slurry to be thick and pasty.
2. Put the cap inside of an air tight zip lock or plastic container along with your hygrometer. Then seal the bag or container (Tupperware works well).
3. Wait 12 hours, then check the reading on your hygrometer without opening the bag or container (or quickly open the container and check if the container is not clear).
If the reading is 75%, then your hygrometer is accurate and no adjustment is required.
If the reading is not precisely 75%, then adjust the hygrometer to 75% by turning the screw or dial on the back. This must be done immediately after removing from the bag or container, before room conditions cause the reading to change.
If there is no screw (or dial) to recalibrate your hygrometer, then you will just have to remember to add or subtract the difference between the test reading and 75%, in order to determine the actual humidity level inside of your humidor. For example, if your hygrometer test reading was 80%, then subtract 5% from the readings you get inside of your humidor, to determine the actual levels of humidity (e.g. a reading of 70% inside your humidor equals an actual humidity level of 65%).
Other common variables that can affect your RH level are:
1.) Is it a new humidor or an existing humidor. New humidors need to be "seasoned" properly or they will continue to absorb moisture from and humidification device you have in your humidor and from your cigars or herbal medicines! More frequent recharging will be required if your humidor isn't properly seasoned.
2.) Opening and closing you humidor frequently will introduce ambient humidity (humidity level outside of your humidor) into your relative humidity (the humidity level inside your humidor). If the ambient humidity is drier than the relative humidity, the humidification device will again be required to release more moisture to compensate.
3.) Adding new cigars or herbal medicines to your humidor may quickly reduce the RH level as well. Dry cigars & herbal medicines will absorb moisture the same as the wood of a new humidor, again, requiring more frequent recharging of you humidification device.