How to Grow Tobacco

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 Post subject: Drying and fermenting
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2007 8:20 am 
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Hi Everybody!

I was wondering how to dry the leaves but mainly how to ferment them?
do i need som sort of machinery or other equipment to do that?

Thanks


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 4:53 am 
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Location: Wales, UK
Curing is the bit where people get confused because the word curing can mean lots of different things. It may seem complicated until you have done it for yourself but I will explain the different types of curing first then explain what I do.

1. Colour curing, Tobacco farmers refer to the drying of the leaf as curing. Just hanging it on canes or galvanised wire to dry gradually. It does not involve any fermenting or sweating of the leaf. This could be done with individual leaves or you could hang the complete plant it will just take longer if you hang the whole plant.

1a. Sweating to colour cure, This process is a risky one, it involves making a heap of the leaf placing the end of the stem to the outside edge. Never use this method if you have already slit the leaf for cane hanging or with damaged leaves, as the sap will act like acid on the good leaves & you'll end up with compost.
You build up a pile of leaves and wrap in a cloth and leave for 24 hours, open the stack and allow any moisture to dry off. Now rebuild the stack with the previous inner ones now on the outer, the heat from the natural fermentation will gradually remove the green and speed up the colour change in the leaf.
Repeat the process over 5 days until all leaves are yellow and then hang to dry.

2. Fermenting also called sweating, This is the process by which ammonia is released from the leaf to make it smokable. It can be done by heaping the (already colour cured) tobacco into large piles called pilones that raise the temperature and humidity or by use of a kiln (curing chamber) with a heater and humidifier. Under the raised temperature and humidity enzymes in the leaf cause it to ferment. It is not necessary to spray a fermenting solution on the leaf as some suggest. The enzymes will do it naturally. Sometimes this is also refered to as curing.

3. Air curing, This is simply drying (curing) the leaf by hanging it in the open air, usually in a barn. It usually takes about two months. It produces a brown, tan or red leaf with almost no sugars in it.

4. Flue curing, This is drying a leaf quickly after the leaf has turned yellow and before it can turn brown. The temperatures of the flue curing barn are slowly raised and can go as high as 170°F. It takes about one week. It produces a leaf that is yellow or orange and is high in sugars. It is possible that the small home made kilns used by home growers could flue cure a leaf if you could safely raise the temperature high enough and vent the humidity from the drying leaf out of the kiln.

I personally prefer method 1a (stacking the leaves) to colour cure as it is faster and always works but it does need very careful monitoring.
I then dry the leaves on galvanised wire strung between the rafters in the attic then leave them until I am ready to ferment the leaves in my homemade curing chamber.
My curing chamber is basically a box 6'x4'x4' made of 2" polystyrene flooring insulation which I paid £5.25 per 8x4 sheet from the local builders merchants taped together with double sided carpet tape, for the heat source I use a 2KW (2000w) oil filled radiator on which i have replaced the thermostat with a hot water cylinder thermostat so I can get it up to 120°F-130°F I have a Bionaire Warm Mist Humidifier BWM5700 £25 on ebay to add moisture and a comination digital thermometer/hygrometer to monitor the temperature & humidity & there is a 2" pipe sticking out the top to allow the excess moisture escape. There are a load of canes inside which I hang the tobacco from I keep an eye on it topping up the water in the humidifier as needed then after it has been in the chamber at around 120°F with 70% humidity for about 4-5 weeks the smell of the tobacco changes from an unpleasant (kinda like grass clippings) to a sweet smell. This means it is ready so it comes out of the chamber is hung up to dry completely then stored until I need to cut some up to smoke it.


I have looked at alternatives to the oil heater for the curing chamber, industrial heaters which are designed to operate in a humid environment specifically, & the most promising I have come up with so far is:
A silicone mat heater approximately 900mm x 900mm x 0.8mm
230 Volts 1000 Watts with a thermocouple attached to the heater mat. This heater would be laid in the bottom of your chamber on insulation so as not to have the floor absorb the heat. The power cable and thermocouple could be terminated to a temperature controller & you may want to have a second thermocouple located in the middle of the chamber so as to sense the air temperature and not the heater mat.
Unfortunately the cheapest quote I have had so far is in the region of £500 & I would have to buy it as parts then wire it up myself which is simple enough for me but as some people struggle to replace a thermostat this may be a problem for others. Basically the rule for the heatsource is is no flames no fumes & anything electrical needs to be sealed.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 8:40 am 
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Thanks man! Great info :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 5:57 am 
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Caliginous,

After you get the leaves out of the curing chamber, how long and where do you dry it?

And after that, how and where do you store it? Does there have to be moisture present or should it be in a dry place?

Thx!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:05 am 
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Location: Wales, UK
If I don't have any more to cure then I leave it in the curing chamber (with everything switched off) to dry completely. If I do have more to cure then I hang it up in the attic. Either way it is completely dry in a few days & I pack it into cardboard boxes marked with the date & variety then store these in the attic to age.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 12:41 am 
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Thx, Caliginous!

Just one more question: how can you tell that the curing is done?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 2:42 am 
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Location: Wales, UK
When your tobacco first goes in the curing chamber the smell is similar to decomposing grass clippings as it ferments the smell changes to a sweet tobacco smell this means curing is complete. On average it takes about 4 weeks for this change to occur in the curing chamber.
Try smoking some before & after it has been in the curing chamber for 4 weeks you will notice a significant difference in the taste & aroma.

After curing is complete I suggest you age it for a minimum of 6 months. On your first year you may find this difficult as you will want to smoke what you have grown but aging does improve the quality.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 3:46 am 
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Great info, thx!


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 Post subject: Sweat Cure
PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:49 am 
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Joined: Mon Sep 11, 2006 3:51 pm
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Location: Washington State, USA
Hey Calig - I have a stack of 20 big leaves I've had in a pile under a big bath towel. I've been rotating them daily and now they are starting to cure. Sections of the leaf turn very dark brown and damp. The leaf tears as I seperate them. I was reading method 2 above and was wondering what would happen if I just let the pile sit and let the leaf stick together until the whole thing is dark brown and wet. I suspect it will end up like what you called compost but can't I dry and smoke that compost? (It smells really yummy)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 9:52 am 
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You would end up with a slimy mess that may be a good fertiliser but wouldn't be any good to smoke.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 6:56 am 
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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Going off of Caliginous' list above; I used method "1a" stacking to color cure and hang to dry.

Moving on to "2" (fermenting/sweating) -I plan on stacking the leaves to ferment without the use of a kiln. Am I just tossing all of the leaves in a pile or whats the deal here? Covered/Uncovered?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2008 5:03 pm 
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[quote="Low Pockets"]Going off of Caliginous' list above; I used method "1a" stacking to color cure and hang to dry.

Moving on to "2" (fermenting/sweating) -I plan on stacking the leaves to ferment without the use of a kiln. Am I just tossing all of the leaves in a pile or whats the deal here? Covered/Uncovered?[/quote

Low Pockets:
I've grown tobacco before, but just recently found out why it never tasted right..LOL.. I figured all you did was hang it upside down till dry. WoW, was I wrong. Any ways, my friends, friend sent me 40 pounds of flue cured tobacco which needs to be aged to take that bite out of it. Any ways I'm no pro at this aging yet, but I'm using the kiln method below as I don't want to wait that long. (if any one knows better please step in because I am only two weeks into the kiln method as when I opened the box from my friends friend it was to hard to hang it as the stems were rock hard:)
So its in the kiln in burlap bags!

For the stacking method I couldn't find a place where it said to have the humidity so I figure any thhing above 50 RH would be fine, but like I said... I'm no pro:)
I hope the following can answer your question!
can answer your question!
The following is from
http://www.nativegardens.net/growing%20curing.htm


Fermenting;
There are two methods of fermenting, stacking and kiln fermenting.

The stacking method is used by large growers, stacks of tobacco weighing around 100 lbs are wrapped ion burlap and allowed to "sweat" the internal temp is closely monitored and when it reaches 140 degrees the stack is broken down to release tar, ammonia, and nicotine. The stack is torn down and rebuilt several times until the temp will no longer reach 110 degrees, the stems are stripped and stacked in a cooler place (65 degrees to age for a time (6 weeks to 6 years).

Kiln fermenting is what the smaller grower must use if he or she wants to smoke any time soon. The kiln is a small-insulated container with an artificial heat source that helps to simulate the fermentation stack. The leaves are wrapped in burlap and placed in the kiln with the lid shut heat and humidity are carefully controlled (temp 125 to 135 degrees and 72 to 75% humidity) the kiln is left on 24 hours a day and opened only once a day to rotate the bundles. After a week the bundle is broken down and repacked to vent the leaves. Kiln fermenting lasts about 6 weeks, the relative humidity must be carefully maintained during this time. A short aging period will fallow of 4 to 6 weeks until the leaves can either be rolled into cigars or cut for cigarette, pipe, or chewing tobacco.

Remember aging will always improve a tobacco, and any tobacco leaves can be kiln cured if it has been properly stored (humidity no lower than 50%). Smoking uncured tobacco is unpleasant and dangerous as the nicotine and ammonia contained can be fatally high, not to mention it will taste like your smoking leaves from your front yard.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 9:20 pm 
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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
100lbs. I definitely don't have a hundred pounds in my stack. I may have to reevaluate the situation.

A lot of people here do use the kiln, so you'll find quite a bit of support for that method here.


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 Post subject: Re: Drying and fermenting
PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:11 pm 
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Location: Virginia, USA
Howdy,

Just giving this topic a bump. So it's easier to find. Chuck.


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 Post subject: Re: Drying and fermenting
PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 5:33 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:38 pm
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Is there a difference between color curing and air curing? I'm just hanging the picked leaves in a closet that has about 60% humidity to make cigars with. Am I on the right track?


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