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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 5:11 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:21 am
Posts: 22
Location: Fairfield County, CT USA
My one experience (so far) with fermenting I thought I noticed
an ammonia like odor during the first week or so. The leaves were
mostly Havana, color cured to crumble dryness.


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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:52 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2008 5:02 am
Posts: 113
Thx guys, I feel like I am on the right track now.


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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 7:57 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 12, 2010 5:43 pm
Posts: 68
Location: Rhode Island
I've been reading "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cigars" which details this process, and Oblofusc pretty much explained it perfectly. After color-curing the leaf, the curing process only takes 4-6 weeks.

It's interesting to note that only AFTER this process is when the midrib on the leaves are removed, as apparently it still provides sap and nutrients to the leaf even after having been removed from the main stalk for so long. Once the midrib is removed, the tobacco is bulked again at a lower 85 degree temp and then stored and aged in bales for about 2 months. At that point, they are turned into cigars. For more premium cigars, the bales "rest" for another 3 months but even longer for superior ones.

It was interesting to read though that aging them for a year or more isn't usually a sound financial practice. For one, it would take too long to turn around product and make a profit. And two, it costs money and increases risk of loss by storing such valuable tobacco where it can be destroyed by water, fire, bugs, etc.

From everything I've read, good cigar tobacco mostly has to do with the soil and growing conditions (too little heat, too much rain, etc). Since most of us don't live in the Carribbean, the next important aspect is color-curing the cigar leaf from green to brown and doing it naturally. It seems this is the only proper way to color-cure "cigar" tobacco. Sticking it in the sun or in your truck to accelerate this process is a no-no. Hang it up somewhere out of the sun and where you have enough humidity and airflow to prevent mold or drying "green". I live in RI and found that my leaves color-cured perfectly by just hanging them up.

I think if someone kilns their tobacco at 120 degrees/70% RH for a month they'll be fine, but it may not be the most optimal way to provide maximum flavor. That's just my 2 cents. In the end, the only real test is to smoke what ya got...if you enjoy it, you did right. :)


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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:22 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 6:13 pm
Posts: 117
Update of my previous posts--I've left some heavily cased bagged hands of leaves in my 120F curing chamber for just shy of 30 days now and the good tobacco odor is definitely not "baked out" of it. In fact, for the first time ever, once after opening up one of the bags I noted a slightly bad initial smell, like bad stuff had come out of the leaf during the previous few days. But when aired out a little, man it smells better than ever! I am rethinking my whole premise that only a few days at full heat, i.e. 120F, is all that's really needed. I am going to do as Deluxestogie does and leave everything in for at least 30 days, longer for the really gummy ligero leaf, and after that allow to go into low case, bag and let it sit for a few weeks before smoke-sampling it.

I am even planning to re-ferment my 2010 leaf so it gets at least 30 (or more) days in moist 120F condition.

For what it's worth I've been misting down the leaf pretty good, moist but not wet, and bagging in big Ziploc bags & squeezing most of the air out. I figure leaf that's inside the center of pilones isn't getting much air either so maybe this is fine, or even preferable to another method? Saves space anyway in my small chest-freezer curing chamber. I do remove the hands from the bags every few days though, not only to air them out but to remist them (with a spraybottle) as even in the plastic bags they'll start to dry out. I believe the leaf needs to be fairly moist for the fermentation process to take place. I've encountered no mold issues--I guess 120F is too hot for mold to grow.

My leaf is looking and smelling very promising. Can't wait to give it a smoke test.


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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:17 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:21 am
Posts: 22
Location: Fairfield County, CT USA
I spent some time yesterday at the commercial CT shade farm that I have been visiting for the last few months. This time it was to watch and get pics of pressing the color cured leaves. I saw tens of thousands of leaves (all strung) going from hanging in the barn to pressed bales. Fascinating. They were gorgeous. Smooth hole free leaves , a uniform light brown with veins so small that when you stretched the leaf all but the central disappeared. With luck one day I will produce similar ones,
I actually saw the pressing of one bale as the crew had already finished most of it. The rest was transferring strings to a different chamber to correct humidity. I must have felt hundreds of leaves and was told "This is too wet.", "This is too dry or This is good." I can't say I am an expert but I did start to get a feel (pun intended) for it. The bales are ~ 100 lbs. each and are pressed in heavy weight cardboard boxes lined with what looks like treated brown wrapping paper. I mentioned I was going to use plastic bags and it was gently suggested that freezer paper would permit excess moistures release to avoid the dreaded rot. About every eighth bale a copper tube was inserted in the center of the bale and a hole was cut in the side of the box to permit the insertion of a thermo probe to check the bales internal temp during fermenting. Here is the interesting part. The bales are fermented in a large co-op hot room and the desired temp is 109[b] deg F.[u][/b][/u] Racks of bales are rolled into and out of the hot room to insure an internal temp of 112 deg F was (NOT[b] exceeded.[/b] I mentioned the 130 temp and was told they did not ever go that high. The fermenting time is about four weeks. The leaves then go to graders who sort and retie hands by grade and then to market. I have a hard time grasping sorting four million leave by hand.

General Data. ~50 leaves / hand. ~ 100 leaves / lb. Co-op annual crop
~ 400,000 lbs. 100 lbs ~= 10,000 leaves / bale. They collect their own seed and have an outside vendor "pelletize" individual seeds for next years planting. Oh Yeah, at 70 leaves / lb the value goes down as the buyer loses more weight in unusable veins.

I still haven't got the hang of posting pics or they would be included.

I am trying to assemble a slide show of this years pics. If I am successful I'll let you folks know


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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:23 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:17 pm
Posts: 54
Location: Way Upstate NY
Johnlee, Do you know if they harvested their leaves green and how long after the plant was topped? Also, do you know the approx. date they planted the seedlings into the fields? Thanks


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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 8:01 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:21 am
Posts: 22
Location: Fairfield County, CT USA
By their own statement the seedlings are set right after Memorial Day here in CT and MA. These plants (CT shade) are not topped. CT broad leaf is, shade is not. I was there for early picking. It was early in July. I'd guess the 5th or 6th. At that time they were priming the bottom three leaves. Yes, the leaves were green but not as green as the ones higher on the stalk. hey said the leaves were "ready" although I couldn't see much difference. If I remember correctly I was told the next level would be ready when they finished the first. 40 acres is a lot of tobacco and priming takes time. I don't know if you have raised or seen CT shade. It is a tall (7') slender plant producing a dozen or more good leaves. It is so slender that it must be supported with a string tied to an overhead wire. Each plant is supported this way. It is a very labor intensive product.

The two plants of mine that survived the hurricane are over 7' tall and the blossoms have just started to wither. One of them is bagged and I am hoping to set some good seed


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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 2:54 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 10:16 am
Posts: 798
Location: near Rising Sun,Maryland USA
johnlee1933 wrote:
. The bales are fermented in a large co-op hot room and the desired temp is 109[b] deg F.[u][/b][/u] Racks of bales are rolled into and out of the hot room to insure an internal temp of 112 deg F was (NOT[b] exceeded.[/b] I mentioned the 130 temp and was told they did not ever go that high.



If you look through the old literature every producer had his own temp that he fermented at. I've seen temps from 105 degrees all the way up to 150 degrees. I ferment mine at 118.


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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:00 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:21 am
Posts: 22
Location: Fairfield County, CT USA
Hey Dude, I agree. It's like backsides -- Everybody's got one.
But think about it, these guys pretty much have a corner on the most
expensive tobacco I've heard of. Since I've gown the same kind
I have to seriously consider their parameters.

Another point is that it is less energy to maintain the lower temp.
They may be depending on some internal heat generation also. My
bales will be smaller and I believe require a higher temp in the kiln.
I think the highly compressed leaves also contribute something to the
fermentation and I will compress mine this year.

As with all this stuff the proof is in the smokin'.


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 Post subject: Re: How long and how hot to "ferment" cigar leaf?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:26 pm 
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Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:51 pm
Posts: 1130
Location: near Blacksburg, VA
Very nice observations, John. This is pretty much the process used for the light wrappers on the mild H. Uppmann and Macanudo cigars.

The temps used for CT Shade fermenting are consistently in that low range. At higher temps, the fragile shade-grown leaf falls apart. For other varieties, or even for sun-grown CT Shade, the higher temps (or much longer ferment times) are needed to get the job done. CT Shade, grown under shade, requires the low temps.

Bob


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