The Pipe Tobacco Aging, Storage and Cellaring FAQ

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Tobacco Jarring Guide

  1. Step 1 - Prepare the Jars
  2. Step 2 - Pack the Tobacco
  3. Step 3 - The Heat-Vacuum Method
  4. Step 4 - Apply Sealant for Extra Security (Optional, but Recommended)
  5. Step 5 - Label the Jars
  6. Complete Examples

Step 1 ~ Prepare the Jars

The upshot here is to use common sense and be thorough. Details follow.

1) Sterilize the jar (boiling works, but I just put it in the dishwasher at the highest possible heat). 2) Dry the tobacco to [your desired] smoking moisture, or just a tiny bit moister. 3) Put #2 in #1.

Inquisitor, 2000-10-26

Heat the jars in hot water (close to boiling but careful, boiling could crack the glass if you don't allow them to temper in the water properly), pour in the tobacco and then seal the jars. The heated jar will create a vacuum as it cools.

Jeff Schwartz, 2000-10-27

Put the stuff in the jars, after a through washing (the dishwasher works well, but run an extra rinse cycle, to rid the thing of any aromas from the detergent, and don't put the rubber gasket in there), and, assuming the moisture level of the tobacco is right to start with, it will stay right. Then, put the jars in a cool, dark place, and forget about them until you are ready to sample the delightful contents.

G.L. Pease, 1999-08-19

The jars should be sanitized before use--running them through the dishwasher is best, but if you don't have one, the usual techniques used for beer-making are fine. Also sanitize all surfaces and containers you'll be working with, and wash your hands well and often. Mold sucks.

Toren Smith, 2001-07-25

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Step 2 ~ Pack the Tobacco

Both the condition of the tobacco and the method of packing can be important.

The tobacco should be moist. Not dripping, of course, but pop the lid on a tin of GLP tobacco and check it out. That's the way you want it. Water is as necessary as oxygen to the aging process, and you can always dry it out to your preferred level when you [open] the jar. [...] Don't pack it in too tight. Remember, oxygen is your friend in the aging process. I never pack it any tighter than I'd pack a pipe for smoking.

Toren Smith, 2001-07-25

I'm far from an expert, but in the short time I've been "canning" tobacco, I typically find I can fit about 1/2 as much tobacco as the jar size given (i.e. 4oz of tobacco in an 8oz widemouth jar).

Kip, 2004-04-26

The [2:1 ratio is] pretty close, though I've found the fit depends on the cut of the tobacco, and the humidity level. There are some tobaccos which, if I attempted to fit in that 2:1 ratio, would be way too tight. The good thing about wide-mouth canning jars is they are dirt cheap, and allow me to store bulk - purchased tobaccos affordably, yet they are nice and tight, and stay sealed forever, even if they are opened on a regular basis.

Steve Lawrence, 2003-04-26

How tightly you pack it seems to be a matter of preference.

I pack it tight. [With English blends] I will use something with a wide flat bottom to pack it tight as tight as possible. For VA flakes and such, I just stuff it as tight as possible but not so tight it ruins the flake. For the 6-inch flakes, I will fold a couple over length-wise and alternate packing the jar until its as full as it can get.

Michael Peebles, 2005-04-04

I gravity feed, and leave it loose.

Stephen Lawrence, 2005-04-04

I pack as tight as I can, not due to some belief that it affects the aging process, but because I have so much tobacco space is an issue.

Steven Fowler, 2005-04-04

I jam it in there, then use a can of butane to pack it down, re-fill, and repeat until I can fit no more.

Joe LaVigne, 2005-04-04

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Step 3 - The Heat-Vacuum Method

After wide use in the community for many years, this method promises solid results if performed correctly.

You are going for a seal, not sterilization. You can use a shallow hot water bath to heat up the tobacco-stuffed jars or even a short time [15-30 seconds] in the microwave. The slight heating shouldn't seriously affect the tobacco, and all you need to do is create warm air in the jar so when you put the lid on, the warm air cools, contracts and seals the lid.

Robbie, 2001-06-08

The jar should be immaculate and dry when you put the tobacco in it. The tobacco should be of proper moisture content for smoking, or perhaps slightly on the dry end of the proper range. The seal on the lid should be in good shape. If you wish to "vacuum seal," prepare the jar by putting it in a pan of near-boiling water for maybe 15 minutes and then [fill with tobacco,] put on the top, and tighten well.

James Beard, 2002-01-29

My method that has worked very well, providing an air tight seal yet allowing for aging, is to store in mason jars, and then process in a hot water bath to seal the jars. I just put the jars in a pan of boiling water until the temp inside the jars is high enough to expand the air inside, then I tighten the rings on the jars and allow the jars to seal. There is a slight negative pressure inside the sealed jars, but there is still enough air in there to allow for aerobic aging. My Cajun Half and Half stored in this way keeps getting better and better with every passing month. The hot water bath also provides some light stoving to the tobacco.

Stephen E. Williamson, 2004-01-19

When putting the tobacco into jars, heat/vacuum sealing is not only not necessary, it's probably not optimal, as air is an essential component in the aging process. Just make sure the jars and lids are CLEAN, and seal-em up. To clean the jars, I recommend a couple drops of bleach along with hot, soapy water. Rinse them thorougly, and let them air dry, inverted, to minimize the risk of mold spores finding their way in. It may take a while for the bleach smell to completely leave the jars, so give them a sniff before you bottle up the baccy.

G.L. Pease, 2003-02-11

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Step 4 ~ Apply Sealant for Extra Security (Optional, but Recommended)

Short answer: yes. Some people would make this an emphatic "yes!" But it's certainly an advanced technique, given the process.

Unevacuated sealed mason jars (bands/lid dipped in paraffin after sealing). This gave by FAR the best result, with excellent and sometimes surprising amounts of aging. A recently opened sample of McClelland 5115 smelled utterly delectable and smoked like a dream [after 3 years] -- it was *vastly* superior to identical samples packed on the same day using methods 1 [fully evauated plastic pouch], 2 [unevacuated plastic pouch], and 3 [evacuated mason jar].

Toren Smith, 2001-07-25

If you don't seal with wax you run the risk of air migration into (or out of) your [canning-style] jars. I use paraffin, which my local grocery stocks. It's cheap, fast and easy, and if I'm careful, it requires no cleanup.

Over the years, air pressure changes along with temperature changes can cause a vac-sealed jar to lose its seal. Gasses may be released by the aging tobacco that negate the vacuum; which combined with the above mentioned outside forces, may cause leaks. And if you're only relying of hand-tightened threaded seals, even with rubber gaskets, you're just asking for trouble. Why go to all the trouble to jar up tobacco for aging if you aren't willing to take the final step to be safe?

Tim Parker, 2003-05-29

As an alternative to the above, freevito recommends a certain kind of lid with a self-sealing agent:

Metal Lids with Plastisol Seals. Plastisol is a relatively inert, very forgiving material that will form an excellent long-term airtight seal without the need for additional sealing procedures.

I'm sure the paraffin procedure is very effective. In fact, it might even be necessary if you are using jars with rubber seals. However, if you use the stuff I've recommended, the Plastisol seals are all that you need. They will form a reliable seal without the need to take any additional steps.

The 6 oz. jars are perfect for storing the contents of a 50 gram or 2 oz. tin of tobacco. They make other sizes as well. Whichever sizes you get, be sure that you get the accompanying lids with Plastisol seals. They are the food-grade seals that ensure a positive long-term airtight seal.

freevito, 2005-12-16 (on the Knoxville Cigar Bulletin Boards)

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Step 5 ~ Label the Jars

If you're going to go through the bother of labeling (and you should), use a good labeling scheme which meets your needs of today and tomorrow, after you've lost all your hair and half your marbles.

I write with an indelible marker on the metal lid.

Chris Keene, 2004-01-25

Economy Solution: Dymo Labelmaker - less than $10 for the little one. Fancy Shmancy Solution: Brother P-Touch Label Maker. Overkill Solution: Custom label stock for your computer printer. Affix label to jar and then stick in place with wide, clear shipping tape. I use the economy solution for baccy jars. The labelmaker material sticks to the glass like glue.

Tim Daneliuk, 2003-01-25

You need two things: 1) Sharpie marker, extra fine point. 2) Clear package tape. Write directly on the container's surface, cover with a patch of tape. Indelible markers only work on absorptive surfaces (cloth paper, etc.) - the ink will abrade / flake off glass or polished metal. The purpose of the tape is to provide a protective cover. Semi-caveat: Block print your letters, there is a tendancy for the ink to absorb into the tape adhesive over time, blurring the edges of your pen strokes. If you tend to print with a "small hand" you'll need to size it up a little. 3/16 or 1/4 inch capitals (proportionate sized lower case) done with a extra fine point are legible decades later.

Dave Keever, 2004-01-26

I print "labels" from my computer, then use packing tape to attach them to the jars. Works every time for me.

John Offerdahl, 2004-01-26

Instead of labeling the jars, I purchase small lightweight, cardboard tags (about $2-$3 for a 100), the kind with a looped string attached. I write the blend and date on the tag then loop the tag through itself on the lid, similar to attaching a luggage tag on a suitcase. This method works for Ball jars and should work for bail jars by attaching the tag to the wire on the lid. The string on these tags is long enough to hold the tag on the bottom of the 4 oz. jars when dipping it into paraffin if this is your method. The tag can be held on the side with your fingers for larger preserving jars. When cooled, I place the jars back in the original box (with flaps removed), placing the tags, face up, on top of the jar. This eliminates the need to remove each jar from the box to see what the contents are. One quick glance will tell me what's in a box of a dozen jars. I stor my tabaky in an old, four drawer file cabinet.

If you are sealing the jars with paraffin, writing or affixing anything to the slippery wax becomes problematic. If you are not sealing the jars with paraffin, then writing on the lids or using an Avery label of the appropriate size would work just fine.

Mark Z., 2004-01-26

Whenever I buy a pouch of tobak, I transfer it immediately to a clean mason jar and cut out the logo from the pouch which I tape it to the front of the jar for identification. Not the classiest thing I've ever seen but it does the job admirably and very cheaply.

KMFDM, 1997-01-13

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Complete Examples

Tim Parker's description:

After sterilizing and filling the jars, I screw the lids down firmly. Then I melt the paraffin wax in an old sauce pan. After the wax has melted completely, I allow it to cool somewhat so that it thickens a bit, at which point I invert the jars and dip them into the wax. The idea is to get the wax thin enough to easily cover the top of the jar, yet keep it thick enough so that it won't drip all over the place. Your aim should be to allow the wax to completely cover the top of the jar to a point well below the lid. After the wax hardens, I usually repeat the process, dipping each jar into the wax a second time to insure a good seal.

Afterwards, I apply self-stick labels to each jar noting the contents and date sealed, and put the jars back in their box, which then goes straight into the cellar. I store the excess paraffin wax in the same sauce pan that I use to melt it. The hardened wax can be kept indefinitely in the pan and reused many times.

When the time comes that you wish to open a wax sealed jar, I've found it's best to run the jars under the hot water spigot for a few minutes, which will soften the wax enough so that you can easily wipe it away or peel it off with a dishrag or paper towel.

Tim Parker, 2005-12-11

And Steven Fowler from a couple years ago:

After I fill the Mason jar with tobacco, I tighten the lid, turn the jar upside-down and dip the top (to just below the lid) in paraffin. I have had a couple of jars over the years where the top didn't seal perfectly. Of course, the tobacco will dry out. Also, it doesn't provide the anaerobic environment that facilitates the aging process. The tobacco inside is not affected by the paraffin on the outside. The paraffin is just insurance, and in most cases is not necesssary.

I melt paraffin in a double boiler and allow it to cool. Just before it turns solid I dip the lid under the paraffin. You can tell it's ready to become solid when the wax starts to turn opaque. When it's really hot the wax is tranparent. BE CAREFUL: PARAFFIN IS FLAMMABLE.

Heating the tobacco and jar in the microwave is not necessary. Simply, boil the jar for 10 minutes. Take the jar out of the boiling water with tongs and turn upside-down. The big drops of water will empty by gravity and the rest will evaporate in a few seconds. While the jar is still hot, stuff the tobacco in and seal. It cools within a couple of minutes. The cooling promotes a vacuum. Cool air takes up less volume than the previously warm air. Even after a few days, the lid of the jar is indented on top, due to the vacuum.

I know it sounds like a pain in the ass, but it's not that bad. Actually, I kind of enjoy it. It's become a ritual.

Steven Fowler, 2003-05-29

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Russian Translation | Home | Fundamentals | Aging | Tin Storage | Bulk Storage | Jarring Guide | Cellaring
Cellar Gallery | Categorization | Flakes | Touchstones | Moisture | Related Topics | Glossary | Appendices