The Pipe Tobacco Aging, Storage and Cellaring FAQ

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Tin Storage Issues

  1. Should I pop the tins and seal the tobacco in another container?
  2. Does the aging process continue after I open a container?
  3. Once I open a tin, what are some good short-term storage options? How long is "short-term"?
  4. Is rust or corrosion be a problem for tins?
  5. Can I store tobacco containers in a freezer or refrigerator?

1 ~ Should I pop my tins and seal the tobacco in another container?

This is actually two questions in one. The hidden other question is, "Does tobacco age as well if I just re-seal a tin and hide it away for a while?" These results surprise people new to the world of quality tobacco aging. Mr. Pease elaborates:

Open tins dry out quite quickly, actually, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you are smoking it (some of us prefer out tobacco in the dry range of the spectrum), but a terrible thing if you are aging it. Part of the process seems to rely on a sealed environment, in my experience.

G.L. Pease, 1998-07-09

Tinned tobaccos have a distinct advantage over "bulk" tobaccos when it comes to aging, providing you don't open the tin. The *lack* of oxygen exchange is actually beneficial to some of the organic processes which are responsible for the "aging," and, as long as the tins are stored in cool, dry location, you don't ever have to worry about the condition of the contents.

G.L. Pease, 1999-01-14

Once a tin is open, store it in a cool place, sealed as best you can seal it. [Aging is] an amazingly complex medley of carefully choreographed chemical and microbial dances. But, the bottom line is, when you open the tin, it's over. Other changes will take place, but it's never going to be the same again.

G.L. Pease, 2001-10-17

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2 ~ Does the aging process continue after I open a container?

A topic mentioned briefly above, but which deserves elaboration. Not all aging is equal, friends! Thus:

Once air is reintroduced, the anaerobes snuff it. If there are endospore forming, they'll sprorulate, and the process *could* conceivably be restarted, *if* the correct environmental conditions were made present. But, one of those correct conditions is the absence of oxygen. So, either the tin would have to be fully evacuated, or some aerobic bacterial process would, once again, have to consume the O2 that is now in the tin. It's all a delicate dance of tiny life forms. Once you mess up the ecology that's been carefully crafted over thousands, even millions of generations of bacteria, it's tough to get it back "the way it was."

G.L. Pease 2001-10-17

If you buy tobacco with significant age already, the picture changes. As soon as you open that tin, or high-barrier bag, you introduce significant changes to the environment within the container. From that point, all bets are off. Perhaps I shouldn't say that the blend will no longer age, but it will age differently from that point forward.

G.L. Pease, 2003-10-28

The aging process is a series of both biological activities and organic reactions, some of which can be very slow. Many of reactions tend to happen sequentially, so once the environment is radically changed by introducing fresh air, all bets are off. Further, all those lovely aromas that emanate from that freshly opened tin are volatile organic products that, once shared with the angels, is lost and gone forever. There's no way to reverse time and return things to the original state. Once you open it, smoke it. It will certainly change, but it will not likely improve in the same way that it will once it's sealed up.

G.L. Pease, 2003-11-11

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3 ~ Once I open a tin, what are some good short-term storage options?

An issue that can be of considerable import to those who don't smoke at a heavy pace, or who have a lot of irons in the fire simultaneously. I have found spice jars to be excellent containers for small amounts of tobacco. I'd recommend small mason jars for storage, but once you open the mason jar, put it into a spice jar. Many of the spice jars that you can buy from kitchen stores have a little plastic shaker lid with a mylar-type liner inside. I keep these in place. Very convenient, inexpensive, easy to organize and store, and they seem to hold around 5 bowls' worth.

inquisitor, 2004-10-12

Once [a container of tobacco is] opened, there are many options for storage, but, ideally, it should be consumed within a month or two of opening.

G.L. Pease, 2003-05-06

I always transfer open tins to half pint mason jars, then label the top. These make for excellent storage, and they are easy to stack.

Joe LaVigne, 2003-11-01

An opened tin is good for a few days (maybe, in the Mojave Desert) to a few weeks, and maybe several months if relative humidity is high in your area. But don't count on much more than a few weeks.

James Beard, 2001-02-04

Round tins with screw-down lids can stay fresh for many months if the lid has a rubber/plastic gasket and you make sure to tighten it properly. Mac Baren and JF Germain tins have the right kind of gasket, and I have kept those tobaccos fresh for up to a year when I screw the lid down tightly. Tins with plastic pop off lids, such as McClelland's, Rattray's and G.L. Pease, will not stay fresh very long, maybe a month or two at best. Either smoke these quickly or transfer the contents to bail-top jars. Rectangular tins are the worst since their lids can't be tightened. A few weeks after being opened, you'll find these tobaccos completely dried out. I store rectangular tins in ziploc freezer bags, even for very short term storage.

Tim Parker, 2003-11-01

There are volatile components that dissipate to the air if not contained, and, once gone, they're never coming back. When I open a tin of something I'm not going to smoke fairly quickly, I usually either put the contents in a canning jar for longer term storage, as has been suggested, or at least, in heavy zip-locks if shorter storage is likely.

G.L. Pease, 2002-07-01

I have solved the problem [of too-dry tobacco] by using small plastic bags. If I leave the tobacco uncovered in the tin, it will dry up, especially the tobaccos that are moistened only with water. So when I open up a new tin I always put the tobacco in a plastic minigrip bag, press the air out and the I put it in the tin.

Jari, 2002-06-29

A simple way of keeping tinned tobacco moist for a short period of time is to place a small plastic sandwich bag over the open tin and then screwing the lid tightly down over the bag.

Max Kama, 2004-01-06 (via email)

Most of the round 50gm tins do an admirable job of keeping blends fresh. I have an opened tin of Gordon Pym that's been in very good shape since 1999 when I bought it (I smoke primarily virginias). Of course, some don't seal as well as others, especially the rectangular tins that many flakes come in. A very effective solution, I've found, is to wrap the tobacco and paper liner in a plastic sandwich bag, close the lid as tight as possible, and then put the whole tin inside one or two freezer-grade zip-lock bags. I've found that this method will keep the tobacco in very acceptable condition for over a year. With the Rattray's 100 gm tins or the McClelland tins, just transfer the tobacco to a zip-lock bag and put back in the can.

Clifford W. Woodward, 2005-08-21

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4 ~ Can rust or corrosion be a problem for metal containers when cellaring over the long-term?

The short answer is "yes".

I recently opened a jar of tobacco that I had canned last year. I had an impossible time getting the outer ring to unscrew, and eventually had to cut it off with wire snips. When I did, I discovered that the reason it wouldn't come off was because it and the inner lid had rusted together. I guess there had been some water left inside the ring from when I washed it beforehand.

The lid had not rusted all the way through, since it had been sealed only 12 months or so. Had I been more patient, however, and let it sit for several years, I suspect the rust might have eventually eaten through the lid. I always dip the top of my jars in paraffin, though, so I guess even then it wouldn't have done too much damage. A good point to remember in the "to wax or not to wax" debate, I suppose.

Joe00637, 2004-12-10

My tins are internally coated, as are most tobacco tins. The rust problem is generally a result of the tins being stored in a humid environment; they rust from the outside in. I've had very few tins rust from the inside, though it's not unheard of, and even a good coating can fail occasionally.

G.L. Pease, 2004-08-27

Some tins fare better than others. The worst tins seem to be thin aluminum ones, whose side walls can become perforated with little pinholes from corrosion far too easily. The next most likely thing to be effected is aluminum pull-tops. Examine these frequently for signs of damage, which will normally first appear as a white powdery area. If you see a problem area, wipe it off with a damp cloth, and keep a close eye on it. If you shake and tap on a tin, and it sounds dry inside (I don't know how to really describe this, but there is a difference in the way dry tobacco "sounds" when it's dry...) it would probably be best to transfer the contents into a glass container immediately. You'll lose some of the "bottle bouquet" of the sealed tin, but you'll save the tobacco.

G.L. Pease, 2000-06-23

Comment | The rust won't hurt you, but it will impart an unpleasant taste and smell to the tobacco, if present in sufficient quantity.

G.L. Pease, 2002-11-23

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5 ~ Can I store tobacco containers in a freezer or refrigerator?

A topic which makes some people scratch their head. Nip this one in the bud! Remember, we're not talking about preserving tobacco, but aging it. Would you freeze wine?

No need to freeze tobacco. [...] Freezing *might* damage the cell structure of the leaf, if the temperature is low enough. The things you want to avoid are hot and cold cycles (can damage the integrity of the tin's seal) and excessive humidity, which can rust some tins.

G.L. Pease, 1994-12-27

Do NOT store tobacco in your fridge or freezer [in a non-airtight container]. One of the purposes your fridge serves is to remove moisture from the air inside of it. You will end up with dry tobacco.

Michael D. Lindner, 1999-02-12

Storing in a refrigerator is not a good idea unless you have absolutely air-tight bags to contain the tobacco. Tobacco will readily absorb aromas and flavors from anything in the area, and in a refrigerator there is a lot of stuff in the area that you might not want to taste in the tobacco.

James Beard, 1996-09-08

[In a freezer,] the moisture in the tobacco will become ice. When water becomes ice, it expands. When it does this, it destroys the cellular structure of the tobacco. This must have an influence on the character of the smoke.

Sailorman Jack, 2004-01-04

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