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Me the cooler king? Well, maybe. I've built 30 or more cooleridors over the past 10 years, I've perpetrated every possible mistake in building them as well as in storing cigars, and I've kept most of a collection that once ran to about 25,000 sticks in them. Cooleridors - Igloos, Rubbermaids, etc. - have been an integral part of my life, managing in the process to honk off an ex wife, freak out a new wife (maybe she wasn't quite prepared when the movers arrived with 35 coolers), and generally make me happy.
Being a typical cigar smoker, at some point in the arc of buying cigars, your purchases will exceed your ability to store the inventory you've acquired . This is nothing to be ashamed of. Come on, man... be proud of your obsessions! Now, however, you're left looking for a quick, efficient, effective and mercifully cheap cigar storage solution. Gentlemen, I offer you the solution! The greatest invention since the spoon! Imitated by many yet improved by few, it stores and it protects. It is the cooleridor.
If you've read this far, you might want to fasten your seat belt. The fun is about to begin.
One warning: this is your cooleridor, these are your cigars and this is not a rule book. Relax and use this strictly as a guideline. Variations are necessary. Your cigars will be fine - trust me on this. If you screw up, you just need to breathe and then unscrew yourself.
A grtrx cooleridor - singles and boxes mixed

If you build it, you can store cigars

The steps:
1. Obtain the materials:
a. A cooler - any size. It doesn't have to be new, but it needs to be clean. Over the years, I think I have had the best luck with red coolers. But the color is really secondary (unless the wife says otherwise). You can use anything that seals tightly; Sterilite containers work too. If temperatures vary much in your home, a cooler will help keep the temperature steady, which is a good thing. You will also need...
b. A humidity source (see below)
c. Shelving or lining (see below)
d. Soap and water (mild soap like Ivory)
e. Your preferred device for measuring temperature and relative humidity.
2. Clean the cooler by washing the inside with soap and water. I usually do this twice. Then, let it air out for a day or two. This will allow the cooler to lose any odd odors (plastics are not always odorless, unfortunately). Use your nose to check for the odors - this is a good time to start trusting your senses.
3. If you're going to line your cooleridor or put shelves in, be thinking whether you want it chest style or upright. Either way works, but it sure is easier to stack the chests. All but my first cooleridor are chests.
4. If you want to line your cooler with cedar, now is the time. Mahogany is an alternative. Do NOT use the white cedar used to line drawers, closets, saunas, etc. This will overpower your poor defenseless cigars. Use Spanish cedar. I attach it using double sided tape. Often, I line only the bottom of the cooler. My first cooler is fully lined and has cedar shelves. Not all of my coolers (I have 16 as I write this, I used to have as many as 30) are lined, though. (Note: if you saw cedar, wear a mask. The dust can be irritating, and may be a health hazard too.)
5. Now it is time to add the shelving or matrix for storing your sticks. Full boxes can just sit in the cooler (my unlined coolers are usually for full boxes). Loose sticks go well in old cigar boxes, plastic baskets and small food storage containers (left with the tops off so the cigars can breathe), and just about anything else you might like to use. It helps to think ahead at this step. But as you can always rearrange your stogies later on, that can also be part of the fun. Remember, nevertheless, to plan ahead for where the humidification device and any meters will go. I prefer - and it is just a preference - to put the water low and the meter high. The meter is optional, by the way.
6. If your cooler has one of those drain plugs, I suggest your keep it closed. My basement flooded during downpours from a tropical storm. The coolers with the plugs open ended up full of ruined cigars. It was a painful lesson learned.
7. The time has come to add the cigars. Then the humidifier goes in and the meter follows. Close the lid, sigh, and then smile. Come back in a day and check the humidity. You could wait to add the cigars, but I really have come to prefer doing all this in one step. It may take some adjustment to get things just like you want them. Be patient and don't panic. The humidity swinging up and down for a few days won't kill your cigars.
8. Find a place for your new storage system. I like cool and dry, and use the basement. This keeps the cigars at steady temperatures. I have my coolers stacked together in the basement, and they're doing fine.
9. Once all is stable, you'll need to check from time to time on how things are doing. Realize that each time you open the cooler, you're 'violating' the conditions in there. Also remember they are cigars, not priceless artifacts. Changes won't ruin them.
A well organized, beautiful cooleridor - servicerifle's

After you build it, what do you do?

Well, for one thing, you can begin to smoke your cigars. Every 4 to 6 weeks, I open all my coolers, re-water them and check for a couple of indicators of how things are. First, I smell them. You should get smells ranging from earthy to cedar to an almost barnyard smell. Those are good, happy cigar smells.
What you don't want are the smells of mold or mildew - that nasty dirty bathroom or under the sink smell. If you get that you need to find the source and fix the problem. In my experience, it is almost always a wet box of cigars or the sponges I use to humidify. Remember, you don't have to be obsessive. If you fix the problem, things will be fine.
The next step is to look at the cigars. Do they look like good cigars look? Are they soggy looking? Are they dried out? If so, then correct the humidity. If they are soggy, it helps to leave them in the cooler with the lid propped open. If they are dry, you need to consider a larger reservoir for water or more frequent water additions. Either way, the cigars will recover.
Now its time to touch your babies. Be gentle, but give them a touch and a small squeeze. They should feel firm, not damp and not brittle. Again, if they are one or the other, just fix the humidity problem.
Finally, check your gauges (if you have them - really, I don't use gauges anymore). What do they tell you? They should confirm what your senses have already told you. If your storage area feels hot or is warmer than, say, 70-75 degrees, consider storing your coolers near an A/C duct. In emergencies, I've even put ice packs in a cooler to keep the temp down.
The only time I think you need to worry is if a cooler becomes nasty smelling. If it doesn't respond to changing the sponge or whatever else might be causing that odor, you need to remove the cigars, clean the cooler out with soap and water and then let the cooler air dry - even better, let it air dry in the sun. One problem with anything made of plastic is it can hold smells. Worst case... Scrap the cooler and start from scratch.
A whole lot of cigars in a small space
I built my first cooleridor in 1997. It still is working, still smells great and has held some of my best and rarest sticks. I have added a real furniture quality humidor. But even though it is beautiful and allows me to have cigars upstairs, I still have plenty of coolers in the basement.

Shelving and Organizing

The ultimate shelving is cedar - the same kind you use to line the cooler. If you want this, look for a cooler with grooves in the sides. You cut and insert and life is good. You can also use wire racks or plastic. Some coolers come with shelves or baskets, which work great.
You can also use almost any plastic container for storing singles and loose cigars. Be creative here. Look at everything, from the containers carry out food is put in to the amazing array of Glad, Rubbermaid and other brands of containers. Food grade is great for this purpose, but you can use almost anything that doesn't have a smell to it. The smell could leech into your tobacco.
The easiest source for cooleridor organizers is recycled cigar boxes. I find the cedar ones best for this - you get more cedar that way and you aren't throwing out something that took years to grow.

Humidification and Quality Control

Your cigars need water. If they dry out, they will eventually turn to dust. But over humidification is equally bad. Wet cigars will get moldy. Sometimes, you can wipe off that mold and still smoke the cigar, but mold will eventually destroy it. Trust me - I know from smoking a moldy cigar that wet is bad!
You have three basic choices for humidification: beads, 50/50 PG (propylene glycol) and active humidification.
Active humidification - You use a little humidifier like Cigar Oasis. These aren't cheap and they have to be powered, but they work really well. Even better, they circulate air. I have one in my humidor. For my coolers, I use 50/50.
Humidification can be simple.
Beads - Basically, you're using a bead that sops up water and releases it back into the cooler's atmosphere at the right rate. Cigar Weekly has threads running on beads. I can tell you, from what I've seen, this is what I would use if I were building a new cooleridor today (most of mine were built pre-bead knowledge). Beads are clean, almost foolproof and easy to use. I've read you can use Exquisicat Crystal Kitty Litter from Petsmart. Put one cup in a piece of nylon stocking, wet it with distilled water and drain. Now add another 1/2c of dry beads. Tie it off and put the whole thing in a sealed plastic bag for a day. Take it out and you've got silica gel at about 66% humidity.
Propylene Glycol and distilled water - A 50/50 solution of PG in water will hold the humidity in your cooleridor at about 70%. That's a wee bit to the damp side (I prefer about 66%) but you can always let the cigar sit out a bit to dry down to a nice smoking level. Wet cigars will pick up a bitter or metallic flavor.
You'll need propylene glycol to make the '50/50' solution.
To make the solution you simply mix distilled water and propylene glycol (some drug stores will order this for you). Equal volumes of each gets you to 50:50. Then you take a small plastic container (think Glad, think Tupperware, think leftover soup containers from the Chinese carryout). Put a chunk of floral foam (the WET kind that is meant to have water in it - the dry kind repels water) in the container.
Alternatively, I use sponges (the kind with the antimicrobial in them to slow down mold growth). Wet the sponge or foam down with the solution. Place in the cooler. As the foam or sponge dries you add distilled water (the PG won't evaporate). Annually, I switch out the foam or sponge to be sure there is no mold. You can buy the foam at a florist, craft store or Wal-Mart.
Quality control - How do you know what the relative humidity is in your cooler? When I was young and nervous about this, I used gauges. Spring hygrometers are inaccurate, but will give you a trend of the humidity. Electronic gauges are way more accurate. I get them at Radio Shack or Wal-Mart.
Checking the temperature and humidity is easy with the right equipment.
The ones I use show a minimum and a maximum on humidity and temperature. Just remember that swings in humidity won't kill your cigars. I've been gone for 2 to 3 months at a time and not checked my cigars. When I got back, the humidifiers were dry and the humidity was in the low 60% range, but the cigars smoked fine.
I no longer put a gauge in my cooleridors. I have a good sense of what the cigars inside smell and look and feel like when 'right', and I trust my senses. That said, if I were starting out, I'd get the gauge and be certain. One neat idea is to get one of the gauges with a remote sensor, put the sensor inside and the gauge outside - that way, you can see what's going on without opening up.


Let me bow to whoever it was who first posted on the old JRBB about converting coolers into humidors. At a time when I was NOT allowed to buy a humidor, I could 'borrow' a cooler from the garage. It sure did a better job then the big tub of a cheap plastic storage box I was using before that. Actually, the old one would have worked if I had done it right, but the tight seal and lack of insulation were a disaster in my old house.
Also, thanks to all the people who've posted on the cooleridor thread at CW. Group think and collective wisdom has made me smarter about cigar storage. Cooleridors may not be aesthetically pleasing, but they sure work well.
Over the years, I've had cooleridors in sizes from the six pack type (great for travel) to the ones with wheels to the monster 120 quart ones. They've all worked. So remember... The one thing you don't need to do is apologize for having a cooleridor.
Summing up, coolers are efficient and effective. And if you relax and just store them, you'll have more fun. Cooleridors allow you to spend more money on cigars. That's a good thing! There is a 'sticky' running in the Cedar Room of the Cigar Weekly forums if you have more questions. Or shoot me an email and I'll try to answer.
OK, it is now up to you. Make a nice place for your cigars to sleep until you torch them. Have fun! Good luck!


Jeff Lackman is a pharmacist living in Spotsylvania Virginia, a Yankee smack dab in the middle of the Chancellorsville battlefield. Jeff grew up in South Bend, Indiana, graduated from Purdue, and has lived in Illinois and Michigan as well as in Virginia. He travels for a firm managing hospital pharmacies, and has a wife and 2 step kids. Jeff's been enjoying smokes since before the boom, and has been converting coolers to cigar storage since the dawn of Internet cigar BB's.