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Thread: Fermenting tobacco

  1. #1

    Default Fermenting tobacco

    I have just picked up about 10 lbs of flue cured tobacco, fresh from the curing barn. Fine bright leaf virginia from this year's crop. Now the question arises how to proceed.

    I understand from my reading that tobacco is often fermented for 2-4 years before being used. I was considering how to do this. I am considering veining some of the leaves and packing it into wide mouth quart mason jars and setting them into a dark closet for a couple of years.

    What do you all think of this idea?
    Alaska Puffin: A Cool Smokin' Bird with a Big Pecker!

  2. #2


    I dont think thats how its done....but I dont have any better advice.
    I would imagine its aged in bulk in a large warehouse that maintains ideal conditions of temp/humidity/airflow. I bet the hardest part to tackle on a small scale is going to be the airflow.
    Also, I bet the fermentation take place like a compost pile, with the tobacco itself breaking down to create heat in the heart of a large pile of leaf.
    "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" John 13:35

  3. #3


    From what I've learned, (and I'm no expert), there are actually three steps involved in making the tobacco "smokeable" after harvest.
    1. Color curing (this step is what has already been done)
    2. Fermenting
    3. Aging

    There are a number of ways to ferment tobacco. The traditional way tobacco for cigars is fermented is in large piles or pilones, as Lone Star mentions, and is indeed a type of controlled composting. It is important to place temperature probes in the interior of the pile so that the temp of the tobacco can be closely monitored. You can use a remote temp sensor and run the "line" through a small diameter water pipe that extends outside the pile. The intended use of the tobacco being fermented will indicate what internal temperature you will allow the pile to reach before breaking it down, aerating the hands, and restacking. When restacking the pile, it is important to rotate the hands that were on the outside of the pile to the interior and vice-versa to achieve even fermentation of all tobacco. The higher the temperature is allowed to go, the darker the resultant leaf will be. Think maduro cigar wrapper. The piles will require attention daily, if not several times a day.

    Another method is using a "Kiln" to ferment the tobacco. This method is much faster and less labor intensive than pile fermentation, however it does require some components and construction. The idea of a kiln is to keep the tobacco at a temperature and moisture level resembling the interior conditions of a pile, however, all tobacco is exposed to this environment 100% of the time. Smokeable leaf is achievable in as little as 3 weeks using this method.

    The fermentation stage of the tobacco is where you will notice the release of ammonia from the tobacco. It is obvious, and can't be missed. You will notice the tobacco smelling like "wet hay" at the beginning......then it will, quite frankly, smell horrible for a time......then, slowly, you will notice the sweet smell of tobacco.

    Once the smell changes from ammonia to sweet tobacco, it is time to pinch some off and give it a test run.....if you like it, pull it from the kiln, allow to slowly come down to a proper moisture level for smoking and store it away or shred and prep for pipe tobacco....de-vein and brick it up.....whatever you want.

    I would highly recommend grabbing a cob, shredding some just like it sits right now, and give it a smoke. Then try a little bit at each stage of the processing method you choose.

    Aging the tobacco is, frankly, just what it sounds like, letting fermented tobacco sit. Whatever you choose to use for this will work.....mason jars, burlap bags, brown paper bags, etc. It is very important to be very aware of the moisture content of the tobacco when it is prepared for storage. You do not want it to be in high case, or you will experience the pain of mold. Too low of a case and it will not age properly. The tobacco should be just pliable enough to bend without cracking, and it should make some noise when handled.

    Have fun, the possibilities are endless. There are a couple of good forums out there that can provide much help.
    "Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company."
    ~George Washington

  4. #4
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    I'm pretty sure there are some good folks at this forum that would be more than willing to help you and answer some questions you might have.


    Bob Loblaw or Blah, blah, blah

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Make sure the tobacco is dry before piling it and never use glass or metal containers
    They will bust from expansion of gases
    If the tobacco is damp when you pile it or pack it
    it will create enough heat to catch fire never pack it or pile it while its wet it can reach high temps withing hours

    If you dry it well enough you dont have to remove veins and stems just store the whole leaf

    Most tobacco company's store it for aging at least a year in a warehouse

    Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend

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