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Whole Leaf Tobacco

How to reduce nicotine hit.

Plöjarn

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#1
Hello!
Anders from Sweden here. New to this hobby, and new to this forum.

I have started out by buying some whole leaf from Germany and am currently smoking the different leafs and trying blends to get a feeling of what I like and how I want to blend. I really like the full, earthy taste of Burley and Kentucky tobacco and would like to make flakes out of it. The problem is that it is way to strong for me to smoke pure. If I smoke a whole bowl of the burley I get sick. (I never inhale)

I have read somewhere that nicotine is more absorbed in the mouth from smoke with a higher pH. Burley/Kentucky/cigrleaf/perique = high pH. Virginias = Low pH. Is this right?

In that case i guess I could blend in some virginia to get a more sour smoke and less nicotine uptake. But I really don't want too much "virginia fruitiness" in my blend. Is there any other way I can treat the tobacco to reduce nicotine or nicotine uptake without loosing the full taste? Steaming, stoving, toasting?
 

Smokin Harley

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#2
welcome to FTT. Not sure how to reduce the nicotine but are you smoking after eating a full meal or on an empty stomach, makes a big difference.
 

SmokesAhoy

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#3
You could immerse leaf in water for a few minutes then hang to dry out. Water should look like tea after that. I would only do a half leaf like this as a test though, because it might get ruined. I've never done this though. It'll certainly leech it though.
 

Plöjarn

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#4
Hi. Thanks!
I have been using a lot of snus for 20 years so i guess I should have some "resistance". But probably these specific leafs are simply packed with nicotine.

I found a link to this document somewhere on this forum:
http://www.leffingwell.com/download/Leffingwell - Tobacco production chemistry and technology.pdf
Acoording to that it is the sugar of the virginias that make the smoke sour. Maby a little sweet casing on the burley will make the smoke less alkaline so that there will be less nicotine absorbed by my mouth?
 

burge

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#7
The water method works well. If you are doing that method in the vapor proof bags you just swish it a few times then let it dry for shredding. Soaking tobacco will lose the flavor as well as the nicotine.
 

davek14

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#8
The water method works well. If you are doing that method in the vapor proof bags you just swish it a few times then let it dry for shredding. Soaking tobacco will lose the flavor as well as the nicotine.
I've not soaked tobacco, but I have boiled uncured tobacco instead of aging or fermenting it. It gave a different flavor. It wasn't so bad, but it wasn't really good. I didn't like it enough to ever do it again.

What about stoving? That will mellow things a little. More to the point on cigarette tobacco, what about toasting?
 

DistillingJim

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#9
I know I'm pointing out the obvious - but how big is your pipe? If you're new to pipesmoking, could it be that you've just got a large pipe and need to get a smaller one or only pack half a bowl? I also find that when I pack flakes, unless I really break it up I end up putting more tobacco in my pipe than I would if it were simply a coarse/ribbon cut. If you break it up more you may again find you're smoking less and its more tolerable.
 

Planter

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#10
Ha! I've grown Yellow Twist Bud and Harrow Velvet (Burleys) and Bolivian Criollo, and I looove the taste, but - some leaves are just overwhelming in a pipe. I believe it's a combination of alkalinity and the initial harshness of freshly air-cured leaf, with absolute nicotine content playing a minor role.
For example, I can smoke a long Toscano cigar (= strong Kentucky, aged for 12-24 months) without getting affected, but a small piece of that in a pipe may give me hickup.


(1) Aging is supposed to help. 3-6 months minimum for Burley, better a year. My Bolivian Criollo is now >1 year in storage, it's difficult to say how much smoother it has become, or how much lower the nicotine content already is - some leaves are just much stronger than others.


(2) Washing. The "Toscano" book I've mentioned here before describes that leaves are soaked upon arrival at the factory's premises in tepid water for about half an hour. They used to sell nicotine-extract based pesticides as a side product.
I've tried that - it indeed lowers the nicotine impact and makes the leaf "milder", but also a bit more bland. If it undergoes a strong fermentation afterwards like the Toscano, that probably won't matter, since the tobacco's aroma gets altered a lot, but for the pipe I feel like I'm missing something here compared to the untreated leaf.


(3) Casing with sweetening substances, i.e. sugar or licorice. That's generally done with commercial Burley (and almost all commercial pipe tobaccos for that matter) to the tune of 5-20% of tobacco weight. I've tried all sorts: Maple syrup, licorice extract, anise oil, brown cane sugar, glucose, invert sugar, honey, grape juice, rum, Ouzo, sweet liquors like Cointreau. I like the results of this experimentation to a varying degree. It does solve the nicotine absorption problem by increasing the pH of the smoke. It also made me aware that store bought pipe tobacco lives to a large degree off the aroma of burning sugar. In the end of the day, I always prefer the unaltered leaf.


(4) Toasting: Seems to help somewhat, esp. when cased with a sweetener before. It alters the taste slightly or dramatically, dependent on temperature, length and moisture.


(5) One "natural way" of adjusting the alkalinity is blending / mixing with some sweeter (high sugar) leaf. For example 50% Burley + 50% Virginia ("Half & Half"), or 40% Burley + 40% Virginia + 20% Orientals.
Now I like the Burley aroma as it is (esp. the "room note" pure, unaltered Yellow Twist Bud produces). After a lot of mixing I have come to the conclusion that the addition of just 20% of a sweet Oriental (e.g. sun-cured Prilep or Samsoun) are enough to make the Burley mellow and avoid the "nic hit", while mostly maintaining the original Burley scent. 20% of flue-cured Virginia do the trick, too.


(6) If you have a pipe which can take 9mm active charcoal filters, try that. It removes a good amount of nicotine and very alkaline tobaccos become less aggressive (i.e. what people call "alkaline bite" quite disappears). I found strong Burley to be actually more tasty in a charcoal-filtered pipe.


(7) Leaf ripeness at harvest. In previous seasons I've grown mostly Orientals and Havanas, and learned that I much prefer a certain "cigarishness" over an "overripe" taste, so consequently tried to harvest at "maturity" rather than "ripe".
Now, with the Burley, which naturally produces few sugar, I see that leaves picked when mostly yellow air-cured to brighter colors (almost yellow or a light orange). These leaves burn with much less alkalinity, actually with a touch of sweetness, are very mellow and don't give a "nic hit".
Leaves harvested green (with just yellow tips) air-cured nicely to a beautiful red / tan colour. They have a fantastic aroma, too, but swing the big hammer. I do hope aging does good things to them, but will in future prime Burley at a riper state.
 

Planter

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#11
Anders, if you are still following this, here's another method which I just tried with success with some raw Yellow Twist Bud:


Bring some Burley leaves into case, remove the midribs, then stuff them into a mason jar, close it tightly, put it for 1 hour into the oven at just 80 degrees Celsius.
Then remove the jar from the oven, open it, take the leaves out and air them for a moment. (Mine had now a certain sugar-stickiness to the touch - probably some starches converted. Note that there was NO sugar added).
Now roll the leaves into a tight cigar / sausage and press them properly overnight (for example wrapped in baking paper between two pieces of wood squeezed by a c-clamp). The next morning you can cut the cigar sausage into small flakes / coins with a sharp knife. Let them dry out.

The resulting smokes is a touch sweeter and more tamed, with a delicious pipey Burley room note. There's no rawness or alkaline burn / bite anymore. It's among the methods I described before the one which least alters the general aroma, if you like a pure Burley.

(Note: The press stage seems to be important, and furthers the sensation of slight increase in sweetness.)
 

KiwiGrown

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#13
Case is the English term for how wet the tobacco is, When someone says into case they mean into low case most of the time so it's workable otherwise it just crumbles to dust.
 

burge

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#15
You could immerse leaf in water for a few minutes then hang to dry out. Water should look like tea after that. I would only do a half leaf like this as a test though, because it might get ruined. I've never done this though. It'll certainly leech it though.
That is the way to do it. If you chose to do this method you emerse the leaf in water for about 1 to 5 seconds pull the leaf out and let it dry. Virginia adds sweetness to the tobacco.
 

davek14

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#16
Anders, if you are still following this, here's another method which I just tried with success with some raw Yellow Twist Bud:


Bring some Burley leaves into case, remove the midribs, then stuff them into a mason jar, close it tightly, put it for 1 hour into the oven at just 80 degrees Celsius.
Then remove the jar from the oven, open it, take the leaves out and air them for a moment. (Mine had now a certain sugar-stickiness to the touch - probably some starches converted. Note that there was NO sugar added).
Now roll the leaves into a tight cigar / sausage and press them properly overnight (for example wrapped in baking paper between two pieces of wood squeezed by a c-clamp). The next morning you can cut the cigar sausage into small flakes / coins with a sharp knife. Let them dry out.

The resulting smokes is a touch sweeter and more tamed, with a delicious pipey Burley room note. There's no rawness or alkaline burn / bite anymore. It's among the methods I described before the one which least alters the general aroma, if you like a pure Burley.

(Note: The press stage seems to be important, and furthers the sensation of slight increase in sweetness.)
I am trying this right now. Casing and toasting works well, but it's hard not to get a burnt taste. (the Maillard Reaction?) I'm at my ladyfriends house for a while so I'm improvising. Took some shredded Burley, cased it lightly with honey, and it is in the garage right now under a couple cinderblocks.
 

davek14

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#17
I forgot to say that I also mildly heated the tobacco for about an hour after casing. I let a crock pot with water come up to heat on low and floated a bowl with the tobacco in it in the water for an hour uncovered. I use the crock pot so much because I do not trust the oven. It has a "pre-heated" light, but if you pre-heat to a temperature, turn it off and let it sit for 10 minutes, and then turn it on again, it will go to a much higher temperature before that light comes on again. So I feel the crock pot is a more consistent heat source which, due to water's boiling characteristics, will never reach over 212F. On low it does not boil so it is something lower than that.

Anyway, this worked quite well. The tobacco was not mellowed as much, but it was quite a bit less harsh and still kept it's taste. A small amount of Bright Leaf added should make it good. I'll try it with no casing down the road.

Who would have thought pressing tobacco might change the taste? ;)
 
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#18
I am trying this right now. Casing and toasting works well, but it's hard not to get a burnt taste. (the Maillard Reaction?) I'm at my ladyfriends house for a while so I'm improvising. Took some shredded Burley, cased it lightly with honey, and it is in the garage right now under a couple cinderblocks.
The maillard reaction doesn't happen much at 80C. It takes about 12 hours at boiling point, or 4 hours in a pressure cooker, to go dark brown. If toasting dry tobacco at much higher temperatures until it darkens, that's most likely caramelization and not maillard.
 

davek14

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#19
The maillard reaction doesn't happen much at 80C. It takes about 12 hours at boiling point, or 4 hours in a pressure cooker, to go dark brown. If toasting dry tobacco at much higher temperatures until it darkens, that's most likely caramelization and not maillard.
What does Maillard do? Is it desirable? Does it give that "burnt" or "toasted" taste? How about caramelization?

Sorry for all the questions.
 
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#20
What does Maillard do? Is it desirable? Does it give that "burnt" or "toasted" taste? How about caramelization?

Sorry for all the questions.
It's ok, and the food science involved here is above my pay grade, but this is my understanding. Maillard does give a desirable toasty taste, but it's hidden in all the other mysterious things that happen to tobacco when you make black Cavendish. Caramelization is more of a burnt taste. Toasting tobacco, ie. baking it until dry and longer probably does both, but mostly caramelization, but only to a small degree. The benefit from toasting is not because of this, primarily. The toasting of burley helps remove many proteins, and ammonia, and decreases the pH.
 
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