Whole Leaf Tobacco

A Kiln, Tobacco, the Process, and Why

AmaxB

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Thought I'd shear to help out my fellow smokers (there are many methods - this one works for me).

Why Kiln Tobacco? - Simply put, ya get a nice smoke....

Fermentation & Aging of Tobacco

Big Tobacco had a fine product until it was decided to increase addiction power among other things and the government feeling the need to turn smokers into cash cows. Why try to duplicate that brand cigarette a very hard thing to do considering. As for me my interest is simply a good to great smoke.

I had a realization while looking for information in regard to process & method for the function, need, and benefits of Forced Aging Tobacco ( Kilning). The general accepted means for those of us at home is to use a crock pot and a discarded refrigerator. I think the idea is a by-product of methods used to ferment Cigar Tobaccos.

Do you need to age / ferment tobacco to smoke it - No you do not - but better tobacco is.

Big tobacco has employed Tersa Bales in polyethylene and or cardboard packaging, storing the tobacco in climate controlled facilities. This brings wonder to my mind why, WHY the polyethylene? I've concluded it is to combat the loss of moisture within the tobacco in a heated or cold storage environment to promote or extend aging. (Seems to Justify my plastic tub.)
Some of the PDF documents I have found may lend support to this conclusion although it is not stated in them.

As far as a Kiln goes I have tried most everything that can be found on line in the way of method. I know Mr. Jitterbug uses a process very much the same as what I am doing. We just had the same idea but did not copy each other.
I think a person would be hard pressed to find a way that is easier while keeping control of what is going on. I wanted to force age my tobacco and get the best finish I could, but holding humidity in the air was a problem and keeping a tight percentage of humidity was a bigger problem. Then came trying to keep the moister of the tobacco uniform across the leaves - next to impossible. Unless your hanging them and you would still have some trouble.


What is needed to have a Kiln that works.

As far as the Kiln goes any box with lid or door that is well insulated and won't pollute the air inside with unwanted or even toxic gases will work just fine.

Heat source can be anything that is safe, does not get extremely hot but will get up to about 200F, and can be controlled. I use a small griddle (it has legs). It is set on a piece of cement board so I don't need to worry about the floor getting to hot. The griddle has built in heat control but it can be not so good for controlling heat in the kiln, so I just run it set on high. My griddle is plugged into an outlet I mounted on the inside wall of the kiln and controlled by the power to the outlet being turned on and off.

Heat control can be any thing that will operate as a thermostat that has the ability to switch power on and off and has a plus minus of not more than say 4F of a set temperature. You want good control but it need not be supper great.
I also use a few fans to circulate the air this helps keep the interior temperature uniform so I don't have any real hot spots.
(I use a PID = well really I use two, one el-chepo just to see what my temperature is at the ceiling and the other a better one to control power to my griddle)

To solve the moisture problem I use a plastic tub like the one below in the photo. To fill it I layer the tobacco and mist it with spring water between the layers.

If you are thinking of Kiln for your leaf tobacco, think of what the greatest amount of tobacco might be that you will ever kiln and make or get a kiln big enough for that amount.
.
Plastic tub with lid.JPG



.
I have found these tubs at Walley Mart and Lowe's they do come in different sizes, note the lid has a gasket. If and when you use plastic be sure it will not leach chemicals to the tobacco.

If you do this be sure not to get your tobacco to wet or it will surely mold, if to dry it will not ferment as wanted.


A few links that can help in understanding - those with stars at the start I think to be better. But they are all interesting and may be helpful, if you like one you may want to download and save it starting a collection of reference material.

***** A 45 page document Natural and Forced Aging of tobacco - starting on page 12 forced sweat / aging note the temperature range from about 90F to 120F & R.H. of 75% - Darkis & Hackney (I like 117F to 121F for bright leaf). Also not page 16 near the bottom " higher temperature seemed to have reveres effect.
(I love this document because more than one forced method is discussed with the differences between them. Also note the addition of Yeast to the process. - page 32
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/ubb93f00/pdf?search="aging tobacco process"

Summery of change - VA Bright Flue Cured
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/jnc20j00/pdf

Data over 3 year period a Kiln can possibly get this done in one to two months
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/vuu54f00/pdf

An interesting comparison Forced Aging ver Natural Aging of Flue Cured Tobacco
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/uvu54f00/pdf

This PDF had me scratching my head - my little kiln says different
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/mhd12i00/pdf

I found this letter of 1963 to be interesting, especially the reference to the 1930 process
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/mvh65a99/pdf
Interesting notes on Oils & Taste
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/pak40d00/pdf

Information - container type after or during Forced Aging
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/iwa63d00/pdf

Forced aging Temperature & R.H. levels - test using polyethylene and cardboard
(my tobacco would certainly mold if I were to use cardboard) the writer points out the process is supposed to be the equivalent of two years natural aging.
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/tbz76a00/pdf

This PDF deals really with the promotion of a belt manufacture's belts, but does give some insight to processes carried out in a modern tobacco plant.
http://www.createbelt.com/uploads/soft/120621/1-1206211A126.pdf

Flue cured tobacco sugar loss and aging
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/ayv80a00/pdf?search="aging tobacco process"

This document touches on changes incurred when tobacco is aged
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/med90a00/pdf?search="aging tobacco process"

An interesting document "The Maverick Formula"
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/med90a00/pdf?search="aging tobacco process"

***I am trying to relate the information found in this B&W Tobacco Aging document to change I have noticed when aging in my kiln - The 4 weeks = 2 Years theory
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/wkv31f00/pdf?search="aging tobacco process"

*** This document was interesting because B&W states the optimum temperature to be 120F with 85% R.H.
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/lea00f00/pdf?search="aging tobacco process"

*** A simple break down of what happens during fermentation - I too see the release of Carbon Dioxide & Ammonia through 4 plus weeks in my Kiln.
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/omm31f00/pdf?search="aging tobacco process"

There are many more such documents but finding really good information can prove difficult.

Allowing the tobacco to Cold Sweat or Rest after you have removed it from the kiln will / can extend improved qualities.

I am stead fast sold on the use of a kiln for leaf tobacco, it need not be complicated or fancy it has but one job to do, hold heat at a given temperature over a period of time.

If you follow my lead there is no need for venting or the introduction of humidity to the air within the kiln. Also if using sealed container/s you can age more than one kind of tobacco at a time without mingling taste and aroma. Plus the ability to age a batch with different levels of moisture in different containers.

Remember it takes weeks to complete the process so I would recommend buying 5 to 10 pounds of tobacco at a time or growing a crop. With object of aging more than what is needed creating a reserve for the future.

Most studies for artificial aging in the above documents were carried out over a time period of 3 to 5 weeks.

For more documents visit this link - note document type an number of pages (helps the search) also you can play with search terms in the search box.
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/search/expert?q=aging+tobacco+process&ps=20&df=er&fd=1&rs=false&ath=true&drf=ndd&asf=ddi&p=3&ef=false&hd=false
 

DGBAMA

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Well done Amax. Thank you. I also struggled with maintaining moisture is the kiln and settled on containers within the kiln. Worked out great.
 

Rickey60

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Thanks Amax, you had me do my crop last year in the plastic tubs and everything turned out great and was so easy. Thanks again for all your help.
 

springheal

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A valuable post indeed. Much research/time has gone into this obviously.
You're a great member to have around and thank you.
 

Jack in NB

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The best discussion of the process I've seen. For those of us who have gone through the learning process, it tells us we've been getting close to the right track. And also for all the newbies out there - a goldmine of info at their fingertips!

Thanks, Amax!
 

AmaxB

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Thank You Guys, the intent is to help and reduce the struggle for those interest in aging tobacco to obtain that good smoke.
A few tips:
*You can get away with opening the lid of a container every few days as opposed to every day.
*Tobacco leaves at the bottom of the container will become more dry over time than those at the top. Dumping and rotating leaves once a week helps with uniform aging and release of gases.
*I have gone as long and longer than 8 weeks, after 5 to 6 weeks I find little change withe exception to color. (Bright Leaf)
*I find temperatures above 128F not to help bright leaf tobaccos much.
*I find burley tobaccos to age better with temperatures of 122F to 138F in later weeks. I also find Air Cured to have a tendency to mold in temperatures below 123F where as Bright Leaf does not.
*Placing paper towel, cardboard, or like material within the container will promote the growth of mold.

****
You will learn the feel of the tobacco over a few batches and know what is good, while learning watch must be kept for mold and it will start at the walls of the container. If found soon enough the tobacco can be removed carefully and the affected leaves clipped or removed. The container should be washed with water and a little bleach rinsed well, the tobacco can be replaced in the container after being allowed to dry a little, and aging continue.

*With bright leaf I find early third week tobacco becomes acceptable with some color change but really needs to complete the fourth week to be good.

My last batch of bright leaf was started at 119F (first & second weeks) 123F (third, fourth, and fifth weeks) the result was good. The batch before was started at 117F first week, 119F second week, and 121 third, fourth weeks the result was better than my last batch.
Air Cured will age well starting at lower temperatures building to higher, but if temperature is below 124 - 126F molding must be watched for if leaves are fairly damp. It seems if temperature is 126F and up with leaves not to wet there is not much of a problem with mold. (I am still playing with the amount of moisture and feel low moisture with the lower temperatures may be OK, but must test to know)

I continue to test and learn, and soon will do last years crop. I have an interest in aging strip tobacco (no stem) it seems from what I have read that it can make a difference to the good.
I am also interested in aging with flavor/casings - but as yet have not done this.

I'll continue to post my findings as I try things worth mention.
 

leverhead

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When you say "air cured", are you talking about dark air-cured? I don't mean to be picking nits, but I guess I am. For me, mold always starts at the stem.
 

Knucklehead

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I read it to mean air cured everything as opposed to flue or sun cured. Good question though as I don't know for sure. That's all we need in this haven is a damn nit picker. ;)
 

AmaxB

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Knuckles has got it right, if not flue cured then burley types air cured in the barn. I can't comment on others because I have not done any of them yet. I would watch anything closely that has not been subjected to high temperature like flue cured tobacco leaf.

What I have stated in prior post this thread should be used as a rule of thumb. There are so many variables that nothing can be concrete, no exact rules, just close, it is all fluid. As you become familiar with smell, feel, color you'll know what is good.

This is learning hands on, the reading is to get back ground to help understand what you are trying to do and avoid ruining tobacco while your skill is developed. Believe me I have had some pounds go to the trash can while trying to learn what and what not to do.
The best advice I can give - it is better to have to little moisture than to much you can always add some and avoid lots of mold. If molding is found you need to reduce moisture or increase temperature. But keep in mind both play a big part in the finished result. Also be sure you container will not taint your tobacco, the first plastic tubs I used did just that. Test your tub with clean damp towels placed inside and heat in the kiln for a day, then smell them.
I will be starting a new batch tomorrow and try to make a short video of how I load and spray the tobacco with spring water.
 

LeftyRighty

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I'm not an expert by any means, and I've only got about 6 years curing experience. I did learn something the first couple of years, which is counter to what most seem to be doing to their tobacco. Do not mist or spray your leaf.
Spray or misting leaf creates a wet spot, and in a warm moist environment, you will get mold on that spot. A lot of growers get lucky, in that the air is probably dry enough that the wet spots dries and/or the moisture dissipates to the remaining leaf.

The only safe way to bring leaf into case, and not get mold, is to place the leaf in an adequate or high humidity space. Tobacco is very hydroscopic, will freely absorb moisture from the air. Proper air flow, RH and temp control will keep or get tobacco moist, whether for storage or kilning. It's an art, not science. All the data & research is great, as a guide. But all need to learn what works for them, based what they're working with, environment and tools.

I haven't checked all the above references, but my prior readings indicate that none of the commercial growers directly wet or spray their leaf. they add moisture to the environment.
 

deluxestogie

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The key to misting, without encouraging mold, is to do so gradually. By misting slightly, every two or three days, and allowing the moisture to equalize within the leaf, I have not experienced mold problems.

An example:
An entire, tied hand of Jalapa leaf has been squeezed into a 1 gallon Ziplock bag for kilning. (I kiln with the bag open, and subjected to moisture from the Crockpot.) At the end of a month, regardless of how moist the hand feels on removing it from the kiln, the now sealed bag contains a crispy dry, squeezed hand of Jalapa.

I open the bag, lightly mist the surface of the leaf, then inflate the bag before sealing. Within about two days, the moisture has "vanished," and I lightly mist it again. I may need to repeat this for a week or two, in order for the entire hand to become supple. I do not have mold, using this method. Once the squeezed Jalapa hand has become supple, I can fully remove it from the Ziplock, untie it, and place the now straightened leaf into a long poly-Nylon bag, for long-term storage or immediate use.

Bob
 

AmaxB

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Thank You LeftyRighty I started this thread to give background to help others through the learning curve. It is a hands on guide not a set of instructions, lets say Art with boundaries anything within the boundaries can work.
All on topic input is of value, in sharing our experiences we can all learn.

Have you tried sealed containers? I have found after about 24 to 48 hours of being placed in the kiln moisture spreads through the leaf and becomes pretty uniform through all leaves there are no noticeable wet spots.

"my prior readings indicate that none of the commercial growers directly wet or spray their leaf. they add moisture to the environment" I agree, I think they bring moisture to the leaf with steam but don't know for sure.
How is it you age your tobacco with kiln?
 

LeftyRighty

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AmaxB..... The last few years, I've air-cured my leaf, then overwinter still hanging in my shed. In late-spring, early-summer, I'll bring the leaf back into case by hosing down the floor of the shed, and drapping wet canvas or rags whereever in the shed. It takes a week or two to get to high enough case that I can de-rib and bale the tobacco. This is usually augmented by a few rainy days. Bales are sized to fit comfortably into the upright-freezer kiln. Bales are fermented at 120-125 degrees and 70-75 RH, for 4+ weeks, then bagged/sealed in Don's bags.

Now, I'm just starting to smoke from my 2011 & 2012 crops. And since I'm getting a few years ahead in storage, I'm considering just 1 or 2 weeks in the kiln, bagging, to let age in storage. The reason for the short kilning period is bugs and moisture. After spending the winter in the shed, there's no telling how many spiders, roaches, etc have laid eggs in my tobacco - the heat will destroy these. And the moisture can be controlled, stabilized such that it's perfect for long term storage.

My annual crop is 120-150 plants. Also, my leaf is cured rather densely - 40-45 leaves per yard, in strings 8 inches apart. I have a fan blowing 24/7 in the shed, until fully cured and crispy-crunchy dry in late fall. I've never had a problem with mold, but I constantly worry, inspect and keep a bottle of Serenade bacillus subtillis handy. Maybe I'm just lucky....But this is what works for me now.

(Edit) It might be worth noting that my annual crop is 20 to 25+ lbs. All basically cured, kilned and stored at the same time. And I shred about 5+ lbs at a time for smoking. Doing just a few lbs at a time, in plastic buckets, just isn't my thing.
 
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