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Questions from a noob whole leaf piper!

ChinaVoodoo

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Two choices, the way I see it. Right now because it's moist and easy to slice, or just before every time you smoke it because it's a part of your pipe smoking ritual.

Edit. Or option 3. Vacuum seal it so it doesn't mold, let it age, then slice it up when you're ready. But I would think since it's your first, you won't want to wait.
 

Armstrong-Joshua

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I got a few thin slices but it didn't really bind together that well. I read that flake was originally made for sailors and they would use rum or sugar water to help bind it. Can anyone attest for sugar water? I just smoked some and it's like FINALLY! It is very reminiscent of the flake from the store. I didn't get too much of an apple flavour even though I used like 20 drops of oil but I'm thinking that's because 1) it was only on in the press for a day 2) I dissolved it in alcohol first. It tastes very nice though and is more like a crumble cake. I will be turning it into Ready Rubbed. It's a sunny day today so I'll be letting some dry in the sun. Feeling accomplished! I still have a lot of stuff to learn but my tobacco is finally palatable for pipe smoking! Thanks for everyone who helped me with advice!
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ChinaVoodoo

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I got a few thin slices but it didn't really bind together that well. I read that flake was originally made for sailors and they would use rum or sugar water to help bind it. Can anyone attest for sugar water? I just smoked some and it's like FINALLY! It is very reminiscent of the flake from the store. I didn't get too much of an apple flavour even though I used like 20 drops of oil but I'm thinking that's because 1) it was only on in the press for a day 2) I dissolved it in alcohol first. It tastes very nice though and is more like a crumble cake. I will be turning it into Ready Rubbed. It's a sunny day today so I'll be letting some dry in the sun. Feeling accomplished! I still have a lot of stuff to learn but my tobacco is finally palatable for pipe smoking! Thanks for everyone who helped me with advice!
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I often only press for an hour, then immediately vacuum seal them. Although there's no difference in the ingredients between vacuum sealed and not vacuum sealed, the former will stay solid, compared to the latter. I think it's two things. The vacuum sealed ones are under compression (14psi) for the entire time they are sealed, and that they do dry out a bit while under compression.
 

Armstrong-Joshua

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Thanks I'm thinking of buying a vacuum seal machine. I can now make the equivalent of 6 tins of tobacco in a single pressing! (or 300g's) So thrilled! Why only a day though wouldn't a week be better? The flakes that are done by the big companies a squeezed at 110000psi for a day or less and then left for a month at a much lower psi. Just keeping the lightest pressure on to hold their shape and flavour before being cut into flakes. I was going to try to copy that method-ish with a week in the press and then a month at just maintaining the pressure (lighter pressure).

I also added a 2nd apple casing to the press and it tastes great! One thing I'm thinking of doing though to make sure it holds and binds better is to add sugar water. Any experience with that? It virtually the same thing as rum.

Cheers!
 

Armstrong-Joshua

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Yup trial and error usually works the best. You really only press for a single day? Would love to hear details why. My guess is convinience and maybe not that big a difference??

I’ve also thought of another aromatic to create. Diplomatico Rum with butter flavour from lorann oils. Doing this is actually quite fun. Now that the press is made the difficult part is over! Next I’ll be thinking of a speciality X-mas blend. First I’ll stick with my aromatics and see how it goes. Waiting on some honey flavour for my citrus Virginia idea…
 

ChinaVoodoo

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You really only press for a single day
I use a 4 ton jack. I press for an hour because it mostly stays together if I cut it by hand.
For example, I did this last week: this was pressed for half an hour.
20220713_023552~3.jpg

The Teck 1 roughs up the slices more, and the main problem is I'm missing blades, so if I cared, (I'm going to rub it out before smoking it, anyway), I is press it longer.

I press it for maybe 15 minutes if I'm going to vacuum seal it unsliced. It stays together as though it was still in the press. All my plugs made that way are totally solid. I've pressed for a day or two before. It does stay together almost as well as vacuum sealing, but I found it unnecessary if I vacuum seal it. Vacuum sealing it allows me to make multiple bricks in the same evening because it frees up the mold.

I press it for a couple hours when I make press cake out of flake and it stays together crazy tight because it was already pressed, and because my mold for press cake is really small and the pressure is therefore significantly higher than it is for plug.
 

deluxestogie

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Armstrong-Joshua

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Your press set up looks very professional. Also 4 tons of pressure is a lot so maybe has different results than my 100psi. How much psi is 4 tons to your set up? Teck 1 press cutter looks very desirable for me. I actually get sore hands and wrists from using my Ulu Alaskan cutter too often. I even had ideas about a paper cutter from office suppliers might work but then I thought better of it.

Makes sense if you're using a vacuum seal that you don't need to have it in the press for that long.

I still don't fully understand everything as I am still learning. Pressed cake sounds like a good project for me to test. All I do is press my already pressed leaves to make press-cake?

I'm already pleased with my 1st press results. One thing I noticed is that the flavouring with LorAnn oils you can add a lot and it's still not that noticeable. So I'll be adding more next time. Or even doing multiple casings.

Worked out that math and per tin it maybe costs $5-$10 to make. Right now my favourite tin at the cigar shop (Capstan Navy Flake) costs $96+tax. It was these high prices that inspired me to make my own. They say it's the tax but I can get it online for cheaper.
 

ChinaVoodoo

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I don't think you can directly equate the rating on a jack to the actual applied pressure. I remember using a hydraulic press for apples with a gauge on it and you never got to the rating on the piston. I don't recall thinking about the numbers, I just know it constantly was changing.
In theory, my setup is 470psi, though. I doubt it's half that. Although, once I used a jack at work and wedged it into an I beam and the flange of the beam was bending.

In theory, vacuum sealing is only 14psi, and that's sufficient. Doesn't make sense.

I remember reading about gelatinization of starches, and pressure, temperature, time, and water were the factors. Gelatinization is where the starches change shape and incorporate water molecules into their structure. That might be why plugs either stick or don't stick. It may be that once you get past a certain threshold of pressure and water content that all you need is time. Just an idea.
 

deluxestogie

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Everyone who has grown tobacco knows that tobacco is inherently sticky. [The adhesion effects from random casings is an unknown variable.] Low-case tobacco leaf, when compressed, exerts an opposite force—a coil spring effect—that wants to separate the compressed leaf.

Possible plug adhesion factors:
  • increasing case reduces the "spring" effect that wants to make the plug fall apart
  • increased time of compression likely does permit a gel-like persistence to the adhering leaf surfaces
  • increased force of compression certainly expresses more sticky molecules from within the leaf lamina
  • once compressed to a certain extent, only minimal continued force could prevent the "spring" effect from separating the leaf
So my (purely conjectural) impression is that a minimum psi of about 35 (for any length of time) will disrupt laminar cell walls, releasing the goodies for ubiquitous yeast to bring about that "fruity" aroma of pressed tobacco. Beyond that step, the pressure and duration seem to solely address the adhesion issue. Squeeze it good (x time and x pressure), and then the vacuum seal keeps it that way. The yeast don't need a lot of oxygen.

Industrial methods of pressing tobacco plugs is about economic efficiency, and should not be a guide for home-pressing tobacco.

[Special note about pressing apples: Since the functional contact surface of a barrel of apples changes as individual apples crush to varying degrees, directly measuring the applied psi is problematic.]

Bob
 

Armstrong-Joshua

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Yeah I think I can get a decent set up with my press system. What your doing with the vacuum seal though is basically what the big companies are doing. After they press it at tons of pressure they just press it lightly to keep its shape and marry the flavours for a month. Doing the vacuum seal I imagine has the same result as it’s keeping light pressure on it.

I’ll be testing my sugar water idea to see if that helps. I’ll also be testing a longer period (1 week) in the press. I’m sure I’ll eventually figure out what works well and what doesn’t but it’s going to take some experimenting!

I’ll be back when more questions arise and maybe to post some of my results! Until then thank you for all the wisdom! I definitely came to the right place!

Happy Piping!
 

Armstrong-Joshua

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Batch #2 from Rookie!

3.5days/100psi press/50gBright30gLemon20Red Virginia Flavouring: 1mlOrange/1mlLemon/1mlLemongrass/2mlHoney in a solution of distilled sugar water 50/50 approximately 55ml

This one I am excited about. Being in the press longer than a day it looks darker also it feels more dense. I am hoping the sugar water will help bind it. It smells fantastic. I can smell everything I flavoured it with. Will be smoking soon!
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Armstrong-Joshua

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I smoked some and wow! The lemongrass is the most dominate flavour even though I used just 1ml. The sugar water did NOT help that much in binding for 3.5days in the press. Definitely better than without but I think it would need to be in the press longer for me to find out.

I think I preferred my Apple/Vanilla over this one but I am going by trial and error. Next time I'll use less lemongrass. It's still very tasty. I actually don't have anything to compare it to as it seems like a new original flavour all together. I wanted it to taste like Capstan Navy Cut but I'm afraid the lemongrass is too strong and not subtle enough. More science experiments needed! Still though I am not displeased. Sun drying for 5-10 minutes mellows it.
 
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