The Anaerobe Experiment – two months.

In early September I put a few leaves into an anaerobic jar. They were dried to yellow and starting to brown. The jar excludes all oxygen and has a sachet that makes sure it’s oxygen-free. As a side effect, the sachet produces some moisture and the sealed jar means the leaves won’t dry out completely. They were slightly over-dry when they went in because I knew there’d be water vapour produced so didn’t want them too wet.

The ‘fermentation’ procedure normally applied to tobacco leaves is actually more like composting. It’s an aerobic process, the leaves are routinely turned and opened to let more air in. This little experiment was to see what happened if they were completely anaerobic.

It seemed important to avoid letting the leaves touch the sides of the jar. They could stick and ruin my jar (and these things aren’t cheap). Also, moisture trapped between the leaf and the jar side could encourage bacterial decomposition and a load of rotted leaf. I needed to keep them away from the sides, in a loose bundle in the middle. So off I went to my favourite equipment supplier, Poundland, for a solution. They had one.

meshThis is a fibreglass mesh intended for cooking purposes. It’s easy to cut and shape into a cage –

cageThis is upside down, the open end will be at the top. I stitched the sides and base together simply with thread. Next I needed to hold it off the base of the jar – that was simple, a cross made of modeller’s plastic card did the trick.

assemblyWith a bit of trimming, I managed to get the cage to stay upright on the support. Then I rolled up a loose bundle of leaves and stufed them into the cage, added the Anaerogen anaerobic sachet and closed the lid. Unfortunately I don’t seem to have taken a photo at that point.

Two months later and the leaves are a golden brown colour. I’m not sure how well this comes over on screen but they are the colour I associate with cigars.

1monthThe ‘paper’ in the back is the Anaerogen sachet. Encouraging signs are the absence of any liquid in the bottom which would have meant the leaves were rotting away, and of course no mould growth. Moulds need oxygen so this method guarantees no mould, as long as the jar doesn’t leak. The leaves look intact, no sign of decay. I’m going to leave it in there a while longer, possibly until Christmas when I might be able to make my own Christmas cigar!

This sort of thing won’t be available cheaply but if it works, I’m sure a cheap alternative can be devised. If the leaves can be successfully cured with no oxygen around, there’ll be no mould problem at all.

Next experiment is the enzyme treatment. Blocked Dwarf and Junican have already started. I could cheat here too as I have access to incubators with +/- 1 C accuracy but again, it would only derive a method hardly anyone can use. So I’m going to try it on top of the hot water tank with a max/min thermometer to tell me the temperature range I’m getting.

For this one, I’ll have six sets of leaves all in plastic bags (as much air as possible excluded). I have yet to decide on the leaf weight to liquid ratio, I’ll play around with that until it looks about right. There must be enough water to let the enzymes access all parts of the leaf but not so much that I end up with soggy leaves.

The six sets will be –

1. No treatment, just water, 24 hours.

2. No treatment, just water, 48 hours.

3. Treated with 1 tablet per 100 ml water, left 24 hours

4. Treated with 2 tablets per 100 ml water, left 24 hours

5. Treated with 1 tablet per 100 ml water, left 48 hours

6. Treated with 2 tablets per 100 ml water, left 48 hours

The ‘no treatment’ ones are there to find out if the enzymes do anything at all when compared to just warming wet leaves for a day or two. The double-concentration ones are there to find out whether it’s worth boosting the concentrations or not.

I’ve separated the 24 and 48 hour ones into different bags so I don’t disturb the 48 hour ones when I take the 24 hour leaves out.

This time I’ll try to remember to take photos…

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6 thoughts on “The Anaerobe Experiment – two months.

  1. You really are making hard work out of this big stylee – Just stretch a few strings across a shed and tie hands of about a dozen leaves and leave out to totally dry (like a washing line), then put in a cardboard box to mature for proper taste – It is not rocket/global warming science 😀

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    • I’m a scientist. I can’t help myself. Meddling with things I don’t fully understand, unleashing mighty forces I can’t control and tampering with the very fabric of life itself… it’s what I do.

      Besides, in my climate, leaving them to hang-dry puts them at serious risk of mould. I’m always looking for some method to keep the mould out.

      I have some leaves from two years ago in little jars with a dash of brandy added. Some wioth cherry brandy and some with whisky. I keep looking at them and thinking ‘Not yet… not yet…’

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      • I saw a video on utube taken by someone in a warmer clime than ours. He had a lot of leaves strung up in his garage. When I say ‘a lot’, I mean it. The garage was full of leaves hanging from the joists. Some were more advanced than others.
        But even in that climate, he had a fan running constantly to avoid the possibility of mould.
        I am not knocking the idea of stringing leaves out, but an awful lot depends upon climate. I personally prefer the greater certainty of avoiding mould, or premature drying by artificial means.
        Having said that, LI has lost me somewhat. I’m not sure what the end product is expected to be. But, like him, I see experiments as wholly good. How else are we to know?

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        • The end product might be a disaster, which is why I only used a small amount and only one jar.

          I was just interested to know whether a fully-anaerobic fermentation would be different – better or worse – than the general method.

          Cigars are for two main occasions for me. Christmas and National No Smoking day. If I can make two cigars a year for free, they will taste so much sweeter. looking at that tobnacco it does seem to be turning cigar-ready. We shall see.

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      • These pieces are really interesting.

        Despite giving it up in 1979 (needed more money), I still have an engineering degree, read serious maths text books for fun & see myself as a lapsed engineer. It’s a bit like being a lapsed Catholic, but without the guilt.

        Engineers (proper ones, not programmers), are scientists with dirt under their finger nails. I’m sure I’m not alone in being exasperated with the dumbed down twaddle that passes for ‘science’ (AKA ‘magic’) on the BBC & other MSM by presenters & journalists who wouldn’t recognise a differential equation if it bit them in the arse.

        Perhaps you could compile a book called something like, “The Science of Smoking”. I’ve no doubt schools would adopt it as a standard text in a heartbeat.

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