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Sweating Tobacco

Ok so I went out today and bought some backwoods cigars for poker tonight and I was reading the back and it says they sweat there wrapper tobacco multiple times. What is this process of sweating and when do you do it and what does it do to the tobacco? thanks

Here's some good stuff that Bob wrote

Sweating tobacco can be done in several ways. A heat source is required unless you sweat it in a large pile like a compost (which I won't describe as that takes a minimum 4 foot high pile of leaves). The target temperature and relative humidity is 120F/65% rh, but less heat will still sweat, only slower.

To sweat a few pounds of tobacco, use a large plastic bag. Moisturize the leaf until it is just pliable, on the edge of crispy. It is important to watch the moisture in the leaf carefully as mold will love to grow in too wet leaf. Layer the leaves in the bag, close it up tight and apply the heat source.

Heat sources can be a heater floor vent in your house, the sun, a heating pad or anything that will keep the leaf from 110F to 120F. Do not exceed 130F or you will destroy the enzymes needed.

Every few days, completely remove the leaf from the bag and rearrange them. After a few days, you should notice an ammonia or urea-like odor coming out. That is the nitrogen compounds being released. Watch for wet spots. If water is condensing inside or the leaves are limp and wilted looking, leave the leaves out for a few hours until they dry a little. If the leaves are getting crispy, mist them again.

Under the proper sweating conditions, the aroma of the leaves should change after about two weeks and mingled with the diminishing ammonia odor will be the tobacco aroma of the leaf. Sweating usually takes about a month or 6 weeks. You will see references to the "June Sweats", as a month seems to be about the time it takes.

If you don't smell "ammonia" in freshly dried leaves after several days of sweating, it is possible that you have bought flue-cured tobacco. This has been brought to 160F for a couple of days and has destroyed the enzymes needed for sweating/fermentation. It's as good as it's going to get.

Hope that helps!

cool thanks, Now I am guessing that is after color curing it? should you dry it then remoisen before sweating?

Hmm I didn't know that after flue curing Tobacco stops the aging process. Sounds like that really is the fast food way commercial companies do it.

Once the color is right then its time to ferment or sweat. My color cured leafs normally aren't completely dry and crispy. If they are you mist them a bit. I even mist leafs during color curing at times.
 I use large deep cardboard box's or crates with a tarp in them. Then I put the box's in a garage attic or crates in greenhouse and add filtered water when needed.

cool thanks. Now to build something to color cure off to Lowes.

Hi --

 My observations are colored by where I live in N. Central Texas. The humidity here can be very low, 20-30% days, and unlike some places (notably the Eastern Seaboard where most tobacco is grown), it is nearly impossible to keep tobacco "in order" or "in case" in ambient conditions. When I'm drying the leaf, especially in the heat and arid time now, it goes completely crispy dry unless it is in plastic. We aren't even reaching the dewpoint at night here now.

The main objective in color curing is to get the leaf to lose the green. Then the main objective of drying is to get the leaf and mid rib to lose the water. Then the main objective becomes fermenting which requires a certain amount of moisture to work.

Incidently, flue-curing doesn't halt the aging process dead, but it removes so many enzymes that the fermentation becomes very slow. Interviews with Virginia flue-cured tobacco farmers tell me that the tobacco is still considered "raw" right after flue-curing and does mellow with aging over time. I'm told that flue-cured tobacco is satisfactorily aged after about a year, but two years is better.

Commercial cigarette companies take a different path. They can use raw flue-cured tobacco immediately because in their processing they heat up the tobacco very hot which drives out more harsh chemicals, then they add so many sweeteners, flavorings and gunk that you can't really taste the tobacco anyhow. You can do this yourself, although I can't imagine why you'd want to produce an inferior product after the blood, sweat and tears of producing a fine tobacco crop.

One "famous" author actually tells people to simmer their tobacco in a witch's brew of stuff before smoking and doesn't even bother explaining the fermentation step essential to making a good tobacco product.

I suspect what he's doing is promoting sales by trying to make it seem as easy as pie, any idiot can do it, go on, buy my seeds, you'll like it, the plants wll actually grow cigarettes already stuffed into tubes and with their own packs filled with a 20 count of perfect cigs overnight! And they will wash your truck too! In other words, a stupid marketing gimmick.

Anyhow, fermentation isn't hard, it's the waiting that kills me. I've had some NC2 burley fermenting now for 7 days, tried some yesterday and it's still grassy so I put it back in the truck in the sun covered so the sun's rays don't hit it directly where it's hot, about 110F days. Had to mist it a little because it was drying out. I just filled a 1 gallon quart ziplock bag with more NC2 leaves and that's really gonna kill me to wait for! Ah well, nothing comes without paying the price, at least it's just waiting and not daily labor.


I'm not planning to even try any of my 2010 crop until Mid October. The wait is killing me as well... I have not even harvested any Turkish which is all I really want this year to make new blends...

 Kinda wish I would of grown some NC2 as well... The only new strain I have is Havana Hilton (cigar tobacco)

can you sweat tobacco that has been aged for a year or so?

Hi --

 Sweating is fermenting. Aging is fermenting, but a lot slower. After a year in proper aging conditions, I THINK you are pretty close to 95% or more fermented, there SHOULD just be a scant amount of nitrogen compounds in the leaf that could ne removed.

THAT SAID! Let's say it was kept very dry like in a house with a/c running in summer and heater in winter. Without any moisture in the leaf, no fermentation can occur.

My advice is to try it! Can't hurt! Just watch out that it isn't so wet that it molds.


yea its been in a humidor most of this time but I through it in a box with a heater @ 115. I'll let it sit for a week and see how it goes. Thanks for the quick response.

Sounds interesting and I'd like to try it.
But can I try the fermenting process with just-picked (ripened) leaves?

In New England, I'm in a bit of a race against Mother Nature. In the past, I've been able to get most of the leaves ripened just before the first hard frost. But the hanging leaves don't brown up - or get crispy - until November or December. By then, getting temps of 115˚within a plastic bag are a distant memory.

Hi --

 smoker, leaves must be color-cured and completely dried before fermenting. You aren't alone, lots of locations have short enough seasons that the grower is racing the first average freeze to get the crop in out of the field and has no chance of warm weather to cure small amounts after harvest.

In this case it is necessary to use an external heat source for sweating small amounts, a large pile fermenting method where the internal heat of the pile is used or to hold the leaf dry until the following summer before fermenting.

A 2-1/2 gallon ziplock bag will hold over a pound of leaf tightly packed. If you put that on top of a house water heater, that heat will sweat it pretty well (beware that it doesn't melt! might need to wrap it in towels, don't put next to gas fired water heater flue!). I suppose if you use steam heat in your home, you could find a place to warm the bags too. With 4-5 lbs constantly sweating, you should be able to end up supplying yourself with smoke through the winter and build up a stash of leaf aging more unless you smoke more than 4-5 lbs in 6 weeks, lol!


I have the same predicament being in upstate NY. I think I have a solution. I had a box that was made of plywood and lined it with 1.5 inch styro house insulation and put the smallest electric space heater I could find in it. I had a small digital thermometer that I put in there just to monitor the temp for the first day. I works great keeps the box between 120 to 105. I have about 3 lbs in there now. I saw on this site a while back someone made a color cure box/room out of the styro insulation that I am talking about so it would be possible to make a much larger container than my little 2'X2' box.

Hi --

 Smoker,  just reread your post and I may have missed your point.

Are you saying that you can't get them to even dry out? That the mid ribs don't lose their moisture? In that case, you will need to heat an area and lower the humidity in there until they dry out completely before starting a fermentation stage.


Thanks, Bob! Both your replies are very helpful.

I'll be sure to color-cure the leaves first.

My "brilliant" drying method entails me threading butcher's string through the base of the rib of each leaf and then hanging them up like a clothes line in the shed. Some brown up faster than others, but by January all the yellow is gone. However, the ribs are still pretty succulent even then.
Happily, the good hard freezing temps of winter really dry out the air and finish off any moisture in the ribs by February.
With temps in the mid-20s in February we'll most likely have the furnace going (steam radiators), so carefully-positioned bags of leaves should do well.
4-5 pounds of leaves ought to suffice - at least for a few weeks (ha!).

Thanks again for the advice....

Hi --

 You might be able to speed that up by at least a month if, when the leaf is dry and all you have left are the wet ribs, you put a space heater in the area on a thermostat. Just enough to reduce the humidity there, see if you can get it down under 50%, close up the area if you can or move them to an area you can enclose. You can take a week maybe to dry out the leaves without any problems, I couldn't move much faster or you would need very high temps.

Not sure if that helped. Do smaller amounts, enough to tide you over until the rest dries and ferments, shouldn't cost that much to do several pounds or 5 lbs.


Thanks Bob....
Good idea. It shouldn't be any trouble to take down a line of leaves from the shed and position them near the furnace to speed things up.
Thanks again....

Not sure

You guys know a heck of a lot more about tobacco than I will ever know but I have to  take issue with you All about sweating tobacco.
Last year I sweated 1/2 of my tobacco and it was the best thing I have ever done. The other half I hung. Both worked well for me but the sweating really worked better with less labor...except with the constant turning.
I think  you are all dismissing the area of the country you are in and the humidity factor or lack of in your area.
What works for me here in High Humidity in NC will not work the same as someone in an arid area somewhere else.
What I am trying to say is that everyone has different issues to deal with and even in different  areas the climates changes from time to time.  We probably agree that this has been a weird year. What worked last year is gone.
We have to adapt constantly and it is not easy to do or figure it out.  I really feel for those of you in Texas and surrouding states.

I'm a little late to the party but I use an old 18 qt electric roaster set on warm. I put a thermometer in it and the temp stays between 115 and 125. I also put a small dish of water in. Every day I rotate the leaves; inner leaves to outer.

You can get 2-3 lbs in the roaster and I like the smell of it. My guess is an old large crock pot would work as well for smaller amounts. Forum Index -> Curing Tobacco
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