Three Years of Vacuum Sealing - An Experiment Concluded
Contributed by Toren Smith, 25 July, 2001
I wanted to post the results of the recently concluded experiment in using the Tilia Vacuum sealing dingus for storing tobacco. For those of you who want to skip the details, Greg Pease was right--store your tobacco in an unevacuated glass jar.
1. Fully evacuated plastic pouches. Up until about two years, these work fine at sealing the tobacco. However, minimal aging takes place, probably due to the lack of oxygen. The pressure compacts the mass into a fairly firm block, nothing like a real pressed flake, but pretty solid as the pressure continues over a period of years. This seems to encourage the formation of sugar crystals on tobaccos prone to it. I found the apparent effects of this "pressing" the best aspects of the method of storage. Unfortunately, somewhere between two and three years, enough H2O vapor escapes to begin a drying process, usually noticeable around the edges of the tobacco mass, which begin to feel crispy through the plastic. Note that the vacuum remains tight--the plastic used apparently passes H2O more easily than O2, N2, or other atmospheric gasses. Bottom line--not recommended if you want to age the tobacco. If you like the tobacco as is, or it is PG cased, then at the least I recommend double bagging and double sealing.
2. Non-evacuated plastic pouches. Not too bad. Noticeable aging occurred, and much less drying, even at the end of three years. Even so, there was some drying and double bagging/sealing would be prudent for longer terms.
3. Evacuated mason jars. Tobacco was practically unchanged from the day it was packed. Minor aging only. Different from the plastic-aged samples but (IMO) no worse or better. Note that if you are quick on the switch with the Tilia, you might be able to create jars with only a mild vacuum seal. This would more closely resemble professional "vacuum-packed" tins and might work very well.
4. Unevacuated sealed mason jars (bands/lid dipped in paraffin after sealing). This gave by FAR the best result, with excellent and sometimes surprising amounts of aging. A recently opened sample of McClelland 5115 smelled utterly delectable and smoked like a dream--it was *vastly* superior to identical samples packed on the same day using methods 1, 2 and 3
Conclusions: As I mentioned above, much effort could have been spared had I heeded the prophecies of Greg Pease, who predicted the results here to a T from the day I did it three years ago. Big surprise there, I suppose, but I take some comfort in having been part of the venerable scientific process of "always testing hypotheses." I have purchased a stack of boxes of canning jars and am in the process of switching all my Tilia-sealed tobacco over to sealed jars. The Tilia remains in regular use, however, for other purposes--such sealing unopened square or rectangular tins, which can have dodgy seals compared to round tins; and for sealing vintage tobacco tins to avoid rusting or damage. I also use it to seal off vulcanite stems made of that special "insta-green" vulcanite, whenever such a pipe is moving out of the rotation for a while. And of course it works great for the usual kitchen stuff, like cheese, and meat for the freezer!