a simple puerh humidifier

One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

Aug 9th 16 5:58 pm
Posts: 37
Joined: Aug 20th 09 4:01 pm

a simple puerh humidifier

by moot » Aug 9th 16 5:58 pm

So, my wife is a chemist, and her old roommate Derek, a chemist and general McGuyver/make/invent kind of guy, was visiting us. I posed to them my puerh storage question: was there some easy, relatively bombproof way of adding some humidity to my puerh storage cabinet, beyond my cup of water, with very little risk of mold?

Derek's first suggestion involved an arduino micro controller, fan systems, and hacking apart a barometer. I vetoed this and asked for something much simpler. He and my wife did some brainstorming about porosity levels, capillary action, and came up with the following extremely simple suggestion:

Bamboo skewers in the cup of water. Reasons, explained by the chemists: bamboo skewers are highly porous, and will increase surface area greatly. They are naturally anti-microbial, and in case they ever do start smelling a little funky, I can just chuck them. They will suck water up into them through capillary action but, unlike cloth, they won't develop folds and drip water on anything. And they are aren't making any contact with the cupboard itself, much reducing any disastrous molding possibility. And, they claim, I can probably adjust the humidity slightly by changing the number of skewers.

Results: my storage cabinet in very dry Utah is, without any cup of water, about 49% humidity on average right now. With a cup of water: 52%. With the skewers: 59%.

I'm satisfied for the moment. We'll see how it works out in the long run... I'll keep y'all updated.

(You can see in the picture below that what I had on hand were pretty satisfyingly fat skewers. They feel very very slightly damp to the touch.)
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Last edited by moot on Aug 10th 16 9:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

Aug 9th 16 7:08 pm
Posts: 55
Joined: Mar 8th 16 5:30 am

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by ricegeek » Aug 9th 16 7:08 pm

Thanks for sharing! I use a mini-fridge setup to store my puer now, and am getting pretty reasonable humidity (70% - 80%), but the simple idea of using bamboo sounds great if/when I need to boost humidity.

Aug 10th 16 12:53 am
Posts: 503
Joined: Feb 17th 13 5:34 pm

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by mr mopu » Aug 10th 16 12:53 am

This is a neat idea. I am glad you posted on it. I use the fridge/mini fridge deals but this will help the ones about to take the plunge.

User avatar
Aug 10th 16 1:10 am
Vendor Member
Posts: 3141
Joined: Aug 28th 12 12:12 pm
Location: Hong Kong

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by jayinhk » Aug 10th 16 1:10 am

Great idea--the sticks work as wicks of sorts. Sounds like you could use another cup to take the humidity up a little more, but one cup is probably safer. What are you using to measure humidity?

That cabinet looks to be MDF. I don't use MDF for fear of offgassing from the adhesives used--I use a glass Ikea cabinet at home. Anything in jars and tins is fine in MDF, IMO, but not porous teas like pu erh.

TIL the gas is formaldehyde. I wonder if levels get high enough to affect bacteria/fungi in pu? I just bought used MDF furniture for my office. Perhaps buying used was a good thing, as some people on this thread say it outgasses for 7-10 years.

http://answers.google.com/answers/threa ... 99721.html

Aug 10th 16 4:54 pm
Posts: 37
Joined: Aug 20th 09 4:01 pm

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by moot » Aug 10th 16 4:54 pm

jayinhk wrote:Great idea--the sticks work as wicks of sorts. Sounds like you could use another cup to take the humidity up a little more, but one cup is probably safer. What are you using to measure humidity?

That cabinet looks to be MDF. I don't use MDF for fear of offgassing from the adhesives used--I use a glass Ikea cabinet at home. Anything in jars and tins is fine in MDF, IMO, but not porous teas like pu erh.

TIL the gas is formaldehyde. I wonder if levels get high enough to affect bacteria/fungi in pu? I just bought used MDF furniture for my office. Perhaps buying used was a good thing, as some people on this thread say it outgasses for 7-10 years.

http://answers.google.com/answers/threa ... 99721.html
A wick, exactly. It's funny - it never, ever would have occurred to me to use a bamboo skewer as a wick. But them crazy chemists, they think about the properties of materials, and are used to repurposing them, so...

A glass cabinet has actually been on my to-buy list for a while - actually, if you saw how I'd been storing my puerh up until very recently, it would probably cause you paroxysms of horror. This one is about five years old and smells relatively neutral to me, but there's still a subtle, subtle IKEA-wood odor to it. On the one hand, I've had puerhs in this thing for five years and I can't detect any of that IKEA-wood smell in them. On the other, I don't have any alternately stored puerhs to do any A/Bing.

User avatar
Aug 10th 16 6:05 pm
Posts: 541
Joined: Aug 19th 15 11:03 am
Location: on the road

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by kuánglóng » Aug 10th 16 6:05 pm

jayinhk wrote:
That cabinet looks to be MDF. I don't use MDF for fear of offgassing from the adhesives used--I use a glass Ikea cabinet at home. Anything in jars and tins is fine in MDF, IMO, but not porous teas like pu erh.

TIL the gas is formaldehyde. I wonder if levels get high enough to affect bacteria/fungi in pu? I just bought used MDF furniture for my office. Perhaps buying used was a good thing, as some people on this thread say it outgasses for 7-10 years.

http://answers.google.com/answers/threa ... 99721.html
Some years ago after a big move we purchased ...loads of new furniture for a large class room and when we started the first seminar a few days later we literally had to evacuate the room after only about half an hour due to all kinds of allergic reactions from the participants - red eyes, running noses, breathing problems, ... you name it - never again, neither for the office, back home nor for my teas - no MDF and no XY plastics. I still have most of my teas stored in large aluminum boxes (military surplus) - each tea additionally in a multilayer ziploc and they mature just fine. Anyway, I'm looking forward to building a larger tea rack from local volcanic stones once I'm back home on the island which might take another while.
I'll report back :D

User avatar
Aug 11th 16 12:48 am
Vendor Member
Posts: 3141
Joined: Aug 28th 12 12:12 pm
Location: Hong Kong

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by jayinhk » Aug 11th 16 12:48 am

kuánglóng wrote:
jayinhk wrote:
That cabinet looks to be MDF. I don't use MDF for fear of offgassing from the adhesives used--I use a glass Ikea cabinet at home. Anything in jars and tins is fine in MDF, IMO, but not porous teas like pu erh.

TIL the gas is formaldehyde. I wonder if levels get high enough to affect bacteria/fungi in pu? I just bought used MDF furniture for my office. Perhaps buying used was a good thing, as some people on this thread say it outgasses for 7-10 years.

http://answers.google.com/answers/threa ... 99721.html
Some years ago after a big move we purchased ...loads of new furniture for a large class room and when we started the first seminar a few days later we literally had to evacuate the room after only about half an hour due to all kinds of allergic reactions from the participants - red eyes, running noses, breathing problems, ... you name it - never again, neither for the office, back home nor for my teas - no MDF and no XY plastics. I still have most of my teas stored in large aluminum boxes (military surplus) - each tea additionally in a multilayer ziploc and they mature just fine. Anyway, I'm looking forward to building a larger tea rack from local volcanic stones once I'm back home on the island which might take another while.
I'll report back :D
Why the plastic? Here in HK tea is only wrapped in plastic to stop aging. We let it breathe otherwise.

Yes, new furniture outgasses like crazy. I'm sitting on an Ikea couch that was incredibly funky when new. Fortunately it only took a week or two to become bearable. If I'd known it was formaldehyde I wouldn't have bought an MDF couch!

Aug 12th 16 8:46 am
Posts: 118
Joined: Jul 6th 14 7:26 am

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by Cwyn » Aug 12th 16 8:46 am

Humidity might go up a bit more if the cabinet is stuffed full with tea. I suggest tea shopping :P

User avatar
Aug 13th 16 9:33 am
Posts: 541
Joined: Aug 19th 15 11:03 am
Location: on the road

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by kuánglóng » Aug 13th 16 9:33 am

jayinhk wrote:
Why the plastic? Here in HK tea is only wrapped in plastic to stop aging. We let it breathe otherwise.
From my experience keeping teas in plastic bags doesn't stop them from aging, a lot depends on the residual moisture in the leaves and the average temperature they're exposed to. I've tried quite a few HK (Malaysian, Jinhong, ...) aged Pu's in the past and have a nice selection of aged shengs here ('dry' and traditionally stored) but regarding my own experiments with sheng Pu's I rather see them mature (for lack of a better term) than turning into HK style teas - just a personal preference. I guess 'deepening' their individual characters describes best what I'm aiming for and so far I'm pretty happy with the results I get from keeping them and other teas in multilayered bags.

User avatar
Aug 13th 16 10:10 am
Vendor Member
Posts: 3141
Joined: Aug 28th 12 12:12 pm
Location: Hong Kong

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by jayinhk » Aug 13th 16 10:10 am

HK made dry storage famous (its not all traditional storage) and we still don't use plastic bags...it seems to stop aging IMO because the tea can't breathe as well. If you like the results of bag aging, so be it

User avatar
Sep 2nd 16 10:42 am
Posts: 225
Joined: Dec 26th 13 3:59 am
Location: bangkok

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by john.b » Sep 2nd 16 10:42 am

I just wrote a blog post on storing pu'er in sealed bags versus more exposed to air (just not sealed), related to that same issue, based on an earlier discussion here as a starting point:

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... ation.html

Personally I can't really weigh in and say what is what from my own experience, so the writing was just sharing some ideas that turned up.

It seemed strange not to mention it here since a good bit of input is from Tea Chat discussion but this isn't a natural place to be adding blog links either. In some places I would pass on a short summary so someone could not read the link based on that, or decide to, but I won't clutter up this discussion with that; it says what you might expect it to say.

User avatar
Sep 2nd 16 11:59 am
Vendor Member
Posts: 3141
Joined: Aug 28th 12 12:12 pm
Location: Hong Kong

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by jayinhk » Sep 2nd 16 11:59 am

john.b wrote:I just wrote a blog post on storing pu'er in sealed bags versus more exposed to air (just not sealed), related to that same issue, based on an earlier discussion here as a starting point:

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... ation.html

Personally I can't really weigh in and say what is what from my own experience, so the writing was just sharing some ideas that turned up.

It seemed strange not to mention it here since a good bit of input is from Tea Chat discussion but this isn't a natural place to be adding blog links either. In some places I would pass on a short summary so someone could not read the link based on that, or decide to, but I won't clutter up this discussion with that; it says what you might expect it to say.
Whoa! Very exhaustive online research and a great writeup!

User avatar
Sep 3rd 16 7:09 am
Posts: 225
Joined: Dec 26th 13 3:59 am
Location: bangkok

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by john.b » Sep 3rd 16 7:09 am

Thanks so much for the positive feedback.

It seemed nice the way that one Tea Chat discussion separated out a storage issue so clearly (to seal or not to seal), and the way a later thread filled in background. Other references and input kept covering closely related scope in different ways, almost showing how slight shifts in ideas and interpretation, and mostly in preference, allowed people to say almost the same things but arrive at different conclusions. The vagueness was also cool; hard to say if it was just preference differences playing out, or if some takes were wrong or right, but it didn't seem as simple as that.

User avatar
Sep 3rd 16 7:36 am
Vendor Member
Posts: 3141
Joined: Aug 28th 12 12:12 pm
Location: Hong Kong

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by jayinhk » Sep 3rd 16 7:36 am

All I know is I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing as far as storage, although I may put some pu erh in the more humid part of my office in cardboard boxes, since I have some space to play with!

User avatar
Sep 4th 16 8:12 pm
Posts: 291
Joined: Feb 10th 16 2:23 am
Location: California

Re: a simple puerh humidifier

by stevorama » Sep 4th 16 8:12 pm

I tried the bamboo skewers in water. Cool idea. Unfortunately they became moldy in under a week!