Objective: To cover most mason jar questions when it comes to long term storage. For the purposes of this guide we’ll stick with the US most widely distributed mason jar maker — Ball.
Collected information: The following comes from my own, and many in the communities feedback [pipesmagazine.com, reddit.com/r/pipetobacco, brothersofthebriar.com] to build this document. Some advice may be more than you would like to do or willing, but it’s there for you as education so take what you want from it. Some people will boil their mason jars, some choose not too.
Where to buy: (US)Walmart, Super Markets, Amazon.com
Sizes:Jelly Jars (4 liquid oz; 125ml)Half Pint (8 Liquid oz;250ml)Pint (16 Liquid oz;475ml)Quart (32 Liquid Oz; 950(1000)ml). There are also wide-mouth jars as well.
Cleaning: First off, and some of you might gasp, it is not necessary to clean out your mason jar prior to dumping tobacco in it. An established expert who is a SQF Practitioner who tests machines for milk production took an experiment to test for contaminants. http://brothersofbriar.forumotion.com/t7288-are-new-ball-jars-clean findings show they are cleaner than if you had run them through a dishwasher.
The above said, I know that many are not as comfortable with the thought of just opening and pouring tobacco in. Many will throw the jars in the dishwasher anyway and there is nothing wrong with this. Just make sure that the jars are completely dry before you start putting in your tobacco.
If you’d like to take it a step further, place empty jars right side up in a pot or boiling water caner. Fill the pot/caner with hot (not boiling) water to 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000ft. Higher elevations add an additional minute for every 1,000 feet.
I will also comment that some people warm the jars and the lids prior to putting tobacco in — in order to get a better seal. Your milage may vary depending on environment, elevation, humidity, etc.
Amount of Tobacco:
Jelly Jars (4oz Liquid) — I've found that these Jars you can usually stuff 1 to 1.5oz of ribbon, course, shag tobacco into them. Just pour to the rim, push down to compress, pour more, compress etc. Seal lid. Different tobaccos have different weight to volume ratios so your results may vary.
Half Pint (8 Liquid oz) — I've found fits 2 to 3 ounces of loose ribbon, course, shag tobacco depending on consistency. [Stokkebye’s Luxury twist flake fits 2.5 oz a jar.] [Esoterica’s Dorchester fits about 2 ounces per jar] [50g tin of Erinmore Flake that fit perfectly into a half-pint, but a 50g tin of Molto Dolce barely fit into a half-pint. ][2oz of Penzance should fit in half-pint]
Pint (16 Liquid oz) — Generally 4-5 oz of loose ribbon, course, shag tobacco. [ 8oz of Mississippi River, which is a crumble cake, into a pint jar no problem, at the same time 6oz of a loose tobacco blend that was nearly overflowing out of the jar. 250g FVF in a pint; 100g Semois in a pint ]
Quart (32 Liquid oz) — Ranges between 8 and 10 oz of ribbon, course, shag tobacco and your results may vary. [ 250g of 1792 flake in a 32oz jar, and it’s a tighter fit. Some of the flakes fell apart, if not for that you could probably stuff in another 1, maybe 2, oz before it got too tight. 250g Dan Tobacco: Blue Note, perfect fit.]
Wide Mouth 8oz(250ml) 1.76 ounces of navy rolls in one with plenty of room, and 2 ounces of bullseye flake in another, also just a bit more than half full. Have a full tin nearly of Dunhill flake in another, fits perfectly, and about 90% of a 2 ounce tin of Pirate Kake in another. So I guess I’d say for really compressed tobacco, they’re the best.
Empty Jar Weights — while this may fluctuate slightly below are weights of jars without tobacco in them.
Jelly: 4.7oz without lid
Half Pint: 6.2 oz without lid
Pint: 8.8 oz without lid
Quart: 15oz without lid
Sealing the Jars: Just put it in, screw tight. Check back a week later and tighten again if needed.
Heat the lid first? Sure, but I've found that its not necessary, the lids are self sealing and should do fine without it.
Parafin Wax? I’ve found that some like to take an extra step of sealing the jars after the lids are on:
Anything that is going into my cellar for long term storage (>6 months) gets paraffin wax. The reason I do this is it add a second layer of sealing. If the thin lining of the lid that seals against the glass jar fails for any reason, the wax covering the lid ensures the inside of the jar is still isolated from the surrounding environment.
Storing: Aromatics don’t store well — is the general thought. Tins that are vacuumed sealed last longer than if you packaged up bulk. This is not to say that the tobacco is ruined — its more so that the flavorings and casings disappear over time. You should still seal your aromatics in jars to keep them as safe as possible, just don’t expect to smoke the same thing 10 years from now.
Temperature —Continual temperature that doesn't fluctuate much and isn't exposed to direct sunlight is the best. Tobacco doesn't do freezing temperature, so if you’re doing “cool dry place” methodology make sure you’re not dipping into the 30 degree F range.
Tobacco Prep: Some do prepare the tobacco before going into a jar — for example:
I usually cut the long, Gawith-style flakes in half before jarring them in shorter jars.
Lids Pop down over time? The lid “popping” downwards over time is not necessarily an indication of being airtight.
As the tobacco ages, the microbes, or good tobacco bacteria, will consume the air in the jar slowly and the lid might shut down, or may even pop up as when things eat they usually give off waste, or other gases in this case. There have been plenty of older tins that show signs of swelling.
Another note on this:
And, we do know that microbes can create gasses, as I have a bunch of tins 4-6 years old that are swollen out like balloons. However, I have several jars that are 4-6 years old with no swelling, but vacuum sealed tops are in tact.
As you can see there is no consensus on why the lids pop one way or the other. I can recreate a lid popping by putting a mason jar in front of my airconditioner vent.
Mold or Plume? During the aging process sugar crystallization can occur. This is generally called plume and is a fine white powder that appears on the outside of the tobacco — it is also seen on cigars that are well aged. This is a good thing.
Mold usually develops in sequestered areas first, in small clustered colonies. Obviously a very bad thing.
Bloom is crystal-like in appearance, usually in streaks. You want the bloom, it is a sign of aging in high sugar leaves. Mold will be fuzzy and 3D, if that makes sense; bloom is flat on the leaf.
In most of those online conversations, the more experienced pipe smokers, who have encountered this before, will attempt to reassure the novice, by telling him that what he is seeing is, in fact, sugar. This is easy to believe, as what appear to be crystals can be seen in the white/grey substance under just a little light. While this is a nice thought, and is plausible with such a sweet tobacco, it is, unfortunately, a myth.
This substance is known as ‘bloom’ or ‘plume’ — I, personally, prefer ‘bloom’, as it sounds like the tobacco has blossomed, which is quite accurate.
When tobacco ages, the oils in the tobacco will sometimes come to the surface in the form of crystals. This is nothing to be concerned about, and is actually a sign that your tobacco has been aging well.
It is pretty easy to tell the difference between mold and bloom once you know what you’re looking for: bloom is always white or light grey, should rub off very easily, leave no stain, have crystals, and should have no odor. Mold, on the other hand, can be different colors, including yellow, will not contain crystals, will often be hairy, and will probably smell.
You might need a magnifying glass to see better just what you've got.
Re-Using Jars: It’s perfectly fine to re-use your jars. Simply run your jars through a wash cycle or sanitize cycle in the washing machine and use a new lid (not the screw bit, just the lid).
And there you have it, as much as I have been able to gather over the course of 3-4 months, getting tid-bits and asking various communities for input. If you have any thoughts please be sure to let me know and if you have suggestions for further reading, I’d love to list them as well.
Further Reading: GL Pease Saving for a Rainy Day: http://pipesmagazine.com/blog/out-of-the-ashes/saving-for-a-rainy-day/#more-4300
Bob Tate: Pipe tobacco Storage: http://pipesmagazine.com/python/pipe-tobacco/pipe-tobacco-storage/