How to Ferment Tobacco

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For thousands of years, people from all around the world have used tobacco to smoke, chew, and even brew as a form of tea to alleviate certain ailments. Whatever the reasons for using tobacco, before you can enjoy it, it must first be dried, fermented, and cured. By following the right procedures and paying close attention to the tobacco leaves, almost anyone can learn the proper technique and gain the experience needed to ferment their own tobacco.

Things You'll Need

  • Climate controlled fermentation barn
  • Misting irrigation system
  • Burlap cloth covers
  • Dried tobacco leaves, at least 2,500
  • Tobacco fermentation thermometers
  • Control the environment of the tobacco fermentation barn. Ensure that the fermentation barn has a continuously controlled environment of 75 percent humidity with the temperature remaining around 78.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Form the tobacco leaf piles. Separate out the bad leaves, sort the good leaves by their type, and then stack the sorted dried leaves into piles by their type until there are around 2,500 to 3,500 leaves in each pile.

  • Mist the tobacco piles with water and cover them with burlap cloth covers. Lightly mist the tobacco leaves with water from a clean, all-natural source, then cover each tobacco pile with burlap cloths to allow them to sweat out the retained moisture contained in the leaves.

  • Check each tobacco pile's core temperature using a tobacco thermometer and turn the leaves as needed. Once the leaves within the center of the pile reach a core temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the burlap cloths from each pile. Then gently turn and shake the leaves to rotate the contents and separate the ammonia, tar, and nicotine out from within the leaves.

  • Reform the tobacco piles to continue the misting and turning process. Re-distribute the tobacco leaves into piles by their type, and recover them with the burlap cloths. Then repeat the processes described in step 4 over the next 6 to 12 months until the core temperature of the leaves no longer reaches more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Carefully monitor the tobacco piles daily over the next several months until they are ready to be cured. Depending on what the tobacco leaves will be used for, the fermentation process can take up to 12 months for a rich fermentation. The tobacco fermentation process is finished once the temperature no longer increases, the leaves no longer feel slightly sticky to the touch, and the scent is rich without an abundant harshness to the nose. Once the fermentation process is finished, the tobacco leaves are ready to go onto the curing process before they can be enjoyed.

Tips & Warnings

  • When stacking the dried tobacco leaves into piles, try placing them onto wooden pylons to help the air to flow underneath. This will also help to keep the leaves off of the floor of the tobacco fermentation barn to retain cleanliness.
  • Depending on what the fermented tobacco will be used for, you can accelerate the process, and accomplish fermentation in either three, six or nine months. Just be aware that doing this may adversely affect both the flavor and aroma of the tobacco, as well as develop a harsh taste, which comes from high nicotine levels when it is used.
  • Ensure that the tobacco leaf stacks always retain a core temperature between 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit and the tobacco barn stays at around 75 percent humidity. If the temperature or humidity is any higher, the tobacco leaves may burn, and any less will not allow for proper fermentation.
  • The fermentation process should always be overseen by an experienced tobacco fermentation manager with several years of experience.
  • Tobacco has been proven to cause multiple forms of cancer, developmental problems with unborn babies, as well as a vast variety of other health problems, which can affect both you and the people around you when you smoke. Always use caution and research all of the health risks that can be caused by tobacco before you decide to use it.

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