Aging puerh: what is your setup?

vuanguyen
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Sat Jul 18, 2020 5:14 pm

@Balthazar

Thank you for sharing! What a great and simple idea! Before seeing your post, I have always thought a pumidor is too complicated to do. I am going to buy some Boveda packs, hygrometers and airtight containers.

Anyone know what is the best ideal humidity to store puer teas?

My tea friend told me it should be less than 70% humidity and temp < 90 degree F. He is storing teas in his cabinet (temp 77 degree F and humidity of 50% now). We live in Northern California.
Justin
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Sat Jul 18, 2020 11:40 pm

I'd say 70%rH and 70°F is a good starting point. Pumidors can be as simple or complicated as you want them to be!
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mrmopu
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Sun Jul 19, 2020 9:37 am

I do 70-72% humidity, I haven't applied any heat as I know my climate will never carry the temps of Asian storage.
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Balthazar
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Sun Jul 19, 2020 12:24 pm

Victoria wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 12:05 pm
I’m curious with your larger 15L crock, I’ll assume you have to remove every cake to get to the bottom. Do you keep a log of which cake is where in each crock?
It only holds about 15 cakes a couple bricks and tuos, so relying on spatial memory alone has been pretty successful. I also usually stick to drinking 4-5 different cakes at a time, and those are kept at the top of the crock, so I rarely have to take out more than a few cakes to get to the one I want. If I have more cakes opened and in my rotation, I sometimes pry off a quarter or half of the cakes and store them in smaller crocks.
vuanguyen wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 5:14 pm
Thank you for sharing! What a great and simple idea! Before seeing your post, I have always thought a pumidor is too complicated to do. I am going to buy some Boveda packs, hygrometers and airtight containers.

Anyone know what is the best ideal humidity to store puer teas?

My tea friend told me it should be less than 70% humidity and temp < 90 degree F. He is storing teas in his cabinet (temp 77 degree F and humidity of 50% now). We live in Northern California.
My pleasure. If you go with plastic containers, make sure to get something that's not off-smelling and is food safe. As for ideal humidity, it really depends on your storage (taste) preferences and the risk of mold. Some people prefer drier storage, others more humid. I think around 70% RH is a safe bet, but I'd rather be at 65% than 75% in my climate with inside temperatures of anywhere between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius. As for optimal temperatures, I think most would agree that above 25 degrees Celcius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) as better than below 25 degrees. Where I live that's not possible to achieve (outside a few weeks in the summer months) without some sort of hotbox setup.

Particularly in the colder months, it seems like the mold risk is real at above 75% RH. (On a side note, my very limited and anecdotal experience tells me that mold growth is more likely for a given RH level at colder temperatures. But a quick google search seems to suggest that the opposite is true, i.e. heat and humidity in combination is more conducive to mold growth than a cool, humid environment. Anyone know more about this?)
.m.
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Sun Jul 19, 2020 12:35 pm

@vuanguyen There's lots of opinions on the topic. Some of the current thinking is that enzymes play a prominent role in the "good" aging of puerh. The peak of enzymatic activity seems to be somewhere around 40C/104F (perhaps someone can correct me), beyond which it goes sharply down. There are some people experimenting with 40C storage, but it involves a "hotbox" and inherent risk of condensation if the temperature drops suddenly. Personally, i think the warmth of storage is as important as humidity (if not more).
I agree with @Balthazar, above 25C/77F is preferable, but it doesn't mean the tea will get ruined in colder conditions (fingers crossed, lol).
John_B
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Wed Jul 22, 2020 11:34 pm

I don't remember if I ever posted to this topic and I'm lazy to go back through it. Probably not, since I don't use any environmental controls to store pu'er, but if so I would've said that. I live in Bangkok, and it tends to be quite humid and warm here, all the time.

My daughter was just telling me this morning how it's cold in the mornings when it rains (half the year is the rainy season) and it was probably in the low 80s F then, in the upper 20s C. Cold for us, but not cold.

I suppose I still have a "setup" in terms of how I adjust air contact. That's a bit sloppy; I put the sheng in two different large plastic storage bins, that I keep opening often to get tea out of to drink. Some is in ziplock bags, some isn't; that part is random. I tend to check in on teas a good bit so isolating them with use of such bags probably wouldn't make much difference one way or the other.

I've noticed that the teas from my favorite local Chinatown shop tend to be a bit musty when I first buy them, and improve a lot related to airing back out. I think this is because they just store them in enclosed spaces, in cabinets and such, not trying to optimize air contact at a low level, but allowing for some. I think that actually works well for long term aging, but it adds an effect that you need to get rid of by allowing the tea to experience some additional air contact, for a period of several months. Not only does the mustiness drop out but deeper and more positive flavors develop well, over a shorter period of time than one would expect. That makes it tricky to judge a tea in the shop because you have to be able to project where it will be later, working from what inputs probably caused it to be how it is then. I don't mean related to aging level, more related to storage issues, which really can shift over that relatively short term.

This "somewhat musty" concept could mean different things. Some Malaysian stored teas have a basement sort of smell to them, and a taste of wet cement block, and it's not that. It's not the attic sort of taste and smell that can sometimes be present in really old oolong versions, which in some can take quite a number of infusion rounds to clear. It's hard to describe.

It seems relatively ideal here for sheng storage, but it's not quite that simple (as I see it), that one set of conditions is simply better or worse. Dryer stored teas can retain a freshness over a lot of years that can be positive; they age slower, but also in a different way. For a tea type that needs to change a lot, like Xiaguan tuochas tend to, or even a tea like Dayi 7542, this warmer and more humid environment is better. For a tea that should stay more the same to be positive, for sheng that really doesn't need to and shouldn't age much (fermentation transition) it can be too much. That notable fresh edge goes away faster, along with less positive aspects transitioning as well (aggressive flavors, smoke dropping out, strong bitterness, harsh astringency).

All that is my take, at least.
OhThatNinja
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Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:55 pm

Seeing how many of you store your cakes in medium to large size plastic storage bins, I'm tempted to try it myself. I am slightly concerned that there won't be any ventilation inside the container for months. Or is that not an issue?
John_B
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Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:25 am

OhThatNinja wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:55 pm
Seeing how many of you store your cakes in medium to large size plastic storage bins, I'm tempted to try it myself. I am slightly concerned that there won't be any ventilation inside the container for months. Or is that not an issue?
I would find it difficult to take anyone's advice or input as an objective standard (fact of the matter) related to this question. Problems come up with the context being consistent. You are saying that you wouldn't open a container for months based on your own storage plans, and only results from someone using a similar approach would be relevant. Lots of people would keep opening the container, and that's a different thing.

How someone is controlling humidity, and at what level, would also be relevant. Using Boveda salt packs is the most common approach, but there could be others. There's a thread on here about making a home-made version of those, worth checking out for background even if that's not of interest. The humidity level setting would also matter.

This question seems to imply asking if a significant amount of oxygen input isn't necessary for fermentation to occur, since that is a function of bacteria and fungus activity. It seems as well to make the concerns explicit by being clear on that point. I don't have any personal input to add on how much air contact pu'er would probably need to keep transitioning, at what degree of isolation over what time it wouldn't go well. It's probably not simple to answer that, and an answer would probably be most helpful based on lots of practical experience.
OhThatNinja
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Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:12 pm

John_B wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:25 am
OhThatNinja wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:55 pm
Seeing how many of you store your cakes in medium to large size plastic storage bins, I'm tempted to try it myself. I am slightly concerned that there won't be any ventilation inside the container for months. Or is that not an issue?
I would find it difficult to take anyone's advice or input as an objective standard (fact of the matter) related to this question. Problems come up with the context being consistent. You are saying that you wouldn't open a container for months based on your own storage plans, and only results from someone using a similar approach would be relevant. Lots of people would keep opening the container, and that's a different thing.

How someone is controlling humidity, and at what level, would also be relevant. Using Boveda salt packs is the most common approach, but there could be others. There's a thread on here about making a home-made version of those, worth checking out for background even if that's not of interest. The humidity level setting would also matter.

This question seems to imply asking if a significant amount of oxygen input isn't necessary for fermentation to occur, since that is a function of bacteria and fungus activity. It seems as well to make the concerns explicit by being clear on that point. I don't have any personal input to add on how much air contact pu'er would probably need to keep transitioning, at what degree of isolation over what time it wouldn't go well. It's probably not simple to answer that, and an answer would probably be most helpful based on lots of practical experience.
I am more curious if stagnant air (as it would be in a closed container) could aid the mold growth. It might not be an issue but that's why I'm asking. If opening the container once a month is advised, I'm more than willing to do so.
.m.
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Thu Jul 30, 2020 1:53 pm

OhThatNinja wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:12 pm
I am more curious if stagnant air (as it would be in a closed container) could aid the mold growth. It might not be an issue but that's why I'm asking. If opening the container once a month is advised, I'm more than willing to do so.
Stagnant air would definitely aid the mold growth but only if the conditions (humidity & temperature) are conductive to mold growing.
Having each cake separately in its own ziplock or some other wrapper within the container should help to reduce the risk of the mold spreading if it occurred.
OhThatNinja
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Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:38 pm

sqt wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:49 am

I also use distilled water and make sure hands are as close to sterile as I can manage when handling the boveda recharging procedure.
Is there a link to the Boveda recharging procedure anywhere?

Also, I see a lot of plastic in the pictures above. Is that to protect the cakes from each other (if one gets mold) or something else? Are they completely wrapped in plastic or just layered with it?
Thanks!
OhThatNinja
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Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:39 pm

.m. wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 1:53 pm

Having each cake separately in its own ziplock or some other wrapper within the container should help to reduce the risk of the mold spreading if it occurred.
Just to make sure I understand this, each cake is placed in a plastic bag (ziplock) but the ziplock is open?
Justin
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Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:33 pm

OhThatNinja wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:38 pm
Also, I see a lot of plastic in the pictures above. Is that to protect the cakes from each other (if one gets mold) or something else? Are they completely wrapped in plastic or just layered with it?
I would guess they are just to separate out layers within the crock. @Balthazar can provide more info. I don't believe they are to protect the cakes from each other.
OhThatNinja wrote: Just to make sure I understand this, each cake is placed in a plastic bag (ziplock) but the ziplock is open?
I would close the ziplock bags. According to this experiment: here (use google translate), the cakes in the ziplock bags keep there aroma and are better than those not in plastic bags. This experiment does take place in a warehouse where, I assume they have a bit more airflow than the typical pumi. I believe there is still value in putting pu in plastic bags for aging even in a pumi.
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Balthazar
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Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:52 am

Yeah, the plastic layer is actually just to keep the Boveda packs from coming in direct contact with the tea wrappers. Not that direct contact should be an issue at all, the fact that I insist on having that layer is probably a mild OCD manifestation, hah :)

I keep my puer in ziplocks (or more commonly normal, food-safe plastic bags with no kind of seal) if the wrapper of the cake is bug-bitten/torn or the wrapper is missing altogether. Or if the vendor happens to include a ziplock of suitable size with the cake (e.g. EoT, King Tea Mall).

@OhThatNinja As regards the airflow debate, I won't claim any expertise on the subject, but people such as MarshalN and James from TeaDB (reflecting on Marco's hotbox experiement) consider it overrated and/or (if too much) actually harmful. (MarshalN basically only considers it useful when airing out traditionally stored teas, but then again he's talking from a Hong Kong point of view where the tea's aren't likely to be placed inside plastic containers.) I wouldn't worry too much about it.

As for Boveda recharing, there's a bunch of different methods. I follow this one. I don't think there's a simpler method out there, although some might be horrified by the fact that the packs are laying directly in the water, instead of having humidity transferred through the air by a sponge method or something like that. All I can say is that I've used this method for a year now with no issues, and I haven't heard of anyone else (in the cigar or pu world) having any issues with it. Regardless of which method you use, do remember to use distilled water.
OhThatNinja
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Fri Jul 31, 2020 6:40 pm

Balthazar wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:52 am
Yeah, the plastic layer is actually just to keep the Boveda packs from coming in direct contact with the tea wrappers. Not that direct contact should be an issue at all, the fact that I insist on having that layer is probably a mild OCD manifestation, hah :)

I keep my puer in ziplocks (or more commonly normal, food-safe plastic bags with no kind of seal) if the wrapper of the cake is bug-bitten/torn or the wrapper is missing altogether. Or if the vendor happens to include a ziplock of suitable size with the cake (e.g. EoT, King Tea Mall).

OhThatNinja As regards the airflow debate, I won't claim any expertise on the subject, but people such as MarshalN and James from TeaDB (reflecting on Marco's hotbox experiement) consider it overrated and/or (if too much) actually harmful. (MarshalN basically only considers it useful when airing out traditionally stored teas, but then again he's talking from a Hong Kong point of view where the tea's aren't likely to be placed inside plastic containers.) I wouldn't worry too much about it.

As for Boveda recharing, there's a bunch of different methods. I follow this one. I don't think there's a simpler method out there, although some might be horrified by the fact that the packs are laying directly in the water, instead of having humidity transferred through the air by a sponge method or something like that. All I can say is that I've used this method for a year now with no issues, and I haven't heard of anyone else (in the cigar or pu world) having any issues with it. Regardless of which method you use, do remember to use distilled water.
Thank you for your input. I really appreciate it.
I'm still having a hard time accepting that keeping cakes in a sealed containers with Boveda packs is ok. I know from first hand, that no air circulation is a straight invitation for mold. But then, a lot of people here seem to store their raw puerh this way so maybe I'm missing something...
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