Ernie Q on casing, pressing, and blending

Ernie Q

Well-known member
Sales
Patron
(moderator note: copied from the home tobacco press thread.)

Okie dokie. I’ve left the ‘that there terbaccy Elves in charge of guarding your orders at the shop and have a bit more time to talk about pressing etc.

First things first...and I CANNOT stress this enough. Every tobacco you buy commercially, unless it is in leaf form, has been cased. Every. Single. One. McClelland’s red Virginia was cased. Even Sutliff’s and other’s blending tobaccos are cased. All of them. I may have pissed a few people off on another forum a while back by saying this, but if you smoke raw leaf and like it, either you are fooling yourself or have the taste buds of a dumpster Rat. Now pressing, aging and heating can mellow tobacco, but casing is necessary to bring out the complexity In a given tobacco and to sort of steer it towards a certain flavor profile. (I’m not talking about top notes or aromatic sauces here....that’s something that is used to give a tobacco a “specific” aroma and taste.) I’m talking about acidic compounds that tobacconists use to a) Lower the ph of the tobacco (all leaf, especially air cured stuff like Burley, has a high ph in its raw form. And high ph = tongue bite) and, b) to underscore the good natural flavors of a type of tobacco, and, c) As an antibacterial to prevent mold, and, d) as a humectant to keep the tobacco fresh. My point here, is that adding casings and etc. to commercial blends is not gonna do anyone any good....it’s just gonna add more sugar to a blend and make it burn hotter. It’s also going to make a commercial blend sticky and hard to press properly. My suggestion is if you want to change a commercial blend, add another tobacco to it and then press it. Which brings me to my next topic:

Why press? There are many reasons. Pressing marries tobaccos. By that I mean it pushes the “essential oils” if you will or “flavoring compounds” out of each individual tobacco in a blend and harmonizes them. Here’s a simple experiment that will educate you and help train you palate. Mix some blending tobacco together...say a simple Balkan (use 1 oz of perique if you hate Latakia or leave it out entirely. )

3 parts Turkish
3 Parts Latakia
5 Parts Red Virginia
5 Parts green river black (unsweetened Black Cavendish)

Mix it up. Put half in a ziplock and half in the press for several days. Squeezing the tobacco enough to marry tales a crap-ton of pressure so cram it down hard the first day. The tobacco will settle and slacken a bit overnight so the next day give it a few more cranks. Do this for three or four days, depending on how much your press can handle. Then let it sit for a week. Now grab some of the loose mixture you put in the bag. Smoke it. Wait a few hours or a day and with a clean palate, slice off some of the plug and smoke that. Now you probably thought the loose stuff was pretty good, but the pressed has complexity, depth and a certain mellowness to it. Probably a little sweeter too. Why? Imagine a symphony in which each of the players is playing a perfect rendition each of a different song. Your trumpet is playing Bach, the flautist is playing Peter and the wolf, the drummer is playing jazz etc....all perfectly playing their own songs, but together it doesn’t sound so hot. In fact, when they stop and start playing the SAME song, what they were doing before sounds downright awful. Same situation with pressing. In the loose mixture, you are tasting ALL of the different tobaccos at once each doing their own thing. In the pressed version, you are smoking 4 different tobaccos that play together as one. Aging can also achieve this. Heat can do it too, but it takes precise temperatures for periods of time in controlled environments. Casings also help...but nothing harmonizes a tobacco like pressing.

Now I said earlier that blending tobacco is cased. The thing is that in my opinion it isn’t cased enough. They sort of give you a start, but they only case enough to bring the ph down a bit and maybe take the edge off the raw leaf.

I start all casings with a 1:1 Sugar Water mixture. I add 1 part sugar by weight to 1 part Water by weight and drop in a tablespoon of white vinegar per quart. You can use apple cider vinegar if you want a nice sort of fruity undertone. Then I just bring the stuff to a boil for about 10 minutes..and that’s it. That is a basic casing for blending tobacco. Now here’s the fun part...the part where you get to really steer your blend. You can add traditional casing materials to the mix to subtly accent a base tobacco. Traditionally, Virginia’s are grassy and citrusy and traditional casing materials for Virginia’s are

-Fresh citrus peel (lemon, orange, bergamot...whatever whacks yer noodle) (a tablespoon per quart of solution)
-lemongrass (1 stick per quart)
-prune Juice (3 or 4 Oz per quart )
-Red Wine (1 cup per quart)
-Honey (a teaspoon per quart. too much bites)
-Brown Sugar (use it in place of the white sugar in the base mix or add a 1/8th cup to the boil)
-cinnamon bark (1/2 to 1 full stick per quart)
-Coriander seed- (1 to 2 tsp. Per quart)
Etc...

Traditional Burley casings are
-Brewer’s licorice 2” to a quart of solution
-Molasses (1 tablespoon per quart)
Cocoa Hulls (good luck finding them...you can use cocoa powder but let it settle to the bottom of the solution overnight before draining off the liquid and throwing the “slurry” away. ( 1 -2 tablespoons per quart)
Rum (like an Oz to a quart of solution)
Anise seed (Tbsp. Per quart.) do NOT use anis Oil...or god forbid wintergreen oil or other so called essential oils.msome will make you cough and some will kill you.
Etc..
Now don’t go putting every one of these ingredients in the same solution. Smell and taste your base tobacco and then think about what might accent it. Get your water, sugar and vinegar on the stove and choose 1, 2 or, 3 of the other ingredients. Better off with one or two. Boil sugar water and vinegar together with whatever ingredients you choose and strain it if need be. Nothing is more annoying than getting your sprayer clogged.

Heat up your base tobacco. Do NOT case Latakia, Cavendish, Fire Cured or Perique. They have been taken care of already. Add them last after your base blend has rested. You can mix, say, several grades of Virginia together and case them at once, or, if you are feeling ambitious, case each one differently. Same with Burley. Put a pound of tobacco in the microwave in a ziplock with holes punched in it. Heat it for 2 -3 minutes. Get a spray bottle and put abou1 oz of warm casing it (that’s it...less is really more!. Store the rest in a mason jar in the fridge. If you leave it out of the fridge it may ferment and explode Dump the tobacco in one of your wife’s best bowls and spray it a few times. Mix it up. Get your hands dirty. Repeat. Seal the tobacco in Tupperware for a week. Take it out, add your Latakia, perique or other spice tobaccos as needed. dry it down to smokeable consistency if it isn’t already.

If you are going to press, heat it up again until it’s warm-hot...maybe 2 minutes per pound. Press away.

Finally, for those of you using raw leaf, everything above applies with the addition of the following: mist distilled water on the leaf before heating in the microwave. A little is all it takes. Also, use more casing...like 2 oz per pound. Finally, add about 1 tsp. of food grade Gum Arabic to your 2oz of warm casing. Mix it up well. That is the “glue” that flake makers use to get their leaves to stick together. (I never told you that :)

That outta keep you busy for a while.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

DGErwin11

Head Hooligan Honcho
Staff member
Great tutorial for those who want to really dive in. I would add for those of you who may consider this a long term endeavor, keep very detailed notes. My grandfather was able to get a local tobacconist to custom blend a blend for him. Most of us do not have that luxury. If you develop an absolutely knock your socks off blend you will be able to recreate it.

For me,

For me,
003-590-0001.jpg
 

dmkerr

No fiddle sticks left to give
Staff member
Great tutorial for those who want to really dive in. I would add for those of you who may consider this a long term endeavor, keep very detailed notes. My grandfather was able to get a local tobacconist to custom blend a blend for him. Most of us do not have that luxury. If you develop an absolutely knock your socks off blend you will be able to recreate it.

For me,

For me,
003-590-0001.jpg

@Chico says they're discontinuing that stuff.
 

MakDragon

Optimistic Curmudgeon
Sales
Patron
Old Ted Award Winner
(moderator note: copied from the home tobacco press thread.)

Okie dokie. I’ve left the ‘that there terbaccy Elves in charge of guarding your orders at the shop and have a bit more time to talk about pressing etc.

First things first...and I CANNOT stress this enough. Every tobacco you buy commercially, unless it is in leaf form, has been cased. Every. Single. One. McClelland’s red Virginia was cased. Even Sutliff’s and other’s blending tobaccos are cased. All of them. I may have pissed a few people off on another forum a while back by saying this, but if you smoke raw leaf and like it, either you are fooling yourself or have the taste buds of a dumpster Rat. Now pressing, aging and heating can mellow tobacco, but casing is necessary to bring out the complexity In a given tobacco and to sort of steer it towards a certain flavor profile. (I’m not talking about top notes or aromatic sauces here....that’s something that is used to give a tobacco a “specific” aroma and taste.) I’m talking about acidic compounds that tobacconists use to a) Lower the ph of the tobacco (all leaf, especially air cured stuff like Burley, has a high ph in its raw form. And high ph = tongue bite) and, b) to underscore the good natural flavors of a type of tobacco, and, c) As an antibacterial to prevent mold, and, d) as a humectant to keep the tobacco fresh. My point here, is that adding casings and etc. to commercial blends is not gonna do anyone any good....it’s just gonna add more sugar to a blend and make it burn hotter. It’s also going to make a commercial blend sticky and hard to press properly. My suggestion is if you want to change a commercial blend, add another tobacco to it and then press it. Which brings me to my next topic:

Why press? There are many reasons. Pressing marries tobaccos. By that I mean it pushes the “essential oils” if you will or “flavoring compounds” out of each individual tobacco in a blend and harmonizes them. Here’s a simple experiment that will educate you and help train you palate. Mix some blending tobacco together...say a simple Balkan (use 1 oz of perique if you hate Latakia or leave it out entirely. )

3 parts Turkish
3 Parts Latakia
5 Parts Red Virginia
5 Parts green river black (unsweetened Black Cavendish)

Mix it up. Put half in a ziplock and half in the press for several days. Squeezing the tobacco enough to marry tales a crap-ton of pressure so cram it down hard the first day. The tobacco will settle and slacken a bit overnight so the next day give it a few more cranks. Do this for three or four days, depending on how much your press can handle. Then let it sit for a week. Now grab some of the loose mixture you put in the bag. Smoke it. Wait a few hours or a day and with a clean palate, slice off some of the plug and smoke that. Now you probably thought the loose stuff was pretty good, but the pressed has complexity, depth and a certain mellowness to it. Probably a little sweeter too. Why? Imagine a symphony in which each of the players is playing a perfect rendition each of a different song. Your trumpet is playing Bach, the flautist is playing Peter and the wolf, the drummer is playing jazz etc....all perfectly playing their own songs, but together it doesn’t sound so hot. In fact, when they stop and start playing the SAME song, what they were doing before sounds downright awful. Same situation with pressing. In the loose mixture, you are tasting ALL of the different tobaccos at once each doing their own thing. In the pressed version, you are smoking 4 different tobaccos that play together as one. Aging can also achieve this. Heat can do it too, but it takes precise temperatures for periods of time in controlled environments. Casings also help...but nothing harmonizes a tobacco like pressing.

Now I said earlier that blending tobacco is cased. The thing is that in my opinion it isn’t cased enough. They sort of give you a start, but they only case enough to bring the ph down a bit and maybe take the edge off the raw leaf.

I start all casings with a 1:1 Sugar Water mixture. I add 1 part sugar by weight to 1 part Water by weight and drop in a tablespoon of white vinegar per quart. You can use apple cider vinegar if you want a nice sort of fruity undertone. Then I just bring the stuff to a boil for about 10 minutes..and that’s it. That is a basic casing for blending tobacco. Now here’s the fun part...the part where you get to really steer your blend. You can add traditional casing materials to the mix to subtly accent a base tobacco. Traditionally, Virginia’s are grassy and citrusy and traditional casing materials for Virginia’s are

-Fresh citrus peel (lemon, orange, bergamot...whatever whacks yer noodle) (a tablespoon per quart of solution)
-lemongrass (1 stick per quart)
-prune Juice (3 or 4 Oz per quart )
-Red Wine (1 cup per quart)
-Honey (a teaspoon per quart. too much bites)
-Brown Sugar (use it in place of the white sugar in the base mix or add a 1/8th cup to the boil)
-cinnamon bark (1/2 to 1 full stick per quart)
-Coriander seed- (1 to 2 tsp. Per quart)
Etc...

Traditional Burley casings are
-Brewer’s licorice 2” to a quart of solution
-Molasses (1 tablespoon per quart)
Cocoa Hulls (good luck finding them...you can use cocoa powder but let it settle to the bottom of the solution overnight before draining off the liquid and throwing the “slurry” away. ( 1 -2 tablespoons per quart)
Rum (like an Oz to a quart of solution)
Anise seed (Tbsp. Per quart.) do NOT use anis Oil...or god forbid wintergreen oil or other so called essential oils.msome will make you cough and some will kill you.
Etc..
Now don’t go putting every one of these ingredients in the same solution. Smell and taste your base tobacco and then think about what might accent it. Get your water, sugar and vinegar on the stove and choose 1, 2 or, 3 of the other ingredients. Better off with one or two. Boil sugar water and vinegar together with whatever ingredients you choose and strain it if need be. Nothing is more annoying than getting your sprayer clogged.

Heat up your base tobacco. Do NOT case Latakia, Cavendish, Fire Cured or Perique. They have been taken care of already. Add them last after your base blend has rested. You can mix, say, several grades of Virginia together and case them at once, or, if you are feeling ambitious, case each one differently. Same with Burley. Put a pound of tobacco in the microwave in a ziplock with holes punched in it. Heat it for 2 -3 minutes. Get a spray bottle and put abou1 oz of warm casing it (that’s it...less is really more!. Store the rest in a mason jar in the fridge. If you leave it out of the fridge it may ferment and explode Dump the tobacco in one of your wife’s best bowls and spray it a few times. Mix it up. Get your hands dirty. Repeat. Seal the tobacco in Tupperware for a week. Take it out, add your Latakia, perique or other spice tobaccos as needed. dry it down to smokeable consistency if it isn’t already.

If you are going to press, heat it up again until it’s warm-hot...maybe 2 minutes per pound. Press away.

Finally, for those of you using raw leaf, everything above applies with the addition of the following: mist distilled water on the leaf before heating in the microwave. A little is all it takes. Also, use more casing...like 2 oz per pound. Finally, add about 1 tsp. of food grade Gum Arabic to your 2oz of warm casing. Mix it up well. That is the “glue” that flake makers use to get their leaves to stick together. (I never told you that :)

That outta keep you busy for a while.
Holy carp I learned a lot here!!!

Thanks Ernie!
 

Hoosierpipeguy

Well-known member
Thanks for the information Ernie, great explanations. Myself, I like the blends great tobacconists like yourself make so much, I figure there's about a 99% chance I'd screw it up rather than improve it. I respect those, however, that like to tinker around though. I'm sure many of the great blends came from people "tinkering around".
 

Olmstead

Well-known member
Slow Smoke Winner
@Ernie Q - Thank you so much for sharing this. While I was certain that all 'blending' tobacco is cased—both from tasting it compared to whole leaf I've bought and from things I've read about it. For about two years now I've been messing around fairly often with blending, albeit at a very amateur level. I've had a few good results, but nothing eye-popping yet. Since then, I've gotten some excellent tips from the guys on the Fair Trade Tobacco forum, but your single post here has some great stuff in it. Aside from the tips and info here, I really like the sound of those recipes. They definitely give me some good and fresh ideas to start with, and I like your advice to separate casings into different parts instead of mixing everything together.

Finally, I wanted to mention something about pH. Back when I joined PSF, I caught some [harmless] laughs and criticism for saying that I rinse my mouth out with a baking soda and water mix sometimes before I smoke a burley blend, and for telling others to try it. I don't do this very often anymore, unless I've just had an acidic meal or snack, like Italian foods or fruit juices, and I'm going to smoke a burley-based blend like OJK. Even after being processed, the pH is still very high in some burley blends—and there's no doubt that when I raise the pH of my mouth before smoking one, I get way more enjoyment out of it. Something tells me you don't think I am that crazy for doing this.
Anyways...thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! :sailor:
 
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