Tuesday 30 September 2014

Flame on! Choosing the Right Butane

Before lighting  your cigar, before even choosing how to light your cigar, you first make a very important decision; what kind of fuel to use in your cigar lighter. The choice seems simple, but further investigation shows just how much choosing the right fuel can affect your cigar smoking experience.

If you light  your cigar with a torch or a soft flame lighter, chances are that you are fueling your lighter with butane. This odorless, pressurized gas is perfect for lighting cigars due to its relatively inexpensive cost and ability to have no affect on the taste of the cigar, but while there are many choices of butane in the market, not all are the same. In fact, making the wrong choice can severely hamper your ability to light a cigar in the future!

When browsing butane choices, you will notice that many claim to be refined two, three, or even five times. Refining is an industrial process of removing impurities from a material, in this case removing the impurities from the butane gas. It makes logical sense that the more you refine a material, the cleaner, or more pure, that material gets.  However this is not the whole story, although many producers will try to sell it to you as such. The refinement is only as good as its end result, the amount of impurities left after the refinement process. This number is usually expressed as PPM or Parts Per Million. This final number is the one you want to look for. For example, a butane with impurities of 15 PPM is cleaner than a butane with impurities of 30 PPM.

You may ask yourself, "Does 15 PPM more of impurities really make a difference? Especially if I can save some money?!" The answer is a resounding yes. The problem with a cheap and impure butane comes after filling your cigar lighter, some of which are quite expensive. An impure butane will, over time, leave residue and particulate within your cigar lighter. Many of the mechanisms within a quality cigar lighter are small and very liable to get clogged with this residue, causing the lighter to cease operation. The most likely place for the impurities to cause problems is within the burner, which is responsible for transporting the butane to its ignition point. Without a steady, regular flow of butane gas to the ignition, you will have very little chance of a consistent flame!

magnified look at impurities

more magnified impurities

It is easy to see how choosing a cheap, impure butane can actually cost you more money over time. In summary, when choosing a butane to fuel your lighter, look for the number of impurities per million on the can and avoid being trapped by the marketing gimmick of "Refined 5 Times!".

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