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Ammonia and rehydration.

Recently I raised the topic of adding ammonia to snuff as a preservative.   The  encyclopaedia entry that I read was from around 1900. 

Has anyone tried rehydrating old snuff with water and ammonia or just ammonia on its own ?

The reason that I am pondering it is I have read here that some people end up with mouldy snuff after their attempts at rehydration. I was thinking that the ammonia fumes might retard the growth of moulds.


  • If you properly rehydrate, you shouldn't have an issue with mold. Indirect rehydration is the key.
  • Don't bother. Passively hydrate the snuff, you should be fine. Ammonia is only used as a preservative. It is the reason why some freshly opened snuffs smell "off".
  • edited December 2016 PM
    I always assumed that the ammonia smell was from recent or continuing fermentation of the tobacco. Ammonia is a byproduct of fermentation, that's why in snuff that's been sitting on the shelf for a while the smell is either reduced or absent altogether.

    As to rehydrating with ammonia, it seems to me that it would be far more difficult and dangerous than it's worth. Just go with indirect rehydration.
  • cpmcdillcpmcdill Member
    edited December 2016 PM
    Some snuffmakers add a few granules of food grade Ammonium Carbonate (Baker's Ammonia) per ounce of tobacco during initial milling. It seems that in some instances it was traditionally used to make stale old tobaccos seem fresher and of higher quality. As a preservative, I'm not convinced. I've had tobacco reeking of ammonia develop mold.

    I would not use liquid ammonia in snuff, as it's not food grade and probably has the wrong pH.

    If you want to add Ammonium carbonate to an already milled snuff, which I have not done before, it will probably alter the character for better or worse. Either re-mill the dry snuff with a few granules, then passively rehydrate, or dissolve granules in water, then add in and mix a few drops at a time, without milling. Experiment with small quantities, as it's too easy to cross the line with the ammonia.

    There are some who add Ammonium Chloride, which is also called Salmiac. A different scent characteristic, but not unknown in snuffs.

  • I tent to try and not re-hydrate too large amounts at once, typically a few days max at a time. The indirect method if used in a 25g toque tin will hydrate the snuff from dry to medium-high in about 6-8 hours, I typically leave it overnight then its right to go in the morning. It is mostly Artisan snuff you come across issues with mold while re-hydrating. 
  • volungevolunge Member
    edited March 2019 PM
    @ArtChoo, as mentioned in the old Russian book "O razvedenii i fabrikacii tabaka" ("About cultivation and manufacture of tobacco". Moscow, 1852), the ammonia water can be sprayed on any weak or dried-out snuff to make it stronger.

    Out of 62 snuff recipes included in that book, 15 call for ammonia water:

    Dutch Pressed 4.3 %, St. Vincent 2.9 %, Best Violet Rappee 1.3 %, Son de Tonca 1.5 %, St. Omer/St. Vincent (new recipe) 2.4 %, Tabac d'Oranges 1.9 %, Cusco 2 %, Mississipi 2.4 %, St. Omer 1st sort 2.5 %, St. Omer 2nd sort 1.8 %, St. Omer 3rd sort 2.3 %, Strasbourgian St. Omer or Rappee 2.5 % (at my rough calculation). Termondian and Bergamot snuffs were ammonia-fortified, too.

    There's also a very straightforward recipe of Grand-Cardinal snuff: take any old St. Omer snuff, mix it with ammonia water and add some salt.

    As noted there, added ammonia evaporate from snuff much faster than the one occuring as a natural byproduct of fermentation.

    Addition of ammonia is not a bygone practice - some modern snuffs do contain ammonia water as well (significantly less, though):

    Feinster Kownoer - 0,54 % (5.41 mg in 1000 mg of snuff, as indicated at This snuff is still being manufactured according an old recipe from 1909.

    Ammonia water is one of the ingredients of Icelandic snuff - neftobak. I think that some is poured into Taxi and NTSU snuffs as well (it airs quite fast, hence my guess).

    I'll try to reanimate some zombie snuffs in this manner next week.
  • I'm alive :). I rehydrated some old stuff with 10% ammonia water, added 3 parts by weight, mixed with 22 parts of water. I expected NTSU-ish blast of NH3, but I barely pick it up. It's good and definitely worth going for. Now my 44-year-old snuff is alive and kicking!

    I will try 15 parts next time and report back.
  • @volunge, have you also tried Baker's Ammonia (ammonium carbonate) instead of ammonia hydroxide?  Just curious if one smells stronger after cooking than the other.  Thanks!  :)


  • volungevolunge Member
    edited April 2019 PM
    @Cobguy, I haven't tried Baker's Ammonia yet.

    Regarding my previously carried experiment of old snuff rehydration with ammonia water, I did enjoy the outcome and consider such quantity safe (i. e. 3 parts by weight). Homemade snuff containing 5-10 % of sodium carbonate anhydrous emits much more ammonia. That is why I would not even consider supplementing my homemade snuff with ammonia water.

    Following the recipe of Russian Goldfish snuff, I rehydrated another old snuff (this time not a USSR-made),  a stale one (low on nicotine, no burn and strange smell - mild, but off-putting), with 15 parts of same concentration ammonia water (1.5 g dilluted with 1 g of water for 7.5 g of snuff). To put it softly, I found this quantity a no go. It's excess and hazardous. I could hardly breath and had to open the front door while stirring snuff and ammonia solution mixture. I let the thing sit for three days and took a pinch of it today, just to discover it being totally disgusting and void of any possible pleasure. There was a mild burn, a short-lasting one, and penetrating odour of ammonia. That's all. The lack of nicotine rush and tobacco flavour can be explained by staleness of the snuff I used for this particular experiment. Please get me right - I love ammonia in fresh snuff, but this just felt completely wrong. I binned the stuff immediately.
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