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Snuff making 101

edited March 2012 in General
Here is a basic recipe that can be used for making snuff.

 ground and sieved tobacco flour                     1/4 cup
 distilled water                                                  2 teaspoons                       
 sodium carbonate (washing soda)                  1/8 teaspoon
 table salt                                                          1/2 teaspoon    
Dissolve  soda and salt in water then add to tobacco flour.
Jar and let sit for one week.

That is it in a nutshell. This recipe is quite flexible and there are a ton of details but I wanted to start simple here.

Thanks to @snuffmiller a.k.a. Jaap Bes for the original recipe this is based on, See complete recipe here



  • edited March 2012 PM
    In all fairness you can simply grind up any tobacco and snuff it. A little water and salt can make it easier to snuff. A little of this and a little of that, you know how it goes. I'm going to go over the basic mechanics here first drying, grinding, sieving  and hydrating. Although these are not necessarily always done in that order. Then below I will go further in detail on different snuff types and methods for making those. I will also try to go on about tobacco varieties and some of their qualities as they apply to their use in snuff making. Also to be discussed will be non tobacco additives. Furthermore I will attempt to go through details on casings and scenting. Then finally some tips on how to use heat to your advantage. The goal here is to expand our knowledge on snuff and snuff making. Not only so that we can make our own snuff but so that we might more appreciate the snuff that we buy. I will try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding making snuff further down on this thread. Suggestions, corrections, questions, and any relevant information regarding this thread are welcomed. As @Snuffster has suggested a thread like this is a good idea and can only enhance our beloved snuff house. I realize I am a sucker for volunteering and that I am in a bit over my head but I think with a little help from this community this will turn out OK. 

  • edited March 2012 PM

    DRYING; your tobacco will grind much easier and more fine if dry but in some cases this is not absolutely necessary. Drying quickly is a good idea so that your tobacco does not remain exposed to uncontrolled environmental impacts. Warm temperatures and good ventilation will do the trick. In an oven on low is an extreme method but if done carefully works well and can even add a toasted flavor if wanted. In the microwave if you must, I have heard it done successfully but microwave ovens are usually smelly and controlling temperatures is difficult. In a crock pot with the lid off works well. I like to put a metal bowl over the crock so that it gently warms as a fan gently blows across the top. You can also just simply leave your tobacco out to dehydrate. Just be sure that it will not be exposed to unwanted materials such as anthrax dust or avian bird flu virus etc.. Drying tobacco is called taking it out of case. It is not just done for grinding but also done when wanting to have casings or flavorings absorbed. 

    GRINDING; A mortar and pestle is the most useful tool I know for snuff making at home but for grinding up your tobacco you will want to use some kind of coffee grinder. Burr grinders are said to be the best if you get a good one. Burr grinders would be a good choice for a more consistent larger grind for making dip or snus or for snuff with an extremely gros grind. Although they do grind fine I do not find them as useful as blade grinders are because blade grinders can also be used for mixing. Also you can sharpen the blades if you want to. I suppose if you had to you could use a food processor or blender. Let us know how they work if you do. You would be ok with just using a mortar and pestle. Elbow grease and patience would be all you need. Some of the more difficult leaf parts can be tossed in the mortar for physical crushing. Another method of pulverizing tobacco is with a ball grinder. A ball grinder is a container containing ball bearings that is shaken and is said to be extremely effective at crushing tobacco. 

    SIEVING; This is done in order to achieve a consistent flour. Sieving after grinding while the tobacco is still dry is much easier than sieving moist tobacco. There are reasons to sieve moist snuff though one of which is to de-clump it. I like to use a metal kitchen strainer that has a handle I can hold while I bounce my fingers off the rim to dance the flour through the sieve. A popular method is to cover a jar full of flour with a panty hose and shake out the finer particles.There are professionally made sieves with specific sizes if you want to be serious about this. Most tobaccos will allow a percentage through the sieve immediately. I have found this to be the softest sort and keep it separate from the rest. This I consider my top shelf snuff which can sometimes be as little as fifty percent of the flour. Tobacco that does not easily go through the sieve gets reground and sieved into seconds. Here crushing action can help further break down the tobacco. But you will notice that seconds do have a more rough texture to them. There is some leftover if you have been vigilant. This is usually thrown out but does have some uses. You might be sieving tobacco that has already been fermented or has little stem or vein material and which breaks down easily leaving no seconds. You may for some snuff not want to use sieve at all.

    HYDRATING; Snuff needs to be at a certain level of moisture for consumption. Not difficult at all since tobacco easily absorbs it. We can take advantage of this characteristic by including casings or toppings in the provided moisture. To bring your flour back into case for fermentation or curing you can simply stir in prescribed liquids. *Use only uncontaminated ingredients such as distilled water.  Scent toppings can be done the same way but perhaps misting might be a better method for topping snuff that is already in case. Another good method would be to indirectly bring into case with a humidified environment. This can be as easy as putting a cover over a tin of snuff and a separate tin of water. This indirect method also works well for scenting snuff. Just replace the water with a scenting medium. Not all snuffs are the same when it comes to moisture levels and personal preference should play a major role.

  • edited March 2012 PM

    Not all snuff is made with tobacco as its main ingredient. There are a few herb based snuffs as well. There are also some dextrose based snuffs with menthol or guarana added. Of the tobacco sort there is a myriad of styles that can sometimes be categorized by the country of origin. I will run through a basic list with basic descriptions here to give some idea of the scope of snuff types.
     German Schmalzlers are a fermented brazil tobacco that is oiled and flavored. Dry English snuff usually scented with an ever expanding range of scents normally on a plain tobacco base but some use dark fermented and others have specialty tobacco types. Irish toasts are an interesting lot being very fine with a toasty tobacco scent.The medicated snuffs should also be noted using menthol, eucalyptus, and or camphor as the main attraction. India has a wide variety of snuffs some lightly oiled, some lightly mentholated, a lot of them have extremely complicated floral scenting that can be directly related to ayurvedic theory. Also from India is the ultra fine fermented white snuff. There are quite a few other traditional Indian snuffs as well as snuffs being made in India for the modern snuff market. The U.S. has run through a few snuff types itself leaving its Scotch snuff as the last man standing. This is a dry strong fire cured type that is generally unflavored except for the sweet variety which likely came about by the popularity of its use as dip. In South Africa there is a certain style of cut that is favored. A fine cut, not ground that is well fermented and very soft in the nose can be found called Gwayi. This is also available mentholated. Iceland with strict government controls has its very own variety called Neftobak. China, Japan, and other countries in the far east have their own snuffs too. Mostly family recipes handed down from generation to generation. It may be that we may never know of these as they are not for sale and younger generations don't always carry on all traditions. However the Dutch windmills at Kralingse do carry on tradition and we are very fortunate having them finding and using ancient recipes to produce snuff with.

  • edited March 2012 PM

    There are many different types of tobacco that can be used in snuff making. Cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snus, even chew or dip. These will all have different ways of being handled pertaining to the ingredients that are already in them. But this will not be the focus here but the specific varieties tobacco will be. Cues can be taken from these products as to what type of leaf combinations creates a certain flavor profiles. There are also different species of nicotiana that can be used for snuff the most notable being nicotiana rustica. Rustica has the highest nicotine content as well as having higher concentrates of other alkaloids that can have a notable effect. So much so that it would be advised that anyone on or should be on MAOI's should avoid its use. The nicotiana tabacum species is most widely used for tobacco products and includes the following varieties to choose from and although each variety has a multitude of strains most have similar characteristics. 

    BURLEY can be found in almost all tobacco products. It has a high nicotine content and very little sugar. It carries casings very well and makes a perfect base for snuff. Cigars are normally made entirely of air cured burley leaf which has been sweated and does make for good snuff. Burley can also be found as fire cured as well as specially fermented into what is called Perique.

    VIRGINIA is a lighter, sweeter leaf that has much character when fermented or aged. Fire cured virginia leaf can be found but it is quite rare. It can be air cured too but for the most part virginia leaf gets flue cured which brings out the best of its qualities namely its golden color. Virginia and burley compliment each other well and can be found in combination for the base of most English snuffs.

    TURKISH tobacco though not all grown in Turkey proper has a lot of the same characteristics. There are many strains each with their own twist in fact some distinct enough to be categorized as ORIENTAL. Turkish tobacco is generally sweet and oily with a strong herbal component with much less nicotine. Usually sun cured except for the famous latakia style of cure which is to smoke over an open fire of pine and other fragrant woods.

    LATAKIA makes a great smelling snuff although on its own a little low in nicotine is so strongly scented that blending would only help. There is a Syrian and a Cyprian having minor but notable differences.

    PERIQUE is a specific variety of red burley that is only harvested from a specific growing region. It is further processed using very specific fermenting techniques. Perique is wonderful as a snuff. It is very strong and a good snuff on its own but also makes a great blender with chameleon like characteristics.

    Tobaccos are also known for certain characteristics by where they are grown for example you have MALAWI, ZIMBABWE, CAROLINA, MARYLAND, BRAZIL, CUBA and the list goes on. Even further if you start looking at cigar leaf varieties. Indonesian TAMBOLAKA is an example of an exotic type of fermented cigar leaf.

  • edited March 2012 PM

    There is a myriad of options when it comes to additives. Alkalizing agents, oils, humectants, stabilizing agents, preservatives, casings, and toppings. There is also the option of putting other powders from the herb, root, seed, bean, flower, leaf, fruit, etc. Perhaps animal, vegetable and mineral should all be considered . Don't forget menthol crystals as a choice. A good snuff does not absolutely require any of these ingredients but this is the fun part of snuff making. A little of this and a little of that, you know. A good list to look at is the list of approved  tobacco additives as listed by the FDA. This list will give you an idea of what additives are considered as generally safe to use, however you must use caution regardless of what you are using. Here is the list. 

    ALKALIZING AGENTS will freebase the nicotine in your tobacco making it easier to be absorbed. Most of us will want some kind of alkalizing salt in our snuff. Sodium carbonate (washing soda) may be the best option for the home grinder. The desperate few will use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) which does work but not as effectively and has a few undesirable qualities. Ammonium chloride (sal ammonmiak, salmiak) may be worth getting as it is commonly used in commercial snuffs. There is also potassium carbonate (potash), calcium hydroxide (slaked lime), calcium carbonate, ammonium carbonate, and who knows what else.

    OILS can be added to make a certain style of snuff. Mineral oil is used for commercial products due to its long shelf life but Schmalz-ing at home can be without this concern. Coconut oil, sesame oil, clarified butter, even bacon fat can be used with reasonable shelve lives. Many other types of oils may be tried in small batches adding up to twenty percent by weight to your snuff. Just mix in a little at a time until desired results are achieved. Remember, scented oils are not for Schmalzlers but for scenting and are not used in the manner described above.

    HUMECTANTS are normally used in dip and snus though not unheard of in nasal snuff. Propylene glycol, glycerin, polyols, sorbitol, xylitol, ethanol, and ethel alcohol are a few examples. Some of these (glycerin) can easily be added to your snuff for oral use if you like.

    STABILIZING AGENT AND PRESERVATIVES would rarely be used by the home grinding man. Silicagel, paraffin, calcium hydroxide, potassium sorbate, ethyl ester I wouldn't want to name any that you would use except for salt which also serves a threefold function as flavor enhancer. 

    CASINGS like honey, molasses, maple syrup, cane syrup, invert sugar, treacle, sorghum, corn syrup, brown sugar, rum, licorice, fruit sauces and other liquids are sometimes added at amounts up to 15 percent* to hydrate tobacco These add an appreciable sweetness that can also fuel fermentation. Soaking, steaming, misting, and mixing, are some methods used. Generally speaking these types of casings are used to combat the sharpness or bitterness that tobacco can have. Not limited to sweeteners, casings may also include your alkalizers and aromatic ingredients or just plain water. Be sure that these are "pasteurized"or at least not contaminated with undesirable elements. Distilled water is ideal for use in hydrating snuff. *Overly hydrated snuff is easily dehydrated however you will not want to evaporate important scenting ingredients.

    TOPPINGS are mostly added to scent a finished tobacco. Essential oils, absolutes, alcohols, and other scenting mediums can be misted on snuffs with an atomizer. Mixing in thoroughly can be difficult, especially with oils, so adding the scents to the casings to mix in is quite common. 

    GUANO, RHINO HORN AND DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. Sure, why not? Well, this is an important question. There are quite a few things on this planet that you will not want in your nose. Do your home work! Even if someone else is putting 'so and so" in their own snuff. If you thought I was going to make a list here for you then I apologize. I will mention a few of my favorites though. Gotu Kola (Brahmi) is an herb I favor as a base for non-tobacco herb snuffs. Guarana seed powder is another one I like and usually mix fifty fifty with tobacco. Kava root, licorice root, calamus, angelica, saffron, echinacea, and goldenseal are some other powders I have. Once you start looking at the world through the eyes of a snuff maker you will find many options. Orris root is particularly interesting being used for as an additive to snuff in days of old.

    MENTHOL crystals can be added to your snuff at 0.5% to 0.65% by weight. Be sure to dissolve the crystals first. 

  • edited March 2012 PM

    Scenting your snuff does not always involve directly adding ingredients. Some scents can be transferred by simply leaving in a closed environment with your snuff. An example would be to put a cover over two separate containers one being your snuff and the other being your scenting material. In some cases (pun) you can hydrate a snuff with a fragrant humidity but it is not absolutely necessary your snuff be dry to be transferred a scent. Tonka beans, vanilla beans, mint species leaves, and various other things can also be put directly in your snuff box to add scent. Mixing in essential oils can be done with some scents. If using a combination it is best to mix the scents first before adding to snuff. The amounts used can vary widely and it would be wise to go one drop at a time. Scented oils which are not the same as essential oils may not be the best choice for mixing in directly and may be more suitable for the indirect method of scenting. The nice thing about making your own snuff is that you can choose your own natural ingredients for scenting. Or if you like you could try to make a snuff with the same scenting ingredients the big boys use. Like for Doppelaroma, it has ethyl acetate, triacetin, 3-methyl butyl acetate, iso amylvaleranat, and ethyl alcohol as aromatic agents. To be fair some of these ingredients do occur naturally but they just got them from the laboratory instead.

  • edited March 2012 PM

    FERMENTATION involves heat. Either generated by the mass of the tobacco itself or by artificial means. At up to 54 celcius or 130 farenheit sufficient moisture is also needed. Acquiring already fermented tobacco is a good option. However the adding of alkalizers does seem to activate the fermentation of tobacco. This certainly will not yield the same results as sweating and slow aging does but it is well worth experimenting with. This is our little secret. While smokers painstakingly sweat their tobacco in kilns and what not, we simply change the ph to "cook" our tobacco. 

    BLACKENING; heating your snuff will cause a darkening of the tobacco in a process known as the maillard reaction. Temperatures of 50 to 75 celcius or 122 to 167 farenheit can be used to achieve this. The length of time in these conditions can be up to a whole week. This process will require at least twice the amount of water as tobacco involved. If interested I suggest looking into the many snus recipes available as this is exactly the process used by home snus makers to make their snus. Just vary the times and temperatures to get darker or lighter results. 

    TOASTING your snuff will also require heat. Water is not used in toasting procedures. High temperatures at short periods of time will do the trick. I use my crock pot on its high setting. It is possible to toast at blackening temperatures but the length of time involved may not allow supervision so overcooking can be a risk factor. Toasted tobacco may smell bad. Do not be discouraged by this as this unfavorable scent will usually be gone after a week or so. 

  • edited March 2012 PM
    Mold can develop only under certain conditions. The high ph environment of snuff is not conducive to mold growth. If you are not adding alkalizers to your snuff then be sure to keep it on the dry side. Adding oils to snuff without salts is a good way to moisten them for more comfortable snuffing. I have used tobacco that has had slight mold growth and I have recouped snuff that had started to develop mold. You may not want to follow in my foot steps and that is understandable as some molds can produce toxic byproducts. What little mold I had I killed and there was no scent evidence to be had. Yes, there are more mold spores in it then I would like but mold spores are everywhere more or less any way. Enabling logic I suppose.

  • Very interesting topic and I will be keeping an eye on this thread. I'm currently growing my own tobacco to give me something to do, so no doubt that this will be very useful for me. Nice one pal.
  • Good job getting all this in one place. Keep up the good work. Do you want me to move it into the FAQ section? I can delete this and any extraneous comments once there.
  • edited March 2012 PM
    Great resource, very nicely done. Definitely for the FAQ when the Master has concluded:)

    Maybe we could leave the comments and questions until it's copied onto the FAQ?

  • Thank you VERY much! This thread has been bookmarked!
  • edited January 2013 PM
    "I bought 50 gr of Celikhan raw tobacco. Celikhan tobacco was used for snuffmaking by turkish government company until 1980's. Then the production stopped. This tobacco is very expensive $50 for 1 kg. It is moist and ready to smoke. I dried 50gr tobacco in microvawe for 20 minutes at the lowest heat. I ground it very fine like toque snuffs. For HDT i cook it untill some smoke appears. For scenting and maturing i use sodium carbonate and table salt 1/1 ratio (very small amounts) mix it with 2ml water. Add essential oils mixtures as you want. For plain snuff no oils. For scented 1-2 drops(it is like toque) For parfumed 6-7 drops (F&T like) and for exterem parfumed add 13-16 drops ( indian snuff like) if you want oil based use haff amount of paraffin instead of water. Mix them all with tea spoon. It doesn't become like mud don't afraid. It tastes salty but if you wait 24hrs at least salt disappears slowly."

    copied from a @linguist post
  • Ohhhh I wish we had a "like" button.  
  • edited June 2012 PM
    He's so....masterfully snuffy
  • Great thread.  I'm about to plant some different tobaccos bound for grinding.  Really appreciate this info. 
  • Fantastic thread! I've bookmarked this one and it will be my bible going forward. Thanks @Juxtaposer!
  • I might be done here. I suppose there will be a few edits and additions I will do but for the most part I think I'm finished. If anyone thinks I left anything out please let me know. 
  • I'm really sketchy on the whole fermentation process. How do you track its progress? How do you know when to stop it? How do you stop it? If these questions are covered already I apologize, but I've missed it. Any addl info appreciated. I've made snuff by grinding prepared tobacco of course, but never from leaf, and that seems like the "real" way to do it. I want to. But I'm sure I'd hose the process right off by not understanding enough about the fermentation/curing process. Are these even the same thing? Sorry for being so dense.
  • edited March 2012 PM
    Fermentation (the breakdown of the tobacco leaf) is very complicated yes, but it is something that happens automatically and naturally starting from when the plants are harvested. Extensive fermentation is there for you to experiment with but it is not necessary. 
    I edited the recipe so now you have nothing to think about.
  • That is a great resource! Thank you.
  • Fantastic thread, still getting around to digesting it all.
  • How was that Guano snuff?
  • This has to be the most interesting and useful thread on this site, thanks Jux!
  • edited March 2012 PM
    and I can no longer edit my posts on the mobile version.
  • This is an excellent thread !

    Bookmarked !!

  • This is the most extensive piece of work about making snuff that I have ever come across. As the commercial producers don't exactly give their secrets away, making your own snuff can be a daunting prospect. This shows it isn't and it's perfectly possible to make great snuff at home. 

    Hopefully this can be trimmed of comments and put onto the FAQ as one body of text.
  • @snuffster I think @Juxtaposer has already begun something like that.
  • edited June 2012 PM
    Just wanted to say thank you for the guide. I made some snuff from american spirit perique RYO tobacco using this basic recipe and it turned out great! Decent nic kick and a little burn.
    The only difference is that I used baking soda instead of sodium carbonate, and I used 50% more of it (3/16 tsp total) because I read somewhere that's what you need to achieve same PH as sodium carbonate.
    I'll try this next with some strong pipe tobacco. Oh and I was wondering... what are the "undesirable qualities" of using baking soda instead of sodium carbonate (washing soda)?
  • @gavin Baking soda has a slight scent and is less interactive with the tobacco. That's about it though. American Spirit Perique is a great choice for making snuff. I ran into some mold problems with my ASP batch that was also alkalized with baking soda. I did not add any salt and I was keeping it way too moist. 
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