What Type Of Wine Cooler Should You Buy?
Not to be confused with the alcoholic beverage of the same name, a wine cooler is essentially a refrigerator unit meant for storing wine at a specific temperature. Unlike your typical kitchen refrigerator or wine cellar (if you happen to have one), a wine cooler regulates the temperature and humidity of its environment so your wine is able to mature and maintain its flavor without disruption. That said, you have a wide variety of wine coolers to choose from, and the selection can seem a bit overwhelming if you are new to this area. But the good news is that wine coolers aren't a thoroughly complicated subject, and once you know the basics you'll be able to figure out which kind best suits your purposes. So, let's start with the essentials:
This is the first thing you should consider - how much wine do you want to store, or be able to store? Consider factors like how often you drink wine (or plan to, now that you'll have a wine cooler), if you're looking to store wine for aging, and how many different types of wine you would like to be able to choose from at any given time. Wine coolers come in a fairly diverse range of sizes, from very small to quite large, and their capacities could fall anywhere between less than six bottles and upwards of 100. There are even single-capacity wine coolers that serve the simple purpose of keeping a bottle chilled before and/or during serving. If you're like most people though, you'll probably want to look at those that store around 20 or 30 bottles. Even if you don't keep it full all the time, it's nice to have the extra space should you suddenly get a gift of wine from a friend or colleague or end up hosting a party.
Thermoelectric vs. Compressor
As far as the technology of these appliances goes, there are two main types of wine coolers - thermoelectric and compressor. A thermoelectric wine cooler operates by using an electric current to create a temperature differential on either side of the fridge. This process is also called the "Peltier effect". This can really be used for maintaining both warm and cool environments within the appliance, but as far as wine coolers go, you'll want one that is at least capable of maintaining temperatures in the 50s. A compressor wine cooler works quite a bit differently. They get their name from the fact that they "compress" the refrigerant molecules to form a heated vapor, which then blows through a condenser to be quickly evaporated into cold air. A small fan then blows this cold air into the fridge. This process is sometimes referred to as the "vapor-compression cycle", and it also happens to be the most commonly used technology in regular home refrigerators. Keep in mind that if you are concerned about maintaining a temperature that is suitable for different types of wine, most coolers can be set to a happy medium (around 50 degrees). If you want to take things a step further though, some coolers also come with separate compartments that can be individually adjusted. That said, are there pros and cons to both thermoelectric and compressor technologies? Of course there are. Here are the main ones you should consider:
Thermoelectric Wine Coolers
Compressor Wine Coolers
The good news is that wine coolers can be installed anyway from your kitchen to your garage, from your dining room to your basement. If you really wanted to, you could even install one in your bedroom. Wine coolers come in a variety of sizes, though most are compact enough to fit among cabinets and wall nooks or stand freely without making you sacrifice too much space. A lot of people do like the look of built-in wine coolers, but these must be done with careful consideration. For example, the depth of the space you want to install it in should be measured carefully so that the door of the wine cooler does not stick out upon installation- unless of course you actually want to risk bumping into it all the time! Because of this extra attention and work (though some people end up redoing their cabinets around a wine cooler, rather than the other way around), installation of built-in units can cost a lot more. Freestanding coolers are technically a lot easier to put into your home, and the installation costs are often lower as a result, but you will still need to make sure you have adequate space for it. A lot of people like to put them in corners, but you should know that most freestanding coolers will not be able to sit flush up against a wall (there should be between six inches and a foot of space). Freestanding models also tend to come in more irregular sizes, so they won't be able to just be wedged in perfectly anywhere.
Types of Venting
Speaking of the installation considerations we just went over, venting can be added to that list. In addition to the different cooling technologies used, you will also see wine coolers with different types of venting, or rather, different venting locations. As with a lot of appliances, air is filtered in and out of wine coolers through a vent. Although it may seem like something of little importance, the location of the vent is actually a pretty big deal depending on where you plan on installing your wine cooler. After all, these vents need room to breathe in order for the cooler to function properly. For example, with a wine cooler built into a wall or shelving area, the venting is almost always located on the front of the unit because let's face it; there's nowhere else for the air to go. Built-in wine coolers are also typically compressor units, since thermoelectric coolers are more influenced by the environment around them and are more likely to fail if trapped in enclosed spaces. Aside from front, vents can also face out the back or more rarely, out the top of the cooler. Rear-facing vents and top-facing vents are obviously better for freestanding wine coolers, but they too need their "breathing room". If you opt for a cooler with a rear-facing vent, make sure you install it with at least six inches of open space in the back. Likewise, if you choose a cooler with a vent on the top, make sure it has at least 12 inches or so of open space. This means that you can install this type of cooler along your wall or in between other furnishings, but it cannot be flush against the ceiling or otherwise covered up.
Wine Cooler Models
As you can see by now, you have a wide variety of different wine cooler models to choose from. But to give you an even better idea of what you're looking at, here are a few examples of wine coolers currently on the market:
- Uses a compressor cooling system
- Holds up to 46 regular-sized wine bottles
- Upper and lower cooling zones for different wine types
- Meant specifically for built-in installation
- Weighs 104 lbs. (un-stocked), with a height of 32.2 inches. The width is 22.4 inches, and the depth is 23.5 inches
- Temperature adjusted with push-button control pad
- Noise level: 39 decibels
- Uses thermoelectric cooling system that runs silently, without vibration
- Holds up to 32 regular-sized wine bottles
- Has "dual zones" that can be controlled separately (perfect for lovers of both red and white wine)
- Weighs 69 lbs. (un-stocked) and has a height of 32.35 inches, with a width of 21.50 inches. The depth is 20.50 inches
- Removable racks to accommodate larger bottles
- Digital temperature control
- Noise level: 25 decibels
- Uses a compressor cooling system
- Holds up to 27 regular-sized wine bottles
- Single cooling zone
- Insulate glass door is shatter proof and protects interior environment from exterior temperatures
- Weighs 55 lbs. (un-stocked), with a height of 33.3 inches, a width of 18.50 inches, and a depth of 17 inches
- Push button temperature control, but has digital readout
- Noise level: 35 decibels
- Uses thermoelectric cooling system
- Holds up to six regular-sized wine bottles (this is among the smallest wine coolers offered)
- Single cooling zone, with two removable wine racks
- Adjusted with a push-button control pad
- Meant specifically for freestanding installation
- Weighs 25 lbs. (un-stocked) and has a height of 14.88 inches, with a width of 19.75 inches and a depth of 10.13 inches
- Runs silently without vibration
Very little maintenance is required with wine coolers in general. In fact, you'll find yourself having to do even less maintenance with your wine cooler than your regular refrigerator, since you won't be dealing with a lot of different kinds of food. Certain wine coolers also have a carbon filtration system, with filters that need to be replaced eventually. However, most models do not have this feature. Instead, the main sort of upkeep you'll be doing is emptying out wine coolers on occasion and wiping down their interiors (and exteriors) with warm water and a mild detergent. So, you may prefer a model with removable racks for this reason alone.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know more about your wine cooler options , it's time to reexamine what you're really looking for. Keep in mind that if you are fairly new to the wine world, there's a good possibility your wine collection will only increase as you get more into it. So, it's a good idea to envision the smallest wine cooler you feel fits your lifestyle, and then look at the next size up. There's no "one size fits all" when it comes to these appliances, but there is sure to be one that works best for you.