What type of Wine Cooler are you looking for?
There are basically 3 kinds and we will help you decide which one is right for you.
What’s the Difference?
|FREESTANDING WINE COOLERS||BUILT-IN WINE COOLERS||COUNTERTOP WINE COOLERS|
|Portable - perfect for any location (kitchen, living room, bar)||Space saving - sits under a counter or in a cut-out, or cabinet||Portable and compact, perfect for counters and tables|
|Heat generally dispenses from the rear of the unit||Saves on space, heat vents in the front||Ideal for spaces with lots of counterspace|
|Thermoelectric/ Energy Efficient option||Generally holds a larger collection||Generally holds a small collection|
|Less expensive than Built-In systems||Most expensive kind of system||Can find inexpensive units|
Should you get a Freestanding Wine Cooler?
Freestanding Coolers are designed to stand alone, like a piece of furniture; and they can be very stylish pieces as that.
You might want a Freestanding Cooler if:
- You want/ need the flexibility to move your cooler around (either from one end of the room to another, or to a different room completely). This flexibility is also necessary for apartment dwellers that may occasionally move.
- You want to show off your collection. Wine and wine coolers are definitely a conversation piece and if they are in a location of your choosing, you can show off your wine as you like.
- You have a specific location (that is not suited for a built-in unit) in which you would like to place a wine cooler.
- You are interested in a Thermoelectric/ Energy Efficient wine cooler. You may be able to find a built-in Thermoelectric wine cooler, but generally speaking, the energy efficient systems are freestanding systems.
- You don’t have a cut-out/ under counter space that can house a built-in system.
- You don’t want to spend as much money on your wine cooler as a built-in might cost. You can certainly find expensive freestanding wine coolers, but for the most part they are always going to be cheaper than built-in systems.
Something to note about freestanding coolers: They generally dissipate heat from the back of the unit, therefore keeping a couple of inches clearance on all sides of the unit is recommended. If you are looking for a cooler that you can put into a cabinet or in a very closed off space, you will be better off with a Built-In/ Under-Counter cooler.
Should you get a Built-In/ Under-Counter Wine Cooler?
Built-In or Under-Couner wine coolers are designed to go into an existing counter or cabinet space/ cut-out. These units are also called zero clearance (as they clear out of the way) and generally vent from the front of the unit (where Freestanding Coolers vent from the rear and cannot go under a counter or cabinet).
You might want a Built-In/ Under-Counter Cooler if:
- You already have a cut-out or other space in which you can put an Under-Counter system.
- You have a large kitchen and can create a cut-out for this type of system.
- You have a large collection of wine that you would like to store and keep handy.
- You want/ need the unit out of the way (and under a counter or in a cabinet).
- You prefer a Compressor-Based cooler (like a refrigerator) as opposed a Thermoelectric cooler (which can generally only cool to about 20°F lower than the ambient temperature outside the unit). This may apply if you are in a particularly hot environment or prefer your wine colder than standard recommendations.
- You enjoy a fully optimized kitchen and appreciate the luxury of having a Built-In System.
- You are a serious collector and can afford a built-in system.
Something to note about Built-In/ Under-Counter Wine Coolers: Don’t think that a ‘built-in’ wine cooler has to be custom made for your kitchen or cabinet. These systems come in various sizes and while some people may have a custom made system, most everyone else can find a size that works for the space they have.
Should you get a Countertop Wine Cooler?
Countertop wine coolers are exactly what they sound like; they are wine coolers that are small enough to sit on your countertop (or any flat surface really). Given this fact, they are generally smaller units.
You might want a Countertop Wine Cooler if:
- Your space is very limited.
- You have a small collection of wine.
- You want to keep a small collection (aside from your larger collection) handy and ready for serving. Those who prefer their ready to serve wine at a different temperature than their aging wine will appreciate a countertop cooler.
- Your budget calls for the least expensive type of wine cooler.
- You find them to be very cute!
What about other Features?
Here are some other features to think about when shopping for a wine cooler
Should you get a Dual Zone or Single Zone Wine Cooler?
A Dual Zone wine cooler has 2 separate cooling compartments, thus creating the ideal storage temperature for your reds and your whites. Obviously your red wine needs to be stored and served at a different temperature than your white wines. With a dual system, you can maintain both wines in the same cooler.
A Single Zone cooler only features 1 temperature control. This type of system works great for larger collections or for individuals who only drink reds or whites.
Something to note about Dual Zone Coolers: Some coolers may come with an unequal amount of space in each zone. For example, one zone may hold 8 bottles (say for your white collection) while the other zone holds 10 (for your red collection). You will want to keep this mind and make sure to select a cooler that suites your taste.
Should you get a Thermoelectric cooler or Compressor cooler?
What is the difference between thermoelectric cooling and compressor cooling?
Thermoelectric cooling uses the Peltier effect which basically means that an electrical current is responsible for creating a temperature difference.
If you really want to understand it in more detail, click here – thermoelectric cooling.
This type of cooler doesn’t actually add cold air, rather it takes out hot air.
They do not have compressors which means they have fewer moving parts and are much quieter. This doesn’t mean they are all completely silent; there may be some coolers that produce a slight hum, but they are quieter than a compressor cooler.
It also means that these coolers are vibration free. Vibrations can disturb the sediment in your wine and affect the taste in a negative way.
The lack of a compressor makes a thermoelectric cooler more energy efficient (using less electricity). They are also environmentally safe as there are no hazardous materials used. Compressor coolers use refrigerants which have been linked to ozone depletion.
Should you get a thermoelectric cooler?
- They do not have a compressor. This means the are:
- Vibration Free
- Energy Efficient
- Environmentally Save (no hazardous materials used)
- More consistent temperatures (the interior temperature of some compressor coolers can fluctuate up to 10ºF in different areas of the cooler)
Thermoelectric coolers sound like the best option, but are they?
- They don’t work well in warm areas since they don’t produce cold air (they remove heat)
- They don’t work well in extremely cold environments (interior temperature will drop to whatever the outside ambient temperature is)
- They can only be used in controlled environments (where the temperature does not fluctuate significantly)
- They do not get as cool as a compressor cooler. The lowest temperature they can generally reach is somewhere between 44-50ºF
Make sure the temperature range of a cooler matches your wine drinking temperature preferences.
A compressor cooler is just like an everyday refrigerator. It uses refrigerant that gets compressed together which creates a heated vapor. This vapor will then travel through a condenser and finally flash evaporation will turn it cold. This type of cooler has a fan that will blow air across coils which in turn cools the unit.
Assuming that most people are pretty familiar with a standard refrigerator, we won’t go into much more detail. We will however touch on some items to consider.
The temperature range of a compressor cooler is much greater than that of a thermoelectric cooler. Compressor coolers can get very cold, so if you like your wines cooler (cooler than 45ºF) you might be better off with this type of cooler.
This cooler might also be better for you if you live in very warm regions (where ambient room temperature is high) or plan on putting the cooler in an area that is not temperature regulated.
There are move moving parts with a compressor which means noise and vibration. These coolers should not be louder than a standard refrigerator (and will more likely be quieter).
Then there is the vibration which could disturb the wine sediment and alter the taste. If you have a very high end collection of wine, then this is something to consider. For the most part however, most people are not overly concerned about the potential for slight vibrations. I suppose it all depends on what kind of collector you are.
Finally there is the environmental concerns. The refrigerant used in these coolers has been linked to ozone depletion. If you are an environmentally conscious individual, you might want to think about this.
Should you get a compressor cooler?
- Has a wider temperature range – can get colder than thermoelectric coolers
- Can be used in different temperature environments
- Compressor causes more noise than a thermoelectric cooler
- Compressor causes vibrations which could negatively affect wine
- Uses refrigerant which causes environmental damage
What is the temperature range?
Wine coolers can have slightly different temperature ranges. Knowing your preferred drinking temperature for both reds and whites is important as you will want to be certain the cooler can accommodate your needs.
For example, if you like your whites colder than the recommended temperature you will want to make sure the cooler you select can get down to that temperature.
Dual zone refrigerators have different temperature ranges and they sometimes have an unequal bottle capacity.
For example, one side of the cooler may be have a range that is more suitable for red wine storage and a capacity to hold 12 bottles, while the other zone is more suitable for white wine storage, but has a capacity for only 8 bottles. If you drink more white wine and less red, this is something you will want to consider.
The other question to ask is, what kind of storage are you looking for? Long term storage (years) for aging wine is best in a different temperature environment than shorter term and ready to consume wine. If you are looking to age your wine for years, you might want to consider a wine cellar.
Is there an interior light?
An interior light serves an aesthetic purpose as well as a functional purpose. Many wine collectors like to display their wine; they are proud of their collection and they should be.
Wine collecting and tasting is an art and an experience. It should be enjoyed from start to finish and this includes its display. Wine coolers are beautiful pieces of furniture and a light illuminating the interior can give it a brilliant look. It draws attention to your wine and becomes the center of attention.
Then there is the functional aspect of an interior light. Your cooler may be in an area that is not well lit and an interior light is needed to make your selection.
Interior lights in wine coolers are almost always non-heat producing (I have never come across a heat producing interior light – they are generally LED or ‘soft’ lighting). Heat (from standard light bulbs) can harm your wine so you will just want to be certain that the interior light does not produce heat. As a rule of thumb these lights are generally emit a blue color.
Is there a lock for the cabinet?
It is important to know that not all wine coolers come with a locking device. Make sure to look for this if your collection needs protected.
What kind of door does it have? UV protected? Double Paned?
I have yet to come across a cooler that does not have some sort of UV protection (usually tinted glass) to protect against harmful light and rays. Light and heat can alter the composition of your wine and ruin its taste.
Most wine coolers also have tempered glass which is less susceptible to breaking since it is stronger that the standard type of glass.
Some models feature double paned or Thermopane glass. This type of glass is the most energy efficient. This type of door has 2 panes of glass that are sealed with air or gas between them. The result is a stronger door and less potential for condensation or frost in the inside pane.
The type of door can also contribute to the coolers aesthetics. Some doors have smoked glass, some are mirrored, etc.
Is the door reversible?
Don’t think that wine coolers like most refrigerators all come with reversible doors. They don’t. If you know exactly where you want your cooler and you need it to open a certain way, make sure you check this.
Or you may want to move your cooler periodically and want this feature. Just know that is is not standard. In fact, more often the door is not reversible.
What kind of shelves does the cooler have?
Chrome, stainless steel, wood, wood with stainless steel trim, stainless steel with wood trim – these are common materials for wine cooler shelves. This is pretty much aesthetic and personal taste, but there are some other things to consider with the shelving.
Are the shelves removable? Adjustable? This might be important to accommodate larger wine bottles.
Most coolers are designed to fit standard Bordeaux size bottles. Shelves may need to be adjusted or removed to fit larger bottles. If the bottle size of your collection is varied, you will want to consider this.
How do the shelves pull out? Do they have easy pull out wheels? These are some practical things you might want to consider.
Do you want a cooler that has a carbon filter?
Carbon filters do not come standard in all wine coolers and are only found is select coolers. What a carbon filter does is protect your collection from harmful odors that could potentially ruin your wine. Odors that get into wine coolers can penetrate the cork and affect the taste and the smell of the wine.
If you plan on placing your cooler is a highly odorous environment, you may want to consider getting a cooler with a filter.
What is the Warranty?
Most coolers come with a standard 1 Year Limited Warranty. Some coolers that have compressors may have a 5 Year Warranty on parts for the compressor. Make sure the warranty offered fits your needs.