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All wine lovers have heard the term “wine cooler.” What is a wine cooler, and why do you need one?
This term can refer to a beverage, a wine bucket, or a device with various connotations. What is a wine cooler? Let’s take a look at it in detail.
What is a Wine Cooler & What are the Main Functions?
A wine cooler is a device that holds and cools the temperature of the wine. Wine coolers are typically more expensive than other types of wine storage because they have several features that improve the quality and taste of wine.
A wine cooler aims to create an ideal environment for aging and storing wines at their optimal temperature. A wine cooler is a priceless addition to any home bar. When shopping for a wine cooler, you’ll notice that these appliances come in a variety of styles.
A typical home model can hold up to 24 bottles, which will vary in size, depending on the type and style of wines. This type of storage is not as common as standard refrigerator or cellar storage, but it does offer some advantages over these more traditional services.
The Main Types of Wine Coolers
When shopping for a wine cooler, you’ll notice that these appliances come in a variety of styles. There are freestanding models, built-in models, and portable options. The most common type of wine cooler comes with a stand-alone unit that sits on the countertop.
Freestanding wine coolers
Freestanding wine coolers are intended to stand alone, unattached to any other kitchen component or different structure. These units are typically used to replicate a wine cellar to store and age wines for an extended period.
These should not be used as built-in wine coolers because the heat is dissipated at the rear of the unit, where the cooler air is drawn in; if the warm air cannot escape around the unit, it will continue to overheat indefinitely. We recommend 2-3 inches on either side of the unit and do not recommend enclosing the unit from above.
Fully integrated wine coolers
Fully integrated wine coolers are designed to integrate seamlessly into any available cabinet space and create the illusion of floating. Warm air is also expelled to the rear of the cabinets, so any kitchen design must incorporate a channel to ensure proper airflow.
Fully integrated wine refrigerators are fantastic because they create a seamless look in any kitchen and can store wines optimally for years to come while still looking fabulous.
Built-in wine coolers
As a freestanding unit, a built-in wine cooler sits on the floor. These units feature front vents and fans located directly beneath the unit, drawing in cool air and warm exhaust air on either side of the vent.
Built-in wine coolers require approximately 0.25cm to 0.5cm of clearance around each side of the wine refrigerator, depending on its capacity.
Built-in units are typically used as under-counter wine coolers because they are available in various sizes to fit under most countertops. However, for the wine connoisseur or interior designer, large-capacity wine coolers with a capacity of over 200 bottles are also available as built-in units.
Main Features of wine coolers
Since restauranter and wine sellers began using the term “wine cooler” to refer to appliances explicitly designed to preserve and chill wine, enthusiasts worldwide have adopted the time and started using it similarly.
Wine coolers, or appliances, can be single or dual-zone and chill the wine using either a thermoelectric element or a standard compressor system. Advanced models include additional features, such as controlling the humidity.
In general, all wine coolers share the following main features:
- Adjustable temperature: Whether it is a single or dual-zone cooler, the temperature can be adjusted to a range of 42 to 65°F.
- Removable racks: wine coolers are designed to store bottles horizontally, similar to a cellar, and are equipped with either wire or wooden racks. Although the distance between the racks is calculated using the standard size of a Bordeaux wine bottle, the racks are typically removable, allowing for the storage of larger bottles. This will affect the appliance’s capacity.
- Glass door: Wine coolers are more than just a refrigerator because they have a glass door. You can use them to preserve and show off your most prized bottles of wine. On most wine coolers, a tempered glass door protects the bottles from UV rays while still allowing you to see what’s in the fridge.
Is a Single or Dual Temperature Zone Wine Cooler Better?
Single Temperature Zone Wine Cooler
A wine cooler’s name is self-explanatory. A single zone wine cooler is a refrigerator with only one refrigeration zone.
It is common for people who want to preserve their wine collection to opt for these models rather than chilling the beverage before serving because the temperature is maintained at a consistent level throughout the entire environment.
Despite a widespread belief that different wines require different preservation temperatures, the truth is that both reds and whites need the same preservation temperature, which is approximately 55°F.
This is a result of the actual cellar conditions. Indeed, the environment of a traditional wine cellar lacks adjustable temperature features, and winemakers have maintained the characteristics of all wines for centuries by aging them in the same environment.
Dual Temperature Zone Wine Cooler
It’s a little more complicated if you’d like to chill your wine before serving it. A dual-zone wine cooler allows you to set different temperatures for reds and whites, requiring another type of cooler.
With this feature, a wine cooler for a small shop or tasting room can always keep several bottles at serving temperature, which is particularly useful.
The wine cooler market offers a wide range of single and dual-zone models at varying price points.
A high-quality wine refrigerator will include independent humidifiers, thermometers, and charcoal filters to maximize the storage capacity of each section.
Some units create a graduated temperature refrigerator based on the fact that warm air rises, with the most generous areas at the top of the wine cooler. The units’ reliability and efficiency have yet to be determined!
We know that the optimal way to store wine is in separate compartments that are independently controlled to maintain a stable environment for your wines.
The advantage of multiple temperature zone wine coolers is that they allow you to store a variety of wines simultaneously, including whites and reds. Temperature differentials between compartments should be kept to a maximum of 8°C.
Thermoelectric or Compressor Wine Coolers?
Thermoelectric Wine Coolers
Because thermoelectric wine coolers do not use a compressor, they are also free of vibration. Most thermoelectric wine coolers do not use any refrigerant and cool by electrolysis, making them relatively quiet. In addition to being completely silent, these devices are highly energy-efficient because they have no moving parts, which means they use far less electricity.
A heat pump is used in thermoelectric wine coolers to move heat from one side to the other. However, when this appliance is used as a wine cooler, an electrical current is applied, resulting in temperature differences across the wine cooler without vibration.
Additionally, thermoelectric and compressor wine coolers can be distinguished. While most wine enthusiasts believe the former is superior to the latter, the reality is more complicated.
Thermoelectric wine coolers rely on thermoelectric technology to keep wines cool, but they perform poorly at chilling the bottles. This technology utilizes a fan to exhaust warm air from the refrigerator, thereby maintaining an colder internal environment than the ambient temperature.
However, when the room temperature exceeds 77°F, thermoelectric coolers struggle to keep the temperature constant due to lacking cooling systems.
They are heavily influenced by ambient temperatures, which fluctuate several times throughout the day. Another limitation of thermoelectric wine coolers is that they are not available as built-in models because they are sensitive to ambient temperature.
This also means they are only available in smaller sizes, as their efficiency decreases as the wine cooler’s size increases.
Compressor Wine Coolers
Compressor wine coolers rely on the same refrigeration technology as standard refrigerators. Set the temperature, close the door, and leave the rest to the appliance. The temperature outside the device does not affect the temperature inside, which is ideal if you maintain a constant temperature.
Compressor wine coolers are significantly more efficient than thermoelectric coolers and have a much more comprehensive internal operating temperature range to accommodate all types of wine, typically 5-22 °C.
Compressor, fan, and evaporator systems in the wine cooler reach these temperatures. The evaporator coils heat the refrigerant liquid, which returns to the compressor as a vapor and repeats the cycle.
Using a fan or two in each compartment, the wine cooler disperses cooled air throughout the unit as the heat is absorbed and dissipated.
Small vibrations caused by compressors during this process would have been bad for wine because they would have agitated any sediment deposited in the wine. High-quality wine coolers are built with many small pieces of kit to absorb any vibrations that may occur. There are now vibration-free compressors.
Additionally, compressor wine coolers are available in three configurations: freestanding, fully integrated, and built-in wine refrigerators.
Premium wine coolers are generally highly energy efficient. They can compete with thermoelectric units in terms of energy consumption. They are designed to maintain temperature and humidity much more efficiently, requiring the compressor and fan system to operate much less frequently, lowering energy consumption.
This is entirely due to higher-quality doors, thicker insulation, and more efficient systems.
Thus, based on the information provided, the choice between a compressor and a thermoelectric wine cooler is highly variable:
- Which wines do you intend to store?
- How much space is available for a wine refrigerator?
- Variation in the ambient temperature
- The quantity of wine you wish to store
- How do you want your new wine cooler to appear
- Wine refrigerator with a single temperature zone or two temperature zones
When deciding between thermoelectric and compressor, it’s difficult to say which is superior.
Thermoelectric technology is environmentally friendly; the appliance operates quietly and with minimal vibration. Compressor technology is not ecologically friendly, coolers are noisy, and the vibration level is increased, disturbing the wine sediment.
Nonetheless, compressor technology effectively maintains a constant temperature and keeps your bottles cool.
How to Pick The Right Wine Cooler For Your Needs
For centuries, humans have consumed wine. Wine has played a significant role in numerous cultures and traditions throughout the world. Over the years, wine consumption has increased in the United States, with approximately 8.7 million Americans now drinking wine daily.
While the best wine cooler will vary according to your needs and preferences, there are some key features to consider when determining which one is best for you.
First and foremost, you need to figure out what you want. Having a large, convenient cooler with a wide range of features and options may be vital if you’re a regular party-goer. LED lighting and dual temperature zones may be at the top of your list.
Small-scale collecting may not necessitate as many bells and whistles or bottle capacities as larger-scale collecting.
Wine coolers come in a variety of price points. For less than $100, you can find models that can hold up to 150 bottles, while larger models can cost thousands. Cutting back on bottle capacity, splurge materials like wood racks, or high-tech extras like a digital display can help save money. Once you’ve decided on a budget and a list of “must-have” features, you can start thinking about size and shape.
You’ll need to consider the location of the wine cooler. The size will certainly be a constraint unless you’re starting from scratch. Wine coolers are available in various sizes, frequently classified by bottle capacity. Naturally, the greater the number of bottles a cooler holds, the larger it will be.
If you’re remodeling your kitchen, a built-in wine cooler, like a built-in dishwasher, provides a seamless look alongside your standard base cabinets. If your cabinet layout does not allow for a built-in, the freestanding model looks fantastic when tucked into a corner or against a wall.
Some furniture-style models are encased in finished wood for a more traditional, understated appearance. These are ideal if you intend to store your wine in an area separate from the kitchen. If your space is minimal, you can even find countertop models that hold as few as six bottles.
Many people believe that white and red wines should be stored differently. That is not the case, according to Wine Enthusiast. The ideal temperature for storing all wines, red or white, is between 45- and 55-degrees Fahrenheit (7-12 degrees Celsius). Still, the default setting on large, standard refrigerators is 37 degrees (2 degrees C), which is far too cold for any wine’s long-term storage requirements.
Where wine varieties do differ is in how they are served. While white wine is frequently served chilled, red wine is typically slightly warmer. This is where dual-zone wine coolers come in handy, even more so if you entertain. You can use one zone to store wines and another to serve from, eliminating the need to chill a bottle in the refrigerator or ice bucket.
The final point about temperature is about cooling methods. Smaller coolers frequently utilize thermoelectric cooling instead of a compressor and refrigerant. This system makes use of a cooling node powered by an electrical current flowing through a ceramic tile, as well as fans that distribute the heat evenly. This system is believed to generate additional vibrations, disturbing the sediments in wine bottles. As a result, these coolers are frequently quieter than compressor-style coolers.
Like many other appliances these days, wine refrigerators can include a plethora of additional features. LED lighting, digital temperature displays, and rack material can all help to make your wine cooler more convenient and stylish. Specific units include safety sensors, alarms, or locks to safeguard your wine.
Naturally, all of those extras will cost you, and the majority are not necessary for the wine cooler to function correctly. To save money, opt for models with few features.
Whichever wine cooler you choose, removing your wine from your standard refrigerator and storing it in the proper climate will improve your overall tasting experience. You’ll never look at a Chardonnay bottle the same way again.
A freestanding wine cooler is intended to stand alone. In contrast, a built-in wine cooler (also known as a zero clearance or under-counter wine cooler) is intended to be integrated into existing counters and cabinetry via a front vent located beneath the door that directs heat away from the unit.
A freestanding wine cooler is designed to dissipate heat from the back, preventing it from escaping and eventually overheating the unit. As a result of this overheating, the cooler’s ability to maintain its internal temperature and cool your wine significantly decreases.
The compressor will attempt to compensate for the unit’s excessive heat and eventually burn out. At the very least, you risk shortening the cooler’s overall lifespan by continuously overworking the compressor. Operating a freestanding unit in a built-in space may void the manufacturer’s warranty.
Yes, if there is sufficient space around the unit for the heat generated during operation to dissipate correctly, a freestanding unit can be installed in a built-in area. We strongly recommend leaving a gap of 2 to 3 inches on each side and top and in the back of the cooler to allow for proper airflow around the unit. While these gaps will prevent you from achieving an actual built-in appearance, they should allow you to incorporate a freestanding unit within a built-in space.
Numerous smaller wine coolers use thermoelectric cooling rather than a compressor and refrigerant. A thermoelectric wine cooler is equipped with a cooling node made of a ceramic tile with an electrical current passed through it.
When an electrical current is passed through the cooling node, the outside of the tile heats up, and the inside of the tile cools down. Typically, a thermoelectric wine cooler will include small fans to evenly disperse the cool temperatures generated by the node throughout the unit’s interior.
If you keep two or fewer cases at hand, the room in which the cooler will be stored does not get too warm, and you want a freestanding wine cooler, a thermoelectric wine cooler is probably a good choice. For warmer rooms and larger collections, a compressor-based cooler is preferable. Additionally, most built-in models include a compressor.
Single zone wine coolers have single temperature control and undivided storage space, which keeps the entire cooler at the same temperature. This style is ideal if you typically store only white or red wines, as their optimal temperatures are not the same.
Dual-zone wine coolers feature two temperature controls and a storage area divided into sections that can be independently controlled. This design is ideal for storing both reds and whites without separate wine coolers.
A typical wine cooler will not maintain temperatures below 46°F. We recommend purchasing a dedicated beverage cooler or a traditional refrigerator to store beverages other than a wine due to this limitation.
Finally, what are wine coolers? Refrigerators are what they are to us.
A wine cocktail sounds more upscale for a refreshing summer beverage, and a wine bucket seems like an appropriate moniker for a bucket designed to hold ice and one or two bottles.
What purpose does a wine cooler serve? We cannot tell, but you can now interpret it however you wish!
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