A friend of mine recently bought a house with a gorgeous bar in the basement.

Here’s the thing though. The previous owner simply had a mini fridge, and this gave rise to some intense discussion. What were everyone’s thoughts on wine coolers vs mini fridges? Should they ditch the fridge and buy a cooler?

Since I’m the one who loves to research, I was elected to find the answer. And I’m going to share my findings and answer the question here for you too.

By the end of this article, you will have your answer to which is the best—depending on whether you want to store wine or store a selection of beverages. Because that’s a very important part of the equation.

The significant difference between a wine cooler and mini fridge is the temperature range. Wine should be stored between 45°F and 65°F, so the minimum temperature of wine coolers is 46°F. The temperature range of a mini fridge is 35°F to 42°F which is far too cold for wine.

So can a fridge do the job? Maybe. Keep reading and I’ll detail all the differences.

Differences Between Wine Coolers and Fridges

First of all, let’s be very clear. We’re talking about wine coolers vs mini fridges, but they are entirely different appliances that do entirely different jobs. We’re just trying to ascertain if a fridge can be a stand-in for a wine cooler.

There’s a lot of science behind winemaking, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a lot of science behind wine storage too. I’m not going to get into detail here, I’ll just stick with the highlights.

Wine CoolersRefrigerators
  
Gradually drop temperatureRapidly drop temperature
Maintain humidityExtract humidity
41°F to 65°F35°F to 42°F

Mini Fridges are Colder than Wine Coolers

From the table above it’s clear that the two appliances have different functions.

A fridge has the job of keeping a vast array of perishables cold and dry at an average temperature of about 40 degrees. A 40-degree fridge is too cold for your wine.

Mini Fridges are Dryer than Wine Coolers

Mini-Fridges are cheap and common – but not suited to wine bottles.

A fridge is too dry for your corked wine bottles. And there are a few problems with dry corks.

If you’ve ever tried to pull a dry cork out of a bottle, that problem is already obvious to you.

The other problem is even worse since you can’t pick it out of the bottom of your glass.

A dry cork shrinks and becomes porous. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, wrong. Because remember all the foods you have in your fridge? The sheer diversity of tastes—and odors? Like the cartons of leftover spicy Thai, or whatever your guilty pleasure is?

Those odors will slither past and through that dried out cork and right into your wine. And your wine will now have a subtle after note of something in the fridge—something that will likely ruin the taste of your wine.

There is one final difference that should be mentioned. A mini fridge will vibrate. Actually, any fridge will, since they are cooled using compressors whereas wine coolers are thermoelectric. Vibration is bad for wine.

Price

Wine coolers tend to be much more expensive than mini fridges. A quick search online for the price range of a small—20 – 39 bottles—wine cooler returned prices of about $300 to $3,500.

A mini fridge will cost you anywhere from about $160 to $1,500.

Why Are Wine Coolers So Expensive?

Wine coolers are much more unique.

There are a few reasons.

How many people do you know who own a fridge? Everyone, right?

How many people do you know that own a wine cooler? I bet you can count them on one hand, assuming there are any at all.

The point? There is a lot of competition when it comes to refrigerators. Every household needs one and they are coming off assembly lines regularly. So prices tend to be more reasonable.

That’s not the case for a wine cooler. These items are part of a niche market which usually equates to a seller’s market and higher prices.

The other reason is something more tangible.

As mentioned above, some wine coolers use thermoelectric technology which powers an always-on fan. They don’t have a motor. An electric current is used instead, which produces a temperature differential by means of a metal rod. 

Since these types of coolers are impacted by the temperatures surrounding them, they can be inefficient and costly to run in hotter conditions.

Can You Use a Mini Fridge as a Wine Cooler?

Can you? Sure. Should you? The short answer to that is maybe.

If you are some high-brow wine connoisseur, you’d probably choke at the mere suggestion, but I’m guessing that type isn’t reading this article in the first place. For the rest of you, the answer remains—it depends.

It depends on how long you want to store your wine for. If you’re looking for a cool place to store an assortment of beverages and you’ll be turning over your stock fairly often, a fridge is sufficient. According to Wine Spectator, wine can be stored in the fridge for up to a couple of months.

However, if you are looking for more long-term storage, you need to look into a wine cellar or cooler. Otherwise, you will destroy your wine investment.

Is A Wine Cooler Worth It?

Everyone is going to have a different opinion on that. Because everyone’s needs are going to be different.

You’ll note above that there’s quite a price range when it comes to wine coolers. And while the better ones do run on thermoelectric power, it’s still possible to buy brands that use simple compressors as refrigerators do. Just remember that compressors tend to cause vibrations and vibration can be problematic for your wine.

If you want to store your wine for more than a few months and having steady temps above 45 degrees is your aim, then you definitely need a wine cooler. And it will be worth it. Especially if you can be happy with one of the lower-end models.

Conclusion

Buy a wine cooler if:

  • You want to store your wine for more than a few months
  • You are only interested in storing wine bottles
  • You prefer the choice of thermoelectric power

Buy a mini fridge if:

  • Your goal is to store multiple types of beverages
  • You will drink all wine within a few months
  • You want to spend less

If you’re still reading, hopefully this information has been helpful for you. My friends ended up sticking with the mini fridge. But that’s what worked for them.

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