If your wine collection exceeds the capacity of your wine refrigerator, you have a problem.  Wine must be stored at the proper temperature in order for it to age properly, but wine refrigerators that can accommodate more than a couple of dozen bottles come with nosebleed-inducing price tags ($500+).  If you have an extra “standard” refrigerator, however, you can convert it to a large wine refrigerator for less than $50.

Conventional refrigerators operate at temperatures between 33 and 46°F, and are generally set between 39 and 41ºF for safe food storage.  Their highest settings – ~46ºF – are too cold for red wine and marginal for whites:  temperatures that low will inhibit the wine’s maturation.  A simple solution is readily available, though:  a refrigerator thermostat.  These devices enable one to set a temperature between 30 and 80ºF; in actual practice, when the set temperature is achieved, power is cut to the refrigerator; when the temperature rises a degree or so, the refrigerator is turned back on until the set temperature is achieved, then it shuts off again.

As you can see from the image above, you plug in the thermostat, and in turn plug the refrigerator into the back of the thermostat’s power plug:

The flexible wire for its temperature probe is thin enough to fit through the door opening, so no modification is required (below left).  Below right, the current temp in my “wine fridge” is 56º; the bottom setting is for an alarm, should the temperature reach 60ºF.

In my case, I’ve simply stacked about 30 bottles on a couple of the shelves; if you wanted to use a refrigerator for storing more bottles – up to 70 or 80, all you’d have to do is pull out all of the drawers and shelves, and use either modular wine racks or 10″ long pieces of 4″ diameter PVC pipe for your wine racks.  (Incidentally, I placed the thermostat’s temperature probe in a central location — in the drawer in the middle of the image below.)

One other thing to keep in mind is proper humidity: keep a small dish of water somewhere in the refrigerator to ensure that it’s not too dry.

A few comments:

  • Beer and cheese makers have used these thermostats for years; this isn’t unproven technology
  • The freezer portion of the refrigerator can of course no longer be used for anything you want to keep frozen
  • You can use this type of thermostat on a chest freezer as well

Recommended wine storage temperatures:

Typical temperature for storing red wine ranges from 52ºF – 65ºF, and 45ºF- 50ºF for white wines.

The refrigerator thermostat shown here is made by Johnson Controls and sells for ~$47 at Amazon; it’s worked perfectly for me.  I have found that its temperature dial isn’t precisely accurate – I have it set at 52ºF in order to maintain a 55 to 56ºF temp in the refrigerator, but once you home in on the right setting, it maintains that temperature with remarkable consistency.  Definitely check it out if you have a few too many bottles on hand and have a spare refrigerator!

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14 Comments on Convert a standard refrigerator into a wine refrigerator

  1. […] 75 bucks I plan to change the thermostat on it and turn it into a wine cooler as well. good link http://www.practicalhacks.com/.....rigerator/ GA_googleFillSlotWithSize("ca-pub-3927874040083090", "Wine_Making_Talk_336x280_BTF", 336, 280); […]

  2. […] pour le vin rouge. Le thermostat remet juste la température au niveau souhaité. Tout est expliqué là. Le mieux est peut-être d’utiliser pour cette opération un mini-réfrigérateur, afin que […]

  3. Mauri Richey says:

    Ive been wanting to do this-thank you for the good info. Question: you say the freezer will no longer keep things frozen but does it also keep the same temp as the fridge so I could keep wine in there too?

    [Reply]

  4. Vivek Dev Burman says:

    Would this system work with a frost free refrigerator as well ? Those have a timer with a cycle for heating under the cooling coil I think. Or is this jusr for the old conventional fridges.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    FWIW, I was using it with a frost free refrigerator.

    [Reply]

    Vivek Dev Burman Reply:

    thnx
    Did you have to remove the timer or any other part , out of circuit.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    No. I used it like this since the time of the original post until a month ago, without issues.

  5. max says:

    Simple interesting solution. How has it performed over the last year? Thank you for this hack.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Max, it worked flawlessly. No longer using as we moved, but I experienced no issues.

    [Reply]

  6. David Price says:

    I used the shipping “molds” that come with the wine shipped in 3/6/12 bottle boxes, cut off one end so they would fit end-in on the existing racks. I was able to use two of these side by side, put six bottles in their pockets across the rack, then stacked one, two or more layers on top of the six bottles. I was able to use three racks plus the space below where the plastic box for fruits and vegetables goes, and therefore was able to put five cases of wine in the fridge and still have accessability to the four racks of wine.

    [Reply]

    max Reply:

    HI David – do you know what the cubic ft dimension for your fridge is? Is this working well for you?
    I’m looking at using a 10.5CF. Do you use the top freezer part? Thanks for your time

    [Reply]

  7. AEC says:

    Great article. What is the digital thermometer shown with the alarm? Does it also have a probe that goes inside the refrigerator?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    It’s just a digital thermometer with a remote probe.

    [Reply]

  8. Benny Zakaria says:

    Kevin,

    Appreciated your sharing on this great experience.

    May I know the model / type number of the above thermostat you are using?

    Please copy me the particular Amazon website address for this item.

    Does it come in 100 – 240V , 50/60 Hz?

    Thank you.

    [Reply]

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