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!
- None Found