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Wine refrigerators are very important for maintaining a reliable and consistent environment suited for both short-term and long-term wine storage. If you live in an apartment like I do or only have limited free space, it is important to select a wine fridge that will compact, look good, and do an excellent job keeping wine at the perfect temperature and humidity range.
From my research and experience, the NutriChef 120 12 Bottle Wine Fridge, the NutriChef 15 Bottle Fridge, and the Ivation 12 Bottle Wine Cooler are the best wine refrigerators for small spaces and apartments. These models are ideal for small spaces because they are compressor-cooled, cool efficiently, look great, are compact, and can be fitted into a cabinet, or under/above a counter with ease.
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Best Wine Coolers & Refrigerators for Apartments & Small Spaces
1. NutriChef 120 12 Bottle Countertop Wine Fridge
I love this particular model. In my opinion, it is the best wine fridge for small apartments because of its compact size, bottle capacity, compressor cooling, and price tag.
All you have to do is look up the customer reviews to see why I recommend it. It has earned an incredible number of glowing reviews from wine drinkers.
Because it is compressor cooling, you can place it into tighter places like on top of counters and underneath counters without risking it overheating. It will also be much more effective at keeping all bottles uniformly chilled. This is a great wine fridge for any situation but shines through for apartments.
2. NutriChef 15 Bottle Wine Cooler
This is another great wine fridge that is ideally suited for people in apartments and smaller homes. This fridge is compressor cooled so it will evenly cool your bottles for long-term storage, is energy efficient, and is great for red and white wine.
But what puts it on a pedestal is that you can place it into tight spaces without the need for clearance around so it won’t overheat. It is a great option for storing on top of a countertop or underneath it.
You can also put it inside a cabinet. Go ahead and read some of the customer reviews to see what other wine lovers think of it. I think it is one of the vest best wine coolers designed for small spaces.
3. Ivation 12 Bottle Wine Refrigerator
This is another great option and one that I have recommended as the best in its category for other topics. It is compressor cooled, sleek in design, and built to last. It will keep your wine in ideal conditions for long-term storage regardless of the external temperature and humidity.
I think it is a very good choice for use if you have a small kitchen with limited space. It will look great in your kitchen or parlor. It is a great choice for any beginner and serious wine lover.
Compressor vs. Thermoelectric
For small spaces and apartments, I strongly recommend a compressor wine refrigerator. Wine temperature is the most important factor in wine storage.
It will move the needle the most positively or negatively for the value of your wine. Compressor wine coolers are very good at keeping a cooler temperature which is paramount.
They are much more effective at temperature management than thermoelectric coolers are. Most of them are front venting which allows you to put them under counters and in tight places.
This is ideal for small kitchens and rooms where space is limited. Contrast this with thermoelectric coolers that need at least 3-5 inches of clearance around them to prevent overheating.
Compressor wine coolers aren’t perfect as they are a little more expensive to run, a little noisier, and heavier to carry because the compressors are cast iron. But for a small space or apartment, I recommend the compressor-style wine fridge. It just makes the most sense and will keep your wine the coolest more consistently.
Cost & Value
At the end of the day, most people let cost drive their purchasing decisions and I am no different. The truth is that you can buy a great 18-to-32 bottle wine fridge that will keep your wine in pristine condition for under $400.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise as they are likely trying to separate you from your hard-earned cash. I tried to include wine coolers on this that were below that $400 threshold as I feel this is the best value for the cost.
If any of the above appliances are above $400, then you can bet they are well worth that asking price because it offers incredible performance even at a slightly higher asking price.
I am not trying to make a ton of money off you so I want to give you my recommendations to save you money and get you a tremendous product that will last you many years.
If you are living in a small apartment like I am currently, money isn’t exactly in abundance. Therefore, I will not make you spend more than you need to for a great product.
Temperature is critical inside a wine refrigerator for ideal storage. I feel it is even more important for small spaces and apartments because these places will tend to overheat or get colder faster than larger homes will.
You will need your internal fridge temps to remain very consistent. Generally speaking, you will want to store red wine at between 50 and 65°F, white wines at 45 to 50°F, and your sparkling wines like Champagne and Prosecco at about 50 to 55°F.
A lot of people assume you need to store sparkling wines at cooler temperature but that is not the case. You want to serve them chilled but storing them warmer will slow down the aging process and keep them pristine for longer.
For a complete breakdown of the best wine refrigerators for Champagne storage, please check out this article I wrote. To learn the best ways to store and serve Prosecco, you need to read this article we wrote.
Humidity is a huge factor affecting proper wine storage. The optimum range for relative humidity within a wine fridge is between 50 and 70%.
The best humidity to shoot for is about 60% give or take. Humidity levels above 75% bring about the risk of your cork molding which will taint your wine and could alter the aesthetics of your wine label.
Storing wine below 40% could severely dry out your cork causing it to warp and crack. Oxygen will seep in through these cracks and will start the premature oxidation process with your wine.
The above-listed wine refrigerators all meet or exceed the capability of storing wine within this 50-70% slot for ideal long-term storage.
For a complete breakdown of the ideal conditions for long-term wine storage, please check out this helpful article I wrote. This is vital information to understand for better wine storage.
Vibrations are a big killer of wine. During the storage process, it is important to prevent any vibrations or disturbances to the fluid inside your wine bottles.
Vibrations of any kind can stir up the sediment inside your wine bottle and essentially ruin the integrity of the wine. Even kitchen refrigerators produce micro-vibrations that will stir up wine.
I recommend using a thermoelectric wine refrigerator as they won’t produce vibrations and are simply a more reliable cooling system for wine. In apartments, you may have neighbors that exercise during the day or play loud music that shakes the walls.
You may even be guilty of this yourself. Whatever the cause, apartments are notorious for wine-damaging vibrations that you may not even notice happening.
Design & Look
I think these are important factors when you are placing a wine refrigerator into a small kitchen or space as is often the case in apartments. You want it to have a sleek design and not look bad. A clean, modern look will be a timeless addition to your kitchen.
I prefer under-counter models better as they can be placed inside a cabinet or under the counter to look amazing. Freestanding models are ok but I prefer the look of under counter models much better.
There is a ton of value in being able to store wine at separate temperatures inside a wine refrigerator. For smaller units designed for apartments, this can be tricky to find. You’ll see dual zoned wine coolers that have 21+ bottle capacity but for smaller units in the 8-18 bottle range, it is difficult to find.
Even though there is overlap between the ideal storage temperatures of red and white wine, being able to maintain 2 different temperatures in zones within the fridge is a big deal.
Some of the models listed above are dual zoned but I don’t feel it is a very important factor to consider for small space wine fridges. It is more of a luxury that is certainly not needed.
Capacity refers to the number of wine bottles a wine refrigerator can hold. Larger wine coolers have a much higher capacity for holding bottles than a smaller model. But for the small spaces inside an apartment, a high capacity wine cooler is a bad thing.
Space is limited. Instead, you will want to focus on wine refrigerators under 21 bottles. I wouldn’t recommend anything above 18 bottles. When free space is at a premium, you want a smaller capacity wine cooler to meet your needs.
Types of Wine
The types of wine will in some way dictate which wine fridge is best for your needs. Storage temperature and bottle shape/size will be your driving factors.
Red wine and sparkling wines are best stored at warmer temperatures than your standard white wines. You want to make sure the wine fridge you select can comfortably reach and maintain the appropriate temperature range for your wine.
Bottle size and shape is another key component. Most wine fridges are built for the standard shape of red and white wine bottles but we all know that sparkling wine bottles are larger and fatter than regular wine bottles. Therefore, you will need a wine fridge with racks sized and shaped appropriately.
I did my very best to select 4 apartment wine fridges that cover the full range of temperatures needed for storing red, white, and sparkling wines and with racks that could accommodate any shape of wine bottle you’re most likely to encounter.
The size is a huge consideration when space is already limited. Most apartments have galley-style kitchens that don’t offer a ton of free space. You could always place your wine refrigerator in the parlor or a closet but space will be a limiting issue either way.
I prefer to roll with small model wine refrigerators for this reason. Ideally, you’ll want something small enough to fit inside a large cabinet or under the counter. Anything larger than that and you are asking for trouble.
For a built-in wine fridge that is compressor-cooled, you can put it anywhere. A compressor-cooled wine refrigerator is front-ventilated so all hot air is blown out the front, typically the front bottom.
This means as long as you have complete clearance in the front of the wine cooler, you can surround it on all 3 sides (sides and rear) with cabinets or other appliances without any clearance.
You couldn’t do this with a thermoelectric wine cooler that needs 5 inches of clearance. If you put a thermoelectric wine cooler flush against other cabinets without much space, your refrigerator would overheat from the lack of ventilation. Ventilation is a big thing to consider when you want to store wine in a confined or tight space.
Freestanding models that are thermoelectrically cooled are not a good option in my opinion. Their space requirements are too great. Compressor-cooled models are much better and will look way better under a cabinet in your apartment.
Energy Efficiency & Running Costs
This should be an important consideration for most people. Like any large appliance that is constantly running, a wine refrigerator will cost you money to run in electricity.
That said, many wine fridges are more energy-efficient than you may think. I wrote an article explaining how much it costs to run a wine fridge, how to save money on electrical costs, and which wine fridges are the most energy-efficient.
Click here to check out how much a wine fridge costs to run. From what I found, it costs about ⅓ as much to run a wine refrigerator as it does to run a standard efficiency kitchen refrigerator. This is based on personal experience.
There are certainly some things you could do to reduce the costs like keeping your apartment at a cooler temperature so it won’t work as hard to keep your wine at temperature.
I will cover this in more detail in a second, but for California residents, finding a wine fridge that meets the requirements set forth by the California Energy Commission is paramount and illegal to buy in the state. I have a whole section devoted to this important topic at the end of this article.
Freestanding vs. Built-In
I would strongly recommend a built-in or under counter wine refrigerator when talking about aesthetic appeal. They look way better and make a room or kitchen look better. In a small apartment, you don’t want a big freestanding wine refrigerator that is simply going to look out of place.
You can’t put a freestanding refrigerator next to other appliances or cabinets because you will need some clearance around it. I love built-in or under-counter wine fridges.
For small spaces, I strongly recommend going with a built-in option. It will look a lot better, perform better, and improve the value of your kitchen.
For Uses Outside Wine Storage
Believe it or not, you could use a wine refrigerator for a multitude of practical uses outside of storing wine. For example, since wine fridges can be adjusted for humidity control, drying vegetables, curing meat, and making jerky can be very practical uses for many wine refrigerators. Those humidity controls are also great for storing cigars safely.
Lastly, for those cheesemakers out there, you can safely and effectively age cheese in many approved wine fridges. This is an art form I want to get into and I can’t wait to start aging cheese in my wine fridge.
For a complete breakdown of the best wine fridges for cheese aging, best wine coolers for cigars, and best wine fridges for drying meat and vegetables, I strongly recommend you check out these articles we have featured on our site.
Best Way to Store Wine in Apartments & Small Areas
The best way to store wine in an apartment or small area is inside a wine refrigerator. With a good wine fridge, you can control the temperature and humidity year-round and protect your bottles from the damages of direct sunlight, artificial light, and vibrations.
A lot of people think it is ok to just leave their wine bottles on a wine rack at room temperature. While this won’t necessarily ruin your wine, it will stunt its development and performance.
Wine needs ideal storage conditions to age the best. More importantly, it needs consistent conditions. The problem with the cramped spaces inside an apartment is it gets very hard to maintain constant conditions all year long or even day-to-day. Your apartment will get hot during the summer and cooler during the winter. Bad for your wine.
Even during the day, you can see extreme fluctuations in air temperature and humidity levels. A lot of people also make the mistake of putting wine in their kitchen fridge.
While this is fine for cheap table wine you buy at the grocery store, it is not recommended for good wine. Your kitchen fridge will be too cold and the appliance produces tiny micro-vibrations that can damage your wine and release sediments inside.
Best Under Counter Wine Refrigerator for Apartments
The best under-counter wine fridges for apartments will be a compressor-cooled wine fridge. This type of appliance is best-suited for storage underneath a counter or in a tight space because it does not require the same kind of clearance for ventilation that a thermoelectric wine cooler will.
A thermoelectric wine cooler requires up to 5 inches of clearance around the fridge to keep from overheating. Compressors coolers are most commonly front-ventilated so you can place them into tight spaces just fine without the need for clearance around the appliance. It is simply a much better option for small spaces and apartments.
Compressor wine fridges are not perfect and they do have some drawbacks, but ultimately they will keep your wine cooler and fit into tighter spaces for a better look than a thermoelectric wine cooler will.
California Approved Wine Coolers
If you live within the state of California, you will need to purchase a wine refrigerator that meets the energy requirements as set forth by the California Energy Commission for a retailer to legally ship to you. The CEC put forth strict guidelines for appliances to meet to be sold to Californians.
I don’t want you to buy a wine fridge that is not compliant with your state’s respective guidelines but luckily, you won’t be able to legally.
For my list of California Energy Commission wine fridges that I recommend, please check out this complete breakdown. You will learn which models are in compliance, which ones to avoid, and the best ones for your wine collection at the best value.