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Crucial Differences Between Fridge & Wine Cooler Explained

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I saw my first wine cooler when I was 17 and visited the family wine farm for my summer vacation. At first, I thought it was just a fancy fridge with a glass door until my older cousin explained what it was and why it was necessary.

A wine cooler is designed to keep red and white wine at optimal temperatures for long-term aging. By contrast, a fridge operates at a colder temperature to keep food fresh.

Let’s look at the differences between wine coolers and fridges to make the best choice for your needs.

Storing Wine: Regular Fridge vs. Wine Cooler
Storing Wine: Regular Fridge vs. Wine Cooler

TIP: If you want to check out the best refrigerator for wine storage, I recommend trying out the Nutrichef (18 bottles) compressor refrigerator. You can find this refrigerator by clicking here (Amazon link).

What Is The Point Of A Wine Fridge?

The point of a wine cooler is to keep your wine at the ideal storage and serving temperature. If your wine is too warm, you risk damaging it, especially regarding long-term storage.

If the wine gets too hot, you risk cooking the wine, which will make your wine taste like jam rather than wine.

If your wine is stored at a too-cold temperature, you risk freezing your wine, which can either crack your wine bottle or the cork can freeze and push out of the bottle, exposing your wine to oxygen and ruining your wine.

If you are lucky and neither of these scenarios happens, your hyper-cold wine will still be unpleasant. White wines lose their flavor, and red wine will push the tannin levels high.

Many wine coolers have a temperature function that allows you to store your red and white wine, each at the ideal temperatures, without affecting the other.

Another benefit of using a wine cooler is protecting your wines from sunlight, specifically, ultraviolet radiation, which can damage wine over time and affect how well your wines age in the bottle. Wine coolers also look very stylish on the countertop.

When storing wine long-term in a cellar, the ideal humidity should be between 55% and 75%. Many wine coolers have the ability for you to set the humidity level inside of the wine cooler.

This means that bottles in your wine cooler can be stored at the ideal temperature and humidity for perfect cellaring conditions, even if you are storing your wine inside your home and not in a dedicated seller. 

TIP: Most people assume that storing wine in the kitchen fridge is the best way to keep it fresh for extended periods, but is that recommended? Find out the answer in this article. Controlling humidity is one of the most critical features when storing wine in a fridge. Find out more about controlling humidity here.

Can You Use A Wine Cooler As A Refrigerator?

Using your wine cooler as a refrigerator for specific items is possible. Wine coolers maintain a temperature warmer than your standard refrigerator; therefore, many of the types of things that you would store in a standard refrigerator will not be able to be kept in a wine cooler. 

Non-alcoholic beverages such as soda, iced tea, and some fruit juices can easily be stored in a wine cooler because their storage temperature is within the range that a wine cooler would have.

As regards beer, that works really well in a wine cooler because the standard storage temperature will be within the typical temperature range of a wine cooler. 

Certain fruits, such as apples and pears that do not require direct refrigeration but benefit from being kept at a slightly lower temperature can easily be kept in a wine cooler to help them stay crispy for longer.

Some harder cheeses and rinded cheeses can be kept in a wine cooler. Having them in the same place can be convenient when hosting a cheese and wine party. 

It is best to avoid using your wine cooler for other kinds of food as some foods release gases that could permeate your wine corks and cause your wine to adopt unpleasant flavors.

In addition, dairy products such as milk and yogurt require a far colder temperature to avoid the development of potentially harmful bacteria. Therefore I strongly suggest keeping these items in your refrigerator to maintain them at a healthy temperature.

Can You Use A Beverage Fridge For Wine?

In the same way that you could use a wine cooler as a beverage refrigerator, the opposite is true, but with one crucial distinction.

If you’re putting wine into your beverage refrigerator to keep it cool, select a temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit for your beverage refrigerator to stay optimal for red and white wines.

This temperature will not negatively affect the wine, nor will it slow down the aging process.

Can I Keep Food In A Wine Cooler?

The only kinds of food that you want to keep in a wine cooler will be certain fruits, salads, and some hard cheeses.

Your wine cooler will not be cold enough to keep other products, such as milk and yogurt, as the cooler does not maintain a cold enough temperature to keep these kinds of food safe.

Other kinds of food, such as portions of cooked food, often emit gases that can permeate the coke of your wine bottles and negatively impact the taste of the wine.

TIP: However, wine fridges can do so much more than hold wine; they can also be modified to be used in various ways. Find out if using a wine cooler for beer or food storage is a good idea.

What Is The Difference Between A Fridge And A Wine Cooler

What Is The Difference Between A Fridge And A Wine Cooler
What Is The Difference Between A Fridge And A Wine Cooler

The operating temperature is the most significant difference between a fridge and a wine cooler. A fridge is designed to operate at far colder temperatures than a wine cooler.

This is because most of the foodstuffs you store in a refrigerator need to be kept at a temperature far colder than required to keep wine at an optimal temperature for aging.

Conversely, your standard wine cooler operates at a temperature warmer than a refrigerator simply because your wine cooler needs to only maintain bottles of wine at the optimum temperature for aging, nothing more.

The next significant difference between a fridge and a wine cooler will be the kind of racks or shelving you will find inside. A fridge will have racks that allow you to store food in containers stacked on top of one another.

On the other hand, wine coolers will have the kind of racks that allow you to store wine bottles lying on their sides so that the different wine bottles do not roll around in the cooler should you remove one of the bottles for opening and serving. 

Fridge vs. Wine Cooler: Procurement Costs

Wine coolers cost substantially more than refrigerators. The main reason for this is that refrigerators are more mass-produced than wine coolers. The latter is far more specialized in its manufacturing process.

Therefore wine coolers will be more expensive to compensate for the relatively higher labor cost per unit.

TIP: If you want to check out the best refrigerator for wine storage, I recommend trying out the Nutrichef (18 bottles) compressor refrigerator. You can find this refrigerator by clicking here (Amazon link).

Fridge vs. Wine Cooler: Operating Costs (Electricity)

Refrigerators require far more cooling to keep the internal temperature low enough to preserve food and therefore use substantially more electricity than a wine cooler.

This is especially true when the wine cooler has been set optimally for storing and aging wine over an extended period.

If your wine cooler has been optimally set, it could cost you as little as $40 per year in electricity, as shown in this Brazillian study into heat exchange systems.  This is a fraction of the cost of what it will take to keep a refrigerator at the temperature needed to preserve food.

The estimated cost to repair a wine fridge can range between $50 and $500, excluding the shipping costs for online purchased parts. The list of costs for all wine cooler parts is in the table below:

Wine Cooler PartCosts Products on Amazon
Compressor$100 – $600Best Compressors
Thermostat$5 – $30Best Thermostats
Start relay$7 – $16Best Start Relays
Condensor motor$30 – $250Best Condensor Motors
Overload protector$5 – $10Best Overload Protectors
Cooling fan unit$10 – $25Best Cooling Fan Units
Control board$60 – $250Best Control Boards
Temperature switching PCB$30 – $50Best PCBs
Thermal plate$30 – $50Best Thermal Plates
Estimated Costs to Repair Wine Fridge

TIP: Are wine fridges expensive to run? Check out the complete cost breakdown of running a wine fridge in this article. For estimated costs of repairing your wine fridge, check out this article.

Fridge vs. Wine Cooler: Where Should It Be Placed? 

In my experience, a refrigerator will always be placed in the kitchen in a designated space set aside for that refrigerator around kitchen countertops. This is because a refrigerator is usually a tall floor-standing unit and needs a designated space.

On the other hand, a wine cooler is usually far smaller and can be placed on a kitchen countertop or the kitchen island if you have one. This is only ideal if you have sufficient countertop space in your kitchen.

If you’re short of space in your kitchen, it’ll be better to create a designated space for your wine cooler either beneath one of the kitchen countertops or the kitchen island. That way, you can keep as much space available on your countertops for your needs. 

TIP: Wine refrigerators can be stored in the kitchen, but is it wise to place them next to an oven? Find out the answer with an explanation in this article.

Fridge vs. Wine Cooler: How Long Will They Last?

On average, fridges last for between 10 and 20 years. The factor affecting the length of time your fridge will last will be how well you maintain your fridge and how even the power supply is.

By contrast, most wine coolers last for between 9 and 13 years. Again, if your wine cooler is well-maintained and connected to a reliable power supply, it will last longer.

TIP: A wine cooler can improve the lifespan of an open wine bottle. Proper maintenance of your wine cooler can enhance its lifespan too. Check out how to fix the most common problems when the wine cooler is icing up and when the wine cooler leaks water.

Fridge vs. Wine Cooler: Does It Need Special Care?

Both fridges and wine coolers need a certain degree of special care. For instance, cleaning a refrigerator at least twice yearly is generally advised.

If your refrigerator tends to get iced up over the summer months, then you may need to clean it more often to remove all of the ice, as that hampers the performance of your refrigerator.

Wine coolers are kept warmer than refrigerators, making them less likely to get iced up. However, I do suggest cleaning your wine cooler at least once per year so that you can keep it operating optimally.

Most wine coolers have instructions advising you to service the cooler if a wine bottle breaks inside the cooler. The last thing you’d want is for any wine to seep into the electrical circuitry.

TIP: Check out this page for a complete list of wine products and accessories I love. You’ll find my recommendations for wine refrigerators, decanters, and aerators and the best place to buy wine online. Click here to see the complete listing.