A wine cooler is a great way to store and display your wines, but what about other drinks? Would it work just as well for beer? Can you store food in a wine cooler? What are other ways to use your appliance and best utilize its space? These are the many questions that we ask ourselves when shopping around for a wine cooler. So continue to read on and discover the many ways you can use your cooler.
What Other Drinks Can I Store in my Wine Cooler?
Red wine is ideally stored at 50-64°F and white wine at 40-50°F, and in a dual zone wine cooler it is possible to have both of those temperatures depending on where your bottles are placed. If you have a single storage area for wines, some choose to keep the wine cooler at 55°F as a compromise between red and white wine, and other specialize in a type of wine and change their setting accordingly.
Non-alcoholic drinks are fine at any of these levels, whether you want to store a can of soda or a pricey boutique water. Milk based drinks on the other hand need to be kept below 40°F and are best left in the refrigerator, unless you are just planning on storing them in your wine cooler for a couple of hours, say to mix into a cocktail.
Suggested Non-Alcoholic Drinks for your Wine Cooler
Having the opportunity to store the following drinks, means the whole family can benefit from the cooler. Chances are, if you have an average size family, you probable struggle for space in your refrigerator to store your food, never mind a refreshing drink.
- Water bottles
- Sparkling Water
- Iced Tea
Champagne is ideally served at 45 to 48°F, or the white wine setting of your wine cooler. Champagne tastes best when well chilled, so if you are not regularly storing it in your wine cooler, make sure to put it in there several hours before serving.
Beer, either cellared beer or caned beer, can also be stored in your wine cooler. Just like wine, different types of beer have specific ranges of ideal serving temperatures, ranging from 35 to 60°F, and specific storage temperatures. Most agree that the best compromise if you are storing multiple types of beer in your cooler, is to keep the temperature at 50 to 55°F.
One of the benefits of storing beer in a wine cooler rather than a refrigerator is that you can get to those higher temperatures easier. When beer is too cold your tongue's taste receptors are numbed, making the beer seem more bland or difficult to taste at all. Many people who are very serious about their beer use wine coolers, or adapt wine coolers specifically for their beer. Also, if you are cellaring your beer and want to age it or hold onto it for a long time, a refrigerator runs the risk of drying out the cork.
If you get a dual zone wine cooler like the NewAir AWR-460DB 46 Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler, you can store your champagne and beer together, both at their ideal temperatures. The upper zone temperature ranges from 40 to 50°F and the lower zone has a temperature range of 50 to 64°F. Because it can stand alone or be built into counters or cabinets, it can be placed almost anywhere you have room, and only requires a standard outlet. With its complementary design of a glass door front and interior lighting, this unit will compliment any interior decor.
Can I Store Food in my Wine Cooler?
A refrigerator will keep your food under 40°F, which is the FDA recommended storing temperature for most perishable food. However, many people do use their wine coolers to store fruit and vegetables.
Things like apples and pears don't need to be refrigerated, but will keep much longer if put in a cool environment. Make sure that you don't put any strong smelling fruits or vegetables in your wine cooler if you are also storing wine; smells and flavors can be imparted to your wine. For example, I would highly recommend not storing onions or garlic in your wine cooler at all.
The following are some suggestions of fruits and vegetables to keep in your wine cooler:
- Bananas (after they ripen)
- Peaches (after they ripen)
- Plums (after they ripen)
- Nectarines after they ripen)
- Leafy greens
- Herbs like cilantro and parsley
Did you know that most cheeses actually should be kept at a higher temperature than your refrigerator runs? Like beer, cheese that is too cold has diminished flavor. The texture of cheese varies greatly with temperature as well, especially with soft cheeses. In general, cheese should be stored at between 35 and 45°F, but there are differences between types. Semi soft cheese should be maintained at 40-45°F, and hard cheese and washed rind cheese should be chilled at 40-50°F. It is recommended that you remove your cheese from the cooler or fridge about half an hour before serving to warm it closer to room temperature.
A food you might not have considered storing specially before is chocolate. The ideal storage temperature for chocolate is 60-75°F, but if you don't have wine or other things that need to be kept colder, you can adjust the temperature of your wine cooler up about ten degrees to reach the perfect chocolate storing range. Constantly even temperature is key, which is hard to maintain just within your cupboards. Freezing or putting your chocolate in the refrigerator can cause condensation to form, and encourages things like transferred flavors or odors.
Experts say that olive oil is best stored in wine cellars, and has an ideal storage temperature of 57°F, a perfect temperature for your wine cooler. Studies have shown that after just six months after your buy your olive oil, it will have lost around 40% of its flavor if left on the counter or cupboard shelf. Most people don't even use half their olive oil within a six month period.
Cool Your Glasses
It doesn't just have to be food that's kept cool. For some types of cocktails and beer, people prefer chilled glasses. Putting glasses in the freezer can break the glasses, or it's possible that they will shatter when going from extreme cold to having warmer liquid poured into it. Experts say not to freeze beer mugs, because the small ice crystals can cause foaming problems when filled with beer. We've already mentioned that beer served too chilly can hinder the taste, so having the glass cold but not freezing is ideal. Besides, frozen glasses from your freezer pick up the smells and tastes from the area around them, and while that lamb might have been a great buy, it probably doesn't have the same effect when drunk with some hops.
It's highly recommended by many experts that you can put your glasses into the wine cooler a few hours before using them and remove them just in time for serving. Some people like running water over their glasses before putting them in to chill, but just make sure that you wipe out all water from the inside of the glass, or it will water down the drink you are serving in it.
Another idea is to put in a glass carafe of your favorite iced tea or juice to get an extra chill on a hot day, or to chill your utensils.
Modifying Your Wine Cooler
A wine cooler is good for a lot more than just storing wine. With some modifications, you can use the temperature controlled and protected environment of your cooler to do many other things. Here's a few genius ideas:
Store either commercial kegs or homebrewed draft in your wine cooler. Find instructions online or ask for advice in the many message boards of other avid beer drinkers and brewers. This modification requires an addition of a faucet or beer tap and a tank of carbon dioxide to propel the beer out and maintain an even pressure within the keg.
You will want to make sure that your wine cooler is thermoelectrically cooled, rather than compressor based, to properly control humidity. You can upgrade your wine rack to Spanish Cedar drawers and shelves, which hold moisture better than most wood (this will also control the humidity), it can also repel tobacco beetles, and have a nice aroma. If your wine cooler doesn't have a humidity control feature, which many don't, you will need to add in your own. Relative humidity, or RH, is extremely important in storing your cigars. You can make or purchase an active system that uses water, or you can use a passive system by using humidity beads. Humidity beads are moisture sensitive silica and can be bought in different RH ratios depending on your personal preference. Make sure to pick up a hygrometer if you want to read your humidity levels.
If you aren't the do it yourself type, or simply want to buy an already modified wine cooler, you can buy a cigar cooler/wineador already made like the NewAir 400 Count Cigar Cooler. Like my recommendations above, this Cigar Cooler completes with removable Spanish Cedar drawers and Shelves, all of which were handmade in the USA.
Aging or Making Cheese
While home refrigerators dry out cheese, a wine cooler can maintain them at the warmer temperature they need while still extending their freshness. Many hard and semi-hard cheeses ripen best at 50-57°F. To make cheese you need a higher humidity than what will usually be within your wine cooler, so you can add small tubs of water to bring up the RH. Depending on the style of cheese you are making and how far you are along in the maturing process, you will want different humidity and temperature levels. If you get a wine cooler with dual zone temperature functions, you can ripen several types at once, or be able to simply move your cheese when it's going through different stages of aging.
Curing Chamber for Meats
You can convert your wine cooler into a curing chamber and use it for coppa ham, bresaola, salami, pepperoni, or many other types of semi-dry or dry-cured meats. Test your humidity, because with some recipes your wine cooler may not need to be altered. If your wine cooler doesn't have the correct RH, you'll need to add a humidity changing feature. Most people will add a tray of wet salt (to be changed out on a schedule), or you can add in a humidifier than works on electricity and water, although that is the more expensive option. Since most recipes require hanging meat, you will need to add hooks or something else to attach your meat to, although you can also use twine and binder clips.
The NewAir AWR-520SB 52 Bottle Single Zone Compressor Wine Cooler could be a good fit for you if you want to cure meat. It has one single chamber and removable wooden racks, so you have lots of room to hang your curing meat. Like the AWR-460DB dual zone wine cooler mentioned earlier, this wine cooler can be both free standing or built in, so it has many options for placement. Some people love showing off their projects to guests, but you could also have it stationed in the garage or study also. Shop now for Wine Coolers.