Maybe you are an ordinary oenophile out for a good time with your Pinot Grigio. Or a sommelier who can distinguish between ample umami and a chewy sip. Whichever part of this enthusiast divide you fall; you want your wine chilled right. And it’s a science — albeit one with a nuance of art, culture, and exquisite taste. Heat adversely affects wine aromas and flavors, and it’s advisable that the ideal storage temperature range should be 45-65 F.
During serving, the ideal serving temperature varies depending on the wine. Your light dry wines and sparky wines are best served at 40-50֯ F to preserve their crisp flavors, fruitiness, and balance. Think Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and your Pinot Gris. For sparklers, such as your champagne, chilling keeps the bubbles fine and preserves their fruity, vibrant aromas by preventing too much frothing. For your full-bodied white wines, such as that refreshing chardonnay, its recommended you preserve the aromas by serving at 50-60֯ F. A few degrees higher, and your full-bodied red wines will please many an aspiring sommelier when served at 60-65֯ F. This is warmer than most cellars but cooler than room temperature. However, it’s just right to make the tannins in your Petite-Sirah supple and taper off the acidity. To play this game of Fahrenheits and keep your wines in peach balance, you need a dedicated wine cooler.
Generally, there are two types of wine coolers, compressor type coolers, and thermoelectric coolers. However, due to their silent operation, stylish packaging, efficiency, and precise temperature control, thermoelectric wine coolers are the popular yet sensible choice for your wine cooling needs. Here is all you need to know about them.
How do thermoelectric coolers work?
A thermoelectric cooler uses the Peltier effect to act as a solid-state heat pump. The Peltier effect is the conversion of a temperature gradient into an electric voltage through a thermocouple. It’s also known as the thermoelectric effect. This effect creates a temperature difference by transferring heat across two electrical junctions. When a direct current (DC) flows across the terminals of two joined conductors, heat is removed from one junction, and there is cooling.
Thermoelectric coolers feature an array of alternating n- and p-type semiconductors. This array is soldered in between ceramic plates such that electrically, they are in series, and thermally they are in parallel. For Peltier effect devices, reliable solutions of bismuth telluride, bismuth selenide, and antimony telluride are the best materials. They make up both n- and p-type junctions and have the best combination of low thermal conductivity and high electrical conductivity. These form the most common combination of materials found within thermocouples of Peltier elements (TECs).
Generally, when a current is applied to the TEC, the heat sink end of the Peltier element heats up while the cold side cools up. Usually, the heat sink side gets quite hots, and it is necessary to have a fan and a radiator attached to it. In a wine cooler, this cold side of the TEC is inserted into the interior of the wine cooler while the hot side extends out the back of the wine cooler along with its radiator to dissipate heat. Fans are attached to each side of the heat sink to improve ventilation and expel heat.
Limitations of thermoelectric coolers
Before we look at the cool side of these coolers, let’s review a few of their limitations to keep expectations at par with reality. They are still a good buy despite the following shortcomings.
Your thermoelectric cooler will not get nearly as cool as your compressor cooled fridge. Generally, most of these coolers will not cool below 50֯ F, though some of the high-end models will cool close to 40֯ F. They have a narrow temperature band within which they maintain their temperature regulating abilities. When it’s too hot, they don’t work very effectively, at temperatures 30֯ F or more above the ideal wine storage temp of 55֯ F. The cooler can no longer maintain that excellent storage cooling range.
Conversely, these coolers also have challenges when it’s too cold since they don’t have a mechanism to heat the cooling compartment. For these reasons, thermoelectric wines coolers are not suitable for use outdoors. Sorry, it’s not a good summer picnic pick if you intend to keep it out in the sun for too long. However, it works best within controlled environments, preferably indoors and away from direct sunlight or any ultraviolet rays. Due to this narrow operating temperature band, check the manufacturer’s specs before buying a thermoelectric cooler for your cooling needs. Despite these few flaws, there are a lot of good reasons why these trendy coolers are now a hit.
What’s excellent about thermoelectric wine coolers?
1. No use of refrigerants and greenhouse gases
First, unlike compressor coolers, they don’t use environmentally hazardous refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons that previously significantly contributed to ozone depletion. Beyond this tree-hugging accolade, they are also quite reliable.
2. They are solid
A TE cooler has no moving parts since The thermoelectric coolers have few moving parts. This solid-state construction confers them with exceptional reliability. Typical thermoelectric coolers (TEC) clock past 200,000hours of maintenance-free use. You enjoy your chilled wine for longer with no maintenance woes.
3. Quiet operation
TECs run virtually vibration-free and much smoother since the only moving parts of the coolers are little internal fans. Unlike the annoying hum of your compressor-style fridge, the TEC will never intrude when you are watching your favorite TV shows. Notably, this means your precious wine collection stays still, allowing the delicate sedimentation process that’s part of a wine’s Ageing to proceed without interruption. That means a better taste the next time you uncork your bottle. Win-win.
4. Precise temperature control
In a typical compressor cooler, the temperature can vary as much as 10֯ C between the topmost compartment and the compartment nearest to the compressor. In a TE cooler with an excellent closed-loop temperature control system, the temperature can be controlled to +/- 0.1 degrees. That’s more preserved flavors and balance for your wines.
A quick buying guide
So a thermoelectric wine cooler sounds like a swell idea, and you want one? Good choice, here are guidelines to help you make a choice that suits your needs and those of your wines.
1. Single zone vs. dual-zone cooling
A single zone cooler has only one temperature control and maintains the same temperature across a single compartment. It’s an excellent fit for someone who consumes one type of wine and has a small collection. It is less expensive than a dual-zone thermoelectric cooler. It’s a fine balance between parsimony and the cooling needs of a wine enthusiast who has a small collection. Dual-zone coolers are pricier but are necessary for the oenophile with both reds and white. It preserves the different types of wines at the specific temperatures optimum for their cooling and serving.
2. An accurate thermostat
Wines are sensitive to temperature, and fluctuation of just 5 degrees is enough to affect the balance of your expensive wine. Choose a cooler with an accurate digital thermostat and a stylish LCD that allows you to set an exact temperature for your wine. In dual zone wine coolers, there should be two thermostats and temperature controls to let you control the temperature in each cooling zone accurately.
3. An efficient cooler is a plus!
Despite no requirement on manufacturers to state the energy expenditure of a wine cooler, most brands still indicate the power consumption. On average, most coolers of medium size will spend about 450-kilowatt hours per year. Though modern thermoelectric coolers are quite efficient, their energy expenditure will vary depending on the operation. The temperature surrounding the unit will make it use more or less energy to maintain its temperature. How many hours in a day the cooler is left running and how frequently the wine cooler door opens are also vital factors.
4. Build quality of the wine cooler
A robust, fully functional cooler is a valued companion on many a wine night, but other aspects of a wine cooler’s construction matter just as much. The shelves need to be sturdy enough to support heavy wine bottles and yet be detachable to be able to stack larger bottles. Most coolers have a sleek metallic frame and cool tinted glass doors. The glass doors need to be strong enough to withstand shock from minor mishaps.
The dual zones are separated by gaskets and seals, which need to be airtight to maintain different temperatures in both compartments. It also needs sturdy legs to keep it half an inch above the floor and keep it stable when the door swings during opening and closing. Typical thermoelectric wine coolers have a vast array of metallic, wooden and stainless steel finishes. Choose what catches your eye; your wine will thank you later at the dinner table.
5. The storage capacity of the cooler
Some grand coolers can accommodate over 100 bottles while others handle as low as just 8. If you are a collector who entertains large groups of guests with varied tastes, large capacity dual-zone coolers are ideal for you. For you. If you enjoy a little wine regularly and are just starting to garner a small collection, then a lower capacity unit will be the right choice. Check the dimensions, to ensure the shelves have enough depth to accommodate large bottles without the cork jamming up against the cooler door. Ensure you choose a one that can accommodate both your large and small bottles.
Get the most bang for your buck: maintenance
After investing in a nice thermoelectric wine cooler, you want to get the maximum performance from it, for as long as possible. To this end, observe these storage and maintenance guidelines:
- For freestanding units, Leave a minimum of 5” of free space all around the cooler from the nearest walls or cabinets to allow sufficient ventilation. It is necessary to enable the heat pump to disperse heat effectively lest it overheats, and critical components begin to melt. Failure to provide adequate clearance and ventilation is the main reason why thermoelectric coolers fail prematurely.
- Don’t install a freestanding thermoelectric cooler into your cabinetry. As mentioned above, it needs plenty of ventilation.
- Keep the cooler where the ambient temperature is between the 50-80֯ F recommended the range and away from direct sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are detrimental to your wine’s flavors and balance.
- If the cooler sounds a bit noisy, check that it’s level. If this persists after leveling correctly, check for any obstruction to the fans.
- Ensure the cooler legs are well anchored to avoid any unintended movement when swinging the door open.
Make sure you also go check out “How to Store Wine After Opening” to see our tips for storing wine with or without a wine cooler.
Thermoelectric wine coolers are enjoying a surge of popularity as more and more enthusiasts cultivate more sophisticated, discerning palates. You want your wines to go down easy, with all their reverent flavors and aromas intact for you to savor. Thermoelectric coolers are your oasis of delight after a long day, for your guests at your party, or on that lazy afternoon when you want to sip away the day’s hustle. It’s far beyond being just a bougie appliance. It shares with you a commitment to a good time, an allegiance to chill.
Thank you for reading with us today! Interested in getting a wine cooler now? Let us know in the comments below what you think about these wine coolers.
Check out related articles to keep your wine interests high with “Decorate Wine Bottle With Decoupage In 7 Easy Steps” or even “8 Tips to Host a Great Wine Tasting Party“.
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