The Cellar Builder



Using a Refrigerator as a
Wine Storage/Staging Unit

© Copyright 1998 by Russ Sprouse. All rights reserved.

There have been several postings recently about wine storage units, and how to cool a red down to ideal drinking temperature in the hot summer months. Here's an idea I use, and at Robin's request, I'm providing some detail and a couple of photos.

I have an old refrigerator in the garage, and I tweaked the thermostat so that it keeps the freezer unit nice and cool for whites, and the refrigerator section slightly cool for reds. I use it as a "staging area" for wines I've pulled out of my main "cellar" (stacks of boxes in the garage) or wines I've just brought home samples of, to taste before buying in quantity.

I came up with this idea after messing with the thermostat in my spa, to make it heat up a little hotter than it was getting on the hottest setting. I actually broke the thermostat, trying to force it a bit to get it hotter. Being an avid do-it-yourselfer (I even tore apart the viewfinder/meter in one of my Nikons, and got it to work) I decided to tear it out and figure out how it worked. I discovered that I hadn't really broken it badly, just tweaked it off its hinges, so to speak.

The good part was that in the process, I discovered that it (and apparently most thermostats) has a calibration screw that sets the range at which the big control knob works. Now I can boil lobster in my spa. Makes me feel a bit like Tim the Toolman.

I took my newfound knowledge, and put it to work on the refrigerator, and viola!, an instant, cheapo, two-zone wine storage unit!

It's actually quite simple to do. Here's a picture of the thermostat in my refrigerator:

The thermostat

I can pull the control knob straight off the thermostat, and here's what I see:

Behind the dial

See the little screw to the left of the main control? It turns out, that's a calibration screw that sets the range of the thermostat. Twist it and you set the range of the thermostat. I think counterclockwise is generally the right way to "raise" the range so the 'fridge will not get as cold. You can tell for sure by twisting it one way until the compressor comes on, and then the other way until it goes off. That's the direction you want to go. How far? You'll have to "trial and error" it, but I got lucky. I turned it about a half turn, and now my refrigerator runs at setting '5' with the freezer section chilling whites to a crisp temperature, while the main section giving reds a slight cooling to "low cellar" temperature. I like to start reds a bit on the cool side, and let them warm up as I slosh 'em about in a big glass.

Here's the happy result:

The stash!

-- Russ

Other articles of interest:

  • The Cellar Builder: Wine Lovers' Tips on Housing Your Collection

  • The Cellar Builder: Buying a Standalone Wine Cellar, by Mike Bassman.

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