Fridge and Wine cooler Guide

#41
Great write up! I am thinking of going down the New Air road myself. I have a question though. If I do use the individual cedar box method would I need to humidity the entire cooler or just the individual boxes? I was thinking of getting 1 cedar shelve and one cedar drawer but the individual boxes might be better. The only plus to the drawer would be capacity.
 
#42
f I do use the individual cedar box method would I need to humidity the entire cooler or just the individual boxes?....The only plus to the drawer would be capacity.
How many angels can fit on the head of a pin? Meaning there is no correct exact answer here.

I had a thermo-electric (Note:not all New Air are thermoelectric) 32 wineador for about five years, with some cedar drawers - custom made but not custom fit - and for several years a 172??? bottle compressor model (some of which overlapped with the thermo-electric.) My thinking has evolved somewhat over the years and probably will continue to change.

I'm moving more and more into using the boxes the cigars came in rather than having custom built items. For several reasons, the boxes act as a humidity flywheel that will stabilize the humidity, it is easier for me to make selections from the boxes, and some of my favorites don't come with cellophane on them and to my way of thinking they smoke and taste better laying naked next to another of the same blend, rather than open air, plus the box helps stabilize temps of the cigars.

None of this is based on empirical data of any sort, will probably be contradictory to what several other posters and "experts" say and is merely my personal preference.

This year, since my thermo-electric died, I am going back to a large coolidore for additional storage and going to keep it in the coolest spot in the basement. Also, the AC is now zoned and I can maintain it a little cooler down there if I want.

I am getting to the point that I believe that likely the most important factor for long term storage of cigars is stability of temps and RH. Boxes contribute to both of those, IMO.

Short Version: No right answer here, personally I like boxes.

Edited to add - humidify individual boxes with humi-packs and the overall cooler with beads is likely to give the greatest stability - but you have got to be on the money with the beads or you will run through humi-paks
 
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adam.ece.77

Cigars & golf - two things meant for each other!
#43
This seems like the right place for this post, however, if not then kindly let me know and I will post it in the correct forum. :rolleyes:

Attached is a photo of my 28-bottle compressor wine refrigerator I have made my best effort to convert to a humidor. Refrigerator was not being used anymore as my wife has switched to reds and drinks the bottles as fast as we buy them... Says this is the only way she can tolerate being in the same room as me, but that is a song for another day and discussion for another forum. Haha!! ;) I live in Southern California where the summers are hot and I am too cheap to run the AC - surprisingly my wife has allowed me to live which is a surprise because she is a damn polar bear and would love to have the house temperature cold enough I would have icicles hanging from my nose as I write this post. Maybe it is because she is more cheap than I am. Haha!! Anyway, needed a way to control temp as this was really concerning me with my humidors in my unconditioned 85-degree house.

Decided on compressor wine refrigerator for two reasons - 1) well I already had it; and 2) through my very intensive research it seemed like the thermo-electric units had to be replaced every 2-3 years which did not seem sustainable to me long term. Based on this very informative post I have found some comfort I am at least moving in the right direction - before I read this I thought I was on an island of one. As recommended above, I installed an aftermarket thermostat. Instead of drilling a hole or running the thermostat wire through the door, I fed it through the condensate drain line. I did not seal the opening of the drain line thus making it weak point 1 in my system (more on my thoughts behind this later). I have the temperature setting very tight on the thermostat - 69-degrees F to 70-degrees F. My thoughts behind this (likely flawed) is that more frequent short runs of the compressor will reduce the impact the compressors have on reducing the RH within my humidor. I added two rudimentary Spanish cedar shelves for box stacking/storage and three (3) pounds of 65% heartfelt humidity beads (one at each "compartment" in my humidor). 3-pounds was more than recommended (I think...) and the reason for this is I wanted to make sure I had plenty of horsepower to stabilize the humidity level back at 65% once the compressor kicked off and that it would also help with the fact that I did not seal the condensate drain plug. I store one (1) 100-cigar humidor and one (1) 20-cigar humidor within the unit for singles - both have 69% Boveda packs. I have five (5) digital temperature/hygrometers located throughout the unit and inside of the 100-cigar humidor to monitor humidity and temperature. Temperature of course is not a concern, however, I have noted 20-point dips in the humidity levels when the compressor is running even if for a short duration. The sensors I am using are not "ultra sensitive" so I am not able to accurately determine the rebound rate.

I have a few questions - 1) will these short swings in humidity adversely affect the overall "health" of my cigars; 2) do the micro-climates inside of the boxes and my humidors help mitigate the possible impact these RH swings could have on my cigars; and 3) does anyone have any thoughts/suggestions/opinions/recommendations to improve my current storage method?

Excited to hear some thoughts and opinions from those with far more experience and expertise than me.

IMG_1708.JPG
 

CMontoya79

Newb Le professional!
#44
70-50 or 65-45??? Either way. I imagine that 20 point swings in humidity can’t be a good thing. I imagine that could damage the wrappers as I believe the organic matter that are cigars prefer a more stable environment. I once read an article tgafxaid something along the line of... oils in the tobacco when dried out can never be replaced.
 

adam.ece.77

Cigars & golf - two things meant for each other!
#45
@CMontoya79 - thank you for your thoughts. The swings are really more in the neighborhood of 15%. I try to maintain my humidor at 65% humidity and when the compressor is running I have noted the humidity sensors registering in the low 50's when the compressor is running.

Again, I think (no way to verify this without very expensive hygrometers), or shall I say my hope, was that the increased amount of humidity beads would return the humidity to the preferred 65% quickly enough that these short reductions would not impact my cigars long term. So I have two (2) follow-up questions - 1) if all of my cigars are either in boxes or the smaller humidors, does this help remedy the cigars exposures to the drop in RH as long as the overall humidity stabilizes to 65% quickly (say 15-minutes); and 2) does anyone have any suggestions for other ways to remedy the large RH dips with compressor type winedors?

Thank you in advance for your time and information!
 

Scap

Well-Known Member
#46
Have to find a way to keep the evap plate from getting below the dew point.

Keep in mind just because the air is suddenly (temporarily) dry doesn't mean your sticks are too.
 

adam.ece.77

Cigars & golf - two things meant for each other!
#47
@scrap - Thanks! Determining that solution is way above my pay grade ;) haha So if there is anyone who has a recommendation for how to do this I am all ears. I do have some mechanical engineer buddies I could reach out I suppose...

That is what I was "thinking", however, I have nothing definitive to support my theories. So looking for either validation if my logic is tracking or recommendations if I am way out of bounds. We are moving into the cool season here finally so will likely be turning of the refrigerator and allow the temp to self regulate. During the hot summer months, however, I just want to make sure my setup is not doing more harm than good when I am using the refrigerator in the hotter months from May to November.
 

bfreebern

Yada, Yada, Yada.
#48
The reason your humidity is dropping so much, is that the compressor is sucking all your humidity. It's like storing coffee in your fridge, eventually it dries out. Too many swings, when the compressor kicks off and on, will eventually kill your cigars. You're going to have to figure out a way to keep it somewhat cool, without the compressor kicking on too much. You could always keep it in the coolest area of your house and only plug it in when it needs to be. But that would defeat the purpose of having something control your environment for you.

I don't have a solution for you, unless you sell it and buy a wine fridge/vinotemp type cooler :) Lots of info out there I'm sure, you'll just have to dig through threads via google, for it.
 

Scap

Well-Known Member
#49
@scrap - Thanks! Determining that solution is way above my pay grade ;) haha So if there is anyone who has a recommendation for how to do this I am all ears. I do have some mechanical engineer buddies I could reach out I suppose...

That is what I was "thinking", however, I have nothing definitive to support my theories. So looking for either validation if my logic is tracking or recommendations if I am way out of bounds. We are moving into the cool season here finally so will likely be turning of the refrigerator and allow the temp to self regulate. During the hot summer months, however, I just want to make sure my setup is not doing more harm than good when I am using the refrigerator in the hotter months from May to November.

You can't be a tight wad if you want lab precision....

There are controllers out there that will allow you to have finer control than the gross control of the built in thermostat.
 

adam.ece.77

Cigars & golf - two things meant for each other!
#50
I have not been a "tight wad" per say, but have also not splurged on the most high end equipment either. The controller I am using is a Willhi 110V #WH1436A Digital Thermostat switch. Temp settings are set to turn power on to the unit if the temp is above 70-degrees F and turn power off to the unit when the temperature gets below 69-degrees F. I have one Xicar hygrometer which is the most accurate of my hygrometers and the one I monitor the most closely. My other four sensors are part of a multi-sensor Acurite display and monitor system that uses My Acurite to give you access to monitor the conditions remotely through the app. If there are better sensors someone would recommend I am all ears!! ;)
 

adam.ece.77

Cigars & golf - two things meant for each other!
#51
@scrap - Also, to be fair I am not looking for lab precision necessarily... Just a happy cozy place for my cigars to call home :D I want to age some of what I have and do not want to go into a box 5-years from now only to find a bunch of dead sticks I spent a ton of money on. I think I am on the right track, but am hoping those who have gone before me can help me to fine tune the little details that could increase the likelihood of my success.

I am going to reach out to a mechanical engineer friend of mine and see what kind of suggestions he has. If it is anything worth mentioning I will share my findings with the group.

I really appreciate the feedback!! Nice to finally have a place to nerd out and discuss the pitfalls of my cigar storage. None of my friends share my enthusiasm...
 
#52
Fridge and Wine cooler Guide


Introduction
Many individuals look to fridges and wine coolers as a less expensive means of controlling temperature for their cigar storage. The primary driver for a temperature controlled environment for cigars is the fear of tobacco beetles. Even if the fridge is not plugged in, they make for great humidors at a fraction of the cost of a traditional cabinet. Because the technology employed within each is similar, I will refer to them collectively as fridges throughout this guide. Important differences between the two will be noted where appropriate.

What to look for
There are a wide range of fridges on the market that employ different technology for temperature control and monitoring. In addition, there are subtle differences between them that are important to understand when selecting one for your cigars.

Type
There are two major types of fridges on the market, compressor and thermoelectric cooling models. Compressor systems are the most and use the evaporation of a liquid within a closed system for cooling[sup][1][/sup]. The thermoelectric cooling systems utilize the Peltier effect[sup][2][/sup] and heat sinks to cool the air. Thermoelectric cooling systems are most popular within wine coolers because wine enthusiasts prefer a vibration free system (no moving parts) as vibrations may upset a wine's sediment. Thermoelectric systems also are more compact in size and require less maintenance. These units almost always contain a fan to circulate the cold air from the internal cooling fins. The fan will also assist with keeping humidity consistent throughout the interior of the fridge. If you are considering a conventional fridge for cooling, ensure you stay away from models with a built-in freezer as the temperature within the fridge will be less stable and you will have less control of the auto defrost feature.

Many cigar enthusiasts also believe thermoelectric systems are less prone to condensation then compressor fridges and as such, effect the overall humidity less. However, this statement is false for one important reason. Condensation forms when the temperature of the water vapor is greater then the surface it is interacting with. Condensation also forms when the temperature of the air is cooled, causing water molecules to collide to form droplets[sup][3][/sup]. So assuming two fridges, one compressor and one thermoelectric, are at the same internal temperature with the same humidity level and are cooled at the same rate to the same temperature, they will both create the same amount of condensation.

Size
Fridges come in a large number of sizes and form factors. The general agreement is to buy something as big as you have space and money for. One important factor to look for is the thickness of the fridge cabinet. The thicker the wall is, the more insulated the fridge should be, which means it should hold temperature longer. This will obviously be more important for people in warmer climates.

Temperature Control
Most conventional fridges utilize an analog thermostat with a dial whereas most wine coolers utilize a digital thermometer with an external display. Due to how a thermoelectric cooling system work, the thermostat measures the difference between the ambient (external) temperature and the internal temperature. This means most of the thermoelectric thermostats are calibrated for a specific temperature. Mine was calibrated for 77 degrees F so when I set my interior temperature to 65 degrees F, it may cool to below or above that, depending on the temperature of my house. Fridges employing compressor type of systems tend to be more accurate.

In either system, you will more then likely want to setup an additional thermostat for finer control of the temperature. There are a number of models available which are prewired for a fridge as they are popular for home brewers. The thermostats work by cutting the power to the fridge when the desired temperature is reached. It is generally recommended the fridge be set on its coldest setting when using one of these thermostats to ensure the desired temperature is reached. This cycling of power to compressor systems can be hard on them as they are not meant to be cycled in such a manner. There is not enough data available to measure the impact of a thermoelectric system but it is likely less of an issue. It is important to also note that built-in digital thermostats will revert back to a default setting when the power is cycled. If possible, it is recommended that the buyer either find a fridge with a built-in analog thermostat or a digital one which defaults to a low setting.

Setting up the fridge
Once a fridge is acquired, it is important to follow a number of steps to prepare it for your cigar collection.

Plastic Odor
Some fridges contain a black plastic, mostly common within wine coolers, instead of the white for the interior. This black plastic also has a more pungent and lasting smell then those found in standard coolers or fridges. The first step is to rid the fridge of any plastic smell. I have found sunlight and fresh air to be the best means of ridding the fridge of the plastic smell. Others have had luck with using baking soda, white vinegar, and even bleach. The cooler-dor thread located at http://www.cigarpass.com/forumsipb/index.php?showtopic=13217 contains various approaches and comments that would be beneficial.

Thermostat
Assuming you acquired an addition thermostat for the fridge, now is a good time to install it. The manufactures recommend running the thermometer lead along the outside of the fridge and between the cabinet and door seal. This does not require you to drill any holes that may impact the integrity of the fridge. I personally chose to drill a hole through my fridge and sealed it using insulating foam and sealant. If you chose this method, ensure you reseal the fridge and replace any insulation that you may have impacted. Also be careful not to damage the electrical and cooling systems. The thermometer should be placed as far away as possible from the cooling system to ensure an accurate temperature reading. If possible, the thermometer should not touch the sides of the cabinet as it will influence the temperature reading. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on properly wiring the thermostat.

Humidity Control
The relative humidity[sup][4][/sup][sup][5][/sup] within a fridge will be more difficult to control then a non-cooled cabinet. This is attributed to the formation of condensation when the interior is cooled which drops the humidity within the fridge. As such, it is recommended that a larger then normal humidity control system be used. For example, if you are using beads, I would add at least an additional 50% over the recommended amount. You may also want to employ an active humidification system to supplement the beads but I don't feel it is required. Remember, the more your fridge cools, the more condensation will form and cause more fluctuations in the humidity.

To control condensation (auto defrost), most fridges with a freezer compartment utilize a heating element[sup][6][/sup] whereas many wine coolers use a drainage system that evaporates the excess water using hot air from a fan. We will concentrate on fridges without a freezer compartment as they are not recommended for cigar storage. We want to keep the water instead of having it drain away so we can return it to the air. How to do this will depend on what fridge you purchase and where the drain is located. However, it is generally recommended to plug the drain and divert the water back into your beads. I personally filled the drain system with insulating foam then used a sealant to plug the drain itself. I also placed humidity sheets from Heartfelt Industries along the water collection path and on the bottom to absorb the water and release it back into the air. This seems to work alright but condensation is still forming. Make sure you do not place boxes close to the back wall or water will make its way inside them and potentially ruin your cigars.

If multiple hygrometers are available, place them at various heights within the fridge. If you notice large differences (+/-5%), you may wish to add an additional fan to help circulate the air. Many people find using battery operated fans, like those from Oust to be satisfactory.

Once you have your humidity system setup, monitor it for a few days until it aligns with the ranges you expect.

Cedar and Cigar storage
The temperature and humidity swings can cause problems for exposed cigars and it is recommended that all cigars be stored within boxes inside the fridge. I grab empty boxes from my B&M for my singles. Using a box creates a micro climate for the cigars and allows them to be shielded from momentary swings with the temperature and humidity. Assuming you do this, no other cedar is required within the fridge. Adding cedar shelving may cause more harm then good as it will restrict the circulation of air. If you chose to implement cedar shelving, route or drill holes to allow air to exchange.

Conclusion
The goal of this guide is to provide an aggregate of information about utilizing fridges and wine coolers for cigar storage. I am not an expert within the field of cigars nor refrigeration but do utilize a wine cooler to store my cigars. I spent a large amount of time reading and researching the topic and hope the information contained within this guide is beneficial.

Please feel free to send me comments, recommendations, and corrections as I hope to keep this guide up to date and accurate.

Related Discussions
Thermoelectric vs Compressor

Common Products Used
Wine Fridges
Vinotemp VT-28TEDS
EdgeStar TWR282S
Whynter SNO 28-Bottle Wine Cooler - WC28S


Thermostats
Freezer Temperature Controller

Fans
Oust Portable Fan

Spanish Cedar
Spanish Cedar Trays
Spanish Cedar Planks


Hygrometers
HygroSet II Adjustable Digital Hygrometer
Caliber III Thermometer Hygrometer
Boveda One-Step Calibration


References
[1] http://www.mansfieldct.org/schools/mms/sta.../heatrefrig.htm
[2] http://www.heatsink-guide.com/peltier.htm
[3] http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/sci/A0813176.html
[4] http://science.howstuffworks.com/question651.htm
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_humidity
[6] http://www.appliance411.com/faq/howdefrostworks.shtml

Model Specific Projects
Thermostats
Johnson Controls A19 Thermostat Wiring - xRanger
Ranco ETC111000 Thermostat Installation - Fuscat

Wine Coolers
Vinotemp 28TEDS - AKmik
Vinotemp 28TEDS - rectifythis
Avanti 1.6cu ft. Fridge - Zach
Magic Chef - UTKhodgy
Whynter SNO WC-28S - chadth
Haier HVW12ABB - JLW
Vinotemp VT-21TEDS - smokintexas
Haier HVW12ABB 12-bottle - kent1146
That's really helpful, thank you for sharing.
 
#53
I live in the foothills of the blue ridge mountains, about 60 miles from Asheville, and almost halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte.

It does get hot here in the summer and cold in the winter. I am now using a 128 bottle compressor unit, in which everything needs to be in boxes and hygrometers (several) in boxes also, using a Johnson Controls thermostat and Avallo Accumontier for humidification with four bottles. The only problems I have had were once when the drain clogged and my wife (who has an acute sense of smell) said it was starting to smell funky. Also, the humidistat on the Avallo seems to have become saturated over the years and not read quite right. I ignore it anyhow and adjust plus or minus a one or two as indicated needing by the readings inside the boxes.

The major seasonal change from cold to hot and vice versa seems to be a transitional time that takes the cigars a while to settle down. The reason being that the room is 68 degrees in winter and 72 in summer (plus a bit of sun comes in part of the day) but that is the thermostat settings where we are most comfortable during those parts of the year.

I also had a whynter, which I ran till it died, and the last years of it's life I had been keeping Cubans in.

So, when the Whynter died, I took one of the larger coolers, put wire shelving in it, beads, and put it in the most stable temperature part of the house (more awkward to get to, downstairs) in a part basement that maintains 68 in winter and probably 72 in summer with little heat or A/C.

The past year or so, I have noticed the Cubans kept downstairs smoke more consistently even and burn better than the ones in the large compressor unit. My thinking is that it is harder under my shifting seasons to keep things stable in the compressor unit than in the downstairs cooler.

I have decided that if the 128 wine bottle compressor unit dies that I will be happy with a couple of more coolers in the basement.

I believe that with my four real seasons here that the most important thing is stable temperature.

Some region that is more stable with higher temperatures may well benefit from cooling, but it has been my experience with the whynter and the compressor unit it is hard to maintain that stability of humidity with the unit turning off and on different amounts during different times of the year.

I used to smoke more often before a throat cancer scare cut me back to once a week. It was more important to me for them to be readily accessible upstairs, more presentable, better esthetics, etc.

However, I would rather the cigars smoke better and take less effort, and go downstairs.

Just letting everyone know what's working best for me and why.
 
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