What is a Wineador and How to Build One?

What is a wineador?

We’ve been getting quite a lot of questions about temperature-controlled humidors lately and it was about time to come up with an answer! The following guest article comes courtesy of Squidot.

Wineador: a wine cooler converted for use as a humidor.

When I was looking for info on this topic I found a lack of a good singular source, instead having to go to multiple sites/forums to find the answers to my questions. I thought it would be helpful to compile my findings and the options you have available when going this route. If anyone wants to add something please let me know in the comments. Let's get started !

Why a wineador?

  • The main reason people choose wineadors as their preferred storage method is the temperature controls. This can be very handy if you live in a hot climate like me. I don't really want to keep my entire downstairs at or below 70 degrees for the sake of my cigars. With my wineador I am easily able to keep my sticks at a pretty constant 64 degrees. It also has a fan that will circulate air, which is very nice.
  • Another reason is increased storage capacity. You could also go with “coolidoors” but you wouldn't have temp controls or airflow. And also...
  • Aesthetics. Many people, myself included, really like the way they look once you get custom drawers in there.

Choosing a wine fridge

  • Any thermoelectric wine fridge that has a good seal should work fine.
  • Many people tend to stay away from dual zones because you are adding more variables to the equation and sometimes one of the zones won't get to an ideal temperature. If you go this route just make sure both zones get to the mid 60's.
  • If you are looking at Amazon reviews, don't pay much mind to the mostly negative comments on the low priced units commonly converted to wineadors. Most of the bad ratings I found stem from people trying to get the cooler down to its lowest temp for white wine which causes it to struggle at higher ambient temps. This can eventually lead to failure. For our purposes we are usually running it at its highest temp setting, so they should hold up perfectly fine.
  • Even if you don't need temp controls a wineador still might be right for you. I wouldn't recommend spending a lot of money on the unit, but if you can score a non-working one with a good seal from Craigslist or eBay then you can be in business with a cool looking setup that has a high storage capacity for very cheap.

Popular brands for converting

NewAir AW280E

  • NewAir AW280E - 28 bottle unit.
  • NewAir AW281E - 28 bottle unit. Similar to the AW280E but this has the ability to house smaller drawers if you want.
  • NewAir AW180E - 18 bottle unit. I personally have 2 of these and I have been very happy with them so far. One of them is fitted with only drawers, and the other is for boxes.
  • NewAir AW181E - 18 bottle unit.

The NewAir units commonly appear as reduced-price scratch 'n' dent units on air-n-water.com (and on their eBay store) making a wineador a fairly affordable option. Here you can see the unit I purchased: NewAir AW180E.
The 180/181 and 280/281 pop up on there as well. Just keep an eye on their site and be ready to jump on them. I love these units because they have digital controls and they looked the best to me for the price and level of availability.

Koldfront 28

These will tend to pop up on OpenBoxDirect & WineCoolerDirect and are cheaper than the NewAir's but they don't appear to have digital temp controls. I've seen the 28 bottle unit for less than $90 shipped. They will also get the 16 for $70. You have to be really quick on the 28 bottle versions here since they sell out very fast.

Vinotemp Wine Cooler

There are a few other brands that you can look into as well (Whynter, Avanti, Emerson, Frigidaire, Wine Enthusiast...) but the above models (particularly NewAir and Koldfront) are seemingly the most popular.

You picked your wine fridge and it has arrived!

Now we need to get it unboxed and cleaned up. I wiped mine with distilled water and took a whiff inside. It didn't have a strong plastic odor at all so I went with a less fuss method. I got a bunch of free newspapers from 7-11 (Spanish, apt. guides, classifieds, etc.) and stuffed both units full of these crumpled sheets. I left them in there for a few days with the unit OFF and the door closed. BAM! No more plastic smell. The carbon in the paper absorbs scents. I now had a slight aroma of newspaper which didn't bother me so I proceeded.

You can also try baking soda or active charcoal to remove odors. If those don't work, others reported cleaning with palmolive. Some said distilled vinegar. I wasn't too worried about it because once I got the Spanish cedar drawers it wouldn't matter much as that would be the newly dominating scent. The other cooler is for boxes so that doesn't much matter either. Personally I don't think the plastic smell is really going to affect your cigars either way but you can work out your own level of how much it bugs you.

Picking your humidification

I'm going to talk about the most common forms for wineadors here.

Kitty litter (KL)

Particularly the ExquisiCat un-scented brand available exclusively from PetSmart. If you have a B&M near you go and pick up a bag or tub. I got an 8lb bag for about $13 and it will last both of my wineadors a very long time. So far it has been amazing at holding humidity. Any brand of silica-based kitty litter should be fine as long as it's made with ONLY silica and water. Most people use ExquisiCat because the crystals are large and don't have a lot of dust aspect. Pay attention to that if you get another brand... and be sure they are not scented.

Using kitty litter in a wineador

  • When putting this into your humidor make sure you do not add any distilled water yet. See what it stabilizes at by itself. For me it was ~61-62 which is very close to what I wanted.
  • Don't worry about the blue crystals. They are fine to leave in. Their role is to only release humidity while the white crystals are a 2-way system both absorbing and releasing. Now when I say the blue only release, there is a caveat: if you put distilled water directly on them, they will absorb it. The blue ones also change color depending on how much humidity they currently hold.
  • I simply put about 2 pounds of it in a tupperware container that fits the bottom of my cooler and spread it out to give it as much surface area as possible. Some people prefer to put it into porous bags or media bags. You can see what works for you. I only need it to be at the bottom in this manner and my RH is stable throughout the whole wineador by doing this. Some prefer to put it on various drawers to even out the humidity so feel free to experiment and do what works best for you.
  • Upping the R if it's not enough out of the bag. For heaven's sake do not pour a bunch of water in! Put distilled water into a spray bottle and give it a couple of wide-open sprays. You'll be surprised how far this will get you. Generally 2 sprays will raise my RH up a few percent.
  • Training your litter. Some people need to and some people don't, it seems. I am still training mine a little but it's staying at the RH I want for longer periods of time now. I'm shooting for 63-64 and it's been at 63 for many days after my last sprays. When I first got it, I would have to spray once a day to keep it up. Most people report not having to fuss with their KL for months after it's up and running.
  • If you live in a humid climate and you are using these to absorb humidity, you will need to remove that moisture every now and again. It seems the best thing to do is microwave them. If I was doing this instead of adding humidity I would definitely go with media bags to hold the litter. That way you should be able to microwave the bags to release the moisture. Efficiency, baby!

Pros: cost, ease of use, and effectiveness.
Cons: you need to use twice as much as beads and some people look down on KL or think it sounds stupid.

Heartfelt beads

Heartfelt Humidity Beads

This is the other popular method. You can check them out at their site: www.heartfeltindustries.com.

  • A silica based product, just like kitty litter.
  • Most people seem to use about a pound or so of these. Maybe someone with HF experience can help out on their process for adding or decreasing humidity as I don't have any with them in my wineador. I imagine it works very similarly to KL.
  • They come in various humidity levels: 60, 65, and 70 so you can pick what's right for you.
  • Like KL you can have more of these than you need. Heartfelt says the more you have, the faster your humidor will recover after opening it and help to compensate for bad seals or climate changes.

Pros: various levels of humidity, have to use less than KL.
Cons: cost.

Personally I would say give KL a try first since it's so cheap. Many, many people have great experiences using it and it will save you a bunch of money if it works out.

Cigar Storage Drawers

Custom Drawers for a Wineador

This is where things can start to get expensive if you want custom options. Let’s go from cheapest to most expensive.

  • Just put cigar boxes directly on the wine racks. If you are storing boxes this is a zero cost endeavor.
  • Use tupperware. I found some temporary containers to use while I waited for my drawers. The ones I found fit EXACTLY into the rack spaces and I could go 2 deep with them. They act just like drawers. This may be hit or miss depending on how wide your unit is but there very well could be a perfect fit for yours. This won't look that pretty but it gets the job done for very cheap if you are on a tight budget.
  • Non custom spanish cedar boxes. This is pretty cost effective too but you won't get as much space efficiency as custom drawers or even the tupperware option in most cases. You can pick these up from cheaphumidors.com. They do look better than tupperware and will add that nice spanish cedar aroma to your wineador!
  • Custom drawers. The most expensive option.

Monitor your humidity and temperature

I'll leave it to you to pick the hygrometer, but I would recommend having at least 2 in the wineador. One near the top and one near the bottom, mounted on the drawers so you can easily see them without opening the door. Hell, even put 3 if you want one in the middle but I think that might be a little overkill, but hey, if you have extras throw‘em in various spots... even in the drawers and see what happens. It couldn't hurt.

Do I need an extra fan?

  • For most people the answer is no. You should be fine with the circulation currently in the unit.
  • If you really want a fan, a lot of people just put in cheap glade or oust fans.
  • You can also go all DIY if that's your thing. That's above the level I wanted to get in, and most don't think it's necessary so I skipped it.

I hope some people find this helpful. Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to add, or if I have anything incorrect and I will check it out. Thanks!

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8 Comments on “What is a Wineador and How to Build One?”

  1. Not planning on getting one, but very informative article. Learned a few things.

  2. I put one together a while ago. I don’t live in a hot climate, in fact I live in one of the coldest states in the union. However, the winter is extremely dry because the heat is on all the time. The wineador has such a great seal that it keeps my cigars in an extremely stable environment. Summers do get warm and i have my home office on the third floor so it also keeps the temp and humidity the same all year round. Then there is box storage, best way to age a cigar in my opinion. My box humidor was never this stable, especially in the summer. I’d recommend for anyone that is looking to step it up.

  3. Very interesting article. In the past have lived in hot/humid climates and this would be an ideal solution for those living in such places.

  4. irratebass says:

    Very informative, now could you do one for the big tower/cabinet humidors?

  5. Great article. I found using older Igloo coolers has been working fine for me. The seal has kept my humidi levels at 70% with minimal maintenance.
    I found a non working Danby. A lot of bad reviews on Amazon, but I’m not interested in the temperature control as much as the air tight seal. What do you think.

  6. i have a question: i have heard several people say that they’ve had problems with condensation in these types of wineador.
    With bottles this would obviously be no problem but with cigars that sounds quite bad.
    Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

    thanx

  7. I picked up a whytner cigar cooler on Amazon and it changed my life. Holds humidity like a champ and keeps my cigars fresh. I can’t see going back to a regular humidor.

  8. I live in very hot weather and it doesn’t work well in summer. The fan twists very fast and dries the unit, mainly in the upper drawers. Need to try more beads? Any other suggestion?

Please share your experience...

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