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Stogie Tips: The Mighty “Fridgeador”

30 Apr 2008

If you’re a serious cigar collector, there will come a time when your desktop humidor – no matter how large, how elegant, or how treasured – no longer fits the bill. Maybe you’ve run out of space and you’re tired of buying small humidors (or impressing Tupperware containers into service) to supplement your main unit. Or maybe, like me, you live in a region where spring and summer temperatures can easily crack the triple digits. In such cases, heat regulation inside a desktop box is a lost cause.

Create you own FridgeadorWhen you’re ready to make the leap to larger storage space and manageable temperatures, you have several options. The first, and perhaps the “best” choice, is to go with a temperature-controlled cabinet from a reputable company like Avallo or Staebell. These companies produce furniture-quality humidor-cabinets, with prices reflective of their luxury. If you’re rich enough to buy one, go for it. But if you’re not – and most of us probably fall into this latter category – you’ll need a more innovative solution: the “Fridgeador.”

A fridgeador is a wine refrigerator slightly modified to store cigars. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t refrigerating cigars a bad idea? Under normal circumstances, absolutely; a conventional fridge will suck the moisture right out of your stogies. But most wine fridges use thermoelectric cooling, a process that will avoid such harmful side effects. If you’re buying a wine fridge for cigar-storage purposes, make sure to buy a thermoelectrically cooled model. Many enthusiasts swear by the cheap and reliable Vinotemp 28-Bottle Wine Refrigerator, which can be had over the internet for roughly $150 to $200.

Having ordered your wine fridge, next you’ll want to invest in some Spanish cedar planks for use as shelves. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find these at your local hardware outlet; otherwise, you can order some on sites like www.woodcraft.com. If you plan to use wood glue to fashion the planks into shelves, make sure to use a nontoxic, relatively odor-free variety. Remember: you don’t want to put any chemicals in your fridge that you wouldn’t feel comfortable smoking later on.

For humidification, you can go with active (Cigar Oasis, Hydra, etc.) or passive (beads, floral foam) methods. Personally speaking, I recommend several pounds of humidity beads from a company like Heartfelt. The beads are easy to use, low maintenance, and good at what they do: maintaining RH levels at anywhere from 65-70%, depending on your preference. Next, if you’re the micromanaging type, you can buy one or two small, battery-powered fans to help circulate the air inside the fridge. Oust-brand fans seem to be popular for this task, as they run on cycles and are not constantly operating.

Finally, you’ll want to plug the condensation drain at the bottom of your fridge; doing so well help prevent moisture loss when the cooler is in operation. Some condensation may develop along the back interior wall of the fridge. Be sure to place a small container of beads or foam at the bottom of the fridge to collect any water droplets that may form.

Assuming you go with a Vinotemp 28-bottle fridge, your finished fridgeador (including wood and beads) will run you about $300, give or take $100. That’s a mere fraction of the $2,500+ you’d spend on a fancy cabinet, and about the same price you’d pay for a large desktop humidor. If you ask me, it’s a steal.

Jon N

photo credit: Vinotemp

Drew Estate

22 Responses to “Stogie Tips: The Mighty “Fridgeador””

  1. George E. Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 5:48 am #

    I've been using a Vinotemp for a couple of years. It's a great solution. I suggest you check your local Target. They're reasonable and also often marked down. And if you don't have a credit card there, you can get $10 or $20 (I can't remember which, though I think it's $20) off for opening a new account.

  2. Jon N. Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 6:41 am #

    I've heard that Target occasionally sells 'em for $120-$150, plus you'd obviously save on shipping costs if you could just pick one up and drive it home. I had no such luck at my local Target, unfortunately. But shipping was only $25 on Amazon for me, so it ended up being a pretty nice deal.

  3. sam Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 5:37 am #

    Fellas,

    How many beads do I need, and where do I put them? Would the gel tubes I have in my current humidor work?

  4. George E. Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 6:44 am #

    I have mine set up a little differently than some others I've seen and read about. I removed all the metal shelves and put my loose sticks in old cigar boxes and a desktop humidor I had. I put a tube of beads in each box, more or less sized to the box. It seems to work just fine. I move my thermometer/hygrometer from box to box periodically to check. The only problem is when I buy a new box of cigars I've got to smoke or remove one to get a tube of beads in the box.

  5. Brian S. Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    Guys, I thought that the wine fridges would be too cool for cigar storage. From what I remember, most wine fridges are only capable of a max temp well below 65 degrees which is far below the range for proper cigar storage. What kind of max temps are yours at?

  6. George E. Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 3:45 pm #

    Mine generally hangs around 66 degrees, with the temperatures inside the cigar boxes filled with cigars hitting the 70-72 degree range.

  7. Jon N. Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 7:20 pm #

    Brian S.: I'm not sure about wine fridges in general, but my Vinotemp has no trouble keeping in the 65-70 range. And, for what it's worth, temps as low as the low 60s and high 50s are perfectly acceptable for long-term storage. It's relative humidity that matters more than anything else. 65-70 degrees with 65 RH is perfectly fine, if not preferable to the 70/70 we've all been indoctrinated to believe is ideal. 70/70 is great for some sticks and too wet for others (especially some super premiums), whereas 70/65 and 65/65 are great for almost all varieties of cigars.

  8. Jon N. Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 7:26 pm #

    I should also mention that a lot depends on climate. If you're in a region that never cracks excessively high temperatures, you probably don't need to go the fridge route; save your money and deck out a nice, big coolerdor. But if you're in a region with very hot summers, fridges are a great way to go. These past few weeks in LA, for instance, have been riddled with 95-degree scorchers. If I didn't have my fridgeador set up, beetles would be making a meal of my entire house right about now.

  9. sam Friday, May 2, 2008 at 6:47 am #

    Sorry guys, one more question. George, do you reccomend that I only put boxed cigars in fridgeador? If, for example, I had cedar shelves made like Jon suggests, can I not put individual sticks in there? Can they be exposed to the open, cool air inside the fridge, or do they need to be in a box? Thanks

  10. Jon N. Friday, May 2, 2008 at 10:59 am #

    Sam: Most cedar-shelf setups I've seen are ideally spaced apart to accomodate boxes. If you remove all the metal shelves that come with the fridge and install two or three cedar shelves in their place, you've got plenty of room for boxes with some nice spacing in between them for proper air flow. You can also store singles in tupperware or wood boxes if you want, and exposure to the air in the fridge will not harm them at all. In fact, I've seen pictures on the 'net of some very handy collectors who've designed special singles bins for use with their wine fridges. In such pictures, the singles bins are open-faced and thus exposed.

    I keep all of my singles in spare boxes just for the ease of organization and the space savings that come with it. But by no means do you have to keep singles in boxes. You just need to devise a way to store them, is all.

  11. Jon N. Friday, May 2, 2008 at 11:01 am #

    …and if you're low on spare boxes, Thompson sells bundles of empty boxes for pretty cheap prices. I'm sure you can also pick up some empty boxes at a B&M if you're so inclined. They might even let you take some for free.

  12. George E. Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 6:29 am #

    Sam – I think Jon's pretty much got you covered. Keep us posted on how it works out if you got the wine cooler route.

  13. sam Monday, May 5, 2008 at 4:45 am #

    Thanks for the help guys. I'll let you know how it works out!

  14. Brian S. Monday, May 5, 2008 at 3:13 pm #

    Hi Guys. One more question, did you line the inside walls of your Vinotemp(s) with cedar? What kind of glue did you use to bond the cedar to the metal?

    I recently built a coolerdor and lined the inside with cedar. I glued the wood using Gorilla glue which is available at home depot. This is an odorless glue that will bond any materials together. It worked out perfectly.

  15. Jon N. Monday, May 5, 2008 at 7:54 pm #

    Brian:

    Personally speaking, I think lining the whole interior of the unit with cedar is overkill. For one thing, a fully lined fridge isn't necessary; the cedar shelving and/or cigar boxes should provide plenty of cedar aging and moisture management for the cigars. Furthermore, having too much cedar in the fridge might lead to mold problems down the line, especially since some condensation may form along the back wall if your cooler is running often. I'd also imagine that a fully-cedar-lined fridge would take ages to season properly. But that's just me; I'm a mildly impatient kind of guy. 🙂

    Bottom line: I'm not sure you'd do any harm lining everything with cedar. But I don't think it's necessary, and I think the benefits would be marginal to nonexistent.

  16. Brian S. Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 3:21 pm #

    Hey Jon/George, i went out & bought the Vinotemp. I placed a cigar oasis xl (set at 70%)in the bottom & a cigar keeper at the top. For some reason the RH in the bottom is thru the roof at around 75%. But the RH at the top is low at around 65%. Have either of you had this problem?

    Currently I have about 15 boxes stored.

    Thanks

  17. Jon N. Tuesday, December 9, 2008 at 6:56 pm #

    Brian: I can't say I've had that problem, but my best guess is that it's an air circulation issue. Maybe try sticking a small, battery powered fan in the bottom of the fridge to move air upward and around inside the space? A small Oust fan (without the air freshener, obviously) or two will probably suffice. Let me know how it goes.

  18. Captaindave Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    Throw away that Oasis, had one never worked right and in only a few months the fan quit working. Ruined a lot of good cigars with the thing. Without a massive size Humidor and a very expensive humidifier there is just not a great solution. But for those of us who would like to put more into cigars than into humidors the thermoelectric cooler with some beads is probably the best answer. Some fans (Oust is good) are very helpful to prevent mold and keep the air fresh.

  19. Jon A. Friday, August 22, 2014 at 1:02 am #

    could you also place a standard humidor inside this cooler and have the same effect as placing wood throughout?

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