Back of the unit gets hot to the touch
Shelves pull out too easily
Wine is a fragile beverage. Stored in an environment with fluctuating temperatures or exposed to lots of light and movement, a wine’s taste can drastically change. While a countertop or cabinet may seem like a safe place to display your bottles, it’s not fit for long-term storage. To get the most out of your collection (whether you’re a casual wine drinker or self-taught sommelier), a wine fridge, like Ivation’s 18-Bottle Dual Zone Thermoelectric Wine Cooler, is essential. Read on to see if this is the appliance your kitchen is missing.
Setup Process: Took a few tries
The Ivation Wine Cooler showed up on our doorstep in a box tightly padded with styrofoam. Since it’s relatively small at 13.6 x 20.5 x 25.4 inches and it weighs just 30 or so pounds, we were able to move inside without any help. Unpacking and installing the fridge was also a breeze since there was virtually nothing to do besides remove the plastic packaging from the metal shelves and plug the unit into the wall.
Setting up our preferred dual temperature zones, on the other hand, was confusing at best. After unlocking the panel and reading the operating instructions a few times over, we couldn’t get our unit to change its temperature settings. The instructions stated to “long hold” the lock button and wait for a beep which was supposed to let us know that the unit was unlocked and ready to be programmed. The cooler would not beep, though. After a few failed attempts, we consulted the troubleshooting section of the guide which mentioned our unit may have a damaged control panel. We decided to unplug the fridge, let it power down, and then try again later.
Setting up our preferred dual temperature zones…was confusing at best.
After allowing the fridge to rest for an hour, we plugged it in again and it appeared to reset itself. We were then able to unlock the control panel without issue and set our desired temperatures: 46 degrees for the upper zone where we were storing white wines, and 55 degrees for the lower zone where we were stowing reds.
Note that if you step away from your unit for more than 20 seconds, it will automatically lock the control panel and you will need to unlock it again to change the settings. This does not mean that the Ivation cooler has a lock to keep small children out of the unit, however. This system does not have a door lock, just a temperature control panel lock.
Design: Sleek and standard
The Ivation cooler’s design is pretty standard. The exterior is a sleek black and there’s an LCD display with temperature controls. Inside, five removable metal shelves can accommodate 18 wine bottles (750 millimeters each). While the metal shelving held our wine bottles nicely, it was a little finicky. Whenever we pulled the shelving out, the weight of the bottles tilted causing the shelf to tip forward. A gentle hand is needed to maneuver in and out of this fridge or your collection may crash to the floor.
The Ivation cooler, like most wine fridges on the market, also features double-paned (also known as thermopane) doors. The energy-efficient glass provides protection from UV rays and blocks out the sun which can help lengthen the life of your wine. Beyond extending the longevity of collection, the tinted glass also allows you to view your wine labels and it creates a nice ambiance when the internal light is turned on.
While the Ivation cooler doesn’t have a humidifier, it does provide constant humidity with solid polyurethane heavy foam. Dry environments are an enemy to wine as they cause corks to dry out, increasing the chance of oxidation. The foam in Ivation’s design maintains an odor-free environment that also allows for a stable level of humidity.
Performance: Leaves much to be desired
Too much movement can irritate wine. This in mind, the Ivation cooler uses thermoelectric cooling, a system that minimizes movement so as not to stir up any sediment AKA pigmented tannins, yeast particles, proteins, and tartaric acid that forms into crystals. While sediment is perfectly fine to consume (some winemakers deliberately leave some in), few people like their wine with what is essentially pulp. If you do ever run into this issue, you can, of course, decant your bottle or glass.
As a thermoelectric unit, the Ivation conserves more energy than a traditional compressor unit (like normal fridges), but it doesn’t stay as cool. While the latter uses a motor and pump to move refrigerant through the unit, thermoelectric systems (like portable outdoor coolers) transfer heat from one side of the unit to the other, replacing hot air with cool air. While this is great as there are no moving parts to disturb your wine as it rests, thermoelectric coolers aren’t as adept at responding to changes in temperature in their surrounding environment.
We stored the unit in our dining room which tends to get warmer throughout the day. While the room never exceeded 75 degrees, the fridge was constantly cycling to keep up with the temperature and the back of the unit was hot to the touch. We checked in on our wine over the course of a week and found that the temperature inside the fridge frequently fluctuated. On the first day, it seemed to have met the desired temperatures we set, but a few days in, the top shelf, where our white wine was stored, was noticeably warmer than it had been previously. Without adjusting the temperature at all, we left the fridge to its own devices and checked in, again, a few days later. This time, the upper zone seemed to have returned to 46 degrees.
We checked in on our wine over the course of a week and found that the temperature inside the fridge frequently fluctuated.
The repeated change in temperature was concerning as the entire purpose of a wine fridge is to maintain a stable environment. While slightly higher temperatures aren’t a problem for red wine, we were disappointed to find that neither zone was suitable for long-term white, rosé, and sparkling wine storage as they should really be kept at a steady 45 to 55 degrees (depending on if they’re light and fruity or fuller bodied).
All this said, if you still want to give the Ivation a go, it’s best to store it in a dry, well-ventilated space between 50 to 80 degrees. This way, the fridge won’t have to deal with any major swings in temperature. Of course, this rules out unfinished basements, garages, and patios. Additionally, despite the fact that the fridge is advertised as being quiet, we found it made a constant whirring noise which seemed to get louder the more the unit cycled. For this reason, we’d suggest putting it out of earshot in a room where it won’t interrupt conversation.
Price: Won’t hurt your wallet, but there’s better out there
One major positive about Ivation’s offering? It’ll run you less than $200. While the price is right, there are many better models in the same $200 to $300 range, though—including those with compressor systems which are better at maintaining their temperature.
Ivation 18-Bottle Dual Zone Thermoelectric Wine Cooler vs. Kalamera 46-Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler
If you have extra room in your budget and your home, Kalamera’s 46-Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler (view on Amazon) is a great choice. While it’s considerably more expensive than the Ivation (it’s $800 at full price), it offers far more capacity and more consistent temperatures thanks to its compressor system.
While testing the unit in our home, we found that the fridge had no trouble maintaining its temperature despite our dining room warming up over the course of the day. The touchpad proved user-friendly and we didn’t have any issues setting our desired temperatures, either. Like the Ivation, the Kalamera can be set to cooler temperatures on top to accommodate white wines, and slightly higher temperatures in the bottom half for red wines. Instead of metal wire racks, the Kalamera is equipped with sturdy beechwood shelving. A wooden lip also prevents the shelves from pulling out too far so you don’t have to worry about dumping your prized bottles.
- Product Name 18-Bottle Dual Zone Thermoelectric Wine Cooler
- Product Brand Ivation
- UPC IVFWCT181DB
- Price $199.99
- Weight 31.97 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 13.6 x 20.5 x 25.4 in.
- Temperature Range 46 to 64 degrees (upper zone) and 50 to 64 degrees (lower zone)
- Rated Power 140W
- Power Supply 115V/60Hz
- Bottle Capacity 18
- Warranty 1-year limited