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Updated Nov 17, 2022 12:17 PM

A well-stocked bar fridge can turn any room, garage, or basement into an upscale lounge. Not only does a dedicated fridge for drinks free up some space in the kitchen, but many dedicated bar fridges or “beverage coolers” offer features that allow you to maintain more consistent temperatures to ensure you and your guests always have a supply of icy cold beer and chilled wine. Whether you’re an IPA-lover, a burgeoning sommelier, or simply like soda, these are the best beverage coolers for your home bar.

How we chose the best beverage coolers

I’ve been writing and recommending gear for over 10 years for publications like CNN Underscored, Gear Patrol, and Popular Science. During that time, I’ve recommended a number of devices for home tech, from the best energy-efficient air conditioners to the best carbon monoxide detectors.

To find the best beverage coolers, I researched the best-selling models at major retailers like Amazon, Home Depot, and Best Buy. I also read editorial reviews and user impressions, using the expertise of specialty publications like Liquor.com and our sister publication, Saveur.

Why do you need a beverage cooler?

The kitchen fridge is fine for storing groceries and stashing leftovers but, unlike most beverage coolers, they don’t allow users to precisely set the temperature. Having greater control over temperature is ideal for a drinks fridge because certain beverages, whether you’re drinking beer or wine, are better if stored at specific temperatures (more on that later). For wine, specifically, a dedicated wine fridge allows you to store your bottles horizontally, so the liquid can hydrate the cork. You don’t want crumbly bits of cork in your special bottles, do you?

Space is also a serious consideration. Real estate inside the kitchen fridge is at a premium, and giving all cans and bottles a new home frees up space for that Thanksgiving turkey, a big casserole dish, or that industrial jar of mayonnaise.

Things to look for in the best beverage coolers

A dedicated beverage fridge should be easy to control, easy to access, and small enough to fit in most spaces. Before adding one to your space, you should also have a sense of what you plan to drink, as there are fridges optimized for beer or wine. Knowing what you want to store will also help you navigate the logistical differences between beverage coolers, including their sizes, shapes, and cooling systems. Here’s what you need to know to pick the best beverage cooler for any home.

What are we drinking?

You have a few options when shopping for a beverage fridge, including models designed for wine, beer, or both. Wine coolers–the appliances, not the cocktails, are better at holding bottles and often include specific features for keeping your collection at an optimal 55 degrees Fahrenheit

If you’re looking to all-in on beer, you’ll need something more flexible. The ideal temperature for your fridge will change depending on the type of beer you bring home. Beer connoisseurs will often argue about the right beer temperature but, generally speaking, a can or bottle of beer should be warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below 55 degrees. Some manufacturers will make a recommendation right on the bottle or can.

If you’re thirsty for beer and wine—and maybe some other stuff, like a soda, or a bottle of water—you’ll want a beverage cooler that accommodates all kinds of beverages. These dual-unit fridges tend to be larger, especially those that feature a storage compartment for wine bottles and one for beer (and other things). On the plus side, a high-end dual unit beverage cooler may have separate temperature control for each section.

Size and venting

Most beverage coolers are designed for convenience and can fit into tight spaces. A smaller 18- by 19- by 18-inch cooler (WDH) with 1.5 cubic feet of interior space can comfortably hold 60 cans or 17 bottles of wine. A mid-sized 24-inch beverage cooler can hold 120 cans and more than 30 bottles of wine. Keep in mind, though, that your appliance gets dramatically heavier and harder to move as it gets bigger.

Freestanding bar fridges can live anywhere you put them, but there’s a certain appeal to installing a fridge to live under a counter or bar. If you choose to install a beverage cooler, make sure to buy one that’s meant for that purpose. Built-in beverage coolers can slide under bars or into tight cabinetry because they have front-facing vent channels that release heat out the front. By contrast, most freestanding coolers direct their heat to blow out the back. If there’s no room in the back for air circulation, your fridge will overheat and break, so make sure you have an installation plan before bringing a fridge home.

Noise and vibration

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a whisper produces about 30 decibels (dB) of sound. The compressor of a beverage fridge can generate about 40 dB. While that may not sound like a lot, the humming may be distracting if you put a beverage cooler in a quiet office, bedroom, or home theater. By 70 dB, ambient noise starts to actively annoy us.

Wine drinkers may also want to pay attention to vibrations caused by a louder than a normal fridge. It may alter the taste if the fridge kicks up enough wiggle and wobble to disturb the sediment in a bottle of wine. While this won’t be a deal breaker for most beverage cooler customers, those looking for a dedicated wine fridge will want a quiet unit that sits still.

Extras

While we primarily value features like storage capacity, noise, and defrost type, we also appreciate beverage coolers that offer additional features like reversible doors and safety locks. You can install a reversible door to open to the left or right, giving you more flexibility when finding a place to put it. A safety lock, or child lock, allows you to lock your beverage fridge, so nobody raids the beer and wine fridge when you aren’t around.

Finally, beverage coolers feature different defrosting options. A self-defrosting unit requires less maintenance and will occasionally heat coils within the fridge to melt away the icy buildup. A manual model needs to be defrosted when buildup becomes about 1/4-inch thick. You must either chip away at the ice with a tool or let it sit until it melts. We don’t consider automatic defrosting a must-have feature, but it’s definitely convenient. Be aware, however, that models that offer it are more expensive.

The best beverage coolers: Reviews & Recommendations

Pick your beverage of choice and find the cooler that fits your home and budget. Wine drinkers will want to pay close attention to temperature controls and vibrations. Beer and non-alcoholic beverage fans can be a little less picky.

Best overall: NewAir AB-1200 Beverage Refrigerator and Cooler

NewAir

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Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: With a modern stainless steel design and the ability to store up to 126 cans, the NewAir AB-1200 is the perfect beverage fridge for hosting neighborhood gatherings.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 18.9 x 18.4 x 32.4 inches inches (WDH)
  • Weight: 65.9 lbs
  • Storage: 126 cans (12 oz)
  • Reversible door: Yes
  • Defrost type: Manual
  • Cooler type: Freestanding
  • Temperature range (Fahrenheit): 37 – 64 degrees

Pros

  • Ample storage for cans
  • Reversible door
  • Stainless steel design

Cons

  • Door can be difficult to reverse

With excellent interior capacity, seven custom temperature settings, and adjustable shelves, NewAir’s freestanding AB-1200 can chill a lot of drinks. It features a classic glass door design, so you can see what drinks you have stored and is capable of chilling up to 126 12 oz cans of beer, soda, or whatever combination works best for you. The door is also reversible, giving you a bit more flexibility when choosing where to put it.

Best undercounter: Aaobosi Beverage and Wine Cooler Dual Zone

Aaobosi

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Why it made the cut: With dual climate zones and a front-facing vent, Aaobosi’s beverage fridge fits in nicely under any bar or counter.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 24.4 x 22.6 x 34.2 inches (WDH)
  • Weight: 134.5 pounds
  • Storage: 18 wine bottles, 57 cans (12 oz)
  • Reversible door: No
  • Defrost type: Automatic
  • Cooler type: Built-in
  • Temperature range (Fahrenheit): 35.6 – 50 degrees (left zone), 41 – 64.4 degrees (right zone)

Pros

  • Dual-zone design with separate storage for cans and bottles
  • Separate temperature controls for each section
  • Stores 18 wine bottles and 57 cans

Cons

  • Expensive

This dual-temperature cooler is more expensive than your average bar fridge but it’s tough to beat a two-chamber design if you love beer and wine. Keep your 18 bottles of wine a little warmer, and the 57 cans of beer and beverages a little colder, with intuitive, programmable temp controls. It features a front-facing vent so it’s ready for in-counter installation. For basement bars and garage lounges, this is the perfect chilly bartender-in-a-box.

Best for beer: Antarctic Star Beverage Refrigerator

Antarctic Star

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Why it made the cut: With removable shelves, LED lighting, and a temperature display, the Antarctic Star Beverage Refrigerator makes it easy to chill your favorite beer at the right temperature.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 17.7 x 16.9 x 29.1 inches (WDH)
  • Weight: 44.1 pounds
  • Storage: 100 cans (12 oz)
  • Reversible door: No
  • Defrost type: Manual
  • Cooler type: Built-in
  • Temperature range (Fahrenheit): 40 – 61 degrees

Pros

  • Adjustable feet
  • Temperature display
  • Removable shelves

Cons:

  • Door isn’t reversible

A step up from the teeny-tiny micro-fridges you see in college dorms, the Antarctic Star beverage cooler looks cool and keeps your beer cold. Storing about 100 cans or 24 wine bottles, it features adjustable temperature controls with an easy-to-read display. The shelves are removable, making it easy to convert it from a beer fridge to a wine fridge if you want (or make room for 2-liter bottles of soda). It’s also surprisingly quiet and doesn’t rattle. Throw in a lock and some blue LED lighting for ambiance and you’ve got yourself a swanky little bar fridge.

Best for wine: Ivation Compressor Wine Cooler

Ivation

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Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Ivation Wine Cooler features a UV-resistant glass door and a lock to protect your collection.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 13.5 x 17.7 x 30.3 inches (WDH)
  • Weight: 43 pounds
  • Storage: 18 bottles
  • Reversible door: No
  • Defrost type: Automatic
  • Cooler type: Freestanding
  • Temperature range (Fahrenheit): 41 – 64 degrees

Pros

  • UV-resistant glass door
  • Door lock
  • Sleek design

Cons

  • Door isn’t reversible

For storing wine, the Ivation wine cooler is the next best thing to having your own wine cellar. The 31-inch chest stores up to 12 bottles of wine in an easy-to-control cooler that you can set to the perfect temperature. Its tinted glass door protects aging bottles against UV light, and its quiet, vibration-free operation won’t disturb them. The lock keeps your prized bottles safe and secure. When it’s time to drink, the soft interior light won’t blind you when you open the door like a kitchen fridge. It’s the best wine cooler for both sophisticated drinkers and those who toss back glasses of grocery-store wine.

Best mini: NewAir Mini-Fridge Beverage Refrigerator and Cooler

NewAir

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Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The NewAir Mini-Fridge can store up to 60 cans and features adjustable shelves for the ultimate dorm-room accessory.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 18.9 x 16.7 x 19.7 inches (WDH)
  • Weight: 45 pounds
  • Storage: 60 cans (12 oz)
  • Reversible door: No
  • Defrost type: Manual
  • Cooler type: Freestanding
  • Temperature range (Fahrenheit): 37 – 64 degrees

Pros

  • Compact size
  • Sleek design
  • Great storage capacity for its size

Cons

  • No light in the fridge

NewAir’s mini-fridge is the perfect beverage cooler for dorm rooms and offices. It features a glass door (so you can easily admire your collection), enough space for 60 (12-ounce) cans, and an adjustable temperature from 37 degrees to 64 degrees Fahrenheit. The fridge’s shelves are also adjustable, so you can chill any combination of tallboys (16-ounce cans) and regular 12-ounce cans. If you want the “true” college experience, you have to have a mini-fridge in your dorm, and the NewAir is tough to beat.

Best budget: Frigidaire EFMIS129-Red Mini Portable Fridge

Frigidaire

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Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Frigidaire EFMIS129-RED Mini Portable Fridge is small, affordable, and the perfect option for an office or dorm room.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 7 x 10 x 10 inches (WDH)
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Storage: 6 cans (12 oz)
  • Reversible door: No
  • Defrost type: Automatic
  • Cooler type: Freestanding
  • Temperature range (Fahrenheit): Up to 32 degrees below ambient temperature

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Vintage design
  • Small but can still chill six cans

Cons

  • Won’t make your drinks super cold

The personal Frigidaire is more mini-fridge than “beverage cooler.” It doesn’t offer precise temperature controls and, in fact, only chills its six-can compartment by 20 degrees. For less than $40, it’s a compact, stylish little fridge to make sure you always have a soda handy at work or in a dorm room. If you don’t need to blast-chill your beverage, this is a handy and eye-catching little cooler that will do an adequate job.

FAQs

Q: Can you keep beer in a wine cooler?

Yes, you can keep beer in a wine cooler. Just remember: You want to store wine at a warmer temperature than beer or a kitchen fridge. We do not recommend turning down the temperature of your wine cooler to accommodate beer if there’s any wine inside. Even if there isn’t any wine in there, many wine coolers won’t get colder than 45 degrees Fahrenheit. 

That may not be a problem, though. Beer enthusiasts will tell you we Americans drink our beer too cold. If that sounds blasphemous to you, you should get a beer fridge or keep your beer in a full-size kitchen fridge.

Q: Why are beverage coolers so expensive?

Bar refrigerators feature much of the same technology as traditional refrigerators, but with precision controls and other niche features. They’re niche luxury appliances and are priced with that in mind. It’s worth pointing out that there are mini-fridges out there that only cost $100-$200 or so, but they don’t feature the same beer- and wine-specific features as a beverage cooler, and rarely work as well.

Q: What is the coldest beverage cooler?

The temperature ranges on this list are roughly the same. Bottles will break and burst when you hit freezing temperatures. Even cans will buckle when you drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re looking for a way to keep ice cubes frozen and ice cream solid, you don’t need a beverage cooler. You need a freezer.

Q: Will a beverage cooler keep food cold?

Although beverage coolers share a few basic similarities with a full-size fridge, they serve different purposes. The average fridge keeps its temperature between 35 degrees and 38 degrees Fahrenheit to keep food fresher for longer. A beverage fridge keeps temperatures between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t suitable for perishable food. According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), storing food at temperatures of 40 degrees or below will slow the growth of bacteria that can make people sick. Some beverage coolers can get cold enough to store food, but you lose the advantage of having beverage-specific storage.

Q: What can you put in a beverage cooler?

While beverage coolers aren’t the best appliances for food, they are fantastic for storing drinks. While many are made with beer and wine in mind, you can put any kind of beverage in there. We recommend buying a general beverage cooler or a beer-specific model if you plan to store lots of different drinks, as wine coolers often feature both specific shelving and cooling systems just for wine.

Q: How long will a beverage cooler last?

It can be challenging to pinpoint how long a beverage cooler will last because parts can fail at any time. According to a survey from Consumer Reports, manufacturers estimate their appliances will last about ten years. When making your purchase, you should pay attention to whether or not it comes with a warranty. Typically, manufacturers will provide limited warranties for 12 months at no cost and offer extended warranties that can last for several years. However, extended warranties are generally available for an additional fee and can cover specific parts if they break down.

How much does a beverage cooler cost?

A beverage cooler can cost hundreds of dollars depending on its size, and the ones we’re recommending fall within the range of $38 to $999.

What temperature should my beverage cooler be kept at?

This is entirely dependent on the beverages you plan to keep inside your cooler. For example, white wine should be stored between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit while red wine should be stored between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit according to Kingsbottle.

Do I need a special outlet for a beverage cooler?

No. A beverage cooler can be plugged into a standard outlet.

Will a beverage cooler keep food cold?

Yes, but the coolers have ridges designed to fit bottles, which makes them inefficient for cooling food. Some food may need to be kept at colder temperatures, too.

Final thoughts on the best beverage coolers

There are multiple ways to keep your drinks cold. Wine coolers ensure your reds and whites never get too cold or too warm. A beer cooler provides quick access to well-chilled cans and bottles. And dual-temperature coolers give you the best of both worlds. Be aware of the noise level and keep an eye on your budget. And if you plan to place the cooler under a cabinet or against a wall, make sure the compressor has room to breathe. With that in mind, you’re ready to transform your kitchen, den, or garage into the neighborhood’s hot (and cold) spot.