You’ve probably heard that wine needs to be stored in an environment that has consistent humidity levels, but do you know why? A wine cooler is a great place to store your wine, as it keeps the bottle at the right temperature, and helps keep out dust and other contaminants. However, since coolers are air-tight environments, they can cause your wine to lose some of its natural moisture. And with the lack of humidity in most modern households, this moisture loss can lead to an undesired effect on your wine’s taste!
1) Clean the cooler
Since you’re putting a humidifier in a room where food is stored, it’s important to make sure that cooler is clean before proceeding. Remove any dirt or debris from shelves, cabinets and drawers, being sure to use a mild detergent if necessary. Next, wipe down all interior surfaces using a slightly damp cloth. Then run your vacuum over hard-to-reach spots like corners, cracks and around buttons or switches on humidifiers themselves. When finished cleaning your cooler, move on to step two of how to humidify a wine cooler for proper long-term care. (Also read: How To Clean Your Vacuum)
2) Add water and then conditioner
If you’re planning to get a lot of use out of your humidifier, it might be worth investing in a special tool that makes it easy to add water and conditioner. It will cost you about $10 on Amazon. Once you start using one, it’s hard to go back to fumbling with loose parts while trying not to spill anything. Here’s a good one if you want an easy way to add conditioner
3) Use a humidifier or put a container of water in it
If you’re looking to keep wine cool without using a fridge, a humidifier is one way to go. This is particularly effective if your cooler doesn’t have any circulation inside it. Just be sure that your humidifier can stay in an enclosed space without causing damage. If your wine cooler has room inside of it, leave out a container of water overnight and let it do its thing. Ideally, you want to place it on something absorbent like a towel or paper towel so that you don’t get dripping water all over your floor when removing the container in the morning.
4) Opt for an automatic humidifier
If you already have a wine cooler, consider investing in an automatic humidifier. These systems are fairly inexpensive and take away much of your responsibility in terms of keeping things at just the right humidity. This will go a long way towards preserving your wines, as well as extending their shelf life. Just make sure to keep an eye on levels and add water as needed throughout the year. If you’re not ready to purchase a humidifier for your home, many (but not all) wineries offer very similar services for a nominal fee.
5) Put trays of wet salt
If you’re going to store wine in a cooler, you need to make sure that its corks stay moist. The easiest way to do that is by keeping a wet sponge or cloth at hand and dabbing it over any exposed parts of cork whenever you enter your wine cellar. If you want something more permanent, look for humidifiers meant for wine cellars (keep an eye out for cheap models on eBay). Never place them directly on top of bottles, though—it can cause leaking and can ruin your glassware.
6) Keep corks moist
One of the best ways to keep corks moist is by using a wine bottle air pump. You can purchase one that fits perfectly inside your wine cooler, and it’ll move air around and keep things well-humidified. One other way you can do it is by simply wetting some cloths and wrapping them around individual bottles of wine to soak up moisture. When you remove each bottle, remember to pat it dry with a towel before putting it back in place. Never keep wet corks in your cooler, because they’ll lead to mold growth. Make sure bottles are kept level: If they’re not staying level—even if just a bit—then you run into issues with having proper humidity levels throughout your entire cooler.
7) Buy another cooler as backup
If you’re putting your wine in a cooler, you want to be sure it has plenty of air circulation. You need airflow for humidity to escape, and most coolers have less airflow than some insulated carafes. If your wine is exposed to direct sunlight, or if you live in a place where hot days regularly reach over 80°F (26°C), a second cooler as backup can help ensure that your wine doesn’t get too hot. And remember: If you aren’t sure about how much cold air your cooler holds—if it wasn’t packed with ice when you bought it—you may want to err on the side of caution and buy an extra one just in case.
8) Put ice around the bottle necks
While it may not seem like much, an inch or two of ice surrounding each bottle of wine will help to keep your wine at a cool temperature. Even if you can’t fit ice around every bottle in your wine cooler, aim to put it around at least half of them. The more bottles surrounded by ice, the cooler your wine will stay.
9) Add more salt as necessary
As a wine ages, it is often exposed to oxygen. This exposure leads to alcohol’s natural enemy: oxidation. One way to combat oxidation is by adding more salt (sodium chloride) to your wine storage system. When adding salt, be sure that you use non-iodized salt or kosher salt, as these are less likely to cause undesirable chemical reactions with wine or components of your preservation system. How much should you add? That depends on how humid your cellar is and how quickly you want to see results. If humidity levels are low, start out at one teaspoon per gallon of wine volume in your cooler. If humidity levels are high, start out at two teaspoons per gallon. After one month, taste your wines and decide if more salt needs to be added. Repeat until desired flavor profile has been achieved.
The great thing about wine is that you can serve it at different temperatures: warm or cold. Not only will serving your wine at different temperatures affect how well you and your guests enjoy it, but it will also change how much of it gets consumed. It’s all about balance! If you are like me and don’t know how to achieve perfect serving temperatures for wine, then read on. I’ll give you a few tips and tricks on how to humidify a wine cooler in no time!