Buying guide for commercial bottle coolers, wine coolers and drinks fridges
Catering Appliance Superstore can provide coolers and fridges from the full range of beverage cold storage products available on the market, including bar storage like back bar bottle coolers, general bottle coolers and bottle wells and wine coolers, to general purpose units like glass door display fridges and multideck displays which can also be used in a self service capacity and hotel room fridges.
To help you narrow down your options and select the best refrigeration solution for your circumstances, we have produced this general buying guide to take you through the different options and give some suggestions on what to look out for in the product descriptions and specifications. The main areas are as follows.
Design and format of bottle coolers
You should have a general idea of the size, format and intended function of beverage cooler you need, for example whether you are looking for an undercounter back bar cooler, a simple bottle well, an upright cooler, a small hotel room fridge or a large self service drinks cabinet.
Our product categories are straightforward enough to navigate in that regard, but we have grouped back bar cooler products into single, double and triple door units to give a good starting point in terms of capacity, and if you need upright units there are some in the back bar cooler section, such as the Blizzard Bar20, or you could consider glass door display fridges, though they may not be sized to maximise space for standard sized bottles. Wine coolers and hotel fridges are categorised separately as specialist items of course.
Consider how the door opens, whether it slides or swings open, as this affects where it will be practical to locate. Self closing sliding doors are great behind pub or nightclub bars, where hinged doors are generally not popular choices as they block access, but the opposite can be true for self service display fridges as customers often want to open the door on the whole displayed product range (instead of having part of their access slightly impeded where two sliding doors overlap). Even better, a doorless multideck display cabinet allows customers to take what they need without opening a door at all, although units like this have to work harder to maintain low temperatures.
Of course, you may not want display at all, just convenient placement of high volume cold packaged drinks, such as your best selling bottled lagers.
Dimensions and capacity
All manufacturers provide information on the litre capacity of their fridges, but that is not particularly useful when determining what you can fit in it, as variables like the shelf arrangement and the height and diameter of the bottles you want to store have a big impact on your actual bottle capacity. Most manufacturers are sensible enough to also provide information on the number of bottles their fridge can hold for one of the common sizes of bottle, such as 330ml. Even so, the best way to be sure on capacity can be to actually measure the beverages you're storing and work it out yourself, and bear in mind that 1cm difference between models can be the difference between a whole row of bottles. You might also want to store milk cartons, fruit purees and sliced fruit, so consider whether you need to set up at least one high or deep shelf - coolers with variable shelf locations are certainly handy in this regard.
Fitting coolers into existing bars, hotel rooms or shop fittings can be tricky - thankfully there is a lot of consistency (or at least similarity) in external measurements across different manufacturers but you should double check the space you are trying to fit the product into before making a purchase, and allow clearance where the cooler vents for best operation and long life.
Difference in price between bottle coolers does not go up proportionately with capacity - that is to say, a bottle cooler double the size of an equivalent unit is no-where near double the price. For that reason, we always recommend maximising the size of the bottle cooler you purchase, and maximising your beverage cold storage in general, so as to gain efficiency from less frequent restocking and to guarantee that you always have a stock of bottles that have been in the chiller long enough to reach an acceptable serving temperature.
Temperature range and consistency
Alcohol can be stored at any temperature, but beers, ciders and the like need to be colder than 8°C or 9°C to be sure of avoiding complaint, and 4°C is probably optimum. There are no rules regarding the temperature that most alcoholic drinks are stored at, but again, consider whether any other products other than packaged drinks will be stored in the beverage fridge - if you are also using your bottle cooler to keep stock for cocktails, teas and coffees (for example fresh milk, fruit or fruit purees) then you should find a fridge that can operate at 4°C or colder.
Models with internal air circulation will generally achieve better temperature consistency than those without that feature, which can suffer if ambient temperature differences are pronounced. Another superior feature is a digital temperature control and display, as an old style mechanical temperature dial may require an additional in-fridge thermometer for you to see an accurate temperature.
Lighting in the cooler itself is important to showcase your product range in the best possible way, and essential if you trade in the evenings and need to see what you are doing. Ensure any lighting can be left on when the door is closed (as opposed to a traditional refrigerator where the light goes out to save energy).
Build quality and appearance
Check out the build quality of the models you have shortlisted to see whether there is anything to mark one apart from another, or to see whether price differences are justified.
Obviously a low initial price is attractive, but be sure to avoid getting stuck with higher maintenance and part replacement costs by purchasing a product where shortcuts have been made. The worst examples are plastic shelving, runners and clips instead of wire or metal, which we recommend you avoid if you can. White plastic interior casing is also less desirable than aluminium or even dark plastic, as white can discolour over time and is difficult to keep looking smart.
You can get a good idea of the energy efficiency of a given unit by looking at the wattage figure, which is the amount of work the unit does to keep its temperature. Higher wattage machines are doing more work and using more energy, although take this information with a pinch of salt and look at the overall feature profile of the cooler - the extra energy may be going into useful features like super fast temperature recovery when doors are opened or closed, for instance.
Otherwise, keep an eye out for particular makes and models that feature energy saving or economical running features, such as the Autonumis Ecochill with its super efficient compressor.