How to build a Fridgador

Humidors34 Comments on How to build a Fridgador

How to build a Fridgador

I mentioned during Episode 6 – Your Questions, My Answers that I had a beetle infestation last summer and had since set up a wine cooler as a Fridgador. I received a couple of questions about how I had chosen the model I did and what I had done to set it up. So this week I’ll go a little more in-depth about my Fridgador setup.

Here in East Texas we run the air conditioner roughly eight months a year and we don’t really have a Spring or Fall. The weather just goes directly from what we call a Winter to Summer. Even with the air conditioner running and the house relatively cool, the inside of my humidors was still reaching the upper 70s. I feared the worst, but arrogantly didn’t do anything about it, assuring myself that it wasn’t getting that hot in there.

Then one afternoon during my ritual peak inside the desktop humidors there it was, there was a beetle perched right at the edge of the foot of one of my beautiful cigars. While reaching in to remove it I noticed another directly above it on the lid of the humidor. After I got them out I investigated the contents of the 20-count humidor, approximately a dozen and a half premium cigars. While I could only find those two beetles, there were holes in just over half of the cigars. In disgust I promptly trashed them, though looking back I probably should have quarantined and at least attempted to smoke them. That is however exactly what I did with the non-damaged cigars. I double ziploc bagged them, froze them for 5 days and then stored them until they were burned, which I made sure to do rather soon.

I chose the model of wine cooler to use the same way anybody would pick a humidor, I went with the biggest one available. 🙂 I should qualify that, I bought the biggest thermoelectric wine cooler I could find. This is very important as the compressor-driven models pull a large amount of humidity out of the air when they cycle on, leading to humidity drops. Edgestar and Avanti both make 28 bottle units with roughly the same dimensions, I found an Edgestart on sale and went with that one. You can see a picture of mine below.

empty wine cooler

As you can see the unit came with six adjustable metal shelves, a temperature control with light switch in the top-right corner and the LED light on the top. You can also see the built-in fan in the back and can just make out the condensation drip-channel. Some people have reported that their units had a strong plastic-like aroma though my unit was fairly odor-less when it arrived. I wiped the inside down with a warm wet rag, set the temperature control to its warmest setting dropped in my thermometer/hygrometer and let it sit for 24 hours.

When I returned the next day the temperature was sitting at 63 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity was right above 50%. I had considered purchasing some of the Oust fans similar to the ones Walt used in the making of his Coolidor, but I decided to find out how well the built-in fan would do at moving air around. It is a regular 90mm fan like the ones found in a computer case.

close-up of fan

I chose to use Heartfelt beads for humidification, opting to place a quarter pound in a nylon bag on the top shelf and about two ounces in an open glass bowl in the bottom of the unit. Since setting it up, I have re-arranged the shelves several times playing what I have come to call “box Tetris”, to arrive at my current arrangement. The fridgador currently holds two 40-count humidors, eight 25-count boxes and one 25-count bundle and I’m sure I could get at least 3-4 more boxes in with another round of “box Tetris”.

full unit

The temperature reading above was caused by my fanning the door while taking the pictures for this article, the unit is still set on the warmest setting and holds a steady 63 degrees. The only issue I noticed after running it for a few weeks was that the condensation tended to pool a little bit before exiting the unit, causing splashes when new drops reached the pool. I solved this by placing a small piece of paper towel in the bottom of the channel and now the unit still drains properly and none of the boxes or humidors get errant drops of water on them.

Southern engineering

Other than that small change the only thing I’ve done is place the boxes with space between them and the back wall and the front door so that air can flow around the boxes 100%. I couldn’t be happier with the unit and because of it I now have no worries about mold or beetles without having to freeze every cigar that comes into my possession.

34 thoughts on “How to build a Fridgador

  1. Brian,

    Great information for those of us that live in Texas. Do you have humidifiers in the humidors that you have in the fridgador?

    Rod

  2. Excellent looking setup. Down here in Florida, a cooler is also a necessity. I recently replaced my 12-bottle fridge with a 28-bottle unit and, like you, am extremely pleased. Mine took a few days to reach the humidity level and has been stable since then.
    Readers might want to check out what I got: a Vinotemp thermoelectric unit from Target for $199 with a 10% discount for opening a credit account there. I have also read of people getting good deals on scratch and dent units on eBay.

  3. nanamjaya1, After the initial 24 hours to let it stabilize I filled it with boxes and the beads and it only took another 4-5 hours to get up to 65% RH.

    George E, Mine is actually a scratch and dent unit from eBay. I got for $79 plus $35 shipping /handling bringing it to a total of $114. The damage was minimal and well worth the cost to not worry about my cigars. Though I really am a little envious of the guys that can just fill Igloos and throw them in the basement.

  4. Rod, Yes I do have a one ounce tube of Heartfelt beads in each of the humidors. I only have to add water to them every other month, and add water to the bowl and bead bag about once a month.

    I imagine they’ll need a little more frequent attention during the summer.

  5. Nice. What cigars where in you’re humidor when the beetle infestation happened. Probably would be good for all to know.

  6. I have the same setup w a similar 28 count wine fridge, theremoelectric, but I have problems w the humidity stability. I use about 1 lb 65% beads but during the dry season here in Perth, Aus. The humidity shows 60-65% in the morning (2 hydgrometers)and then falls to around 40-45% during the day, to rise again at night. It’s really strange, almost as if there was a leak in the fridge (the door seals seem tight, though). It did get better when I stuffed a sponge in the water outlet hole, and now humidity outdoors is rising as well, but isn’t 100% stable yet. It’s really confusing.
    Magnus

  7. Lou, I haven’t noticed any ill effects from storing them that cool. I have also talked to a few other people who have had a similar setup, and temperatures, for years without any problems. The relative humidity generally stays at 63-65%.

  8. I have one of these exact units coming to me from beveragefactory.com. I was afraid that the unit would only achieve a high temp of 55 degrees, so i purchased a seperate temp control from johnsons control to help push the temp up to 65 degrees. i’ll let everyone know how it does.

  9. I was wondering if you could take the time to get the interior dimensions of this unit? I think I am ready to pick one up off eBay but wanted to know if my desktop humidor would slide in like you did with your 40 count ones. Also which percentage beads are you using to obtain the 63-65% you are maintaining?

  10. zBob, The 28 bottle unit that I have is 14.5″W x 23″H x 13″D (Width x Height x Depth). I keep all the boxes towards the front to allow the fan in the back to move the air around a little more efficiently. I could slide everything in the picture above back another couple of inches if I needed to.

    To maintain humidity I’m using the 65% Hearfelt beads. I was worried at first that I didn’t have enough but after a couple of months now it seems to be doing just fine.

  11. What about 70% beads?
    because it’s cooler inside the Fridgador.
    so wouldn’t that bring down the humidity level a bit?

  12. Lou dog, The 65% beads appear to keep it between 63% and 65% with the temperature just around 63 degrees F. If you felt the need for higher humidity I’m sure 70% beads would get you there.

    Most of the cigars I smoke burn and taste best around 65%. Keeping them at 65% in long-term storage means if I want something out of there I only have to wait for it to warm up, not warm up and dry out.

  13. I am planning on going with the 65% beads for the fridgador itself and then keep my 70% inside the humidor which will sit inside. That way I can split up some cigars and see which way they taste better. My humidor was always losing the fight with my very dry house this winter but I am sure it can make up the 5% difference when sitting inside the fridge. Hopefully this will keep everything at a much more stable environment all year round so I can spend less a lot less time fighting with my humidor.

  14. Perhaps a silly question, but it looks as though you changed out the steel “bottle” racks for flat surface racks? If so, where did you obtain them. Thanks

  15. rigaar, It only looks that way, I’m still using the shelves that came with the unit. I may replace them with Spanish Cedar shelves one of these days but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  16. Thanks for all the info Brian. I just purchased a vinotemp 28 bottle fridge for $179 from Target (had them on sale, plus I saved 10% by opening a charge account). But mine definitely has a strong plastic smell. I’m working on getting the smell out, but haven’t been successful yet in 2 days.(but the smell is getting less). I ordered 70% beads from cigarmony.com. Brian, did you ever decide if you need additional fans like the Oust, or does the unit’s internal fan do a good enough job of moving the air around?

  17. I have just purchased and set up a vinotemp 28 bottle, I am curious on how to get rid of the plastic smell in the fridge, any suggestions? Or just leave everything in boxes? Also, I have used a 1/2lb of heartfelt beads, they are 70% and the warmest setting, it still seems to be hard to maintain at 70%.What would be the lowest humi% that would be acceptable pecentage?

  18. dhurowitz, I built a Tupperdore, and it smelled like Tupperware before hand (obviously). I’ve stored many smokes in it so far, and the smell seems to go away over time, or the cigar smell masks it.

    Anyway, I have smoked an Oliva Serie G Maduro (fresh, only in tupperdore for about 3 hours), then smoked another one that had been in my tupperdore for about 3 months. I didn’t notice any major differences. Just take note, I’m new to cigars, so I could have easily missed something, but nothng seemed off, and the cigar that had been in there for 3 months did not seem affected in anyway. This example may be similar to a fridgador.

  19. My “frigador” just arrived, I’ve filled it full of empty Ashton VSG boxes and Heartfelt beads. Already at 63.8 deg F and 71% RH. We’ll see how she looks tomorrow after a day to acclimate but I’m looking forward to filling it with my already overful pair of humidors…

  20. I noticed that you built your frigador a couple years ago. Are you still using it? And are you happy with it still. I live in Oklahoma, so my climate is similar to yours. I don’t think I can get away with the coolidor here.

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