The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Retarder Problems

Scusi's picture

Retarder Problems

    Has anyone else had problems with the thermostats on wine coolers? My wife bought me a Kenmore (Sears) wine cooler to use as a retarder. The (non-digital) thermostat could not get the temp any higher than 47˚, ten degrees below the advertised max.

    Sears sent out (over a few weeks) three repairmen with two replacement thermostats. They were all junk from you-know-where; all covered variable ranges between high 20s and low 50s. None got to 55˚.

    Finally my engineer/wife figured out how to hack the thermostat to get it to keep the temp in the mid-50's, but it involved a mod that makes the thermo physically fragile, so it's best not to adjust it up and down.

    The discussions I've read here previously seemed to indicate that no-one had any problems with the temps of their wine coolers; is that really the case? Would love to hear others' experiences.

jcking's picture

I had the same problem and returned it. Along with the curved racks I didn't find it usable. I'm now using a dorm (small) fridge. Stuffing some towels in the small freezer it will stay at 50°F, perfect for storage starter storage.


Doc.Dough's picture

I don't know the specific configuration of your wine cooler, but if you can get to the compressor power cable, you can install a Johnson Controls A419 temperature controller (I see a couple on eBay for under $65) and get quite precise temperatures.  The only thing you have to be aware of is that after the compressor shuts off, there is still liquid refrigerant in the condensor that will bleed through the expansion valve and continue to cool the box until the pressure equalizes.  The result is that there is some overshoot below the set point. To calibrate the offset, put a gallon of water in the box  and let it run at some typical temperature for 12 hrs and then measure the water temperature with a good thermometer.  Use the difference between the set point and the water temperature measurement to set the controller dead band and to reset the operating point.  I have one in the compressor power loop on my Randell refrigerator (used as a retarder) and it has worked flawlessly for seven years.

gerhard's picture

Most wine coolers have no compressor, the wine crowd doesn't like the wine shook by a vibration from the compressor.


Scusi's picture

Thank you for the replies so far.

Though we weren't planning to invest even more money into something that is already a luxury for us, the Johnson Controls idea is definitely worth looking into. Our cooler does have a compressor (it's not one of the top-line models).