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The term “mini fridge” may invoke happy memories from your college dorm room days.
Indeed, this pint-sized refrigerator serves a noble purpose in a cramped dorm room where every inch of precious space counts.
But even after your college days are over, a mini fridge may have a place in your life.
Perhaps you’d like to keep your favorite snacks stashed near the basement rec room. Or perhaps your primary refrigerator doesn’t have enough space for your favorite sports drinks or alcoholic beverages.
A mini fridge could store these items, leaving room for other food in your kitchen refrigerator.
If you’re going to invest in a mini fridge, it’s important to understand how these units differ from full-sized units. That’s where BestReviews comes in.
Our shopping guide, below, pinpoints the features you need. Having that key information on hand makes product consideration and comparison easier.
If you’re ready to buy a mini fridge, please see our product matrix, above. It outlines the five best mini fridges we’ve found.
You can rely on the extensive product research we perform here at BestReviews. And because we never accept free samples from manufacturers, our product matrix choices are free of bias.
Not all mini fridges are made equally. Some are designed to store all types of food; others are made specifically for the refrigeration of alcoholic drinks. The most common types are listed below.
A “cube” is the most common type of mini fridge that you’ll find. Its square shape fits easily beneath low counters and in tight spaces. Because it’s not very tall, a cube-style mini fridge may not work well with taller items like gallon jugs.
Due to their shape, cube-style mini fridges are often not insulated as well as some other designs. As a result, it can be expensive to run this type of fridge in terms of electricity.
A simple beverage mini fridge is very small. It’s designed to hold anywhere from 12 to 30 cans of soda or beer.
Its temperature control is not consistent enough to store food.
If a mini fridge is designated for “drinks” or “beverages,” don’t expect it to hold precise temperatures. It’s made for chilling sodas and other drinks, not food storage.
A travel mini fridge is designed for use in a vehicle. It can run from the vehicle’s AC adaptor, which means it draws power from the car battery.
However, some of these units draw a lot of power, so you shouldn’t run them when the car is turned off.
If you’re choosing a travel mini fridge for your car and you want it to operate quietly, consider a compressor or absorption design.
This style of mini fridge, sometimes called a mid-sized mini fridge, fits under a countertop. It serves well as a bar fridge or a second refrigerator in the kitchen.
Compared to other designs, its energy efficiency is usually better. However, this is also the most expensive type of mini fridge.
Don’t expect to keep vegetables fresh in a mini fridge. Few models contain a vegetable crisper drawer.
The typical wine mini fridge showcases a pleasant design, as it’s meant to be seen. Glass doors may showcase the bottles inside.
To protect the wine’s temperature, a double pane of glass in the door is a good idea.
You may want to consider a fridge with a tinted glass door in order to keep UV light from striking the wine.
Most mini fridges use wire racks as shelves, but this type of shelving cannot stop spills. If you’re worried about spills, look for a model with glass shelving.
It’s important to select a mini fridge that fits your space. But it must also have the capacity to hold the items you want to chill. The market offers mini fridges of several different capacities.
The best mini fridges for wine have double-paned glass in the door. This allows the unit to run more efficiently.
If your mini fridge capacity exceeds three cubic feet, it likely has a freezer area. If you don’t really care about freezer space, be sure that the cubic footage of your chosen product refers to refrigerator space only.
Don’t limit your consideration of mini fridges to design and capacity. Here are a few other features to consider when shopping for a mini fridge:
If you’re concerned about energy efficiency, look for a mini fridge with an Energy Star rating.
Depending on where you’re planning to situate your mini fridge, there may be limitations on what model you can use. For example, some college dormitories limit the capacity of the unit. The school might also require dorm appliances to be Energy Star compliant.
Some manufacturers create mini fridge models in multiple capacities. This means that if you like a particular model, you may be able to find it in the perfect size for your needs. Top-selling manufacturers such as Danby and Midea make some of their models in multiple sizes.
Although some mini fridges sport two doors, they aren’t terribly efficient in terms of energy. A single-door design promotes better energy efficiency.
A reversible door comes in handy if you must squeeze your mini fridge into a particular space. You can then adjust the door to open in the direction that makes the most sense for your room layout.
Mini fridges weigh anywhere from 30 to 100 pounds. If you plan to move your mini fridge often, this information proves helpful. For example, if you’re planning to take a mini fridge to the dorm, you might prefer something on the lighter side so you don’t have to struggle moving it in and out.
A mini fridge with a reversible door is versatile and convenient. You can set up the door to open in the most convenient direction for the location of your fridge.
Cube-style mini fridges are often the cheapest on the shelf.
Q. Why would I want a mini fridge? I’m not a college student anymore.
A. A mini fridge certainly fits in well with the college and apartment-dwelling crowd, but these handy appliances suit a lot of other populations, too. You may wish to store cold drinks in an office or in your family rec room. Or perhaps you need an overflow area for food storage when your regular refrigerator is full.
Q. I want a small refrigerator with precise temperature control. What are my options?
A. If you want a mini fridge with accurate temperature control, don’t select the smallest unit you can find. In most cases, the smallest mini fridges (in terms of capacity) can’t precisely control temperatures. Instead, consider a larger mini fridge (often called a “mid-size” mini fridge), most of which have a capacity of three cubic feet or more. These units frequently have a temperature control dial similar to what you’d find on a full-sized model.
Q. When selecting a mini fridge for wine storage, what should I consider?
A. Because different types of wine taste best at different temperatures, precision is required for a wine mini fridge. Red wines should be served at temperatures between 55°F and
65°F. White wines taste best at temperatures between 45°F and 55°F. So if you have both types of wine on hand, consider a unit with two sections that have separate temperature controls. And make sure the fridge can hold the number of bottles you’d like to have on hand. Some units hold as few as three or four bottles of wine; others can hold a dozen or more.
Q. What are some of the drawbacks of mini fridges?
A. The most obvious drawback to a mini fridge is its small size. You won’t be able to store as much food or drink in a mini fridge as you could in a full-sized refrigerator. And many mini fridges have a very small freezer space — or no freezer space at all.
Mini fridges eat a lot of power, too; they simply aren’t as energy efficient as a larger refrigerator. And although they consume a lot of electricity, some mini fridges with freezers cannot reach a low enough temperature to safely store meat.