Ah yes, the first sip of an ice-cold beverage after a hard weeks’ work. Where would we be without it?
Alcohol has throughout the course of human history played a centrifugal role in how we relate to one another, from forming the backdrop to philosophical debates amongst the intellectual classes of ancient Athenian society, to fuelling heated debates on fantasy football team selection in the current day.
In many ways, the only thing that has changed about the way we enjoy imbibing our ‘social lubricants’ is the refinement the process has undergone in more recent years.
From the lush vineyards in Corbieres, to the painstakingly precise basement homebrewers worldwide; each artisan, each manufacturer, works to exact amounts and temperatures to ensure that we get maximum enjoyment from their labours. It would seem a criminal act then, to sabotage their hard work; wouldn’t it? To serve a Sancerre at room-temperature? A craft beer at freezing?
Table of Contents
- 1. The EdgeStar CBR1501SLD
- 2. The Allavino VSWR56-1SSRN Wine Refrigerator
- 3. The Avallon ABR214SGRH 140 Can 24” Beverage Cooler.
- 4. The Kegco VSCB-24SSRN Beverage Center
- 5. The SPT BF-314U
- 6. The Kalamera 24” Beverage Refrigerator
- 7. The EdgeStar IB120SS Built in Ice Maker.
- Picking the Best Undercounter Refrigerator – How to Make the Right Call.
With this grave responsibility in our hands, let’s see how best we can preserve the fermented fruits of their labours. This one is for the wine buffs, the craft beer fanatics, the cocktail aficionados and the nine to fivers alike; we’re reviewing the best undercounter refrigerators for 2019.
1. The EdgeStar CBR1501SLD
Aesthetically speaking, this thing is beautiful. I mean look at it. The stainless-steel finish gives a sleek futuristic look that looks classy and yet doesn’t scream ‘hey, look at me’, so it can fit in with the aesthetic of any kitchen without being too imposing. It fits so flush in a regular cabinet space that it (almost) looks built-in. You can even emphasise its sleekness by installing it without the handle – smooth!
Its 5.49 cubic feet of space means you can jam 142 12oz cans into this bad boy (let’s face it, that’s probably enough cans, right?). For those who aren’t quite as keen as we are on libations, the shelves are adjustable, meaning you can fit your everyday objects like gallons of milk for example, no hassle!
Another nice feature of the EdgeStar CBR1501SLD that we really enjoyed was the second temperature display. Having one display for the temperature you’ve set, and another to register the actual temperature inside the fridge is a nice touch, and one which keeps you from second guessing yourself. For absolute megalomaniacs like ourselves who want to know exactly what’s happening with their homebrew, it’s a total godsend.
Overall then, the EdgeStar is a pretty great unit and for what it delivers, comes in at a totally reasonable price; cheaper than that of any rivals worth their salt. It looks smooth, runs smooth, and so far has been reliable; delivering consistent temperatures of between 36-40°F when set to 38°F. Did I also mention it can hold a ton of beer? EdgeStar really nailed it with this one, combining fashion and function in equal measure. We really dig this unit as a capable all-rounder.
- User Friendly
In addition to having that useful second temperature gauge, it beeps at you to remind you to close the door properly, ensuring your precious cargo stays at the desired temperature. Not only this, but it also locks to prevent opportunistic roommates/family members from taking your stuff.
- The Hills are Alive with the Sound of….
Not much at all, as it turns out! Considering how much work the EdgeStar puts in, it stays pretty quiet about it and doesn’t complain much – with the exception of the occasional light mewing noise.
Many of its competitors claim an operational temperature as low as 38°F, but rarely actually hit it – coming in at around 5°F above what they claim. That’s not the case here though, as we’ve seen readings as low as 35°F on the gauge. It definitely lives up to, and indeed surpasses expectations on this front.
If we were forced to pick out a con for the EdgeStar CBR1501SLD, it’d have to be the LED interior lighting, which they’ve decided should be a dim and hazy blue. Whereas this may have been effective on a unit with a glass door, and maybe actually provided adequate lighting; in this case it just doesn’t shine bright enough for us. That having been said, some folk do like the sci-fi effect it generates.
2. The Allavino VSWR56-1SSRN Wine Refrigerator
This is THE fridge for the wine enthusiast, in our humble opinion. Let’s face it, unless you’re one of the lucky few who happen to have a wine cellar built into their home, you’re probably evicting household items from the fridge on the regular just to store your Chablis. No more! The Allavino VSWR56-1SSRN Wine Refrigerator offers a long-term solution for your wine storage woes; fitting up to 56 regular sized wine bottles comfortably. There is even wiggle space between the space when fully loaded, allowing for better air circulation, and even temperatures throughout. Nifty!
It does, however, hit rather hard in the wallet department; but this doesn’t feel like money squandered as there’s an unmistakeably feel of quality to this unit. The build is excellent! The shelves slide out real smooth. They practically glide, but while doing so manage to not betray even the slightest feel of flimsiness. The whole thing just feels…solid, lending to a sense of reliability. It just seems to say, ‘you can trust me’.
Thankfully, it presents no surprises when the time comes to install it. The unit measures 33.9” high by 23.4” wide and is front venting, allowing for easy undercounter installation. As a freestanding unit, we think it looks even better though, especially if you opt to get it in black – sleek!
Being honest here, when we initially saw the price-tag for the Allavino, we were sceptical to say the least, but it has really won us over. Overall, this unit scores high on functionality, and gets a huge bump up from its aesthetic value. Boasting push-button controls and an operational temperature of between 41 and 64°F, it allows for the correct storage of every variation of wine. For visual customisation they also send you two styles of handle as well, which we reckon is a pretty classy touch.
It actually lived up to its hype and held 56 bottles when we tried it out! Naturally, if you’re planning to store larger or irregular shaped bottles, like Pinot Noir for example, you may need to adjust your expectations accordingly.
- No time to chill
Due to a state of the art energy efficient fan cooling system, the Allavino adjusts to temperature changes surprisingly rapidly, and keeps them there.
The way this thing was packaged when it showed up, it would have survived a nuclear event. Not a chance of a dent!
- Peace of mind
Allavino have a near immaculate record when it comes to customer service, so between the incredibly solid feel of the product itself, and that, peace of mind is assured. Ahh!
As with the EdgeStar, the blue LED lighting lets it down again. If the intention that its sole function was to provide ambient lighting – fair enough. It achieves that, 100%. If we’re talking about function over fashion though, this feature misses the mark – barely illuminating the top row of bottles. Admittedly we’re really nit-picking here as it’s not that big of an issue.
3. The Avallon ABR214SGRH 140 Can 24” Beverage Cooler.
In this highly competitive market, all it takes sometimes is to ever so slightly ‘one-up’ your opponents to make your product more desirable. Avallon have done precisely that. Whereas most coolers offer a temperature range which begins at a balmy 38°F, this thing boasts an extensive temperature range (34-50°F). Now that IS cold! Like its competitors, it can function as both an undercounter unit, but also looks equally decorative freestanding.
On top of that, the sanded glass shelves ensure that the unit remains looking pretty sleek even when the unit is partially full, or, if you’re an absolute heathen – empty. Ease of use also appears to have been a primary concern for Avallon; the touch-controlled panel (located inside the fridge) is an absolute breeze to use. The shelves, though solid, adjust and slide out with minimal fuss, allowing for storage of a broader range of items than just the standard can.
It’s a difficult task to give an overall verdict on the Avallon. On one hand, the asking price seems at first to be an unreasonable amount to pay to keep your cold ones on a level, but on the other hand, the Avallon ABR214SGRH offers a few key features that others in its range just don’t.
For example, it boasts LED lights fitted to both sides of the interior; 2 to the left and 2 to the right (our faces lit up when we saw this!). These can then be set up by the customer to alternate between blue and white light – perfect for visibility, which is quite practical, but also great for showing off your cleverly thought out homebrew labels.
The ventilation holes in the shelves are also a stroke of genius, ensuring that circulating cold air reaches all of your beverages equally – and making for an even temperature all throughout the unit. No more warm spots! When you take that into account, it’s actually quite reasonably priced for its obvious stand out qualities.
The internal lighting automatically turns on when the door is opened, and turn off again when its closed, so the chances of leaving it ajar after a few beers are dramatically reduced. These lights can also be set to be on permanently, in either a blue or a white hue. Our preferred setting was an ambient blue when the door was closed, and a bright white when opened. Zero chance we could mess that up! Oh yeah, and it beeps at you if the door has been opened too long; a great feature which is often neglected by manufacturers.
- Cool runnings
The ventilated shelves slide out perfectly, even when they’re carrying a ton of beer. No signs of any weakness/sag.
Avallon offer a one-year warranty with this refrigerator and seem to stand proudly behind this product in general.
- Some like it cold!
This seems to be the only undercounter fridge with an asking price grounded in reality that claims to cool to 34°F. It’s a bold claim to make, but thankfully it actually does it! Put simply, 34°F is objectively better than 38°F. On this, there can be no argument!
- Potentially a bit awkward to fit
At 34.125” high, the Avallon ABR214SGRH stands just ever so slightly taller than the average cabinet space. This isn’t exactly a major issue if you’ve planned for it; but could easily generate a non-hangover related headache if you were caught out. The more you know…
4. The Kegco VSCB-24SSRN Beverage Center
Okay, so far we’ve catered and pandered to the needs of our wine buffs and our can enthusiasts, but what about our homebrewing demographic? Well fear not, we’ve got you. This unit, unlike the others in this roundup, has been specifically designed with the needs of the craft beer enthusiast in mind. Whether undergoing the delicate task of aging your product, or simply just storing it – this unit has got what you need, boasting a far wider temperature range than your average cooler. But can it justify its somewhat hefty price tag? Well, let’s find out!
Starting out, one thing that caught our attention pretty much straight away is that this thing is built like an absolute tank! It’s a total beast of a machine compared to the others in this article – weighing in at a positively monstrous 114.6 pounds. Let’s face facts though; these things need to be sturdy (or tank-like) to adequately do battle with your bombers and large format bottles, right? This isn’t amateur hour! We really can’t emphasise enough how sturdy the VSCB-24SSRN really is. The shelves are solid no frills metal, allowing you to load in a ton of bottles in an upright position. That’s a lot of weight! What’s more, these shelves are fitted to telescopic rollers, allowing you to access the bottles at the back of the unit without having to unload a single bottle. Yes, it’s pricy, but this a serious piece of designed for purpose kit.
- It’s pretty chic, for a tank
It looks pretty cool built in, but also ships with a fully finished cabinet in case you prefer to use it as a freestanding unit.
- Wide temperature range
An essential for the serious homebrewers out there, it has a temperature range wide enough to allow for aging as well as cooling/serving (39-64°F)
- UV protection
We found this feature especially cool. The glass on the door is ultraviolet light resistant, ensuring that the beer compounds remain untouched and undamaged during the aging process. No need to worry about any negative effects resulting from installing it in a well-lit kitchen.
- Peace of mind
Kegco have such faith in the quality and longevity of this unit that they’ve put their money where their mouth is. They offer extended warranties that stretch as far as 5 years. Impressive!
- A bit tipsy
Okay, so this unit does have one particularly odd quirk that nearly slipped under the radar unnoticed. Its party trick is that when it’s in use as a freestanding unit, it can tend to tip over to the front if the top shelf is loaded fully and extended fully. We’re sure this relatively minor design flaw can be easily rectified, but we didn’t want it to catch you out.
- A tad colder, perhaps?
Some; and that would include ourselves, prefer the option of a minimum temperature that’s a little closer to freezing. This admittedly may be a question of personal taste, however.
5. The SPT BF-314U
Admittedly, thus far in this review section there has been a pattern emerging where we only seem to be selecting items that are on the higher end of the price scale, or mid-range in some cases. We’re aware of it, don’t worry! And so, in this section we thought it fair to introduce an item that’s comparatively cheap and cheerful; the SPT BF-314U, which won’t set you back all that much, and does something a little different.
Not so bad. So what can it do, we hear you asking? Well, seeing as it happens to be a beer froster rather than a beer cooler, it claims to be able to achieve temperatures way, way cooler than the previously listed units – right down as low as 23°F. This is perfect for when you just don’t want to wait, or don’t have time to wait an age for a cold one. This is for the people who live in the moment! We’re not exaggerating here; this thing can chill a beer right down from car temperature to icy cold in no time at all!
Okay then; now for the verdict. To summarize what we thought of this machine is a tough ask. Initially, you see, we didn’t get off to a great start. Generally speaking, when we first get to unpackage these things and poke and prod around to see what they’re made of, we get a sense of what theyre all about pretty quickly. Well… we came upon an issue with this particular unit; okay maybe ‘issue’ is a strong word, let’s say it was a quirk. The shelving just did not want to be removed, and we definitely didn’t want to risk damaging it. In the end, and after a not-insignificant amount of humming and hawing, one of our braver (or dumber?) staffers just sort of brutally ripped them out. Bam! and that’s the story of how we discovered this unit can handle being treated with brute force. We sort of appreciate that too, in a strange sort of way!
Undoubtedly, buying a froster over a cooler is somewhat a matter of personal choice – some like their beer around the 38°F mark, but if you’re into cold, and we mean COLD beer, then this is your boy right here. It’s pretty decent bang for your buck, and though there are a few small issues; you get what you pay for, right?
One particularly useful feature the SPT BF-314U has is that the digital LED display is external. This means no more opening the door to read the temperature, and in addition, the temperature can be controlled from there too. Opening the door less frequently makes for colder beers, so all being said, what’s not to like about that?! Okay, yes, the display itself may not be the most aesthetically pleasing feature we’ve seen on an undercounter unit, but in terms of functionality – it hits the mark.
- Build quality
From the second we took it out of the packaging, it seemed clear that it was built like a tank, which is always a big plus in our books (this you may have already guessed). For us this goes a long way toward warding off any initial fears that corners may have been cut on build quality to save on cost. Not the case here, we’re pleased to report!
- Safety in numbers
When we checked the internal temperature with our own old-school thermometer to see did it match the reading on the display, it was an exact match! They aren’t trying to pull anything on this front.
- Keeping it basic
Really simple stuff here: the SPT BF-314U was designed to do one thing and one thing only – cool your beers to 23°F, and it does it. You want a beer slushy? You got it! What took us by surprise though is how much beer it manages to cool at once. It holds a LOT of beer – an amazing amount considering its tiny waistline. It’s only 15” wide!
- The fan
We didn’t find it all that loud, but some other reviews claim that their unit can really sing and cite the fan as the source of the racket. Considering the work the poor thing is doing to rapidly cool drinks down to below freezing point, it should be allowed to complain a little, don’t you think?
- Again with the lighting!
This issue is just straight up weird, and it’s surprising that we even have to talk about it – but here it is. The light doesn’t switch on automatically when the door is opened. Why doesn’t the light switch on when the door is opened? We don’t know! Like you would have to, we just got used to switching it on ourselves.
6. The Kalamera 24” Beverage Refrigerator
First up, it’s a hell of a boast to claim you can fit 175 cans in just a 23×24” floorspace, but remarkably, by deploying some real-world Tetris skills, it can be done! Alike most of its competitors, the wire racks are removable, giving you the capability to rejig the way you want to store your stuff: full cases of beer, large format bottles, or milk – whatever!
As with all other Kalamera products of the past, it has that same nice and sleek look to it that we’ve grown so accustomed to, we’d nearly forget to point it out. In that sense, it’s quite a versatile unit. It looks great as a built-in refrigerator in a bar, or in a kitchen; and it doesn’t look out of place as a freestanding unit in the more lived-in areas of the house either. Aesthetically, Kalamera just seem to have it all figured out – the switchable door handle and reversible hinge are always nice touches, allowing for user to switch and change the look of the fridge to fit into its surroundings better.
That having been said, it doesn’t just sit there and look pretty either; it’s got some brains to back up its good looks and charm. Let’s say there’s a temporary blackout in your area – most appliances after a blackout reset to their default factory settings, right? Well not this one! This has a temperature memory function, which will restore the set temperature in the unit after the power comes back on. It’s the little thoughtful additions like this one that really win us over!
There are quite a few reports of this unit being heavily damaged during shipping, ranging from superficial damage to extensive damage where the unit doesn’t work properly when it arrives. Though it is not entirely fair for us to place the blame on the manufacturer for this drawback, it does tarnish the reputation of the product somewhat. As such, there are negative reviews of this product out there, which are entirely the fault of the delivery company. With a bit of luck Kalamera will rein this in in the next while though, because by no means is this a substandard unit. However, if you just don’t want to leave things to chance – the combo of Kalameras’ optional extended warranty and their excellent track record in customer service should alleviate your worries.
- It’s cheap!
For its size, and its broad range of capabilities, it’s one of the cheapest undercounter units out there. It is worth remembering as well that you just don’t get a decent undercounter fridge for a low-low price. Any cheaper than this and they’ve probably skimped on something they shouldn’t have – like the compressor, for example. Not the case here, we’re pleased to report!
- Netflix and chill?
This unit gets right down to 36°F, and doesn’t make a fuss about doing it, meaning it can be set up in your entertainment area or hangout zones. Were it not as pretty as it is, you’d be forgiven for forgetting it was there entirely!
- Proven track record
As we hinted at earlier; Kalamera are known for having a great customer service team who frequently go above and beyond the call of duty to protect the good reputation of the company. They seem to actively focus on gaining the appreciation of a repeat, loyal customer base rather than just trying to make a quick buck. They also offer you an excellent extended warranty package that won’t decimate your finances but will give you that all-important peace of mind.
- Beam me up!!!
You guessed it; lighting issues again! We’re a little disappointed that the light doesn’t automatically turn on when the door is opened (seriously, why?), and that the blue light it possesses doesn’t do much in the way of illuminating your beers. Give us bright white light! We shall go towards the light!
- A bit wiry
A clunkier, more robust racking build wouldn’t have gone amiss here. The wire set-up can feel a bit on the flimsy side and doesn’t inspire 100% confidence.
7. The EdgeStar IB120SS Built in Ice Maker.
Finally, to round off our best undercounter refrigerators for 2019, we’re onto our second EdgeStar unit of the series, and there’s a simple reason we’ve included two: they make a quality product! This one is a far cry from its counterpart, however. It doesn’t claim to keep your homebrew at precise temperatures, nor will it adequately store your Chablis at serving temperature. This one is for the cocktail enthusiasts among us; it makes ice cubes!
With that established, let’s find out a little more about it. At 25.25” high and 15” wide, its ADA height compliant – so easy installation there when it comes to planning space. It boasts a reversible door for that sweet left or right-side opening action. It produces a crazy amount of ice for this size. EdgeStar claim it can make up to 12 pounds of the stuff a day! (does a bar even go through that amount of ice a day?!).
On top of this, it can store 6 pounds of ice, ready for use, comfortably. Now that is pretty astounding, when you think about it; especially when you have a gander at the price! This thing costs next to nothing! Despite its price, the IB120SS isn’t exactly as primitive in nature as you may suspect. It does have a few tricks up its sleeve.
One of these features we were particularly impressed by is its auto-off function, which halts production when the ice tray gets to be fully loaded (again – that’s 6 pounds of ice, in cube form). This means that the machine needs no babysitting whatsoever: always a bonus in our opinion.
To sum this EdgeStar up; if you have desire for ice, this thing will give you the ice you need – and probably more. Okay, so we don’t really understand why it produces crescent-shaped ice as opposed to the traditional cube, but it is definitely ice, nothing more, nothing less. It is by its very nature a predictably unsophisticated machine, but it works, and (dare we say it) – it’s cute! Can an ice maker be cute?
A tip: With any undercounter unit this cheap, consider adding the warranty to your basket. It won’t put a hole in your wallet but will give peace of mind. Win-win!
We really dig simplicity and effectiveness, and the IB120SS delivers on that. It makes high quality ice, and lots of it, and this stuff is way better quality than the slush that comes out of a standard French door style fridge unit. It has one job, it’s a mini-freezer, and it makes ice. Simple!
- Easy set-up
This machine is quietish, easy to plumb in by yourself, and doesn’t even require a drain. It also arrives with a 25ft long water connection thrown in for good measure – a good start! It is recommended that you install it with a water filter for optimal results.
- It’s tiny!
Did we mention at any point that this thing is adorably tiny, way smaller than the average cabinet?
- Pocket change
We just can’t get over how ridiculously cheap this thing is!
- No auto-defrost
Okay, so this unit can jam and stop producing ice entirely pretty quickly if it gets any sort of heavy ice build-up. The remedy for this is just that you have to manually defrost it once in a while; but that’s no biggie, right?
Picking the Best Undercounter Refrigerator – How to Make the Right Call.
The purpose of this review section was not so much to rate and review these items with the aim in mind of guiding you, the reader towards buying one or the other of these units. Nor can we objectively state that one is absolutely better than the other – that you should definitely buy product A over product B. No, our aim is to provide you with the information you would require, to enable you to pick the unit that best fulfils your requirements. For example, if you’re looking for an icemaker, we can definitely recommend the one above, but when it comes to choices such as the choice between cooler, or froster – only you can decide what best suits your preference. The same condition applies to the segments of the review where we’ve listed dim blue lighting as a negative aspect of the product. You could really dig the sci-fi looks of that – we don’t know! But rest assured, each unit we have reviewed above is top of its class, and now it’s up to you to see which best suits your needs, your character, or your aesthetic.
Just as a matter of interest, we’d love to hear your take on the lighting debate. What do you reckon is the best format? Is the dim blue light cool? Or would you prefer the blinding, bright white light when the doors open? A nightclub lightshow effect, perhaps?