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Cigar Advisor Review: NewAir CC-300H Wineador + How to Use a Wineador
How to Use a Wineador + NewAir CC-300H Wineador Review
Strolling into a cigar shop – for me – is much like rolling up on an all-you-can-eat buffet: So many cigars, so little time to try ‘em all. And once you find a few favorites, the temptation builds to have a huge stash of those cigars on hand for whenever the mood strikes you.
Problem is, you need a place to store those cigars.
If you’ve outgrown your desktop humidor – or you don’t feel inclined to maintain the three or four boxes, jars and such needed to contain your growing stash – a wineador may be your answer.
I say may – because I realized that, aside from some anecdotal evidence and a few tips we’ve picked up along the way from others, none of us really have a lot of experience with wineadors. That’s why when this opportunity came along to take a NewAir CC-300H humidor out for a test drive – we thought this would be a good way to get acquainted with every step of ownership.
We’ll start with some of the basic questions surrounding wineadors – then turn to our experience with the NewAir CC-300H.
What is a wineador?
A wineador is a wine cooler/refrigerator that has been repurposed for cigar storage. We’ve discussed in the past how wine and cigars share some traits – and just like wine, cigar tobaccos are blended, fermented and aged – and thrive when stored in a humidified and temperature-controlled environment. A good wine refrigerator provides this stable environment.
Sooo…I can just keep cigars in a wine fridge?
Yes, a wine cooler fridge can be used as a humidor. Many folks find old units and refurb them, or just retrofit them with Spanish cedar. But if you’re not handy (or don’t know someone who is, who can help you), the added expense of buying a wineador is likely worth what you would pay yourself to learn how to do the conversion. Plus, a company like NewAir sells a variety of wineadors – based on capacity – that should fit the needs of most collectors.
Is a wineador right for me?
Depends – how many cigars do you have? And how much room in your house are you willing to give up to them?
As I mentioned, we’re climbing to a new tier of cigar collecting here. If you find that you’ve outgrown your desktop humidor – and then outgrown the larger humidor you bought to handle the overflow – you might be in the wineador sweet spot. Let’s just say, if you have a couple of boxes of cigars on hand that you want to keep fresh, but maybe you’re not into converting your kid’s room into a walk-in humidor (yet) – this is an easy (and attractive) solution that still gives your collection room to grow.
So put simply, the benefit of a wineador over a desktop humidor is space. Space to expand your cigar stock, space to stash whole boxes – and it looks nice, while it does its job.
We should also briefly mention coolerdors…I believe there are both form and function benefits of a wineador over a coolerdor. Yes, a coolerdor holds a lot of cigars. But it’s not what I’d consider the most attractive or user-friendly option: it’s your basic camping cooler, and unless you have a special system for how you arrange and access your cigars, you’re unpacking the whole thing to get to the box at the bottom. If that doesn’t matter to you, then it’s a draw. My overflow has never been large enough to demand a Coleman cooler, so an old piece of Tupperware has been enough to get the job done. BUT – unless you’re very good at organization, pawing your way through two or three Tupperwares, a cooler and a humidor, just because you can’t remember where you put that Liga, is a frustrating experience.
Having your entire stash in a wineador (say anywhere between 200 and 400 cigars, depending on the size cigars you’ve collected) is a more convenient option.
How do I maintain proper humidity in a wineador?
It’s actually not as high maintenance a task as you might think. The NewAir CC-300H is, essentially, a thermoelectric wine cooler; that’s technically different than a refrigerator, for a lot of reasons that involve HVAC systems and physics (we can get into all that another time). NewAir’s system is called Opti-Temp™ – as in “Optimal Temperature,” and controlling the temperature inside is as simple pushing a button until you’ve reached you desired setting. The range is 54°-74° F (in 1-degree increments) – and while the CC-300H will never cool to the lower temperatures an actual refrigerator can offer, I can’t think of a reason why you’d need to chill your cigars below the 54 degree lower end limit.
We’ll get started recapping our NewAir wineador experience, starting with the setup…
The unit arrived well-packaged, with plenty of material in the box to make sure nothing happened in transit. We unpacked the CC-300H to see that it’s well made: fit and finish are excellent (the colors are a mix of black and stainless steel), with a nice full-front glass door. No handles to stick out, very clean and sleek.
The shelves and drawers are Spanish cedar – and as I mentioned before, unless you have the handy skills to rehab a wine cooler with some of these drawers – having them included is a big plus, because (a) the wood is more expensive that you might realize, and (b) that type of cedar is really the optimal wood for cigar storage.
The interior of the NewAir wineador is molded plastic, so a simple wipe down of the inside of the unit is recommended. If you feel that there’s still a “factory” smell from inside, they suggest putting a dish of baking soda in the bottom and stuffing the humidor with newspaper overnight.
The unit arrives with a plastic container ziptied to one of the cedar shelves; other reviews I read discuss using this container to hold your humidifying agent (like kitty litter or beads). We opted to use a Cigar Oasis for our humidification device, so this container was used exclusively for seasoning the wood inside.
How to season a wineador
We’ve written extensively on how to season a humidor – and while wiping the walls of a cedar humidor with distilled water is an often-used shortcut, I personally prefer a more patience-needed process of letting the wood slowly absorb the distilled water in an ambient setting.
So before you plug it in, and even before you add the Cigar Oasis – you must season the wood shelves and drawers that go inside the unit. I added distilled water to the plastic container, filling it about 2/3 of the way, and placed it inside the CC-300H with a hygrometer that’s been calibrated. The NewAir quick start guide says to let the moisture-containing device “sit in the cooler until it reaches a relative humidity of 5% higher than your preferred level. This process may take as long as three days but is the best way to ensure your cigars stay optimal.” Following the instructions as written, I let the hygrometer reach its destination (we were shooting for 67% RH, so 72) – but this ended up taking over a week. It’s like barbecue: low and slow. No rush.
We plugged in the NewAir wineador and put the Cigar Oasis inside, on the bottom – then gave that setup a day or two of running with no cigars inside, just to stabilize everything and see that we got our desired RH and temperature readings.
Next was to go back to the Famous Smoke Shop warehouse and pluck a bunch of boxes and bundles to add to the system. Normally, in a desktop humidor environment, it’s common for your humidor’s RH to spike for a few days after you add a large number of cigars. This didn’t happen here, and I think it’s a combination of the NewAir humidor’s fan circulating the air efficiently, as well as the Cigar Oasis dialing back on the amount of moisture it was releasing – keeping that humidity flux to a minimum.
How well does it work?
These shelves and drawers are, for the most part, customizable, allowing hobbyists to position them in almost any configuration (although the drawers cannot be positioned on the top two or three slots, due to the positioning of the humidor’s cooling mechanism). And depending on how you decide to arrange your cigars inside – as in, if it’s just single cigars, or you’re storing whole boxes of cigars inside the wineador – that will dictate how you arrange the shelves. In our case, I had to leave one of the shelves out to make space for the boxes of CAO Flathead and Crux Epicure Maduro, plus a bundle of Kristoffs that I didn’t want to unwrap. Unfortunately, that meant sacrificing some of the space I would have liked to use for storing more single cigars above.
We monitored the humidity, temperature and smoking condition of the cigars inside for the next couple of weeks; first, let me tell you about some of our baseline conditions:
- Relative humidity was monitored on two devices – the Cigar Oasis Excel 3.0 in the bottom, and an analog hygrometer sitting on the top shelf.
- I calibrated the analog hygrometer with a 69% Boveda; the reading settled at +4% (73%), but we didn’t adjust it. To read actual RH, we adjusted by -4 to account for the variance.
- We set the Cigar Oasis to 67.0% RH; the NewAir onboard temperature was set at 69.
- Our office temperature was set at 69.5 degrees, with the room reading +/- 61% humidity for first 3 days. It’s important to note that the humidity in our office fluctuates wildly; one day could read as high as 68%, the next day it would read 36%.
- We rotated the position of the shelves and drawers inside the NewAir CC-300H after 2 weeks.
- All RH & temperature readings were taken in the afternoon; this was important for us, as the afternoon sun beats on our windows and raises the room temperature quite a bit.
- No readings were taken on weekends.
And here are some of the things we learned:
- The humidity inside drops significantly (as expected) when the wineador’s door is opened – but all systems return to normal readings pretty quickly, maybe about two minutes.
- The temperature on NewAir ticks up to 70 when door is opened (also not unexpected).
- The wild swings in the RH of our office showed little effect on the humidity inside the New Air CC-300H – so the seal on the door must have been doing its job, or the Cigar Oasis compensated for the difference pretty effectively. Or both.
- The temperature rises to 70 on the wineador after you open the door; it falls back to 69° within a few minutes.
- When the NewAir’s fan comes on to maintain the temperature, the RH reading on the Cigar Oasis drops by 1%.
Some other considerations from our experience
Be warned that if you’re planning to rotate the cigars in this humidor, it’s going to be an all-day affair. Simply moving the shelves and drawers would be easy, but isn’t really a complete rotation that allows all the cigars to be evenly humidified. One big plus is having the fan in the Cigar Oasis and the fan in the wineador, as they do a good job in tandem of moving the moist air inside.
Also – be careful when opening and closing the door, as the cigars will fall off the back of the shelves if you slam the door too hard (or by accident). As for the drawers, they don’t work great in all of the available positions inside the NewAir CC-300H; but that’s a minor drawback, considering the large (and pretty flexible) storage space inside.
The NewAir CC-300H wineador keeps everything well-humidified – maybe too well, as some of the maduros were a little “juicier” than we like. So if you keep different storage conditions for different cigars – e.g., lower the humidity a bit for the cigars with thicker, oilier wrappers – you may have to get a little creative with how you arrange them inside the wineador.
I didn’t mention much about the blue LED light inside – mostly because the light from the bulb is blocked by the top shelf of cigars. We didn’t use it, but it does cast a nice ambient glow when the room is dark.
I may be getting a bit granular here, but knowing what you know about our office conditions (sun, heat, etc) – I noticed the NewAir’s humidity dropped by 1% in the afternoon, and the temperature went up by 1 degree in the afternoon…so no matter what humidor option you prefer, the external forces (i.e, the environment in your room) can and will have an effect on the stability of your humidor – wineadors included.
NewAir specifically states in the owner’s Manual that “this humidor is only designed for home use, and is not designed to be placed in a garage, basement or outdoor area. (p.7)” So this may not be the unit for you if you’re planning to install a wineador in your shedquarters. It goes on to say on p.9 that “It is recommended humidor be installed in an area where the ambient temperature is between 50°- 80°F. Otherwise, the unit may not heat or cool to its intended performance range.” In addition, “keep in mind that the temperature may fluctuate depending on whether the interior light is on or off, and how full the humidor is.” Just putting it all out there.
Overall assessment: Strong Like.
The NewAir CC-300H is a strong performer, and in our experience, a nice cigar storage option if you’re up into the 300-400 cigar range (we fit about 300 in there, but didn’t feel as though we overloaded it) for your collection. Easy to use; and while it’s not set it and forget it-Ron Popeil easy, after two months, we have a strong trust factor in the wineador’s ability to keep our cigars in good smoking condition. Just know that when your cigar collection and your humidor are bigger, so are some of the tasks necessary to maintaining your whole system.
Of course, it’s important that we preach again our usual humidor care tips: keep your humidor out of direct sun, and away from forced air heat and cooling – a wineador is sensitive to the same things. Plus, since it’s a thermoelectric cooler, putting it near other heating and cooling sources may keep it from operating properly.
Also – make sure that there’s enough space to maintain airflow in and around your cigars. Gary has good info on how to stack your cigars to make sure they’re getting optimal moisture; like any humidor, it’s still possible – even with Cigar Oasis, a fan, and all that – if the temperature goes up (either through the setting you programmed on the unit, or because of the ambient heat in the room) and the humidity is high – that’s breeding ground for mold on your cigars. So check regularly.
If you think you’re ready to take the next step in cigar collecting, we’ve worked out a deal with the manufacturer that will allow you to upgrade to this climate-controlled, 400 cigar humidor with lock: use promo code 20JPULLO for 20% off the NewAir CC-300H when you click here.
- 400 Cigar capacity (suggested)
- Product Dimensions: 20.88″D x 18.13″W x 29.25″H
- Product Weight: 45.00 lbs.
- Thermoelectric cooling/heating range 54°-74° F (1 deg increments)
- 4 shelves, 2 drawers – Spanish cedar – removable and adjustable
- Lock and set of 2 keys
- Adjustable feet to level the unit
- Interior LED light – blue
Note that no humidifier is included.
A Quick Start guide and owner’s manual are included in the box, along with product registration information.
Note: this is a heating and cooling appliance with a grounded (3-prong) plug. Do your best to make sure that the humidor is plugged into a compliant outlet and avoid the use of an extension cord.
- Model: CC-300H
- Voltage: 120 volts
- Watts: 70 watts
- Amps: 1 amps
- Frequency: 60 Hz
- Certifications: ETL/CETL
- 1 year limited manufacturer’s warranty