We received the product for review and all opinions are our own.
Texas in the summer is brutal, so good wine storage is a must. The NewAir AW-281E thermoelectric wine cooler delivers as promised. This cooler has the standard stainless-steel finish in the front, while the rest of the model is black. It is a single zone cooler that holds 28 bottles. Compared to past models, it is simpler.
Texas Wine Lover has reviewed several NewAir models over the years, and this new model has lots of similarities. It arrived in a double box. The main box was nestled into a supported structure. The top and bottom inside had Styrofoam supports to keep the inner box from moving during transit (much like the NewAir AW-180E). It also gave a good inch or so of extra space between the outer box walls and the inner box. A hand written thank you letter accompanied the unit as well. That personal touch was a very nice surprise.
The unit inside was nearly fully assembled with six stainless steel racks in place. I needed to attach the handle. The procedure was simple enough. Using two screws and accompanying washers, the stainless-steel handle fit right into place. Getting the top screw in was no problem, but the second screw took a bit longer. The holes on the inside of the door are beneath the rubber seal (or gasket). Getting the screw in was easy, but getting it through the other side took a bit of time. Unlike previous models reviewed here, this did not have an option for reversing the door.
When I took the unit from the box, we noticed what looked like a black filter. I had no idea as to its use. As I cleaned the unit, I noticed a spot in back that a filter would slide into. When I tried to put the extra piece there, it slid in. However, the width of that space is longer than the filter, so it is loose and can come out easily.
This unit is free standing with its cooler in back, so it cannot go beneath counters. We have a gap at the end of our long counter before the pantry door. The cooler fit there. It stands just below my counter at 28.5 inches tall. It is only 18.5 inches deep, making it more recessed than the counter. And it is only 22.5 inches wide, which left plenty of space between it and the counter, as well as the pantry door.
The cooler needed to stand upright for two hours to settle after handling. As I let it settle, I cleaned the inside with the recommended soap and water. Pulling out the six racks was easy, as well as cleaning both the inside and outside. I let it rest overnight.
In the morning, I plugged it in and let it begin to cool. The temperature control is at the top of the unit’s door, which I set at 55 degrees. The unit has a light at the top inside. It can be turned on and off from the outside, with its controls near the temperature controls. The light does not automatically come on when the door is opened.
It took about three hours for the NewAir to reach 55 degrees. After it reached that peak temperature, I loaded it with wines. I mainly put in whites, but I added my few rosés and a few ciders (sold in 750 mL bottles).
It does warn that a bottle’s size will affect how many can be stored. I found this to be very true. The more traditional sized and shaped bottles fit just fine. Ones with a slightly different shape but same diameter fit as well, but not quite as easily. I was surprised when my longer bottles fit in. There is space between the end of the rack and the glass for the door. This allowed me to store a few longer Riesling bottles with no problem.
As I surmised, the wider bottles would not fit. The racks are curved, providing a dip where the bottle sits. This space can only accommodate normal sized bottles, and they hold 24 bottles. The last four are stored on the bottom floor (for a total of 28). With no rack, one could put the wider bottles here. However, the distance between the bottom and the first rack is too short, so the rack would need to be removed to store those bottles (bringing down capacity to 24).
During this process, the unit warmed up quickly. I would place four in, close it, and get the next four out of my other cooler. While it warmed up quickly, it did begin to cool down quickly too. However, my larger cooler, a compressor model, did not warm as quickly, but it cooled down slower.
The model is relatively quiet, especially compared to my compressor model. The low buzz is only noticeable when in the proximity of the unit—I can sometimes hear my compressor unit in my dining room (next to my kitchen). It runs smoothly. However, the NewAir does seem to run more often and longer. I noticed that the cooling mechanism ran more often than the one in the compressor.
I waited a week to compare wines from my older compressor model and the NewAir. I tested one white wine and one red. The white did seem a tiny bit warmer, just barely noticeable—but I was looking specifically at the temperature difference, so others may not notice it. The red was a bit warmer from the NewAir, but again, few people would notice the difference.
The NewAir AW-281E lives up to everything it promises. It is simple to assemble, set up, and use. It generally keeps a consistent temperature, but fluctuates quite a bit when it has been opened—even for a few seconds. It does run quietly and smoothly. My only recommendation is to place it in a cool spot for peak performance. I could not, but even in the place I chose, it works well with no problems.