I live in Colorado and it is extremely dry. Over the last 5 months I grew a wine collection from no bottles to 200 bottles. I've always loved wine but kind of dove head first into collecting, thinking that simply storing in my basement would suffice. My basement is reading 22% humidity, which I now know is going to cause the corks to dry out so I need to look into an inexpensive as possible cellar build. I'm hoping to only get away with framing in an area and using some type of humidifier because the temperature is near perfect at 57 degrees. Or maybe even adding trays/buckets of water on the ground within the cellar that I build will work just fine? Hoping someone else has experience with starting out with a very dry basement for wine storage and could help me with how to tackle this fairly urgent problem. Thanks!
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I put wet sponges in areas around the cellar, just be good about airflow.
Rioja, I started out building my cellar while in Colorado and I've got ask ask about the composition of your 200 bottle collection. If you have bottles in that collection that you intend to store more than ~5 (and maybe even ~10) years, then those are the ones I'd worry about the low humidity. If everything is intended for nearer-term consumption, then I'd recommend that you not worry about it an just enjoy your exploration into wine.
Really, for the longer term I think the temperature variations in a Colorado cellar (walkout basement?) would be a bigger concern than the humidity.
I've never worried about humidity here in Chicago where it is very humid in the summer and very dry in the winter. I always just went with the fact that a cork that is wet from the inside (wine) is good enough. I think at normal humidity levels that is most likely true.
However, I spend a lot of time in Colorado and I know that dryness there is an entirely different thing! In Colorado I would be concerned about a lot of ullage as I suspect the humidity gradient between inside and outside of the bottle is enough to cause problems over time. I think some sort of passive humidification is probably fine, like you suggest- a bucket of water or a big pan. An active humidifier would probably be even better, but who wants to add water to their wine cellar every day? If I was building a cellar in CO I would consider using loose rocks (like pea gravel or small river rocks) as the flooring and just dousing it in water every so often. The wet rocks have a large surface area and will allow for evaporation pretty readily. I know that mold is really not a concern in CO, which is quite different for those of us from wet parts of the world.
Buy a small humidifier based on the volume of the space. I would adjust it for 40% to 50% humidity.
What is important is being sure that the top of the bottle is not upright. Bought a case of zin today and when I got home the wine was cork end up with the lettering right side up on the box. So I invert the carton and mark it with a large felt tip pen to show it is up. I like that many of the wineries are now shipping wine in boxes that hold the bottles horizontally which fixes the problem.
About 25% of my wine will be aged for 5-20 years. Not a walk-out basement. I've been monitoring the temperature in the basement for the past month or so and it is staying right at 57 degrees. It may creep up to 60-62 in the summer months is my guess though. I think I will start out by just framing in a small area and wrapping it in a vapor barrier and then adding buckets of water in there to achieve the 50-65% humidity I would need. Did you have a cellar in Colorado that you were able to keep in 50-70% humidity and if so did you only use buckets of water on the ground or did you have a cooling unit that also regulated humidity? Thanks!
Your basement is reading 22% humidity, which is just enough to preserve great bottles of wine. I think you should just tweak the lighting components in your basement. Paper Minecraft
It is critical that the top of the bottle is not vertical. I purchased a zin shell today, and when I got home, the wine was already empty, with the words on the right side of the box. As a result, I turned the carton upside down and marked it with a large marker as shown above.
There's a DIY approach to wine room humidity.
First you'll need to limit the size of the space to humidify - both because its resource intensive to humidify everything and because not everything in your basement will appreciate being as humid as your wine corks demand. Plastic sheeting can do that, either on the outside of the walls of the wine room (outside the insulation), or if no wine room, just use caulk to attach the sheeting where needed. A door can be made with a roll of magnetic tape.
Then, you'll need to rig a humidifier. I used a programmable humidity meter ($40) to control power on a very simple humidifier (Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer ($18)). For water, I attached a saddle valve to the cold water line with a long tube (i.e. like you'd use to a fridge) and ran it to the humidifier. To prevent overflow, I put a little mechanical float regulator ($5) inside the humidifier. Here's how it works:
When the humidity drops below my programmed range (~8% pts range), the humidifier gets power and kicks in. When the water level gets too low inside the humidifier, the float allows water to fill the humidifier. When the humidity goes above the programmed range, the power cuts off. If the humidifier reservoir fills too much, the float cuts the flow of water. As a safe guard, I put the humidifier in a small tub with an overflow to a french drain and a moisture sensor in the tub that screams if there's a problem. If the humidifier somehow runs dry, most cut off on their own.
I have a DIY for cooling the wine room, too, which ensures a warm steam vaporizer doesn't up the temperature. That may not be a factor for you, depending on the size of the space and basement temperature.
Note, you can't easily use a Cool-Mist humidifier; it'll have a sealed reservoir to avoid dumping all of its water, which isn't practical for running a line into.
@JoshDrinksPort, Thanks for the very thoughtful reply. You mentioned that you have a DIY cooling unit, can you please elaborate on what it is? I have a 7'x11' framed in area that I sealed with a plastic vapor barrier and simply added a few trays of water in there and I've achieved a constant humidity of 63%, so I'm set with the humidity concern now. The temperature however has risen from the 57 degrees that it maintained all winter to now being at 64 degrees. I think I may be just fine with that temp considering that it's not having wild fluctuations regularly which would cause the air inside of the bottles to be sucked in and out. Since it's a gradual change in temp from 57 to 64 over a matter of 2-3 months and then likewise back to 57 from 64 in the fall, I think I'm fine but it would be nice to have a constant temperature which your DIY rig may help me to achieve. Thanks!