Home Freeze Drying – Read this Before You Buy a Freeze Dryer
Thinking about getting a freeze dryer? We'll explain how home freeze drying works, and answer questions about freeze dried food storage for emergencies and more.
- How Does Freeze Drying Work?
- Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer Basic Information
- Freeze Dried Food Q&A
- What foods can you freeze dry?
- What foods can't you freeze dry?
- How long does freeze drying take?
- Can you mix foods in the freeze dryer?
- How do I know the food is done freeze drying?
- How do I use freeze dried foods in recipes?
- How do I store the freeze dried food?
- Can I use FoodSaver plastic bags for storing freeze dried foods?
- Alternatives to the HarvestRight Freeze Dryer
- How much is a freeze dryer?
- Locating your Freeze Dryer
- Things I Love About the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer
- Are you ready to invest in a Home Freeze Dryer?
Why get a freeze dryer?
I've been curious about home freeze drying ever since I did an interview with Dr. Prepper back in 2015. The doc raved about his home freeze dryer. He loved the quality of the food, how much money it saved him, and what a great addition it was to his preps.
In early 2016 Harvest Right home freeze dryers contacted me to do a review of their product. I could purchase it at a discount, as long as I did a review. My other option was to get it for free, if I committed to a series of endorsements.
Being the stubborn individual that I am, I didn't want to commit to selling you something that was such a big investment without thoroughly testing it. I purchased a freeze dryer and have been using it since May 2016.
My conclusion – if you want long term food storage or portable food storage, check out freeze drying. Commercial freeze dried foods are pricey and often have questionable ingredients. Home freeze drying puts you in control.
How Does Freeze Drying Work?
Here's the official definition of freeze drying (Lyophilization) from the FDA:
Lyophilization or freeze drying is a process in which water is removed from a product after it is frozen and placed under a vacuum, allowing the ice to change directly from solid to vapor without passing through a liquid phase.
The process consists of three separate, unique, and interdependent processes; freezing, primary drying (sublimation), and secondary drying (desorption).
So, how do we do that at home?
- First, you get a heavy duty freezer (the Harvest Right units drop to -30°F (-34°C) or colder).
- Second, you pair this up with a completely airtight chamber that can hold a vacuum (no oxygen) every single time you use it.
- Third, you tie in a high end vacuum pump strong enough to suck the stripes off a zebra.
- Fourth, you add a heater and thermostat, so you can cycle the temps up and down, repeating the sublimation process for hours on end.
- Fifth, tie in a humidity sensor to make sure the water is out, triggering the cycle completion.
There's a reason the big commercial freeze drying units are priced from $5000 to over $100,000 – the freeze drying process is significantly more complicated than other home food preservation options.
If you're wondering how freeze drying compares to dehydrating, you can read more about that in the post “What's the Difference Between Dehydrating and Freeze Drying?“
Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer Basic Information
Here's some information everyone should know before buying a Harvest Right freeze drying machine. Since the time this review was originally posted, Harvest Right made a number of upgrades. They now have HR pumps in two different styles, slight design changes in the main units, and new software that speeds up freeze drying times.
Freeze Dryer Dimensions
Harvest Right has three sizes of home freeze dryers – large, medium and small.
Each unit includes a detachable vacuum pump weighing 35 lbs that sits outside the freeze dryer. They also have a drain hose that routes below the unit. Oil free pumps are available at an additional cost. (More on this below.)
Small Freeze Dryer
- Overall product dimensions: 16.5″ W x 18.5″ D x 25″ H
- 3 trays (7.75″ W x 14″ L x 0.75″ H)
- 61 lbs.
Medium Freeze Dryer
- Overall product dimensions: 18″ W x 21.25″ D x 28.5″ H
- 4 trays (7.5″ W x 18″ L x 0.75″ H)
- 112 lbs.
Large Freeze Dryer
- Overall product dimensions: 20.25 ” W x 23.75″ D x 30.75″ H
- Perfect for counter top, cart, or table.
- 5 trays (9″ W x 20.5″ x 0.75″ H)
- 138 lbs.
Moving these units is a two person job, unless you put it on a rolling cart, which many owners do.
I have a mid-sized unit of the old design, updated with new software.
How much food can you freeze dry?
Small Freeze Dryer
- Freeze dry 840 pounds of fresh food per year (4-7 pounds per batch).
- In a year's time, you can freeze dry 195 gallons of food.
Medium Freeze Dryer
- Freeze dry 1,450 pounds of fresh food per year (7-10 pounds per batch, roughly equal to 1.5 to 2 #10 cans).
- In a year's time, you can freeze dry 312 gallons of food.
Large Freeze dryer
- 2,500 pounds of fresh food per year (12-16 pounds per batch).
- In a year's time, you can freeze dry 546 gallons of food.
Why can't I stuff more food in, and stack those trays fuller? During the freeze drying process, ice builds up on the walls of the freeze drying chamber. Add too much food, and the ice buildup will get too thick for the unit to work properly.
Freeze Dried Food Q&A
What foods can you freeze dry?
Fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, meals, desserts, and more. Freeze drying is safe for preserving cooked pasta and grains, unlike canning.
Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I've freeze dried plenty of fruits and veggies, but I also tried some more interesting items like scrambled eggs and fajita filling.
What foods can't you freeze dry?
Anything that's mostly fat or mostly sugar will not freeze dry well. Fat won't dry – but it can heat up and melt in the unit and coat every surface. When I tried pre-cooked pork sausage patties, they made a big mess.
Sugar binds to water, trapping it in the food. This is great for inhibiting bacteria growth, but it means you can't freeze dry jams and jellies that are mostly sugar. Plain fruit and most desserts are fine.
How long does freeze drying take?
Around 24 hours was the estimated freeze drying time for an average load, but with the new software, I’ve freeze dried loads in as little as 13 hours. Warm, humid conditions increase drying time.
When you load up your home freeze dryer and hit “Start”, the unit takes you through a short menu. You select whether the food going in is already frozen (or not), and whether it is solid or liquid. Then the freeze dryer prompts you to close the drain valve and begin the cycle.
The new software is smart. The main differences between the old and new software are as follows:
- It measures the freezing temperatures (it used to only measure the warming temps)
- The vacuum pump is used as part of the freeze (when the temp of the food hits 0 degrees F, the pump turns on). This is important because the food gets colder faster.
- Once the food is frozen cold enough, it clicks immediately into drying (it doesn't wait for the full freeze time to finish)
- The drying phase ramps up to the specified shelf temperature (this helps you get a better finished product)
- The final dry is the same
The biggest benefits occur if you put pre-frozen food it. However, there is still a decrease in the processing times for foods that aren't pre-frozen. Anyone who gets a new freeze dryer also gets the new software.
The new software will be sold as an upgrade to older users, due to the customer service involved with it. Harvest Right has almost 50,000 freeze dryer customers. I received a copy of the new software to test and review.
Can you mix foods in the freeze dryer?
Yes, but watch placement. The website claims that flavors don't mix, but we have found that they do. We ended up with freeze dried kiwis with a hint of green beans. Advice from the freeze drying groups suggests placing stronger flavored items on the upper shelves, milder items on the lower shelves.
As always, proper food safety rules should be observed. Avoid cross contamination, dry thoroughly, and package promptly.
How do I know the food is done freeze drying?
The freeze dryer senses the moisture content of the food and finishes the cycle automatically, but sometimes it’s a little off and you need to add extra time.
When you first remove food from the dryer, it will be a little cool from the ice buildup inside the chamber, but not “cold”. I always break open some larger pieces and check inside for cold spots. If you find cold spots, put the trays back in and add time to the drying cycle. Your freeze dryer will prompt you to check for dryness.
One of our readers, Rose, shares what she does to check dryness:
One thing I did choose to add to my arsenal for safety was a FLIR thermal imaging camera. With one easy picture, I can quickly identify areas on the tray that might not be completely dry, and pose an issue for long term storage. The image will show as being “cold” in the area that is not completely dry.
In the MANY loads I have done, I have only had one that didn’t pass (the pre-mashed potatoes) the very center of the tray was still cold. I was able to quickly extend the dry period for a couple more hours and produce a perfectly done product with no fear!
FLIR ONE IOS Thermal Imaging Camera for iPhone – works with the phone
FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System – standalone camera
How do I use freeze dried foods in recipes?
Check out “Pantry Stuffers Rehydration Calculations Made Easy“, which has tables that show how much water and how much product to add when substituting dehydrated, freeze-dried, and powdered products in your favorite recipes.
Freeze dried fruits and vegetables (those with less sugar) get so dry they are easily crushed into a powder in a blender or food processor. The resulting powder is bright in color and intensely flavored. You can use this powder in smoothies, or for flavoring. For instance, add strawberry powder to make strawberry flavored whipped cream.
How do I store the freeze dried food?
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Once the freeze dry cycle is complete, you must package the food in containers that moisture and oxygen proof, such as Mylar, mason jars or cans. Adding an oxygen absorber helps to ensure freshness.
Meat with any amount of fat will go rancid in a matter of weeks if not properly sealed in an airtight container with oxygen absorber. Putting it in a mason jar and screwing on the lid won’t cut it. (We made that mistake only once.)
We use Mylar bags for most of our long term storage because they are light and durable. You can reuse Mylar, but of course the bag will be slightly smaller. Mylar is great for camping and travel.
Mason jars are a good choice if you:
- Aren’t concerned about the weight
- Have room for glass jars
- Don’t deal with tectonic disturbances or any type of disasters that might tip over your storage
You can use a Foodsaver attachment to vacuum seal jars, or remove the shelving from your Harvest Right freeze dryer and use the vacuum cycle. For long term storage, food is vacuum packed with oxygen absorbers in the jars. For short term storage, I vacuum seal without oxygen absorbers.
Can I use FoodSaver plastic bags for storing freeze dried foods?
No, not for long term.
My friend Gale discusses the difference between Mylar and foodsaver bags in her post “Using Mylar Bags for Food Storage“:
First and foremost, the term “Mylar” is actually one of many trade names for a polyester film called BoPet film. For the technically inclined and the curious, that stands for “Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate”. This film was developed by DuPont in the 1950’s and was first used by NASA for mylar blankets and long term storage as it increases the shelf life of food by eliminating oxygen. Think superpowered aluminum foil.
Since then, many uses for Mylar have been embraced due to its high tensile strength and its moisture, light, gas and aroma barrier properties. Mylar is also a good insulator against electrical disturbances, which is why it is used for making emergency blankets.
For all of these reasons and more, Mylar bags are considered the gold standard when it comes to long-term food storage.
What about Vacuum Sealed Bags?
Vacuum seal bags, such as those for the FoodSaver are a wonderful convenience and easy to use. But alas, they do not have the thickness nor the strength of Mylar bags and they may start to leak after 3 or 4 years.
They are still a great alternative for your short-term and mid-term storage items, especially if you are diligent about rotating foods and using them for your normal meal preparation activities.
Your FoodSaver bags do not need to be improperly sealed to let air and moisture in. They are simply not as thick or as tough as Mylar.
Alternatives to the HarvestRight Freeze Dryer
There are knockoffs available from China. Based on reviews, they are inconsistent in quality and operations. Although they are cheaper we do not recommend them. We only recommend HarvestRight.
How much is a freeze dryer?
Home freeze dryers range in price from $1,995 to $3,495, depending on size and exterior finish. This cost includes the Freeze Dryer, Vacuum Pump, Vacuum Pump Oil, Oil Filter, Stainless Steel Trays, Mylar Bags (50 ct), Oxygen Absorbers (50 ct), Impulse Sealer, and HR Guide to Freeze Drying.
All units have a 3 year Limited Warranty, versus the one year warranty on many appliances.
Harvest Right also offers 0% interest financing, allowing you to lock in sale prices with a $250 minimum down payment. You pay as much as you want, when you want.
When you reach the designated down payment for the unit of your choice, they ship your unit. You then pay the remaining balance over 12 months with 0 interest.
Harvest Right also offers different accessories separately, such as extra trays, mats, Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers.
These units are a big investment. If you know you're only going to use it a couple times per year (or not at all), spend the money on something else you know that you will use.
If you want more food security and food preservation options, read on. Home freeze drying is more affordable than ever.
Harvest Right offers a layaway option so you can lock in sale prices or reserve your machine. (They are experiencing a backlog in orders right now.)
How the layaway works:
- Lock in your sale price with a downpayment ($250 minimum)*
- Pay as much as you want, when you want
- Receive 0% interest until paid in full. Your freeze dryer will ship after you've made your final payment.
Locating your Freeze Dryer
Freeze drying machines eat up a fair amount of real estate. This is not a toaster oven or blender. The main unit is about the size of a dorm fridge, plus it has a hose and vacuum pump. Many owners buy a heavy duty rolling table to hold the unit, but a counter top or table can get the job done.
I currently have mine on a counter in the garage, against a wall. The on/off switch is at the rear of the unit, plus the pump has its own on/off switch. You need to be able to access both of those and have clearance for power cords.
Power requirements: The small and medium units use a standard 110 volt outlet, but it's best to have it on its own circuit if possible. If you try to pair it with another heavy load appliance, you're likely to trip a breaker. (I found that out the hard way, and we installed a dedicated circuit.)
The large unit requires a 110 volt (NEMA 5-20) outlet and a dedicated 20 amp circuit.
Watch the temperature. The recommended temperature range for operation is 35-90°F. The most efficient temperature range is between 50-75°F.
Although safe, operating your freeze dryer in temperatures above 90°F will affect batch times and reduce the life of the condensing unit (freezer).
As the temperature rises where your freeze dryer operates, so does the length of time it takes to finish batches of food. This happens because with hotter operating temperatures it is harder to reach the extreme cold required by freeze drying.
Don't operate the unit below freezing. You are likely to have water within the compressor, and it can freeze and destroy your compressor.
Home Freeze Dryer Noise
During the first part of the cycle, the refrigeration unit is running. During the second part of the cycle, the vacuum pump is running. The noise isn't super loud – think vacuum cleaner, not jackhammer – but it is noticeable. I'd highly recommend planning to have it in an area where the door can be closed.
Freeze Dryer Maintenance
As I mentioned earlier, the freeze dryer does a complicated job, so there's a little more to it than just flipping a switch.
Think lawn mower, not kitchen mixer. If you regularly abuse your power tools and don't do basic maintenance, don't get a freeze dryer. I know many of my readers fix and maintain not only their own things, but other's people's equipment, too, so I'm not too concerned about this.
We drain the oil after each use and refill the vacuum pump with clean oil. Oil is filtered and reused. Before filtering, we freeze the oil. After freezing, we pour the oil off the top of the container into the filter. The water (as ice) sits in the bottom of the container.
Visit “Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Oil Change and Filtering” to see a video of the oil change itself and the use of an inexpensive homemade oil filter that works.
Oil-Free Freeze Dryer Pumps Now Available
Harvest Right listened to customer feedback, and they've developed a premium oil-free pump. All new freeze dryers ship with standard Harvest Right brand pumps, but the oil-free pumps may be purchased at an additional cost.
If doing an oil change every time you’re freeze drying sounds like a bit of a hassle, the oil free pump may be right for you.
Note that the oil free pump does use slightly more electricity than the default vacuum pump.
Things I Love About the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer
Home Freeze Dried Food is Tasty
Hands down, my favorite thing about the Harvest Right freeze dryer is the quality of the food. The commercial freeze dried food I've tried has been okay, but our home freeze dried products are amazing. I mailed some to a friend recently as part of a gift exchange, and she wrote back, “Okay, Laurie, spill the beans on how you freeze dried the fruits. My kids are absolutely in love with them!”
The texture of freeze dried food is light and crisp – more like chips than jerky – even freeze dried meat. We freeze dried fajita meat strips, and they tasted like crunchy little meat flavored Cheetos, the boys called them Meatos.
When we prepped freeze dried fajita filling for dinner, all we did was add a little water to the pan with the food, cover and heat through. Dinner was ready in less than 5 minutes. (If you happen to have a Sun Oven, they work well for rehydrating freeze dried meals.)
The fruit is so good – absolutely, intensely fruity, light and crisp. You can also powder your freeze dried fruits and veggies and use them as natural food colors (and flavors), as noted above.
Home Freeze Dried Food is Easy to Make
Filling the unit is easy. For meals or other prepared food items, simply cook your food and let it cool. Cut into small piece, or thin slices (if needed). Load the food on the trays; place the trays in the unit.
For freeze drying fruits and vegetables, I prep them as I would for freezing or dehydrating. Blanching is recommended for vegetables, especially for cabbage family crops like broccoli. Without blanching, they may outgas during storage, potentially bursting the storage seal.
If you want to freeze dry soup or liquids (like milk), you can do that, too. It helps if you reduce the amount of water to cut drying time, but you can freeze dry “as is”.
You Can’t Beat Freeze Drying for Long Term Food Storage
The shelf life of properly stored freeze dried foods is amazing. Low fat content foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meat, rice, noodles, etc. have a shelf life of 20+ years when packaged properly. Higher fat foods have a 10-15 year shelf life. No other food supply compares for long term food storage.
Why bother with food storage that lasts so long? Because life happens. One year I might have an amazing crop of a particular item, then crop failures for several years. If there's a job loss or an emergency, with my freeze dried food I know we'll have a stash of food we actually like to eat.
Food prices keep creeping up, so why not preserve food now to take advantage of lower prices?
Freeze Drying at Home Can Be Allergy Friendly
Food allergies and sensitivities are becoming more and more common. Freeze drying allows you to safely preserve a wider variety of foods than any other food preservation technique. You know you’re only minutes from a safe meal. When traveling, you don't need to keep food in a cooler.
I have a friend whose daughter has EoE (an allregic swallowing disorder). She found that freeze dried foods didn't trigger her gag reflex, and was finally able to eat more of a variety of foods.
Home Freeze Drying is Cool
Pun or no pun, home freeze drying allows you to experiment with options you won't see with commercial freeze dried foods – or other food preservation techniques.
One member of an online forum had his aging grandmother cook her favorite meals. He then freeze dried them to share with the family after she was gone. What an amazing gift to be able to taste a loved one's cooking one more time.
Another couple was freeze drying some of their wedding cake and the bride's bouquet. Still another took meal pouches to work and just added hot water to have a real meal while her co-workers were gnawing on granola bars as they worked through lunch.
My boys love crunchy snacks, so we've freeze dried things from sweet potato fries to pickled beet slices as chip and cracker alternatives. Freeze dried yogurt drops turn bulk yogurt into a special treat. Combining berries and yogurt into cute silicon molds makes a melt in your mouth dessert bursting with creamy berry flavor.
Are you ready to invest in a Home Freeze Dryer?
- Want more options for long term, healthy food storage that your family will enjoy eating?
- Have someone with allergies who needs safe food options?
- Need ready made meals to go?
- Try to store abundant produce for when harvests aren't so good?
- Get excited about trying new food options and preserving special memories?
If any of these sounds like a fit, take a closer look at freeze drying. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have. If I can't answer them, I'll find someone who can. Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!
My referral link: https://affiliates.harvestright.com/115.html
If you choose to purchase a Harvest Right freeze dryer through my site, I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. (Thank you!)
You can watch the video below to see how I freeze dry strawberries. (These are the berries that had my friend's kids raving about them.)
You may also find useful:
- The 5 Best Freeze Dried Foods
- Dehydrator Versus Freeze Dryer – What's the Difference?
- 11 Freeze Drying Mistakes to Avoid for Best Storage Quality
- Harvest Right Freeze Dryer – Cost Analysis and Optimizing Load Size
- Home Food Preservation – 10 Ways to Preserve Food at Home
Originally published in 2016 with the title “Home Freeze Drying – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, updated in 2019 to current title. Harvest Right fixed “the ugly”, which was the original messy pump, so I took that out of the title. I’ve also added information based on reader feedback. Please scroll through the comments for more Q&A!
Thank you SO much for the excellent review! I’ve been contemplating these units for some time now. Really well done- not so afraid now hahahaha I subscribe to the local CSA for produce but am only just one person in my household now, so often can’t eat everything- I give it away. BUT it would solve a lot of issues that you pointed out above such as having a food you like when it’s not available, etc.
Glad you found it helpful, Dianne. So far for produce, we’ve freeze dried peaches, apricots, strawberries, bananas, green beans, and sweet corn. All were delicious, although the apricots were pretty tart to eat straight. You can freeze dry greens, too, but they will rehydrate limp, not crisp. (Of course, you can powder them and use them in smoothies, sauces, etc., too.)
I what does “powder them” mean?
When fruit is freeze dried (except for very high sugar fruits) it gets so dry that it can be easily crushed into a powder. The fasted was to do this would be a blender or food processor, but you could crumble by hand if you didn’t mind uneven pieces. The resulting powder is bright in color and intensely fruit flavored.
I have been dehydrating my herbs to dry them, but herbs are very sensitive to heat. I am thinking freeze drying them would be a better option. Then I could use them whole or grind them up while keeping more of their healing properties.
Freeze drying has long been used for laboratory samples to preserve them with the least amount of damage, so I think it’s safe to say that it would also protect the quality of your herbs.
Grind in grinder. Put in soups, smoothies
I bet that beet, wheat and barley grass powders taste fabulous when made from home grown and freeze dried.
Hi, is a Foodsaver a good way to store the Freeze dried food ?
Although FoodSaver bags seem airtight, they do allow both air and moisture penetration. They’d be fine for short term storage, but for long term storage, opt for Mylar or glass, and include an oxygen absorber.
Regarding the use of FoodSaver bags. If air and moisture is getting in then it was not sealed properly. I have vacuum sealed different items. The ones I vacuum sealed over five years ago are still rock hard and dry on the inside (oats).
That being said…do take advantage of oxygen and moisture obsorbers and do store in a cool dark environment to obtain maximum shelf life. Even items stored in “dark” containers should be stored in a dark environment.
Now for my question. What temperature does the “drying” part of the process get to?
My friend. Gale, discusses the difference between Mylar and foodsaver bags in her post “Using Mylar Bags for Food Storage“:
Your FoodSaver bags do not need to be improperly sealed to let air and moisture in. They are simply not as thick or as tough as Mylar.
After searching the manual. I can’t find a specific maximum temperature for the food inside the dryer. The sublimation process starts at around 7F, and the product does not reach sterilization temperatures. The trays are sometimes warm when emptying the machine, but never hot.
Edited – Bill emailed and says his unit displays up to 140F during drying. I don’t normally watch my panel very closely.
Foodsaver has a mason jar attachment (sucks the air out of the jar). I think this would be a good option for longer shelf life.
Mylar and other plastic bags should be avoided, IMO. They can’t be reused or recycled and they’re contributing to the terrible plastic pollution problem. They can be chewed open by mice or rats (and if you don’t think you have rodents, you’re dreaming – they’re everywhere. If you want something more secure, and you’re interested in avoiding plastic bags because of their environmental impact, try mason jars. They are cheap, reusable, recyclable, have lids that create and maintain an airtight seal, and are rodent and insect proof. You can store them anywhere that’s reasonably dry (so the lids don’t rust), and the contents and their condition are immediately visible. They come in half-pint, pint, quart, liter and even gallon sizes, and have standard or wide-mouth lids.
Glass is certainly functional, as I mentioned, but does have some drawbacks. It’s bulky, heavy and not impact resistant. If you have the room for glass jars and don’t deal with tectonic disturbances or any type of disasters that might tip over your storage, glass is a suitable choice.
That information is incorrect.
Mylar can indeed be recycled. It’s polyester resin. That’s it. It’s not any form of plastic.
Mylar can indeed be reused. The pkg will be a bit small each time, for the simple reason that to open, you had to cut a little off the top.
They can be chewed by rodents. What a rodent smells, a rodent chews. In the case of mylar, however, part of why it’s so useful for foods is because it’s impermeable by moisture and smell. Put mylar bags in any bucket with a lid and no rodent can chew it even out of boredom.
Mason jars are great for lots of things but they aren’t for everything. They aren’t cheap, they don’t travel well, storage can be fine as long as you don’t live in tornado/hurricane/earthquake places, but glass does break and mylar doesn’t.
All you had to do is a quick google search “can mylar be recycled”.
They said mylar bags with oxygen absorbers
1.What is the over all power consumption pet batch say for fruits like mangoes or ovacadoes
2. How long does it take to dry
3. How many trays in the commercials dryers
1. How many mangoes or avocados in which size freeze dryer under what room conditions? The post Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Cost Analysis and Optimization lists energy use for an assortment of foods.
2. Drying time will vary based on the unit size, amount of food in the unit, whether or not the food is pre-frozen and conditions in the room where the freeze dryer is located. Some loads can finish in as little as 13 hours, some may take 2 days.
3. If you’re referring to the Harvest Right commercial freeze dryers, it looks like they have five trays.
Can the waste water from the ice be used. It would make sense that if you did a tray of blueberries, that the ice would contain blueberry in it that could then be simmered down into an extract. Have you tried this?
I don’t think there’s enough fruit particles in the water to make it worth the attempt. The water never has any aroma (even from something fragrant like strawberries or bananas). I just went out and tasted it (we finished a batch of scrambled eggs earlier today). No flavor. I do use it to water my plants.
Do you have to keep it in the freezer when it is finished, or on a shelf?
Freeze dried food is shelf stable – no refrigeration or freezer required for storage. The “freeze” part only comes in during the freeze drying process.
When you take the food out of the freeze drying chamber, it’ll be slightly chilled (since there’s ice built up inside the chamber), but should soon warm to room temp. If food stays cold or has cold pockets inside, it’s not as dry as it should be and requires additional drying time.
After the food has been freezed dried,, can it be frozen? I live on the prairies in Canada. I will only be able to store it outside in a shed. Some winters can go to -50C. Will this product keep at that temperature?
Freezing shouldn’t be a problem if the food is properly dry. High temperatures and huge temperature swings may shorten shelf life.
I agree! I’m saving my money now… hopefully I can buy one before my summer crops start yeilding! I can’t wait!!!
Beth,call Harvest Right and ask them about the lay a way plan they have,it is $250.00 down and you can pay it off over time,and it locks in the price at the time you put it on lay a way This is the e-mail of the person I dealt with,send him a note and see what you can work out with him.
I also bought my Green House on the lay away plan
I just may do this! Thanks for the info!!
You are welcome,on another note,Laurie,do you get a commission on the greenhouses and the shelters also,or just on the freeze dryers and the supplies,if so I will use your link for future supplies that I get from them?
Just on the freeze dryers and accessories, as far as I know, but I don’t have any access to customer records so I’m not completely sure. I’ll have to ask Matt at Harvest Right after the holiday.
Do you think these machines would work for tea ?
As in, you want to brew tea, and then freeze dry the brewed tea, or you want to freeze dry the tea leaves?
I know people have freeze dried coffee after brewing extremely strong coffee. I would assume the same is possible with tea.
Also, people freeze dry other herbs, so again, I would assume you could freeze dry tea. It would be likely you would lose some aromatic compounds in both cases.
can I use the freeze dryer for bird nest, I want to the bird nest can ready to eat after put some hot water.
can you help me make this idea become true.
I’m not familiar with edible bird’s nests, but as long as they are less than 1/2 inch thick at the thickest, they should dry okay.
It’s a disgusting Asian food. Pretty rare/expensive. A particular bird (shirling? something like that) makes their nests with hardened saliva.
(I love most Asian stuff but there are a few things that are just gross 😉
I love the concept of freeze drying but haven’t yet taken that next step. I anticipate that it would great to have but the price is still a big no- no. If the price were $2000-2500 it would be easier to project cost effectiveness.
Here’s some info I received from Harvest Right, running numbers for freeze dried food comparisons.
The following compares the cost of purchasing prepared meals from a leading freeze dried food company to that of freeze drying it yourself.
*The prices used here are sale prices or in-season prices. Prices for produce may vary. You can use your own numbers to calculate cost savings.
Cottage Cheese Retail Price: #10 can has 20, ½ cup servings and costs $65.39
Harvest Right Comparison:
20 ½ cup servings from grocery store $9.69
Power to run machine= $1.80 (approx. High because you get about two #10 cans of food per 24 hours)
Total for Harvest Right #10 can=$12.24
Savings: As much as $53.15 saved per #10 can
Strawberries Retail Price: #10 can, 3.75 lbs. of strawberries costs $29.49, ($7.86 lb.)
Harvest Right Comparison:
3.75 lbs. of strawberries ($.99 per pound)= $3.71
Power to run the machine=$1.80 (approx. High because you get about two #10 cans of food per 24 hours)
Mylar Pouch= $.50
Total for Harvest Right #10 can=$6.26
Savings: As much as $23.23 saved per #10 can
Blueberries Retail Price: #10 Can, 6 lbs. of blueberries $45.00, ($7.50 lb.)
Harvest Right Comparison:
6 lbs. of blueberries ($1.70 lb.) =$10.20
Power to run machine= $1.80 (approx. High because you get about two #10 cans of food per 24 hours)
Total for Harvest Right #10 can=$12.75
Savings: As much as $32.25 saved per #10 can
Peaches Retail Price: #10 Can, 7lbs. of peaches $43.00, ($6.14 lb.)
Harvest Right Comparison:
7lbs. of peaches ($.99 lb.)=$6.93
Power to run machine=$1.80 (approx. High because you get about two #10 cans of food per 24 hours)
Total for Harvest Right #10 can =$9.48
Savings: As much as $33.52 saved per #10 can
Pineapple Retail Price: #10 Can, 5 lbs. of pineapple $38.99, ($7.80 lb.)
Harvest Right Comparison:
5lbs. of pre-cut pineapple ($.89 lb.)= $4.45
Power to run machine=$1.80 (approx. High because you get about two #10 cans of food per 24 hours)
Total for Harvest Right #10 can =$7.00
Savings: As much as $31.99 saved per #10 can
Bananas Retail Price: MH #10 Can, 3 lbs. of bananas $25.69, ($8.56 lb.)
Harvest Right Comparison:
3 lbs. of bananas ($.69 lb.)= $2.07
Power to run machine= $1.80 (approx. High because you get about two #10 cans of food per 24 hours)
Total for Harvest Right #10 can=$4.62
Savings: As much as $21.07 saved per #10 can
Raspberries Retail Price: #10 can=3.5 lbs. of raspberries, $42.99, ($12.28 lb.)
Harvest Right Comparison:
3.5 lbs. of raspberries ($1.70 lb.)=$5.95
Power to run machine= $1.80 (approx. High because you get about two #10 cans of food per 24 hours)
Total for Harvest Right #10 can=$8.50
Savings: As much as $34.49 saved per #10 can
Cheddar Cheese Retail Price: #10 can= 7 lbs. of cheese, $49.95, ($7.14 lb.)
Harvest Right Comparison:
7 lbs. of cheddar cheese ($2.99 lb.) = $20.93
Power to run machine= $1.80 (approx. High because you get about two #10 cans of food per 24 hours)
Total for Harvest Right #10 can=$23.48
Savings: As much as $26.47 saved per #10 can
Mozzarella Cheese Retail Price: #10 can= 7 lbs. of cheese, $46.00, ($6.57 lb.)
Harvest Right Comparison:
7 lbs. of mozzarella cheese ($2.99 lb.)=$20.93
Power to run machine= $1.80 (approx. High because you get about two #10 cans of food per 24 hours)
Total for Harvest Right #10 can=$23.48
Savings: As much as $22.52 saved per #10 can
Those figures are misleading as they do not cover the cost of production,ie wages, taxes, ins,
facilities maintenance and depreciation, equipment repair or replacement, plus profit.
Put a pencil to your efforts and see what you could reasonably sell your finished product for.
I suspect the true savings would be less than half of what is listed.
Think about it.
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
I didn’t put a cost comparison in the original article because prices vary so widely. Of course the company will try to put their product in the best light, and as you mentioned, it’s an overly simplified analysis. That said, I do think it’s a worthwhile investment for some people.
For those with allergies, it’s nearly impossible to find food storage products that don’t have ingredients you need to avoid. We had friends over recently, and their daughter has a long list of foods she needs to avoid. No wheat, no gluten, no dairy, no tree nuts, no peanuts, no sunflower seeds (or sunflower seed oils), no soy and a few other things. I was still able to mix up an assortment of foods for snacks that allowed her to eat “normal”. I made a “cheese” dip with a pea protein based cheese spread and dried herbs, served with fresh veggies and home gluten free crackers. I made coconut oil fudge, sweetened with honey, and topped with freeze dried strawberries. My strawberries were safe for her to eat. Many commercial dried foods are coated with sunflower seed oils to prevent sticking. We had finger gelatin and fresh apple slices. As the kids spent the evening playing board games, they snacked on more freeze dried fruit. Everyone enjoyed the food, and she didn’t feel like a pariah.
For us, because we have a large garden, and will soon have a wider variety of fruits coming into production, I love the option of being able to have truly long term storage for bumper crops. I also like the convenience of having our own ready to go meals that taste good instead of “okay”. Did I absolutely need a freeze dryer? Probably not. Do I like it and find it to be a useful tool? Absolutely. Like any tool, its value depends on how you use it.
I have no opinion on these machines and only came here to read your review on them and to get a second opinion after reading the company’s Web site, but I would like to point out that the “savings” that are outlined in the company-provided information would not be realized by most owners in such a way as to justify the purchase and maintenance cost of the machine, which is clearly the way the company (and you by reprinting them) intend them to be understood.
In your review, you are honest and stated your reason for having one was an unforeseen and unlikely emergency that might prevent you from getting food from another source – “If there’s a job loss or an emergency, with my freeze dried food I know we’ll have a stash of food we actually like to eat.” Realistically and honestly, that is the only reason that 99.x% of buyers have for buying this type of unit. People with EOE represent less than 1% of the population, and the eccentric few who want to buy a $4,000 freeze drier to save a piece of their wedding cake or to continue eating their mother’s food for 25 years after she dies, can be safely dismissed as being wildly out of the normal group of buyers. That isn’t to say they aren’t important, but their use of the product is so abnormal that it is not statistically significant when evaluating the purchasing needs of the main body of consumers.
That being said, the important point to remember about the company’s claimed food savings is that they will never be realized until the entirety of the freeze dried food is consumed, and only then if they are compared to other retail FREEZE DRIED food products. For example, one item in the list is peaches, for which the company quotes a comparative retail price of $43.00 or $6.14/lb, which is the price for the canned freeze dried food equivalent, rather than standard canned food equivalent, which is also suitable for long term storage and costs FAR less. The normal retail price at Wal-Mart for a 6.6lb can of brand name peaches is $6.98, and the price for a 1.81lb can is $2.50, times 4 is $10, for more than 7 pounds. Their store brand is only $1.86 for the same 1.81lb amount. Comparing the highest of the three prices for normal hydrated canned food ($10) to the company’s estimate of $9.48 for the same amount of freeze dried peaches is only saving $0.52 per 7 pound load, not $33.52.
In addition, the company is using 24 hours for a machine cycle time in its savings estimate, which directly contradicts the time estimate on their Web site, where they give a 20-40 hour range, and state that high water content foods like fruit will take longer than low water content foods like meat. I would guess that means closer to 40 hours than 20 for peaches, but without exact data on the timing of a load of peaches, I’ll just give them the 24 hour figure, even though it seems incorrect. Using their 24 hour figure, the cost for the electricity is incorrect though, because they quote a usage amount of 900 watts by the machine, and the average price per kilowatt hour for electricity in the US is $0.12, which means that 24 x 900 = 21.6 kwh x 0.12 = $2.59 per 24 hours of run time. That’s a difference of over 79 cents per day, and $289 per year for those you say are running their units 365 days a year. While you might laugh at a <$1 cost per day, it adds up over time, and when you are making realistic comparisons to normal hydrated canned food, it represents an enormous cost factor.
Another big problem is the cost per pound of fresh fruit in their cost estimates. Since national averages are the only thing we can accurately use for the whole country, I checked the USDA Web site (they survey over 3,000 grocery store prices each week) to get the national average cost per pound of peaches last year, which was $2.50/lb. Prices are much lower in the Midwest, but the only time I ever see them for $0.99/lb is VERY infrequently as a top fold weekend sale item. The national average price last week was $2.47/lb. Raspberries, bluberries, and strawberries were also dramatically different in the official USDA average retail price list. It doesn't seem fair or accurate to use the lowest-sale-price-available-in-the-Midwest as the quoted comparative price for consumers nationwide, many of whom pay FAR more than we do.
In my opinion, the accurate cost comparison based on the real numbers would be:
Brand name canned peaches, 7.24lbs, 4 1.81lb cans x $2.50 = $10.00
Harvest Right freeze dried peaches, 7lbs:
7lbs fresh peaches x $2.50 = $17.50
Electricity 900w x 24 hours = 21.6 kwh x $0.12/kwh = $2.59
Mylar pouch = $.50 (I could be an SOB and make you use 4 pouches to be fair lol :-D)
Oxy. Absorber = $.25
Total cost of Harvest Right freeze dried peaches = $20.84
Obviously, using real world figures, the cost per batch is much higher than buying canned food at the store, but even using the company's own numbers, the cost savings is only $0.52 per BATCH. Savings per SERVING would be substantially less, because the bacth sizes are often dozens of servings. I won't go through data for all of the other real canned food prices for the examples the company gave, but they are all as large or larger than the difference with the peaches. Canned hydrated meat also is the same.
Therefore, given that the machine costs a few thousand dollars, you would need to eat several thousand BATCHES, not servings (careful here), to recover the cost of the machine, and since each batch has dozens of servings in it, you are talking about needing to consume many tens of thousands of servings to recover your investment. Of course, this also assumes that there is no maintenance cost whatsoever for the machine.
One other thing I noticed that you didn't mention in your discussion of how you packaged the food, was how the food got in the Mylar bag. I am assuming you use a machine like a FoodSaver vacuum sealer, which would also need to be purchased. My quick look on the Web shows they cost between $50 for the bargain cheapie model to $200 for the heavy duty model. I am going to guess if you are using it to do several pounds of food every single day, you would probably not be well served by the cheapest model, but I don't have one and don't know how well they work. The cost of the FoodSaver device, while small relative to the cost of the freeze drying machine, should also be considered if it is going to be another $150 expense.
I think a more pragmatic view on these devices would be that they are very good and useful for people who have a necessity for freeze drying for a specific purpose such as treating a food allergy, saving their wedding cake, or saving their mother's food for 10 years after she dies, and who have enough disposable income to make cost irrelevant. It also sounds great for people who prefer eating freeze dried food more than regular food for reasons of personal taste or convenience, and who also have enough disposable income to indulge their preference. However, on a strictly cost-savings basis, it would seem almost impossible to recover the cost of the device in the savings achieved over simply going to Sam's Club, Costco, Wal-Mart, or Aldi and buying a bunch of normal canned food.
Most importantly, for those consumers who are getting their food via food stamps or other subsidized program/source, the cost of a normally hydrated canned food stockpile would be fully funded by that subsidized source, whereas to do the freeze drying they would have to use their own money for the machine and supplies and maintenance, so that would be another factor for those on a budget to consider.
One last point – There is also a distinct advantage to having real canned food, rather than freeze dried, for people who purchase systems for the reason you did (emergencies), because rehydrating food requires a supply of clean water, which may be unavailable during/after a natural disaster. Hydrated food requires nothing but an opener.
Loved your review, and thought it very informative! Thanks, and good job! 🙂
Very detailed analysis.
You’re absolutely correct in that this is not a low budget machine, and that the Harvest Right numbers may be a best/worst (depending on how you look at it) scenario. The thing is, I’d say that the odds are that people who buy a freeze dryer with saving money on food storage as their primary goal are probably one in a million. It’s a high end food preservation machine. That’s why I still feature a wide variety of other food preservation techniques on the site.
That said, some of the same people who shop at Walmart to save money on food would thing nothing about blowing hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on cable TV or entertainment tickets or 6 wheelers or new phones or bling or… I choose to invest in another food preservation option that I can trust. It’s worth it to me (and many thousands of other customers) to have a wider variety of food options in storage.
One factor you failed to note in your analysis was rising food prices. In ten years, that canned food stash will taste like can, but the foods I freeze dried will still likely be in good condition – and harvested at home or purchased at today’s lower prices.
The Mylar bags (or canning jars) and oxygen absorbers are an additional cost. Mason jars can be vacuum sealed using the freeze dryer itself with just the vacuum pump turned on. To seal my Mylar bags, I picked up an old hair straightening iron at the thrift store for $2. Works like a charm.
In the various posts in the Preparedness series, I do mention the need for extra water (and water filtration) if you stock dried food items for emergencies. The freeze dried foods are very light and easy to carry – easier than cans, even when you add in the container of water to rehydrate. Pretty much everything we’ve freeze dried has tasted good dried, even without being rehydrated, so in a pinch you could even stack and drink water.
And one other thing – EOE is rare (thankfully) but the rates of food allergies are sky high. I have a close friend who deals with several family members with a variety of allergies, and I think the average allergy free person would be surprised at how difficult it is to find safe foods. Dried fruit (like raisins) are coated with sunflower or other oils to reduce sticking. Many prepackaged items have sulfates or other preservatives that they need to avoid. Carrageenan is a common thickening agent that raises hell with gut health. Dairy, soy – they’re in so many products. And sugars! Ugh. It’s amazing how many savory foods are loaded with sugar.
I am very new to the concept of home canning, dehydrating and freeze drying. I can see where a mix could be beneficial to many home and lifestyles. It’s funny that I just discovered the Harvert Right line a day or so ago and the your very informative review. My question is how potatoes, corn on the cob, tomatoes and other similar “home garden” vegetables hold up and if they need any special care?
Potatoes, corn and tomatoes do require some prep before freeze drying. Potatoes should be cooked in some fashion, and sliced, shredded, cubed or mashed.You always want to avoid trying to freeze dry food that is too thick, because it’s next to impossible to get the center completely dry. (This is similar to dehydrating.) If there’s an “instant” store potato product, you could probably make a homemade version for freeze drying.
I wouldn’t try corn on the cob, but corn boiled and sliced off the cob is delicious. It tastes amazingly fresh. The kernels are light and crisp, not chewy like dehydrated corn – great for snacking.
Tomatoes are very high in liquid, so they’d take a long time to dry. You couldn’t do whole tomatoes, because the moisture can’t escape through the skin. They’d need to be sliced or chopped, and draining off excess juice before drying would be a good idea.
I’ve seriously thought about purchasing a home freeze dryer. Does anyone have a comparison of cost between purchased freeze dried foods vs home freeze dried foods? Laura in your review you mentioned freeze dried milk, is it possible to freeze dry goats milk? If so how long would it last as it is full fat?
There’s a site called Family Canning that does cost analysis of freeze dried food in extreme detail. You can check out their numbers here – https://www.familycanning.com/freeze-drying/cost-analysis/
Goat’s milk should freeze dry as well or better than cow’s milk. I know people freeze dry human breast milk, too. I would think that it should have at least a 5-10 shelf life if properly stored.
Canned goods have varying shelf lives. But generally about 5 years, and less for high acid items. Freeze dried, by comparison, will last at least 20 years; potentially longer. The monetary issue says to me “yes this is costly, but if you use this enough, you will actually recover a significant part of the cost”.
Pretty much everything you said except the “canned goods have varying shelf lives” is incorrect. If you go to the store today and buy a can of corn or green beans, your grandchildren will be very safe eating it decades after you’ve died. Dates on cans are selected unscientifically by whatever the manufacturer decides is desireable for market conditions (store display rotation, label style changes, appearance, etc.), not because the product is not good after that date. Water is dated for the same reasons. Cans of food more than a hundred years old have been recovered and eaten from shipwrecks and basements with no ill effects. The US used to keep its fallout shelters stocked with canned food in 25 year lots. Very high acid content foods such as raw tomatoes or pineapple have shorter shelf lives, but those foods would never be chosen for 25 year storage by any means anyway.
The monetary issue should say to you “yes, this is costly, and no matter how much you use it, you will never recover the cost.” That’s why I gave specific verfiable data for the points I made, all of which can be very quickly and easily checked online, while ALL of the data the company gives for their figures is directly contradicted by every bit of available online data. As I proved with objective third party data, there is either no savings whatsoever or a savings of a few cents per BATCH, not serving, which means no savings at all over the life of the machine. That is because if you use it enough to make those few cents add up to hundreds of dollars, you’ll need to pay additional costs for maintenance on the machine which will absorb the savings.
In other words, it’s kinda like buying a Tesla to save money because you worship Elon Musk and blindly believe everything he says. After personally owning a Tesla, I can tell you that you will NOT save money by owning one, and if you thought you would, you need to learn to evaluate corporate sales pitches better. Obviously, if Teslas paid for themselves or saved people money, virtually 100% of the population would have bought one a long time ago. Same thing with freeze drying machines.
These machines have benefits of course, but you should think of them as a luxury item like a premium cable channel, a Ferrari, or a Blu-ray player. All are great products, very useful, fun to own, and can make your life better, but none are going to save you any money.
I guess that’s all true enough, if one enjoys eating food that tastes like the inside of a can…
Well, given that the average household canned food consumption in the US is 600 cans per household, and over 200 billion cans of food are sold every year worldwide, it’s a safe bet that one won’t mind the taste too much. Also, since BillH was talking about surviving some cataclysm for 20 years of time, I am guessing that not being able to bathe, have a working flush toilet, or having any electricity or motor vehicle will be a LOT harder to bear than the suffering of having to eat corn that comes from a can rather than a Mylar bag. lol
Given the results seen after natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, I don’t think the majority of can buyers (or the majority of people, period) would survive 20 weeks, let alone 20 years, so it’s pretty much a moot point. I (and I suspect, a number of my readers), rarely buy standard commercial canned goods due to concerns with contamination from herbicides, fungicides and other things I’d rather not eat. (I find canned peas particularly unpleasant.) Freeze dried food may indeed be a “luxury” item, but it’s certainly a much more practical luxury item than most of the things that people blow money on.
EXACTLY. You’re proving my point. In the case of a natural disaster, all of you would be a long time dead before the 20 year mark ever arrived, so asserting that freeze dried food is better because it is going to last longer than cans is ridiculous. Your point about not wanting to eat any food you haven’t grown yourself in a hermetically sealed lab so that you never get any herbicides or fungicides in it is a very valid one, and I agree. I similarly do not like to eat any food unless it is with my solid silver tableware so that it can sterlize any contaminants that might be present in my food, and I always wear a gas mask when I go outside my home so that I don’t have to breathe all the toxic fumes from the motor vehicles that seem to be everywhere nowadays. If only we could jail all the farmers who use powered tractors and vehicles instead of the time-honored tradition of hand tilling and picking their fields, we would be a much healthier people! We could ban Buccaneer too! Write your congressman! 😉
Yep, you’re absolutely right. I’m so anti-technology that I went out and got a silly math and physics degree and mechanical engineering degree. What was I thinking? I also built an ICF house with that dangerous internet stuff and electricity, instead of living in a mud hut and communicating to people around the globe with passenger pigeons. Oh, the horror! I’ll have to talk to the husband about that hermetically sealed lab for food growing, though, since mostly we’ve been growing it outside in the dirt and composted manure. Maybe we could add it to the underground bunker near the thorium reactor.
Good grief Jay, please stop trying to prove your point and let us be interested in freeze drying. If you’re not, please move along. There is nothing here for you to see.
Heidi, this is just a fun discussion. No one is really taking any of it seriously, I’m sure. Take it all with a good sense of humor. 😉
Wink faces do not make insults fun. True story.
Hi Laurie. If someone has misunderstood my posts and thought they were meant as insults, please delete them all, including this one. My intention was simply to cite some simple math to illustrate a factual point that had not been stated here and that I thought might be helpful to those who were evaluating the ROI of a unit. I certainly did not intend for them to be insulting in any way to anyone, and thought they were even a little bit humorous, which is why I put a wink face after some of them. Given the type of responses my information has generated though, apparently my data was just beyond the understanding of many people reading it, so I would rather just have it deleted so it does not continue to confuse people. I would delete the posts myself but don’t know how, or if it is even possible for a user. Thanks in advance, and sorry for any trouble and/or confusion generated by me or my posts, as that was not my intention.
I don’t believe your posts were misunderstood at all, including this one.
First of all, I was not talking about being able to store food with 20 year shelf life so that I can store 20 years of food. I have been prepping (in some informal sense) for some time now. You don’t just prep for a disaster that happens this week. You prep for a disaster in the far future. If your stored food doesn’t have a long shelf life, only very rigorous inventory control (rotation) will prevent spoilage.
You must be new to prepping.
My statements on shelf life of commercially canned food are based on my EXPERIENCE, NOT some blog statements about rare cases of very old food being eaten without harm. I have thrown way more canned food than I like to think about. If the can is bulged out on the ends, then botulism is present. For safety, I throw out all cans for the same items of the same age. Survival isn’t just about doing things like preps. It is about NOT doing things that are life threatening.
It isn’t just raw tomatoes and pineapple that are acidic and thus have short shelf lives. All tomato-based products have the issue. Tomato sauce and paste, sardines in tomato sauce, and ravioli are examples. Not to mention many canned fruits. These are items that you want to have in your diet, canned or otherwise.
I stand by my statements. Two years for acidic foods and five for others. Double that is quite possible and ideal, but introduces risk. Risking food poisoning is not a recipe for survival, as I see it.
Thank you, Bill.
exactly ….thinking I was preparing and stocking up on canned goods,,,,my fruit based canned goods started blowing up….so canned goods are NOT the way to go
LOVED the review, Laurie. Please don’t take the “in your face” comments from others to heart as they must not know how their food is canned, prepared, or grown or they wouldn’t really challenge your review. Your review convinced me to buy one based on a few of your points. I can’t wait to get it. I am buying it because of the prepping aspect in addition to drought and other natural disasters possibilities. I am prepping for my whole family, so I don’t care what the cost is, how much per serving, whether it’s economical, practical, or anything else. I am most interested in the QUALITY and being able to prepare for my future while I can. Your article and review were excellent and it covered a lot. Thanks for taking the time to share with us!!
Thank you, Chris, and I hope you find your freeze dryer as useful as we find ours.
Lets not forget what to me is the most important. The foods you grow can be pesticide free non gmo poison. That would be worth how much?
The commenter who argues about “cost-effectiveness” makes sense only if he can prove to me that one can eat currency and get nutritional value from it, and survive… or lick ones hand held display screen showing their savings account balance, and get their RDA of protien and calories.
The point I see the author making is to use something while it is available without massive control (currency and electricity), to create something that will keep one alive for 3 years and beyond, when money will be useless and electricity just may be permanently out… along with the Internet.
In my view, this website is priceless and full of amazing Off-Grid hints which could enable one to be fully full food and water independent in as little as 6 months, if one performs the due diligence and planning and is not afraid to reduce their savings to gain sustenance to survive for quite a long time in the event of a massive lock-down again or worse.
Yes, the Harvest Right is “expensive” but it spins pure gold that one can eat and sustain one’s self… when the word “expensive” will not equate to worthless cash… but a barter system, where if one has freeze dried packages, they can trade for items they want, with others who don’t have what one has.
There is no such a thing as “cost-effective” when the items being weighed against each other are, on the one hand, useless fiction that will soon go digital, and on the other hand, pure life-sustaining food for years to come in one’s own home.
Banks print fiction.
The Harvest Right is like a legal currency maker in one’s own home… for a currency that will soon outweigh in value any fiction very soon. I am almost sort of surprised that this method of survival hasn’t been declared illegal *chuckle* because people like me see its worth as higher than any paper, metal or rock.
Well… I just wanted to express my opinion. The guy going on about saving worthless fiction to spite something that can still be gotten, but not for long, sort of beggared my sensibilities and logic.
Don’t give the powers that be any ideas about making it illegal. There’s already stuff on the books about “hoarding” that I suspect could be used to justify all sorts of interference.
Inflation is getting uglier every day, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Yep! Mis-Leading. But not because of the obvious reason! Your not comparing apples to apples. Once you’ve freeze dried, it can’t be compared to a canned product for price due to a couple of reasons. 1) it is not a canned product with a relatively short shelf life. 2) it’s not being compared as a *per serving* cost. 3) freeze dried lasts for upwards of 20 years.
Compare the prices of bulk fruit packages to one of the “Survival Food” places, 1 Bag/28 1/4 c servings costs $42.00. .84 a serving.
So with all the other costs, what is the price per serving when all is said and done, and what is the *value* of having great food around for up to 20+ years if SHTF?
I found another interesting snippet at Food Assets Shelf Life of Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Food:
JayWindthowup, you sound like you’re in politics. You completely spin things, bend facts to support a narrative, and then when everyone proves you are a misinformed pompous jerk who is convinced his head is a suppository, you simply say it’s everyone else being too stupid to understand your message. Find out how that explanation worked for the last presidential candidate that used it. If I’d never owned a car are even seen one I wouldn’t be so full of myself to go on and on about em.
I am thinking about purchasing a freeze dryer from Harvest Right. Thank you for posting this article with some of the things I can’t learn from their website. I look forward to reading more of your successes as well as any failures you may have with this machine.
Glad you found it helpful, Leslie. I have a load of green beans in right now that I sauteed. Since they have butter, they won’t keep as long as plain beans, but I think they’ll be more flavorful to heat and eat as a side dish.
Love reading your thoughts on this topic…. quick question, with the butter added to your green beans how will you judge the shelf-life..
We’ll plan on using those within 5 years, which should be well within the range for good food quality.
Hi again Laurie. I made and freeze dried potato soup that has milk and butter in it. Do you think that the shelf life would be 5 years? Anything with butter or milk 5 years? What about things with tomato base like spaghetti? On a different note, can I freeze dry fruit like blueberries that came FROZEN, without cutting them in half or poking holes in them? Do I have to cut FRESH blueberries or raspberries in half or can I freeze them first and then freeze dry whole? Thanks
It’s really tough to say exactly how long things will last in storage, because there’s so much variation in home products. I think 5 years would be given, but up to 10 years would be likely.
I tried freeze drying blueberries that came frozen, and ended up with a half-dry sticky mess. We tried briefly pulsing them in the food processor to nick the skins, but instead it cut some in half and did nothing to others. I put the half-dried berries in the freezer and have been using them in baking. These were larger berries – I don’t know if wild blueberries would work better since they have a smaller diameter.
I think fresh raspberries would work better, since they don’t have the waxy coating of blueberries. I know I’ve seen photos online of home freeze dried raspberries. I’m hoping for a good season this year so we have enough of our own berries to give it a try.
In the sparring comments with Mr. Jay, I don’t believe the vastly superior nutritional value of FD food was mentioned, nor, how we can make our own CONVENIENCE healthy snacks that ARE NOT available commercially: Where can I find pineapple/spinach/mixed greens/sweet pepper/yogurt FD crispies, slightly sweetened w/stevia??? And if we’re growing a lot of our own food to FD, there’s little to no expense there (of course I ONLY plant my saved heirloom seed). And Mr. Jay should deduct some expense for the physical exercise we partake in, that benefits the whole body (and mind), and most likely saves us on medical costs…
Get THAT out of a can, if you can…
I’m with you, but it’s not for everyone. We love being able to have food that we trust in long term storage, rather than dealing with ingredient lists a mile long, or food that tastes like “can”.
Thank you.I have been interested in the freeze drying process. I purchase freeze dried foods from commercial sources, but have considered doing it my self. Your video was helpful.
Thanks for the review. It answered a number of questions and concerns that I had.
I’ve been dehydrating for about 10 years and canning for over 30 years and would love to be able to add freeze drying to my options, but $3k is a bit much for me. I’ll keep an eye out and get one when the price comes down, if it comes down.
They have a sale on until the end of November – $500 off plus free starter kit of bags and sealer. I’m considering the small unit, which with shipping will be about $2500. I’m 60 years old and the price of food will just keep going up, so this is one way to save money for the future.
I think there is a $900 of right now from Harvest Right. I’m a first timer on freeze drying and I couldn’t be happier. Yes you can buy the store bought stuff but I’m very sensitive to the preservatives some of them use. When I do my own I have control over what goes into my food and also I have control over how much I bag or jar. Great for camping or one of those nights I just don’t feel like cooking.
If you go to their site and sign up, they will send you notices when they have a sale going on.
thanks for the great review. I have looked at their web site several times and almost “pulled the trigger.” now I am much closer thanks to your review. If you can come up with a discount for purchase through your site, count me in.
Planning to contact them this week and show them the comments on this post. 🙂
I would definitely be interested in a “reader’s discount”, Laurie! I’ve been eyeballing Harvest Right for a little while after seeing you freeze dry some items. Price is the ONLY reason I’ve not ordered one yet.
I too am among those that have held off due to cost concerns. The second reason is the maintenance. I read another detailed review about the unit on a blog about 4-5 years ago that experienced very similar results as you, so I would buy it if I could afford it.
On that note, the cost comparison is EXCELLENT! Most importantly is you can’t buy a lot of freeze dried ORGANIC foods, much less tasty meals. That alone is sufficient motivation.
So here’s my solution. Start a club or Co-op. Just for the unit. Each member “owns” the unit and signs up for its use. You would only need 3-5 people and that would be easy to coordinate. I would keep it in the sugar shack for my use, until winter, then move it inside. I also thought about asking my food Co-op to purchase one for members to use, with an additional cost, of course.
And, the price has come down from when I first looked at these.
Great article Laurie and so relevant. I’m gonna pin the pic of you and the unit to my homestead board.
That would be a great solution if you had members you were very comfortable working with who lived nearby. The unit is heavy, so it’s definitely something you don’t want to move more than you need to. Also, high humidity is not great for performance, so climate controlled conditions are best if available.
Yes, I thought of that after I posted my comment. And I also thought that there would have to be a solid contract or agreement, due to food bourne illnesses, the maintenance issues and our litigious leanings. So a small town set up or Co-op set up would likely never fly for those reasons. This would work for a small group of people in a gun club or CSA.
What kind of cautionary notes regarding food safety, did Harvest Right post with the instructions?
I’d have to double check, but if I recall correctly, there’s not much mention of food safety. I expect they figure people will use their common sense.
I was in a situation previously where a simple trailer was shared between family members. Every time a particular member of the extended family (brother in law of my brother in law) used the trailer, it would come back with lights busted or some other damage. One time I used it after he had used it (and didn’t notice the damage immediately) and it shorted out the lights on my van so we ended up driving home in the dark with no headlights. Thankfully the moon was really bright that night and we didn’t have too far to go. My brother in law eventually gave up his claim to the “family” trailer, because he got tired of fixing it after his brother in law trashed it.
We have now had our machine for 3 mths,still experimenting with it. Had problem with spray called harvest Right no answer back, but after reading your comment about oil level…will put a little less oil in. Have had little trouble with dryness after machine says it’s done(you need to double double check product before selecting done). So far only using mason jars….want to watch if product tries to reconstitute. Over all we think it’s a great machine. Tomorrow doing 5 dozen eggs
Thanks for sharing your experience. My son is talking over my shoulder…
He said that the trick they figured out is to make sure the drain valve is open and turn on the pump (very briefly)by plugging it into the wall and flipping the switch. When the pump kicks on, the siteglass will show the real oil level while, which is typically much higher than when the unit is off. Then they adjust as necessary and recheck.
I try to make sure to cut everything as even as possible, and not too thick, and not spread anything too thick. I initially started packing in mason jars, but then I had vacuum seals opening in storage, so I switched to Mylar for things I’m planning to store longer that I trust are dry. We always eat a few thick pieces of each batch to double check, too. I ordered plenty of oxygen absorbers, so those are going into both mason jars and the Mylar.
It’s finally cooling off here so I’ll be able to run the machine more again and experiment more. We had high temps and humidity for much of the summer, which just killed the performance since my unit is currently in the garage.
Hello Laurie, I personally prefer using Mason jars since they are varmin-proof, also, I’m not at all sure Mylar won’t eventually leach unnatural things into my food over long periods of time. Here’s a trick to prevent jar seals from failing: vacuum seal your food with an oxygen eater as usual, then turn your seals jars upside down in a box and pour about two inches of bentonite clay into the box so that your jar lids are completely buried. Among many other uses, bentonite clay is a desiccant sometimes used in place of silica gel, so it serves to not only keep air away from the jars but also absorb any moisture in your long term storage boxes. I buy bentonite clay in 50 pound bags for just $9.10 at our local feed store, it’s super-cheap and very useful. Believe it or not, applying poultices made with bentonite clay and activated charcoal several times a day for three weeks completely healed my baseball-sized brown recluse spider bite last year, the stuff is magic!
I hadn’t heard of that storage method before, but I have heard about the wonders of bentonite clay. Glad that it took care of your bite. Brown recluse bites can be so dangerous. Right now I don’t have nearly enough jars (we still do quite a bit of canning, too), but may have to go on the hunt for more.
What about upside down dipping in melted wax a few times to build up a thick air-tight coating (less heavy-storage)? But the bentonite clay idea also sounds amazing, if your statistics are correct. Have you tried this, and do you have any long-term statistics as to the viability of the food, after storage and upon consumption?
I was also thinking that if packages and jars, etc are waxed, that they are impervious to water damage from floods, humidity, etc.
I’m interested in maintence, please tell me more. Do you have to change oil after every run time or several run times?
It’s best if you drain it after each use, but it only takes a few minutes. I freeze my oil and then pour it into a filter, leaving the icy bits behind in the original container. The filter I’m using now is an old Brita pitcher. Instead of a Brita filter, it has a tightly rolled section of toilet paper inside a coffee filter. Inexpensive and it works beautifully
I would love to see a picture or pictures of your “filter” when you make a new one. Still using the one it came with but it’s slowing down. I am also freezing my oil before I put it through the filter. The water and the little particles freeze and the oil just gets sluggish. My oil looks a lot better since I started doing this. I keep 2 sets of oil going so it doesn’t slow me down! LOL! Thanks for all of your posts and help. It has really made this a lot easier for me and I’m sure everyone else on your blog. I am making HuliHuli chicken today, some to eat for dinner and the rest to freeze dry. Hope it turns out!!
I’ll do my best to get some photos and video up on the site in the next couple of weeks.
Yes I have also been looking into freeze drying but have not been able to afford it , how much is this unit
As noted in the post, just under $3000 for this unit and other colors. Stainless steel units are just over $3K.
I think that I am just about ready to purchase one. There is only my husband and myself, would the small unit be good for us? Should I spend the extra money on the stainless or are the colors just as good. Are they offering any specials right now? Thanks
The small freeze dryer holds 4 to 6 pounds of fresh food, the standard holds 7 to 10 pounds, and the large holds 12 to 16 pounds. I personally am not a fan of stainless, but it’s trendy right now in appliances so I’m sure that’s why they stock it. The underlying material is the same, it just has a different finish. I’d rather put my money towards a bigger freeze dryer.
As to which is better, it really depends on how much you think you would use it. I know a lot of people say, “Get the biggest one you can afford”, but if you don’t tend to be a big batch cooker or have a lot of produce to store at one time, the small unit is likely to work just fine.
On the flip side, if you’ve decided that you’re serious about stocking up and want to prep a year (or two) of meals (or more), or are willing to prep extra for friends and family, the standard unit could help you do that significantly faster. For instance, we’ve prepared emergency meals for my in-laws in addition to the ones for ourselves. The meals are also good simply to have on hand when you don’t feel like cooking, or when you get busy with other projects and then realize it’s time for supper and you haven’t thawed meat or soaked beans or done any other prep you really should have done sooner. Home freeze dried food tastes like food, not package or preservatives. I had some samples out during our recent open house and people kept coming back for more.
They have the standard discount running now with Small units starting at $1795, standard at $2195, and 0% interest financing.
Laurie! Was pleased to read your review. I too, have a HR and LOVE it! One thing I did choose to add to my arsenal for safety was a FLIR thermal imaging camera. With one easy picture, I can quickly identify areas on the tray that might not be completely dry, and pose an issue for long term storage. The image will show as being “cold” in the area that is not completely dry. In the MANY loads I have done, I have only had one that didn’t pass (the pre-mashed potatoes) the very center of the tray was still cold. I was able to quickly extend the dry period for a couple more hours and produce a perfectly done product with no fear! Looking forward to reading your future adventures!
Whoa – that’s hardcore. How much did that cost (if you don’t mind my asking)? We usually taste test any thick spots.
No problem! I purchased the one that attaches to the Android Cell phone. No need for one of the REAL expensive ones! It was about $250. For me, and mine . . . it’s worth the investment. I also found that I could find wax moth larva in my beehives with it, so I’m real pleased! 🙂 http://www.flir.com/store/
How do you use it to find the moth larva? We’re hoping to get bees next year.
Wow! Like Laurie says, that’s hardcore! I’m impressed! I’m just starting to research freeze drying, and this is exactly the type of tip that I like to see. For us to reproduce the conditions that commercial freeze dry operations use, this would certainly help us with consistent results.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with home freeze drying so thoroughly and honestly. I’m currently working on a feature article for farmers regarding the freeze drying process, and am searching for someone with experience with this home unit to interview.
If you’re willing to consider being an interviewee for this article, I can privately send you more information on the publication I’m writing for, who its audience is, more about who I am, etc., to help you make a decision. In most cases, interviewees’ websites are included in a resources section of the articles. I am working on a deadline, though, so would need to hear from you soon.
Barbara – shoot me an email at laurie at commonsensehome dot com.
Thanks so much for your reviewing and teaching about Harvest Right, I have been coveting them and learning all things freeze dried so when I can afford ( or I win one of the contests for a reduced price) I will be ready to go 🙂
I especially like your review of the cost breakdowns from Harvest Right. I have been talking to everyone one I meet/know about Harvest Right… I work/live with a high population of preparedness people so I shared your blog and review with them.
Glad that you enjoyed the review. We’re currently prepping pears. Freeze dried fruit is tastier than candy, and I’m hoping to preserve enough to use some for Christmas gift giving.
Do pears need any special prep done … ie, do you have to ‘treat’ with a citric wash first to prevent browning?
I usually dip mine in acid water (typically lemon water) to prevent browning. If you could load your trays quickly, you might be able to get away without it.
Hi Laurie! Thanks for such a thorough review. This looks like a terrific way to preserve food and a huge cost savings. I imagine it would pay for itself in no time. BTW, I love the t-shirt you were wearing in the video – “Everything I want to do is illegal”. Good one!
Glad you like the review and the shirt. I got the shirt from Polyface Farm (Joel Salatin).
So if you ate a piece of freeze dried food, whatever it was, before re-constituting it, would it reconstitute in your stomach? Just curious. Really looking hard into this, but let me ask you…hypothetically (think conceptually here now, not literally like “well canning doesn’t last 10 years”…that is irrelevant to the question). Lets say you made a great big wonderful Thanksgiving dinner that you and your family absolutely loved, and you took 1/3rd of it and freeze dried it, took another 1/3rd and de-hydrated it, and then you took another 1/3rd of it and canned it. Lets say the doomsday preppers were right and there was an apocalyptic event and the stores were closed for a LONG time…10 years go by in fact. With me so far? OK, you haven’t had a great meal like that in the longest time and you had forgotten all about those dinners…you run across quite by accident one day way in the back shelves of your pantry, and you and your family decided to have one. But you could only choose one. You and your family is really excited about having a grand old Thanksgiving dinner again that you haven’t had in ages…which would you choose to eat? Would you be more inclined to eat the reconstituted freeze dried thanksgiving dinner, the reconstituted de-hydrated thanksgiving dinner, or the canned dinner?
Reconstituted freeze dried dinner – no question. I can’t safely can or dehydrate a number of the foods I regularly make for Thanksgiving.
When you eat freeze dried food without reconstituting, yes, it rehydrates in your stomach. If you eat a larger amount, you’d certainly want plenty of liquid to go with, or you’d be passing a brick later. That is an advantage of canning things that are safe to can. Compared to dehydrated foods, I’ve found freeze dried foods rehydrate more quickly and easily.
Would this still be cost effective if you didn’t have a garden?
Like any tool, it depends on how you use it. While we focus largely on produce that we grow, you could also bulk buy produce at a discount and preserve it. The same goes for meat, dairy or anything else you care to stock up on. People use it to preserve batch cooking or leftovers. If you use it regularly to stock up on foods at better prices and eat what you preserve, it would be worth it. Food prices rarely go down in the long term, so I look at it as part of our investment strategy. What we put up in food will still be worth as much or more as it is today in five years. I can’t say the same for the money I have in the bank.
I’ve been looking at this, but the cost for me would be prohibitive and the oil maintenance and issues would prove to be problematic with me.
Sometimes a group purchase can make it work. Other times you end up sticking with other food preservation methods. I’m glad that a home freeze drying option is available, but it took me a while to take the plunge, too.
Thank you for this article! I want a freeze dryer for making soups for travel or soup for my dogs, that just need water. Do you think that bone broth, with meat and veggies would freeze dry well? How lean does it all need to be? You mentioned fat doesn’t freeze dry well.
A little fat isn’t an issue, it’s just extremely high fat products that don’t work well. Items that contain fat will have a shelf life of around 5 years properly stored instead of 20 years. If you’re comfortable eating it, odds are it isn’t too much fat.
I just found you via Mother Earth News online Homesteading Summit with host Marjory Wildcraft. I haven’t been successful downloading your bread baking pdf from that show, but found this Harvest Right freeze-drying review roaming around your site. I’m hooked on your common sense approach, and I have a unit on layaway. The latest I read from Harvest Right: Three sizes – the first regular one and now a larger one and a smaller one – at three prices. They also have drawings for give-aways and monthly sales on the units and related supplies.
PS: On your bread-baking video from the Summit this morning I did not catch the name of the yeast you used. Could you spell it for me, please? I am really interested in reading more.
Welcome Marsha. I’ll be sending out the link to that download again this Saturday for those who missed it. I also forgot the bread recipe in the first version I put on the site – whoops! That’s what I get for working too late at night.
The troubleshooting guide is based on this post – https://commonsensehome.com/bake-perfect-bread/, and there are links to bread recipes there, too. The yeast that I use most often is called Saf Instant yeast.
Harvst Right did just come out with new sizes. I need to update the post!
I am glad I came across this post, I have been thing Harvest Right for a while, but I feel it is a bit pricey as we are just a two member household. Are there any discounts available on these any time of the year ?
They do regularly run promotions. I just got an email about their November promotion yesterday.
They’ve also recently introduced a slightly smaller unit at a lower price point.
Just curious does it run your electric bill up super high? I’m interested in buying one to make dog/cat food. Mine already eat a freeze dried food from the store and it gets expensive. Wondering if this would be worth it.
No, it doesn’t draw a lot of juice. I haven’t noticed a significant shift in our electric bills (nothing like running the AC, for instance). I’ll make a note to hunt down the Kill-a-Watt meter and hook it up to see what the load is.
Great article on freeze drying. If a person wanted to kick it up another notch, or two, a refrigerated cold trap inline between the vacuum pump and the freeze dryer unit would capture most of the water vapor and particulates, (they chill to -55 C or -105 C depending on model), thereby protecting the vacuum pump and oil. This would make a big difference in extending the life of the vacuum pump, pump oil, maintaining the low vacuum, and lessening maintenance on the vacuum pump/oil changes. Having to constantly drain the oil, freeze it to freeze out the water, and filter to remove ice and particulates, would be unnecessary or greatly reduced. Traps can be found on the used market to reduce costs, but they are still a significant investment. And, replacing the provided vacuum pump with a much higher quality corrosion resistant pump with an integral recirculating oil filter system and exhaust oil mist filter, would greatly improve performance and durability. While very serviceable, the included vacuum pump is not corrosion resistant, and will eventually wear out with subsequent loss in vacuum ability. The inclusion of an exhaust oil mist filter greatly reduces the escape of oil mist by allowing the exhaust oil mist to re-condense and return into the pump. Furthermore, oversized oil mist filters are available that really do an amazing job of capturing practically all of the oil mist. Either way no more oil soaked messy sock filters! And with the recirculating oil filter it does not get much better. High quality pumps are quite expensive, but they last a long time with proper periodic maintenance (that equates to using a cold trap and periodically changing oil). Often they can be found on the used market. These upgrades do cost, but they make for a very nice dependable system. The Welch Freeze Dryer Pump System 8917A-80 is one such pump. A used pump without the oil filtration accessory can be more easily found, with great savings in price, and retrofitted with a new oil filter accessory. Such a system with a good cold trap and corrosion resistant vacuum pump with recirculating oil filter would be the cat’s meow. Just a thought…
Say David, sounds like you have some experience with vacuum pumps. Can I contact you when I need to replace mine? Where would one find a used refrigerated cold trap?
Vacuum technology is a huge field with countless applications, and while I’m no expert by any means it does make for fascinating study for the technically curious among us. Sure, contact me when you are ready to replace your vacuum pump and I’ll point out some options.
Ebay is a good place to start. Right now there happens to be a used Welch 8917A-80 listed. As far as used refrigerated cold traps go, or vacuum pumps as well, there are lots of used scientific equipment sellers. If you are near a major big city there may very well be some local sellers. Its almost a certainty. Otherwise the internet of course. A search using the model name and number, with ‘used’, is very effective. Ebay again is a good start.
The Thermo Savant ( older models have the brand name Savant) RVT4104 Refrigerated Vapor Trap goes to -104 C or -105 C, and they are common on Ebay and with numerous sellers. They have a digital temperature gauge, which is essential to know what the temperature is and see it is working properly while in use. They are very heavy. Two strong people to lift it. Be aware there are 115 volt and 230 volt models. Google the model to find all the technical info. They require a silicone heat transfer fluid called Cryocool (expensive, but shop around on google- around $147.00/liter) that is contained in the refrigerated stainless steel reservoir, and a removable glass trap (4 liter size) sits in that which connects to the vacuum line in and out. A liter of Cryocool lasts a long time (part number SCC1). There is an old style glass trap insert, and a new style. New style seems more common. Old style simpler but more delicate glass connections to the vacuum line (which requires thick walled rubber vacuum hose, Savant quick connects are not necessary but are very convenient). Some used chillers come with a glass trap, some don’t. The glass traps are very expensive new.
Another source is on Labx.com where lots of used equipment dealers advertise. Just looking around that website provides lots of leads for used equipment sellers. Freight costs add to the price. Finding a local dealer is nice to help in case there is any problem with a unit. Just make sure the unit has been tested and reaches its low temp of -104 C/-105 C as getting repairs done can be very expensive and requires a specialist. A good unit should last a long time-years of service. But there are plenty of “parts only” non-working units that require fixing. Avoid those. Incidentally, some units happen to chill to a lower temperature than others-luck of the draw. All go to -104 C, some even reach a bit colder (even to -111 C/-112 C but that is not common) .
The Thermo Savant RVT400 Refrigerated Vapor Trap goes to -50 C and is smaller (about by half in foot print) and much less weight (still heavy), and cheaper. But it does not have a digital temperature gauge, so impossible to monitor temperature while in use. One can test the unit by immersing a suitable thermometer in the Cryocool fluid with the glass trap removed. Also, a colder trap works even better for removing water vapor (review cryopumping for explanation). Your choice if you decide to go with Savant. The RVT4104-120 (120 volt version) with the digital thermometer is a better choice I think. Search online for the instruction manual to familiarize yourself with operation and simple maintenance. Older model manuals will refer to old style glass trap use. Newer manual for use with newer glass trap design. Have fun.
Those sound pretty huge. I’m not sure where I could put something that big near my unit.
David, depending on the oil in the vacuum pump, a cold trap could get cold enough to cause back streaming from the pump. Pressures (500mT) aren’t low enough for the oil itself to be cryopumped (~1mT), but contaminants in the oil might. That might actually be an advantage in that it would clean up the oil a bit. I don’t know what temperature would be optimum, but I suspect that -30 would be cold enough to prevent most of the water from reaching the pump.
I think it’s too bad the designer of this unit didn’t include a cold trap on the vacuum line. It could easily be cooled to -30 by the refrigerator they already have. That would probably prevent most of the water contamination of the pump oil.
The oil demister is really weak. Even using a larger PVC fitting would potentially be a great improvement.
These are on sale at $500 off for Thanksgiving, very tempting! I like these kind of products, I have a water generator, coffee bean roasting whirley popper, would really like to add to my unique kitchen with this unit. Regardless, not sure this would be practical for apartment dwellings. I’m brainstorming about community participation in agreement with the concept for long term food storage in our building community.
They’ve also including $300 worth of storage supplies, too, until the end of the month, which is a nice bonus.
How long does the drying process take. I’m sure it is different from food type to food type; but how long does a machine full of fruit take vs a machine full of meat? Thanks!
Meat will generally go more quickly than fruit because it has a lower water content. Drying times vary dramatically with temperature and humidity levels in the room the freeze dryer is in, too. I have my freeze dryer in an insulated attached garage (not air conditioned). In warmer weather, I was seeing drying times over 30 hours. Now most loads are around 24 or less.
I have been thinking about a freeze dryer for awhile now. I consider myself to be somewhat of a prepper. I have purchased some dried foods from commercial sources and you are right, it’s quite expensive. I pick up a few cans here and there but not nearly as much as I think I may need if disaster were to strike. I also hate the produce aisle in the winter months. All you see is produce from foreign countries which isn’t too trustworthy and sometimes not the best condition because of the travel time to get to our markets. I also prefer to buy organic produce. Like others, the cost has been a deterrent for me.
I do have a couple questions. Are butter and milk to fat laden to freeze dry into powder? I’ve seen them for sale at the commercial companies. Also you mentioned mylar, I have a foodsaver would that work the same for preservation if I put and oxygen absorber in it? Does the machine come with drying times for different foods and a list of foods that can be dried? Or is there a book somewhere with directions? I’m thinking of asking for a freeze dryer for Christmas, do you think they might have another sale? Sorry for all the questions but I am really interested in this. Thanks
Hi Ginger. No need to apologize at all.
Butter is a “no” for home freeze drying, since it’s almost entirely fat. Milk and other milk products like cheese, sour cream and yogurt work just fine. (My boys inhaled the yogurt drops that I made.)
Foodsaver bags, while useful for a great many things and the preferred option for freezer storage, are not recommended for long term storage (over 2 years). With time (3+ years) they are more likely to allow air in and have seal failures. Freeze dried food can also become brittle and powdery, which could gum up your vacuum sealer.
The unit does include a how to manual and basic drying instructions – what can be dried and what shouldn’t be. Drying times vary widely depending on ambient conditions, so there is no “exact drying time” for different foods. Our unit is in our attached insulated garage, and I’ve noticed a big difference in drying times from summer to fall.
Great information. I went on a weight program and lost about 60 pounds, but it was costly. Part of the product was freeze dried meals. I then found replacement products, bars and shakes and through a food storage site, I purchased freeze dried meals in the #10 cans. I have about ten cans, and they cost about 25.00 and last about 3-4 months. So that is $1000 a year at this rate and some I don’t care for. When we move to another house, I will for sure be getting one of these, I will be living closer to my step daughter and step daughter in law. It will be nice to share with them.
I am a flower lover and would like to know if there is a chance to process some flowers like roses same as food stuff with this system?
Yes, the home freeze drying unit can be used to freeze dry flowers. I’ve seen a number of members in online groups preserve blossoms.
I bought one of these freeze dryers a month ago and have run 21 loads thru it with not much difficulty. I, like you, drain all the hot oil from the pump right after the freeze drying cycle completes. I then add exactly 23 oz of vacuum oil to the pump and never have an overfill misting problem as you describe. So far I have freeze dried chicken, turkey, ham, apples, bananas, potatoes and a couple of different entrees. I tried to freeze dry hot dogs that I had previously boiled and made a giant mess out of the inside of the chamber. To make matters worse, the hot dogs refused to completely dry. I have successfully freeze dried brown hamburger but you need to be diligent in removing the fats and oils and put into the drier ground beef that is dry or you get grease on the interior of the freezing chamber as well. I have been keeping track of weights into and out of the drier so I know what percentage of water each food is. I have also been slowly increasing the size of the loads I put into the drier and I am currently up to about 4.5 lbs of removed water. This machine is great and I have also found the customer service very helpful.
Thanks for your feedback, Dennis. I’m sure part of our issue was teenage boy lack of attention to detail on the oil filling. I applaud you on your dedicated record keeping. I’ve had no problem with ground beef, but we use grassfed beef that is naturally very lean. Hot dogs – not surprised they didn’t dry, but I appreciate the warning.
I’ve not seen any discussion about storage environment. For one that lives in Southern Arizona, it is not unusual for the internal temperature of our home to be 80 to 82 degrees for 3 to 4 months of the year during the summer. How does temperature impact the life and quality of the freeze dried food?
There’s no specific increase in rate of spoilage (handy reference chart), but higher temps will decrease shelf life. The worst option is extreme temperature swings, which may cut storage life in half (possibly even worse). Anything that you could do to reduce the temp and keep it steady would help. My husband suggested under bed storage, since it would be likely to stay cooler there, or a root cellar type setup where you could use earth temp to keep your storage cooler.
great article !
How would I be able to freeze dry liquids such as flavouring extracts ( banana extract, strawberry extract etc) , sometimes they contain oil as well so could anyone shed some light on how I could turn these liquids in to powder forms.
thank you !!
I’m sorry, but you wouldn’t be able to freeze dry oil based flavorings – because they are oil based. You could freeze dry the fruits themselves, powder them, and use them for flavoring. Freeze dried fruit powder is very delicious, and adds color as well as flavor.
You might have covered this so sorry if you did. We were recently given the harvest right dryer and I was wondering where you read up on oil filtering.
There are discussion threads in various online groups. I first read about it in Betty’s Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Group on Facebook. I use a Harvey Filter.
We prefer the flush kit for filtering oil. Its the only product out there that is mess free, and pretty simple to use and install. They also warranty your pump for a year. Which is nice. Here’s their link https://www.freezedryeraccessories.com
Does that kit void the original pump warranty? (Not that that would be an issue if they take on the pump warranty.)
That canister filter is a good idea, but how many batches can be dried in the Harvest Right before the filter canister fills with water? How do you know when it’s full of water and needs to be changed? Water is the main contaminant as far as volume is concerned. It needs a water separator with visual indication so you can see when it needs to be changed or emptied.
Hi, Glad you put the pro’s and con’s on here. Do you think that you could hook it up to solar panels? If so I wonder how many you would have to get and how many batteries? If you could find out for me, I would be grateful. Thanks, cat
Given that it’s recommended that the units have their own dedicated circuit due to power spikes at certain times during operation, I don’t think they would be a good fit for solar. I am double checking with Harvest Right to see what they recommend. As for specific panel and battery requirements, you’d need to evaluate your available solar resource and do some calculations or work with a solar contractor to see how many panels would be needed in your area. Sunlight intensity and availability varies greatly.
From Dan at Harvest Right: “The freeze dryer pulls on average about 10 amps per hour or 1300 watts per hour so we don’t recommend only having solar power to run the freeze dryer.”
We have found that freezing our food before putting it into the Harvest Right really helps cut down on the cycle time. Also, using parchment paper under the food is very helpful.
I think pre-freezing is especially helpful with high moisture foods, and I wouldn’t ever do a load again without lining the trays.
My wife and I have had one of these machines for about a month. We had been saving a little each month in order to buy a year’s supply of food storage when we stumbled across this. For the same money as a year’s supply of freeze dried food for one person, we can make whatever we want now. We love this machine, the kids love the food. My favorite part is to take dinner leftovers at the end of the week and dry them, then we reconstitute them to see if we like it. Everything tastes just the same as it did the first time! I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
Glad that it’s worked out well for you, Hershel.
I am becoming intrigued with this whole freeze drying concept. What concerns me is the oil refill. How often do you replace the oil in a typical month? How much does it cost to replace the oil? Also, after reading that the freeze dryer pulls in about 1300 watts an hour got me wondering about the added cost of running the dryer. In my area, the electricity costs 8.16 cents per KWhr or about 11 cents per 1300 kwhr. Since it takes a typical 24 hours (no?) to freeze dry a single batch that amounts to about $2.60 for a full day of use. It might not seem much but if you use it on a regular basis that might add another $40 to $70 to your electric bill each month (depending on season and amount of food freeze dried). Of course, having food around that can last 10, 15 or 20 years is a comforting feeling and you really cannot put a price on that when things do turn south.
One of the first things I did was buy an oil filter, which allows me to reuse the oil safely. We drain after each batch and freeze it, then filter. It’s been almost a year that I’ve had the unit, and we just opened our second gallon this week. (We’d been using the same gallon of oil since the beginning.) I did buy a Harvey filter, but many people just use simple toilet paper filters and those also seem to work well.
Yes, the electric costs could add up if you were to run non-stop. For us, we typically end up doing a batch of something every other day or every two days at most, and there hasn’t been a massive jump. There’s a power spike when the pump each device kicks on, then the load levels out. (Which reminds me, I should dig out the Kill-a-watt meter and hook it up to see how much I draw for a full load.) Now, if you wanted to have a set up like a lady I know in Florida who has a dedicated room with four freeze dryers and at least two of them running at all times, that would be a jump in the electric bill. (I’m sure it impacts her AC, too.) We really love the flavor of the freeze dried foods we’ve done at home. It’s emergency food you’d want to eat instead of food you have to eat because that’s all you have. Plus, food prices just keep creeping up. I know I’ll get a return on my investment if I stock up on food on sale now.
Interesting article. When was it written?
Was wondering how thick your Mylar bags are. Also, what sizes do you find are the most practical for storing food. I know there are gallon, quart and smaller ones, but which size do you use the most.
We update the article regularly. We use almost exclusively mylar quart bags for freeze drying with O2 absorbers. We use 5gallon mylar bags cut in 1/2 for bulk items like rice, beans, salt, and sugar and place those in 5gal food grade buckets but those are not freeze dried foods.
We update the article on a regular basis. We pretty much exclusively use mylar quart bags for freeze dried food.
The 5gallon bags are for beans, rice, flour, salt, sugar in 5 gallon buckets (regularly dried not freeze dried foods).
Oh, one other thing. Salmon and golden chanterelle mushrooms? The salmon I am guessing would not be ideal to freeze dry due to the fish oil? And any experience freeze drying Chantrelle mushrooms or any mushrooms for that matter?
I have not tried fish (because my husband isn’t a big fish guy), but others have freeze dried it successfully. Most seem to freeze dry fish raw. The storage life would be shorter (5-10 years?), but it’s still a viable product.
People also freeze dry mushrooms. They turn the oil black (from the spores), but it works. They can be freeze dried cooked or raw.
I am learning sooo much from reading the questions and your comments. Thank you all who share.
I read the ‘cost analysis’ ideas, but how do you put a price on the nutritional and energy value that home-grown, organic, fresh from-the-back-yard food, herbs and foraged edible ‘weeds’ can provide? I don’t have to read labels with coded names and unpronounceable chemicals, eat hidden GMO’s, wash off pesticides, insecticides or herbicides, or wonder what petroleum residues are leaching out of plastic packaging and the BPA (or ‘new-and improved’ BPS) lining the cans.
FYI: I just happened to be in our local ‘preparedness/prepper’ store and picked up Katrina Blair’s book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, and found it fascinating. I have a new appreciation about my ‘weeding’ chores. She has learned how to hike for days, taking no packaged foods or water, just living off the land. The 13 plants she features are found everywhere humans are on all continents around the world (coming quickly to Antarctica as the ice melts).
Thank you Laurie for all you do,
Hi Marsha! Katrina’s book is fascinating, isn’t it? Her palate is wilder than mine, though. Some of her plant suggestions I enjoy, but with others the bitterness is too much for me yet. I can’t imagine gathering enough dandelion seeds to make dandelion “seed milk”, but they’re fun to nibble as I work in the garden.
It sounds like you, too, have been doing your research on the quality of the food supply, and are looking for better options than the current status quo. Sometimes it all just makes me shake my head – how can we have such an abundance of cheap calories, and still be suffering from malnutrition? But then you look at the dead soil, how far the food travels to the table, the high level of processing, all the additives and preservatives… we can do better.
I just took the leap tonight and purchased a red regular sized Harvest Right freeze dryer. Whew! It was not an easy purchase and now my husband is angry with me. Nothing new, he fought me for 2 years on getting rid of cable t.v. and now can’t stop telling everyone he meets about how much money he’s saving. Yet, the initial output for the new T.V.s and streaming units was a little pricy, just like the freeze dryer, it will pay for itself in no time????.
I can’t wait to get started saving even more money by freeze drying grass fed meats and organic produce and his favorite cheese!
He doesn’t do the grocery shopping and has no clue as to how much things have gone up, which is my main reason for this extravagant purchase, along with having foods in case of emergencies and lightweight easy storage.
I really appreciate your site and all the honestly answered questions, this will be a big help in the future when I receive my unit.
My daughter is hiking the Pacific Trail this summer and I’m can’t wait to send her off with nutritious & delicious food that won’t weigh her backpack down! Her last trip she lived on granola bars which to me is just gross, with all the garbage they put in them. She’ll be in heaven with fresh fruits, eggs and meats.
So, to make a long story short I’m excited to get my journey started with freeze drying and your site is what swayed me to go for it.
Hi Nanc, and congratulations on your freeze dryer purchase. Don’t forget to check out “11 Freeze Drying Mistakes to Avoid for Best Storage Quality” for some tips I’ve learned while using mine.
Freeze dried fruit is amazing, and freeze dried just about everything else tastes like FOOD instead of preservatives and fillers. Freeze dried cheese is intensely cheesy. If you cut it in thin slices and freeze dry, they taste like cheese crackers – except no cracker! I watch for sales and buy in bulk so I have enough to freeze dry. Pickled beets and sweet potato fries make excellent snack food. So many tasty things to try….
Great review and Q&A. I had a few questions…
You touched briefly on “fish”. Being from Alaska I expect that fish might be one of the main ways we will want to use the unit… for both fresh fish and smoked fish. I’m wondering about the rehydrated consistency of salmon/halibut fillets? Would we cook it (after rehydration) just like we cook normal frozen (&thawed) fillets? (ie. does it stay together or crumble into a powder?)
I was wondering about the foodsaver that we already have. We can seal without “vacuuming” …so even though it would not last as long as the mylar bags, if it lasted 2-3 years in those bags, it would probably be enough for our needs. Guess we’ll just have to look at the relative price between the plastic and mylar… and i presume that the sealer on the foodsaver would likely work for the mylar bags.
We are working on getting into “retirement gardening” and so far have started apple, cherry, and plum trees and have planted raspberry, rhubarb, and gooseberries and want to start haskaps, black currents, and perhaps other fruits this summer. If I had a concern, it might be in terms of the volumetric limitations once the trees & bushes get mature 🙂
…another question that I was wondering about is about fruit “skin”. the video I watched showed the fruit cut into slices or halves. This would be understandable for the larger fruit… but I would hope that small fruits like gooseberries, currents, blueberries, etc… would not need to be “sliced”??
The trouble with free drying smaller fruits (and this goes for dehydrating, too), is that the fruit skins are designed to keep the fruit from drying out. Theoretically you could dry them without pretreatment, but it would take much longer and they might still be prone to damp centers. As I mention in the Freeze Drying Mistakes post (https://commonsensehome.com/freeze-drying-mistakes/), there’s several ways to pretreat.
“Grapes are typically sliced in half lengthwise (like folks with smaller kids probably already prep them). We prep cherry tomatoes the same way. For blueberries and cranberries, I freeze them on a baking sheet before freeze drying, and then give them a very brief spin in a food processor. The goal is to nick the skins ever so slightly so water can escape, while leaving the fruit intact. I’ve also seen folks poke holes in individual berries, but the pre-freeze method is much faster.”
I haven’t done fish yet (my husband had a bad experience with a tapeworm in fish as a boy and hasn’t been able to enjoy them since), but based on video shared from other users, fish fillets can be dried intact and rehydrated whole. You wouldn’t want to bang them around like you could jerky, but the fillets I saw looked good. The person making them mentioned that the biggest concern (which is important cooking any fish, of course) is not to overcook, or it will get rubbery. It does tend to be a little drier, too.
The Foodsaver will seal Mylar, it just won’t vacuum seal it unless you get creative. Whichever way you plan to store, oxygen will turn the fat rancid, so either vacuum sealing or O2 absorbers would be a good choice.
If you can’t process the fruit fast enough, there’s always homemade wine!
Trying to figure out why the foodsaver won’t vacuum vacuum seal mylar since that is what my foodsaver does. It vacuums out the air and then seals the plastic. Am I missing something?
Foodsavers need texture on the bags so that the air can be vacuumed out through those little dimples. Mylar presses flat, preventing air from being sucked out. If you want to vacuum seal Mylar bags, you can do a work around by inserting about an inch wide strip of the textured part of a FoodSaver bag into the edge of the bag that’s being sealed. People have also used attachments and straws and all sorts of other bizarre approaches, but the strip is the easiest. That said, if your O2 absorbers are working properly, sucking air out is redundant. I did it a few times, but now I don’t bother.
Have you ever used your FoodSaver to seal a chip bag? Same concept. It’ll seal it, but you can’t pull a vacuum on the chip bag.
Great review, thanks! Now if someone asked you to freeze dry a load of food, what would you charge?
I’m still busy freeze drying things for our own use, so I don’t have plans to sell any freeze dried food any time soon. The food tastes very good, and I have teen boys in the house. If I had to put a price on it, I’d start with the base price of the food, some amount for prep time (for instance, if it was cooking a recipe) and also check pricing on comparable commercial freeze dried foods.
I guess I asked wrong, sorry. I meant what if someone came to you with things from their garden, all cleaned, cut and blanched and wanted to freeze dry them in your machine. How would you go about calculating it?
It depends on how technical you want to get. Here are estimated electrical costs from the Harvest Right website:
If you wanted to consider it as a business investment, you’d first have to estimate a life on the unit. The warranty is one year, but I have a friend who’s been operating his for over 5 years. I honestly don’t know how long a unit might last with proper care, but I’m hoping for 5-10 years. Then you’d need to calculate how many loads you could reasonably expect to do during that time, and divide the unit cost by the numbers of loads. During winter, I’ve been getting cycles that are around 24 hours on produce, less on meats (23 – 23.5), but in warmer temps or with wetter foods, cycle time is longer. Figure in your electrical costs, the unit cost per load, something for your time, some money for oil and filters, and then you probably want to add some padding to the cost if you actually want to make money doing it.
Thank you! I really appreciate your observations. I’ve been watching them for a year now! I too am having a hard time with the cost, but, we just switched some of our canning (fish) to a Can Canner. Those are really expensive but are great in transport and shelf life. I’m very interested in the food preservation of this. I like it! I’d love to get away from the freezer and jars for the bulk of our processing. Thank you again! I’m sure I’m going to make the plunge soon!
You’re welcome. We still use a mix of food preservation options, but the freeze dryer has become an option that we are using year round instead of just harvest season. For instance, right now our neighbors have many extra eggs (spring production is going crazy). I like to support their farm, but we can only eat so many eggs at one time. We’ve been scrambling up 4 dozen eggs with cheese per freeze dryer load and putting them in storage. Now we have a stash for when production drops, for emergencies, or quick meals. They can also be rehydrated for “fancier” meals, like breakfast burritos. Because we’re using farm fresh eggs raised on organic feed and forage, paired with real butter and cheese during cooking, the flavor beats the pants off of the commercial scrambled eggs you find at most breakfast buffets. They taste like eggs, not foam rubber. (Confession – I think my husband used a little too much butter with the last batch he prepped, as the freeze dried egg bits tasted a little like buttered popcorn. I marked those to eat sooner instead of later because of the higher fat content.)
The freeze dryer also gets the boys to eat more veggies. Freeze dried sweet potato fries and sliced pickled beets disappear when I leave them in the pantry near the chips and crackers. It’s a small thing, but I figure it’s a step in the right direction.
can you scramble the eggs with bacon in them or sausage ? and then freeze ? also we like eggs mundel which is caramelized onions, scrambled eggs and at the end add cottage cheese….it makes the eggs so soft …could I freeze dry that combo?
You should be able to free dry all of the above, as long as the bacon and sausage aren’t too fatty. The fat makes a mess in the freeze dryer and has a tendency to go rancid over time. (O2 absorbers/vacuum sealing will help.) I’d estimate shelf life in 5-10 year range for best quality on the higher fat foods. Gotta try the eggs mundel. It sounds good!
top that combo on toast…when our friends first made it ….sounded yucky but I will never do plain scrambled eggs…the cottage cheese disappears and makes eggs so soft.
I haven’t met many cheeses I don’t like.
Laurie can you reuse mylar bags? I know my vacuum seal bags once washed are reusable
also when you vacuum seal the glass jars can you use the metal lid again or no
The Mylar bags can be reused (of course,capacity will be reduced). O2 absorbers are one time only – no way to refresh those at home. Lids can be reused for vacuum sealing, assuming the edge/seal isn’t damaged.
harvest right comes today….I have a ton of greek yogurt…I see your boys love yogurt drops which I will do….question can I fill the other 2 drawers full of yogart and once FD can I break them into sections? and with yogurt drops can I add a slice of strawberries in each one? or can I add a dehydrated peach in each one….peaches are from last fall so I still have color
I’m sure a tray of yogurt could be broken into sections. It will shed a lot of crumbs, but you could do it. Just make sure to line the tray so the yogurt comes out more easily. You could add a slice of fruit on each yogurt drop, fresh or dried. I would make sure to allow plenty of drying time, because drops without added fruit will be done more quickly than those with fruit.
I am pretty certain I have seen a photo of a Harvest Right freeze dryer with a Platinum vacuum pump instead of the Eliminator, but I can’t find it again. The Platinum pump has a gas ballast valve that should reduce the contamination of the oil. It costs a bit more, but if it works well it would be worth it.
Does anyone know if the Platinum pump is supplied with the larger Harvest Right freeze dryers?
Does the gas ballast valve reduce contamination of the oil enough to make it worth extra money?
I haven’t seen or heard of a different pump bring provided with the units. I do know that Harvest Right is now recommending that users drain the oil with each use and filter it.
I’ve had my finger near the Buy trigger for sometime now, like some others the cost is what’s holding me back.
I would love to hear some owners comments on durability, what issues have been had and replacement parts cost.
Another question I have is in regards to the vacuum pump, could I use an oil free Teflon ring pump instead?
I have a couple constant duty ones that generally run 10k hours before new rings are needed, and they are cheap and takes 30 minutes to do the job.
I would need to know the specs of the Harvest Right one to compare and or adjust the suction required.
Thank you to anyone who replies!
We’ve had our unit for around a year. So far we’ve replaced a splash guard and some screws in the pump with stainless steel versions. I’d have to dig to find my receipt, but I think the cost was around $20. (Long day, I’m exhausted, and computer keeps randomly shutting down, so I’m not going to dig at the moment.)
We’ve filtered the oil from the start, so we’re only on our second gallon of oil. We use an old Brita filter with a toilet paper and coffee filter combination filter. Works well.
As for the pump, you’d have to talk directly to Harvest Right about that.
How can I get off of the notify me of new comments line? I love this site but phone goes off too much. Would rather just check site every so often as it is a very informative site. Thank you very much.
Bill – There should be a line in the messages that you’re getting that says, “Manage your subscriptions” with a link following it. Click on the link, and it will take you to page that has “Manage Subscriptions” at the top. Check the post you want to unsubscribe to (I’m guessing there’s only one), and then use the drop down below where it says “Action” and select “Suspend”. Then click “update subscriptions” at the bottom. That should stop notifications. There’s are other options that allow you to see replies to your comment only, if you prefer. Thanks for asking instead of doing something like marking it as spam. 🙂
A little advice that I’m sure Laurie must know because you seem brilliant, yet so nice, is that if you drain any oil into a measuring cup and return the exact amount of new oil to pump, level seems to stay correct thus avoiding any spray mishaps; and also, NAPA Auto Supply sells a 90′ swivel elbow which attaches to hose outlet on unit allowing hose to go straight down instead of sticking out. Thanks.
Oh, and disregard earlier message. No way I can unsubscribe to this site. Feel guilty using it and not paying for it, it’s that good.
You’re too kind, Bill. I probably should have supervised the pump draining and refilling myself so we came up with the “fill with exact amount” option sooner, but as with any new contraption that enters the house, there was an “unknown” factor that had us following the user’s manual instead of using common sense.
The owner’s manual says to watch the site glass, so that’s what the boys did. “Drain x amount and refill x amount” would have been much easier. There is some potential loss to spills, and we found that tipping the pump on it’s side for about 30 seconds and then putting it upright again helps to get more oil out, but overall the 700 ml volume works well.
Since the guys do the draining, I haven’t worried about an elbow or other extension to make the drain easier to use. (Bad mom!) They still have young, nimble fingers. With the way ours is set up, I think I’d like to have an extension to get it past the end of the counter, key-style valve (not sure of proper name, but I’ve seen them online) and then drain. I’m better with plants than machinery, but work things out eventually.
If you want to get regular emails instead of just post comments, you can subscribe to the newsletter at https://commonsensehome.com/subscribe/. Saturdays are typically homestead updates, musings and seasonal links. Midweek I usually send out some sort of promotion from one of groups/businesses I partner with on the site. Someone’s always offering a deal on something. Speaking of which, I need to go finish defrosting my freezer and then pull together this week’s email. Thanks for the tips!
That elbow swivel I was talking about goes on 3/4″ hose outlet on unit and points down so large hose connects to unit hanging vertical instead of sticking out and bending, thus taking up less space and probably longer hose life.
Ah – following now, and your emailed photo came through. Most folks add adapters to the pump drain, so that’s where my thoughts jumped right away. Our pump is on the same counter with our freeze dryer, sitting just behind it, so the vacuum hose forms a gentle s-curve – no pinch. We also rearranged the drain hose underneath so it exits out the right side of the unit instead of left. The left side of the unit faces the wall, and everything we need to access is now on the right side.
Another question for you. We have a small home and we’re thinking about putting our freeze dryer in the basement. I was talking to someone and she said it was very loud. Now I’m worried that it will be too loud to sleep. What is your experience?
It is fairly loud – think vacuum cleaner. If there’s a door that can be closed to isolate the sound, it will probably be okay. If it was right under your bedroom, running while you’re trying to sleep, noise baffling might be required.
Thank you for the thorough review! I recently started thinking about freeze drying at home because of (my food issues – celiac) and for our cats dietary needs. Just like human food, most commercial pet food makers fill the cans with unnecessary additives like carrageenan, even those marketed as limited ingredient, for sensitive tummies, when it’s a known digestive irritant for people and animals (I’m looking at you Nestle ProNourish for people and Canidae Pure for kitties), I could rant on and on about it, the subject makes me so angry.
Anyway, like most things, it’s best to do it yourself. After researching grain free raw food diets for cats, I started thinking about dry food, bc the cats like to eat the crunchy stuff every so often too. So I thought freeze drying would do the trick since they love the freeze-dried Halo wild salmon. I looked up commercially produced freeze-dried raw foods and sure enough I was disappointed with everything I found in the ingredient lists. So again, like most things, it’s best to do it yourself.
I scrolled through some comments (and wow was that Jay guy argumentative, I ran out of steam after that), but I have to agree with the reasons listed for not eating from metal cans, like toxins and other unsavory things packaged up with the food. Not to mention the flavor and mushy texture of canned food, and the fact that most cans inherently are lined with the estrogen disruptor- BPA. That’s another one that gets me fired up, especially for those of us with compromised methylation processes from MTHFR SNP mutations. But that’s another rant… So I’ll skip the Mylar pouches and continue to store my food in glass for ours and our fur babies safety!
Some manufacturers have now replaced BPA – but the jury’s still out on the replacements. Glass jars are fine if you have the storage space and the jars, although I do think that O2 absorbers are a must for longer storage of any meat products. From what we’ve seen, fruits and veggies are more forgiving, but open a jar with any type of meat product and it should be used ASAP.
It’s so frustrating reading labels nowadays. As you said, even the “good stuff” often has an excess of questionable ingredients.
I would like to know if you have done any research with desserts. I bake certain things every year and sometimes multiple times in a year. I would use a food dehydrator mainly for that, however your posts indicate that sugars do not do well. Just curious as I am a manic baker and using a dehydrator for this purpose would surely lighten my load. Thanks in advance.
Some sugar isn’t a problem, unless there’s a very high amount of sugar. For instance, members of the groups I’m in have done cake, cheesecake and a variety of other baked goods. The consistency isn’t the same after freeze drying – foods become very light and airy – but they are still tasty.
Hello. Which system, in your expertise, would work better for fruits such as lemons, limes, lychee, pineapple, mango…in other words, tropical fruit…freeze-drying or dehydration?
Because of the membranes in the citrus and the extremely high sugar content of the other fruits, dehydrating would probably be easier to work with, but patient folks have freeze dried pineapple and mango in small/thin pieces with good results and the taste is amazing.
Thank you. As I’m a total newbie, I think I might try the dehydration first as the overhead is much lower (as per my research). Dehydrated food can also be vacuum-packed with the “oxygen” packets as well, correct?
Sure, vacuum sealing with oxygen absorbers will extend the shelf life for dehydrated foods, too. (Not as much as freeze dried, but it will help.)
Hi Laurie. Thank you for the above and the courage to answer a variety of questions. I began this morning with discussing food storage with my sister – for an emergency and even a potential financial crisis that I am convinced will happen. Yes, I thought Y2K would take place. It would have caused issues but entities prepared early enough. Now, that is what I would like to do. I know units can cost a lot of money. I considered what my interests are and that is food value (nutrition) and also taste. Ever eaten C or K rations for any length of time? I have and even MREs get somewhat boring. As you point out, canned foods are less expensive but shelf like is a definite consideration as well as nutrition. It has been pointed out that you need a source of good water to rehydrate. Isn’t that the case with even desiring to drink water in any potential emergency? So, plan for that also. I don’t really know why some are so insistent to argue a point, but I now believe you have answered my concerns. Again, thank you for a well prepared article and planting the idea that I need to seriously consider purchasing a freeze drier for my food storage.
Hi Neil. Glad you found the discussion useful. For my part, even if something huge doesn’t happen, there’s peace of mind in knowing you have food on hand that is good quality and something that you want to eat. I’ve eaten MREs and ration bars. As my nephew would say, “They’ll make a turd”, but eating them for any amount of time would be something I’d do only if I were truly hungry and had no other options.
I haven’t seen food prices trend down, except for incidental sales here and there. I consider the time, effort and money we put into our food storage to be a worthwhile investment, just like the different options we now have for providing fresh water. We’ll always have a use for both. Before we invested in the freeze dryer, we invested in several different water filtration and purification options, and several water storage options. So far our well water is safe to drink, but many in our area have had their wells contaminated by factory farms.
I bought a freeze drier and it’s worth every cent and far better than I imagined. I love the thing. Run it every day. Start at bout 10 pm so freezing last till 7am and noisy drying part usually ends before bedtime next eve. Funny nobody would consider driving with no spare, but no spare food or water, no problem. Go figure. PS: your site is great Laurie. Thanks again
Thanks for sharing your experience and note on timing, and thank you you for your kind words. I agree – sometimes people’s priorities don’t make a ton of sense, but we live in a world where the supermarket has always been stocked, at least for most people reading this site. Heck, whole meals are just a mouse click away in many areas. Living out in the country and being snowed in on occasion, as well as job loss, have helped me to appreciate a well stocked pantry.
Amen to that William Parker and Laurie Neverman. In 2009 massive ice storms in our neighborhood here in the Ozarks knocked out power for up to a month, now just about everybody in this region keeps at least several weeks of food on hand. We didn’t move here until 2011 but heard so many stories of families caught without enough food and nobody able to reach them due to all the trees down that we’ve made food storage a top priority.
We just set up our brand new Harvest Right freeze drier and with 16 raised garden beds (4’x8′ each) plus huge berry patches and a fruit orchard we’re gearing up to freeze dry around the clock. The blackberries are going crazy! Zucchini and peppers and beets are already ready to harvest! It’ll be a long summer all right, and if everything goes well we’ll be enjoying our own produce in the middle of winter.
Freeze dried pickled beets make a great snack food. 🙂
ChrisF, you are a couple months ahead of us. We had been looking at the Harvest Right Freeze Dryers for some time due to the initial cost, but our organic garden was just crazy this year. So we purchased the large stainless unit in August and the power switch has not been turned off yet. If you want the very best nutrition, taste, extended shelf life for family, kids and grandkids…the choice was very clear. Our unit will pay for itself in a year or 2 if you look at the cost of commercially freeze dried food….but the quality of the commercial stuff is not as good as what I’m freeze drying….local grass fed beef roasts, steaks, veg beef soup, free ranges scrambled eggs with our own garden peppers and onions, chicken corn soup from our own meat birds…getting hungry yet?
Our freeze dryer is awesome…if you are concerned about the best quality food for any real world scenarios – and there are a ton of them, a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer is the clear choice…its all about family priorities.
Something I have not seen discussed is the nutritional value of the freeze dried foods. Also, I juice my veggies with an omega very juicer. Can you freeze dry juiced veggies and if so, what nutrition do u lose? I ask because my husband and I have long term sailing ahead of us and I’m wondering if I could take my freeze dried juice with me.
If you’re freeze drying liquid (in this case, juice), you’d end up with powder. I’m sure you could do it, as long as you didn’t overload the unit. Your dry time would be fairly long to remove all that liquid.
As for nutrients, the article “Nutrition of freeze-dried vs. raw fruits and vegetables” at columbia.edu notes:
I’m sure that any heat sensitive vitamins, like vitamin C, would be slightly reduced because of the temperature cycling during the freeze drying process. That said, the freeze drying process does not cook the food, so it would still be raw and the majority of vitamins should be intact.
I want to Freeze dry a homemade baby formula. I make the baby formula daily. Each batch is about 65 oz., making one batch a day. After reading your article I wondered if this would be a good product for me. The formula contains 60% barley water, 35% milk and 5% non-GMO organic corn syrup.
I didn’t see how much time the Freeze Dryers require to finish each batch of food/liquid.
Any advice or direction you could give is most welcome. I’d prefer to make and freeze dry and then simply reconstitute this that to go through the 6 1/2 hour process required each morning.
Freeze drying time will vary depending on food/liquid being dried, amount of food being freeze dried, and ambient conditions of the area the freeze dryer location. I’d suspect 24 – 36 hours in “average” conditions.
Given that dairy and grains freeze dry well and the sugar content is fairly low, I would think that the formula would freeze dry well, and the current sale is the lowest prices I’ve seen on the units to date.
Thank you. Laurie. I appreciate the time and help!!!
I have read the majority of the comments including those from last year. There are some major and minor points that I have not seen discussed but again I may have missed some. I may be brief on some points, however this might get long so grab something to drink first. 😀
The gentleman that thinks that we should all shop at Walmart forgot a few things to factor into his cost analysis. The cost to go shop for said items is one. Fuel, bus or taxi fare all cost money. Even ordering items online cost shipping. The ones that are “free shipping” have the shipping cost figured into the purchase price. Many items do not have a big enough profit margin to allow the company to cover the cost of shipping from their pocket.
There is what are you getting for your money cost factored into commercially canned items. It is getting harder and harder to find a 16 oz can. They are now 14 oz or less but still cost the same as what the 16 oz can used to. Can size is the same but less contents. Speaking of contents, anyone else notice that there is more water in commercially canned products compared to a few years ago? A few years ago, I was wondering if my time was being well spent canning my own produce. Some in my family said it was a waste of time and money. So I asked said person to go to the store and buy me the cheapest 16 oz can of carrots they could buy and the most expensive in the same size. Why carrots? It was what I was canning at the time. I had a couple of pint jars that failed to seal. There are 16 oz in a pint. See where this is going? I then had said family member drain each of the three items just like she would to use them. I still had yet to reveal why we were doing this to avoid bias. We together then weighed each of the amounts of carrots on my digital scale. I then asked her to figure out averaging high, what my utility costs were for each canner full including electric to run the AC and processing equipment, the natural gas for the stove and all the water that is used in prep, canning, and in clean up. Then what one jar costs divided by 6. I figure I get a minimum of 6 uses out of a jar before it becomes ineligible to can with. These costs are similar to what a commercial canner has to factor in expect the reuse of the jars. However, they can buy in wholesale/bulk and I must pay retail and taxes so I am already behind in costs. I will use the defective jars elsewhere but not for canning. Then figure out the cost of the flat that goes under the ring as these must be replaced every year. I did not include the cost of the canner as my grandmother gave it to me and I will pass it on to my kids. I took one pint jar that was packed and ready to can. I dumped out the water and weighed what the weight was in raw carrots to make sure the numbers are correct. As I buy my carrots from local farmers, we figured out my cost per bushel. Figured out how much is waste. It was all in buckets just needed to weigh it and then figured out the actual price per ounce I paid for the carrots including the fuel to go get them and return. Factored all of that to figure out the cost per ounce of home canned carrots. Then factored in the cost of the store bought carrots including taxes and fuel. The winner by almost double was my home canned carrots. If I get more than 6 uses out of a jar then it is more. Since I often buy jars at thrift stores and rummage sales, I am even further ahead. However, we used actual retail prices for the cost of the jars and flats. Some have even been gifted to me as everyone that knows me knows how I love to can. I did buy my carrots directly from the grower in a bushel amount. This is typically cheaper than buying by the pound in the local grocery, however I did factor the 30 miles round trip in fuel that it cost me to go get them. Plus I know how they were grown and now what exactly is in the jar. I should mention that the family member in question works in the accounting field. She loves numbers and will do math problems for fun. She did her work on three separate sheets of paper without looking at previous one just to triple check her numbers. We did use actually utility bills for costs.
There is also the labor that goes into preserving the harvest. There is going to be that no matter how one chooses to preserve the harvest so I did not fact the cost. The time it takes to process carrots is roughly the same for canning, dehydrating, or freeze drying with the exception of blanching them if one chooses to.
I have been disabled for almost 10 years now due to someone cutting corners at my job. I was injured and it destroyed both of my knees. I am between 40-50 years old and already need a knee replacement. The time it takes me to process a bushel of carrots from purchase to full jars on a shelf is much longer than it was 10 years ago. I tell you this to throw this thought out at you. We are all getting older. Some of use are aging a bit faster due to a variety of reasons. I would much rather load a freeze dryer and walk away then slave over a hot stove all day/night. I could be much more productive without the wear and tear on my knees by not standing in the kitchen canning. Plus I don’t have to order pizza so my family has something to eat while I use the whole kitchen canning. Also think about how heavy a canner is once it is loaded. Sure you can put it on the stove and add water to it from the sink. That is often a lot of steps depending on how your kitchen is laid out. One must also consider the weight of full jars themselves. Heavy duty shelves must be purchased or built to accommodate the weight of both full jars or cans from the store. Jars that are full of freeze dried items weight barely more than an empty jar.
Quality of product is also a concern. By preserving food myself, I know exactly what is in the jar. For a multitude of reasons, produce that I purchase is grown organically. Certainly there will always be things I will can. Actually, I have to can it all right now until I save enough up for a freeze dryer. I think of it this way – traditional canning is like an old fashioned wringer washer where freeze drying is like a modern washing machine. I compare these as I have and do use both kinds of machines to do laundry. The time factor alone is a big difference between the two.
Now I come to what seems to be a family quirk that would make freeze drying beneficial to my family and I. Neither my mother or I can handle any green beans that are to be canned. We can not pick them, snap them, place them into jars – nothing! Doing so will cause said beans to sour in the jar. Beans canned today when opened tomorrow will be sour if my mother or I touched them, even with multiple layers of disposable gloves on. We can pick them and snap them for fresh eating but that is all. Even blanching and freezing will result in sour beans. Why only beans we have no idea. I can cook them for fresh eating and then freeze them – other than being nothing but mush they are ok. This leads me to believe that I can do the same with the freeze dryer without issue. Although once I have one, I will experiment to see what happens. So in order to preserve green beans right now, I must rely on others to help me get the job done.
Most of my family packs a lunch to work. When it is hot out, that means ice packs as well. It would be much nicer to send the same kind of leftovers only freeze dried when it is hot out. As they have to be reheated anyways, adding a bit of water at work before putting it in the microwave is not a big deal. It would also give them the opportunity to each it as is and stay a bit cooler. Some family members have food allergies as well that mean I cook from scratch. It is vital to their health that I know exactly what is in the food they are eating. Being able to make enough for 7-10 meals vs 3-4 is no bigger mess in the kitchen. I don’t have to tie up valuable freezer space either.
Losing power and potentially losing what is in the freezer is a big concern here. We do lose power various time all year round. A small price to pay for the beauty and remoteness of where we live. Yes, we have generators. Those can keep us warm or cool depending on the time of year or keep the freezers cold. A juggling act to be certain. Just another reason that having at least some of one’s typical freezer items freeze dried. Space no longer becomes an issue if one finds a great deal on 5 lb bags of cheese.
Like many rural families, mine loves to go camping and hunting. We spend 1 to 2 weeks every year, elk hunting alone. This equals a lot of food that must be packed in and waste packed out. Plus one must always over pack on food since we are hunting in the mountains. Getting snowed in for longer is a real possibility. The regulars in our camping area also know they are always welcome to eat for us. One day I may be cooking for 6, the next for 20. It pays to be prepared and neighborly. We take care of our own out here as it is two hours by 4 wheeler to get back to the pickup and then another hour or so to town depending on the weather and roads. This all equals to a large amount of meals that must be packed for. That all weighs down our vehicles a lot. We also have to take large coolers to keep meat cold in. If there isn’t a ton of snow, that also means loading them full of ice as well. I would much rather make large batches of meals at home – where I have time and freeze dry them. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking on a wood stove!!! I am strange I know. However, there are other things I would rather do than cook all day. As I don’t hunt much do to my knees, I do the majority of the cooking. Again, being able to bring in freeze dried items would certainly lessen my work load and allow more time for fun things. I could also send a better quality of snacks with the hunters by making my own freeze dried items. There is a reason that most sporting goods stores sell freeze dried meals – ease of use and light on weight. When we go camping in the summer time, we might tent it or we might pull the camper. Either way, space and weight are an issue.
Something else to consider is – what can be grown where you live? Where I live, if you don’t do raised beds, not much. The ground grows very little as it stands. Due to the growing zone plus the elevation that I live, many fruits and veggies are not able to be grown here without the help of a greenhouse/grow tunnel of some sort along with basically removing the existing soil and replacing it with something better. A couple hours from me there is a very large mushroom farm. An hour in a different direction puts in some river bottom land where they grow amazing sweet corn. Timing a visit on the west coast to fall during fruit harvest time is also a possibility. I must buy in very large amounts to make the trips worth while for the things I can not grow. Since I do most of the preserving myself, being able to freeze dry large amounts of food at one time would make it more cost effective than just canning alone. I am not complaining that my family doesn’t help. They all have work and/or school that take up much of their time. They do help when they can.
I will step off my soapbox now. If you made it through all of this, thank you for reading. I just wanted to throw out some ideas that I had not yet seen mentioned. Reasons that make it a worthwhile investment for someone like me. Maybe not for others. It is up to each individual if the investment is worth it for their family.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment and many well made points, Carrie. We rarely buy canned vegetables, but I’ve certainly noticed the shrinking package size in dry goods. It seems like you’d have plenty of opportunities to put a freeze dryer to good use.
I bought a Harvest Right freeze dryer a few months ago and love it. We have to eat organically as we are intolerant to pesticides, and also have allergies to gluten, dairy and soy in our house. We also try to eat sugar free – that really reduces what we can eat!! We found that organic long-term food storage items were few and far between and often just included things like organic quinoa and rice. I know we’re trying to be healthy, but that would get a bit old after a while. We eat Mary Jane’s meals for camping and hiking, but they’re expensive. The freeze dryer allows us to make both hiking foods and long-term storage foods at our convenience to our standards. A store we bought meat from closed down recently and we had the opportunity to buy huge turkeys at half price (it was June/July!). My freezers were full and I didn’t have room for them, but was able to freeze dry 7 turkeys (one turkey, cooked and chopped filled my large freeze dryer perfectly). We can use them any time over the next few years and they won’t take up my freezer space. We love eating freeze dried sweet potato mash as a snack – looks like Cheetos, tastes wonderful. Also strawberries are a favorite. Our local farms are producing case lots of organic cherries and apricots for big discounts now and I get to freeze dry them for a future time. We went hiking today and ate some home made freeze-dried pasta bolognaise that tasted great. Am super happy!
Thanks for sharing your experience, Kate. You’re making me hungry!
Hello, thank you for sharing. I am interested in purchasing a freeze dryer, but I can’t decide between the small or standard size. Can you tell me what size unit that you have?
I have the mid-size unit, which holds a quart in each of four trays. I haven’t used the smaller unit, but I think the mid-sized unit is a good size. If I’m going to put up food for storage, I like to process a fair amount at one time, so for me, going smaller wouldn’t be my choice.
Kinda like building a building…as soon as your done, you realize it could have been bigger. Go as big as you can afford
Small and standard size run on 110 Volt. I think large freeze drier requires 240 volt. Something to consider
Also, they should have a dedicated circuit. The boys left the air compressor plugged into the same circuit as the freeze dryer. It kicked in during a freeze cycle and tripped the breaker.
One thing I noticed was lacking in all the comments and review of this machine is how easy it is to store and transport freeze dried food. I am an avid hiker. When you put a backpack on your back filled with everything you need for a week in the mountains, I don’t want to have heavy, water packed, canned food with me. Pre-packaged meals are expensive and loaded with chemicals and preservatives. They are usually very high in sodium. Using the mylar bags, I can make a variety of meals that take up very little space and are light in weight.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Terri. I’m a homebody, so I don’t travel much, but you are absolutely right. The food is super light, and you control the ingredients.
Hi Laurie. Thanks for all you do. Your experience and wisdom with the freeze dryer is important to me.
Please share your experience with the oil(s) for the unit. It seems to me that JB oil would be best for a JB vacuum pump. Harvest Right has offered two other brands over the last two years as alternatives, but both companies want me to buy 4 gallons at once. Where do you buy your pump oil?
You have written that you have only used one gallon in a year with careful filtering. How long will the filter last when you freeze the water to the bottom of a jar? I understand that it takes about 700 ml to change the oil. How much of the first quart (that comes with the pump) gets used for the initial fill-up?
The quart that comes with the unit is 946 ml, so you’ll have 246 ml leftover after the first fill – not enough to refill without filtering. You’ll lose some oil to filtering.
I purchased a gallon when I needed more oil to have plenty on hand, then I purchased a case of four gallons because it comes with free shipping. I ordered both through amazon. Initially, I bought the JB Liquid Gold, but Robinair Premium Pump Oil is significantly less expensive, and is still a high quality oil. I got the case of Robinair. I figure it’ll last for years, but it won’t spoil sitting in the garage, and then I have plenty on hand. Prices on things only tend to go up over the years. We cracked open our second gallon this summer.
Link to Robinair case of 4 gallons
Link to Robinair gallon
As to whether or not it’s best to use JB oil – I haven’t noticed any change in performance since switching to the less expensive oil. The Robinair oil is commonly recommended in many online groups.
For the filter, I’ve switched to an old Brita pitcher with a hunk of toilet paper tightly rolled up and tucked in a coffee filter. Works like a charm, and super cheap to replace. You may be able to find a used pitcher at a thrift store. We had one that was about 10 years old and starting to look a little grimy, so we replaced that with a new one for drinking water and co-opted the old one for oil filtering. I’m not familiar with the filters that Harvest Right is now including with units. I get quite a few uses per filter, and it only takes a small portion of the toilet paper roll to fill the drain area, so one roll will make a number of filters. It’s the only thing that I use cheap toilet paper for.
Has anyone used this machine to dry herbs and to smoke later? being its legal now in many states.this would reduce drying time if it smoked ok might still need curing..
The machine only dries – very completely.
Is there significant effect adjusting the heater temperatures – default is 125F – on food quality? I’ve tried freeze-drying kulolo (mashed taro, sugar, coconut milk) but ended up with a biscuit rather than a cheese puff consistency. Perhaps a lower temperature setting would help next time, say 100F?
Maybe one reason to consider lowering the heater temperature to say less than 110F is for those who are on a raw food diet (no cooking temperatures – above 118F).
I’d expect setting a lower heater temperature to prolong drying times but save food from melting or cooking. And a higher heater temperature to speed drying times. I haven’t checked but if the heater could go to 160F that could kill harmful bacteria.
Thanks for your great blog! I really learned a lot from you and your commenters.
I’ve never tried kulolo, but that sugar and fat don’t tend to freeze dry well, as mentioned. My fatty sausage patties were definitely dense and chewy, whereas the lean ground beef was light and crunchy. I thin teh food itself drives the finished texture of the product far more than attempting to adjust the temperature.
If you look at a pasteurization chart such as the one at http://www.milkfacts.info/Milk%20Processing/Heat%20Treatments%20and%20Pasteurization.htm, 161F for 3 seconds will kill most pathogenic bacteria in milk. Thicker products are pasteurized at a slightly lower temp (150 or 155F) for 30 minutes. So if the freeze drying process hits 160, odds are we’re clearing most pathogenic bacteria.
Thanks Laurie! It’d be great if HR provided a chart indicating the uses of adjusting the heater temperatures for different foods. Why even bother to allow us to adjust it? For now I’ll leave it at the default 125F for most foods except perhaps consideration for volatile foods such as coffee or aromatics like thyme or garlic. There’s something going on with the gas equation that impacts the food material under freeze-drying conditions that I’ve yet to understand.
Have you tried contacting Harvest Right directly? I think their general publications are meant to keep things as simple as possible to be more user friendly, but they may have additional available. I barely scratched the surface of organic chemistry in college, but if you’re curious, I bet there’s material online or in textbooks somewhere that discusses volatilization ranges for different food compounds and aromatics. I’m sure they need to know that sort of thing for products like freeze dried coffee. Heck, maybe commercial producers of freeze dried coffee discuss their methods on their websites?
Good idea, I just did today via their FAQ section!
Btw, I watched a Epicenter youtube on freeze-drying meatballs. They indicated that it created a greasy mess – coating everything within the chamber. Do you have such problems? I’m thinking that perhaps laying parchment paper on top of each tray might help. Say for oily foods only?
I ran into a similar issue when drying precooked pork sausage patties, as mentioned in the post. Greasy mess everywhere. It’s really best to avoid drying high fat foods. Covering the trays with parchment would work against the freeze drying process because it would interfere with sublimation during the lyophilization process.
Much thanks for your preparedness series. Great, well researched helpful info. EM pulse big deal to me.
Quick question if you have time.
Earlier, (08-31-17), you told someone not to cover trays with parchment paper during freeze drying process because it would interfere with sublimation during the lyophilization process. I have been drying banana chips and sliced strawberries two layers with parchment between the two. How do you do two layers without covering lower layer with parchment or is it okay to do so?
Much thanks again. Intellectual as well as well rounded knowledge on your site so useful and appreciated. Have a good septic tank day.
So far so good on the new septic pump.
Parchment is porous, so while it does interfere some with the freeze drying process, obviously it doesn’t stop it completely, as you’ve found. If I want to stack sticky food deeper on trays, I’ll usually prefreeze the food first before loading on the freeze dryer trays. Then in can be stacked without so much sticking together. I’ve also seen people stick banana slices on skewers, leaving just a bit of space between the slices, and then laying the skewers on the tray.
Our unit is in the garage, so in summer when local strawberries are ripe, humidity is higher and temps are up. As such, I usually stick to a single layer of fruit, which still requires a fairly long dry time in those conditions. In fall, spring and winter when temps and humidity are normally lower, I load the freeze dryer a little heavier.
We are planning on buying a Harvestrite Freeze Dryer. My 9 year old son and I went by the Harvestrite plant, and sampled the food, it was delicious. The employees were very helpful and knowledgeable.
If we were to buy frozen berries from Costco, do you have any idea how much the total cycle time would be reduced if we put the berries in the unit already frozen?
The cycle time really varies with ambient conditions, so it’s hard to estimate. The Harvest Right freeze dryer gets much colder than a normal freezer, so I typically just load the food in (fresh or already frozen) and hit the auto cycle. You might try running it on automatic, and then experimenting with different freeze times based on your initial results.
I have used pre-frozen berries in the freeze drier. They seem to take about 24 hours (depending on what type of berries). I have only used the auto setting. I have to admit, thought, that the fresh berries seemed to taste …well, fresher… than pre-frozen. Of course, they were my pre-frozen and they were a probably about a year old. The veggies I bought from Costco did fantastic (pre-frozen). I don’t have my notes here, but I allocate 24 hours as an estimated time the first time.
I have a question about the compressor oil. How much does it cost? What type do you use? You said that you filter it and reuse it, how many times can it be reused?
You can get a gallon of Robinaire vacuum pump oil for around $25. I reuse it indefinitely – as long as it filters clean. You lose a little with each load, so it doesn’t last forever, but it can last a long time.
Laurie,I also use Robinaire Hyd. oil and buy it by the case from Zorro for $79.00 and free shipping,and along with the quick flush filter system I purchased from Harvest Right Accessories,the flushing takes about 4 min,then drain the water out of the filter and then you are ready to do another batch,and the oil usage is almost nil,and you change the filter,every 3 months.
I ordered my freeze dryer from Harvest Right last week. I make a lot of chicken stock and can it…can it be freeze dried?
Yes, stock can be freeze dried. I had the best results when I chilled my stock in the fridge and then poured it into the freeze dryer trays in even layers.
I went digging and found an Instagram video of some broth I dried. You can see it here – https://www.instagram.com/p/BM9P8kch2Dj/?taken-by=commonsensehome
We are planning on buying a Harvestright freeze-dryer for food processing business in Africa . Would like to know what happens when there is an interruption in the power supply, would the process continue from where it stopped when power is restored or it will start all over? Also, when ground fresh maize is freeze-dried will it become powder?
For a short power outage, the unit will continue the cycle from where it stopped. (I’ve had this happen a few times.) I’m not sure how long it can sit with the power off and still continue from where it stopped.
I’m not sure what you mean by “ground fresh maize”. Are you talking about maize that is harvested wet, like sweet corn, or maize that is harvested dry like dent or flint corn? If a material is ground before freeze drying, it should be a dry powder after freeze drying, unless there is sugar or fat to make it sticky. When I cut sweet corn off the cob and freeze dry it, it dries as individual kernels with some powder. I have not tried freeze drying corn meal.
Are any discounts or coupons available?
No current special promotions above and beyond the new lower price. The units are about $500 cheaper than they were a year ago.
Ok, I took the leap and just purchased the medium size freeze dryer. I really hope I get some use out of it and don’t find out it’s one of my impulse buys that just sits there. Too much money invested! Should I have purchased the silicone pads? I’m a firm believer in prepping for any emergencies that may arise. Or just the rising costs of food. Most items have doubled and even tripled in the last couple of years! Now I just need to know what all can I do with this thing?? Is there a good reference book or “cook book” that you could recommend? Can I freeze dry butter even though I know it’s mostly fat and won’t last 20 years? Can I use my Foodsaver and it’s bags instead of the mylar? I have too many questions! How do I use this for everyday living and not just for prepping??
I’m not sure what you mean by silicon pads? Do you mean pan liners? If so, I use them and recommend them, but the ones I use are not silicon but Teflon. (They should be stable at the temps seen in the freeze dryer.) I got four of these sheets and cut them to width.
I haven’t yet seen a great freeze drying cookbook. A basic one comes in pdf format with the unit. I’ve been considering putting something together, but I still have a bunch of bread books to sell and little free time. You can freeze dry a wide assortment of foods, but avoid high fat and high sugar foods.
No, you can’t freeze dry butter. It will end up coating the interior of your unit and making a huge mess. I read the reports from one blogger who tried it. HUGE mess.
No, I wouldn’t recommend Foodsaver bags for long term storage, although they would likely be fine for short term storage. (One year or less.) Foodsaver bags allow more air and moisture through than Mylar and are not suitable for extended storage.
How to use a freeze dryer for every day use and not just prepping. For us, when the fruit and veggie harvests come in, some gets freeze dried. A portion goes to long term storage, and a portion gets used sooner rather than later.
Freeze drying is also great for taking advantage of sales, especially sales on perishable food items. During or after the holidays, you can typically find ham or turkey cheap. Many delis will slice a boneless ham for you – and then you can freeze dry the slices and use them as needed. Roast up an extra turkey, chop and freeze dry. Use the freeze dried diced turkey in casseroles, soups and stews – or make a turkey casserole or soup and freeze dry that for a “fast food” meal down the road. Last weekend we roasted up two of our chickens to make more room in the freezer for the next batch that’s being processed this weekend. We ate chicken leftovers for a few days and still had enough to make up a triple batch of chicken and rice casserole to freeze dry.
Freeze dried foods make awesome snack foods, too. You get the “crunch” without frying. Veggie slices are great. Freeze dried fruit is amazing. Cheese slices (I get presliced packs at Costco so they are all nice and even) and pickled beet slices are salty and flavorful. (Freeze dried dill pickles were too salty for me.) You can do sweets, too, like ice cream or gummy bears or yogurt drops.
I have been busy with me new freeze dryer. I have done various fruits of which watermelon is my favorite! I have done spaghetti, spanish rice, bean soup with ham, potato soup, roast beef, various ice creams, (ice cream with chocolate chips and frozen snickers bars did not work because of the chocolate), yogurt drops, corn, bananas, apples, etc. I’ve been having a lot of fun posting my results on my facebook page to share with my friends.
Anyway, I was looking at my canned goods I have stashed and found that I have some canned salmon and some canned tuna that are at their best used by dates. Have you tried to freeze dry these? My tuna is packed with oil, should I rinse it after draining? Could I add mayonaise and pickle relish to make tuna salad before freeze drying? Thanks again.
How long did the cycle take on your watermelon? I’ve been thinking I should try it because people keep asking about watermelon extract and I think it would be a great way to concentrate the flavor, but was concerned by the high water and sugar content.
As for the fish, I would definitely try to get rid of as much oil as possible. I haven’t done fish because we don’t eat a ton of it, but others have in the online groups. Mayonnaise does not freeze dry well – too much oil. Pickle relish would probably be fine.
Sorry, I know I should keep track, maybe I’ll start. Watermelon is my favorite. One round personal watermelon fills 2 pans with a little leftover to munch. I always have to extend the dry time because it’s not quite dry. Have to make thin slices. Reminds me of cotton candy. Nice and sweet! You should try it! I can’t wait until summer to be able to get fresh watermelon for a lot cheaper. I only buy it when it’s on sale now. Still paid more for a small round watermelon than I will pay for a large one in the summer from the farmers market.
I even tried freeze drying peanut butter fudge and a frosted Christmas cookie just to see what would happen. The fudge was a no go, too hard. The cookie was really good and crispy but I wouldn’t trust the frosting to last as long. i’m thinking of trying a peanut butter cookie next!
As for the fish, I guess I’ll just try it! I think that I’ll drain the tuna and then rinse it to remove as much of the oil as I can. I think the salmon will be just fine as long as I blot off the excess water. Hmmm. Maybe I should dedicate a notebook for drying times and tips. Thanks
BTW, questions are not a problem, but more ideas for future posts. If you’re wondering, odds are other people are, too.
Are you talking about the oxygen absorbers? My Freeze Dryer came with a starter kit — mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and a sealer.
Your Foodsaver bags are NOT the same as the Mylar! Those will not hold up as well or as long. You can buy both mylar bags and oxygen abosorbers on Amazon or other places on line for a reasonable price. I use much more of the small bags than the really large ones. I can get you links if you would like.
And I really, really, wished I had gotten the medium sized freezer and not the small… I am envious! 🙂
When I’m loading up my medium freeze dryer I sometimes wish that I had gotten the large one! LOL! As for the Foodsaver, I use this for things that are short term like my snacks. I also got the starter kit with my purchase and have already had to reorder more of the small bags. I wish they had even smaller bags for snacks. I also started my sealer on fire because I tried to reseal the absorbers and the plastic is thinner and I didn’t adjust the setting. So be careful of that.
I had to adjust my sealer as well because of a burn spot. BTW, I use mason jars with an O2 Absorber in it for snacks and things that will be used quickly. Seems to work really well. I have a vacuum sealer (mine is from Cabelas) with a vacuum-mason jar attachment so I can use that option as well for short-term, small volume freeze-dried stuff.
I have purchased powdered peanut putter. Is it possible to freeze dry peanut butter and make my own? Is there too much fat in it? What about honey? I have seen powdered honey as well.
Peanut butter has a better chance of working. Honey will keep for years “as is” – no need to freeze dry.
Buyer beware! Harvest Right does not give you the whole picture before you order. Last week I excitedly went to get my Harvest Right standard size Freeze Dryer. I had carefully measured according to the specs listed to make sure it would fit in my kitchen. When I got it home the unit fit nicely on my shelf. There was an additional box that contained the pump which takes up a minimum of 8 inches of counter space. Then I read the instruction book. There is a hose underneath the unit that has to go into a 5-gallon bucket. The only space for it to come out of the unit is at the back. It is short enough that the bucket must be located at the back of the unit. I also discovered that you have to have access to the back to reach the power switch that is located to on the back of the unit just above the detachable power cords (one is like a pc’s power cord and the other is the pump’s power cord which plugs into the back of the unit). The specifications do not include the additional space required for the plugs, the pump or the 5-gallon bucket. It is not designed to be used in a kitchen unless you have space for a cart that can hold the 134 lb. machine. The other thing is that their videos all say it takes a day to freeze dry the foods. The truth is that most are 30 hours or more. Grapes can take 50 hours. It cost me $300.00 (15% restocking fee) even though I had not even full removed the plastic covering or taken the pump out of the box. I feel like the product was a bit misrepresented. As Nick from Harvest Right said, “Marketing tries to present the cleanest picture.”
Marketing does indeed try to present the cleanest picture. Even in the freeze drying groups, people show off their custom carts and dedicated freeze drying rooms, making it all look easy.
You’ll note in my review that I said that, “Second, the unit eats up a fair amount of real estate. This is not a toaster oven or blender. You need space. The freezing unit is about the size of a dorm fridge, plus it has a hose and vacuum pump.” and that it weighs over a hundred pounds. I also noted that we keep ours in the garage. I’ll modify the post a little to try and make this even more clear.
The drain hose normally routes out the back, but you can reach under and reroute it out either side. In our case, because we were using an existing shelf in the garage, we moved the drain hose so it comes out the same side as the pump hose. If I’m standing facing the side of the unit where the pump hose comes out, we have our wall outlet, the unit (with cord reaching around from behind to the plugin in front of the unit), and then the pump sits behind the unit and plugs into the unit. The bucket to catch the meltwater sits below the unit.
High sugar and high moisture foods do take longer, but I can do meat in less than 24 hours. Many foods do take longer than 24 hours, at least under the conditions that I use my unit in. (Not climate controlled, in northeast Wisconsin where the humidity is often high.) I’ve noticed that the ambient humidity levels impact drying times significantly. Given that HarvestRight is located in Utah (desert), I’d bet their ambient humidity levels are lower, so maybe their dry times are a little lower, too.
I absolutely LOVE my Harvest Right Freeze Dryer!!! Yes, it is a little big but I can’t believe you would return it without even trying it!!! OMG! I am having so much fun with it. The only problem I have is that it is parked right next to where I watch TV since I have an open floor plan. The drying cycle is a little loud. I just try to run it so that the dry cycle runs when I’m sleeping and if it’s a really long cycle (like when I did my bean soup) I just turn up the TV! LOL!! It is a little bigger than I imagined but I would NEVER have returned it because of that! I knew it was going to be big! Also, if you would have researched it a little you would have seen where it talks about the pump and the draining. I was prepared for that, I even bought a cart before my machine got here. Research, research, research!!!
I can’t seem to find the last date for the Black Friday sale. I thought you mentioned it in your Facebook post but I can’t seem to find it now.
The email that I received from Harvest Right was as follows:
So it looks to me like the promotion runs for the whole month of November, but it usually does take a bit of time to ship the units. (They are hefty.)
Am seriously considering biting the financial bullet and purchasing the smaller unit. We are moving to a rural area on Big Island , HI.
We will have electric service (@ a higher rate than what we pay here in AZ. ). But, all in all it seems a good investment for our lifestyle. We are dairy, sugar, gluten, and soy free and I intend to take advantage of the abundant fresh organic fruits and vegetables there. However, I have so many other more interesting things to do with my day that I’m always on the lookout for convenient nourishing ways to feed us, without being “tied to the stove”.
If you can get bulk meats or seafood of any type on sale (except maybe Spam – I think that would be too fatty), freeze drying would allow you to do batch cooking of just the meat portions of your meal, which you could easily pair with fresh produce. I did a batch of gluten free banana bread for a “treat” item last week, and it freeze dried quite well. The texture was similar to biscotti.
I just contacted Harvest Right about the affiliate links again. I don’t know why it’s taking so long to fix, but right now my links only work in Internet Edge browser.
I would freeze dry produce from our garden and berry canes.
I love the idea of being able to freeze dry fresh produce for my family to use all year long! Each member has distinctly different dietary requirements and I think aging a freeze dryer would make snacks and meals a breeze!
By FAR the most info I have found on this subject. A lot of little questions answered(ie:the pump/oil problem). Have heard complaints but not fixes. Thanks. This puts it over the line for me. My wife and I want to eat foods that we are used to, seasoned the way that suits our body and have a safe long term food storage bank. Thank You
You’re welcome, Tim. It’s a good feeling to know that you have plenty of healthy food ready for when you need it.
I have had one of these dryers for over a year and have processed over 100 lots of food. The dryer works great when operated in a way to maximize performance. Being an engineer I keep track of all kinds of things related to the operation of the dryer. I have found:
1. Cycle time goes way up if the thickness of food goes up. The thinner the slices or size of cubes the faster it processes.
2. Cycle time goes way up if the temperature in the room is high. I live in Arizona and if I run it in the garage in the summertime it takes a lot longer
3. Clean oil is essential. I drain the oil out of the vacuum pump at the completion of each cycle when the pump and the oil are still hot. I built a stand for the pump so that I could slip a collection container (sold by pump company) to facilitate this. I pour the oil into a transparent container and let it sit 24 hours so that water collects in the bottom. I pour off the dirty oil to separate it from the small amount of water that collects in each cycle. The dirty oil I put thru a 20 micron filter. The small amount of oil/water that I couldn’t separate goes into another transparent container. When I have enough I freeze it. The water turns to ice and I can recover the remainder of the oil. High vacuum pump performance deteriorates with dirty oil.
4. Pump performance goes down if the pump is low on oil. I run my pump with an oil level that puts the oil 3/4 of the way up the sight glass. I have found that 22.5 oz of oil is what my pump takes to do this.
5. Forget the business of reusing the oil over and over without filtering and then purging the pump every dozen cycles or so. Drain the oil each cycle, get rid of the water, and filter the oil before reusing and the pump will love it. I think the new instructions from Harvest Right require this.
6. I have about 6 loads on the 4 gallons of oil that I have and it is starting to show signs that it has had it. This works out to about 35 loads of food per gallon of oil if used for 6 cycles. I am going to keep using the oil that I have to see if there is a point where performance starts to suffer.
7. I fill my dryer so that it has to remove about 80 oz of water. I keep track of weight into the dryer and weight when finished. You quickly figure out the moisture content of food so that you can determine how much food to put in so that 80 oz of water are removed. I have found that loads larger than containing 80 oz of water take proportionally longer to process.
8. I shut my dryer down for the summer in Arizona. It sat unused for 4 months. I refilled the pump with clean oil before shutting it down. When I started it up the oil was highly contaminated with rust and required extensive flushing to get rid of it. I don’t know why this occurred. Maybe I had some moisture trapped in the pump. Inside the pump cover there is a splash shield made out of steel that rusts. I removed it and replaced it with one that I made from aluminum and maybe I won’t have that problem next summer.
The vacuum pump and the oil do take a little work but once you get into the swing of it it doesn’t take that much time and the dryer runs great. I am very pleased with the dryer that I have and the support that I have received from Harvest Right.
Do you have the larger unit, Dennis? Thanks for sharing your experience.
No, I have the original medium sized unit. The large one wasn’t available when I purchased mine. If I had to do it over again I would buy the larger one.
Thanks. I asked because of the pump volume. I didn’t immediately do the conversion, but we’ve found 700 ml to be a good oil volume, which is a little more than you use. (I was thinking at first that you were using more oil.) From what I’ve seen in the groups so far, it looks like the new pump has far fewer issues with crud buildup and corrosion. We just got ours so we’ve only run a couple of loads, but so far, so good. I’m checking with Matt from Harvest Right on the availability of those. I know they’re including the new pumps with current orders, but I don’t yet see them listed on the Harvest Right website.
The filtering system that I got from Harvest Right Accessories has done a very good job of filtering the oil for us .The filter has a drain at the bottom,and when finished drying and defrosting we then open the valve on the vacuum line and that valve closes the vacuum from entering the dryer and recirculates the oil through the filter,and and it cleans the oil good,you only turn the vacuum on for 5 min.When through just close the drain valve and open the pump valve to the dryer and you are ready to put another load in the dryer. The only problem we have had is that the circuit board went out for the heater,and Harvest sent another and I replaced it.
That doesn’t sound like a filter offered by Harvest Right, but an add on provided by another vendor, which may void your warranty.
It is from another company,but It works real good and they do take care of the vacuum pump if it messes up the pump,they will replace it with a new one and the filters are good for 3 months and the sell a group of the 4 the filters that are good for a year,they also sell the racks/pans in a set of 4 with brackets to hold them off of the bottom pans so you can fill the next batch and put them in the freezer so they will be ready to put in the dryer for the next batch.I have nothing but good things to say about Harvest right and the came through the problem I had with the heat module going out,and in about 10min on the phone a new module was on the way.I did buy 8 of the pan mats from Harvest Right and if the had the flush kit I would have bought it from them also and the pan clips. I also bought the mid size green house from harvest right and the grow boxes from the Garden Patch and now have 13 grow boxes the the green house and got 2 1800 watt solar gen-sets and 3 100 watt solar Panels and use it to provide heat lamps to the green house when it is cold.
I also bought the wheeled cart that Harvest Right gave a link to and I also found the http://www.zorro.com sells a case of four gallons of the Robin air Hyd Oil for $79 dollars and free shipping.I also use one of my FLIR Scopes to ck to see if the batch is dry when done,works real good on whether it is dry or not.
I was also seeing that some were complaining about the noise from the pump and dryer,well there is hardly ant noise now,just a low hum that is not really noticeable at all,when we first got it there was loud noise,but now just a low hum coming from it and the pump.
Wow – that sounds like a serious set up. Amazon also has the Robinaire oil, a little bit less expensive than that price, with free prime shipping. Link – Robinair 13204 Premium High Vacuum Pump Oil – 4- one gallon jugs.
That is a good price at Amazon,but when I was looking for it,they did not have it at that price,and when I look for something I always look at Amazon first,but Zorro was the least expensive,have so far bought 2 4 gallon cases from zorro. Some might wonder why I bought so much,but I dont buy for the short term,I but for if it is not easy to get it,in other words long term,the same as for the black Berkley filters,I have bought 10 of them for stock,the same as ammo,I reload and continue to do so for the simple reason that If it is ever hard to get,or cant get,it will be there for getting meat on the table,and when ever I purchase,I not only do it for now but we never what the next day will bring and so I get extra for stock. I just want the people that I care about to have what they need to be comfortable as can be for the times at that time.
Just like the solar gen-sets,I do plan to add to them and daisy chain them together for steady power when needed,and to eventually have enough continuous wattage to be able to run the freeze dryer when there is no access to the grid. Call me paranoid if you want,but I do believe in being as prepared as I can for what ever comes down the pike,dont want to sit and say shoulda,coulda woulda when it happens.
We like to stock up, too, especially on shelf stable goods. Better to have it an not need it than need it and not have it. As you mentioned, the vacuum pump oil isn’t something you can casually pick up at the local hardware store. (I asked a few just to make sure.) Same thing with the Berkey filters.
We’ve been focusing on getting the long term plantings in first, then greenhouse, then outbuilding attached to greenhouse, and then the pond (which unfortunately was done incorrectly so needs to be redone before we can finish plantings in that area). I think next year we may add another small outbuilding for the ducks and put chickens where the ducks are now. (The current building was originally intended for chickens, but the slug population started booming so we switched to ducks to save the garden.) After that, hopefully solar and/or geothermal. We’ll see how far the budget stretches.
If you’d care to share, I’d love to see more of your greenhouse setup. You can email to laurie at commonsensehome dot com. If you really want to share, we could feature it on the site, but that’s optional. We’re just in the brainstorming stage for the next steps here, so it’s always good to have more ideas. One of the things we’re considering after several cool summers is putting in a bigger hoop house over the top of the existing greenhouse to extend the growing season even more and have more protected growing area.
In response to Mr. Alexander’s info, most everything was good, but I got totally lost on the part about 6 loads on 4 gallons of oil and it’s starting to show signs and works out to 35 loads per gallon if used for 6 cycles. I run my unit, standard size, 24/7 probably 360 days a year and one gallon of oil lasts me about one year. I have 2 containers of oil so I can drain after every batch and put in 2nd container of oil to run while freezing and filtering other batch. What am I misunderstanding bout your oil usage? Thank you
Wild Bill, I am doing something similar to you, I believe. I also have 4 gallons of JB oil but am still on the first gallon. I filter the oil through my Harvey filter twice and fill up the pump after the dirty oil is drained. I replace the oil each batch with the twice filtered oil. I have 5 months on our freeze dryer with about 60-70 batches. I did replace the filter on the Harvey filter after about 50 batches when it really slowed down….looking at 2-3 filters and 1-2 gallons of oil per year at the current rate (15-20 batches per month). I did toss the first round of oil when I replaced the Harvey Oil Filter at 50 batches – about a half gallon. It was tough to get it clear and started smelling strong. I have cleaned my pump once so far. Keeping the cleanest oil in every batch seems to work well for me. I am also very careful to not dump any water into the Harvey filter. I do not take time to freeze the water from the oil….Laurie – really good discussions – thank you for an awesome blog….
Thanks for sharing your experience, Tom.
The filter that I use was originally recommended by Harvest Right before they started selling their own. It is a Harvey Filter. It does a good job. I use the Wix 51525 filter cartridge that he recommended which is a 20 micron filter. I also follow that up with a 10 micron filter that I found.
It is good to hear that Wild Bill gets a year of use from one gallon of oil. I have only noticed recently that after 6 loads of use on my oil it is getting a little hazy which my 10 micron filter will not remove. I have 4 gallons of oil. I get almost 6 loads of food from one usage of a gallon of oil. I have all four gallon is use so I get roughly 23 loads of food out of 1 pass through the four gallons. All four gallons have been used 6 times. I have noticed that recently the oil getting a little hazy and have not observed any deterioration in pump performance and I am going to keep using this oil until I do. I am using VacOil Ecco Grade Freeze Drying Vacuum Pump OIl which was recommended by Harvest Right when I purchased my dryer. Hopefully, I will get similar longevity out of my oil as Wild Bill is getting out of his.
I used the Harvey Filter for a while, and at first it worked well. Then I ordered replacement filters (directly from the Harvey Filter people, so they were the right ones), and since then it hasn’t worked correctly. My oil was still cloudy after filtering. We’ve now switched to an old Brita filter with rolled up toilet paper and a coffee filter, and that works beautifully.
Laurie, you said in a prior post that you are using a newer pump that has less issues with corrosion. I had talked to Matt awhile back and he indicated that they were testing different pumps. I am using an Eliminator made by JB industries. What are you using?
Harvest Right has developed their own line of pumps. There’s one with oil and one that’s oil-free. The HR pump with oil is now the default for all new units shipped, but you can also purchase it as an upgrade by calling in. It’ll be officially launched in early 2018. I think the list price is around $300. The oil free is more, but I don’t know if they’ve set a price on that yet. From what I’ve seen on social media, most early testers are loving the new pumps. One of them posted an image showing the oil from the JB pump after one use – cloudy and dark with a fair amount of chunks in the bottom – you know the drill. They showed that next to oil from the new pump that they ran for 10 loads without changing. It was hardly cloudy at all. (I don’t know if they drained a bit off and added a bit with each load. That was unclear from the post.) I know we’ve been meticulous about draining and filtering with every load, and replaced some internal bits with rust resistant alternatives, and we still had discoloration and chunks with every single load with the JB pump.
Any more updates on the performance After the oil spraying issue was addressed?
The unit is still working well. Drying time seems a little shorter on average with the new pump.
I always wondered about JB’s pumps. Most people that use them are in the HVAC business and they use them to pull vacuums on AC systems. I don’t know if they are designed and built to run them the hours that we put on them. I have an hour meter on my pump and it is right at 2300 hours. That is the equivalent of driving your car 100,000 miles. I know that HR has been rebuilding JB pumps and testing them before they send them out. They charge $200 for the rebuilt pump and they don’t want your old pump in trade. If HR has a better pump I will be first in line to get one. It would be really nice if the new pumps are quieter than the old ones and maybe my wife would let me bring the setup back into the house.
The new pump is available now if you call the 800 number. I haven’t started promoting it yet since there’s no information online that I can direct customers to easily to purchase.
Some notes on the new pump:
The are cooling fins covering most of the pump, which should help a little when dealing with the high temps of extended runs.
The oil drain valve sticks out just a smidgen past the body of the pump, instead of hiding underneath the oil basin, making it easier to access.
Noise level – officially, the decibel level is slightly lower, but the pitch of the noise is also lower. Our unit is in the garage, too, and we can hear the new pump slightly more than we could here the old pump because of the pitch.
The vent is on the oil chamber and has its own built in filter. No spraying oil.
More oomph – the new pump is a 7 CFM compared to the old 6 CFM
Epicenter Brian has several youtube reviews of the new pumps – the HR one (shipping standard since Nov 20th for new freeze dryers) and the oil less one as well. He does a nice noise comparison and test batches with each one head to head. Worth a look.
I would love to use it for all the fruits and veggies we like that go bad before we can eat them sometimes. Plus, make ahead camping meals would be awesome. There are so many things we would use our freeze dryer for if we had one. Thank you for such a great review, really answered a lot of questions I had.
I would use a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer for pretty much all my food preservation. With a few exceptions – fresh canned peaches come to mind – most of my home grown produce would taste as good or better freeze dried. Plus the resulting product is easier to store long-term. So far I’ve never heard of a Mylar bag shattering when it hits the floor, the way glass jars will sometimes do! But the best part, I think, is it would be so much easier to process abundant harvests by freeze-drying. Good intentions notwithstanding, long hours spent canning fruits and veggies too often ends with some of the surplus going to the chickens or the compost pile. Freeze-drying would seem to eliminate that waste.
Thank you for all of this amazing information. Quite a bit to process, but I am willing to learn.
I have been looking at purchasing one of these. However, the warranty has scared me a bit. You did a wonderful job on your review.
Wishing a Merry Christmas and a very healthy, prosperous, and Happy New Year to Laurie and August and all y’all. Thank you so much for all I’ve learned from your excellent site about freeze drying and other things. The world needs more people like y’all and more news like your newsletter. Thanks again. I know you’re slammed, so don’t worry bout taking time to reply. Keep up the great work.
Thank you for your kind words, Bill. I popped onto the computer for a few minutes to check on a software update download (it keeps failing because of our choppy internet connection, but I’m getting close).
Let me know if you have specific content requests for the coming year. My other half is wondering what he should tackle next while I keep working my way through updating everything on the site. Things sure have changed since I started doing this almost 10 years ago.
I have thought about freeze drying produce or meat separately, but after reading your article I am now wondering about freeze drying complete meals or favorite dishes. I wonder how leafy greens would work…. You’ve got me thinking now! 🙂
Leafy greens look almost the same coming out, but they turn to powder when handled. Sturdier greens like cabbage hold up better. Cooked cabbage resembles parchment paper after freeze drying.
Wow! I want to make those berry yogurt treats.
Everything..why not? Experimenting is half the fun! Ok so I’d start with my herbs and move into what’s in the garden.
Great information. Glad you added the “ugly”.
It’s a great machine, but there was a learning curve. I’m glad the company listened to customer feedback and made changes.
Laurie,I noticed that no one that looked at a freeze dryer has mentioned that they have a layaway plan on them with a min of $250.00 down ans make your own payment plans and the price is locked in at the time of your deposit.That is the way I bought mine ,I live in Tx and 2 months before I came to Washington State to visit and set every thing up and when I left for Washington I paid it off so it would be delivered when I got here.I bought my Green House the same way,the only thing is the Green house was shipped free, and the freeze dryer did not,and when I complained it,they gave me the sealer and the Mylar and oxygen Absorbers at N/C.
They will work with you on terms if you ask,but you have to ask.
Thanks for pointing that out. I was so focused on the freeze dryer itself that I didn’t think to add that to the post, but I will now.
Laurie,some companies will work with a person so they can budget what they cant afford out right,I talked directly to Scott Neville on both purchases and we set it up on the phone no problem at all.After all they as in the bizz to sell to the consumer,and by having a lay away plan,in the long run they will sell more,and happy customers that will further spread the word about how the company is so helpful,and willing to work with the customers.
I did the same on buying one of my thermal scopes from that I bought from Sportsman Guide,paid it out in 3 payments and use it to ck the dryness of the food when done that I did not even think about until I read it on here,never even thought about it,but it does work real good,if the food is dry it is a light brown color and the liners and tray’s are blue so you know the food is dry.
ever since I first heard about a home freeze drying system I have wanted to try one. I would try drying about everything I possibly could.
I’d love to try my hand at freeze drying foods. With a big family, I think we would use this to reduce our food bills and eat healthier. Thanks for so much information!!
I’d use it to freeze dry our garden produce for sure. My kids would be most thrilled about the fruit options! I would love having prepped meals that were so quick and easy to prepare, but still our good home grown stuff. Thanks for the giveaway!
I think I’d definitely use it to make snacks for my girls. The older one would lovev to help!
Ordered my unit and the coupon code never did come up so that I could type in commonsense50 at checkout. Just saying, so you’ll know.
Thanks for letting me know, Gil. I’ll get a hold of Matt at Harvest Right first thing Tuesday and see what’s going on. If you call the 800 number and tell them Matt Neville set up the coupon code but you didn’t see a place to enter it, they should give you the discount. I really hope they make some changes to make the website checkout process easier to use in 2018.
We have been trying all kinds of foods to freeze dry. We purchased a large stainless steel model to freeze dry all the gardens vegetables we grew this summer. We expanded into all kinds of fruit – apples/applesauce, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe and pineapple (we did Christmas jars full of freeze dried fruit to friends and family today – very popular). The fruit is extremely tasty -watermelon is like cotton candy – it melts in your mouth. Blueberries are so light they remind me of cocoa puffs. The grandkids really devour these fruit snacks. Today for lunch we rehydrated Beef Vegetable Soup – this is the first attempt at rehydrating – I was very pleased with the taste. I really couldn’t tell any difference from fresh off the stove. Vegetables from our garden and local grass fed beef. It has been a fair amount of work cooking lots of extra food but extremely satisfying. Of course the fruit does not require cooking except for the applesauce.
We just finished 2 batches of organic spinach and kale (for breakfast smoothies) and now have 5 trays of butterfinger candy bars near completion – haven’t tried candy bars yet. I am not a big candy bar fan but they were on bulk sale and sure would be a great treat when times get tough. The ice cream batches grew some bubbles but freeze dried quite nicely. We are very happy with our freeze dryer.
Freeze drying is on my list of things I would like to do. I’ve had some freeze dried foods and really enjoyed the versatility.
Wow! My head is spinning!! I just wanted to win some freeze dried food for emergencies and whoa! Lol.
Great info…i know a lot more now…thanks for the tip on the hair straightener for mylar bags.
I want to win because I want to have something on hand in case of an emergency of any sort. Thanks 🙂
Thanks for your review. Have you tried to do it with meat? Because I am thinking of making freeze dried meat for my pets, and would really like to know if there is anything i should be aware of.
You should be aware that freeze dried meat is so yummy you may not want to share it with your pets. Like most foods, meat freeze dries best when thinly sliced or in small pieces. Deli meat does quite well, as does ground beef, chicken chunks, ham bits and more. We made up sloppy joes and taco meat, fajitas, spaghetti with meat sauce, ham, chicken – all have been tasty. The texture of freeze dried meat is something like cheese puffs, so we call the pieces “meetos”.
For pets, most people freeze dry raw meat. You want to keep the pieces small, especially if you’re not rehydrating before feeding. (For instance, making freeze dried meat snacks.) Freeze dried food is VERY dry. It is safe to eat dry, but if they eat any quantity of it, they’ll need extra water. Some people grind bones with meat and freeze dry for larger dogs, but I don’t recommend attempting to freeze dry meat on the bone.
As always, proper food safety rules should be observed. Avoid cross contamination, dry thoroughly, and package promptly. Meat with any amount of fat will go rancid in a matter of weeks if not properly sealed in an airtight container with oxygen absorber. Putting it in a mason jar and screwing on the lid won’t cut it. We made that mistake only once.
thanks for your reply. Haha that is true I might want to make some for my family as well.
By the way, may I know why not freeze with the bone? because i raw feed my pets and they need to eat the bones as well.
and one thing i do not understand, will the meat get bad after i open the package and take the meat out several times?
I think I am ready to buy one soon!
There’s no problem with bones, per se. The issue lies with making sure whatever you’re drying is completely and uniformly dry all the way through. If you have a big hunk of anything, it’s really difficult to get that center dry. Add in the changes in density across a hunk of meat on the bone, and you’ve got an almost guaranteed failure waiting to happen.
What I’ve seen online from folks making homemade pet food to freeze dry that includes the bones is that they grind bones and meat together, and then freeze dry. Uniform density, and you can spread it thinly on the drying trays to make sure it dries all the way through.
If you take out a small amount of food and close the package promptly, it won’t get bad right away. For instance, I open Mylar pouches, use some of the contents and promptly put the rest into a mason jar and close it. I try to use opened food within two weeks, especially meat products. If you let the sit much longer, even in a sealed jar, you’ll start to notice when you open the jar that it starts to smell stale. The appearance doesn’t change, and if it was freeze dried correctly there’s not enough moisture to grow mold, but the fats start to oxidize and get rancid. Depending on the humidity levels, the food may also start to get softer. Keeping the oxygen absorber in the jar will help slow down oxidation, but it can only do so much with the jar being opened and closed.
You explained it very well. and I have some more questions which i don’t understand.
(1) Can i put frozen raw meat in and freeze dried it directly?
(2) How can I make sure the raw meat is safe to eat? i.e. no bacteria and contamination
Does the freeze drying process help?
Thanks for the help
Yes, you can freeze dry raw meat. Yes, you could potentially put frozen raw meat directly in the freeze dryer, given that it was thin enough/sized small enough that it would dry completely (for instance, ground meat patties). Some folks do things like thin sliced pork chops, chicken breast and fish fillets, too.
Like any time you are working with raw meat, you should follow appropriate safety protocol. Wash all surfaces thoroughly before and after they are in contact with the meat (including your hands). Label the freeze dried meat as “raw”, and be detailed in your description on the package of where it was sourced from, in case at some point it might be subject to a recall.
If your meat contains bad bacteria going into freeze drying, they will still be present after freeze drying, so cook completely when you are ready to use your meat. The freeze drying process will put any problem microbes in stasis, so they won’t grow and spread, but it doesn’t automatically kill them. (Freeze drying may kill them, since microbes generally need moisture and a certain temperature range to survive, but it’s not 100% a sure thing. Some microbes have crazy survival abilities, and we’ve been breeding too many superbugs in recent years.)
This is the second time I have read your review. I keep coming back to it as it is very helpful. I am considering this purchase more seriously since my Hubby actually brought it up to me again recently. When I first suggested it, he did not see the value. Now, he is really seeing the value of preserving our own produce and using sales and seasonal foods to prolong our food storage. Thanks for your review.
You’re welcome, Wendy. It’s a big investment, but nothing else preserves food like a freeze dryer does. I appreciate the peace of mind with having food storage on hand that we trust.
I actually OWN a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. In a household of 2 adults and 5 cats, I was constantly throwing away garden/purchased items! When my tomatoes came in, I have gallons of them, and I can’t use them all and they weren’t the ones to use for sauces. I freeze dried them, and people at work (I brought some in for them to try) loved them as snacks. I have done cat treats (buy ham or turkey at the store, cook it, and freeze dry it) that my pets love. I have done prepared food, mushrooms (another one that fresh usually spoils before I get to use them all), berries of all types, yogurt, sour cream (another one that spoils before I use it all), guacamole, pineapple (I have a batch right now going), limes and lemons… sooo good I love it.
Now, I got the small one, and I regret it, I wish I had the larger one (I am considering buying the bigger one, even for the extra cost!!). I had some problems with my pump, and I had to have it worked on by Harvest Right (it wasn’t one of theirs, so I guess I have an older model). There are kits that you can add on to make the oil maintenance MUCH easier (it cycles the oil through a filter, IIRC). However, Harvest Right doesn’t, at this time, support this add on. I have mine in the basement, so noise is NOT an issue. LOVE IT.
I think that with all of the food I used to throw out, I can save money. Plus, I can buy in quantity and not lose any…and my pantry is in pretty good shape! I would love to get more from Harvest Right, and will research the new pumps in case I have any additional issues. I have a log of my freeze dried food for reference. I will be glad to share any “wisdom.”
Thanks for sharing your experience, Debra.
Id try freeze drying meats first and go on to the veggies and fruits. Meats being the most expensive to buy online.
Thanks for the great information. We finally purchased one at the end of November, but have yet to hook it up…dang it! Look forward to being able to save extra food!!!
lol – better make time to get that hooked up!
I would freeze dry my garden surplus. Would save so much space.
I’d freeze dry what i could not can!! Thank you for the chance!
Would use to store food for the future.
Would love to have a freeze dryer but it’s a big investment.
I would freeze dry in season fruits, lots of what I grow, and meats and maybe meals too.
I plan to buy a freeze dryer for several reasons. The cost is not out of the realm of most people with the layaway plan. Its a matter of priorities. We do a lot of canning so im thrilled to know that our investment of mason jars can be used to store freeze dried foods. Canned goods/home canning contains salt & high heat destroys a lot of the goodness. Plus store bought cans are lined with something. If its bpa free its most likely lined with some other chemical laden thing equally as bad. Freeze drying is a no brainer.
Now I can stock up on fresh organic foods and especially 100% grass fed beef & other organic meats certified humanely raised when they are on sale & preserve them in a way that’s simpler, healthier & tastier. Its also a helluva lot safer than canning with big pots of boiling water for several hours. I am excited for all the homemade gifts i will make in decorated mason jars. Who wouldn’t love that. Its not just about saving money. What a great hobby that’s soooo practical, fun, & healthy.
I want to freeze dry coffee extract to make my own blended instant coffee. It is possible to do with this machine? How much amount of water based extract can be freeze dried? How much time needed to freeze dry. Have you sold this machine in Australia. Thank you. Prashant
Yes, it is possible to make freeze dried coffee with the Harvest Right freeze dryers. For best results, you want to brew exceptionally concentrated coffee – stronger than most of us would want to drink – so that there is more coffee powder left after the freeze drying process.
Harvest Right will ship internationally. You’d need to call for a shipping cost estimate.
Their number is 1-800-700-5508.
Business hours are:
Mon – Fri: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm MST
Sat: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm MST
Could you please tell me when the post was about digital camera for checking dryness in the product
I haven’t done a post about it yet, but two popular units include:
FLIR ONE IOS Thermal Imaging Camera for iPhone – works with the phone
FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System – standalone camera
I use the FLIR scopes that I have for my weapons,I just use it for double duty,no need to buy one for a specific use is there,the one I use is a holographic weapon FLIR and it came with a wrist attachment and a handle and the FLIR has a Piccany. rail attachment as do the wrist band and handle.
It works real well,the trays and pads show as blue and the food if dry shows as light brown and if not dry in center it shows blue also,that way you can ck each individual item to see if dry quick and easy,
No FLIR scopes here – yet. 🙂
That is a good idea… as I had a problem with assuming that the food would be dry enough to sit a while and with some that felt dry until I got to the very center of the center tray!
I wish that Harvest Right would have a “keep dry” cycle at the end of the drying cycle!!! (Like a clothes dryer). Otherwise, the food re-absorbs the moisture from the air.
That would be helpful for when I can’t get to it immediately, but would likely be tough to rig up.
I have been keeping track of the times for different food. One of the quickest was mushrooms at 19 hours, one of the longest was Brown Cow Vanilla Yogurt which was 44 hours. I try to plan to be there — and awake — when the cycle finishes. I found out the hard way that you can’t let it finish at night and just pack it up in the morning. It will re-absorb the moisture and you will have to re-run some drying time. So… I plan on 24 hours for foods I haven’t done before, and schedule it to end at a convenient time. Just a warning/suggestion.
I’ve tacked on extra time when something is counting down the last six hours and I’m headed to bed.
I know you can do that after the cycle is done, but I didn’t know you could do that while it is running… how? Maybe mine doesn’t do that? or is it a button that I didn’t pay attention to?
Just use the up arrow on the display to increase the time on the count down clock.
Ha! I did an experiment last night, sure enough, the arrows were there, I just have never noticed them!! Thank you, that will be very helpful.
Bill here again. In reference to cost analysis site you listed for freeze drying operation, I have been very curious about operation costs so I visited site, and as you have said, there are many variables such as temps and humidity etc, but with my standard size Harvest Right freeze dryer with original JB Eliminator pump, my cycle hours were about 25% less than theirs for four trays of identical foods. My unit is inside with constant room temperature, but for someone using their figures as a factor in whether or not to buy a Harvest Right freeze dryer, I would say in my opinion their cycle times are longer than normal. Thanks
Thanks for sharing your experience, Bill. I know I see a huge difference in dry times for my unit, which is out in the garage, based on conditions outside, and also how I prep the food.
I have been running my medium sized dryer for over a year with more than 100 large loads of food dried. Over time I noticed that it is taking a little longer to dry things. The JB pump has a lot of hours (2200+) on it. My oil is getting well used. I know I don’t have any serious vacuum leaks because I can pull a vacuum on the chamber, turn the pump off and it stays a vacuum for days. I ran a test to see if it was the oil. I have been using 4 gallons of VacOil Ecco Grade oil. I drain the oil right after a cycle is completed, remove the water and run it through a 10 micron filter (0.0004 inch). The oil now has a nice mahogany color and it is cloudy which the filter will not remove. I bought a gallon of JB Black Gold vacuum pump oil and 24 pounds of frozen green beans (12 two pound Kroger Brand bags). Green beans have a thick skin and take a little longer to dry. I ran two 6 pound loads with old oil and two 6 pound loads with new oil. It turns out that the green beans were 92% water and each load resulted in approximately 88 ounces of water being removed. Bottom line – virtually no difference in time to dry between the old oil and the new. In fact, the two loads using old oil finish 15 minutes faster than the new oil. I guess I’ll keep running the old oil.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
One other thing to note (as I was reminded by Bill), I switched to a homemade tp filter, and my oil now comes out completely clear, not cloudy. I’ve got an old Brita pitcher, and fill the filter spot with a tightly wrapped cross section of toilet paper wrapped with a coffee filter. Cheap, and works well.
What brand of TP do you use, how long does it take for a batch of oil to go thru it, and how many loads do you filter before having to change the tp? Maybe I’ll set one of these up and use it after running thru my 10 micron filter just to remove the cloudiness.
I use cheap toilet paper – no lotion or extra fluff. Scott or Kirkland are pretty common. I haven’t counted loads between changes. I just watch for when the filter start to look grimy. (You can pop it out and pop it back in quite easily, so you can see how far down the side the dark “ick” has penetrated down the side.) It filter through in less time than it takes to run a load. I usually have one batch of oil in the freeze dryer, one in the filter, and one in the freezer.
Thank you for the great review. I frequently use a dehydrator for doing simple snacks that we can take camping or on scouting events – but forget about trying to do something more substantial such as a prepared meal that can be taken on a backpacking trip.
After reviewing some of the overall costs (and Jay W’s writeup on costs), I now feel more comfortable in deciding to put some money down for one of these.
Being able to put together a chili dinner that can be freeze-dried and easily carried makes so much more sense than either buying the already dried ones ($10.00 for a 2 person meal?) versus my “troop meal” (8 boys, 10 adults) of about $25.00. Being able to freeze that entire batch and simply re-hydrate it when the time is right is ideal for us and overall, I feel the cost will pay for itself over time.
Each year, we dehydrate a ton of fruits and vegetables, but this process does not seem to have the same taste as freeze-dried items. Once of my favorites to do is Yogurt, but it loses so much of it benefits due to the high heat process.
I am now looking forward to my purchase and hope to be able to get this up and going before the summer camping/hiking season starts!
The other thing about prepackaged freeze dried commercial meals is that they are generally short on meat, too. When you’re feeding a hungry crew after physical activity, they need something filling.
Wouldn’t it be advantageous to dehydrate (at least partially) higher moister content foods prior to freeze drying to cut down on run time for the freeze dryer?
In most cases, I don’t think so. When foods are being dehydrated, they generally form a skin on the surface. This would inhibit freeze drying. Dehydrating also changes the cellular structure of the food. The cells shrink as the water is slowly drawn out. With freeze drying, the water goes directly from solid to vapor state, so the food doesn’t shrink. A freeze dried apple slice looks like an apple slice, not a little leathery strip. I think a combination of dehydrating and freeze drying would bring out the worst of both methods, not the best – but I have not tested this.
This was such a fascinating article! Thank you for writing it AND keeping up with the comments.
My husband and I are about to start the process of buying a small farm for permaculture. I have been thinking about preservation methods for the, hopefully, large amount of fruits and veggies we’ll be producing, and this sounds perfect.
Question: Do you still preserve some foods in ways other than freeze drying? If so, what and how?
Yes, I still use other food storage methods. It’s nice to have a variety of options in storage. Jams and jellies don’t freeze dry well, so those are canned. We go through a lot of tomato products (sauce, soup, salsa), which could be freeze dried, but we know we’ll use them in a year or two, so most of it gets canned. Quite a few veggies and fruits end up in the freezer, and some get canned. We ferment kraut, and sometimes other veggies. There’s also the root cellar for storage “as is”. Shell beans get dried. Herbs and some fruits and veggies get dehydrated, but not too many. The dehydrator also gets used for leathers and jerkies.
The freeze dryer only holds so much in one load (our mid-sized unit holds about a gallon), so when I have large amounts of produce coming in all at once, I mix and match storage methods to get it all processed in a timely manner.
I apologize if this was already ask, I didn’t see it but I would like to know how expensive it is to run. If if takes hours to process a batch how much electricity is is pulling?
Electricity use of the freeze dryer varies depending on the unit you have, the food you are drying, and the ambient conditions of the room the freeze dryer is in.
The video below provides an example of the high end of costs, with a 47 hour cycle. Usually my cycle time is about half of that.
One of our readers emailed me to share their experience:
I am so happy I found you. I have been researching this for sometime. I feel living in ruarl Montana and having kids and grandkids with severe food allergies this would be an ideal situation. The other thought I have that I did not see is I think it would be ideal to take out camping backpacking and in travel trailers to save space and time. Not sure if you have anybody with this experience but I feel you could have meals but together that safe space and time. My son backpacks and I know weight is an issue so you would not take cans of food.
One thing you should note for camping and backpacking is that freeze dried food doesn’t shrink up like dehydrated food. After the freeze drying process, it looks very similar in size and shape to before the freeze drying process – except it’s really, really dry. So the food would be much lighter, but would still take up space. I prefer the flavor and texture of freeze dried foods over dehydrated, and yes, it would be easy to preserve allergy friendly meals and snacks.
Over the past couple of years I have started growing all my own food. At first I froze everything, but I filled 3 full size freezers so last year I bought a large dehydrator. It ran nearly 24×7 and could not possibly keep up so I was going to buy another and came across freeze dryers. Thanks for all the great information Laurie, I plan to buy a large freeze dryer. My concern is capacity, it looks like the large unit (5 trays 9 x 20.5 = 922.5 sq in) holds less than my dehydrator (9 trays 14 x 14 = 1764 sq in), and each batch takes longer.
Can you comment on the capacity of the freeze dryer compared to the dehydrator?
You’re correct, Bob, in noting that the capacity is slightly lower on the freeze dryer, even the large unit. I use freeze drying as a part of our ongoing food preservation, but it can’t do bulk processing as fast as other methods.
Can you freeze dry water? ie: freeze dry 1 pound of water so it goes down to say 3 ounces then reconstitute by adding say an ounce of water ending up with close to, or over, a pound of water. Thank you for the review.
I’m not sure if you jest.
Freeze drying water would leave air, and perhaps a few particulates, which you would “rehydrate” by adding back in all the water.
Before reading your article I really had no idea I could freeze dry at home. I am a big time gardener and this looks like it would be useful for extending the harvest life.
My question is this: Compared to Canning, is Freeze Drying worth the extra investment?
It depends on how you want to use your food storage. If you are comfortable using only approved canning recipes, weight of food storage is not an issue and you plan to use everything you store within 1-2 years, then canning may meet all your needs.
If you’d like to store a wider range of foods, like dairy and recipes for dishes the way you make them instead of how a canning book makes them (including pasta, which is not recommended for canning); if you want food storage that can last 5, 10 or even 20 years; if you need lightweight storage; if you need storage that is earthquake resistant; if you need to make “just add water” meals or special diets meals for on the go; then freeze drying can be worth the investment.
To me freeze drying,canning,dehydration all have a niche in the food preservation market they all serve a purpose,also we have 2 greenhouses and plan o have over 60 grow-boxes from Garden Patch,so there should be an abundance of fresh vegetables to work with. The plan is to eventually using the above methods to not eat food from the commercial Market. we are also going to have chickens for eggs and rabbits for diversity in ongoing meat along with beef and pork,and later o start hatching Biddies for replenishment of the chickens.
It is not cheap staring to be self sufficient believe,but to me it is worth it.
I agree that I use different methods concurrently. I like having options. Not everyone is as committed to the wider goal of self-reliance, so if they are only looking at a limited amount of food preservation, those are my top areas I would target for both methods.
I read your review and even though the purchase was a serious wallop to our life savings, We bought one.
It arrived in an intact box, with a dented frame. Harvest Right says since we didn’t discover what they had done to us, we lose. No one has to make anything right. I should have known right then to demand a refund. Wish I had
I used it for less than 3 weeks, and it poured oil all over my floor. I had learned that they were offering an oil free pump for ONLY an additional One Thousand, Three Hundred Dollars more.
I got in line early. Wish I had just demanded a refund.
I’ve been waiting almost 2 months for the new improved pump. I finally paid for one since the manufacturer “was late sending them when I got in line” Wish I hadn’t
Then I learned that all pumps were already out.
Now we’re back to the “The manufacturer is late” story again.
And I’m out an additional $1,300
So far, for $3.500, all I have is a large blue anchor taking up otherwise needed space.
I’ll keep you posted, if this post is allowed.
Amazon has quit carrying them.
I think Harvest Right is running into trouble with their growth rates and pushing to make the product more affordable. I’ve started to hear about delivery delays becoming more common, and some quality control issues. I’ll reach out to my primary contact at Harvest Right, and I would encourage you to keep calling and emailing until they get things sorted out.
Janie,If I remember correctly there is a Federal Consumer Protection you can contact for problems when the Vendor/Manufacturer will not work with you on your problems,especially when it is damaged right out of the box,that is why that agency was creaed,you can d a google for it and contact them and see if they can help you,you DO have the right to get undamaged from the vendor.r
We’ve reached out to Harvest Right, and they are working with Janie to get this resolved.
Talking with Harvest Right, it seems Janie misrepresented her situation. The damaged panels were replaced. There has been a delay on getting her the new pump, but that was due to delay from the manufacturer, as was explained by Harvest Right. (As I mentioned above, they are having some difficulty keeping up with increased demand.) They also gave her an estimate of when the new pump would ship, and it has shipped within that time frame.
Janie also seems to have misrepresented her behavior towards Harvest Right up to this point, and I’ll leave that at that. I feel confident after my discussion with them that they are doing what they can to make things right.
This is sure opposite of my experience with HR. My unit too was slightly dented, but I signed for it and later, when unwrapping, noticed damage and informed HR. They scheduled it for pickup and my brand new shiney unit arrived before old one was picked up. I have found HR to be very into customer satisfaction and maintaining their reputation. I have been very happy with unit and customer service, including tech support tiger me thru learning curve and ordering product such as bags and Teflon pads, which I HIGHLY recommend. I was glad to see update on situation because Ihave been treated so well and machine is so good. Thank you for allowing me to share my Harvest Right experience on this awesome website
What are the Teflon pads for?
It’s just sheets to keep the food from sticking. You could also use parchment paper, or Harvest Right sells custom liners. Some people don’t bother with them, but I found it makes the food much easier to unload.
I just cannot trust a company that strong arms bloggers into doing positive reviews. And yes, paying them with expensive stuff is strong-arming. I understand it’s the same thing as advertising, but it really isn’t because it’s not divulged honestly by either party. So I will pass on this company, knowing what I know from your article. Thank you for exposing them.
Excuse me, did you read what I wrote? If so, are you nuts?
I haven’t been strong-armed into anything, and Harvest Right has been a pleasure to work with. I bought my freeze dryer at a cost that is higher than the current cost. It was a discount at the time, but they’ve brought their prices down quite a bit. I do earn an affiliate commission, but I would never promote a product or company that I did not trust. I’ve refused inquiries from many, many companies over the years.
We got Janie’s situation sorted out and she is thrilled with her new pump. It was not noted in the earlier discussion, but she received an oil pump for free because the oilless pump was not available at the time her unit shipped. She gets to keep that pump as a back up – completely free of charge. How many companies do you know who give away a $300+ item because of a manufacturing delay?
Snippet from the latest email I received from Janie:
Does that sound like an unhappy customer? I don’t think so.
My connection with Harvest Right is clearly stated in the article. Pull your head out of your behind and read it through, and go harass someone else.
Laurie,as I have said before,I have had nothing be good relation ship,and the only problem we had with the dryer was a heat sensor and they diagnosed that problem over the phone and sent a replacement and after we got it I had it installed in about 15 min and every I had a question it was answered right away,that is why I was surprised by Janies comment and that is why I told
her about the Consumer Agency because a lot of people dont know about them,but I am glad that she is a happy camper and I am happy to know that Harvest went above an beyond what they to to satisfy a customer and as you said not many will take a loss to satisfy so I will continue to think highly of them and as I have said before I am completely satisfied with them and continue to d business with them,In fact I am thinking seriously about getting a large Freeze Dryer from them since they came out with the 110 volt one,think I will wait a little while and let the growing pains get settled.When I get ready I will use your link when I purchase.
While there have been growing pains, I think they’ve done their best under the circumstances. I think Janie’s situation was largely due to a misunderstanding. No company can please every customer all of the time.
I am one of latest positive HR reviewers. I paid almost 3k for my unit because I bought it way back when before they increased production and lowered price. Where do you get off throwing out such a malicious, unfounded, untrue, faceless statement about people being strong armed into giving favorable reviews? Have you no rules you live by? I’m happy with my freeze dryer and Happy I don’t know you
So does anybody know what you need to sell some freeze dry food from your house. Like to neighbors of friends of people around the city . Like I’m yard sale site so whatever I live in Colorado City Arizona just wondering.
And where can I find the information to do this and how much to sell the product for.
The regulations governing sales of food that you make at home vary in each state. A really good group for this type of discussion is Harvest Right Freeze Dryers – Freeze Drying Adventures on Facebook. People in that group have done the type of thing you’re proposing, and I’m sure they’d be happy to share their experience. You can scroll through the existing posts to get some ideas, and ask questions if you need more information.
I was wondering 2 things: How long a ‘batch’ takes – I realize it depends on what you put in it. Also does it consume a lot of electricity? Thank you for the wonderful information
I think the shortest time I’ve ever had on a batch was mushrooms, which took about 21 hours. The longest was over 48 hours (trays completely filled with liquid). I haven’t run the numbers on energy consumption, but others have, and the estimates I’ve seen are around $2-3 per load on average.
can you reuse the mylar bags and Oxygen absorbers? Thank you.
The Mylar bags can be reused, but they will lose capacity as you cut off the end to open them up. Oxygen absorbers work via chemical reaction, and are a one time use only product. Once the reaction takes place, it can’t be undone. There is no way to “recharge” them.
Laurie, I love my small freeze dryer so much I am thinking of getting a large. 2 questions….you have a promo code? Do you think someone here might be interested in my 1 year old small one?
Glad you’re enjoying the freeze dryer. I don’t have a special promo code right now, but Harvest Right is running a Father’s Day promotion.
I’m sure you could find a buyer for your old unit, as many would jump at the chance to get one at a discount. It would probably be easiest to see if you could find someone fairly local to avoid shipping costs. You’re welcome to post in the Facebook group if you like.
Just an update on my preps to date,got 2 12000watt gas gen sets to go with the solar system to have the needed power if the grid goes down or we out in the boondocks, that way can still freeze dry food,also got a large capacity dehydration and a food slicer and a bread machine,and a rechargeable vacuum hand held unit with bags with valves in them and can be cleaned and reused.
Also increased the grow boxes to 30 and slowly fill both greenhouses as we go along. I am still working and thinking about other items,even wind generators as we go along.the way I look at it is that it is better to have it an use it occaisionally and not realy need it,but have it if you do.
Wow! It sounds like you have been busy. Thanks for the update.
Wow, such a treasure trove of valuable information in here! I read of some price comparisons in favor of justifying the cost of one of these freeze dryers. I didn’t read ALL the posts — so many posts! So I did the old browser trick of using the “find” function to return the word “rural”, and only found two, so I’m going to add mine.
I recently bought a house way out in the remote upper Mojave desert of Darwin, CA, population 35, elevation 5,000 feet; hot summers, cold winters, and very quiet at night. Clear skies always, and a billion stars at night. Around half of those in Darwin are my dear long time friends. One major thing that makes a freeze dryer attractive for such a remote area, and a potential money saver in the long run: the nearest grocery store to Darwin is in Lone Pine CA, a 70-mile round trip. And it’s a tiny market with very little choice, and it is the only market, and no organic produce. Better shopping is in Bishop, CA, a 150-mile round trip. For the best choices for good stuff, like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and independent organic shopping, that is closer to a 400-mile trip down to the Los Angeles area. So, we in Darwin don’t just run on down to the neighborhood store for a few tomatoes or a pound of something — there aren’t any stores for miles around!
We have a community garden, and I plan on building a greenhouse on my property so as to start planting earlier, and continue late into the fall. Winter temperatures in Darwin can get down into the single digits overnight. So, a freeze dryer seems like just the thing to have in my house, so I can eat those yummy fresh veggies and fruits all through the cold cold winter, and without having to go shopping, and then either running out of good food or watching some of it spoil in the fridge. My shopping travel expenses are much larger than if I lived in a big city. The dryer is a large investment, sure, as will be the mason jars and sealer things. But I think that long term, it will pay itself back fairly quickly. For me, anyway. So, I am continuing my research into different makes and types of freeze dryers.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Max.
With all the food that is being thrown out, I thought what if we opened a kitchen and made meals, freeze-dried them and made them available. This way whole meal could be made like they have frozen dinners and people would have access to good food that was destined for the garbage dump. My question would be the feasibility of the project and the costs associated with the machinery to do the job.
I think the prime issue with a project like this would be ongoing labor involved, moreso than the initial start up costs. The freeze dry cycle also takes a variable amount of time, so you can’t guarantee that someone could come in at a specific time and a load would be ready to pack – unless you had uniform food going in, which would be unusual with leftovers.
Hi and thanks for the great review. I am looking into getting one of the units to freeze dry my own foods. First and foremost, Doing it yourself ensures what you are getting. Second, the commercial food is ridiculously expensive. Third, I want to know be sure I like what I am eating. Survival is both mental and physical. A good tasting meal is very important psychologically. In the military I ate MRE’s and they sure don’t improve your mood. I also don’t want to open a giant pouch or can of store bought freeze dried peas for one serving. When you do it yourself you can make the portions as big or as small as you want. The unit will be used for several families so the cost for it is much more reasonable. Is it something everyone needs? No, not really. But, if you can swing the price, it is a better investment than most of the other junk we all have but don’t really need.
I agree, Jim.
I just upgraded my small freeze dryer for the large one. I had so much …fun… (should I admit it? Trying out new foods and saving food that might otherwise be wasted) that I wanted more capacity. While the small sat comfortably on a tool chest, the large doesn’t quite make it (the tool chest was 19″ deep and I couldn’t even turn the new dryer sideways (the feet were spaced 21+” on the narrow side), I relatively inexpensive commercial heavy duty table I ordered (Seville, 46″x24″ for $150) should fix that problem. What I don’t grow in my own garden (limited space, raised beds only) I get from trusted sources in quantity. I recently tried cherries and blueberries… not the prettiest but they taste great. I did try the suggested method of freezing the blueberries first, then pulsing two times in a food processor. That seemed to chip nearly all of the fruit. The berries were messy on the tray (and the silicone tray liners are SO GREAT, thanks to the tip I got here, I order new ones for the bigger dryer. The berry yuck just washed off. I sold my old one to a fellow enthusiast who had been looking for a dryer for a while, but was held back by the initial cost. Anyway, I am still loving the freeze dryer after 2 years. Hoping for many more! The sale made the cost of the large about what I paid for the small dryer.
Glad you’re enjoying your freeze dryer.
Do you know if there is an agent for these machines in Australia?
I know that Harvest Right ships internationally, but I don’t know if there any distributors in country.
I was surprised by the time difference in processing between the large and the small freeze dryers. In retrospect it does make sense, but items that would take 30 hours in the small dryer take 46 in the large!
There’s a lot more capacity in the large, so as you said, it would make sense.
Laurie, you have the standard size and as you know, I had the small and now the large. What is strange is that the time it took to finish a batch of food in the small dryer varied greatly depending on what I was drying. The large freeze dryer takes 46 hours no matter what I am drying. So far I have done previously frozen veggies, fresh green peppers and cut corn, green beans…all 46 hours….do you think that is strange? Btw, the large is. 110, but required a different outlet.
That seems odd to me, although those things are probably all quite similar in water content and drying properties. Something completely different (non veggie) like fruit, or meat, or dairy might be a better test to trigger a different time. Is there anything in the manual? You might want to contact Harvest Right. That seems like an unusually long cycle, even with the big unit.
Where can I buy the sealing unit you use to seal the food in jars? What machine/ brand is it? Do you have a link for that?
I use a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer Jar sealer accessory. They come in regular and wide mouth options. You have to use them with a Foodsaver vacuum sealer. Jar sealer link – https://amzn.to/2Oqdgfd.
More info on vacuum sealers – https://commonsensehome.com/vacuum-sealers/
This FoodSaver unit (FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer FM24350ECR System) is currently available and will work with the jar sealer – https://amzn.to/2xbLBbh.
You can remove rack from freeze dryer and put jars inside with loose lids and close and turn on pump and it’ll vacuum seal jars. Lid inserts will rattle and then seal. There’s a demo on YouTube about it
Thanks, Bill. I’d heard about doing this, but hadn’t checked out the videos since I have a FoodSaver.
Here’s the video demo:
I”m considering buying a freeze dryer to make backpacking meals. Can the meals be re-hydrated in the bag? (provided I remove the oxygen absorber). Can the oxygen absorber be re-used? since I have to carry it out with me anyway….) Is the oxygen absorber necessary for short term storage? (ie less than 6 months)
Yes, you can rehydrate in the Mylar pouch, like the lady I mentioned in the post who was bringing meals into work for working lunches. Some foods will work better than others, so you would probably want to experiment at home to see which of your personal recipes work best.
There’s no way that I know of to recharge oxygen absorbers. It’s a one way chemical reaction. Some moisture absorbers can be recharged. You can probably skip the O2 absorber if you know for certain the food will be used within 6 months.
Adding to Laurie’s reply… which I don’t disagree with at all! I will say that I do reuse the oxygen absorbers in a limited way. For short term stuff, I put them in a mason jar with a small oxygen absorber. I leave the absorber in the jar until the jar is empty. The jar gets opened and shut in the meantime. It does still absorb oxygen, as there is a seal on the jar. I do not recommend this for anything that will be kept long term.
I would also add that info that is included with my oxygen absorbers claims they are efficient up to 30 mins exposure. 30 mins is a lot of opening and closing
I’ve been using the standard sizes unit for 6 months now and have put away a lot of food. Gardeners, hunters and fishing fans can get this unit to pay off.
When seasonal shrimp comes in cheap/on sale, it gets peeled, deveined and FD’d. Raw meat and seafood seems to work best. For raw shrimp, rehydrate in a bowl of iced water, covered in the fridge. I do that in the morning. By evening, just toss the shrimp and its soak water in a pan, bring to a boil. After 30 seconds, drain and chill with cold water. Tasted, texture was like fresh! Frozen shrimp doesn’t keep for long; the same is true with fish.
We save TIME by cooking large batches of, e.g., Dal, chili or baked winter squash and FD-ing it, so a quick meal can be had with minimal prep.
We live in a rural, pretty remote place. During snowstorms, power can go out for a week, or roads can be blocked for days. One year, a hurricane caused regional power to go out for a week, mostly due to downed trees. We’re used to this and have the usual “country” essentials: generator, oil lamps, Coleman stoves, wood stove, etc. I’m putting more and more food up as freeze-dried. It’s lighter, more shelf stable, and, in many cases, the best way to store foods (esp. meat, fish etc.) long term (over 6 months). Every food has best most practical preservation methods.
Dehydrated tomatoes are better tasting and easier to use than FD. Canned tomato sauce makes more sense than FD’d., especially in mason jars with corrosion-proof Tattler lids. But, if you want to make tomato powder, for quick sauces etc. : slice>FD> crush to a powder with an old-fashioned potato masher> sieve out seeds & skins>store. It’ll thicken tomato juice into sauce in no time.
I’m experimenting with whole fish fillets. Some retain damp cores (thick fillets) so get refrigerated in a double bag and re-dried after this “conditioning”, moisture equilibrating about 24-48 hours. The cores of fresh meat and fish tend to be fairly sterile, so spoilage can be delayed during the above. In any case, this is better than trying to FD cooked fish, because the product will ultimately be sterilized by final cooking. I think, as FD-ing foods becomes more common, we’ll see methods evolve to condition foods, much the way dehydrated foods are conditioned, to insure uniform and complete dryness.
Thank for sharing your experience and tips, Rob.
If you cook a steak medium rare, will it rehydrate medium rare or be well done?
It will rehydrate to the doneness level that it had when it went into the freeze dryer. The freeze dryer does not reach cooking temps.
Not all canned goods have a 20 to 25 year shelf life.. I was at my grand mother’s house years ago and we heard small explosions…it was some of her canned goods exploding ..what a mess and they were only a couple of years old..
Absolutely. A poor job of canning can be VERY dangerous. Also wide temperature changes can even cause commercial canned foods to explode. The safest storage, is a cool (55F) low to moderate humidity location with steady temperature (no temperature variance). The most important though is starting with safe canning practices. We suggest mylar with an oxygen absorber for the freeze dried or dehydrated food for this very reason, it reduces sun exposure, wont break or crack if knocked off a shelf by accident or in an earthquake. Always check your food, purchased or home canned, before you eat canned or otherwise preserved food. If it looks or smells bad, throw it out.
Hi Laurie We are looking into buying the meduim Harvest Right Freezer. I love the idea of doing this in my home but I have read reviews about the customer service is with Harvest Right. What are your thoughts of the customer service and how long have you had you freezer? Some of the reviews about getting parts sent to them or even getting returned phone calls was not very satisfactory.
We’ve had our unit since 2016, and have not had significantly issues with it. With the original JB pump (which they no longer ship), I did swap out some of the interior parts with stainless steel versions of the parts. The original parts got some corrosion because a little water gets into the pump oil when you use the unit. Not a big thing. We’ve done no maintenance on our new Harvest Right pump other than filtering the oil after each use. It’s running well.
Last summer, we ended up installing a dedicated circuit for our freeze dryer in our garage, because it was on a 15 amp breaker with the garage opener and freezer and would sometimes trip the breaker. Now that that’s done, no more breaker tripping. My friend, Dennis, rigged up equipment to measure energy use of the unit, and found out that it does spike above 15 amps at certain times in the cycle. so a 20 amp circuit is preferred.
I haven’t had the need to contact customer service for our unit, but the majority of reports I’ve read online have been positive. Once in a while, I’ll read something from someone who feels their complaint has not been addressed in a timely fashion, but it is not the norm. They ship out thousands of units. Satisfied users seem to far outnumber those with issues. Having dealt with thousands of questions and comments over the years, I know there is no way on earth to please everyone. It’s the nature of the beast.
I bought a medium size and like it. I just wish there was more info of FD all drying all things. It seems a lot of folks don’t want to share of all the things that might be able to FD. The books I’ve seen have a low limit of what I can FD. Can I FD cat food, dog food, corn on the cob, etc. FD has been around long enough to have updated. The books I’ve seen are lame and not informational on what is already out there. I don’t want to FD and make my family sick or poisoned. I feel the hype doesn’t live up to what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong I FD a lot, but not enough of what I thought I thought I could do for my family. Am I missing the advance info?
Are you on Facebook at all? There are several groups where people share a ton of information on different items they freeze dry. Also, you can bop around youtube, where there are channels dedicated to nothing but freeze drying. If you want information on freeze drying specific unusual items, odds are it’s out there if you look for it. Check out Harvest Right Freeze Dryers – Freeze Drying Adventures. Over 15,000 people who do nothing but talk about freeze drying. They’re freeze drying everything from bulk pork loin to moringa to horseradish.
Regarding cat food and dog food – what types of cat food and dog food? I’m guessing you mean canned food, not dried. If so, there shouldn’t be an issue with freeze drying it, as long as you follow standard food safety rules, as noted. The food in the cans is processed until sterile, even if it was made from scraps that wouldn’t normally be used for human consumption. Clean everything thoroughly between loads, and don’t cross contaminate.
Corn on the cob would not be a good candidate for freeze drying, since the center of the cob would likely retain moisture. If you slice the cob into circles, you could probably do it it, but then you’d have corn cob slices.
I ran across your site the other day and sent for 2 sets of 2 packages of things to try. One was fruit and the other scalloped potatoes. I gave one set to my daughter and kept the other for my self. My husband and I tried the fruit and I found it to be quite good. My daughter called and said ” MOM, we gotta get this. It’s great, even if you only use it to preserve fruit. ” I had to agree with her, the fruit was great. I would cut the bananas a little thinner.
I learned how to can from my mom when I was young. When I left home and started my own family. I canned almost every thing I grew in our garden. As time went on I also took up dehydrating fruits and vegetables. I have all the canning jars a person needs. I have the vacuum sealer because it helps keep the foods from getting freezer burn. I can and dehydrate the foods we grow and it helps cut food costs. When fruits that I can’t grow go on sale I can or dehydrate them. I think the freeze dryer will just help me keep the things I already do safe longer.
My husband and I spend most of the summer on our sail boat sailing around Lake Superior. I can see where freeze dried foods would actually be a better choice on how to carry foods with us. On a sailboat you do not have a freezer so frozen food is out of the question. Canned foods have a tendency to get rusty because of all the moisture on a boat. Home canned jars help here but finding containers to hold glass jars so they don’t break is not real easy. I do have several plastic storage boxes designed to hold them but then I have to try to keep them from moving around and the weight can get quite heavy. My husband says we loose 2 inches on the water line every time I stock the boat with food for the summer. I can see where the freeze dried stuff would be a lot lighter and easier to carry.
If you can, dehydrate or even freeze dry, you can save foods that would otherwise end up going bad because you can’t eat it all when it gets ripe. This way, in the winter when we have 4 feet of snow outside I can sit back and enjoy the raspberries, plums and apples that would otherwise gotten over ripe and gone to waste. My daughter and I plan on getting a freeze dryer, that we can share right after payday. We both are looking forward to using it. Thank you for listening to me and letting me say a few things. Sorry I said so much. Donna
No need to apologize, Donna. Hearing what readers are up to is helpful, as everyone has a little bit different situation. Freeze dried foods would definitely be lighter to pack. You’ll need water for rehydrating, but impact resistant water containers are much more common.
I thought I would let y’all (ok, I live in Alabama) know of something I tried lately… a test… I got a BIG jar of Mt. Olive dill pickles (from Sam’s, about $5) and tried freeze drying them. My husband loved them, he took them to one of his clients and left them by accident and THEY loved them. The pickles didn’t require much processing time, and they are crispy. You can taste the saltiness… My thought is to MAKE YOUR OWN pickles (that way, you can get the best pickles fixed the way you like them) and freeze dry them for a tasty treat without any oil (like a lot of folks around here like them — fried pickles are a thing) that is also fairly healthy. If my cukes come in, that is what I will do!
I’m glad you liked them. We tried freeze dried dill pickles and found them to be amazingly salty. I did like pickled beet slices freeze dried.
How do you make crunchy, sweet & salty freeze dried green beans like you can get at Yoder’s Market?
I tried just adding olive oil and sea salt but not the same. The ingredients list state Dextrin, which I cannot find to anywhere. I have Maltodextrin, would that work? How much would I use?
Hmmm…you’d have to ask the folks that make the green beans at Yoder’s market to know for sure, but dextrin is likely part of the equation.
From “Difference Between Dextrin and Maltodextrin“:
A thickening and binding agent in food applications and pharmaceuticals and paper coatings
A crispness enhancer in foods
Used as a thickening agent to thicken food sauces
Used in beer brewing to increase the specific gravity and improves the mouthfeel of alcoholic beverage
Used to produce “light” peanut butter in order to maintain the texture
Used as a cheaper food additive to thicken food products such as infant formula
Used as a filler in sugar substitutes
Dextrin: Dextrin is enzymatically derived from corn, potato, arrowroot, rice or tapioca starch.
Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin is enzymatically derived from corn or potatoes starch in the USA and from wheat or barley starch in Europe.
From “HOW TO USE TAPIOCA MALTODEXTRIN“:
Maltodextrin traps fats inside its granules. When consumed, it dissolves on the tongue, releasing the flavor of the original fat. Powdered fats can also be sprinkled on plates (instead of drizzled) or food for a different look and texture.
HOW TO POWDER FATS (BASIC METHOD):
1. Measure out your fat and maltodextrin (see how to weigh molecular gastronomy ingredients for the basic method).
The standard proportion for powdering fats is 60% fat to 40% maltodextrin by weight. You may need to adjust this proportion for some fats.
2. Optional: Melt the fat if necessary (bacon fat, duck fat, white chocolate, etc).
3. Combine the fat and maltodextrin in a food processor (preferably a mini food processor or mini work bowl if appropriate for the amount you’re making) and blend until a powder forms. Stop the processor occasionally to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
4. Break up any large clumps and serve, or pass through a mesh strainer for even finer powder.
Store any leftover powdered fat in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place.
If you don’t have a food processor, powdering fats can also be done with a sturdy whisk or spoon, but takes considerably more work.