1. What is Freeze Drying?
2. What Foods Can You Freeze Dried?
3. How to Freeze Dry Food: Video
4. Is Buying a Home Freeze Dryer Worth the Money?
5. Is a Freeze Dryer Worth it if I Grow My Own Food?
6. Is Freeze Drying Better than Caning or Dehydrating?
7. How to Rehydrate Freeze Dry Food: Video
8. FAQs for Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Unit and Process
9. What Are the CONS of Owning a Freeze Dryer?
10. How to Buy Your Own Freeze Dryer
After 5 years of waiting, dreaming, and drooling, I recently purchased my own Harvest Right home freeze dryer. With now a dozen batches of food under my belt, I wanted to write a review of my freeze dry machine for all who are interested in buying their own freeze dryer!
What is Freeze Drying? Understanding Lyophilization
Freeze drying, also known as lyophilization, is the process by which water is removed from a product after it is frozen and placed in a vacuum. This process allows the ice to change directly from solid into a vapor without passing through the liquid phase.
Until recently, this process of freeze drying was only available to large corporations and operations. Then along came the Harvest Right home freeze dryer!
Here’s what the process looks like with a home freeze drying machine:
1. Place the food into freeze drying unit.
2. The unit drops the temperature to -50°F and thoroughly freeze the food.
3. The attached vacuum pack kicks on and starts to pull the water out of the food (via lyophilization).
4. The humidity monitor checks the level of water still in the food and shut down automatically when the food is fully freeze dried.
If that sounds easy to you, well you’re right! It’s super easy!
What Foods Can You Freeze Dry?
If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen the many videos I’ve done since getting my own freeze dryer. There are many items, both whole foods and prepared items (casseroles, desserts, and more) that I have freeze dried live on my Facebook page!
Here are a few of the items I’ve freeze dried so far!
Home freeze dried raw milk, bananas, strawberries, peaches, apples, avocados, gummy bears, cheese, and chocolate chip cookie dough. They are all stored in clean, air tight mason jars with a silica pack to ensure the humidity from the air doesn’t lessen the lasting power of the freeze dried food.
How to Freeze Dry Food: Check out this video of me using my freeze dryer!
Is Buying a Home Freeze Dryer Worth the Money?
For 5 years the cost of the Harvest Right freeze dryers stopped me from making a purchase. I knew that I wanted one, but I couldn’t seem to justify the cost.
But after owning and using my freeze dryer for a while now, and running the numbers on what I’m saved so far in just about 5 weeks of use, I wish I had gone ahead and purchased one right away! It would have paid for itself within a year at this rate!
While many freeze drying enthusiasts use store bought freeze dried food to show savings, my family (and most families, I would say) doesn’t use freeze dried foods on a regular basis. So for me, those comparisons fell flat.
Sure, if we were doing a lot of survival prepping (we prep plenty, but not with store bought dried food), or hiking and camping, then it would make sense.
But what I really wanted to know was would a freeze dryer provide a savings for my regular food budget?
Turns out, yes! Owning a home freeze dryer has already saved me hundreds in just a few weeks, and I already see how it will continue to do so for years to come!
Here’s how I’m seeing the savings for my family with the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer:
We buy food in bulk when we can, but there are many items that have to be purchased on a weekly or monthly basis due to their shelf life and preservation method options.
Take for example apples.
We eat about 5 pounds of apples each week. I know this. And while I could can them, I would have to use sugar to do so, and that kind of defeats the purpose of eating an apple!
So we buy apples each week, or every few weeks, depending on the season and how fresh they are.
This means that I have to pay whatever the price per pound is every week. Some weeks it’s $1.79 per pound, and some weeks it’s $3.49 a pound. That’s a big difference!
With the freeze dryer, I am able to buy apples in bulk at the lowest price and freeze dry them for a healthy, no sugar snack later on.
Yearly savings on apples alone is $440 if I buy them in bulk at the lowest price. That’s just ONE ITEM!!
Bananas and Strawberries
Add to our 5 pounds of apples another 2 pounds of bananas and 1 pound of strawberries a week.
Bananas at their lowest are $0.42/lb and $0.72/lb at their peak. Purchased at the lowest price and freeze dried, I will save $31.20. Plus, I’ll never worry about my bananas going bad again!
Strawberries are cheap during the spring and early summer at $2.50 a pound, but reach $5.00 a pound during the off season months. Purchased at the lowest price and freeze dried, I will save $130.00 on strawberries!
Other example is raw milk.
My family can’t consume processed dairy, and the closest raw dairy is a 4 hour round trip from my house.
Normally, we travel once a month to get 5 gallons of dairy, keep one in the fridge, freeze the rest, and thaw a gallon as needed. It’s a pain to say the least.
Add to that the cost of having to drive to the dairy each month ($25 in gas + lunch = $45), plus the space cost that milk consumes in my freezer, and it really starts to add up!
Now, I can get all my milk in 2 yearly batches, freeze dry it all for powdered milk, which takes up a fraction of the space, is shelf stable, AND saves me all that time and money I was spending going to the dairy every month!
That’s another $450 saved!
So far we’ve saved over $1,000 on just 4 items!
Not only is the freeze dryer already saving us a ton of money, but it’s saving us a lot of time as well (4 hours a month saved on one item!)
Is a Freeze Dryer Worth it if I Grow My Own Food?
Yes!!! Here’s how I’m using my freeze dryer to preserve my garden fresh produce.
While I do a lot of canning, there are some items that I don’t can under the current safe canning practices; for example pumpkin pie filling.
Normally, pumpkin pie filling can only be frozen for use later on. The problem with that being that I only have so much freezer space!
And I don’t like to rely on freezers since with the power goes out for more than a day or so, all the food within is ruined.
So I have been freeze drying all my pumpkin pie filling!
I can all the fresh pumpkins from my garden (usually around 75+), cook and puree the pumpkin, then fully make the filling (with eggs, sugar, spices, and everything)… then freeze dry it!
Once it’s fully freeze dried, that pumpkin pie filling is shelf stable, and only requires water to be ready to pour into a pie shell and bake!
Other garden fresh produce that isn’t really suitable for canning can also be freeze dried, such as fresh carrot sticks for crunchy snacking (instead of canning them for soups or roasts), butternut squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, herbs, onions, and more.
For me, being able to add an additional preservation above and beyond canning, freezing, and dehydrating is a must have on our homestead.
Being able to preserve fresh milk and other dairy products, fresh meat (raw and cooked), as well as fruits and vegetables that don’t can well, frees up my freezer space and allows me to fully utilize my entire harvest!
I like have shelf stable food products over constantly relying on a freezer to stay functional!
Is Freeze Drying Better than Canning or Dehydrating?
I know there is a lot of talk about freeze dryers being the end all be all of food preservation, and I agree that the shelf life of freeze dried food is far greater than that of canning or dehydrating.
However, I think each one has its place in your home!
Canning allows us to create delicious jams, jellies, and pie filling. As well as pour and heat soup and stews (among other things).
Dehydrating allows us to make fruit leather, raw crackers, sprouts, and more.
And freeze drying allows us to preserve left-overs, dairy products, raw and cooked meats in their original form, fresh veggies and fruits, and more!
Like I said, I think they all have their place and I plan on using each for the foreseeable future!
Canning versus Freeze Drying:
Canned goods usually last for 2-5 years, while freeze drying lasts for up to 25 years with proper storage methods.
Canning cooks the food and changes the texture. Freeze drying (for the most part) keeps the original food texture in place when either eaten from a freeze dried state, or when rehydrated (depending on the food).
Dehydrating versus Freeze Drying:
Dehydrating uses heat to remove the water from your food. This causes a change in texture and color, and it only removes “most” of the water.
Freeze drying however, maintains the shape, color, and texture of the food (with the exception of gummy bears and the like), and removed 99.7% of the water!
This level of “dry” means that bacteria growth is prohibited for much longer than with dehydrating!
Watch me Rehydrate a bunch of freeze dried foods!
FAQs for Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer Unit and Process
Ready to learn more about the specifics for this Harvest Right home freeze dryer? Have questions about the operations of this home freeze drying unit? Let me help you out!
Is it hard to set up the unit?
Not at all! It was ready to use in about 15 minutes of set up. Super easy!
How large is the freeze drier?
Currently there are three different sized units, I have the medium unit which measures 30” tall, 20” wide, and 25” deep.
Does it have any additional parts?
Yes, the freeze dryer main unit hooks up to a vacuum pump that sits to the right, and has a drain hose that routes off the left/bottom.
How much does it weigh?
Over 100 pounds. Oomph!
I would highly recommend knowing where you want it so that it can be placed as soon as it is delivered! You’re not going to want to move this around all the time.
Does it have a warranty?
Yes, it comes with a 1 year Limited Warranty.
How much does the Harvest Right freeze dryer cost?
These home freeze dryers range in price from $1,795 to $3,595, depending on size and exterior finish.
You can also put your desired unit on layaway for just $250. Find out more about how the Harvest Right layaway program works! (click “financing options” under the price)
What are the power requirements?
This freeze drying unit uses a standard 110 volt.
You’ll want to avoid having your freeze dryer on the same circuit as other heavy load appliances, as this may trip the breaker!
Can I run this freeze dryer if I’m off grid?
I believe you can and here is why!
This unit runs as follows:
Freeze cycle: 320 Watts or 0.320 Kilowatts 9 hour freeze cycle @ 320 watts
Dry Cycle: 850 Watts or 0.850 Kilowatts 15 hour dry cycle @ 850 watts
Defrost Cycle**: 800 Watts or 0.800 Kilowatt 2 hour defrost [email protected] 800 watts
Which means that if you’re using solar power, you would just need to time the cycles right so that you would be starting the 320-watt low power freeze cycle at night on full batteries. That would then allow the heavier cycles to run during peak sun hours the next day.
**The defrost cycle is optional, and I never run it. Instead I just wait for the ice to melt and it’s usually done in a few hours on it’s own. This would likely be if you were running the unit in colder temperatures, but we are at about 75ish inside all year.
How much food can you freeze dry at a time?
The medium unit (seen in my videos) can hold 6-10 pounds of food at one time.
For storing, the dried food then becomes about 4 quarts in volume, or 1.5 to 2 #10 cans.
Can you freeze dry more than that?
No. The reason is that during the freeze drying process, ice builds up on the walls of the freeze drying chamber.
Attempting to freeze dry more than 10 pounds of food will result in the ice build up getting too thick for the unit to work properly.
How do you know when the food is finished?
The freeze dryer unit has a digital panel that will tell you what phase the process is in at any time, it will also tell you when the final dry time (7 hours) has started and includes a countdown which you can see below!
Once the final dry time has finished, you will hear an alert beep to let you know the food is finished! Easy!
What types of food can be freeze dried?
Almost anything can be freeze dried! Including: fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, full meals, desserts, bone broth, and more.
Freeze drying, unlike canning, is safe for pasta and grain based dishes as well!
Is there anything you can’t freeze dry?
Generally items that are mostly sugar or fat cannot be freeze dried.
Sliced fruit and most desserts are just fine, however, you can’t freeze dry things like honey, solid chocolate, or jams/jellies.
And you can freeze dry items like bone broth, milk, cheese, and cream cheese (which all contain fat), but items such as butter that are PURE fat cannot be freeze dried.
Can you mix foods, or can you only freeze dry one thing at a time?
Yes, but I would group like items on the same tray.
Keep fruits together on a tray, veggies on another, meat on still another… and so on. I’ve also found that placing stronger flavored items on the upper shelves and milder items on the lower shelves helps keep flavors from mixing.
How should I store my freeze dried food?
IMPORTANT: As SOON as the freeze dry cycle is complete, check to make sure that the food is completely dry (if not add more time as shown in the manual), package the food in containers that are moisture and oxygen proof. This would include mylar bags, mason jars, and tin cans. A silica packet (oxygen absorbing packet) is “recommended”, but I would say it should be required!
Where can I keep/run my freeze dryer?
While the recommended temperature range for operation is 35-90° F, the most efficient temperature range is between 50-75° degrees F.
We keep ours in the kitchen, but the laundry room would also work. However, I would recommend against keep the unit on a porch or in a garage.
The reason for this being that as the temperature rises where your freeze dryer operates, so does the amount of time it takes to finish each batch of food. This happens because in hotter operating temperatures it becomes more difficult to reach the extreme cold required for freeze drying.
Likewise where you want to avoid extreme heat, you want to avoid extreme cold! Don’t operate the unit below freezing as this may cause the water within and below the compressor to freeze and destroy your freeze drying compressor.
What About the CONS of Owning A Freeze Dryer?
I have to say, the cons for owning your own freeze dryer are pretty slim for me, but here they are!
1. It has a kind of grating (but not loud) noise during the drying phases. This is really only an issue if you are keeping the unit in your kitchen, like I am.
2. You have to change the oil every time. In order to keep the unit running well, you have to filter the oil and add it back to the unit after every run.
The process is simple, but necessary! It only takes about 15 minutes total, and most of that time is hands off.
I skipped this once and it drastically increased my dry time!
3. It’s heavy? I guess this could be a con… but we don’t plan on moving it, so it’s not that big of a deal. However, I wanted to include it!
Like I said, my personal opinion is that none of that is worth missing out on the joys and benefits of having a freeze dryer of you very own! I hope you agree!
What if I have additional questions?
I had a question about my unit, even after reading the entire manual. But I was so excited to get started that I didn’t want to page through the internet for the answer. So, I called them up, was connected to a rep in about 15 seconds, and had an answer within another 30 seconds!
Fabulous support and they can help you with questions, as well as getting any replacement parts you might need. They also offer a no interest layaway plan and a no-hassle return policy… though I can guarantee you’re not going to want to send it back!