What is a Home Freeze Dryer?
Almost nobody has ever heard of a home freeze dryer, which is an absolute shame. A home freeze dryer is an appliance that works to remove almost all the moisture from your foods for the ultimate kind of food preservation. You can put almost any kind of food into a freeze dryer and give it a super long shelf life. This freeze drying process is essentially what companies that put out survival food kits do do create foods that have shelf lives of 25-30 years without requiring refrigeration.
This technology has finally filtered down to the level where you can buy your own home freeze dryer and make large batches of survival food yourself. Hence the home freeze dryer.
Skip the explanation and just see our recommendation:
For preppers, this is an absolute must-have item. It reduces your food waste and improves how long you can keep food stored. Don’t confuse freeze drying with simply dehydration.
Dehydration, while a useful technique, has been a part of primitive food preservation for thousands of years (just think beef jerky or dried, salted fish).There are modern day dehydrators that can be used in your home, but the original dehydrator was the sun. Food dehydrators are basically just very low temperature ovens that also control for humidity. Ultimately, they are replicating a primitive preservation method.
Freeze drying on the other hand is a technology that our ancestors definitely did not have access to. In fact, this technology is so new that home freeze dryers only recently become feasible. Previously they were purely an industrial product (used by survival food companies, providers of military rations, and so forth).
These are two totally different methods for the preservation of food. Yes, both methods remove water from your food, but they are inherently different in the way that they work.
Dehydration vs Freeze Drying
With dehydration, anyone can do it easily at home. And you can you do it using a food dehydrator. These machines work by circulating hot and dry air across racks of food, causing the water to evaporate and your food to dehydrate and shrivel. This is basically how you would make dehydrated fruits or beef jerky.
With dehydration, the temperature is high enough to remove water but not to cook the food. That is the trick to getting your dehydrated food just right. However, with dehydration you sometimes lose a lot of vitamins and nutrients while the process unfolds. It also dramatically changes the taste, the texture, and the overall quality of the food.
Some popular dehydrated foods are raisins, beef jerky, and dates. If you look at raisins and compare them side by side with fresh grapes, you can see what we mean by the food changes dramatically.
What is Freeze Drying (A Tiny Science Lesson)
Freeze drying is done a little differently from dehydration. It involves three main steps: freezing, lowering the pressure, and removing all moisture through a process called sublimation. We won’t get into the nitty gritty science of sublimation, but here’s a basic rundown:
Most wilderness experts know that when you’re higher up in altitude (e.g on top of a mountain), water boils at a lower temperature. This is because the ambient air pressure is lower. Sublimation is a process where you make air pressure so low, the boiling point of water is much closer to the freezing temperature of water. This allows you to “boil” all the water out of the food without actually heating it.
If that all sounds like mumbo jumbo to you, that’s totally fine. It’s also interesting that you’ve probably seen this in action – dry ice is a substance that goes from solid to gas without spending time as a liquid. Sublimation is a process where you lower air pressure to the point where water behaves similarly to dry ice.
Why Freeze Drying over Dehydrating
The end product with freeze drying is vastly different than what you get from dehydrated foods.
But because of its complexity, the only way to properly freeze dry food is by using pretty high-tech equipment. It works a little similarly to how you would dehydrate food. You need to put your food on a rack for maximum air circulation, but rather than putting it inside an environment with high temperatures, you put the rack directly into a vacuum chamber.
The freeze dryer will then lower the temperature inside the chamber to about -40 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s cold enough to freeze the fingers off your hands (-40F would almost definitely kill you in a pretty short period of time if you were trapped).
Once the food in the freezer is 100% frozen, the vacuum pump is going to lower the pressure inside the vacuum chamber, then slowly raise the temperature back to normal. Because of the reduced pressure, the water inside your food will “sublime”. Sublimation is when solid ice shifts directly into water vapor but never becomes liquid. The freeze dryer does this to your food, sucking out the water content without negatively affecting texture, nutrition, or flavor.
Why Should I Want to Freeze Dry At Home?
There are many reasons to choose freeze drying. As a prepper, owning a freeze dryer can have many benefits. One of the best reasons to treat your food to freeze drying is that by removing the moisture, you are preventing the spread of mold and bacteria. As you may know, all living organisms, such as mold and bacteria, need water to survive. The reason why dehydration works as a preservation method is because you’re drying out the food. Freeze drying follows the same principles, but without the texture and quality changes that dehydration can cause (e..g when you dehydrate beef, it becomes beef jerky. If you freeze dry behave, you can rehydrate the beef and it’ll still taste like non-jerky beef).
Less Bacteria, Better Shelf Life
By taking the water out of your food, it’s basically impossible for bacteria to thrive. With a home dehydrator, you can remove roughly 95% of the water contained in your foods. But with a freeze dryer, you can get rid of about 99% of all the moisture.
And so, your food will be less susceptible to bacteria and it will have a longer shelf life, even longer than dehydrated food. if you store your freeze-dried food properly, it essentially becomes non-perishable food – that’s how you get 25/30 year shelf lives. With a home freeze dryer, you get to make it all at home! If you properly seal a freeze-dried meal, it should keep its texture, full nutritional value, and flavor for around 25 years or more.
As a prepper, being able to turn ordinary food into a non-perishable that will last for 25 years is not just invaluable – some would argue its priceless.
The Food is Better
The quality of your food is better when it’s freeze dried than when it’s dehydrated. When you dehydrate food, it doesn’t take away the fiber or iron, but it can break down vitamins and minerals because of the high temperatures. With freeze drying, you get to keep all your vitamin minerals right where they should be.
This means a better taste and a better texture. Freeze-dried food even keeps its shape and color, and so it’s not such an “ugly” meal to look at. After you’ve rehydrated the food, it basically looks the same. If you freeze dry strawberries and then rehydrate them, they become soft again and while we won’t say they’re as good as fresh strawberries, they come close.
Additionally, without all the water inside the food, it’s lighter to carry. This is critical if you’re going to be spending time on expeditions, taking your food camping, or putting together a survival bag. You’ll be able to pack more food and carry it farther because it’s not as heavy.
It’s also easier to cook freeze-dried foods. It takes less time, it takes less effort, and you can do it super quickly. All you need to bring your freeze-dried food back to life and eat it is a bit of moisture. Most food that has been freeze dried can be ready for the dinner plate in about 5 minutes.
This means you can make super quick breakfasts and lunches when out on the road, when camping or hiking, or when time is short and you need to be on the move.
This is in contrast to dehydrated/dried foods like beef jerky – put beef jerky in a pot of water and you just have a pot of water with jerky in it. It doesn’t “rehydrate” in the same way that freeze dried foods do. Not to mention the fact that there are plenty of foods that you can’t properly dehydrate (eggs for example). But freeze drying can be applied to virtually any food.
The Downside to a Home Freeze Dryer
There are some downsides to freeze drying. The biggest downside is the price of a home freeze dryer. This is definitely the biggest negative for anyone interested in investing in a home freeze drying setup for prepping or survival purposes. You can purchase a food dehydrator for something like $50 online. You can buy more expensive ones too, but there are cheap dehydrators that will do the job.
In comparison to a $50 price tag, a small home freeze dryer can cost thousands of dollars. A freeze dryer is also going to use a ton of electricity. (It will also be completely useless if you have no electricity to run it – a consideration that any prepper should take into account). Obviously, energy costs can add up quickly if you’re using such an energy-hog of a machine frequently.
In fact, the only downside to a home freeze dryer is the price. We suggest if you have a group of friends who are keen on properly preserving food, maybe a group of preppers who all want to stock their supplies with the best non-perishables, and try to organize a co-own of some sort. This is especially recommended if you’re on a tight budget. I wouldn’t buy one of the home freeze dryers unless you’ve got the budget for it.
Pitching in as a small group of preppers to split the cost of a home freeze dryer and it won’t be as bad on anyone’s wallet. If you can set something like this up, then as a prepper or survivalist it’s probably worth it – the value of being able to freeze dry your own food for long term storage will save you a lot of money in the long run. Just make sure that whoever you split the machine with isn’t going to make a fuss about you using it if it’s placed in their home. Only pitch in with other folks if you’re very close and there’s a level of trust between you already.
Freeze Dryers Pay for Themselves
You can always just spend the money and buy your own home freeze dryer if you have the resources You can justify such an expensive item if you compare it to how much money it would cost you to buy freeze-dried food from the grocery store. For this, we’re going to break down a little bit of math.
Let’s say your freeze dryer is $2,000. For that kind of money, you can get nearly 300,000 calories of freeze-dried food from the store. If you are trying to feed your family, everybody needs about 1,500 calories each day. That means with $2,000 you only get about 1.5 months of emergency food stockpiled in your home.
But if you purchase the freeze dryer outright, you can freeze and preserve all your leftover food, the meat you’ve gotten from hunting, the extra produce you’ve grown in your garden, and so on and so forth. Basically any meal that you’ve made and haven’t eaten, you can freeze dry and turn it into true survival food (the kind you find in survival food kits) If you actually want to use the freeze dryer consistently, after about a year you will have not only saved money, but basically made money on this “investment” into prepping.
Home Freeze Dryer Basics
With a home freeze dryer, there are a few different sizes. You can get a small freeze dryer or a large freeze dryer. It all depends on how much food you’re planning to preserve. If you’re only going to be preserving small batches of food at a time, such as cooking for yourself and a partner, you only need a small freeze dryer.
However, if you will be preserving food and serving meals to a large family, to your friends, or to any other larger group, we recommend getting a bigger freeze dryer.
But how much room do you need? A freeze dryer can take up a lot of space. It’s a lot more than just a single piece of equipment. You have the vacuum chamber, the pumps, and the control system itself. That said, a small freeze dryer is about the size of your microwave, while a bigger one is about the size of your dishwasher. Knowing this, you will need to figure out how much space there is in your home for a freeze dryer.
Then you have electricity to think about. Depending on the unit, you may need to have a dedicated electrical outlet. Always check the electrical requirements before you purchase a freeze dryer for your home.
The good news is that freeze dryers are typically low maintenance. You do need to clean them once in a while and inspect the door seals to make sure everything is functioning optimally, but they typically don’t require a lot of cleaning.
You will need to change the oil in the vacuum pump every now and again, or you can always upgrade for a pump that doesn’t require oil. However, the upgrade is going to cost money. It all depends on your budget and how much maintenance you’re willing to handle.
The Best Home Freeze Dryer: Harvest Right
This is definitely the moment you have all been waiting for. Where can you get a freeze dryer? Who sells freeze dryers? What is the best freeze dryer? Luckily, the answer to all these questions is the same.
When it comes to home freeze dryers, there is literally one name in the marketplace. You can supposedly buy other freeze dryers from obscure manufacturers online or through auctions, but the only easily available, trustworthy units are sold by Harvest Right.
Click to check out Harvest Right’s range of home freeze dryers.
And they only sell three models. Just like ordering your coffee, you can either get a small freeze dryer, and medium freeze dryer, or a large freeze dryer. All the units are pretty much the same except that their dimensions are different. Naturally, the bigger the freeze dryer the higher the price. For those of you with carefully designed kitchens, you can pick from a variety of colors to better match your other kitchen appliances and decor.
The Small Harvest Right Freeze Dryer
This small freeze dryer from Harvest Right is the most compact model you can get. It’s approximately 25 inches tall and 16.5 inches wide, with a depth of 18.5 inches. This small freeze dryer is perfect for a single person or a couple. It fits easily on any countertop, on a side table, or in the corner of your basement.
If you want to keep the small freeze dryer in your kitchen, it won’t take up much more space than an old microwave. Think of it like a wine refrigerator. In fact, it even kind of looks like a wine refrigerator.
This unit is also the most affordable option. It costs slightly less than $2,000 when you purchase it directly from the manufacturer. It comes complete with a one-year limited warranty and a 30-day full refund.
In terms of freezing power, you can freeze dry somewhere between 4 and 7 pounds of food with each batch. Annually, that’s about 840 pounds of food freeze dried using this awesome tool. If you want to break it down even more, that’s about 195 gallons of fresh food perfectly preserved.
The machine operates using a single button, it’s incredibly simplistic for anyone to figure out, and it’s pretty easy to clean. It even works using a normal outlet, so there is no need to install anything or phone an electrician. Plus, the unit comes included with 50 mylar bags, the pump hose, the vacuum pump, special filters, oxygen absorbers, oil, and the manual. It also comes with three food trays.
The Medium Harvest Right Freeze Dryer
The medium freeze dryer from Harvest Right measures 30 inches high, 20 inches wide, and 25 inches deep. And while it can fit on your countertop, it may be a little more realistic to have it kept on a beverage cart or on a sturdy side table. This is a fair jump in size, but it’s not much steeper in price. You’re still sticking between the $2,000 and $2,500 range. You might even be able to catch a discount if you keep your eyes open for deals.
With the mid-sized capacity, you get about 1,450 pounds of fresh food preserved annually. This is an increase of around 7 to 10 pounds with every batch preserved. And just like the other freeze dryers, this unit is easy, it operates exactly the same, and it plugs into a standard outlet. This is great because you can use it with a generator if you need to. The larger capacity means this is a better unit for families.
Large Harvest Right Freeze Dryer
This is the biggest and heaviest option around. If you’re a gardener (meaning you have a lot of excess grown food to deal with), if you have a large family, or if you’re going through massive amounts of meat, this is the freeze dryer you need. It’s huge, expensive, and has loads of room to preserve food. The dryer itself is 32.5 inches high, 2.25 inches wide, and it has a depth of 25.5 inches. Yes, it’s big. It’s about twice the size of a miniature fridge. It can still sit on a counter-top, but maybe not under your kitchen cabinets.
Expensive means expensive. This unit costs close to $3,500. But like the other models, you might find significant savings if you keep your eyes open. Be sure to check Harvest Dry’s website regularly. Because of the expanded internal capacity, you can now process about 12 to 16 pounds with each batch. That equals 2,500 pounds of preserved food every year, or 546 gallons.
But here comes the problem. The large freeze dryer functionally does operate the same as the other models, but it does not have a standard plug. You need a three-pronged outlet to make this baby work. It just needs a little more energy. For this reason, you’re probably going to need a professional to install a plug – unless you already have one. In any case, this is a big investment. If you’re pitching in with other preppers for a small “community” freeze dryer, or if you have a very large family and the budget for it, you might consider getting the large version of the harvest right freeze dryer.
Still, the Harvest Right freeze dryer is an awesome product with lots of possibilities. If you’re getting serious about prepping and long term food storage, you need a freeze dryer.