Filtering vacuum pump oil is a part of owning a home freeze dryer. It is necessary to remove moisture and food particles from the oil through filtering. Oil from the vacuum pump should be filtered after every load. This helps to ensure a long life of the vacuum pump.
When you purchase a Harvest Right freeze dryer you will receive a filter like the one in the picture below. The Harvest Right filter is the one on the left. It works and does filter out the particulate matter. Unfortunately I found it to be poorly assembled and messy to use. The Brita filter on the right is what we now use.
The Harvest Right oil filter
If you look at the picture above you will see the Harvest Right filter on the left. Initially we used the HR filter that came with the freeze dryer. To remove the filtered oil you have to unscrew the lower lid and lift everything out of the bottom container. It will drip oil and needs to be placed on something to soak up any oil. We grew tired of the mess and having to assemble and disassemble the filter. Now we use the Brita filter on the right in the picture. It is discussed below.
Our Brita oil filtering system
While this system is what we currently use, the idea wasn’t our own. We borrowed the idea from a freeze dryer group and have adopted it for our purposes.
For our filtering system we bought a 10 cup Brita pitcher. These filtering pitchers can be bought new for around $25. For the bargain minded folks, try looking for one in thrift stores. I’ve seen people reporting to find them for just a few dollars.
This Brita filter uses toilet paper rolled up to remove food particles. The toilet paper rolled up will replace the charcoal filter. As the filter gets full simply replace the toilet paper. In the picture below you can see an example of the filter material needing replaced.
How the Brita filter is better than the Harvest Right filter
The Brita filter does not require disassembly to pour the filtered oil back into the vacuum pump. So long as there isn’t oil in the upper chamber you simply grab the pitcher and pour the clean oil.
A quick important note, the toilet paper filter does absorb some oil and you will lose some of it. You will need to have extra vacuum oil on hand to replace what is lost each time you add new filter material. Black gold vacuum pump oil is what we use and is one of the two brands recommended by Harvest Right.
Recently we bought a home freeze dryer from Harvest Right. We have done several loads and are doing well with it. There is still a lot to learn and you can expect to see more related blog entries on our home freeze dryer in the future. Future topics will be filtering and reusing vacuum pump oil, food successes and failures, long and short term food storage.
why buy a home freeze dryer?
The decision to buy a home freeze dryer is one that shouldn’t be made lightly. These units are expensive and require your time to prepare food for freeze drying and putting it away properly. After every freeze drying cycle with your home freeze dryer the oil needs to be drained and filtered. The process isn’t hard but will require your time.
For us being able to store the food from our garden long term with little nutritional value loss was very appealing. We know what goes into our garden, the seeds that are used. We control the insects so we know exactly what has been used. Buying commercially grown food you have no idea what is used or how it was prepared for market. Putting away our own food that we control during the entire growing process up through harvest gives us a piece of mind.
Extending the amount of food in our pantry is another reason we elected to buy the home freeze dryer. Sure, we could be a bunch of commercially prepared freeze dried food with what the unit cost. By doing it our selves we have better control over what food ultimately goes into our pantry. Plus over the course of a few years we should be able to make this unit more than pay for itself.
Little nutritional value loss with a home freeze dryer
We can and freeze but both of those options are more of a short term option. Add to the shorter storage duration is the nutritional value loss that comes with heating food. Whether you blanch before freezing, dehydrate or can you can expect up to around a 30 percent loss of nutritional value in your food. Harvest Right claims a mere 2 percent loss through freeze drying.
Of course foods that were prepared before freeze drying, or that will be prepared after re-hydration will still experience loss of nutritional value. But anything that can be eaten as a snack right of the freeze dryer will retain all that nutrition.
Things to consider before buying a home freeze dryer
Before buying a freeze dryer we would recommend you consider several things before buying, First off, do you have time to prepare the food to go into the freeze dryer and then to store it once it has completed. peeling, slicing and arranging food in the trays can be time consuming.
Properly storing food for long term storage takes attention to detail. If you’re rushed for time and hurrying to get the task done and do something improperly you can lose everything in that pouch. If your schedule is hectic and you’ll have difficulty finding the time to load and unload the freeze dryer it will likely sit unused. A freeze dryer sitting unused would make it a very expensive paper weight.
The cost of electricity is something else you should consider. Here in the midwest our electricity costs are lower than can be found on the coasts. We also don’t have a fluctuating rate depending on peak hours. A typical load will have this unit running constantly for 24-30 hours. If you pay peak electrical rates a home freeze dryer will be running at those times and could significantly increase your power bill. The large unit runs on 220 volts and would be more economical.
The vacuum pump can be loud. Setting it up in an area close to bedrooms could interrupt with sleep.
The vacuum pump needs to be kept cool and the freeze dryer will be more efficient if kept in a cool room. A garage or shed that gets hot during the summer months can causes extra wear and tear on your pump and freeze dryer.
Harvest Right recommends your freeze dryer be on its own dedicated circuit. If you place it on a circuit with other appliances you run the risk if tripping a breaker.
What size freeze dryer do you need?
Currently Harvest Right offers three sizes of home freeze dryers. Picking the one that is right for you and your family can be difficult task. The number of people that will be using the food coming out of that freeze dryer needs to be considered. It might even be good to call Harvest Right and ask them which model they’d suggest you needed.
Based on our experiences I’d say 1-2 people would need the small unit. For 3-4 the stand model. But for anyone freeze drying for 4 or more people you should absolutely consider the large model.
We are members of a few different freeze dryer groups on Facebook. Often times when someone asks for suggestions on which size they need I’ve seen people say they wish they had bought a larger unit. I’ve yet to see a single person say they wish they had bought the smaller unit.
What else do you need for your home freeze dryer?
Unfortunately there will be more things you’re going to need to go with your home freeze dryer. Many of those other items you can get from Harvest Right. They even offer an occasional sale that will include many of them. The sale, when running will include oxygen absorbers, 7 mil mylar bags, and the impulse sealer you will need to seal them.
Silicone tray liners make cleanup and removing freeze dried food from the trays so much easier. Harvest Right offers them to correctly fit their trays. They have three different sizes to fit the trays for the freeze dryer you buy.
Consider an extra set of trays. An extra set allows you to prepare the next batch of food and have it ready to go into the freeze dryer. A second set of the liners would be wonderful.
The vacuum pump comes with one quart of the correct oil. The oil needs to be filtered after each use. The filtering process will not return all the oil as some stays in the filter. To remove the water and properly filter the oil can take several hours. Having extra oil on hand allows you to quickly get the freeze dryer back in operation. Having at least an extra gallon of the correct Black Gold vacuum pump oil is suggested. Some retailers will ship for free if you have Amazon Prime.
Our favorite freeze dried food
So far Gala apples and bananas are among our favorite foods to eat directly out of the freeze dryer. Bananas are possibly our favorite because they’re relatively inexpensive as compared to other fruits and berries. Blackberries and strawberries are my own personal favorite. The kids enjoy ice cream, yogurt and water melon.
Our quest to be self reliant and grow a healthy garden