Freeze drying is a new and exciting method of dehydrating and preserving food. However, since home freeze dryers are a new technology, they may exceed many people’s budgets. So, how much does a home freeze dryer cost?
A freeze dryer can cost anywhere from $2000 to $5000, depending on the type or presence of an oil pump. For ongoing power costs, freeze driers usually consume an average of 990-1500 watts per hour, which will amount to an average of $1.25 to $3 a day.
Read on to learn about the best freeze dryers on the market, their features, and prices. We’ll also talk about freeze-drying technology, its pros and cons, and how it compares to other food-preservation methods.
Freezer Dryer Prices
Freezer dryers are available for industrial and home applications. However, since they’re not the cheapest appliances on the market, many people consider them a luxury. That’s why many freeze dryers on the market are the industrial type that can take up an entire room.
Currently, the most reliable brand of home freeze dryers is Harvest Right offering the highest quality products for general use.
Here are the costs for the three home freeze-dryer models available on their website:
- Small Freezer Dryer: $2,195
- Medium Freezer Dryer: $2,695
- Large Freezer Dryer: $3,395
These are the basic prices, and you may have to pay extra depending on the type of vacuum. The other prices are as follows:
With a premier pump:
- Small: $2,690
- Medium: $3,190
- Large: $3,890
With an oil-free pump:
- Small: $3,690
- Medium: $4,190
- Large: $4,890
You need to consider different criteria to find the right product. For example, how much food and fruits are you going to dry in one batch? How often are you going to use the device? How large is your kitchen, and can you easily accommodate the machine?
Here’s a rundown of the three models’ features to help you compare them more easily:
|Capacity(Fresh per Batch)||Capacity(Dried Per Batch)||Weight||Dimensions||Color options||Included Accessories|
|4-7 LBs (1.81-3.18 kgs)|
Annual capacity840 LBs (381kgs)
|1-1.5 Gallons (3.78-5.68 liters)|
Annual Capacity195 Gallons (132.5 liters)
|68 LBs(30.84 kgs)+ 35LBs (15.88 kgs) oil pump||16.5″ W x 25″ H x 18.5″ D||Black/Stainless Steel||Vacuum Pump,Vacuum Pump Oil,Oil Filter,Stainless Steel Trays (3),Mylar Bags (50),Oxygen Absorbers (50),Impulse Sealer|
|7-10 LBs(3.18-4.54 kgs)|
Annual Capacity1,450 LBs(657.71 kgs)
|1.5-2.5 Gallons(5.68-9.46 liters)|
Annual Capacity312 Gallons(1181.05 liters)
|133 LBs(60.33 kgs)|
+ 35 LBs oil pump(15.88 kgs)
|18″ W x 28.5″ H x 21.25″ D||Black, white, Stainless Steel||Vacuum Pump,Vacuum Pump Oil,Oil Filter,Stainless Steel Trays (4),Mylar Bags (50),Oxygen Absorbers (50),Impulse Sealer|
|12-16 LBs(5.44- 7.26kgs)|
Annual Capacity2,500 LBs(1133.98 kgs)
|2-3.5 Gallons(7.57-13.25 liters)|
Annual Capacity546 Gallons(2066.83 liters)
|161 LBS(73.03 kgs)|
+ 35 LBs oil pump(15.88 kgs)
|20.25″ W x 30.75″ H x 23.75″ D||Black, White, Stainless Steel||Vacuum Pump,Vacuum Pump Oil,Oil Filter,Stainless Steel Trays (5),Mylar Bags (50),Oxygen Absorbers (50),Impulse Sealer|
The models require a 110-volt (110 watts) outlet, but the large model also needs a dedicated 20 amp circuit.
How Much Does It Cost To Keep a Freeze Dryer?
The main running costs include maintenance and electricity. Most freeze dryers don’t need much maintenance. However, oil pump models need oil and filter change after each use.
The power costs depend on your region, but freeze driers consume an average of 990-1500 watts per hour, which will amount to an average of $1.25 to $3 a day.
However, the total running cost depends on how often you use your machine and the size of the dryer. If you do maintenance by yourself, the costs will be much lower than when a technician does it for you.
If you get a Harvest Right freeze dryer, it comes with most of the required accessories. But when you run out of them, you’ll need the following. I included Amazon links for your convenience.
- Oxygen absorbers. They are relatively inexpensive, depending on the size of your order.
- Mason Jars. The prices depend on the size, the number of jars in the set, and the mouth size.
- Mylar Bags. You need mylar bags to store your dried foods.
- Vacuum Pump Oil. While you can filter and reuse your pump oil, you can get fresh oil on Amazon.
Is Buying a Freeze Dryer Worth It?
Having a freeze-dryer is worth it if you use lots of freeze-dried foods because they pay off their cost over time. Freeze-dryer machines are especially good value for money if you decide to earn an income by selling freeze-dried foods.
Plus, if you have a garden, grow your food, or have to stack up on fresh food due to your location, you’ll benefit from having a freeze dryer.
You can cook lots of fun dishes with freeze-dried foods. You’ll have access to food any time you want, and you don’t need to worry about running to the grocery stores.
If you compare the cost of freeze-dried foods on the market to the total cost of freeze-drying your food at home, you’ll realize it’ll be worth it even when you add up all the upfront and maintenance expenses.
Owning a machine isn’t worth the costs if you don’t use it a lot. The cost is only justified when you use lots of frozen or canned food, and freeze-drying can be a healthier alternative. If you live in a region where frequent climate-related emergencies happen, such as earthquakes, floods, or storms, having a freeze-dryer can help you stack up on emergency foods all year long.
Is Freeze-Drying Expensive?
Freeze drying is expensive, given the initial costs of purchasing the machine. If you don’t use lots of dried foods, it’s more cost-effective to buy food that is already freeze-dried.
The biggest advantage of having a freeze dryer is purchasing foods in bulk and storing them for a much longer time. And if you consider the cost of electricity for fridges and freezers, the option becomes more cost-effective.
Even if you don’t use your freeze dryer often, you can split the costs by finding another family to share the machine with. This way, you enjoy the benefits without having to pay huge initial and maintenance costs.
Plus, if you or your family members have a specific food allergy, freeze-dried foods can save you lots of money. For example, many people can’t have processed milk, and their only option is raw milk. However, not everyone has access to raw milk in their proximity. That’s when having a freeze-dryer pays off.
If you grow your food, you always have the option of canning. But that would be costlier and less healthy because you may need to add sugar, and canning will destroy many healthful nutrients.
How Long Do Freeze Dryers Last?
Freeze dryers typically last a long time since they’re low-maintenance. They work as much as other home appliances, usually up to ten years. However, if you take good care of them, you can extend their lifetime.
If the freeze dryer runs on oil pumps, you must change the oil and the filters as specified by the manufacturer. Oil pump-free options are even lower maintenance.
Harvest Right freeze dryers have a three-year warranty, but they last much longer if properly maintained. Commercial and industrial freeze dryers are even more long-lasting due to the heavy-duty materials used in them.
Most Reliable Freeze Dryer Brands
Another reliable brand is Labconco (Amazon Link), making a wide variety of commercial freeze dryers that can be used for home purposes. The biggest difference between this brand and Harvest Right is their price. Although Harvest Right products aren’t cheap, Labconco products are much pricier, starting at $7,300.
Another reputable brand is Labogene, which specializes in lab freeze dryers. They produce bench-top and free-standing freeze dryers in different models and capacities. However, you can’t find them on Amazon because you have to get them through your lab’s supplier, and prices may vary depending on the features and configurations.
Can You Build a Freeze Dryer?
Theoretically, it is possible to make your DIY freeze dryer. However, it can be tricky and needs specific technical know-how. Plus, you can’t get the quality of a commercially-built machine, but it can be much cheaper.
This YouTube video can help you learn the process. It gives you step-by-step instructions and detailed explanations of how each part works and where to find the required components.
What’s more, you can freeze-dry your stuff in a freezer without a freeze-dryer. However, it’ll take much longer, and the result may not be as good because only the surface of the food may get dry, leaving it wet inside.
If you want to try this method, it’s super easy. All you need is a food drying rack to let the cold air circulate over the food easily. Slice the fruits to your desired size and place them on the rack. Put the rack in the coldest part of the freezer. You should leave it there for several weeks until the fruits lose all their water content.
To see if they’re ready, take a piece out of the freezer, thaw it, and see if it changes color. If it doesn’t change color, it’s time to take it out of the freezer and store it in a mylar bag.
How Does a Freeze Dryer Work?
Freeze-drying or lyophilization involves removing the food’s water content by freezing it. Then, under a vacuum, the ice directly changes to vapor through a process called sublimation.
When you put the food or fruits on the drying racks, you put them in the vacuum chamber. The freeze dryer reduces the temperature inside the chamber to -30 to -40 degrees F (-34.44 to -40 °C). When the food freezes, the vacuum pump removes the air from the chamber and reduces the pressure, making the ice sublime. A low-temperature condenser sends the vapored ice out of the chamber.
Then the secondary dehydration phase starts, where higher temperatures remove the remaining moisture.
After the freeze-drying process, your food is completely free of water. This way, you can retain the nutrients, making this method a healthier option than canning and dehydration.
Plus, freeze-dried foods and fruits taste much better, and when you rehydrate them, they feel and taste exactly like fresh food.
What Are the Disadvantages of Freeze-Drying?
While freeze-drying significantly extends your food’s shelf life and improves the taste, it has a few disadvantages in terms of costs, size, noise, and the amount of food you can preserve.
- Cost: A freeze dryer costs at least a couple of thousand dollars, so not everyone can afford to have one at home.
- Size: Freezing dryers can take up a lot of space, with the main unit as big as a mini-fridge. Plus, you need to find a place for the hose and the vacuum pump.
- Noise: While the machine doesn’t make loud noises, it sounds like a vacuum cleaner when the vacuum pump is working, so you need to find an isolated place at home to avoid driving everyone crazy.
- Limited amount of food: Each freeze dryer has a fixed number of trays, so it can take a lot of time to freeze-dry large batches. Plus, the process can take up to 48 hours, depending on the thickness of the slices and the sugar content.
Does Freeze Drying Kill Bacteria?
According to research, freeze-drying can kill a percentage of bacteria but not all of them. To kill all bacteria, you need to combine it with other methods.
What Is Good To Freeze Dry?
You can virtually freeze-dry any food you can imagine, even milk and eggs. Foods with high water content lend themselves to this process better. But the best items are fruits and veggies, meat, seafood and fish, and coffee.
Can You Make Jerky in a Freeze Dryer?
Traditional beef jerky requires heat in its dehydration process to get its signature taste and texture. However, you can make a different kind of jerky in a freeze-dryer. It doesn’t have a chewy texture but is crunchy and powdery. Plus, you can’t rehydrate the traditional beef jerky.
Before making jerky in your freeze dryer, make sure to remove any excess fat, as it doesn’t freeze-dry well. Plus, you need to cook the meat after flavoring it with your favorite spices.
What Foods Cannot Be Freeze-Dried?
Watery fruits such as watermelon end up powdery, and fruits with high sugar content take longer to dry. However, foods with high fat or sugar content aren’t suitable for freeze-drying. Peanut butter, mayo, avocado, jams, breakfast sausages, and sweet relish are some examples.
What’s the Difference Between Freeze Drying and Dehydrating?
The main difference between freeze-drying and dehydrating is the temperature. While freeze-drying uses extremely low temperatures and sublimation, dehydration relies on high temperatures to evaporate the water content without cooking the foods.
Dehydration is less efficient than freeze-drying because it can’t evaporate the whole water content, doesn’t preserve all the nutrients, and takes longer to rehydrate. Plus, the dehydrated food’s texture gets mushy after rehydration.
Which Is Better, Air-Dried or Freeze-Dried?
While both methods can be great, freeze-drying is much better because it preserves the texture and taste more efficiently than air-drying. Plus, freeze-dried food has a longer shelf life and rehydrates much better.
Can You Live off Freeze-Dried Food?
You can, but you need to ensure you have a balanced diet. Since freeze-drying preserves most of the nutrients, it’s relatively healthy. Just make sure you eat enough healthy fats because most fatty foods can’t be freeze-dried.
The best freeze dryers on the market are produced by Harvest Right at a price range of $2,195 to $4890. Other freeze dryers available are for lab and pharmaceutical purposes, which are different from home dryers. Many businesses use home freeze dryers for commercial purposes due to their lower prices.
Freeze dryers are one of the best food preservation tools because they significantly add to the foods’ shelf life and preserve most of their nutrients.
For more, don’t miss How Long Foods Last in Mylar Bags (With Shelf Life Chart).
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