This review covers the ‘nitty gritty details’ about my personal experience with my Harvest Right Freeze Dryer – or the H.R.F.D for the sake of brevity in the remainder of this extensive review.
I’ve owned the H.R.F.D for roughly 15 or so months at the time of this review.
My initial impressions when I first received my unit 12 days after placing my order by phone was how easy it was to put together and assemble in under an 45 minutes.
I imagined a complex assembly given what it does but, in reality, it took one guy (the delivery driver) to unload and maneuver it in my kitchen and one guy (me) to unpack and get it working soon after taking off. No helping hands necessary.
Being a home garage grease monkey a small part of me secretly wanted something to put together and was fairly disappointed — in a good way I may add – at how little there was for me to do. Goes to show how user-friendly this unit is the moment it lands on your doorstep.
Unbox, screw in a hose or two, and turn it on.
When turned on it sounds like the equivalent of a small washer or dryer. The machine itself runs quiet; it’s the pump the produces the most noise. You could reasonably have a conversation over it. I’ve placed my unit in my kitchen where it’s furthest away from my bedroom. The kids are moved out (whew!) so the only one who has to deal with it is me. If I don’t like it I can always shut it off while sleeping or away from home. But it’s rarely an issue even when I am relaxing at home.
Another thing I noticed that unlike a dehydrator where you can ‘throw food in it and go’, a freeze dryer requires a bit more finesse to turn out a solid end product. No worries. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out and I do mechanical work on classics for a hobby. The small extra effort produces a better product dehydration simply doesn’t or can’t provide.
To date I’ve never had a failure freeze drying food except for the few boneheaded mistakes I made that is of no fault of the freeze dryer. The thing is built to last like an army tank. After a few cycles you get the swing of things than it’s smooth sailing from there on.
In this review I cover what you get with your H.R.F.D purchase, how it works, pros and cons, costs, and tips and tricks to help you make in informed buying decision.
Again, I speak solely based on MY experiences alone. I can’t speak for other buyers nor do I pretend to.
However, having spoken to several other owners it’s safe to assume the majority of us share a kindred spirit for the magic of this powerful unit. It has its quirks and a small learning curve to overcome initially, but it quickly grows on you soon becoming a cherished part of your family when your adult children begin DEMANDING your freeze dried ice cream be served on every visit as if the ice cream truck came strolling around town.
I think I’m going to start charging them for every batch I make!
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What’s Included With Your Harvest Right Freeze Dryer?
Obviously, you get receive the freeze dryer itself roughly the size of 2 portable refrigerators along with a complete manual covering every angle.
It has a thick clear door to seal and lock contents within. A thick, rubber seal acting as a buffer between the door and machine detaches to be cleaned and allow the removal and insertion of the four stainless steel trays food sits on to slid inside the barrel.
The steel tray corners are welded together fairly tight. They’re going to last forever. After-care clean-up is a piece of cake. No scrubbing necessary. Just a gentle wash. Even easier when you apply a cut-to-size baking sheet or parchment paper for food to freeze dry on top on removing the clean-up process altogether.
A black door protector that sits on the circular glass door from inside keeps the cold from escaping.
A large empty bucket isn’t included but you can buy a cheap one or find one lying around you can snag. It’s used to extract water pulled out of food to empty into.
Lastly, you have the ‘little engine that could’, JB Industries vacuum pump.
Their platinum model is built solid like a rock and their best performing pump to date. Like any mechanical machine of its kind it requires some maintenance. Even a Rolls Royce sees a mechanic.
For example, for everytime you use the freeze dryer you have to remove a tablespoon of oil and put back a tablespoon of fresh oil. And after every 7 – 9 cycles you have to replace the oil entirely (more details in the Disadvantages of Freeze Drying Food section below).
I use Black Gold Vacuum Pump Oil. It’s the only brand anybody with an H.R.F.D I know from forums and facebook groups use. I get mines shipped to me from Amazon in bulk to last several months.
It seems like you have to dot your i’s and cross your t’s but it’s no different than when you first learned how to drive. There was a lot going on. You checked your back mirror every other second, was conscious of the gas and brake pedal. Drove above/below speed limit. A little paranoid at times while in traffic. Soon it all became so second nature you don’t even think about driving anymore or all the moving parts to go from point A to point B. You just “Go”. Thus, the learning curve to operate the H.R.F.D is no different. It gets easier and commonplace the more cycles you do. For me after a month or two I laugh now at many of the snafus I had in the beginning. You will, too.
Besides, if you have a hiccup Harvest Right is a phone call away to walk you through the process from start to finish. Very friendly and accessible.
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Here’s How H.R.F.D Works
If you’re a mechanic head like myself you’d be curious to know how the freeze drying process works using Harvest Rights ‘wonder machine’.
First, the digital display on the front of the machine provides the time left. Then it starts cooling to -50 degrees for 9 hours.
Next, it turns on the external vacuum pump plugged into the unit. Once the vacuum reaches 500 mtorr, the tray heaters turn on.
Third, as the food heats up, evaporated liquid increases the air pressure which is constantly monitored. Once it hits 600 mtarr, the heaters shut off, moisture condenses reducing the air pressure back to 500 mtorr, and the cycle starts over with the tray heaters.
Fourth, once the air pressure stabilizes, the vacuum pump shuts down and the unit stays at –50 degrees until you turn it off.
Lastly, once the food is removed, you can flip the switch to defrost and drain off the water.
That’s all there is to it in a nutshell.
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Benefits of Freeze Drying Food in a Nutshell
I’ve benefited greatly from my H.R.F.D. So much so that even with the $3700 price tag I forked over at the time (I hear its several hundreds of dollars cheaper now) I’d have gladly paid double what was asked and still got a phenomenal deal for all its value to me (shhhhh. Don’t tell them that!) Almost feels like I got away with robbing a bank its such steal. It certainly saved me tons of money buying $10 cans that’s for sure.
I stress this not to hype the unit up beyond realistic expectations but to remind you that comparative machines are not only BULKIER, but COSTLIER, and much more difficult to handle on a day-to-day basis.
Harvest Right did us a solid engineering this unit for home use. Considering it’s the only one of its kind on the market today, for a 1st generation model I can only imagine what future generation models will look like and how they’ll operate. In a few decades I believe it’ll become a household staple like the refrigerator, stove, or dishwasher – all of which were at one point so expensive only the wealthy had access to them, now virtually everyone has them.
Freeze drying machines, be it manufactured from Harvest or anywhere else (as demand increase competition will introduce models of their own), could soon become commonplace in American households.
Other than the cost savings stated early in the beginning of this section, here are other clear benefits I’ve noticed that brings a smile to my face every morning:
#1: Freeze Dry RAW Meat
Say you enjoy game hunting, own a small animal farm, or wish to stockpile large meat quantities on sale in bulk today – with H.R.F.D you can preserve recently dressed meat, maintain freshness of organic farm animals, or capture meat savings for sale at your local grocery store.
The possibilities are ENDLESS.
Not only are you preserving the integrity and freshness of your meat you significantly reduce space it ordinarily consumes in basement freezers while also reducing heft and weight to the degree where your meat no longer “feels” like pounds of heavy meat at all, but a pound of feathers.
Freeze drying also completely cuts out the costs of running freezer storage bins.
My wife and I enjoy frequent road trips now that our 3 kids are older and out the house (we love them but, good riddance!)
She prepared a weeks worth of full course meals for lunch and dinner on our last outing 2 months ago to Niagara Falls. All we needed was a cup of hot water to add to our meals and VOILA, insta-meals on the spot as if she’d just stepped out of the kitchen.
Who needs unhealthy fast food junk like McDonalds on the menu when your wife’s home cooking can be enjoyed everywhere you go?
#3. Ideal for Doomsday Preppers
I’m not a Doomsday Prepper myself but to my understanding having spoken to a few H.R.F.D owners who are, they purchased this unit for this explicit purpose:
If the “you-know-what” hits the fan and food becomes scarce they would have already stored large quantities of otherwise perishable foods in storage to be consumed by themselves and loved ones to survive. They won’t be stuck with undesirable foods to live off on until the situation stabilizes.
Another side-benefit I hadn’t considered is not having to heat or cook food. Doing so inevitably produces a smell that’ll easily be picked up by starving people on the streets who will do near anything to get access to a preppers food source — even violence. Other food storage methods attract unwanted attention. With freeze dried food all that’s required to restore is a cup of hot water. No aroma is left behind.
#4. Exceptional Customer Service
The quality of a company’s customer service care makes or breaks them. In fact, terrible service can make what is otherwise a great product seem like a demon spawn.
Needless to say Harvest Rights aftercare service team are not your average call center located in the middle of a foreign country. This is a dedicated and professional U.S. team who “know’s their stuff” inside and out as if they own a H.R.F.D themselves (wouldn’t be surprised if some do) and are able to provide valuable insights only someone with extensive experience and knowledge would organically have.
Sometimes they’ll give you the solution within seconds the moment you tell them the issue if it’s a common roadblock owners face. And if you’re really green behind the ears they’ll walk you through step-by-step to get your machine going and operating with ease.
I couldn’t be more pleased.
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Advantages AND Disadvantages of the H.R.F.D:
It Pays The Cost To Be A Freeze Drying Boss
A few years ago prior the most accessible freeze dryer ran you $30,000+ easily; completely inaccessible to the average middle class homeowner. Shave off a digit and you have what it cost roughly to purchase today for the same quality you would’ve gotten at 10x the price for what you’re able to do.
For the record this unit set me back roughly $4,000 before taxes not including the optional $250 Mylon Bag Sealer — which I strongly recommend.
If you’re reading this now chances are you won’t pay nearly as much as I as an early adopter. Not only will your unit be cheaper but it’ll be updated with stronger parts and repairs from concerns raised by early owners like myself.
Sure it costs a “pretty penny” initially to own, but ultimately you’re saving millions of pennies within a single year of usage alone if you add up the cost of purchasing survival prep food by the bulk on pallets not including shipping costs (hoarding mucho personal real estate), purchasing freeze dried food at a local Sam’s Club or Costco (which, frankly speaking, SUCKS in comparison to fresh, freeze dried food prepped myself), or wish to preserve meat you purchase at deep discounts that’ll last you and your family several MONTHS, if not years on the tightest budgets.
Still for many $3,000 – $3,500 is a tough pill to swallow but an easier one to digest. It’s attainable if you can’t afford to drop the entire amount all at once if you save for a few months. Not so much so for $30,000+ which is most people’s yearly average salary.
It cost me roughly $1.80 per day to run. This figure can be as high as $2.80 or as low as $1 depending on where you live. A FAR cry from spending $55 on average for a #10 can of purchased FD ground.
In other words…
…this thing is surprisingly cheap to run on a daily basis.
I purchased it initially BELIEVING it would make my light bill company quite happy for the extra revenue. The company’s website said it would be far cheaper than I anticipated but, I had to see it to believe it, and they’re honest and truthful.
My numbers accurately reflect their operational cost averages listed; better actually.
It’s simply the best deal out there money can buy given all it does for me. It’s by far the best purchase I’ve ever made in terms of value received in just over 1 years usage.
In a strange way the price of the unit is both a PRO and a CON.
A pro in a sense that its many times cheaper than the going rate of anything else on the market today, a con in that even at its cheapest it’s a pricy machine upfront.
For me it was a no-brainer. I’d never thought I’d see the day a freeze drier would be available to me for home use and for it to work so darn well straight out the gate with virtually zero issues.
For me and others like myself it’s a clear positive. For others it may not be worth the expense. Than again you wouldn’t be here reading my personal views if you didn’t feel it would be.
There you have it.
The choice is yours young grasshopper.
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Disadvantages of Freeze Drying Food
Con – Timing
Initially, timing is challenging.
For example, I know a free cycle has a maximum of 9hrs and the final dry cycle can be 7hrs or less. It’s the MIDDLE cycle (removes 80% of the moisture) I don’t know long is going to last.
No big deal if you’re home most of the time like a stay at home mom or dad, but if you or both household owners work full-time jobs you’ll have to get a little creative.
Here’s what I do:
Since both my wife and I work I have to schedule my dryer to finish up early morning before work or late evening after to make sure I get everything out. The weekends are the only time I’m free to run it whenever I can. I usually prep a larger batch so I can get other things done and I don’t have to run the machine as much during the week especially if I’m not sure when it’s going to finish; giving me some extra time.
With time you’ll know how long a batch of pork chops, fresh pears, or eggs will take and it won’t pose a problem, but this is something to keep in mind in the beginning. Freeze drying is not a quick process (I wish). It can take anywhere from 1 day to a 1 day and a half to complete one cycle. Time yourself accordingly.
Con – Oil Changes and Replacement
In the beginning you may have issues with oil, refilling, adding/subtracting, and replacing.
Wasn’t a deal breaker for me. I’m a grease monkey at heart. But for someone who’s not used to ‘getting their hands a little dirty’ this will be a slight adjustment.
For example, it’s recommended that before every cycle you remove a tablespoon of oil and replace with a tablespoon of new oil. Also, after every 5 – 8 cycles you will have to replace the oil entirely. Oil must be replaced regularly due to contamination and water absorption.
The pump itself is small for home use plus it runs 24hrs – 48hrs at a time. Add those two factors and you have frequent oil changes. At first this may be a hassle to someone who’s used to a more ‘hands-off’ approach when it comes to appliances (aren’t we all?) But you get used to it fairly quickly and it becomes routine like everything else.
There’s always the option of purchasing a filter from Harvest Right removing the step of replacing a tablespoon of oil before every cycle. It’s not a cheap addition at $250+ and you’d have to determine for yourself if its worth the extra expense. Personally, I don’t. But you may.
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The Final Piece of the Puzzle:
Is the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Worth Your Hard Earned Moolah?
If you have every intention of ‘milking this machine for all its worth’, saving yourself thousands of dollars purchasing freeze dried food to store for a rainy day, bad storm, power outage, or the next zombie apocalypse, than this machine is great buy for you.
If you intend on using your freeze dry regularly enough to make it worth the cost savings of using it, absolutely.
Obviously, shopping for any $3000 machine online for any purpose you only intend on using once or twice is not a wise choice.
At the time of this writing there are no other manufacturers or producers of such a machine for home use anywhere in the world as far as I know. It’s our only option. It’s a blessing it so happens to be a great one.
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You may read, hear, or see a lot of opinions about the H.R.F.D. Some positive, some negative. Think for yourself. Don’t accept everyone’s opinion as gospel, including my own, in making a decision. Weigh the pros and cons. Come to a sound conclusion.
Naysayers typically have a harder time adapting to the maintenance of H.R.F.D when most if not all of their lives they’ve enjoyed the ‘GO! GO! GO!” Nature of technology today.
We no longer have to hand wash dishes anymore, a machine does it. We no longer have to hand vacuum anymore, a zoomba does it. We no longer have to heat our own homes anymore with firewood timber, a generator does it. Most everything is automatic this day and age and home-use freeze dryers are a new technology that still requires a little hands-on time to get great results like the appliances we’ve enjoyed back when first invented.
This is a relatively new invention for home use. Treat it as such.
Some people adapt easily to the process, some don’t. That’s life. Follow the instructions, call customer service, and they will walk you through any roadblocks you may face like I have.
Other than that I LOVE the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. It’s a GOD send!
If I could gift everyone I know with one of their own, gosh, would I ever. It’s a worthy investment for you and your entire family.
I hope this in-depth review helps you whoever you are out there in the internet-sphere. It is the BEST investment I’ve ever made, bar none. I encourage family and friends to purchase a unit of their own. And, hey, if you don’t like it you could always send it back under their money back guarantee. Win-win. You’ll no longer have to buy food you really don’t want to eat, store it in the back of your garage for years only to find that it’s ruined due to heat, pests, or water. This machine is the wave of the future for food storage and I look forward to seeing you join in for the ride.
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Tips, Hints, and Tricks
Test moisture levels after cycle completions to make sure it’s completely freeze dried. Use bare hands to feel. If contents are cold, it’s not totally freeze dried. If warm, it’s good to go. Better yet SAMPLE each batch for a stronger gauge. The food should TASTE warm all around. If the center is cool or still frozen, it’s not done yet. Restart the machine per next step quickly.
To save time consider purchasing four more additional stainless steel trays for prep before the current batch is complete.
When closing the dryer door ALWAYS be sure after turning the knob and it stops, that you give it a ANOTHER HALF TURN to get the door sealed and locked COMPLETELY.
Forget this step and you’ll wake up one morning like I did to a small puddle of oil beneath the freeze dryer left for you to clean up.
If you purchase the Impulse Sealer (sold separately) that comes with the dryer, freeze dried food is sealed in bags within seconds. Huge time saver and worth the extra expense.
For your first freeze drying cycle, I recommend freeze drying freshly sliced bananas.
If you’ve ever had dehydrated banana chips and were left disappointed by the taste, or lack thereof, home made freeze dried banana chips are simply awesome. They taste just like bananas. Either reconstituted or right out of the freeze dryer. A great, healthy nutritious snack and a great first experiment.
For moisture-rich foods such as blueberries or grapes, cut them in half before freeze drying. It’s hard to pull moisture out through their thick, protective skin. They also dry better and faster.