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5 Freeze Drying Mistakes to Avoid for Storage Quality
2020-01-09, 09:11 PM
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5 Freeze Drying Mistakes to Avoid for Storage Quality
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We got our home freeze dryer earlier this year, and it’s pretty easy to use, but there are some things you should avoid to get the best results for your food and your freeze dryer. Some of these tips are for flavor, some shorten your drying time, some avoid messes and a few are real safety issues.

1 – Expecting Quick Drying in Hot Weather

Just like your air conditioning, your freeze dryer has to to work harder the hotter it gets. Higher temps add hours to the drying time – sometimes many, many hours. Our unit is in our attached garage, which is insulated but not air conditioned. When the heat and humidity go up (80°+F), I take a break from freeze drying. If you live in an area where it’s almost always hot and/or humid, I’d put the freeze dryer in an air conditioned space. Also, don’t operate the unit below freezing. You will very likely have water within the compressor (which is normal) but below zero it can freeze and destroy your compressor.

2 – Freeze Drying Fruit with Tough Skins Whole

For fruits with tough skins like grapes, cranberries, cherry tomatoes and blueberries, extra minutes of prep time will save hours of freeze drying time. Grapes are typically sliced in half lengthwise (like folks with smaller kids probably already prep them). We prep cherry tomatoes the same way. For blueberries and cranberries, I freeze them on a baking sheet before freeze drying, and then give them a very brief spin in a food processor. The goal is to nick the skins ever so slightly so water can escape, while leaving the fruit intact. I’ve also seen folks poke holes in individual berries, but the pre-freeze method is much faster.

3 – Filling the Trays with Liquid Before Loading Them in the Unit

It’s a simple thing, but may be easy to miss. Liquids spill. So – if you want to load up a tray of something like soup or milk, it’s best to limit how far that liquid needs to travel in the tray. Get your try in the freeze dryer, and then pour the liquid in – or load it right next to the freeze dryer and transport it inches instead of feet. Each tray will hold about a quart.

4 – Filling the Freeze Dryer Too Full

The Harvest Right Freeze Dryer works by pulling water out fo the food and having that water freeze on the inside of the vacuum chamber, forming a layer of ice. Too much food = too much ice = machine that can’t finish the drying cycle. I haven’t run into this, but others who have say that they needed to empty the unit, place the food in a freezer, defrost the unit, and start the cycle again. Big hassle. Load the unit right the first time and save yourself some trouble. Freeze dry no more than 10 pounds in at one time for the mid-sized unit – 6 pounds is a better limit for high moisture foods. (Check your specific unit for recommended maximum load size.)

5 – Mixing Food Sizes and Stacking the Food Unevenly on the Trays

This is another problem that I see regularly – people mixing different shapes and sizes of foods, and stacking them unevenly on the trays. Big chunks will still be cold in the middle (and not completely dry) long after the small bits have finished. A photo taken with a thermal imager will clearly show cold blue spots where the food isn’t completely dry. Food stacked too deeply has a heck of a time dumping that water from ice to vapor. The top layers slow down or prevent sublimation from the lower layers.

Chop your food thin and/or small for the fastest drying time, and spread it evenly on the trays to prevent cold spots.

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