Author Topic: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing  (Read 9139 times)

Offline Citizen Zero

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The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« on: July 20, 2016, 10:40:40 PM »
Ok, been quite a while since I have showed up around here with something new, but here goes..

So, to be clear from the get go, there are really two types of vacuum packing. The FoodSaver level where you are drawing out a good portion of the atmosphere, but not nearly all, and the next level where you are able to pull down the atmosphere to a level that is near that of low earth orbit. The latter is what this post is about.

So let me preface this carefully. There is nothing wrong with the FoodSaver type equipment, it works well for many applications, but it has some significant downfalls that come with it. The most problematic thing that we have dealt with on the FoodSaver type units over the years has been longevity, the more that you use a unit the poorer and poorer the function and vacuum drawdown becomes. We have been through at least three of the higher end units in the last five years, all ended up degraded to the point that we would not even donate them to Goodwill or similar so they would end up disappointing someone else later.

At up to $200 a throw, these things add up after a while. When the most recent FoodSaver gave up the ghost I found myself questioning just how many more we were going to watch die on the counter while trying to seal something. This pushed me into the mental math on the costs and decided that just replacing yet another FoodSaver was not in the cards. I started with the problems that are inherent in the general use vacuum sealers that are available, and there were three major problems that are recurring themes. The first being the cost to continually replace units after 1-3 years of use, second the strength/width of the heat seal line, and the third being the actual application of vacuum available.

For anyone that is serious about a real long term storage solution that includes vacuum sealing as part of the regimen, the FoodSaver type appliances are NOT the answer. For our use case I actually bit the bullet and purchased a chamber style vacuum sealer that has a dual 3mm heat seal bar and is capable of sealing 4mil bags without any problems (FoodSaver bags are typically 2mil at best).

Is this solution viable for everyone, not outright when you consider the lump sum to buy the unit. But, when you consider the long term costs involved with replacing multiple inferior products that fail, the math makes more sense when it comes to a longer timeline.

Ok, so we have reached the point of excluding the “consumer” FoodSaver type devices from this remainder of this discussion.

Chamber vacuum sealing is different than anything that you know if you have no experience with it. Basically the item to be sealed is placed in the bag with the opening resting on the sealing bar, when the lid of the chamber is closed the entire area has the atmosphere removed down to a level of .1 KPa (0.00098 of atmospheric standard, darn close to the vacuum of space). Once the desired level of vacuum is achieved the sealer bar engages and seals the bag prior to outside atmosphere being allowed back into the chamber, thus smashing the heck out of whatever is in the bag when the outside pressure compresses it.

Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, there are some downfalls to go along with all the benefits.

#1 Mylar is brittle, yes good quality Mylar bags can be used for this type of vacuum sealing, but the vacuum is so strong that it can cause creases in the bags that are sharp enough to cause pinprick punctures that will compromise the vacuum in the bag if the contents have sharp angles or protrusions.

#2 The stuff that you are sealing can become a rock in the process. Powdered goods like flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, etc. will be extremely compressed when vacuum sealed to this level, be prepared to deal with having to break it all up when it comes time to use it.

#3 The clear 4mil bags that can be obtained from an unnamed vendor are tough as nails, but they still do not deal with light intrusion (aka UV breakdown). We combat this by keeping sealed goods in a dark area, they can be double sealed in Mylar, but that is at an additional cost.

#4 Never underestimate the power of nearly full vacuum. Something simple like a brick of Top Ramen goes “snap, crackle and pop” for at least 10 minutes after being vacuum sealed in this manner and seasoning packets explode (or blow up like balloons in the package) unless you put a pin-prick hole in them to release the trapped air.

Now for the Up-Sides

#1 All but 0.00098% of standard atmosphere is removed from the bag!

#2 Standard pint Mason jars can be placed in the chamber and sealed just as effectively with loose lids with an amount of vacuum that a FoodSaver can never match.

#3 Speed: I can process bags of goods in the chamber sealer roughly three times faster than I can than trying to fuss around with getting a decent seal on a FoodSaver type device.

#4 Strength of Seal: FoodSaver type devices typically only have a 2mm seal, that at best can be marginal in many cases. The chamber sealer provides two 3mm seal points that ensure that vacuum in the bag is maintained even if one seal were to fail.

#5 Augmentation: In many cases I seal food items not only under full vacuum, but I also add the appropriate sized oxygen absorber to the bag as well. Call it overkill, but if there were to be any small intrusion to the bag be it by leak, or by diffusion of the packaging material, the oxy absorber is there to pick up some of the slack unless it is a full on packaging failure.

So this has become a novel in its own right. The point is that for those that are ruling out the more expensive vacuum equipment that IS available to the consumer, I humbly advise one to think again when it comes to the long term cost of operation (replacements). Our experience showed us that saving up the money for the better equipment is already paying off not just in replacement costs, but in increased functionality and longevity of what we store.

Offline jerseyboy

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2016, 04:57:07 PM »
Wow, that sounds cool. I have had a few seals fail but 95% seem to hold up. I can see buying the $700 one but not so sure about the $2300 one.

What price range did you investigate?

Jerseyboy

Offline Citizen Zero

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2016, 11:17:08 AM »
I went with the $800 option from VacMaster.

Offline LvsChant

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2016, 10:37:59 PM »
Thanks for the feedback, citizen zero... I have not had the type of failures you mention and have successfully used my food-saver for about 6-7 years with no end in sight... that being said, I must tell you that most of my vacuum sealing is on jars for dehydrated veges, so perhaps it isn't as hard on the unit. Also, I know that it is death on one of those units if you store it in the closed position (my Mom did that to hers and it hardly lasted a year).

For long-term storage, your unit sounds vastly superior!

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2016, 09:10:48 PM »
I dream of a vacmaster!

Offline Mintbird

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2016, 11:27:45 PM »
I've had my FoodSaver since 2004 and it's still working great. I've only had a few fails. However, I am thinking about buying a backup unit since it's so old. I also have a vacuum canner for dry canning in jars. So far, so good.

Great post!

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2016, 09:14:14 PM »
I tried to sell my husband on this idea tonight! Didn't gain much headway considering our last sealer lasted 8 years until the box it was in fell off the back of the pickup when we moved 3 years ago. The current one is doing pretty well and it's 3 years old. I actually haven't been using it much lately as we moved a month ago, sold the 15 year old freezer, and ate almost all our frozen food before moving. Need to buy a new freezer and then the sealer will start getting a solid workout again. Living out of just the small freezer on our small fridge isn't making me very happy!

Richard (richard)

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2016, 11:49:37 AM »
I would imagine that little diaphragm inside the Foodsaver unit, or the motor, is going to wear out but mine has not. I had one that did slowly lose vacuuming power and so I bought another one. Before throwing out the old one I took it apart and found that food had solidified in the tube. I blew it out with my air compressor and it popped across the room. I now have two very good functioning machines. The "Freeze-and-steam" bags did not seal well at all for me. They do however have an expanding bottom that if the regular pint and quart sized bags had you could easily increase capacity considerably.

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2016, 11:05:25 AM »
Oh! The other thing you can do with your vacmaster is make your own "mre's"

You buy the retort pouches. you know, shiny pouch looks like a mylar bag. You can buy tuna fish in a pouch these days, that's a retort pouch. So let's say you make chili but you don't want to deal with all those glass jars and can it. You put the chili in the retort pouches and then you do have to process them in the pressure canner. But now instead of breakable jars, you have MRE's!

Oh man! and my food saver is giving me issues and I wonder if I can convince my husband now! LOL

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2016, 08:48:47 PM »
correction to my earlier comment. You cannot seal retort pouches with the Vacmaster line.

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2016, 09:19:15 PM »
And my foodsaver is dying. After about 5 seals the vacuum stops pulling adequately. What???

Offline Ms. Albatross

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2016, 08:46:12 AM »
And my foodsaver is dying. After about 5 seals the vacuum stops pulling adequately. What???

 :'(

Offline excaliber

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2016, 05:38:42 PM »
I've done hundreds of mylar bags with my foodsaver and its going strong. the issue usually is the mylar is slick so its hard to get it to not suck its shut, I insert a small piece of the regular plastic bags but still leave a lip of only mylar to seal with my hair straightener (it gets hotter than an iron), and my bags work great, here is a video I done on how I do it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVhu2QvF9c0

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2016, 07:16:21 PM »
And my foodsaver is dying. After about 5 seals the vacuum stops pulling adequately. What???

And again today, making my sealing session last much longer as I had to wait between seals. The freezer is pretty well stocked with pork roasts and center cut chops (I cut them from a pork loin and save TONS of money). I should have enough pork for about 4-5 months unless I want bone in chops (which I LOVE).

But yeah, really need to consider what I am going to replace this with.

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2016, 10:09:58 PM »
SO I heard Jack's recommendation for the Cabela "pro" vacuum sealer and discussed it with my husband but then decided I would make "do" with the current sealer. It's not too bad I thought. I am kind of ADHD when it comes to projects so sealing a few bags of food and then washing some dishes and then returning to vac sealing more food. Oh and now I need to stir the sauce and boil some eggs for the morning. Oh, right, vac sealing meats from this week's sales. Got it. Yep, the sealer is doing fine now. Let's see if we can get 3 packages sealed up. So I was doing fine, not really wanting to spend $400+ on a sealer that "only seals plastic." And honestly, I didn't want to part with the money.

Along comes a conversation after a visit with friends that reignites a decades old desire to hike the entire AT. We figure out how we can do it, in broad strokes, the large obstacles that need to be moved out of the way. A timeline for the things we can control and some discussion for some of the things out of our control. We are looking at maybe 2.5 years before we can leave, possibly more. Well, what can we do before hand?

Somehow from there we decided based on recent dietary changes and how it makes it difficult to even go away for a weekend and wanting to improve our health, that buying a freeze dryer for health, convenience when traveling and our future AT thru hike, made sense. So we ordered one! Now I'm really "freaking" (but just a little, it's just one purchase adn we have the $)

Well, what does that have to do with vacuum sealing you may ask? Obviously we need to seal this freeze dried food and the best way to do this is in mylar. But typical sealers can't draw down a vacuum on mylar without some "tricks." Of course, we still  have the issues with our current sealer. Oh boy! You know where this is going. So I talk to the hubs. But we were supposed to be buying a tent. And should we just make do with the sealer we have. And yes, it will take a long time, or use O2 absorbers and the clamshell sealer? Yes that takes a while too. But we already own it. Ok. Maybe. But then he says, let's just do it. We have the $, we can pay ourselves back. And I'm like, yeaaaahhhh, no. I would rather wait, spread the costs out. But the FD is on it's way. So maybe it makes sense to just jump in? Afterall, we need to make about 1092 meals for a 6 month through hike. How freaking long does that take?! We could be leaving in 2.5 years on this. Maybe even 1.5! If we get really lucky! So maybe we should? Well, even replacing the vac sealer would cost us close to or more than $400 for a quality machine and I just saw the Vacmaster VP215 "on sale" for $680.

I guess I am going to start looking for a vacmaster?

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2016, 01:08:21 PM »
Found this really interesting video while looking for bags for our VP215 that should be arriving today.
I like that it's a very short and simple explanation of the two types of bags (vacuum chamber and non-chamber) and also gives a quick rundown in cost comparison of the bags.

We will be using mylar for our freeze dried foods (at least that's the plan). But we certainly will be using the machine for our freezer foods as well.

https://www.waltonsinc.com/packaging/vacuum-pouches?gclid=CITzltOI6s8CFUNlfgodUdoJ9A

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2016, 04:02:12 PM »
VP215 is here! Need to wait for DH to get home so that he can help me lift this!

Offline Stwood

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2016, 06:45:35 PM »
 8)

Got er open yet?

 :excited:

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2016, 08:01:32 AM »
8)

Got er open yet?

 :excited:

yep! nothing to vac seal yet. The freeze dryer is coming today. Been a little "under the weather" so not much going on at home for food prep. I drank just a little wine and it made me sick which screwed with my sleep and energy and everything. and, yes, it was only about a glass and a half of wine.

Offline jerseyboy

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2016, 08:44:30 AM »
I found this video on sealing Mylar bags with a food saver non-chambered vacuum sealer

https://youtu.be/r9dzaeC0hG0

Nice work around.

Jerseyboy

Offline FrugalFannie

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #20 on: October 22, 2016, 04:46:12 PM »
I found this video on sealing Mylar bags with a food saver non-chambered vacuum sealer

https://youtu.be/r9dzaeC0hG0

Nice work around.

Jerseyboy

That's great when you aren't doing more than just a few packages.

Offline Citizen Zero

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #21 on: January 24, 2020, 08:08:31 PM »
Ok, been a while since I have revisited this (oh, wait that is typical of me).

Since the initial post on the chamber vacuum sealing method, I finally got a handle on the amount that we really use the machine. In the space of owning the machine so far, we have gone through over 2,000 of the 4mil poly bags and well over 500 Mylar bags which equates to more than 2,500+ cycles (not even counting the large number of Mason jars that were sealed and resealed repeatedly). Granted that seems excessive, but we have incorporated this appliance in most of our activities in the kitchen.

The ability to buy in bulk and quickly process meats, poultry, dried goods, etc. has saved us much more money than the initial cost of the machine and the materials for packaging over time. We also use it routinely to vacuum pack soups and other leftovers like Lasagna (best frozen before processing) that get pulled out of the freezer and reheated only to taste just like they were freshly made. If I can fit it in the bag, generally I can vacuum pack it with few exceptions.

So far my experience with the machine has been nothing short of perfect. With the basic routine maintenance of occasionally topping off or changing of the oil for the vacuum pump I foresee the the machine going for much longer while still attaining the great results that we have seen thus far (it better, I just bought another 1,000 of the bag size we use most  ???).

After four years of experience with the VacMaster I can confidently say that a FoodSaver type device will never again have a place in our kitchen ;)   

Offline LvsChant

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #22 on: January 25, 2020, 07:43:32 AM »
+1 on your update on the vacmaster, Citizen Zero!!! I'm really glad to hear that it has worked out so well for you. Details about sourcing  the bags you find work best and how you do your jar sealing would be very helpful...

Offline Stwood

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #23 on: January 25, 2020, 08:54:40 AM »

Yes, thanks for posting. Reminds me I need to pitch, fix, or replace our vac sealer

Offline Citizen Zero

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #24 on: January 25, 2020, 06:27:05 PM »
+1 on your update on the vacmaster, Citizen Zero!!! I'm really glad to hear that it has worked out so well for you. Details about sourcing  the bags you find work best and how you do your jar sealing would be very helpful...

When it comes to sourcing the bags, it is not something that I do too often due to the volume that I purchase at them to save money. The resupply I recently ordered was the first of the poly bags since I bought the machine.

The general 4mil poly bags that we use the most are sourced directly through VacMaster, they retail through Amazon. My last purchase was for 1,000 of the 6X10" bags for $44.00 ($.04 per bag). We also use the 8X10" bags, but not quite as often (more for liquids like soups that the additional space makes it easier to position in the chamber for proper sealing). Liquids need to be refrigerated first as they tend to boil under vacuum otherwise, I can tell you that is a big mess to clean up when it happens.

For reference: Water boiling under vacuum in the VacMaster (same model I am using) https://youtu.be/XYq578nd5mc

Mylar bags: I generally get them from PackFresh USA or other vendors that sell US made product. The risk with the stuff from China is that it is not always "Mylar", it can be just silver poly which does not provide the same air barrier that real Mylar does. And, as I said in the original post, the thinner 2mil Mylar bags are susceptible to leaks when there are too many creases or wrinkles after the vacuum process is performed (we are not talking FoodSaver "vacuum" here, we are talking "HARD Vacuum"). When handled too much these points become pinhole leaks that will allow atmosphere to enter the bag.

Mason jars, they are fairly easy depending on the size. Pint jars easily stand upright in the chamber and only need the lid put on with the ring screwed on just enough to keep it in place, but allow air to escape. Once the cycle completes the lid pings down and the ring can be tightened down or removed for storage (your choice), I can easily get 4 pint jars in the chamber at once. Larger jars like the pint and a half can be laid on their sides if your are sealing dry contents in the jars, same protocol on the lid and ring, you just have to be very careful that nothing is going to get between the lid and the mouth of the jar when it is on its side.

Hope this helps with your questions  :)
« Last Edit: January 25, 2020, 06:36:08 PM by Citizen Zero »

Offline Carver

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Re: The Benefits, and Downfalls of Vacuum Packing
« Reply #25 on: January 25, 2020, 06:31:04 PM »
I've long been interested in chamber vacuum sealing. Thanks for the input.