Just Bought a Vacuum Sealer: Tips, Tricks, etc.

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Sep 8, 2007
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I just bought myself a (FoodSaver FM2435) Vacuum Sealer as an early Christmas present. I plan on using it for long term storage of hops and grains--as well as general kitchen use--since I have lots of small quantities of hops in ZipLoc bags in my freezer and lots of small quantities of specialty grains.

So does anyone have any tips or tricks for using a vacuum sealer in the home brew realm? I only have the starter kit which includes some gallon bags, quart bags, and the 11" roll. Is it worth getting the Jar Sealer for mason jars?

I'm hoping this will help extend the useful life of hops and grains.

Thanks all!
I buy my bags on Amazon, good quality and price as compared to name brand. It looks like yours is designed to work well with the rolls so you can customize the size pretty easy. Mine doesn't do that but I only spent ~30 bucks for it.

I pretty much only use mine for hops. This is great because I buy in pound qty's which is way cheaper than by the oz. I'll keep my hops in the bag they come to me in until I'm close to brew day. Then, I'll weigh out what I need for brew day and seal up the rest in 2-3 oz sizes.

Works great... Enjoy!
Break up the hops into 2 ounce packs, but leave some extra space in the bag.

I find I will need 0.5 oz of Magnum, for example. It's a pain in the rear to open a 2-6 ounce bag of hops, take out 0.5 oz, then have to throw the bag away and seal a new bag. If I made the first 2 oz bag a little larger, I could have just resealed it about 4 or 5 times.
Using a larger bag than needed and resealing is key to getting the most from your roll of bags. I do this with hops and also all kinds of leftovers, blocks of cheese, etc.

When I do gelatin fining, I bag the water and gelatin and pasteurize it in a sous vide water bath. It isn’t any faster than other methods, but the hands on time is minimized... I just pluck the bag out later and pour it in.

When I save yeast from the fermenter, I put it directly into sanitized vacuum bags and seal them. That’s harder to do in an edge sealer like your FoodSaver, but if you dangle the bag over the edge of the counter and watch closely you should be able to do it. (You don’t want an outer space grade vacuum for yeast anyway. Just get most of the air out so they have room to offgas if they’re awake at all.)
Great tips. Thanks.

How much larger should I make the bag? A few inches?

Also, can I use it to keep some wort from a current batch for a yeast starter in a future batch? Does the vacuum sealer do liquids well?
You just have to experiment a bit to find out how much extra bag to use. You will lose at least 1/2" every time you cut and reseal. I find that something like an extra 4-6" is a good place to start.

If I get a big Costco cheese block that goes in to a gallon bag, which is huge, but I will reseal it many times over a few weeks.

An edge sealer like a FoodSaver won't do liquids very well, but you can freeze the liquid first. You can also dangle the bag over the edge and evacuate as much as you can before the liquid gets close to the edge. But note that while you can store wort in the bag it won't be safe to keep unless it is frozen because of the botulism risk. (And some people won't even risk that in the freezer.) So I recommend another gadget: a big-ass pressure canner, so you can can quart jars of wort and make them shelf-stable.
How much larger should I make the bag? A few inches?

It depends on the quantity you're going to put into the bag, and how often you're going to need it.

I find my foodsaver isn't really efficient on the space taken when it reseals. I usually lose about 1" each time I reseal it. Maybe a little less. I also need about 1-2" between the hop material and where the seal will go in order for the foodsaver to get a good grip and seal it well. So, if I"m putting 2 oz in a bag, and I'll likely need 0.5oz each time I grab it out, I need to leave about 5" from the edge of the hop material (2" to get the last seal, and 1" for each of the 3 "reused" seals inbetween). But if I'm putting 4 oz in a bag and taking 0.5oz out, I need more space (but not double, as the first 2" is standard regardless of size, and as I'm going to lose volume in the bag over time, as I take more hops out, which frees up bag space for future seals), but probably about 7" or so, maybe more. That all assumes I don't get creative and start sealing from the sides :)

The tough part is, if you make the bag TOO big, you can still reuse it on the next hop batch. But if you make it too small you have to throw it away.

Say I give myself 12" of extra space on 3 oz of hops. When I'm done, I still have enough to fit in 3 more oz, plus another 7"of extra space. I just throw in the next order of hops and start all over again. If I run out of space before I finish with the hops, I just grab another bag (but I would have done that anyway if I made it too small).

But if I was freezing something like meat, I wouldn't do that.
One other thing I would recommend doing is every couple of months is to check the bags of hops in the freezer. On a whim I decided to brew a small 3 gallon batch of beer last night. When I found the hops in my chest freezer one of the bags had a leak and wasn't fully vacuumed sealed. Sometimes the bags will get a small tear or hole, so I would recommend checking them every once in a while. Over the years of brewing this has only happened 3 times if my memory is correct, but it is something I am going to start doing if I can remember. ;)
I finally had a chance to use my Foodsaver. It worked very well. I sealed some leftover hops and some leftover grains. No issues. Now, I'll look into getting the attachment for Mason jars.

Can anyone recommend non-Foodsaver brand rolls?

Thanks everyone!
IMHO, the fear of botulism is largely unfounded. Where does it come from?? Soil. Same as anthrax. Why aren't we freaking out about anthrax in our canned wort? Canned beer and bottled beer are filled and sealed in an open atmosphere, why isn't there a botulism fear with canned beer??
IMHO, best thing you can do is get Mylar bags for hops.

They also have bigger versions for at least 10pounds of grain. I used to vacuum seal them and store them till brewing.

A mouse issue made me switch to airtight containers
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I'm a mason jar guy. A pound of pellets fits in a quart jar, and I have an upright freezer that fits twenty jars on a shelf. No waste, and no worries.

Also, for rolls, look for foodvacbags on Amazon or Ebay. Those are what I use when I need to store actual food.
I think the best vacuum sealer suggestions have been given but here's something I do which only occurred to me after about 10 years of sealing hops--I cut the label off the OEM hop bag and seal it as well.