Hands on Review: Avid Armor CHAMBER Vacuum Sealer – seals mylar bags!

Why would you want a Vacuum Sealer for homebrewing?

Vacuum sealers are indispensable for storing hops.  You can save money by getting in on bulk hop buys – See: Recent Hop Finds. Use your vacuum sealer to break these up and to preserve freshness.  You can also store specialty grains in vacuum bags.  Other uses include: storing base grains, partial dry yeast packs and storing and preserving other beer ingredients.

What’s a Chamber Vacuum Sealer?

A FoodSaver (or similar) is a standard home suction type vacuum sealer that relies on special bags. We generally call them… vacuum sealer bags. These bags are embossed or textured to create channels on the inside of the bag. Those channels allow a FoodSaver to draw out air and create a vacuum all while the machine is clamped down. When this process is done a heat strip seals the bag locking in the vacuum state.

A chamber style vacuum sealer does not rely on channeled bags. It evacuates the entire chamber and seals the bag. When this is done, prior to pressure equalization the bag does not look like it’s vacuum sealed at all. When pressure equalizes the bag immediately collapses and whammo, it’s sealed.

What are the Advantages of Chamber Vacuum Sealers?

  • Generally speaking, these remove more oxygen than FoodSaver machines.
  • Vacuum sealing wet or moist items is much easier. Since the entire chamber is evacuated, these aren’t prone to drawing out liquid like FoodSaver machines.
  • Bag cost. The special bags required by FoodSaver are more complex to produce and can lead to higher costs. Smooth sided vacuum bags can be had for less. If you’re re-using Mylar bags your bag cost essentially goes to 0.
  • One of the biggest benefits, to me, is being able to seal Mylar bags. Mylar bags have smooth sides and do not work with FoodSaver and similar. The lack of channels foils the process.

Why Mylar

Generally speaking Mylar bags consist of three layers. Two Mylar layers that laminate a center aluminum foil layer. This combination provides strength, flexibility and durability along with an extremely low Oxygen Transmission Rate (OTR). These bags also block potentially damaging light. Combine this with vacuum sealing and you’ve got an outstanding way to store food & more.

For homebrewer’s… Vacuum sealed Mylar bags are an excellent  way to store hops and other oxygen sensitive materials.  As a testament to this, many hop distributors distribute hops in Mylar bags.  Sometimes those are vacuum sealed and sometimes they are nitrogen flushed.

Re-using packaging can be a big money saver. You’ll see in my review below that I re-use hop bags. Those cost me $0 and are an excellent vehicle for storing hops

I have a post on some techniques that I developed to seal Mylar bags with traditional vacuum sealers. That’s one of the most popular posts on Homebrew Finds, I’m guessing that many people that find that post are not homebrewers, but are interested in this because of the prohibitive costs of Mylar capable machines.


A note to non-brewers: Based on the popularity of our Mylar sealing post, it’s entirely possible that you don’t homebrew. If that’s you, most of the trials in this review focus on sealing hops. If you don’t brew A: Why not? Connect with Us and start! or B: Picture… other things instead of hops 🙂


In the past, chamber vacuum sealers have been very expensive. When I published my post on sealing Mylar bags back in 2011, they cost thousands of dollars. They were generally intended for commercial use and had price tags to match.

I’m happy to say some much more economical options have become available. Here’s a hands on look at Avid Armor’s USV20 Chamber Vacuum Sealer.

Hands on Review Avid Armor USV20 Chamber Vacuum Sealer

The USV20 fresh out of the boxA look inside. It came with manuals, vacuum sealer bags, a quick start guide and a vac sealed toy avocado.A look at the contents


Check Current Price & Availability, Review Continues Below:

Note that multiple variations of this product may be available, as such a different version may appear at these links


A look inside the chamber. As mentioned previously, this is a chamber vacuum sealing machine.  This is a different technology than most home caliber machines use. This technology is superior and allows you to seal using both standard channel style bags and compatible Mylar bags. The gold-ish looking bar in the front is the heat sealing strip. The seal bar is about 11″ long.


Chamber Dimensions:

  • The USV20 – 12.25″W x 8.5″L x 3″
  • The USV32 – 11.5″W x 12″L x 3.5″H

The heat sealing bar is removable for cleaning.Quick Start Guide. Pretty simple to use. It’s nice to have use steps on a reference card.A look at the back of the unit. This thing is beefy and well made.Close up of the power switch and info sticker on the back of the unitA look at the control panel. I didn’t get a great picture of it, but the left side allows you to adjust vacuum and seal time settings.My first vacuum sealing test was this old bag of unopened Amarillo hops.These hops have been stored in the freezer and looked and smelled great.I placed the bag in the chamber with the top resting on the sealing bar, clipped into place by the silver clip in the middle.

Here’s a video of the sealing processThe sealed bag. Really tightly packed with a nice seal that held up. I did increase the seal time for this. I set it on 6. If you’re sealing Mylar bags, this is a setting you’ll probably need to play with depending on the thickness of the bag you’re using.I picked up some mylar bags to try out to see if they would work.Here’s one of the bags with an ounce or so of hops

SealingVacuum sealed bag. Again a nice tight pack and strong seal.

Next up is resealing a 2 oz bag of hops from William’s Brewing

A video of this smaller bag sealingFinished resultClose up. Really nice tight pack

This is a standard embossed style vacuum sealer bag – Inkbird 8″ x 12″ – it contains some of my BBQ Rub. This trial illustrates a couple things – sealing something other than hops and utilizing standard style bags.

Side note: If you’re a BBQ-er or general outdoor cooking enthusiast, check out my BBQ site… BBQ Finds

Sealing granulated mixture in a standard style bagEnd product. Another very hard pack and good seal.A look at the seal. A nice thick strip.Here’s the chamber with one of the included bags. It looks like a standard vac bag, but it’s not. It doesn’t have channels.

The machine includes some 10″ x 13″ vacuum pouches. Those fit the machine perfectly. Avid Armor also offers smaller sizes. This sealer will also work with FoodSaver type vacuum bags, other brands of chamber style sealer bags and Mylar bags.

Sealing most of the pound of Amarillo

This is just the end of that bag. Watching these bags collapse is pretty cool.Finished product. This looks really great. Again, tight pack, sturdy seal.Since this can vacuum seal liquids, I also tried a hop extract with vodka and hops. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have high hopes. I want to do a hopped hard seltzer.This appeared to boil when I sealed it. I suppose that make sense and the boiling point would decrease drastically with the drop in pressure.

A video of the pressure gauge in operationAvid Armor’s USV20 Chamber Vacuum Sealer

Conclusions

This is a high quality vacuum sealer that provided me with great results time and time again. The ability to seal and re-seal Mylar bags is unmatched in any other sealer that I’ve owned or used. That’s a huge benefit. Compared with FoodSaver vacuum sealers, I believe that it produces a better end result. Better seals and tighter packs. The ability to adjust vacuum and seal time lets you tweak this as needed.

Prices have dropped drastically on chamber vacuum sealer machines since I first started vacuum sealing. To my knowledge no machines of this size targeted toward non-commercial users existed. Compared to a FoodSaver, it is more expensive, but it’s outstanding to have an option like this at a comparatively reasonable cost. The difference in price should be offset over time if you’re re-using Mylar bags.

Check Current Price & Availability:

Note that multiple variations of this product may be available, as such a different version may appear at these links

Hop Deals!

Related:

Vacuum Sealing Mylar Bags Using FoodSaver Vacuum Sealers

More Homebrew Finds!

Recent Deals!

10 Most Recent Homebrew Resource Posts & How-To’s!

We are Homebrew Review HQ!  Our 10 Most Recent Reviews


Special Thanks to Avid Armor for providing the unit used for evaluation in this review

Make sure the components you use are compatible and rated for your intended application.  Contact manufacturer with questions about suitability or a specific application.  Always read and follow manufacturer directions.

Price, promotions and availability can change quickly. Check the product page for current price, description and availability. review:usv20 tag:tpr

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