Hands on Review: Oliso Vacuum Sealer – for hop preservation & storage

This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Brad Probert.  Brad is an engineer, expert homebrewer and experienced reviewer.  Grab a link to Brad’s website at the end of this review.

Oliso Vacuum Sealer

For years, I would buy 1 oz. bags of hops from my LHBS, and only use a portion of the bag. I would put some tape over the leftovers and throw it in the fridge. When I went to brew again, I couldn’t remember when those hops were stashed there, and I knew they weren’t sealed properly, so I wouldn’t use them. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away, but I also didn’t want to use such an undefined variable in my recipe. If the beer turned out not as planned, I wouldn’t know if it was because of improperly stored hops, or just a bad recipe. If the beer turned out great, I’d be concerned if I could recreate it next time around.

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For hop storage, the key degradation factors to control are storage temperature and oxygen exposure (assuming you are storing them out of the light in any case). In storage, hop acids decrease, and oxidation compounds increase. The key is to use your hops while your acid content is still close to the AA% the hop producer labelled your hops with (to improve your ability to recreate results next time you brew), and before the oxidation compounds increase to a level that creates unwanted flavors in your beer. Cold temperature is better than warm, and storing in a vacuum is better than storing in open air. If you’re storing hops at room temperature or refrigerator temperature, keeping them vacuum sealed makes a big difference in slowing down hop degradation. If you’re storing them in the freezer, the vacuum sealing is not as important. But of course, even in the freezer, you’ll still want them to be packaged well to avoid other stuff floating around in the air of your freezer contaminating your hops.

What Comes in the Box

The Oliso vacuum sealer is like the Swiss Army Knife of sealers. Apparently sealers are generally only good for either dry goods or wet goods, but the Oliso is able to do a good job with both. In addition, it has a vacuum port that you can connect a short tube to and then hook that up to some unique accessories to do things like vacuum sealing wine bottles or olive oil (didn’t know that was something I needed to do), as well as a lid to vacuum seal mason jars. I’m sure you’re thinking about whether you could vacuum seal some starter wort in jars, like I was. Shortcutting to the end, no you can’t. The pH of wort isn’t low enough to kill botulism, sucking the oxygen out also doesn’t kill it, and neither does freezing temperature. Pressure canning is the only way to get the right conditions to kill any botulism. So you just need to stick to vacuum sealing your hops in bags and storing them in the freezer. All the other bells & whistles on the Oliso are for use in the kitchen, not in brewing.

Bag Opened to Snag Some Hops on Brew Day

The Vac-Snap bags designed for the Oliso sealer are multi-layered BPA-free plastic. There is a zip-loc top that makes for easy re-opening when it comes time to get your hops out. Their sealer works in a unique way. It pierces a small hole in the bag and then extracts the air through that. Once the unit recognizes that all the air is out, it melts a circular ring around the hole to make it air-tight again.

Hands on Review

The unit was made of a plastic housing with a small control panel in the upper corner. Nothing too fancy, but it looked durable. It had a slot in the middle where you slid the bag up for it to make its puncture and seal action, and a 3.5-foot cord to plug it in to an 110V outlet. The overall build quality looked pretty standard consumer kitchen appliance grade- nothing flashy, but looked well executed. And functionally it was flawless. No weird glitches or malfunctions, it did exactly as it was supposed to.

Vacuum Sealed Bag

As for functions, in my determination of homebrew uses, only the vacuum seal of the Oliso Vac-Snap bags was relevant. And this was dead easy. The Medium size Quart Vac-Snap bags from Oliso was a perfect size for a 1-lb package of pellet hops. The bags are designed to be used up to 10 times. In theory they can be washed in the dishwasher in between uses and then dried, but I didn’t test that out. With 10 uses of 16 oz. of hop pellets, that works out about just perfect for my hop dosages.

Full 1 lb Bag of Pellets

I opened the 1 lb bag of pellet hops for my first usage, then took the rest and dumped them in the Vac Snap bag and closed the zip lock top. I then slid the bag into the sealing machine, lining up with the pre-marked circles on the bag. I slid the bag in the designated slot, the light changed on top and the machine automatically kicked on and started vacuuming out the air. When done, it stopped vacuuming, sealed around the hole and then beeped that it was complete.

For my trials, I kept bags stored in the freezer for a little over a month, and noticed no loss of vacuum in bags that had been opened and sealed one or two times. When I pulled them out to use them for the next recipe, the zip lock opened up with ease, I dispensed the necessary amount into my measuring cups on the scale, and then sealed the bag back up again as before. The ease of the zip lock bags to seal and open, combined with the reliability and simplicity of the Oliso auto-start/stop vacuum machine made bulk hop purchases a no brainer. When 1 lb bags of go on sale, with an easy way to package and dispense bulk hops, you can take advantage of those discounts.


Closeup of Control Panel

Overall, the Oliso Smart Vacuum Sealer worked great.  With the Vac-Snap bags, it puts hop storage within reach of even those intimidated at the thought of adding anything more complex to their brewing regimen.  That being said, without a doubt, it’s pricey.  It would take a while to justify the savings in buying hops by the pound instead of by the ounce, so you really would want to be looking at this if you’re looking to take advantage of its food storage features as well.  And if you can do that, you’ll be the envy of your homebrew club when you show up to a bulk hop purchase with this baby.

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More Photos

Resealing Bag After Hops RemovedSimple Operating InstructionsVac-Snap Bags

Special Thanks to Oliso for providing the kit used for evaluation in this review.

By Brad Probert.  Check out Brad’s website – beersnobby.com

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