I've been looking to invest in a vacuum sealer for a while now but didn't want to shell out the $150 or more for one. That is, until my buddy scoundrel bought a hand-held version at walmart for $20. Now we're talking!
At first we were a little worried about it working well, but after reading a few reviews, it seemed worth a try for the price. I ran over to grab it at lunch and of course, they were sold out. Bah!
Being impatient as usual, I looked online and found a nice deal at Amazon on a similar model for $32 that uses the same kind of storage bags. Most traditional vacuum sealers I've seen have a roll of plastic and each end is sealed along the edge. These bags are a little different because they close like a zip lock and have small hole where the air is removed. The brand is called food saver and it's perfect for keeping hops and specialty grains fresh. The bags are reuseable and come in a few different sizes. This unit came with gallon and quart sized bags and I also bought an extra pack of each, 12 for $8.
There are a few tricks that we've learned to maintain an airtight seal (and by the way, the only negative reviews I read online had mostly to do with this problem).
First, be sure not to over-fill the bag. You really want that top right corner to be completely flat for the sealer to remove the air.
Next, after pressing the button to begin suction, if you twist the vacuum hose back and forth slightly it tends to find the seal a little better.
Finally, there may be a bag that just doesn't seal properly. I've tossed one since I began using it and the others have all been perfect. Another trick is to put a small piece of scotch tape across the hole once the air is removed.
And there you have it... One package of hops ready for the freezer and some pale chocolate malt that will be fresh for a future batch!