“It better be able to make the whole meal at the touch of a button,” my husband said when he saw the Excalibur come out of its box.
It’s as big as a microwave, and just as heavy.
This is truly the extent of my counter space available for working. And yes, it’s always this messy. Clearly, I’m comfortable with you all if I’m inviting you in without cleaning up a lot! Thanks for not minding the mess. 🙂
I had no idea it would be so huge. “You’ve got to start getting dimensions on these things before you order them!” poor husband tells me. Remember how big the Nutrimill is?
I do have the 9-tray, whereas the 5-tray model is a bit smaller.
Like the Nutrimill, the Excalibur was banished to the downstairs bathroom, and then to a table in the laundry room with an extension cord. I don’t have that kind of counter space in the kitchen, and having the noise of a dehydrator running, even though the Excalibur is pleasantly quiet, isn’t something I want in my kitchen all the time.
As with any new kitchen appliance in my life, it took me a while to open the box and read the directions, but I knew I wanted that dehydrator so I could make crispy nuts, and preserve my local summer produce.
I wasn’t interested in drying fruits that already flew all the way from California.
But I had to test it out, you know? 😉
What I Dried in My Excalibur Dehydrator
- Crispy nuts: , , and pecans
- Various fruits: Cranberries, strawberries, apples, bananas, and cherries
- Strawberry fruit rolls/fruit leather: I’ve perfected and even videotaped my fruit leather, process.
- Soaked and Dehydrated Oats
- Soaked Granola
- Popeye and Protein Bars
- The soaked granola and Popeye bars are in the Healthy Snacks to Go ebook.
- Wheat Thin Crackers
- Incubated yogurt
- Raised bread (rose? rised? Maybe I can’t past tense that one!)
Those last three things didn’t go particularly well, actually. The crackers never got crispy after 14 hours, even though the Excalibur book lists most of their crackers recipes at 2-6 hours. The yogurt was ok, but no better than my favorite cooler yogurt method, and the poor sourdough bread was destined to be flat and take forever anyway, I’m afraid.
Drying Crispy (Soaked) Nuts in the Excalibur
Two days was just too long to wait.
I was shocked when my first attempt using my Excalibur to make soaked and dehydrated almonds and walnuts took two full days. I used a lower temperature than I had in the past with my smaller Nesco Snackmaster because the Excalibur handbook spoke of “raw and living foods” for a temp of 105F. If the whole point of dehydrating crispy nuts instead of roasting them is to preserve living enzymes, I wanted to be sure everything stayed living!
Well. Although I started out at a higher temp of 135F for a few hours, taking nuts down to 105F or even 115F is way too low and takes too long. Of course, I also had the dehydrator stuffed to the gills with 9 pounds of nuts and two trays of dehydrating soaked oats, so it may have been partly my fault for over-filling it. When I dehydrated walnuts in my side by side dehydrator review, I kept them at 135F, and it took about 14 hours to be fully dry and crispy.
Here’s an interesting note: I checked the internal temp of the dehydrator after it had been running for many hours, and it was 10 degrees less than the setting. Lenetta has found the same thing with her dehydrator. Anyone else find this?
Side-By-Side Dehydrator Review: Comparing Excalibur to Nesco
I think people are starting to expect this sort of thing from me.
When I realized I still had my friend’s Nesco American Harvest dehydrator in my possession once I started using the Excalibur, the only natural next step possible was to conduct a side-by-side test, a competition of sorts to see which could dehydrate faster.
Why is the Excalibur Dehydrator Supposed to be Better?
The Excalibur has a fan at the back of the unit that blows warm air forward, over the tops of all the trays at once. If there’s any uneven drying, it can be remedied by rotating all the trays 180 degrees halfway through the process, which is recommended in the instruction book.
Most other dehydrators, including the American Harvest, blow air upward from the bottom, which is said to be less effective and inconsistent at drying all the food evenly. (Important note: Donielle tells me that there are some very inexpensive dehydrators that have no fan at all. They take days to do the job that others with a fan can do in hours and are not worth the $20 savings you’ll get. Thanks, Donielle!)
I would (of course) be incredibly interested to see if the smaller dehydrator loses its edge if it’s stacked up to 12 trays because then a good bit of food would be quite far from the fan.
Which Dehydrator was Faster? See for Yourself…
I divided exactly the same amount of fruit between the two machines. One apple. One banana. A pound of cherries. A pound of strawberries. A bag of cranberries, prepared for dehydrating two different ways. When I tested nuts, I put a pound of walnuts and a half pound of pecans in each machine, soaked for crispy nuts. (Here are the various ways to prepare fruits for dehydrating, if you’re curious.)
Everything below was run at 135F. Some fruits dried unevenly because they were different sizes.
|Food Tested||Excalibur 9-tray||Nesco Amer. Harvest|
|Walnuts||about 14 hours||about 14 hours|
|Pecans||about 10 hours||about 10 hours|
|Strawberries||6 hours||6 hours|
|Apples||6 hours||6 hours|
|Bananas||about 12 hours||about 12 hours|
|Cranberries||about 1/3 done after 20 hours, called it at 24||same|
|Cherries||5 cherries done in 12 hours, about 1/2 dried in 20 hours, all done in 24 hours||after 20 hours, I wrote: “Maybe Excal has an edge, but it’s so slight.”|
For the record, both machines were faster than the book expected for apples and strawberries, by quite a few hours!
Excalibur Customer Service is Wonderful
I may have been a little hard on the Excalibur when I compared it to the Nesco, but I expect a lot out of a product that costs a lot of money.
I would like to give major props to the Excalibur company for having spectacular customer service. I had a lovely conversation with Stephanie from Excalibur, and it was clear that she not only had a lot of knowledge of the product, but that she used it all the time herself and had a great deal of knowledge about healthy food, prepared traditionally. It’s neat that you can call for dehydrator support and receive nutritional support as well!
She instructed me to start soaked nuts at 135F for about 3 hours, then turn the dehydrator down to 115F for the remainder of the time, even if it’s two days.
The Excalibur test kitchen has run tests on soaked nuts (how cool is that, that the test kitchen even knows what soaking nuts and seeds is?) and found that the internal moisture content may still be evident even when the nuts are dry enough to pass the plastic bag/moisture test. For long-term storage (months), you may want to keep your crispy nuts in the fridge or freezer.
Is a Dehydrator Green?
I know a lot of people probably wonder about the safety of heating food touching the plastic trays in a dehydrator. I called the Nesco company before I tried my friend’s Snackmaster out, and they said the same thing Excalibur did: the plastic is no. 5 polypropylene, BPA-free. For myself, I figure I can’t avoid everything, all the time.
I love that Excalibur is 100% a U.S. company with all products made right here in the USA. They also consider themselves a “green company” and recycle the end product and anything else they can.
As far as power and energy used, the Nesco is 500 watts and the Excalibur 9 tray rings in at 600 watts. Here’s a “best guess” scenario on how much a dehydrator costs to run over 12 hours of dehydrating:
|Dehydrator||Watts||Energy cost/12 hours|
|Nesco Amer. Harvest|
I used my home’s energy costs in this “How Much does an Appliance Cost to Run?” post. You can easily calculate your energy use, too. I talk about the difference between oven and dehydrator costs in my post about crispy nuts.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Excalibur vs. Nesco
Efficiency aside, there are some other considerable differences between the Excalibur and most other dehydrators. Here’s my personal opinion on the Excalibur after having used a round-tray dehydrator:
- Wide, flat shelves
- No hole in the middle
- Lots of space (8 sq. feet of drying area in the 5-tray)
- Small holes in the screens so I can put small things on it without them falling through
- Can pour with sheets
- Quiet: no louder than a dehumidifier
- One-handed access nice for moms with babes in arms
- Can take trays out to incubate yogurt or allow bread to rise (Although for myself, I’d rather use the cooler yogurt incubation method which takes zero energy compared to the electric dehydrator. I tried it once, and the results weren’t any better than I’m used to with my cooler method.)
Here is the Excalibur on top vs. the Nesco on the bottom. Square trays with no hole in the middle definitely give more drying space, and it’s easier to spread out your food while preparing.
I don’t like:
- The top shelf is almost too narrow vertically for a single layer of almonds
- SO BIG (check out the footprint comparison to the right) – I do think the large size it’s worth it, though. That’s one reason I always dehydrate in the basement. The other? It makes constant noise and would drive me nuts in the kitchen even though it’s really not THAT loud. I don’t like a lot of background noise.
- Potentially having to wash two layers, the netting and the black plastic shelf – I do very much appreciate the netting layer, though, for drying small things like sunflower seeds and sprouted grains, and second, I just don’t wash it every time. Dry things, nuts, whatever – I’m just going to use it right away again anyway!
The Excalibur does fix the one major problem I always had with the Nesco dehydrator. It takes so long to package up the finished product sometimes, and with the Excalibur you can pick up the plastic screen and pour the nuts, for example, into your container. Imagine how long it would take Kimarie to store her sprouted grains with a round model!
Here are the base trays for each. The holes on the Nesco (left) are much larger, so you need to purchase additional screens to dry small things like grains. On the other hand, there are two pieces to wash every time on the Excalibur, and you know how I feel about dishes…
After more than a year living with and using the Excalibur, I’ve fallen in love. I DO think it’s worth its value, even if it might not actually work faster than another dehydrator. Who cares? It can do more at once and speeds up my life in many other ways.
Which Dehydrator to Buy?
Ultimately, if you’re in the market for a dehydrator, you just want to consider your needs and purchase accordingly. If you’re going to dehydrate crispy nuts every so often and preserve some summer harvest, but not tons and tons, I think a smaller version will do the trick for you.
However, if you like the idea of drying 15 square feet (over 10 pounds of nuts) at a time or dehydrate a lot of sprouted whole grains, or if you’ll use your dehydrator all the time, I do think the Excalibur has an edge. If you want to incubate yogurt or rise bread, I believe the Excalibur is the only model with removable trays that can handle those jobs.
Is the Excalibur Dehydrator Worth the Cost?
When looking at dehydrators, I figure there are two questions people normally ask:
- Will I use it enough?
- How much does it cost?
The Excalibur definitely has a price premium over some round ones like the Nesco Snackmaster, and when I first reviewed and compared them, I kind of came down in the middle, leaning toward the smaller one for price reasons.
Now that I have been using the Excalibur for over a year (and went without it for 5 months while we were changing houses) I kind of feel differently.
I love my Excalibur. I missed it and had it running within a few days after I got it back – would have been a few hours if I didn’t have a house full of boxes, two kids, and an infant!
I decided not to bring it with us when we went to live with my in-laws’ while we were inbetween houses even though it was prime harvest/preserving season for two reasons:
- It’s humongous
- I figured I could do anything I would do in the dehydrator in the oven, and it would take longer, but that’s the price we pay for a temporary living situation
I was wrong.
It IS humongous, but as long as you have space for a card table in the basement, or a scrap of counter big enough anywhere, or even on the floor in the corner, if you are serious about dehydrating, I highly recommend it.
I made applesauce fruit rolls once in the fall with our 400 pounds of apples, and it was so frustrating. I had to keep checking them in the oven, trying to turn them to dry out evenly, and it took about twice as long as I expected. The whole time, I was worried about leaving them too long, because I know that even slightly burnt applesauce is just gross.
I still maintain that it is possible to dehydrate things in the oven, but I’m just not patient enough anymore. It tied up the oven far too long, and only fitting two trays’ worth bummed me out. I love to fill all 9 trays of my Excalibur!
I also can’t say enough about the convenience of the wide, flat trays vs. anything with a hole in the center for making crispy nuts or sprouted grain for flour. It saves 10 minutes on hands-on time per batch, I’d bet, because you can just schwoop all your nuts into a bag or jar by making a funnel out of the Excalibur’s tray liner, rather than using a ladle to scoop cup by cup.
I’m waiting with baited breath for bananas to go on sale somewhere so I can make my husband more banana chips for work, and I tried apple chips for the first time in December, and they are fantastic!
So I’m a huge fan of the Excalibur. If you want to keep up on nuts and dry even just a few fruits in the summer/fall, and if there’s any chance you’d use it with trays removed to rise bread or incubate yogurt, the Excalibur will be worth it!
Disclosure: I did receive this dehydrator as a review sample. I was not compensated for a review, and anything I say about the Excalibur is very much my own opinion. See my full disclosure statement here.