"The Alvin" Vacuum Sealer




Have you ever wanted to vacuum-seal leftovers to keep them fresh? Looking for a way to keep your popcorn or coffee beans fresh for longer? Want to vacuum pack dry goods for long term storage? If you answer "YES" but don't want to lay out $100 or more dollars for one of the commercial vacuum sealer machines, then do what I did - assemble your own for $30 from readily available parts! Using a $20 brake bleeder and a mason jar sealer, you can vacuum seal anything you can fit into a mason jar. I call this "the Alvin" vacuum sealer, after my late pop, who always taught me to do more with less and set aside the extra for later.

PLEASE NOTE: This IS NOT a substitute for wet-pack canning using a pressure canner. This technique will not prevent botulism or spoilage in wet-pack foods (meat, fresh fruits/vegetables). This technique is ONLY appropriate to prolong the shelf life of dry goods to be stored at room temperature ( dry means <10% moisture such as popcorn, wheat, coffee, beans, dehydrated meat, fruits & vegetables) OR moist foods stored in the refrigerator / freezer.

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Step 1: Acquire the Necessary Tools.

You'll need:
1) A brake bleeder/vacuum pump from Harbor Freight (cost=$19.99).
2) A Tila FoodSaver mason jar adapter (I bought mine from Bass Pro Shop for $9.99).
3) A clean empty mason jar with a new lid. You can get these from WalMart or some grocery or hardware stores. Or ask your grandmother for one.

Step 2: Fill the Mason Jar

Fill the clean mason jar with whatever it is you wish to vacuum seal.

Vacuum sealing is NOT a substitute for proper canning/preserving. Items which will normally spoil if left out unrefrigerated will still do so when vacuum sealed.

Step 3: Seal the Jar.

Place a clean mason jar lid on the jar. Make sure the sealing surface is clean and dry. For this step, use the flat lid only and not the threaded ring. Place the FoodSaver mason jar sealer over the top of the jar and lid and push down to make sure it is completely and evenly seated.

Step 4: Evacuate the Air.

Press the conical tip of the vacuum pump into the hole in the mason jar sealer (be sure to press hard!). Pump the brake bleeder and watch the gauge. Pump until you have at least 20 inHg vacuum (the higher the reading, the higher the vacuum). When you have a good vacuum pulled, quickly pull the vacuum tip out of the hole, then remove the jar sealer attachment from the jar. That's it! The jar should be vacuum sealed!

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    87 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I'm new at this, does the seal a meal lid come off after you seal the flat lid? Is it able to suck out the air with the metal lid underneath?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Yes it comes off. It needs the metal lid on the jar to work. After it is vacuum sealed you take off the sealer and screw on the lid ring.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I first started using this method years ago, and should have left a review then. This method works extremely well, and for anyone who's on the fence about the mixed reviews for the pump on harbor freight, as long as you're not using the brake bleeder pump to bleed brakes, it holds up pretty well (apparently oils and brake fluid don't play well with the reservoir).

    As an added bonus, for anyone who's ever had to hold off on vacuum sealing something because the pump was too noisy and would wake someone up, this method is relatively quiet, which is nice.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Vacuum Sealers Are Healthy

    Vacuum sealers
    allow you to eat healthier and save money on your grocery bill. The
    healthiest foods we can eat are grown in our own garden. Home grown is
    sure to be the freshest and most delicious food we will ever eat. The
    main problem with home grown food is that you get way too much during
    harvest time and nothing else in the spring and winter. Vacuum sealers
    help solve this problem by allowing us to freeze our produce during
    harvest times. Vacuum sealed food will last 3-5 times longer than Ziploc
    bagged food allowing us to store a lot more food. Obviously, you will
    need a freezer that is large enough to accommodate your food vacuum
    sealed food.

    Vacuum Sealers Save Money

    Many of us
    are guilty of throwing away leftovers. We may make too much of an item
    and not want to eat it right away. Since the refrigerator will only save
    the food for a few days, we end up throwing out our leftovers. Not only
    is this wasteful, but it is also a waste of money.

    My spouse and I
    like to store our leftovers using our vacuum sealer and freezer. We can
    eat the item later when we feel like eating it. In addition, we like to
    make our own "tv dinners". One way we save time cooking is to set aside
    one day for putting items together in the freezer with our vacuum
    sealer. In this way, we can enjoy preparing our food on our day off and
    have more time on working days to relax.


    4 years ago

    Is there a way to apply this to plastic/ziploc bags to make more lightweight items, like for backpacking?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This sounds interesting, but I'm wondering if vacuum sealing uncooked corn could possibly lead to it popping inside the mason jar...

    4 replies

    no it isn't, popcorn pops because of the water inside it boiling, which can happen at room temperature if you pull enough of a vacuum.

    I should learn not to answer so quick. You're right, of course, but I doubt that the little hand pump here would achieve that level of vacuum.

    But now you've got me thinking...I have access to extremely powerful turbo vacuum pumps at work that can get down to ~.00001 atm. I should try that.

    MomentumVEric Forman

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    The problem is that you can only ever get down to a vacuum of ~15 psi, and the corn is strong enough as a pressure vessel that it doesn't care about that, so the internal pressure of the water and starch at 15 psi does nothing (no pop). When you add heat (at room pressure or under vacuum) the water begins to boil and eventually pressurizes the corn shell enough to break it. under vaccuum, the corn would pop SLIGHTLY sooner, but the pressures required to pop the kernals are an order of magnitude more than atmospheric, so it would not be a significant difference.

    tl;dr -- no way will you pop popcorn with vacuum and no heat.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Instead of using the pump I got a cheap hand vacuum sealer pump for about $8.00 and it works great it also works on the vacuum bags too.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Won't work, sorry.

    This tool need compressed air to create a vacuum for sucking moisture out of an AC system.

    You could probably  take the compresser that you need for that 4.2 CFM @ 90 PSI and use the inlet of that to get you your vacuum.

    If you want cheap and easy, there's plans out there to hack a bicyle pump to save seeds with.


    i have been reading this and wondering why a bicycle pump wasn't mentioned until now. I know i have seen a able on converting bicycle pump to a vacuum pump pretty easy. My pumps easily inflate to 100 psi, i think that is 33 bars, not sure what vacuum that is but they go higher , one i have goes to 130lbs. i onlt use the small hand bicycle pumps on the road, since they dont compare . However the one i have has a fold out foot peg ,so you use it as a floor pump and can get 100 psi out, A regular hand bicycle pump, it is extremely grueling to get 60psi, i have a collection of hand held pumps that looked great in the bike show, but were horrible on the road. What is the comparison of psi to vacuum? i since both items bicycle tube and bags are pretty small in cubic inches, it should work. I now have an interest in vacuum sealing.
    Also will vacuum sealing kill any flour moths or the typical grain larvae that will hatch if you do not consume it for a long time? . Since i had a flour bug infestation due to a box of flour i hadn't touched in ten years(pre divorce food), i now freeze everything that is grain or bread mix, for a week to kill any larvae. and try and keep everything in plastic, since the work of cleaning everything, plus a second outbreak, I sealed the tiny gap around the kitchen cabinets, since some hideaways were in there preparing for the second assault. Larvae are normal, there is no way they can keep them out of foood unless they nuke it, i will stick to freezing and now vacuum seems good also.

    I've seen the bicycle pump hack but haven't done it (since I only have one and use it for its intended purpose). In general, we're not talking about producing very high vacuum levels...so I don't see why it wouldn't work. If you try it I'd like to know how well it works.

    Producing vacuum is different than producing pressure. Standard atmospheric pressure (at sea level) is 14.7 PSI (or 29.9 "Hg). When producing a vacuum you're moving air out of a container into the atmosphere, so a perfect vacuum would be 14.7 PSI outside the container and 0 PSI in the container. It's tempting to think "my bicycle pump can achieve 60 PSI, so 14.7 PSI won't be any problem"...but it doesn't work like that. When pumping air into a container, you're essentially packing more air molecules into the container from a limitless supply of molecules outside the container (the atmosphere). When trying to draw a vacuum you're trying to pump a very limited supply of molecules (in the jar) out. That's more difficult because molecules tend to spread out to fill the volume of the jar and pump in a somewhat uniform fashion. So the first dozen pumps are relatively easy...you're moving a large number of molecules. As you continue to pump, the "fill" stroke on the pump gets filled with fewer and fewer molecules each time. Common piston pumps (like the brake bleeder or bicycle pump) have a relatively low mechanical limit. A more expensive commercially available compressor pump has a higher limit, but still can't achieve ultra-high vacuum levels for the same reason (UHV requires other pumping technology).

    Fortunately, to preserve foodstuffs in this way doesn't require ultra high vacuum levels. You just need to remove enough air to suffocate the ever present critters and minimize any oxidation. FYI 23 "Hg vacuum means about 77% of the air has been removed. That's about the pressure of the atmosphere at 45,000 feet (1.5x higher than Mt. Everest...well into the stratosphere). In my experience that's been plenty enough to keep larvae at bay.

    Hope this helps.


    dose any one know of a way to hand pump a vacuum out of (or is it into) a bag like toughs space bags on TV it has to be light weight small and human powered

    1 reply

    you mean the ones that call for a vacuum cleaner? I believe a cheap inflatable raft pump , low pressure high volume, as opposed to a bike pump high pressure low volume, would work. There are instrucables on changing the washers on a bike pump to make them a vacuum pump, i am sure the same could be done with a raft pump. you would have to fabricate a connector to match the vacuum hose. There is a tape called rescue tape, can be found on amzon or auto stores for $10 and under , it is silicone and fuses to itself, you don't need much and it works great for making airtight connecotrs.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    The harbor freight pump disappointingly got about 20-22"hg after lots of sweating. Mityvac Bleeder pump decently made about 23-24"hg. Very tiring. If you want a real hand pump get the pumnseal, but it's probably already discontinued. It's rated for 28"hg. If 12V doesn't bother you then a $5-$7 pump will probably go up to 23"hg without a sweat. In the end of the world scenario, 12V supply will likely be available.