Tray of freeze dried milk and 2 quarts.

By JM Davis

Freeze Drying


Freeze Drying Raw Whole Milk

We’ve had our 4Patriots home freeze dryer for less than 24 hours and I just wanted to get started!

I read through the manual and even followed the instructions. I made sure the machine was level, which is an interesting situation in a house where nothing is level or square. The trays and mats were washed and dried. I checked the door, the valve, and every other part of the machine. And completed all tests as described in the instruction book. After reading and following the instructions, plus going through a few videos, I felt ready or not. Here I go.

I needed something. I could start freeze drying right away. From talking with a friend of mine, who has a freeze dryer, I knew a few tips for freeze drying. One, my food needed to be under the rim of the trays. Two, freezing my food in the trays in a deep freezer would make freeze drying take less time. And three, liquids needed to be on a level surface for freezing properly.

Since I didn’t have the trays before the machine arrived, I had nothing frozen specifically for the trays. I had an extra gallon of organic grass-fed raw milk in the refrigerator.

And I thought…
Why not? How long could this take? I was about to find out.

Freeze Drying Unfrozen Raw Whole Milk: Step By Step

Please follow the instruction for your specific freeze drying machine. These instructions are specific to the 4 Partiots home freeze dryer.

My first adventure in freeze drying will be milk from a Dexter cow with the cream included. Dexters have a pretty high milk fat content, but not as high as our Ayrshire cow. At a later time I will experiment freeze drying milk without the cream for the Dexter milk and with and without cream for the Ayrshire milk.

1. Follow the direction in your freeze dryer instruction book.

The following instructions are specifically from the 4Patriots Home Freeze Dryer.
I followed the step until the machine prompted to insert the food into the chamber.

  • Plug in the machine.
  • When the start shows on the screen, press it.
  • Select unfrozen.
  • Close the drain and insert food.

2. Set the empty trays inside of the freeze drying machine.

I didn’t use the tray liners for this freeze drying experiment. The freeze drying machine was level, which means the milk should freeze flat. Plus, I didn’t want to chance spilling the milk while transporting the trays to the machine.

3. Shake the milk with cream and pour it into a quart size jar for measuring.

I wanted to be as accurate as possible for how much milk was in each tray. Plus, it was easier to pour slowly from a quart jar, than a gallon jar.

4. Push all trays into the machine as far as they will go and close the door.

The magnet on this machine should hold the latch tight. If it doesn’t trouble shoot it. Check that the trays are all the way back, that the seal is on tighand even, the screw on the magnetic door is tight enough, or call the support line. We didn’t have any issues.

5. Continue following the directions in the book.

  • Close the door.
  • Pressed yes, for the machine to start.
  • And wait until the screen “please check food now” appeared.
  • I opened the drain plug so the vacuum would release and I could open the chamber door.
  • I didn’t need any more time, for the milk was flaky when touched. There were no signs of anything damp or wet in the trays.
  • I pulled out the trays and stored the freeze dried milk.

Freeze Drying Time

From initially turning on to receiving the “Please check food now” screen was 48 hours and thirty-seven minutes by my clock. I didn’t write down when each processed stopped, adding the trays, milk etc.

Storing and Using Freeze Dried Raw Whole Milk

2 quarts and pint of freeze dried milk

After pulling the trays out of the machine I smashed up the freeze dried milk. Once broken up, it felt very fluffy. The trays weren’t freezing cold either. Neither is what I expected. I didn’t use a blender to grind the milk up because I wanted flaky not powdered dried milk.

The flakes filled three quarts and two pint jars. I used a handheld vacuum sealer with a jar fitting lid sealer. I chose this method because I intend to use the freeze dried milk within this month for experimenting and learning about how to use freeze dried foods.

Canning Jar with hand held vacuum sealer

I put a teaspoon of the powdered milk into some coffee. The cream separated from the milk just like it does when I freeze and defrost it. At first the milk looked lumpy. After about 5 minutes of sitting the freeze dried milk melted into the coffee.

Clean up and ready for the next batch.

The inside of the freeze dryer was icy with thick accumulation of ice chunks on the bottom and top of the inside of the machine. The tray insert couldn’t be budged.

I followed the instructions in the book for defrosting. It runs for 120 minutes. After the first cycle was done there was still too much ice build up to clean out, so I ran a second defrost and waited about 5 minutes after it was done.

This time the ice was loose. I took off the seal. Gently pulled out the inner tray and the ice with it. In the front I have an empty bin where the ice and water could be pulled into. Most of the water drained out of the back of the machine through the drain hose into a bucket. I set the shelving insert on top of the machine without detaching it, so I could clean and dry the inside of the machine. I couldn’t completely dry the chamber and shelving unit. If it was warmer I am guessing the room temperature would help, but it was 64 degrees in the room.

I put the machine back together and let it sit open for an hour until it was dry.


The milk took way longer than I thought it would, but while I was waiting I had time to search to see what others found with milk. The time was pretty spot on.

The milk felt different than I thought it would. But hey, I’d never freeze dried anything before.

The milk smelled like fresh milk, which I thought was amazing.

I really think having two sets of trays would be very handy. Then you can have one set of trays in the machine and another set freezing your next set of food to go into the freeze dryer.

I am making a list of everything I can freeze dry. I think I’m hooked. The next freeze drying experiment will be fresh mint from our garden that I will freeze first.

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