Reviewing the Excalibur Dehydrator 3900: Is This the Right Dehydrator for You?
One of my most-desired homesteading kitchen tools is a food dehydrator.
Specifically, the Excalibur 3900 Deluxe Series 9-Tray Food Dehydrator.
A few years ago I picked up a never-used Excalibur 3500 5-tray dehydrator off Craigslist for my brother, who did not live locally.
It was a really good deal, and it is difficult to find these machines used, so since he was in the market for one I picked it up for him.
How much Can You Dry With The Excalibur Dehydrator?
The Excalibur 3900 has 9 shelves, which hold about a maximum of 12 POUNDS of food each and they are 1 ¼ inch apart. The trays fit into their own little slots which makes it so you can remove them completely without affecting other trays.
However, the removable trays of the Excalibur dehydrator make it so by removing some of the trays you can dehydrate much larger things.
You can even use it to proof bread dough by removing most of the trays.
So, let’s say, you want to make some nice big dried San Marzano tomatoes, you can remove every other tray and have 2 ½ inches between each tray.
The trays are polycarbonate with BPA-Free polyscreen inserts. They set it up this way because polycarbonate is the best option for a sturdy casing material that isn’t ridiculously expensive, but made the tray screens from food-safe polypropylene to minimize concerns about off-gassing. And the best part – they are dishwasher safe!
That’s always a huge bonus in my book.
Those 9 trays make for 15 square feet. 15 square feet of tray space is a TON of space for dehydrating. This is perfect if you are like me and want to be dehydrating a significant amount of what you produce in the garden.
The 3500 model only has 5 trays and so doesn’t hold quite as much for those of you who don’t anticipate using it as much. Having said that, both the 3500 and 3900 models have the same footprint, just one sits up a bit higher.
I like the Excalibur 3900 better just because if I need more space, I have it to use! The bigger size also is perfect for rising bread dough in a bowl, the 3500 was just a little too short for the bowl that I normally use to rise my dough.
I just remember when I was using my brother’s Excalibur Dehydrator 5-tray before I did run out of room (I had a lot of tomatoes to dry that year) and I’d said to myself, “Self, when you get your own Excalibur food dehydrator, you MUST get the 9-tray model.”
The dehydrator’s footprint measures 17×19, and the 3900 is 12 ½ inches tall, where the 3500 is 8 ½ inches tall.
Not a huge difference there in overall space but it sure makes a difference in how much you can dry!
What about the other Excalibur dehydrator models?
Some of you may ask why I am only highlighting the 3900 (and 3500) and not the Excalibur 2900 or 2500. I do this mainly because the 3900 is the unit that I have chosen to buy.
Really, the difference between the 3900 and 2900 is that the 3900 model has the following:
- Upgraded electrical components
- Longer-lasting thermostat
- Heavier duty rated heating element
- Better grade plastic components
- Heavier duty motor
- Longer warranty
It’s a better machine, so I feel it’s worth the investment since I’ll be using it for many many years.
So overall, what does The Excalibur 3900 come with?
- Excalibur Food Dehydrator unit
- 9 trays
- 9 mesh tray inserts
- Dehydrating instruction & recipe book
- 1 Year Limited Warranty
On that note, I would say one thing – I highly recommend just getting even a couple of the Paraflexx sheets. They are not included, but definitely worth buying.
They are a wonderful non-stick sheet that goes over the mesh insert and is what you want to use for making fruit leathers and whatnot.
My sister-in-law one time made these wonderful leathers out of fruit-flavored yogurt – all she did was spread the yogurt into the Paraflexx sheets with a spatula, then dried it and rolled it up on wax paper.
They were one of the most delicious treats I’d had in a while and I could not stop eating them!
I Was Sold On It!
Just as a bit of a back story, I have used several other dehydrators in my lifetime, mostly the round cheap kinds, without a whole lot of luck.
That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to use the Excalibur Dehydrator and I was SOLD on it. I’m so set on the Excalibur 3900 and here’s why I chose it as the best food dehydrator for our family.
Every single one of the food dehydrator reviews I’ve read says pretty much the same – Excalibur dehydrators are top-notch and a very worthy investment.
Actually, as a side note – if you are looking to make jerky, I have heard over and over that the Excalibur is hands-down the best dehydrator for jerky. I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet for jerky making, but the venison jerky my neighbor makes with his is absolutely fantastic!
You see, I had the Excalibur food dehydrator for a whole summer before I was able to go see my brother (he lived on the other side of the state) and I just simply fell in love with the thing.
During that summer I dried tons of our produce – I made “sundried” tomatoes, dried peppers, carrots, onions, herbs, and pretty much anything that I could out of my garden that I wasn’t going to use at the moment.
I loved it – it was the best food dehydrator I’d used (and I’ve used a few!), and I still haven’t been able to get another one, but I know my brother and his wife have continued to use it and love it.
We don’t have an overly lush income and so I’ve had to put off an Excalibur Dehydrator for myself but it is one of the priorities for this year. Having used the Excalibur 3500, though, I have decided I want to get the bigger model. The 3500 only has 5 trays, and I ran out of room so I decided I wanted to get the bigger unit and go all out when I am able to and get the Excalibur 3900.
The truth is, I am working towards growing a big percentage of our family’s food, and we’re a family of four about to become five. We’ll need the bigger unit for sure.
How Is The Excalibur Food Dehydrator Put Together?
The door is completely removable and sits securely on the top of the front entrance. It did seem a little odd to me the first time I used it, having to remove the door completely, but then I thought about it and realized that it makes it a lot easier to use, being completely removable. So you can load it without monkeying with a hinged door, just take the door off, load your trays, set the door right back in place and turn it on.
The bottom of the unit was built to be seamless and easy to access so that it could be cleaned easily. The truth is, most of what you are going to dehydrate is going to be wet, and it WILL get messy. Cleaning the inside is simple – just take out all the trays and wipe it with a damp cloth.
The motor and fan is located in the back of the machine which helps protect it from drips and excess moisture getting into the engine.
Far too many dehydrators have been shorted out because their fans and motors were located on the bottom of the unit where it can easily get dripped on by the food to be dehydrated.
They built in a heavy duty 7″ fan that ensures even circulation of the air which helps food dry evenly without hot spots or places getting “missed.”
Excalibur’s trademarked horizontal-airflow drying system makes sure everything gets perfectly evenly dried. As the air circulates, the warm air picks up moisture and exits it out the front of the machine.
Most dehydrators require rotation of the trays, but with this drying system you can just set it and forget it without needing to rotate anything.
It has 600 watts of power. 600 watts is just enough power to quickly dry most foods but not so much overkill that it kills your electric bill. The Excalibur 3900 will use on average about 4 to 5 cents per hour, so most loads will only cost you about 25 cents to dry. Not too bad!
What Else Does This Excalibur Food Dehydrator Offer?
The Excalibur 3900 has an adjustable thermostat that goes from 85º – 145ºF which is very important for all the various things you might need to use it for. There’s a setting for delicate herbs & flowers, all the way to the toughest beef jerky.
Many people on a Raw Food diet buy an Excalibur food dehydrator and if you want your food to be kept raw it is important to be kept below 115 degrees.
Some items can do a higher temperature, and also if you want to rise bread or incubate yogurt in your Excalibur, having control over the temperature is a godsend.
I love that the Excalibur dehydrator is made in America. Wisconsin, to be specific. In this day and age that is just so uncommon but I’ve found that many of the tools I really prize for their long life, quality and ease of use are made in the U.S.
They usually do cost a little more than the lower-end counterparts but many of these tools, the Excalibur dehydrator being no exception, you really get what you pay for.
One year manufacturer’s warranty is included, and there is a 10 year extended warranty available which is a wonderful investment. These machines do last a long time and you might still be using it 7 or 8 years down the road, having an extended warranty will be a very good idea just in case some small minor part goes out of commission after frequent use over many years.
One reviewer I read said he’d been using his Excalibur food dehydrator for over twenty years! That’s astonishing, and I’d definitely say a wise investment!
Also included is the instructional book, Preserve It Naturally, which has just a TON of information on everything from your basic dehydrating of fruits and veggies, to potpourri, recipes, flowers, granola, drinks, and different art projects. You can even use it to re-crisp cereal and crackers that have gone stale, or to dry homemade cake decorations.
What are other people saying about the Excalibur 3900 Dehydrator?
The Excalibur food dehydrator is the premier dehydrator on the market and accordingly, it gets very high consumer ratings, generally between 4 and 5 stars. Here are a few of their comments:
- “Best food dehydrator I’ve owned”
- “Sturdy and dependable”
- “Hands down the best dehydrator for jerky”
- “Puts other dehydrators to shame”
- “I’ve had mine for over 20 years”
- “A staple appliance for Raw Foodists”
- “Nice and quiet and cleans very easily”
So what are the drawbacks about the Excalibur 3900?
There aren’t really any significant drawbacks to this particular model of Excalibur Dehydrator. There are a few weird quirky things, though.
Like I mentioned above, the fact that the door isn’t actually attached is a little odd. It just sorta sits on a shelf on the top to hand in front, you can pull it right off. But once again, after using it a bit I realized that it was easier that way – being able to take the door off makes it easier to load and unload.
Also, the lack of a timer is something that turns some people off the Excalibur 3900. It sure would be nice! Excalibur does have a model that includes a timer but you’ll pay about $30 more for it.
My solution? I think the better route would be to stop in at your local hardware store, pick up an outlet timer and you’ll end up with a timer that is not only a lot cheaper, but you can use it for other things. Outlet timers basically are timers that plug into the wall, and then you plug your appliance in.
Set the timer, and then when the timer runs out, the timer automatically cuts off the electricity to the appliance, shutting it off. I think outlet timers are great to have on hand, especially in the late winter when I’m timing the lights in my grow rack to start my vegetables.
The only other complaint I’ve read about Excalibur dehydrators in general is that because the trays are flat with no edge, it allows small things to fall off. That could be an issue, but mainly you’d need to be careful when you are drying small round things like peas.
I personally did not notice a problem with it, and I liked that there wasn’t an edge to the trays because it seemed to me that it allowed better airflow around the bottom of the food I was drying at the time.
Where’s the best price for the Excalibur 3900 Food Dehydrator?
As usual, I have found that if you are looking to buy retail, Amazon.com has the best price and free shipping. Click Here to check today’s price at Amazon.
The Excalibur 3900 Food Dehydrator retails at $270 but you can usually find it for a lot less online. You shouldn’t see it for more than $225 on Amazon, and again they offer free shipping on it.
I do usually recommend looking first on Craigslist or any other local ads, but I’ll be honest these puppies are HARD to find used. Most people don’t want to give them up.
Having said that, sometimes people have been given something like an Excalibur dehydrator as a gift and after never using it they finally try to sell it. That’s how I got that one for my brother.
All in all, finding an Excalibur used is not a common event. And half the time when you do, the seller wants more for it than you can get it on Amazon for!
Unless I’m getting a decent price, I won’t bother with trying to arrange something on CL for a used Excalibur when I can just order it brand new on Amazon and have it shipped to my porch for free.
Read more –> Excalibur 3900 Deluxe Series 9-Tray Food Dehydrator