How to Properly Store Bulk Wheat
Bulk wheat storage requires a little bit of planning, but it is one of the wisest things you can do to save money on your groceries, and be prepared in case of an emergency. Wheat is loaded with nutrients, including fiber, vitamin E, protein, calcium, niacin, manganese, and riboflavin, and there are many different ways to prepare it. Mill whole wheat flour yourself for the most nutritious homemade bread possible. Or cook wheat berries in soups and casseroles. You can even sprout wheat berries and eat them as a vegetable to add some extra vitamin C to your diet.
The Best Storage Containers for Bulk Wheat
When stored properly, wheat can easily last six to eight years or more, without losing any of its nutritional benefits. The trick to wheat storage (and the storage of any bulk grain for that matter) is to keep out the oxygen, keep it cool and keep it dry. So the very best way to store bulk wheat is to buy it in pre-sealed plastic storage pails. These pails are sealed with oxygen absorbers inside, and will keep your wheat fresh for more than 6 years.
If you can’t buy pre-sealed storage pails, the next best choice is to buy food-grade storage pails for your wheat. The pails you can buy from paint supply stores are not food-grade, so don’t use them unless you line them with a food-grade mylar bag first. Another option, if you’re willing to do a little scouting and scrubbing, is to ask your local bakery for their empty icing pails. They’ll often give them away for free.
Don’t store wheat in cardboard boxes, since they are likely to allow moisture inside and encourage mold growth.
A Storage Room or Pantry
Ideally, the room you use for wheat storage should be no warmer than 65 degrees, at least most of the time. But since most of us don’t have a room that cool, be sure to write the date on your pails so you can use up the oldest wheat first, and replace your storage supply as it dwindles.
If you keep your wheat in a basement or outbuilding, set the pails on pallets or boards to avoid direct contact with concrete and increase circulation.
For optimal storage, the protein content of wheat should be at least 13%, and the moisture content should be 10% or less. This inhibits bacteria, mold growth, and insect infestation.
Preventing Insects in Stored Wheat
Although you can’t see them, insect eggs are present in wheat and other grains; albeit to a lesser degree if the grains have been cleaned, but either way, it’s important to protect your wheat from being eaten by the hatchlings. There are a number of ways to do this:
Pre-sealed storage pails: If you buy your wheat in pre-sealed storage pails, you won’t need to worry about bugs since there is no available oxygen inside the pails. However, you do need to use your wheat within a year or so after breaking the seal, or insects may begin to be a problem.
Oxygen Absorbers: Adding oxygen absorbers to a pail of wheat is one of the easiest and most effective ways to store wheat. Here’s how to do it.
1. Assemble all the pails you’ll be filling with grain and the grain itself. Once you open your package of oxygen absorbers, you’ll need to use them all within about 15-20 minutes because they start working as soon as you open the packaging. If you will have extra oxygen absorbers, you can store them in a glass mason jar with a tight fitting lid and use them later.
2. Label each pail.
3. Next, you’ll need to figure out how many oxygen absorbers to add. This is calculated based on the volume of the pail and the size of the pieces you’ll be storing (i.e. small, dense grains like wheat or larger beans). For storing wheat, here’s what you’ll need for each pail:
For a 6 gallon pail of wheat, use 1,000 to 2,000 cubic centimeters (cc) of oxygen absorber packets.
For a 5 gallon pail of wheat, use 1,000 to 1,500 cc of oxygen absorber packets.
For storing beans, which are less dense and have more air space between them, double these amounts.
Don’t be afraid to use a bit more than the recommended amounts of cc’s, but do not use less.
4. Put approximately half the oxygen absorber packets you’ll use for each pail into the bottom of each pail. Then fill the pail about half way. Now add the rest of the oxygen absorber packets and fill the pails with grain leaving about an inch of space at the top. Fasten the lid on and you’re done.
Bake It: Spread the wheat out on a cookie sheet and bake in an oven at 150 degrees for about 30 minutes. This will destroy all insect eggs, but it may also prevent your wheat from sprouting.
Dry Ice: Dry ice works by replacing the oxygen in your storage pail with CO2, which doesn’t support insect life. Place ¼ pound of dry ice in the bottom of a 5 gallon storage pail. Fill the pail ¾ full of wheat and set the lid on the pail, but don’t seal it. Keep the pail away from drafts so that the CO2, which is heavier than air, stays in the container. After about 2 hours, when you’re sure the dry ice has sublimated (melted), seal the pail.
Freeze It: It is not necessary to freeze whole grain wheat to keep it fresh, but freezing will keep any insects from hatching. Wheat stored in Ziplock bags in the freezer will remain bug free indefinitely.
Diatomaceous Earth: This stuff is great. We think it is the one of the easiest and most effective methods for grain storage. Diatomaceous earth is made up of single celled algae. It is not harmful to humans, but it does kill bugs. It literally scrapes the bug to death on contact. It sounds gross, but the bugs are so small, you won’t notice them anyway, and this is an easy, organic, and harmless way to ensure that they don’t eat your wheat.
Add one and a quarter cups of diatomaceous earth to each 5 gallon storage pail of wheat. Seal the lid, and roll the pail around to distribute the dust. It is not necessary to wash the wheat before you use it – diatomaceous earth isn’t harmful to humans, although you do want to be careful not to inhale it. Actually, a little diatomaceous earth will help rid your body of parasites.
Any one of these easy techniques will keep your wheat safe and bug free for years to come and ensure successful wheat storage!