The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What is the shelf life for wheat berries

UnConundrum's picture

What is the shelf life for wheat berries

I plan on tackling grinding my own flour next year and was wondering what the shelf life is for the unground wheat berries?  I assume cool dry location.  How would you store them for longest life?  Do they need to breathe or is plastic best?

jwt's picture

~20 years at 50 degrees F in an airtight container with oxygen absorbers.  The warmer the storage temperature (increasing the temperature to 60 degrees reduces the shelf life to ~10 years) the shoter the shelflife.  Exposing them to air will shorten the shelflife as well.

The wheat I use comes in a 6-gallon plastic bucket.  I replace the terrible pry-off lid with a threaded gamma seal lid for ease of access.

Nickisafoodie's picture

I have stored grains for several years and counting: the key is proper storage.  After all, they were able to sprout kamut and wheat found in the Egyptian tombs!

I buy 50lb sacks of whole wheat and rye, and store seperately in food grade buckets with snap top lids (which also have a 2" round opening with a threaded lid that makes it easy to open, pour out some, and reseal without taking off the whole top).  These can be found on the web for $10 or so each, and can hold 25 pounds.  Make sure they are food grade, and not the white buckets you see at home depot - the resins are different and you must get this part right. 

Go to a craft store and for about $8 you can buy 1lb of silica gel- "Flower Drying Art" brand is at Michaels which will last you and all of your friends several lifetimes.   This is the same "little bag" of stuff you see in a vitamin bottles to keep the product dry.  I make the equivalent of a tea bag using a drip coffee filter and put about 2 tbs of the silica inside and tape ends shut.  This will help absorb mosture.  Place this in a small brown paper bag, like a grade school lunch bag, fold over and staple so the finished bag is 2" by the width of the lunch bag, about 4".  Place on top of grain before sealing the buckets.  Store in basement where it is cool and away from furnace. Open the 2" screw top and use as needed.  I also put several bay leaves inside the lunch bag as the oils repel insects.  Not sure this is needed as the grain should be sterile, but after going thru all of this, I decided to add and not look back.  Once the lids snap on, do not plan on taking them off - they will break, so get the lids that have the 2" screwtop, which can be used when refilling or when pouring out what you need...  One cup of grain yields about 2 cups of flour, use a scale when baking...

I bake 5 loaves at a time every few weeks, am about half way thru all of my grains after 18 mos and the grain looks and tastes the same as day one; I have no doubt I could go several more years and more this way.  You will not have regrets: home ground flour knocks it out or the park every time and is far superior to KA or any other store bought flour.  Make sure you get hard wheat which has the higher gluten content, not soft wheat.  Grind the night before baking.  You do not have to age the flour as some believe, just grind and go!  I've had my Whisper Mill for 15 years and she is still rocking!  Learn the stretch and fold technique which works well on whole grain recipies as on white.   Good Luck!'s picture

These comments are all good but i would like to add a few. 

Our business cleans and sells Hard White Wheat and Hard Red Spring Wheat in 50# bags and 45# buckets.  I tell my customers that if they plan to use their wheat in a short period of time, then the bag is more economical; however, if they plan to store for long periods and not use the wheat, then the buckets are the way to go. 

The cleaning process removes chaff, weed seeds, shrunken and broken kernels and any live insects.  If you are storing in an airtight container, you will want to remove most of the oxygen from the container.  This is to prevent weevil eggs from surviving on the wheat kernel.  There are three equally effective methods to remove the oxygen. 

1-Oxygen absorbers.  These are the small packets found in more and more food packages.  The packet contains iron filings that react with the water vapor in the air and rust.  The chemical reaction requires oxygen and uses the oxygen in the nearby environment.  the downside to using Oxygen absorbers is that they can only be used once and once they are exposed to the atmosphere, they are effective for about 15 minutes. 

2-Dry Ice.  Dry Ice is frozen carbon dioxide.  A small piece (4 oz) placed on the top of the wheat in a full, open bucket will evaporate and fill the bucket with CO2.  Be careful and handle dry ice with gloves as it can burn the skin. 

3-Nitrogen.  For our commercial operation we have found that injecting Nitrogen into the bucket and sealing the lid to be the least expensive.  However, we can spread the cost of the bottles, valves and regulators over several thousand buckets. 

The key to long term storage is to keep the wheat dry, cool, and in an airtight container. 



UnConundrum's picture

Thanks to all for the comments.  


Trigolle, what would the shelf life be of the wheat in one of your buckets, left unopened and untouched?  Do you fill them with CO2 or Nitrogen before sealing?'s picture

My wife and I stored wheat in used bakery plastic buckets over 25 years ago and the wheat is in the same condition it was in at the time we stored it.  It was kept that way because we used dry ice and used an airtight lid to store it.  the airtight lid provides a physical barrier preventing weevil from getting access to your wheat. By the way, these are the same weevil that will show up in your flour.

Yes.  1. Fill the bucket with cleaned wheat.  2.  Inject the Nitrogen, or place the dry ice on the top of the wheat.  If you use dry ice, i would place it on a piece of cardboard or paper.  they dry ice colelcts frost from the atmosphere.  The frost will collect on the cardboard and then you can remove the cardboard from the wheat before you seal the lid.  You don't want that additional moisture in your wheat.  3. Put an airtight lid on the bucket. 

Hope this helps.

mrfrost's picture

The buckets of berries that your company sells: Is there a use by date stamped on them? If so, what is the shelf life(the use by date), from the date of production of the item(the sealed bucket of berries).

If not, is a use by date not required?

flourgirl51's picture

Wheat will store indefinitely if kept in a cool dry location. I will be updating my website in January to include Gamma seals that fit on five and six gallon pails. They keep out air and moisture.

pixielou55's picture


I have been collecting 5-6 gallon food grade buckets to store food. I found at Whole Foods in the dept where they make pizzas, they use 5-gallon buckets. I'm getting 2-3 per week from my food co-op. Try bakeries or stores that make their own baked goods.