The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

flour storage issues

Windischgirl's picture

flour storage issues

I'm going to be a cliche now ;-)

 Had a chat with my Mother in Law (figures!) who is also a bread baker...she tends to do straight doughs in her bread machine; I'm making European-style breads with sourdough/yeast (al a Hamelman) in the KAM.  We were discussing purchasing and storing flour.  I said I tend to buy when I'm in the store and keep the unopened flour in my freezer (in the original package and then in a freezer bag) until I need to refill my cannister.  

She only buys when she needs because she noticed that flour that had been stored in the freezer did not give as much of a rise in the final loaf.

I hope we were talking apples to apples...I only use the flour once it has come up to room temperature (a few days after taking it out of the freezer).  She felt it was the freezing process itself that affected the flour and subsequently the final product. 

 Anyone else noting that freezing the flour affects the final rise?





Paddyscake's picture

I've never seen any difference in rise with flour from the freezer, although I only have my whole wheat stored there. The other flours are in the pantry. I go through them so fast that shelf life has never been an issue. I use the whole wheat directly from the freezer.


subfuscpersona's picture

I've never noticed a difference in the performance of commercial white flour (all-purpose or bread) stored in the freezer vs stored (opened or unopened) in a cupboard at room temperature.

That said, I always store any whole grain or whole bean flour (commercial or home milled) in the freezer. These flours can become rancid if stored at room temperature for more than a few months.

Personally, I see no need to store commerical white flour in the freezer as long as it will be used by the expiration date on the bag. White flour will degrade if stored under conditions of high humidity plus high temperature over prolonged periods. Only if you live in an area subject to these conditions is it advisable to consider storage of your white flour in the refrigerator or freezer.

If I'm using flour that has been stored in the refrigerator or freezer, I use it without any warming period. Cold flour may slightly lengthen the time required for bulk fermentation, but there is not a significant difference.

Windischgirl's picture

that we have an old and leaky house.  I am especially paranoid about bugs, having lived thru mealworms/moths a couple of times.  I also realize I wasn't very clear about my question.

I have glass canisters with tight seals which each hold approx. 5 lbs flour.  We do go thru it pretty quickly as I bake 3-6 loaves per week, so I am not worried about anything getting rancid.

My situation is this...rather than run to the store every few days for flour, (given the price of gas and the fact that I have 3 teens and work 2 jobs and run the household) I will pick up 10-15 lbs at a time.  I do not want to keep them in the pantry just "as is" for fear of them getting infested with critters, so I store the flour, in the original paper bag, placed in a freezer bag, in the freezer. (Believe me, with 3 teens, there is no room in the fridge).

Mom in Law implied that freezing affected the quality of the flour and thus the end product.  I am trying to determine if there is any outside confirmation (i.e., feedback from you, my fellow bakers) for this phenomenon, or if my MIL is being--you know--an MIL.

(She still believes that going to bed with wet hair will give you a cold...and she's a nurse!).

In short, I'm asking you all to play family therapist ;-) 


Philadelphia PA

edh's picture

Whee! Aren't those fun "conversations?" I've had more than a few of those myself...

As far as flour goes, I'm with you (and not just because I'm a DIL); I buy anywhere from 10 - 50 lb bags of AP flour, depending on what's on sale, and the chest freezer is the only place that has room and is critter-proof enough. Like subfuscpersona I freeze all whole grain flours as soon as they're ground, but I keep about 5 lb of AP in a tight sealed plastic bucket for easy access. I use the whole grain stuff right out of the freezer; the cold helps keep the proofing time down in the summer, and in the winter I just warm up my water a little bit.

Good luck!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Everyone is entitled to at least one urban legend. I grew up with my mom as nurse, so on many things she's entitled to give her advice. It's also her right as a Mom. She's doing her Mom thing. I understand that. The best reply? Tell her she could be right (that leaves lots of room to maneuver) and that you love her (good for a smile) and do what you want to do, don't get into an argument and don't make a point of doing it differently. If all else fails and if she want's to declare it, you could kindly ask her to find the supporting evidence.

note: She's coming from the notion that anything that's done to raw food, cooking, freezing, etc breaks down the vitamins so fresh is the way to go. She's twisted it a bit. I've never noticed any rising problems. And about the vitamins? With sourdough, I'm sure the vitamins are getting a boost.

Mini O abby

josordoni's picture

Question to be answered here is, are YOU happy with the results from your defrosted flour?  Never mind what MIL thinks about her own baking, it is you who are using your flour, and so you who need to be happy with the result.

If you find that you don't like the result, you have your answer!

If you find that you like the result regardless, there's no problem!

 As Mini says, smile, say Oh, that's interesting... and go your own way. :D



allysnina's picture

I put my flour directly into the freezer from the day I buy it (25# bag of bread flour) from Sam's Club...I've never had a problem with anything not rising, etc. I use it directly from the freezer, and never let it get to room temp. Maybe I should?

thomasp's picture

As per Hamelman (Bread, p.37), germ in whole wheat flour tends to go rancid over time and, as a result, he does recommend refrigerating (or freezing) whole wheat flour for storage. If this is not possibly he recommends careful rotation of the baker's stock of whole wheat flour.

I, personally, don't think refrigeration is a good idea for AP, Bread or other flour (and most household items) because refrigerators are stinky and humid. Unless you're 100% sure that your container is 100% air-tight, flour, and other items, will absorb moisture, smells and flavors.

As with pretty much everything imagineable, storage of items in cool dry spaces is most desireable. Yes, this can be difficult in during the hot humid summer months but it does seem to allow things to survive longer

edit to include:

Also, no matter how nice you are to your flour once you receive it, try to imagine what it has already gone through: Shipping in what could be a hot/cold truck, sitting in a warehouse, sitting on a shelf in a store...

Needless to say, for maximum freshness, only buy as much as you need and store extra flour as best as you can.

Windi - even if it does have a slight affect on your dough, are you convinced that it is enough to change your habits? To each his own!

pooroldlady69's picture

Hello The USDA suggests putting bay leaves inside any flour or other grains, legunnes, and such other perishables.  I have done so for over 20 years and find that the bay leaves do not add unwanted flavor to anything you use it in for storage. Even had flour in very hot storage  unit  for a year and not a bug or weevil or anything in it.

Thanks for all the helpful information. Betty in NC USA

cake diva's picture
cake diva


Wow!  I never heard of that one, but I'll gladly try it.  Would this be just against insects?  I wonder if it would work against flour moths.  I have a moth issue.

JeremyCherfas's picture

I'll be trying the bay leaf thing too, while noting that moths are insects. :)


cake diva's picture
cake diva


OMG!  Of course, moths are insects!  Ha ha ha!  Thanks for pointing that out!  I'm so embarassed.  And I call myself a scientist (now I confess why I opted for Chemistry instead of Biology), and my company (Fortune 100 company which shall remain nameless) titles me a Senior Scientist!  I'll never live this down.--- cake diva

JeremyCherfas's picture

And one of my best friends at the place where I work is also a Senior Scientist -- and he's a lawyer! Mind you, he loves science, and is making great efforts to educate himself.


montanagrandma's picture

Big rubbermaid containers are what I store my extra flour in. I buy 50# at a time and use my smaller container in my kitchen for what I need for the week and the remainder of the flour in its original bag are stored in these huge lidded containers and so far I have not had any problems. I keep the containers in the coolest part of my house.

Nim's picture

I agree. I use air tight containers that I picked up from Bed Bath and Beyond and just store it in my pantry. I usually buy between 25 and 50 lbs at once. Never had an issue with bread or with roti/chapati.

ffolwell's picture

If you are using your flour supplies in less than a month, they can't become breeding grounds for moths.  The bigger issue is small spills from flour bags (they leak) or from other storage containers that get into cracks and crevices.  The larvae can hide where you can't see them and you won't be able to get rid of the moths until you clean the shelves completely, even the space behind or at the sides of the shelves. 

Of course, a container of forgotten flour, pasta, meal etc is a bonanza for the moths, but it is easy to find and toss out.

Long term storage must be in the freezer or in TIGHTLY sealed containers.  Others have made good suggestions - make sure you get something that is air tight.  

(This is from my own experience. Indian meal moths are a real pain.)


gildee's picture

I got this straight from a King Arthur representative who was in my town doing demonstrations on sweet breads and pastries crust:  store wheat flour in the freezer; store white flours in the pantry, cabinet etc WITH A BAY LEAF OR TWO INSIDE;  I find placing the bay leaves  near the edges of the container works best as the leaves will break up,  so keep them in view but they are supposed to keep the bugs away! 

I am a beginning bread maker whose only interest is sourdough breads and my only problem so far is making a suitable starter but I am almost there,  so I only purchase 5lb bags anyway and they don't last long but that is good for me.

I think I will try wrapping the bay leaves in cheese cloth so if they break they won't get into the flour! smart idea huh!