Wheat berries are great to keep in your long-term food storage because it can stay good for a long time unless insects, heat, or a wet/moist environment ruins your wheat. So how do you safely store your wheat to prevent it from going bad before you get the chance to use it?
To store wheat berries, pour them directly into an air-tight mylar bag or into a food-grade bucket that is placed in a cool, dry environment that is safe from insects. It is also effective to store wheat berries by freezing, using a vacuum-sealed container, dry ice (CO2), or oxygen absorbers.
Wheat is the cornerstone of any emergency storage supply. Approximately 180 to 200 lbs will supply an adult for one year. A three-week emergency supply is approximately 10-15 lbs per adult. Children 7 years old or younger would need half those amounts. To get a good idea of how much wheat you should store for the long term check out our Food Storage Calculator.
To use wheat berries you’ll need to buy a grain mill (also known as a wheat or flour grinder) to grind the wheat berries into flour for baking. To know exactly which grain mill is right for you check out our article Best Grain Mills (Wheat/flour grinders), Ultimate Buyers Guide.
Wheat berries have a much longer shelf life than flour, however, it is important to know the shelf life of flour and the best ways to store it to get the longest shelf life possible. Check out our article What is the Shelf Life of Flour? 6 Commonly Used Flours.
Finding Wheat Berries to Store
The two main types of wheat berries to buy for food storage are hard wheat berries and soft wheat berries.
|Hard red spring , Hard red winter & Hard white wheat
|bread flour (high gluten)
|Soft red winter, Soft white winter & Soft white spring
|pasta, cake, biscuit, cracker, and pastry flours (low gluten)
To find high-quality wheat and other recommended food items check out our article Food Storage Items: What are the BEST foods for long term storage?
Packaging Wheat Berries for long-term storage
Store wheat in moisture-proof, food-grade packaging. Examples include:
- Mylar-type bags (Check the price on Amazon)
- polyethylene bags
- plastic buckets (Check the price on Amazon)
- #10 cans
Be aware that rodents can chew through plastic bags. Wheat stored in 10-pound bags is easy to manipulate, facilitates rotation, allows easy inspection of the grain, and compartmentalizes the grain so contamination of one lot does not expose large quantities of stored grain to contamination. Several bags can be placed inside a 5-gallon plastic bucket. It is not necessary to store wheat in the absence of oxygen unless insects are present.
Wheat Storage Methods and Conditions
- Food-grade container or bucket
- Off the floor
- Away from insects
- Vacuum Sealing
- Dry Ice (CO2)
- Oxygen Absorbers
Freezing doesn’t harm wheat as long as it’s well packaged and can help it retain its freshness and nutritional value. Package the grain into food-safe freezer containers, heavy-duty freezer bags or vacuum-sealed bags, then label and date them. Position the wheat in the deepest corners of your freezer, where the temperature remains most stable, and remove it in small quantities when you need it.
The best storage method really depends on how long you actually intend to store the item. If you’re looking at the possibility of 5 or more years, I would recommend using mylar bags instead of regular food saver bags as they are even more airtight and help guard against oxidation and incidental sunlight as well. You can vacuum out the oxygen and seal them in FoodSaver, or you can use an oxygen absorber to remove every last trace of oxygen and just use the FoodSaver to seal them. As long as the berries are completely dry when they go in, stay dry, relatively cool, and out of the sunlight they will last “indefinitely”.
Dry Ice (CO2)
Using carbon dioxide (CO2) from dry ice to replace the oxygen before closing it protects the wheat berries even more. CO2 is heavier than oxygen and goes to the bottom of the container, pushing the oxygen.
How to use dry ice to store wheat
- Place 3-4” of grain in the bottom of a 5-gallon plastic bucket.
- Use gloves when handling dry ice.
- Add 2-3 oz. crushed dry ice.
- Fill the container to the full height.
- Place the lid on top slightly askew.
- After 30 minutes, seal the lid air-tight.
Dry ice will control most adult and larval insects present but usually will not destroy eggs or pupae. If properly applied, a single treatment with dry ice is sufficient for long-term storage. Annual dry ice treatments are not necessary unless an infestation is recognized in the stored grain. Treating grain with dry ice does not reduce its ability to sprout or its food value.
Seal wheat in Mylar-type bags or #10 cans along with the appropriate number of oxygen absorber packets to create an oxygen-free atmosphere (see how to use oxygen absorbers with wheat and other dry foods). This will kill adult insects and prevent larval insects from surviving.
|NOT RECOMMENDED, may be toxic if not correctly used
|NOT RECOMMENDED, too difficult to control the correct amount of heat to apply.
|Freeze 1-15 lb bags of wheat for 2-3 days. Allow warming for 24 hours. Freezing kills live pests, but not insect eggs. Multiple freezing and warming cycles may be needed to kill all insects and hatch eggs.
|Seal wheat in vacuum bags following vacuum sealer instructions.
|Dry Ice (CO2)
|Place 3-4” of grain in the bottom of a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Use gloves when handling dry ice. Add 2-3 oz. crushed dry ice. Fill the container to the full height. Place the lid on top slightly askew. After 30 minutes, seal the lid air-tight. Dry ice will control most adult and larval insects present but usually will not destroy eggs or pupae. If properly applied, a single treatment with dry ice is sufficient for long-term storage. Annual dry ice treatments are not necessary unless an infestation is recognized in the stored grain. Treating grain with dry ice does not reduce its ability to sprout or its food value.
|Seal wheat in Mylar-type bags or #10 cans along with the appropriate number of oxygen absorber packets to create an oxygen-free atmosphere.
|Food-Grade Bag Containers and Bucket
|Choose insect-free sources for wheat. Store them in clean and dry containers impermeable to insects.
Other Storage Conditions to be mindful of
Storing wheat at 40-60°F is optimal but is usually impractical in most homes except during winter months. Freezing or sub-zero temperatures do not damage stored grains. Storage at temperatures above 60°F causes a more rapid decline in seed viability (ability to germinate) but only a slightly faster loss in food value.
Dangers of high moisture levels
- mold growth
- chemical degradation
Store containers off the floor especially off concrete floors. Concrete can wick moisture to stored containers very easily Inspect grain often for insect activity.
What is the shelf life of wheat?
A good rule of thumb is to rotate wheat so that no stored product is older than 5 years. However, older stored wheat can make acceptable bread. A study at Brigham Young University indicated that, regardless of headspace oxygen level, wheat packaged in No. 10 cans throughout 32 years of storage at ambient or cooler temperatures made bread acceptable to a majority of consumers.
Develop a program to utilize stored wheat on a regular basis. As stored wheat is used, replace it with containers of new wheat.
For more information on home food storage visit NCHFP.