How To Preserve Wheat Berries In Long Term Food Storage


Wheat berries or wheat kernels with the husk removed are a cornerstone of long-term food storage. With proper storage, you can preserve wheat for 30 plus years. That’s 3 decades. The most important factor of wheat preservation is an oxygen-free environment, and for that, we need to repackage the wheat.

Wheat berries are preserved in long-term storage by re-packaging them into containers that protect them from oxygen, moisture, heat, light, and bugs. The best “DIY” packaging method for preserving dry wheat is a 5-gallon food-grade bucket lined with a Mylar bag and 2500cc of oxygen absorption.

When I first started researching how I would store my bulk dry goods, I looked at the different options. All of the alternates have drawbacks that Oxygen absorbers don’t.

For most people, Mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and oxygen absorbers will be the cheapest, most available method of preserving bulk dried goods like wheat berries, dried beans, white rice, and other hard and soft grains.

If you are ready to start building your long-term food stores. Read on.

Warning: Before packaging, wheat berries should contain 10% moisture or less. Dry foods packaged in an oxygen-free environment with a moisture content above 10% may form anaerobic bacteria, namely botulism—a rare but deadly food poisoning.

Methods of Preserving Wheat & Killing Bugs

There are packaging containers that keep moisture, oxygen, and bugs out, and there are methods of removing oxygen and killing bugs present when wheat is repackaged. Following are 10 treatment methods used to kill bugs and/or remove oxygen from wheat berries.

#1 Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen absorbers are my preferred method of removing oxygen and killing all bug life stages: adult, pupae, and eggs from storage containers. No DIY storage method is as simple and effective as using oxygen absorbers and a container that provides a true-oxygen barrier such as Mylar bags and Food-grade buckets.

Oxygen Absorbers Do It All: Long Term Wheat Storage

  • O2 Absorbers remove oxygen from sealed food containers to prevent food oxidation
  • O2 Absorbers Kill all stages of bug life within 2 weeks
  • O2 Absorbers Give Wheat a 30 + year shelf-life

#2 Vacuum Sealing

DIY vacuum sealing removes less oxygen than oxygen absorbers. This residual oxygen will deteriorate wheat, imparting off-flavors, odors, and bug eggs can hatch. You are not going to get 30 years of shelf-life from wheat that is vacuum packed.

#3 Dry Ice Treatment

Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and does the same thing oxygen absorbers do, but not as well, and Oxygen absorbers are easier and safer to use.

Dry ice displaces Oxygen and kills adult bugs in a food storage container, but it may not kill pupae and eggs. (most dry grains have dormant eggs present).

The main concern with the dry ice method, it leaves condensation or moisture in your storage container. Moisture is a major spoiler of dry foods like wheat, in higher concentrations, can lead to anaerobic bacteria like botulism.

How Do You Treat Wheat With Dry Ice?

Place 3-4 inches 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.

A Guide To Food Storage For Emergencies, Utah State University, PDF

Warning: dry ice is dangerous to work with if not handled properly.

#4 Freezing

Freezing is used to extend shelf-life, but it depends on electricity to do so. Personally, I don’t want my emergency food stores reliant on a utility I might not have in a major SHTF situation.

Freezing is meant to kill bugs, but it is not effective at killing some varieties of weevil eggs. Even the professionals disagree on how long you need to freeze wheat to kill bugs. One article I read, discussing the topic, mentioned how certain weevil eggs could survive through North Dakota’s winters, so freezing did little to phase them.

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 hatching eggs.

A Guide To Food Storage For Emergencies, Utah State University, PDF

Don’t freeze wheat because it takes a lot of space, time and imparts moisture to your wheat. Moisture is another spoiler of bulk dry foods.

#5 Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is the silica skeletons of diatoms. It looks kind of like sand in consistency and can be mixed into your dry foods to kill adult bugs and hatched larvae. It’s ineffective in killing eggs and pupae, so if you use it, you’ll have bug carcasses in your wheat.

Warning: Use breathing protection when working with Diatomaceous Earth it is silica and is dangerous to breath

#6 Insecticides

Do not use. Professionals in commercial food operations sometimes use insecticides. Unskilled personnel should not attempt this.

#7 Heating:

Not Recommended because it’s difficult to control and and determine the correct amount of heat.

#8 Bay Leaves:

Commonly used in countries like India, where refrigeration is less common. Bay leaves may keep adult bugs out of jars that aren’t air-tight, but they are ineffective at killing bugs.

At best bay leaves are a deterrent, they don’t do anything in an airtight, oxygen free-container but impart off-flavors to your wheat.

Bay leaves do not remove oxygen from a airtight food container.

#9 Nails

No effect on insect life and ineffective in removing oxygen from a sealed container.

#10 Salt

Ineffective in Killing bugs and does nothing to remove oxygen from a sealed container.

Preserving Wheat Berries Long Term: Tools and Equipment

When you get ready to start repackaging your wheat, things will go smoother if you stage all of your equipment and tools before you start. Following is a list of tools I use to repackage wheat and all of my other dry goods. Hopefully, this list with help you get set up for a painless session of wheat berry storage.

  • 18″x28″ Mylar Bag(s) (this is the size I use) or 20″x30″
  • 5-gallon food grade bucket with a cheap lid; when using Mylar, you don’t need a fancy lid with a seal
  • 1-gallon Mylar bags for overflow
  • Standard Clothes Iron to heat-seal the Mylar bag
  • Permanent Marker to mark the package with the packing date and food type
  • 2000cc Oxygen Absorber(s) for 5-gallon bucket lined with an 18″x28″ Mylar bag
  • 500cc Oxygen Absorbers(s) for 1-gallon overflow bag(s), extra beans that won’t fit in your bucket
  • Wood Board used to place the top of the bag over when you seal it with the iron
  • Scissors to cut open the wheat bag, scissors make a clean cut, so it’s easier to pour the wheat out of the bag

Storage Tip: Wheat is denser when packed, so they have less oxygen between each grain than, say, dried beans, so they require less CC of oxygen absorber. A 5-gallon bucket of wheat requires a 2000cc oxygen absorber, where the same bucket of dried beans would require 2500cc of absorption.

Storage Tip: Remove wheat from the original packaging before repackaging then into 02-free containers, or you are trapping oxygen inside the store-bought packaging.

Check out the Ready Squirrel video below to see how to package wheat, step by step.

How To Store Wheat: Long-Term Food Storage

Chart #1 Size Of Oxygen Absorber To Preserve Wheat Berries

Container SizeBag DimensionsCC Oxygen Absorber(s) For Dried Wheat
1 Quart (1/4 gallon) Mylar Bag6″x10″100cc
1/2 Gallon Mylar Bag8″x12″200cc
1 Gallon Mylar Bag10″x14″500cc
1.5 Gallon Mylar Bag12″x18″1000cc
2 Gallon Mylar Bag14″x20″1000cc
5 Gallon Mylar Bag20″x30″ or 18″x28″2000cc
6 Gallon Mylar Bag20″x30″ or 18″x28″2000cc
Information Compliments of USA Emergency Supply. You can mix and match different sizes of Oxygen absorbers to get the minimum cc required to remove oxygen. You cannot use too many Oxygen-absorbers, only too little.

Choosing Mylar Bags For Wheat Berry Preservation

When preserving wheat berries for long-term storage pick the size of bag that fits your situation and choose the correct mil or thickness of the Mylar.

Mylar Bag Size and Wheat Exposed to Oxygen

When packaging, consider how much rice you want exposing to oxygen when you open it. Larger 5-gallon Mylar bags are much easier to fill, but they expose a lot of food to the environment when opened. They are also heavy and more difficult to move around.

It’s less convenient, but storing wheat in smaller 10″x14″ (1-gallon) or 14″x20″ (2-gallon) Mylar bags minimizes the amount of rice exposed to oxygen when the package is opened. The packages are lighter and easier to handle.

Wheat Storage Tip: Even if you go with 5 or 6-gallon pails, you will be using smaller bags for overflow, the extra wheat that won’t fit in the food pail. So plan to purchase two sizes of Mylar bag and the oxygen absorbers to go in them. This is how I do it.

  • Use a 500cc absorber in a 1-gallon bags for extra wheat
  • Use a 2000cc absorber for a 5-gallon food-grade pail lined with an 18″x28″ Mylar bag

Mylar Bag Mils or Thickness

My go-to bags are 5 mils. They keep light out, and they are tough enough when stored in a plastic food pail or a lidded plastic bin. Mylar thickness over 5 mils is more challenging to seal, and bags less than 5 mils are easily damaged and let light into the package leading to light oxidation of wheat.

Wheat Storage Tip: When storing wheat in smaller Mylar bags, you still want to protect them, so place them inside a lidded bucket or a lidded plastic bin to protect wheat from bugs, rodents, and physical damage.

Preservation Of Wheat: Food Grade Pails And Buckets

You can use non-food grade buckets to store rice as long as they are lined with a Mylar bag. You don’t want your wheat to directly contact non-food grade plastic because the chemicals and dies used in manufacturing are toxic. You don’t want wheat absorbing these toxic chemicals.

Why Use Food-grade Buckets Instead Of Non Food Grade

When it comes to food for long-term storage, I want to have as many options as possible. The bucket that holds wheat today can be repurposed for food-grade uses tomorrow. Down the road, I may want to make pickles, honey mead, or cider. If the bucket is food-grade, I can use it.

In a truly SHTF situation you may not have the option of running to Walmart or ordering a food-grade bucket on-line.

The difference between food and non food grade buckets

Wheat Preservation: Pounds of Wheat Per Container

Each size of Mylar bag or container will hold a specific amount, by weight, of wheat. Knowing how much a container will hold helps you plan for what you need for a wheat packing day.

  • 1 Quart Mylar Bag holds 1.6 pounds of wheat
  • 1/2-gallon Mylar Bag filled contains 3.2 pounds of wheat
  • 1-gallon Mylar bag filled contains 6 pounds of wheat
  • 2 gallon Mylar bag will hold 12 pounds of wheat
  • 5-gallon Bucket lined with an 18″x28″ Mylar Bag holds 35 to 36 pounds of wheat
  • 6-gallon Bucket lined with an 18″x28″ Mylar Bag contains 44 to 45 pounds of wheat when filled
  • #10 can hold 5.5 pounds of wheat

Amount Of Wheat To Store Per Person

According to Utah State University, you should store 175 pounds of wheat per person for a year’s supply. Wheat is one of the many grains they suggest storing to make up the 400 pounds of grain storage suggested per person for a one-year supply.

Types Of Wheat To Preserve For Long Term Storage

Hard Wheat is the most common type of wheat stored in long-term storage because it provides the most protein and is the best for making leavened bread. Hard red wheat is said to taste a little gamier than hard white, but it provides more protein. Soft wheat can be stored but is more for unleavened baked goods.

Chart # 2 Common kinds of wheat and there uses

Types of WheatShelf-lifePrimary Use When Cooking
Spelt30 +Yeast Bread, Pasta, Biscuits, and Crackers (said to make excellent tasting bread)
Durum 30 +Pasta and Unleavened Bread, ground for semolinna flour, thick sticky gluten, high protein
Hard Red Spring 30 +Classic Whole Wheat Bread, best in yeast or sourdough bread, highest protein
Hard Red Winter30+Yeast Bread, excellent for sprouting, highest protein
Hard White 30 +Leavened Bread, excellent tasting white bread, Beer making, Medium protein
Emmer30 +Pasta, Unleavened Flat Bread
Einkorn30+Leavened and Unleavened bread
Kamut30+Leavened Bread, Pasta (organic Khorasan wheat)
Khorasan30+Leavened Bread
Soft Red30+Bread and Beer Making, Medium Protein
Soft White30+Primarily used to make batters: cakes, cookies, waffles, pancakes, and as a soup thickener, low protein
Common Wheat Types For Long-term Storage

Shelf Life Of Wheat Berries: Long-term Preservation

Wheat berries that contain 10% moisture or less, packaged in an oxygen-free container and stored in a cool, dry environment, will be good for 30 years or more. Wheat in store-bought packaging has a shelf life of 5 years if stored properly and isn’t infested by hatching bug eggs.

Wheat: Ideal Preservation Environment

The ideal preservation environment for wheat and other dried foods is going to be cool and dry. Protecting wheat from oxidation, moisture and heat will give you the longest shelf-life.

Ideal Storage Temperature For Wheat Berries

The ideal storage temperature for wheat can be tough to achieve, so do the best you can. One thing is for sure you want to avoid storing long-term foods, including wheat, in areas that aren’t environmentally controlled. Store
wheat and other dried foods in a hot garage, and you’ll shave off decades of shelf-life.

The Ideal Temperature for the long-term storage of wheat berries or wheat kernels is 75° Fahrenheit or less but above freezing.

Wheat: Ideal Storage Humidity

The humidity or amount of moisture in the air in your long-term storage pantry should be as low as possible. Moisture destroys food and some types of packaging like cardboard, paper, and metal cans. Moisture is the #1 spoiler of grains like wheat, causing bacterial growth and mold.

The ideal humidity for the preservation of wheat in long-term storage is 15% or less. If you live in a high-humidity area, consider using a dehumidifier in your food storage pantry.

Rice and other dried foods soak up moisture in the air like a sponge. This isn’t as much of an issue if you are storing rice in Mylar and sealing it as long as it is 10% moisture or less before packaging.

If wheat sits in a high humidity environment is will mold, mildew and acquire off odors and flavors.

6 Optimum Oxygen-free Storage Containers For Wheat

Following are 6 storage containers you can use to preserve wheat in long-term storage. Some are better than others, but I wanted you to see the most common options so you can choose the container that fits your situation and budget.

Storage Tip: To preserve wheat and other dried grains for long-term storage, use oxygen absorbers in all of these containers to create an oxygen-free environment.

Ball Jars

An excellent Oxygen barrier but they break easily and they don’t protect wheat from light oxidation.

Sterilized Soda Bottles/PETE

Some people swear by soda bottles but I’ve never used them.

If you re-use soda bottles to repackage wheat, make sure you sterilize the bottle and the cap before repacking them with wheat. Make sure they are super dry before storage. If you put wheat in wet bottles, it will head south in a hurry.

The reason I’m not fond of soda bottles for wheat storage: the bottle plastic isn’t that tough, it’s not a true oxygen barrier, and soda bottles don’t protect wheat from light. If you decide to re-use bottles like this, avoid anything that stored dairy products.

Scott Ready Squirrel

Food-grade Bucket Without A Mylar Bag

The problem I see with using just using buckets is plastic isn’t a true oxygen barrier, and even the best lids are known to fail over the long haul.

Other than #10 cans buckets are the toughest food storage container.

#10 Cans

If you keep moisture down, #10 cans are probably the best storage container for wheat and other dried grains. The cans are super tough and keep an excellent seal. A high moisture environment will rust the cans.

Cans do have a couple of drawbacks for the average user. Most of us don’t have access to the equipment necessary to package wheat this way. There is the option to purchase wheat professionally packaged in #10 cans but you are going to pay more than if you purchase wheat in bulk and package it yourself.

One final downside is that cans may impart a tinny flavor to foods stored over decades. It has mostly been remedied because modern cans have a food-safe lining of acrylic or R enamel which creates a barrier between the metal and food.

Mylar Bags

Mylar bags are hands down the best “do it yourself option” for repackaging wheat for long-term storage. Most of us can do it relatively inexpensively. Mylar is an outstanding moisture and oxygen barrier and protects wheat from light oxidation.

The downside of Mylar bags is they are somewhat weak and easily damaged when compared to #10 cans or food-grade buckets.

Mylar is also extremely susceptible to damage from rodents.

Food Grade Bucket, A Mylar Bag & Oxygen Absorber

This is the perfect trifecta for wheat and dry grains storage.

The Mylar bag is the best DIY oxygen barrier, the bucket and lid are excellent armor for Mylar, and the oxygen absorber removes oxygen leaving just nitrogen in the bag.

Moisture Content Of Wheat Before Re-packaging

Wheat and other dried foods like rice, beans, and other grains should be 10% or less in moisture content before repackaging for long-term oxygen-free preservation.

When storing grains with moisture higher than 10% in an oxygen-free container, the perfect environment is created for anaerobic bacteria like botulism to form. It’s a rare type of food poisoning, but it’s deadly.

Protecting Wheat From Heat And Light

Light oxidizes wheat, so avoid clear containers unless you plan on covering them or storing them in a dark cupboard or pantry.

Also, avoid storing wheat near heat sources like a stove-top, wood stove, or any appliance that gives off heat.

Wheat To Avoid For Preservation

  • Wheat should smell fresh and sweet or have no smell
  • The musty, foul, or rancid smell is a sure sign of bad or fermenting wheat berries
  • Look for heavy powders and broken or eaten grains of wheat which may be a sign of bug damage
  • Dark spots or discoloration may be a sign of mold or mildew

Sources

A Guide To Food Storage For Emergencies, Utah State University, PDF

Related Articles

Oxygen Absorbers and Food Storage, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

What’s The Difference Between Food and Non Food Grade Buckets, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

Mylar Bags: The Secret Weapon Of Food Storage, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

Food Stockpile: One Person For Three Months, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

What Is Long-Term Food Storage?, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

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