If you are stockpiling wheat for long-term storage or for short-term you’ll want to know the indications if your berries are still good or headed south. Let’s take a look at what wheat will look and smell like if it’s stills fresh.
Wheat is still good if it is hard, looks clean, and has a consistent tan color with intact hulls. Also, it will smell slightly sweet or have no smell. Avoid using wheat that smells moldy, musty, or rancid or if it has dark spots indicating mold.
Warning: According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, storing wheat above 10% moisture in Oxygen-free containers may cause anaerobic bacteria, botulism, to form. You cannot see, smell, or taste Botulism. It is rare but deadly.
Do Wheat Berries Expire?
Depending on how you store them, wheat berries can last months to decades.
Eventually, wheat will expire. Stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry location, wheat will last 6 months to many years at a room temperature of 75° Fahrenheit. It will store up to 3 years in the freezer, and 30+ years if stored in oxygen-free containers like Mylar bags.
Before storage, kernels should be intact, not crushed or broken, because this releases natural oils reducing shelf-life. The outer shell of a berry protects it from going stale, rancid, and losing nutrition.
Want to learn more about storing wheat, check out the Ready Squirrel article, Best Wheat Berries for Long-term Storage.”
Once a wheat is cracked, crushed, or broken, it releases oil. These oils go rancid in months, not years. Even if stored in an oxygen-free storage environment, oils go rancid quickly. Berries spoiled from oil rancidity will smell metallic, bitter, or soapy.
Moisture: the enemy of wheat storage
Remember that moisture is the #1 enemy of wheat, which includes humidity in the room and how dry the berries are when you get them. If it spoils from Aerobic bacteria, it contains too much moisture: it’s gotten wet or the ambient humidity in your storage space is too high.
When exposed to moisture kernels may get soft or show signs of mildew or fungus. All of these are indicated by rancid smells and mottled berries with dark spots.
When berries are stored at too high a moisture content, they will release the moisture over time, creating the perfect environment for bacterial growth, which creates hot spots and eventually spoils all of the grain.
Ideal Moisture Content (is wheat still good)
The ideal moisture content of wheat is 10% when stored in oxygen-free storage. This will ensure that anaerobic bacteria don’t form.
How can I tell wheat berries are dry enough?
A good way to tell if wheat is dry enough is to crush a berry with a hammer. If the berry shatters, it’s an indication it is dry enough. If it breaks but doesn’t shatter or flatten, then it needs to dry more.
Scott, Ready Squirrel
The best method of determining moisture content is using a grain moisture tester.
Bugs (is wheat still good)
Bugs eggs are present in most grains, including wheat. If you don’t see any activity, that just means they are dormant. Some berries are fumigated with a chemical like Phostoxin before being packed off to the store, but you won’t necessarily know.
If packaging wheat berries for maximum shelf-life, use an oxygen-free container to kill bugs at all life stages within 2 weeks.Scott, Ready Squirrel
Indication of bugs
When wheat is infested with bugs, you will see broken berries or berries that look chewed on, powdery substances from bug excrement, and possibly dead bugs. You may even see some adult bugs crawling around.
Weevils are the most common bug infestation in wheat. If you have them, they will move to other foods in the pantry. Yuck!
The best way to store wheat is in an airtight container stored in a cool and dry location. The best storage method for long-term storage is in professionally packaged #10 cans or the combination of a food-grade bucket, lined with a Mylar bag and an Oxygen absorber.
Long-term Storage (max shelf-life)
If you ask this question, you may be interested in emergency or survival food supplies for your family. There are a few preferred methods of storing wheat berries for the longest shelf life.
Store wheat berries for a long-time or a long shelf life by using Oxygen-free containers. The preferred DIY storage method is a food-grade bucket lined with a Mylar bag and an oxygen absorber. Stored in a cool, dry location, berries stored this way will last 30-plus years.
Chart #1 Wheat Berry Storage Life (is wheat still good)
|Air-tight Container (75° F)||6 months to 2+years|
|Oxygen-free storage (75° F)||30 + Years|
|Refrigerator||6 months (condensation is an issue)|
|Freezer||1 to 3 years|
A Guide To Food Storage For Emergencies, Utah State University, PDF