Storing wheat and dry bulk food items is an important part of homesteading. Just think what happened 100 years ago when the farmers harvested their crops of grain. You would have likely gone and purchased what you needed to get you through till the next wheat harvest. Then you'd carefully store it so that it would spoil or get infested with bugs. So here are a few tips that you'll find helpful in storing your grains.
Storage Life of Wheat Berries verses Flour
Hard Grains all store well because of their hard outer shell which is nature's near perfect container. Remove that container and the contents rapidly deteriorate. Wheat, probably nature's longest storing seed, has been known to be edible after scores of years when stored in a cool dry place. As a general rule for hard grains sealed in the absence of oxygen, plan on a storage life of 15-20 years at a stable temperature of 70 degrees F. They should keep proportionately longer if stored at cooler temperatures.
After grains are broken open (by grinding it into flour) their outer shells can no longer protect the seed contents and the seed nutrients start to degrade. Don't try to store unprotected flours longer than a year. If you seal flour in the absence of oxygen, plan on a storage life of 5 years at a stable temperature of 70 degrees F. They should keep proportionately longer if stored at cooler temperatures.
How much Wheat should I store?
On average, a family of three adults can consume approx. 200 lbs. of wheat per year. But honestly, I would recommend doing a menu plan and figuring out how much food storage you need. Each person is different. Each family consumes different items. Our family doesn't use a lot of bread, while other families do.
Choose dark, hard winter or spring wheat with a 12% or higher protein content. It should be clean and high grade. The moisture content should be 10% or less. This low moisture content aids in limiting insect contamination. Insects cannot reproduce in wheat with very low moisture content. If you are going to store wheat for long periods, make certain you take precautions to eliminate possible contamination. Contact you local agriculture extension office concerning long term wheat storage in your area.
Wheat will keep indefinitely if STORED PROPERLY. Make certain the wheat remains dry. The most successful storage comes from rotating the supply of wheat, using the older wheat before using newer wheat.
We would like to caution you when buying wheat to make certain the wheat is dry and has the proper protein quotient. As with all things, be a cautious shopper. If you are conscientious enough to grind your own flour, then go the extra measure and be certain the grains you are purchasing are the best grains available.
Packing Your Food with Oxygen Absorbers
A good way to remove the oxygen from your grains when you store them is to use Oxygen Absorbers. For more information about how to properly use these watch our Preserving the Harvest DVD set.
Where to Find Oxygen Absorbing Packets?
Here are several different places you can order them online, but the easiest and cheapest way that I've found is good 'ol Amazon. If you have an Army Surplus store in town you'll likely find them there.
Grain and Wheat Mills
We have used a Country Living Grain Mill for 5 to 6 years and are extremely satisfied. This Grain Mill comes as a manual mill. This is very important for the times when we might not have electricity. However you do have the option of an electric gear motor. Probably the best motor for the Grain Mill is the "Baldor GCP 25060" electric gear motor which can be purchased from the Country Living Grain Mill website. (They probably have the best price on the web for the Baldor GCP 25060)
Motorizing the Grain Mill
For those of you who are mechanically inclined, you might find a less expensive electric "gear motor" that will work satisfactorily with the Grain Mill. Call Surplus Center at 1-800488-3407 or check their website to see if they have a surplus electric gear motor that comes close to the specs of the Baldor GCP 25060 (The Baldor specs are: 166 rpms, 38 in-lb. torque, 115 volts, 2.45 amps, 10-1 ratio, 60 hertz, and is rated for continuous duty).
A 4" pulley is needed on this particular motor to obtain the optimum rpms on the Country Living Grain Mill, which is 55-60. These low rpms are necessary so the grinding plates on the grain mill won't get hot and destroy the nutrients in the wheat. Surplus Center also sells competitively priced pulleys.
Mounting the Grain Mill
We recommend using 3/4" plywood to mount the Grain Mill and electric gear motor to. We had a "crude" adjustable electric motor "mount" fabricated at a machine shop so we could bolt the electric motor to it and then bolt the mount to the plywood. The adjustable electric motor mount enabled the electric motor to move to and from the grain mill for the purpose of installing and tightening the 1/2" drive/fan belt between the motor pulley and grain mill pulley. (We recommend drive/fan belts manufactured by "Gates". You can find them at a NAPA Auto Parts Store.)
This is how we decided on a 4" pulley for the Baldor electric gear motor: The outside diameter (O.D.) of the V-groove pulley on the grain mill is 12 inches. The O.D. of the proposed V-groove pulley for the electric gear motor is 4". Divide 12 by 4 and this equals 3. Then divide the rpms of the electric gear motor (In this case 166 rpms) by 3 and this equals 55.33 rpms. This is the final rpm of the grain mill and is ideal.
For more info on these wonderful grain mills and where to purchase them go to Country Living Grain Mills.