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The Shelf Life of Flour: How to Store Bulk Flour Long-term
Flour is an essential ingredient of many home-cooked meals, which is why it makes sense to buy it in bulk. Besides being convenient, bulk purchases can also save you money in the long run.
The shelf life of flour depends on the type of flour. Some of the more common flours have a shelf life of 1 year, but under the right conditions, the shelf life of flour can extend up to 20 years. This occurs when it is kept in an airtight container with oxygen absorbers and kept away from environmental aggressors such as heat, light, moisture, oxygen, and pests.
However, if not stored properly flour, flour can go bad before before its expected expiration date. So, if you’re wondering, “How to store bulk flour long-term?” you’re in the right place. But first, what is flour?
What is Flour?
Flour is made by grinding grains, nuts, seeds, roots, or beans into a powder. Flour is usually made in steel mills or stone mills, and these matter because it affects the nutrition, quality, and coarseness of the flour.
Refined flours have a longer shelf life than unrefined flours because there are fewer natural oils in the contents of the flour. Also, coarseness affects the shelf life as well since the finer the flour, the less potent the oils.
Generally, homemade flour from a stone mill is better than store-bought flour since it has a higher nutritional content and a richer flavor. Stone mills are known to help retain more nutrition than other grinding methods.
What Is the Shelf Life of Flour?
Generally speaking, flour can last anywhere from 6 months to 1 year. However, you can extend that period to 10, maybe even 20, years by using the tips and techniques listed below.
However, do keep in mind that the shelf life of flour largely depends on the type of flour. Here is a table of the shelf life of different types of flour.
|Type of Flour||Mason Jar with O2 Absorbers||Mylar Bag with O2 Absorbers||Food Grade Plastic Bucket|
|All-Purpose||2 years||10 years||20 years|
|Coconut Flour||2 years||10 years||20 years|
|Cornmeal (Bolted)||2 years||10 years||20 years|
|Almond Flour||6 months||2 years||5 years|
|Bread Flour||2 years||10 years||20 years|
|Pastry Flour||2 years||10 years||20 years|
|Cake Flour||2 years||10 years||20 years|
|Self-Rising Flour||2 years||10 years||20 years|
|Whole Wheat Flour||1 year||3 years||5 years|
Remember that flour gets easily affected by its surrounding environment. Therefore, as long as it’s stored in resealable bags with oxygen absorbers and placed somewhere cool and dry, it should be fine.
Take a look.
Shelf Life in a Food-Grade Bucket
Food-grade buckets can do a pretty good job of extending the shelf life of flour. Amazingly, they can keep flour in good condition for up to 20 or 30 years.
The reason these are effective storage containers is because proper flour storage requires protection from environmental aggressors such as oxygen, moisture, heat, light, and pests. When packed properly, food-grade buckets protect against all the major risks of causing the flour to spoil.
Yet, keep in mind that you have to place the bucket somewhere where temperatures range between 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Since it appears that flour thrives in cool temperatures, some chefs recommend that you place it in the fridge drawer, especially whole wheat flour.
Storing flour in food-grade buckets is not as simple as pouring flour into a bucket. We previously wrote a post on simplifying the process of storing food in 5-gallon buckets. And to learn about the 11 supplies you will need to store food long term, consider reading our list on the topic.
Shelf Life in a Mylar Bag
Mylar bags can be used to store flour for up to 10-15 years. Mylar bags are made from metallic sheets that reduce exposure to light, heat, moisture, and oxygen which prevents the flour from going bad. Whole-grain flours, on the other hand, will last only around 10 years.
Of course, this is as long as you store the flour with oxygen absorbers. Make sure that it gets no moisture, light, or oxygen. When you remove oxygen from the flour’s storage container, you can help prevent insect eggs from hatching and mold from growing.
Still, you should know one of the main downsides of mylar bags is that rodents are known to penetrate the bag. So if you intend to use mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, its best to keep the mylar bags in a place out of reach from rodents.
For a step-by-step guide on how to store flour in mylar bags, consider reading our article on the topic.
Shelf Life in a Mason Jar
Mason jars may be the least effective method of storing flour, but they’re still a viable option. An airtight glass container can keep your flour fresh for up to 1 year.
Alternatively, you can also opt to vacuum-seal an ordinary jar with oxygen absorbers. By removing as much of the air found inside the jar as possible, you can extend the flour’s shelf life by up to 2 years.
To learn how to store flour properly in mason jars, consider reading our article on how to store food long-term in mason jars.
Signs the Flour Has Gone Bad
There are a couple of ways you can tell whether or not the bulk amount of flour you’re storing has gone bad.
The most obvious sign would be if you were to spot any mold growths in the bag or container. This often happens as a result of moisture making its way into the bag.
To prevent moisture from entering your container, make sure its sealed tightly and to keep your bulk flour storage in a cool place, no more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit
More subtle signs include discoloration or a change of smell. So, if you notice that the flour has started to smell musty, stale, or even sour, it’s time to throw it out and get yourself some fresh bags.
Eating bad flour can lead to food poisoning or altering the flavor of foods cooked with the flavor. So if you suspect the flour of having gone bad, its best to dispose of it.
How to Maximize the Shelf Life of Flour?
When storing flour long-term, its important to keep in mind best practices to limit the flour’s exposure to air, heat, light, pests, and moisture. Below are some general tips on how to maximize the shelf life of flour.
Keep Flour in a Airtight Storage Container
The most effective way to keep your flour fresh is to seal it in airtight containers or resealable bags. This will guarantee that no moisture, oxygen, or light reaches the flour, which can make it unsafe for consumption.
The most effective way to store flour is to place a mylar bag with oxygen absorbers inside of a food-grade bucket. This way, you’ll also protect the flour against pest infestations and mold growth.
Store in a Hard-to-Reach Place
In the event of a flood of pest infiltration, you’ll want to make sure the flour is not easily exposed to moisture or rodents that can cause spoilage. This is especially true if you decide to use mylar bags as your main food storage method because they are more fragile than glass mason jars or plastic buckets. Storing it in a closed food storage location or on a high shelf would ensure your food is better stored.
Place It Somewhere Cool and Dry
To further extend the flour’s shelf life, make sure you store it somewhere cool and dry and away from direct light.
As mentioned above, flour is well preserved in cold temperatures. So, consider storing your flour in a fridge or freezer. This way, your flour will stay in great shape for years to come.
What Are the Different Types of Flour?
Flour is made by grinding grains, seeds, nuts, beans, and even certain kinds of roots. Then, after grinding, they become a powder we can use for a wide range of purposes.
Here are some of the most common types of flour.
Almond flour is made from grinding sweet almonds. This type of flour is often used for baking and confectionary to make unique types of baked goods such as macarons. Since nuts are high in fats and low in carbohydrates, this flour is preferred for people on low-carb diets. You should also know that the consistency of almond flour is more coarse than typical white flour.
In its original packaging, almond flour has a shelf life of 3-6 months. But it can be stored up to 2 years in a food-grade bucket. The reason for its shorter shelf life is due to the high fat contents of almonds which cause the flour to go rancid sooner.
Bread flour has a high protein content and is milled from hard wheat, which is why it has a potent flavor. If you’re looking to make bagels, pretzels, pizza dough, and artisan bread, this is the flour to use.
When you combine traditional all-purpose flour with cake flour, you get pastry flour. It has the ability to strike a perfect balance between tender and flaky baked goods, like pie crusts, breadsticks, and pancakes.
Coconut flour is made from grinding dried coconut meat into a soft powder. This flour is commonly used in baking pastries. Similar to almond flour, coconut is high in fats and low in carbohydrates so this flour is commonly used by people on low-carb diets. One point to note about coconut flour, is that it spoils at a slower rate than other flours.
Cake flour has the lowest protein content. As a result, it has less gluten and is used to make baked goods softer. While it’s primarily used for cakes, hence the name. You can also use it for muffins and biscuits.
All-purpose flour, or AP flour, is a mix of soft and dense wheat, and contains a moderate protein content. It’s often used to make muffins, bread, pie crusts, cookies, pasta, dough, and more.
Self-rising flour is created by adding baking powder and salt to flour during the milling process. The result is a magical concoction of flour that rises on its own and is used to make perfectly shaped scones, pancakes, and biscuits.
Whole Wheat Flour
When you only grind the endosperm but leave out the germ and bran, you’re left with whole wheat flour. It has a high protein content and is usually used to make pizzas, pancakes, bread, cookies, and pasta.
There’s also a variant made from a paler variety of wheat called white whole wheat flour. This paler alternative tastes a little sweeter because it has a lower tannin content.
Gluten-free flour is typically made from either rice, potato, tapioca, quinoa, sorghum, nuts, or buckwheat. While you can make almost anything with gluten-free flour, you can only substitute it for white flour by using similar weight measurements in grams rather than cups because each type has a different density.
Cornmeal is made from grinding dried corn kernels. This is coarse flour which gives it unique applications in the kitchen. Cornmeal is popular in places like Mexico because it is a key ingredient in making arepas, corn tortilla tacos, and tamales.
If you are interested in learning how to store cornmeal long term, we have written an article on the best way to store it and its shelf life.
The term 00 Flour refers to Italian-style flour. It’s made from the toughest wheat varieties with a high protein content.
Its fine texture makes it perfect for extreme stretching. This is why bakers prefer to use it when making couscous, pasta, thin-crust pizza dough, crackers, and flatbreads.
Knowing how to store flour long-term can be as easy once you know why it might go bad. Depending on how long you would like to preserve flour will determine the type of storage method you should follow.
Storing in food-grade buckets is best if you’re building an emergency food pantry and would like to preserve flour for 20 years. Otherwise, a mason jar filled with flour and placed in the freezer can preserve flour for up to 3 years, making it an effective food storage option.
And if you are simply looking to preserve your homemade flour, we suggest storing it in a mason jar in your pantry. The shelf life will be only 1 year, but it allows you to access your fresh flour easily. And it is typically better to eat flour when it is fresh because of its more nutritious and richer flavor.
Food storage is an important topic for homesteaders and preppers, and a topic we regularly discuss on our blog. If you are interested in learning more, consider reading our articles on food storage.
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If you are looking to buy cookware, you probably came down to ceramic cookware vs stainless steel cookware. Learn to see which is better for you.