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Someone gave us two 25kg bags of flour.

Which is kind, but we're not too sure how to store them in usable quantities. My other half went out a bought a load of plastic tupperware-type containers, but I figure that if shops sell flour in paper bags, it must be for a reason.

Question: Is there anything wrong with storing flour in hermetic containers for prolonged periods (i.e. months)?

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2 Answers 2

The reason flour is in paper bag (either 1kg/2lbs bags from supermarkets, or 25kg for bakeries) is to let it "breath": to get it oxidized. If you see an old (vintage) bag it's made of a net that lets a lot of air to get in. Today those bags are not used because it also allows bugs to get in.

When wheat grains are just milled, the flour is not good enough: it needs about 2 weeks of storage to get aged. But once aged, you don't need paper bags anymore.

Wheat grains have oils/fats inside. After 3 months of storage there will be too much rancid (oxidized, ¿stale?) oils in the flour and the taste won't be optimal. Trying to keep it in hermetic containers won't prolonge too much that time, as there's too much air in the flour.

Of course, modern industrial millers won't wait 2 weeks storing a product they could sell earlier: they add enzymes and chemicals to accelerate the process. As well as they'll add chemicals to postpone the "best before" date.

After that date, the flour will taste more rancid, and its gluten won't work as well. To delay that rancid tasting, you might try to refrigerate the flour (IE: put it in the fridge) but 25kg are too much for a fridge. If you don't notice the taste at all, there's no problem eating it. The gluten won't work as well as when flour was "young", due to an excess of enzymatic activity. You'll notice this effect as the loaves won't rise as well, and the crumb will be denser and chewier. This could be solved adding very strong flour or wheat vital gluten (or just enjoying a denser bread).

Another problem you could get with long storage is some bugs appearing in your flour. There's no way to prevent them: their eggs are in the flour when you get it. But they usually appear only when it's hot, so you probably won't get them the next months (if you live in the northern hemisphere). In the summer that's one reason for me to convince my couple to store my flour in the fridge. An "old, wise trick" I was told was putting a leaf of laurel in the flour to avoid them. It never worked for me.

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We store plain white flour for more than a year in sealed plastic drums. It tastes and works fine –  TFD Nov 6 '12 at 0:22
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@TFD : I suspect the 3 month time is for 'whole wheat' four -- white flour's had the bran removed, so doesn't have the same oil/rancid issues. (I've also kept white flour for more than a year without problems, and not always in tight plastic containers for the whole time). –  Joe Nov 6 '12 at 1:31
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I believe you mean 'old wive's trick', not wise :) –  ElendilTheTall Nov 6 '12 at 12:20
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@Benjol: Thank you for your comment. It made me notice my answer wasn't quite right. I noticed old flour doughs rise less, and I assumed it was to a lack of enzymes. After thinking a bit (and found this on old flour) I noticed my mistake: old flour has degraded gluten; that's why its dough won't "work" as well. –  J.A.I.L. Nov 6 '12 at 13:19
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@AnishaKaul At least here, it says on the package. E.g., a package will be marked "bleached" or "unbleached". –  derobert Nov 19 '12 at 15:48

This answer is purely from my own experience: I freeze my surplus flour in the original paper bag which I then put in a plastic freezer bag. I have used flour that has been in the freezer for a couple of years with no discernable degradation to flavor or performance. This includes whole wheat, white and rye flours.

I keep up to 10 lbs. of flour in a large Tupperware (plastic) lidded container for more immediate use and have rarely run into any problems with taste or even bugs.

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