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Spice containers purchase

I'm planning on upgrading my spice storage. Reading some advice online (e.g. article 1, and article 2) I came to the conclusion that spice containers should:

  • Not be exposed to direct sunlight and high temperatures
  • Be airtight

Which means that either you store it inside of some closed cupboard/wardrobe/room or you have containers which do block light and are in a relatively shady place. And the containers need to be airtight.

Available solutions

I've been browsing for some containers available online in my country and the 2 most sensible options I've seen are these:

  1. clear glass hermetic container
  2. amber glass non-hermetic container

The problem

The first one is hermetic (it has some rubber around the lid) but it's clear glass. The other one does not have the rubber, just a regular twist-off lid, but it's amber glass.

It'll be hard for me to find any space inside of cupboards to store all of my spices (I need at least 30), so I'd rather buy amber glass container, which I believe will effectively block the sunlight, even when kept on the counter. But I can't find any hermetic amber-glass containers, only ones with regular lid.

The question

Is that regular twist-off lid enough to keep spices airtight and fresh? Or should I focus on buying a hermetic container (like the one in clear glass). I could then for example paint them black to block the sunlight.

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    I can't tell from this example but a lot of screw top containers either have a rubber seal or rely on deforming the plastic lid so that it seals to the base. – Chris H Feb 23 '18 at 12:50
  • The dark glassed jar in the photo surely does not have a rubber seal inside, but about the deforming thing I don't know. I contacted the people selling it asking about it. – Robert Kusznier Feb 23 '18 at 13:10
  • Airtight has one advantage: It can really safeguard $200 worth of spices from any surprises with bugs. ... about the clear glass containers: could be made opaque with dark adhesive foil. – rackandboneman Feb 27 '18 at 0:10
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Based on my understanding of physics I would say: Opaque over airtight.

Things you don't want in a spice container are:

  • convection. An open container is essentially an invitation for the spices to diffuse into the whole room. Even a simple cap will already greatly reduce this effect. The amount of air that's going to be exchanged through a not so airtight cap over a hermetic seal probably pales in comparison to the amount of air that is exchanged whenever you use the spice.
  • sunlight. Amber glass is going to be clearly better at this than clear glass. It's unclear whether the problem is the light itself or simply the light's ability to transfer heat to the spices. I'd say the latter will probably weigh more heavily. Regardless though the amber glass will be better at both blocking light from getting to the spices and at radiating heat away from the container.
  • heat. Both containers being glass they'll be about equal when it comes to dealing with heat directly transferred onto the container.

Technically, if your container had very little spice in it then there might be some constellation where a the clear container could beat the amber one based in its ability to let light energy pass through it without affecting either the container or the spice.

  • That is a very detailed response. Thanks! Do you think some material would be better suited to storing spices than glass? Metal? Plastic? – Robert Kusznier Feb 23 '18 at 15:47
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    Of course, if you keep your spices in an opaque cabinet the glass color probably doesn't matter. – JAB Feb 23 '18 at 17:24
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    The amount of gas exchange in a poorly-sealed container vs having the lid off for a less than a minute is huge! I have a tin of Milo that's almost empty. The lid has been removed and replaced countless times, yet the Milo is still powdery and dry. If I didn't seal it properly today, by tomorrow it would be a single sticky lump due to the absorbed moisture from the air. An air-tight seal is essential to keep the ingredients fresh/usable. – CJ Dennis Feb 24 '18 at 3:23
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Based on my experience with coffee and chemicals:

  • Air tight is more important if you have a large enough quantity (as the light can only affect the surface of your goods)
  • a twist lid is OK assuming the lid is also amber glass

I'd like to stress that for a long time (over 3 or 6 months) storage, plastic and wood are NOT air-tight.

Assuming it's not hollow, your wooden lid is thick enough, but if the lid of the second jar is plastic, gas (and flavor) will slowly leak over time.

Edit: As JS Lavertu point out in the comment, it does not matter that plastic is somewhat poreus if you open the box twice a day when cooking

  • @Madlozoz Thanks. So the only really airtight materials from the widely used, would be metal or glass, right? – Robert Kusznier Feb 23 '18 at 18:01
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    This kind of glass container would be better? d.allegroimg.com/s512/03f969/7e8e8366442fa62bba6ae0605d1d. I also got the information that the wooden clid is solid (not empty inside). – Robert Kusznier Feb 23 '18 at 18:06
  • @RobertKusznier Right. Any metal (except mercury and Sodium, don't be a fool) as well as glass are airtight. Not sure about ceramic. Plastic, rubber, wood or silicon are not. Hydrogen would leak within hours and other gaz within month/year – Madlozoz Feb 23 '18 at 18:38
  • Do you think a container like this would be fine? 1.allegroimg.com/s720/06b1fe/651738854de69778723c3c519f11 Or are those mechanical "clips" closing ones better? "Clips" like this: d.allegroimg.com/s512/03f969/7e8e8366442fa62bba6ae0605d1d. I ask because the first one is so much easier to open and store. – Robert Kusznier Feb 23 '18 at 19:00
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    For the amount of air transfer you get because of plastic or wood, they might as well be considered airtight. You will get a lot more loss by just opening the container (Which you have to do anyways) – JS Lavertu Feb 23 '18 at 20:30
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As far as preserving the flavors of your spices goes, a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid — even without a gasket — will be just fine. It just needs to be reasonably airtight; a hermetic seal isn't required. Your nose can be your guide. If you can't smell the spices when the lid is closed, that's a good seal.

The main reason you want a good seal is so that one spice doesn't take on the odors of the others. Cinnamon with an undertone of garlic powder or of cumin might not be what you want when you're baking a cake.

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Have you considered cutting your own gaskets to fit inside the lids of the amber jars? Food-grade silicone is available in sheets for jobs like this: https://www.mcmaster.com/#gaskets/=1bp56kw. I believe McMaster-Carr also sells custom-cut gaskets, but that might be cost-prohibitive.

  • I could do that. The only problem is that a person here said that plastic lids are not really hermetic over longer period of time, so even if I make custom gaskets, they will still not be that greatly airtight. The other issue could be that I'll be having 30-50 jars and cutting 30-50 gaskets might be a pretty big work. – Robert Kusznier Feb 23 '18 at 19:46
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    @RobertKusznier The amount of "airtightness" you are losing by using plastic containers is pretty much negligeable. It's utterly meaningless when you consider the fact that you open the jar when using spices. – JS Lavertu Feb 23 '18 at 20:28

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