Christopher S. Wood, PhD
Storing Homebrew Ingredients
Since my bug infestation mishap a few months ago (see my September 2015 post) I have become more focused on making sure all of my brewing supplies are properly stored. Below you’ll find the basics of homebrew supply storage so that you can get the most out of your Costco-sized bulk purchases and keep your homebrewing ingredients in tip-top condition.
The most important lesson I learned during my bug infestation is that if grain is to be stored for more than a few weeks it MUST be stored in airtight containers away from moisture and at a moderate temperature (less than 90 °F (32 °C) should be ok, but around 75 °F (24 °C) is ideal). This is because most bugs and spoilage organisms thrive in warm, humid temperatures. Here is a picture of two of my new storage containers.
I also keep dry malt extract in one of the airtight containers to keep out sugar-loving insects like ants. According to the malt producer, Briess, base malts should be used within 6 months and highly roasted malts within 18 months of manufacturing, otherwise you may run the risk of decrease freshness and flavor. Briess also suggests that you don’t freeze malt since condensation may build up during the thawing process and promote mold growth.
Exposure to air can oxidize the hop oils and alpha acids, causing them to lose their bitterness. Pellet hops are more resistant to oxidation because it is more difficult for the air to reach them. To combat exposure to oxidation I use a vacuum sealer to remove all the air from the bag and seal it. Hops are also particularly sensitive to light and heat so I keep my vacuum-sealed bags in a black trash bag in my freezer to help maintain freshness. If stored under ideal conditions (cold, away from light and air) hops can last for years.
Liquid and dry yeast should be stored in the refrigerator and always make sure to be aware of the expiration date (see my July 2015 posts for more details)! If you are re-using yeast from a previous batch of beer make sure you open the container on a regular basis to allow any carbon dioxide that has built up to be released. If the pressure gets too high the carbon dioxide will cross the yeast cell wall and the cells will begin to die. Also make sure you use it within 2–4 weeks. By 4 weeks only half of the cells are still viable and may begin to show signs of yeast cell distress such as off flavors during fermentation.
StarSan and PBW should be kept away from extreme temperatures in order to extend their shelf life. I also make sure my dry ingredients like yeast nutrient, Irish moss and spices (i.e. cinnamon and nutmeg for my yearly pumpkin ale) are kept inside my house sealed in plastic bags.
For more details on steps you can take to preserve your homebrewing supplies, click here to find a fantastic visual guide detailing the specifics of how to store homebrewing supplies from “Science and Homebrews” reader Hannah Marks…Thanks Hannah!
Happy homebrew storage, scientists.Last modified on