Storing small grains

Using small grains that grew on your own land makes baking a loaf of bread or bottling your own beer even more special. But if the grain isn’t dried and stored properly after the harvest, it could mold, be devoured by insects, or even become unsafe to consume.

Small quantities of grain can be put in a plastic bag and tossed in the freezer, but it’s more complicated for larger amounts. Julie Dawson is a horticulture professor at the University of Wisconsin.  She says grain moisture levels should be at least below 20% for short-term storage. Thirteen-to-fourteen percent is recommended if you will be storing it long-term, up to nine-months.

"When you’re drying it down, if you can get it dried out of the field that’s the easiest," says Dawson. "If you need to dry it down once you get it in, you want to use low-temperature air drying. If you get the temperature too hot it affects the baking quality."  

It’s best to keep the air-drying temperature below 140-degrees. When you’re ready to check the dryness, a moisture meter will tell you what the moisture content is. Take a sample of grain, mix it well, and take the reading.

Dawson recommends storing the grains in aerated metal bins.

"You can get them in different sizes, they have an aerated floor where you can push air underneath and up through the grain. There’s also various wagons that you can build yourself that have a floor that you can put air through," she says. "So thereto, you can find designs online for building your own, or you can purchase a small-scale grain bin that’s usually just a metal cylinder with a floor that you can push air through."

The air doesn’t have to be constantly moving through the grain, but condensation could form with wild temperature swings and you’ll have to dry the grain again.  Keeping it cool, around 60-degrees, reduces mold and insect activity.