It’s inevitable that, after you’re finished brewing up a batch of homebrew, you’ll have some leftovers. Or maybe you’re planning on buying ingredients in bulk to save a little bit of money. Or maybe something came up and you’re forced into postponing your brew day.
Whatever the reason, how you store your brewing ingredients is very important, and can have an effect on your future brewing endeavors. There aren’t too many ingredients that go into the average brewing recipe, and each one can cause the flavor to be off if they have been stored incorrectly.
This is the optimal way to store grains, because when grains are crushed, the starches are exposed to the air. This increases the chance of insects or other animals getting after them. Uncrushed grains should be kept in a sealable container in a cool, dry, dark place – ideally between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius. In these conditions, the uncrushed grain can be stored for up to one year and still be considered fairly fresh.
If you have crushed grains to store, they will still keep, but not for as long as uncrushed grains. You’ll want to keep them in a cool, dry, secure place that is hard for animals or insects to get into. The grain itself will need to be stored in an airtight container. Even then, crushed grain is only viable for two to three months, although putting it in a freezer can extend the lifespan to up to five or six months.
Dry Malt Extract
DME is pretty durable, able to last up to 1 year as long as it is stored in a dry, dark area to prevent degradation. As with everything else, sealing it in an airtight container is key. If you can vacuum-seal a bag with DME in it, it should be in great condition for that entire year.
Liquid Malt Extract
You might think that, due to its liquid state, LME would be a little volatile. In actuality, an unopened can of LME is good for up to two years. Storing it in the refrigerator is recommended, but it isn’t necessary. If you have an opened can of LME or an LME that comes in a resealable plastic container, it is only good for two to three months after opening. Even then, it needs some special treatment – store it in a sealable container with as little extra space for air to seep in as possible. You can also pour some vodka over the surface of the LME to keep mold from developing.
Hops are very delicate and can easily be affected by the climate and conditions they are stored in. Most hops are packed in a sealed, airtight, and opaque bag or container and kept in freezing or below-freezing storage. They can become very unstable when exposed to heat, oxygen, or light. Hop pellets are generally more durable, and in their unopened packaging, can be stored for up to four years depending on the variety. However, once that bag is opened, the hop pellets stability drops. If placed back into a vacuum-sealed bag and back into freezing conditions after first opened, the shelf life can stay at around a year. If you can’t vacuum-seal them, the only other thing you can do is place them in a plastic bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. Even then, you only have about five weeks at freezing temperatures before the hops become useless.
Whole hops are even less stable. In their original packaging, in a freezer, they can be stored for six months to a year. The moment they are opened, they need to be used. Even if you have a vacuum sealer and can seal up the extras immediately, and place them back into the freezer, it still only provides a week or two of freshness. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, there’s no second chance for fresh hops.
We’ve discussed the proper storage and the shelf life of dry and liquid yeast in the past, but repetition is not a bad thing. All yeast degrades over time, but storing both dry and liquid yeast at near-freezing temperatures can help to slow that degradation. The yeast should be nearly as good as new for up to 3 months while stored in the refrigerator, or by the manufacturer’s “Use By” date. After that, the yeast is still usable, but will likely need a starter for best performance.
Dry miscellaneous ingredients includes spices, Irish moss, water salts, and other ingredients that can be used in the processing of beer. These are all best stored in airtight bags, at room temperature. Liquid miscellaneous ingredients just need a cool, dry place and a sealed container.