How to Store Barley

Storing barley properly is essential for maintaining its quality and extending its shelf life.

When kept in the right conditions, barley can remain a versatile and nutritious grain that’s ready for your recipes.

The key to effective storage lies in managing temperature, moisture, and air exposure.

Barley stored in airtight containers on a cool, dry shelf

To start, you should keep your barley in a cool, dry place, ideally between 40°F to 60°F (4°C to 15°C).

Consistent, moderate temperatures help preserve the grain’s integrity, preventing spoilage and prolonging its usability.

High temperatures or fluctuations can damage the grain, so opt for a stable environment like a pantry or cupboard away from appliances and direct sunlight.

Moisture control is equally critical because any exposure to humidity creates a risk for mold and deterioration.

To ensure your barley stays dry and fresh, use airtight containers with tight-fitting lids.

Plastic containers, glass jars, or Mylar bags work well to shield the grain from external moisture and pests.

If you plan to use barley over an extended period, consider portioning it into smaller quantities to avoid frequent exposure to air, which can diminish quality over time.

Understanding Barley

Barley grains in a dry, cool storage area, away from direct sunlight and moisture

Barley is a versatile grain packed with nutrition and comes in various forms to suit different dietary needs and culinary uses.

Types of Barley

  • Hulled Barley: This is the whole grain form where only the outermost hull is removed. Nutrients are largely preserved, making hulled barley a nutritious choice.
  • Pearled Barley: Here, the grain is further processed to remove the bran layer along with the hull. Pearl barley cooks faster but has less fiber compared to hulled barley due to the removal of the bran.

Nutritional Value

  • Fiber: Barley is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which aid in digestion and can help manage cholesterol levels.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: It provides essential nutrients, including B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
  • Antioxidants: Barley contains antioxidants, which combat oxidative stress and may contribute to lowering the risk of chronic diseases.

Preparing Barley for Storage

Barley being poured into airtight containers for storage

Before storing your barley, it’s essential to prepare it properly to ensure its longevity and quality.

This preparation involves a thorough cleaning, appropriate drying, and if you’re storing cooked barley, correct soaking and cooking methods.

Cleaning Process

Start by inspecting your barley for any damage or discoloration.

Remove impurities, such as dirt or stones, that might have mixed in with the grains.

One efficient method is to spread your barley on a tray and manually pick out debris.

Drying Process

After cleaning, dry the barley to reduce moisture content.

Barley with high moisture levels is more susceptible to spoilage.

If the barley isn’t already dry, you can spread it on a flat surface and allow it to air dry.

Aim for a moisture content below 14% for short-term storage and below 13% for longer than six months.

Soaking and Cooking

If you plan to store cooked barley, soak and cook it according to your recipe.

After cooking, allow the barley to cool completely before storage.

Remember, cooked barley should be stored in the fridge and can last for 3 to 5 days in an airtight container.

Selecting Storage Containers

Choosing the right storage containers for barley is important to maintain its quality by protecting against moisture and oxygen. Your choice will affect the grain’s texture and flavor, ensuring it remains suitable for consumption.

Airtight Containers

Airtight containers are essential for storing barley because they prevent moisture and air from compromising the grain.

Containers with airtight seals safeguard the barley by:

  • Keeping out moisture, which can cause mold and spoilage.
  • Preventing oxygen exposure that can degrade quality.

Here is how you can determine if a container is suitable:

  1. Inspect the seal: Ensure it is intact and able to fully close.
  2. Check for a gasket: This can indicate a stronger seal.
  3. Test for air escape: Close the container and apply slight pressure; a good container will not allow air to escape.

Packaging Materials

Choosing the right packaging materials is also critical. Consider these options:

  • Vacuum-sealed bags: Remove air and provide a compact storage solution.
  • Plastic containers: Often come with snap-on lids that create an airtight environment.
  • Glass jars: With screw-top lids, these also form secure seals.

For additional protection, you might wrap the barley in a paper bag before placing it into the container to absorb any residual moisture.

Remember to label your packaging with the date of storage, as this will help you track the quality of your barley over time.

Storage Techniques

Storing in a Cool, Dry Place

Temperature and Humidity: Store your barley in a location where the temperature stays between 40°F to 60°F (4°C to 15°C).

It’s crucial to choose an area with low humidity to prevent moisture accumulation that could lead to spoilage.

  • Location: Pantries, cellars, or cabinets that are away from direct sunlight and sources of heat are ideal.
  • Airflow: Ensure there is adequate ventilation to maintain consistent storage conditions.


Use: When storing smaller quantities of barley that you plan to use regularly, the refrigerator can be a suitable option.

  • Container: Place the barley in airtight containers to shield it from moisture and odors.
  • Temperature: The fridge should be set to maintain a steady and cold temperature that impedes the growth of bacteria.

Freezing Barley

Preparation: For the longest storage time, freezing barley is an effective method.

  • Containers: Use freezer-safe containers or resealable bags mentioned in the search results.
  • Space: Leave space for expansion in the containers and keep them flat to maximize freezer space.

Storing in Bulk

Long-Term Storage: If you have a large quantity of barley to store, consider these factors for bulk storage:

  • Moisture Content: Ensure moisture content is below 12% before storing.
  • Containers: Use large, airtight bins or silos that can protect the grain from pests and contamination.
  • Monitoring: Regularly check the barley for signs of spoilage or pests.

Preventing Spoilage and Pests

Barley stored in a sealed, dry container with airtight lid, away from moisture and pests. Keep in a cool, dark place

To safeguard your barley from spoilage and pests, it’s essential to focus on proper storage conditions and timely pest detection. Here’s how you can ensure your barley remains in optimal condition.

Maintaining Proper Conditions

Temperature and Humidity: Store your barley in a cool, dry place. A pantry or cupboard at room temperature, preferably between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, is ideal.

Keep humidity levels low to prevent the formation of mold.

Airtight Containment: Use airtight containers to shield your barley from moisture and pests. Sealed freezer bags or containers can also be effective, especially if you want to freeze barley for longer periods.

Detecting and Dealing with Pests

Regular Checks: Regularly inspect your barley for signs of insect infestation, which might include weevils and moths.

Discard any contaminated barley to prevent the spread.

Pest Control: Once pests are detected, clean the storage area thoroughly.

You may need to use safe pest control methods to eliminate any remaining insects or vermin.

Store new barley separate from older supplies to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

Usage and Shelf Life

Barley is a versatile grain with a robust shelf life when stored correctly. Maintaining its freshness hinges on safeguarding it from moisture, light, and temperature fluctuations.

Estimating Shelf Life

  • Uncooked Barley: Your uncooked barley can remain in high quality for 1 to 2 years when you store it in a cool (40°F to 60°F or 4°C to 15°C), dry, and dark place.
    • Hulled Barley: It retains its quality longer due to the outer bran layer.
    • Pearled Barley: Slightly less shelf life than hulled because the outer layers have been removed.
TypeShelf LifeStorage Conditions
Hulled barleyUp to 2 yearsCool, dry, and dark
Pearled barley1 to 2 yearsAirtight container
Cooked barley3-5 days (refrigerated), 1 month (frozen)Shallow, airtight containers

Always ensure your storage containers are airtight and labeled with the date and contents for efficient use.

Signs of Degradation

When assessing your barley’s viability, look for signs that indicate spoilage or a loss in quality:

  • Moisture Exposure: If your barley feels damp or shows signs of mold, it’s time to discard it.
  • Off Odor: A musty or unfamiliar odor is a clear warning sign that your barley has gone bad.
  • Color Changes: Any discoloration can point toward spoilage, especially if it was stored improperly.
  • Texture Variation: Should the grains clump together or seem altered in texture, they may have been affected by excess moisture.

Note: Never consume barley if it exhibits any signs of spoilage to avoid potential health risks.

Practical Tips for Using Stored Barley

When you’ve stored your barley properly, it’s easy to incorporate this nutritious grain into your daily meals—whether you’re crafting a vegetarian dish or looking for a hearty addition to soups and stews.

Incorporating into Recipes

Barley is incredibly versatile and can enhance a variety of recipes. Here are some specific ways you can include it in your meals:

  • Soups and Stews: Add cooked barley to soups and stews for a satisfying, fiber-rich component.
  • Salads: Toss cooled, cooked barley into salads. It pairs well with vibrant vegetables and a tangy vinaigrette.
  • Vegetarian Options: Serve as a fulfilling substitute in vegetarian recipes where a grain-like texture is desired.
  • Make Barley Flakes: Use barley flakes as a breakfast porridge or include them in your stuffing mix.
  • Barley Grits: Try barley grits as a side dish, seasoned with garlic and parsley for additional flavor.

Cooking After Long-Term Storage

Stored barley, particularly pearled barley, retains its texture and taste after long-term storage when handled properly:

  • Refresh Taste: If your barley has been stored for a while, consider toasting it lightly in a dry skillet to rejuvenate its nutty flavor before cooking.
  • Storing Cooked Barley: After cooking, you can store barley in the fridge for your weekly meal prep. Remember that cooked barley is best used within 3 to 5 days.

Planning for Long Term

When storing barley for the long term, your primary goals should be to maintain quality and prevent spoilage. Achieving this involves strategic storage methods and effective rotation practices for both bulk quantities and smaller portions.

Strategies for Bulk Storing

For long-term storage of barley, it’s essential to keep the grains in conditions that hinder degradation. If you’re storing barley in bulk:

  • Find a cool, dry place such as a shed or pantry where the temperature stays between 40°F to 60°F (4°C to 15°C).
  • Ensure barley is completely dry before storing to avoid mold and spoilage.
  • Use airtight containers or food-grade bins with sealing lids to protect against pests and moisture. Consider the following table to select appropriate container sizes:
Quantity of BarleyContainer Size
Up to 10 lbs10 to 15-quart airtight container
10 to 25 lbs20 to 30-quart airtight container
Over 25 lbsMultiple airtight containers or a bin
  • Oxygen absorbers can be added to containers to remove oxygen that could degrade whole grains like barley (Hardeum vulgare).

Rotation and Quantity Management

To ensure that your stored barley does not go to waste:

  • Practice First-In, First-Out (FIFO); always use the oldest stock first.
  • Label containers with purchase or storage dates.
  • Regularly inspect your stored barley, looking for signs of moisture, pests, or spoilage.
  • Consider breaking down bulk purchases into smaller quantities for ease of rotation and to minimize exposure each time you use the barley:
  • Divide bulk barley into smaller amounts, such as 2-5 pound bags, prior to storage.
  • Store these smaller quantities in separate, smaller airtight containers to only open what you need.

Barley in Industry

Barley stored in large silos at an industrial facility

Barley is a versatile grain utilized extensively in industries such as animal feed production and brewing. These sectors rely on barley’s nutritional value and specific properties to meet their requirements.

Animal Feed

In the animal feed industry, barley provides a source of energy and nutrition to livestock, particularly cattle. Its rich composition includes dietary fiber, which is essential for the proper digestion and gut health of your animals. Additionally, barley offers a substantial amount of manganese, selenium, and phosphorus, contributing to the overall health and growth of the livestock. Generally, you’ll find barley included in feed formulations either as whole grain or processed into meal.

  • Key Nutrients for Cattle:
    • Dietary Fiber: Maintains digestive health.
    • Manganese: Supports bone formation and energy metabolism.
    • Selenium: Plays a role in antioxidant defense.
    • Phosphorus: Essential for bone development and energy storage.

Brewing Industry

Barley is paramount in the brewing industry due to its capacity to be malted – a process critical for beer production. When malted, barley grains ferment to produce beer with a distinct flavor and aroma. The quality of the barley directly affects the beer’s taste; hence, the brewing industry is particular about the barley’s storage to maintain its quality. Malted barley, rich in enzymes and dietary fiber, is also used to create barley flour, which can be used in various food products, providing additional nutritional value.

  • Brewing Importance:
    • Enzymes: Crucial for converting starches into sugars during beer fermentation.
    • Dietary Fiber: Contributes to the body and feel of the beer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Barley’s longevity and freshness are directly linked to its storage conditions. This section addresses common queries about the best practices for storing barley correctly.

What is the best way to store barley to maintain its freshness?

To maintain its freshness, store barley in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture. This prevents mold and bacteria growth.

Can you store barley in the refrigerator, and if so, for how long?

Yes, you can store barley in the refrigerator. Once cooked, place barley in an airtight container; it will keep for 3 to 5 days.

What are the optimal conditions for storing barley in mason jars?

Store barley in mason jars with airtight seals in a location that’s cool, dry, and away from light. This method can effectively preserve barley’s quality.

How should barley be prepared for storage after harvesting?

After harvesting, ensure barley is thoroughly dried to prevent spoilage. Then store it in airtight containers, protecting it from pests and contaminants.

What are ideal moisture levels to ensure safe storage of barley?

The ideal moisture level for barley is below 12%. Higher moisture can lead to mold growth and spoilage.

What methods can be used for long-term grain storage at home?

For long-term home storage, use food-grade containers with oxygen absorbers.

Keep them in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Regularly check for signs of spoilage or infestation.

Follow Us
Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
Follow Us