Your Flour Has a Shelf Life and It May Be Shorter than You Think

updated Dec 17, 2019
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(Image credit: Erin Alderson)

When it comes to baking bread, you’ve got a few different flour options. In addition to the regular suspects on your grocery store shelves — notably all-purpose and bread flours — the recent renaissance of stone-milled flours has added greater choice and complexity to this essential bread decision. And if you opt for the stone-milled stuff, or any whole-wheat flour, different rules of storage and shelf-life apply.

In a garage-like space in Bushwick, the Brooklyn Bread Lab is home to the largest mill of its kind in the northeast. It’s a hefty piece of equipment with two 20-inch stones made of solid granite. Adam Leonti, who operates the mill and teaches bread-making classes out of the space, says it can handle up to 400 pounds per hour, but they currently don’t produce more than 75 pounds per hour.

(Image credit: Geraldine Campbell)

Unlike all-purpose or bread flours, which differ in the amount of gluten they contain but are both refined, the flour from Leonti’s mill is unrefined. In other words, it still contains the bran and the germ.

Leonti’s flour has more flavor, but is also more perishable — by a lot! Leonti says it spoils within two weeks in your pantry and a few months in your freezer. By comparison, all-purpose flour is good for a year or two, maybe longer.

So, what’s the take away?

1. Buy what you need.

Be realistic about how often you’re actually going to make bread. If you’re able to make bread once a week, once a month, or even once a year, just know yourself. As Leonti says, “Making bread is easy; staying home is hard.”

2. Buy better bread.

For those times when you can’t make your own bread, Leonti recommends buying the good stuff — and make it sourdough, which, he says is best left to the pros anyway (although we may argue with him on that point).

3. Mill your own flour.

If you want to get really adventurous, Leonti recommends the KitchenAid attachment as a good starting point. Of course, then you have to buy (and store) the grain.