When I first starting grinding my own grain and keeping a storage pantry, I lived in Florida. It is the land of humidity and bugs. So how you stored your food was very important, if you did not wish to waste your money. We lived in a coastal area, so basements were almost unheard of. You either had a cement slab, which can have moisture issues or you lived over a small crawl space which brought its own problems with bugs, rodents and snakes.
When we ordered our first grain, we bought it in buckets and the grain was nitrogen packed. What this means is the grain was put into the bucket and the bucket was filled with nitrogen, which forced oxygen out. No bugs or critters could live in that environment. The problem was a bucket of grain (6 gallon size) only held 42 lbs. of grain which was a lot less than a 50 lb. paper bag of grain and it cost a lot more. We were willing to do that at first because we knew of no other way.
Someone shared with us the method they used to store their grains. It involved putting together an apparatus and getting a tank of Co2. We talked about it with a couple of friends and one of them decided to get all the stuff and put together what we needed. They allowed the rest of us to use it. We got buckets and the next grain order we put in, we all bought it in bags. We then used the Co2 and we were thrilled with the results. We then moved to Ohio and years later our friends with the Co2 set up also moved to Ohio. They no longer do a large pantry and so they gave us the equipment.
We did not use it right away because everything was already in buckets (without nitrogen or Co2) and it was working well. We had a bulk food store on our farm at one point and I kept a vigilant watch for critters. Then last year, we had an outbreak of pantry moths. We went through everything and got rid of anything with evidence of moths. We gave it to the chickens so we did not feel like it was totally wasted. We put out pantry moth traps (we sell those in our store) and killed every moth we could find. We thought we had taken care of the problem, but then a whole new batch hatched. We found their larvae in weird places. We have those camping chairs that come in their own drawstring bags. The were all over the chairs and the bags. Those got banned to the shop area. We had some egg cartons stored and they laid their eggs on those. I put them in the freezer for over a week and then went through them one by one picking off the little webs. Then winter came and that area of the house gets really cold. It is not heated. We thought we were finally rid of them. Then when it warmed up in the Spring, it all started again. I went out and got a 25 lb. bag of spelt and opened it and it was riddled with tiny holes. There were moths in the grain. I lost 5 more bags of grain to the chickens.
We knew it was time to break out our Co2 apparatus and put it to use. I thought some of you might like to learn how we do this, so I took pictures and I wanted to share it with you.
We again put out the moth traps (which really do work) and got rid of any evidence we could find of the moths. We went through and found some empty buckets and we got more from our store inventory (we sell food safe buckets and gamma seal lids in the store)
We made sure that every bucket had a lid. We love the Gamma Seal Lids. There is a ring that snaps down tight on the edge of the bucket and the lid part is then screwed on. It makes for easy access without a bucket opener. We put the beans and grains in the buckets. Make sure you label them as you go because wheat and spelt and kamut all looks alike. 🙂
Once you have all the items in the buckets, you open a couple at a time. This allows you to keep track of what grain is what. This is where the apparatus (for a better term) comes in.
We had to buy a tank of Co2. Originally, we were going to go with nitrogen and I bought a tank of that. You can find the different gases at a welding supply store. We could not find a fitting to connect our regulator to the tank of nitrogen, so I went back and took my regulator with me. They informed me that my regulator would only work for Co2 and not nitrogen because of the higher pressure that nitrogen is in the tank at. We had no clue that you needed different regulators for different gases. So keep that in mind if you purchase one. They let me return my tank of nitrogen and exchange it for a tank of Co2. Thankfully both the Co2 and the regulator for the Co2 are cheaper than those for nitrogen, so you may want to go with Co2 for that reason. Here is the size of tank we got. It is a 20 lb. tank. When it is empty they will just exchange the whole tank out instead of filling it. He actually apologized to me how bad this tank looked and assured me when it is empty we would get another.
Here is the regulator for Co2.
You will need a length of rubber tubing. Ours is between 3′ and 4′ long. This allows you the ability for a farther reach and maneuverability with the copper pipe portion that it will be attached to. Then you need a piece of copper pipe about 3′ long and fittings to attach the copper pipe to the tubing and the small fitting on the other end of the rubber tubing that allows you to connect it to the regulator. There are also the hose clamps on each end to secure it snuggly. The welding shop has lots of fittings and they were very helpful.
On the other end of the copper tube, you will crimp the end together. You can leave it slightly open or you can crimp it tight and put small slits in the flat side of the pipe. You do this to help slow the flow of the Co2 (the regulator will mostly take care of that) and it also does not allow grain or beans to go up and clog the tubing.
Place the regulator on the tank of Co2 and then attach the tubing to the regulator.
Now you are ready to start. You place the copper pipe into a bucket and put it all the way into the bottom. You very slowly open up the valve on the tank. You will barely turn it on at all. You want it to come out very slowly. You want to fill the bucket up with the Co2. How do you know when it is full? Co2 is heavier than air. You can light a match and either hold it just inside the rim of the bucket or hold it just outside and below the rim of the bucket. When the bucket gets full of Co2, which happens fairly quickly, the match will be extinguished for lack of oxygen. Then you turn off the valve. It is helpful to have 2 people doing this. One holds the match and can even hold the copper pipe and the other controls the valve. You can also do other containers like gallon jars, etc.
Put the lid on and you are ready to go. As long as you do not tip the bucket the Co2 will not go anywhere. This worked for us when we lived in Florida and we moved some of our grain storage from Florida to Ohio. It worked well and we never had problems with bugs.
It can be a little pricey to get the whole set up, but you can find some friends to go in together and agree to share it. I don’t know how many buckets of grain it will do, but it did at least 3 families worth on the tank we used in Florida without running out.
Here are the costs for the Co2 in our area.
The 20 lb. cylinder (without the Co2) – $129.00
The regulator – $76.95
The Co2 to fill the tank – $28.95
I did not price the copper pipe or tubing because we already had that. I also did not need to buy the regulator, but was looking at them in the store. Now, all we will need to do in the future is fill the tank up for the $28.95 so all those other costs are one time up front costs.
If you have any questions please ask them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them. You also know how much I love comments. 😉