Beans are considered one of the ultimate emergency foods because they are very nutritious and non-perishable. However, beans will go bad if they aren’t stored correctly.
Here’s what you need to know about long-term storage methods for beans.
How Long Can You Store Dry Beans?
When stored in their original plastic packaging, dry beans will last about 1 year. However, it is possible for dry beans to last 25+ years with certain storage methods, including DIY home storage methods.
Why Dry Beans Go Bad
Like with all dry foods, beans are sensitive to oxygen, light, humidity and heat. Oxygen is particularly a big concern as it will cause the natural fats in the beans to degrade, causing them to go rancid. In high-humidity areas, beans can also get moldy.
Even if the beans remain safe to eat, exposure to oxygen and light can cause the beans to lose their nutrients. After just 2 years, significant vitamin degradation occurs and virtually no vitamins may be present after 5 years. However, the protein and mineral components of beans will still be intact. (source)
How to Tell if Dry Beans Have Gone Bad
- Rancid smell: Dry beans should not have any noticeable smell
- Visible signs of mold: It might look like fuzz or a film over the beans
- Change in color: Discolored beans are often still be safe to eat but their vitamin content has probably depleted
Weevils and Other Bean Pests
Another issue with storing beans long-term is that they can become infested with weevils or moths. Often, the weevil eggs are already inside the beans when you purchase them. Check the beans for holes; these are a sign of insect eggs.
It can take several weeks for the eggs to hatch and develop, so the eggs usually aren’t an issue if you use the beans soon after purchasing. However, if you plan to store beans for more than a month or so, the weevils can hatch into adults, lay more eggs, and then you’ve got an infestation.
To prevent weevils in your bean storage:
- Rotate through your bean stockpile or
- Use storage methods which kill eggs
Read more about preventing and getting rid of weevils.
Best Ways to Store Dry Beans
If you want to store beans for 3+ months, here are the best storage methods.
Option 1: Air-Tight Containers
Shelf Life: 3 years
Never store dry beans in the plastic bag that they came in; it’s too easy for moisture and insects to get into those bags. Instead, transfer the beans to air-tight storage containers.
Keep the container in a cool, dark place. They should last at least 3 years this way. However, I don’t recommend storing more beans than you can rotate through in 3 months; the beans are too susceptible to damage, even in air-tight containers.
As mentioned before, one common problem is that there may already be weevil eggs in the beans when you get it. The eggs then hatch and suddenly you have a huge infestation. Thus, you’ll need to take steps to kill insect eggs before putting the beans in storage, such as by freezing or microwaving them first.
Some good air-tight containers include:
- Mason jars
- Vacuum sealer containers
- Air-tight containers like those made by Progressive Prepworks or Rubbermaid’s Brilliance.
- Always rotate through your bean storage. Otherwise they will eventually go bad or lose nutrients.
- Write the date on a piece of tape on the storage container. This will make it easier to rotate the beans.
Option 2: Freezer
Shelf Life: Indefinitely
Storing dry beans in the freezer will protect them from heat, light, and insects. They should last years this way. To store dry beans in the freezer:
- Put the beans in a sealable freezer bag.
- Label the beans with the date so you can easily rotate them.
- If you need to remove them but don’t plan on using them (such as to make more space in your freezer), make sure you bring the beans to room temperature before putting them in any storage container as condensation can form.
Option 3: Vacuum Sealing
Shelf Life: 5+ years
Vacuum sealing is a process in which a machine sucks the air out of a special pouch and then seals it. Because there is little air left in the pouch, vacuum-sealed beans can last much longer.
However, it’s important to note that vacuum sealer bags are not completely air-tight. There are tiny holes in the bags which eventually allow oxygen and moisture to get inside. They also don’t protect against insect infestation or damage from light.
If you want to use vacuum-sealing to store beans:
- Take steps to kill any insect eggs in the beans first, such as by freezing the beans
- Put a desiccant in with the beans to help control moisture
- Label the pouches with the date and be sure to rotate through them
- Store the sealed pouches in a cool, dark place
Option 4: Containers with Oxygen Absorbers
Shelf Life: 5+ years
One simple way to store large amounts of beans is to put them in food-grade buckets, jars, or recycled containers, such as plastic soda bottles. The problem with this is that there will be a lot of air in the containers and the oxygen will eventually cause the beans to go bad.
A simple solution is to get oxygen absorbers and put them in the container with your beans. Oxygen absorbers are tiny packets which contain iron and absorb oxygen. The reduced oxygen also means that any insect eggs in the beans cannot survive.
In theory, beans could last indefinitely stored like this. However, most containers aren’t actually air-tight. Buckets will eventually lose their seal and oxygen will leak in (though buckets with gasket lids tend to do better).
Recycled plastic bottles also eventually leak. Canning jars are more reliable and you can see they are working because the lid will looked “sucked down,” but they can’t hold as much food and are susceptible to breaking. Thus, using oxygen absorbers with Mylar bags is recommended.
Read more about oxygen absorbers for long-term food storage.
Option 5: Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers
Shelf Life: 25+ years
The best way to store beans long-term is to put seal them in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Mylar is impervious to moisture and gases and blocks light. Because the OAs remove oxygen from the bags, the beans are protected from virtually all spoilage.
When stored this way, beans can last 25+ years with minimal nutrient loss.
This post gives step-by-step instructions on how to store food in Mylar bags.
How do you store your dry bean stockpile? Let us know in the comments below.