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Storing Bulk Dry Foods in PETE Bottles using Oxygen Absorbers

Picture of Storing Bulk Dry Foods in PETE Bottles using Oxygen Absorbers

PETE plastic bottles are good containers that can be used for storage of shelf-stable, bulk dry foods that you normally keep in canisters in your pantry. Normal kitchen canisters do not have air tight seals. As a result, with changes in atmospheric pressure, air and moisture are pumped in and out of the products causing them to become stale more quickly.

Because of their oxygen/moisture barrier qualities, PETE bottles can be used as canisters to better maintain the freshness of stored dry foods. If you want to store these items for a longer time period, the use of oxygen absorbers in the PETE bottles will protect against insect infestation and help preserve quality longer.

In order to kill insects in adult, larva, and egg stages of growth, it is necessary to pull the oxygen content down to below 1% and hold it there for at least two weeks. Most types of plastic bottles are too porous, and leak too much oxygen in, but PETE bottles work well. Soda bottles and most shelf-stable juice bottles are made of PETE. Look at the recycle emblem on the bottom. It should have a #1 in the emblem and the letters PETE or PET below.

 
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Step 1: Choose which types of bulk dry products you want to store

Picture of Choose which types of bulk dry products you want to store

Decide on the types of products that you are going to store in PETE bottles using oxygen absorbers. These bulk items need to be dry, about 10% moisture or less and low in oil content.
Examples of suitable products are:

Grains : Oats, White Rice, Wheat, and Corn
Milled Grain Products : White Flour, Degermed Corn Meal, and Rice Flour.
Legumes : Beans, Split Peas, and Lentils
Nonfat Dry Milk: Regular and Instant
Dehydrated Fruits and Vegetables : Apples, Carrots, Onions, and Potatoes (Must be dry enough, both inside and out to snap when bent)
(Note: Bulk dry food suppliers should be able to tell you the moisture content of their products)

Examples of products that are not suitable in this type of storage are items that have high or exposed oil content, high moisture or contain leavening. Most of these foods are kept in their original containers and rotated frequently Storage time can be increased by storing them in freezer bags, in the freezer:

Oily or Moist Grains and Milled Grain Products : Brown Rice, Whole Grain Flours and Cereals, Granola etc.
Nuts
Brown Sugar
Products containing leavening : Cake/pancake mixes, Biscuit mixes, etc. In the grocery stores these products are package in breathable packages that allow the gas produced by the leavenings to escape.
Home Dehydrated Fruits and Vegetables This is "reduced oxygen packaging". If moist foods, such as inadequately dried vegetables are stored this way, it could result in a botulism poisoning risk. If you have any question about the storability of a given product, contact your local County Agriculture Extension Service office.

Step 2: Start saving, washing, and drying bottles

Picture of Start saving, washing, and drying bottles

Start saving bottles Each time you empty a PETE soda or juice bottle, wash it out, drain it, and allow it to dry out completely, For this purpose, save only bottles that have been used for food or water.

Used wide mouth PETE jars that contained items like peanut butter, mayonnaise, and nuts can also be serve as canisters. However they may not be airtight enough to use with oxygen absorbers. The remnants of the original foil seal from the jar rim can limit their ability to provide an adequate seal. You can test the seal by tightening the lid on an empty bottle, placing it under water and squeezing on it to see if any bubbles come out.

The photo below demonstrates how oxygen absorbers work. Air is about 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen. Nitrogen does not harm food or promote insect growth and does not need to be removed. Oxygen absorbers reduce the amount of oxygen in the container to less than 1%. This results in a lower oxygen content than can be accomplished with vacuum packaging.

The sealed bottle has one AGELESS 300 oxygen absorber and a few drops of water for this demonstration. This is how it looks after one week. It shows that the bottle volume was reduced by about 20%, as the oxygen was absorbed. Do not add water with bulk dry foods when packaging. The products already have adequate moisture to activate the absorber.

Step 3: Obtain oxygen absorbers

Picture of Obtain oxygen absorbers

Obtain Oxygen Absorbers To find oxygen absorbers, you can check in the yellow pages for "packaging" suppliers or search online for "oxygen absorbers". The type of oxygen absorbers I have used for over 10 years are the AGELESS 300 absorbers from Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co. This type of oxygen absorber comes in sealed bags of 100 absorber packets each. The 300cc size, with its reserve capacity, is adequate for PETE bottles up to 1 gallon capacity, regardless of the density of the dry foods stored.

Once you are ready to use your absorbers, you will want to open the bag and place the absorbers into glass pint canning jars. One pint jar will hold 25 absorbers, as shown below. Other sizes of jars may be used, but they need to be clean glass jars with metal gasketed lids. They do not have to be new, but must have an airtight seal.

Step 4: Package bulk dry foods in bottles

Picture of Package bulk dry foods in bottles

Verify that the bottles are completely clean and dry before filling.

Set up the packaging area. Once you know how many bottles you are going to fill in the next 20 minutes, remove that many absorbers from your absorber supply jar, spread them out on a tray and reseal the supply jar lid.

Place an oxygen absorber into the bottom of the bottle. The absorber will work regardless of its location in the bottle. However placing it on the bottom allows for full use of its reserve capacity, once you start using out of and reclosing the bottle.

Fill the bottle . As you are filling, tap the bottle several times on the table to settle the product. Fill it all of the way to the top. The funnel shown was made from a water bottle. For products like rolled oats and beans, I prefer to use a piece of light weight cardboard formed into an open sided chute. If you were to cut a tapered 12 oz cup in half lengthwise, then remove the remaining portion of the bottom, this is about what the chute looks like. I make mine out of cardboard cut from the side of a cereal box. I form it into a "U" shape then hold it with one hand onto the mouth of the bottle. I use the other hand to pour the product out of a plastic cup into the chute and down into the bottle. Experiment with the disign and you will find what works best for you. When filling a bottle, I stand it in my wife's large stainless steel bowl, to catch the overflow. (not shown in this picturre)

Wipe off the top rim of the bottle.

Verify that the lid is clean and dry.

Tighten the lid down firmly to reseal, just like you would reseal a bottle of soda.

Label the bottle with the packaging date and, where applicable, ingredients and recipe
instructions.

You may want to tape around the lid with a narrow strip of duct tape. Taping will not make up for a poor lid seal, but it can help prevent others from opening the bottle until you are ready to use the food. White duct tape or metal foil duct tape work well for this purpose.

Step 5: Storage of PETE bottles of bulk dry foods

Picture of Storage of PETE bottles of bulk dry foods

Store bottles in a cool, dry location, away from light and heat. Fruit boxes from the grocery store are very good containers to store the filled bottles.

The photo below shows bottles of white wheat stored in a used apple box.

Step 7: 2nd Page of PETE bottle test

Picture of 2nd Page of PETE bottle test

This test demonstrates the capacity of PETE bottles, with oxygen absorbers, to keep a low enough oxygen content to kill insects in all forms.

The low oxygen content does not reduce, but rather helps preserve the ability of the dry grains to germinate when planted or sprouted after storage.

I haven't seen anywhere, on this site, about soda bottles being gas semi-permeable. This would let oxygen in (if the bottles are under any vacuum) over years of storage.

mahfuz614 years ago
Oxygen absorbersOxygen is essential for humans. Oxygen is an active element which changes all. By remove oxygen from the atmosphere of the enclose, there force be no oxidation. It is quite effortless, if there is no Oxygen, there will be no oxidation or no kind augmentation.

Sorry, but this is not 100% correct. Fermentation can occur without oxygen as can other chemical breakdowns from light or temperature fluctuations during the storage life.

Well that wasn't something that I would have thought I'd ever have to read about. How to maintain grain storage at home so insects don't grow and eat up all your food - YUCK!

jfox163 years ago
Just a tip

Light destroys food longevity as much as oxygen so this should be just as much as a priority.

You could use old black socks for thinner bottles, cover bottles with
brown paper bags, or old fabric with some rubber bands .


Milled grains are technically already rancid by the time they are purchased.
They are bad only 2-4 weeks after the milling process this is why so many bread-makers mill there own grains. It is a major health concern and not just for taste.
You do not get sick immediately from rancid grains in fact you probably will never notice unless your a seasoned chef or baker but it weakens your immune system and digestive system over time.

Always store your grains whole they will keep much longer.
"These bulk items need to be dry, about 10% moisture or less"

the reason for this, is because Botulism poisoning may result if moist products are stored in packaging that reduces oxygen.

My question is how could someone with no special equipment find out if for example the grains stored in a bottle with oxygen absorbers is not over 10%?

Can anyone help??
grandpajoe (author)  oxygenabsorber4 years ago
Oxygenabsorber,

The intent of this Instructable is to clarify, not to confuse. The examples given above in step 1 are pretty easy to follow. If you are storing grain, the following "rule of thumb" might help: Put a kernal of grain on a white piece of paper, on concrete. Hit it with a hammer. If it shatters, it is probably dry enough to store. If it does not shatter, but rather smashes flat, it is definately too moist. If the impact of the grain leaves an oily spot on the paper, it is too high in oil content.

The following link is listed on the 2nd to last page. It is a list developed by BYU to help answer this type of question: http://providentliving.org/pfw/multimedia/files/pfw/pdf/113951_DryProductsLongerTermStorage_Jun_08_pdf.pdf

The last note given in step 1 is: If you have any question about the storability of a given product, contact your local County Agriculture Extension Service office.

Thanks for your question,
Grandpajoe

vkirchner4 years ago
I saw similar concepts on a few forums, they also suggested adding a light layer of adhesive inside the cap to aid in the sealing of the reused container. What are your thoughts on this concept? Also suggested was adding electrical tape or duct tape around the cap and bottle, not to aid in the sealing but more so people will know that it is sealed and to not open the cap.
grandpajoe (author) 5 years ago
I obtained mine locally, but they are available from ldscatalog.com.
CaptSyn5 years ago
Excellent article. I've been doing this for some time myself, but without the oxygen absorber packets.

Where did you get yours?
Silver_Kate5 years ago
You could also (to kill insects and larve) by freezeing  the filled jars overnight.   Also if you use pet or any clear jar (plastic or glass) you should store it in the dark.  Labeling the food and keeping it in rotation will keep you food the freshest.

Though this will be controversial if you do get weevils in the beans or grains you can still use the food as long as it is fully cooked by ethere sifting out the bugs or just cooking the food till the bean or grain is cooked. (boiled or baked is the best way.)

baudeagle6 years ago
Could you introduce carbon dioxide into the bottle and displace all of the oxygen instead? This would eliminate the purchasing of the oxygen absorbing packets. An easy way to do this would be to make an use a small soda bottle with a flexible hose on the end of it. Place the flexible hose into the bottom of the jar with the product. Then place some baking soda (NOT BAKING POWDER!) and vinegar in the soda bottle and close the cap with the hose attached. The baking soda and the vinegar will react expelling carbon dioxide. The gas coming off will be forced down in to the bottom of the storage container displacing the oxygen in the process. Since carbon dioxide is generally heavier than air, all you would need to do is to pull the tube out and tighten the storage cap back on the storage container. Viola, oxygen free storage without the oxygen absorbing packets.
One problem here is that vinegar tends to create fumes which may foul your food.
grandpajoe (author) 6 years ago
Carbon dioxide can be an effective gas for treatment to insects in the adult and lava stages. The BYU research information referenced in step 6 has a number of studies that provide good data in its effectiveness in various products. Carbon dioxide is a fumigant, and does not depend solely on the absence of oxygen to kill the live insects. I do not know how much moisture would be introduced by the gas generation method you are suggesting. This could be a particular concern with powdered products.