Are you wondering where is the best place to store fermented foods? You don’t have to have a farmhouse cellar or cold room to stash away homemade beer or fermented vegetables. Here are some other options.
I live in a small urban townhouse. I don’t have a garage or a basement. And I certainly don’t have a cold room or cellar. However, that doesn’t stop me from packing my closets full of fermented foods!
Here’s some simple advice to help you figure out where to store your fermented foods during fermentation and for long-term storage.
Keep Everything Separate
If you’re doing a bunch of different types of ferments, I recommend storing them in different rooms or closets to prevent cross-contamination. For example, I’ve had kombucha SCOBY’s grow in my apple cider vinegar, milk kefir in my yogurt. And my ginger bug seems to jump into my sourdough. (It’s weird like that!)
Separating your cultures by a few feet will help prevent cross-contamination. Here’s where I stash my ferments:
- Milk kefir is in the kitchen
- Sourdough is in my office (so I remember to stir it)
- Ginger bug and other probiotic beverages are in my bedroom
- A hallway closet contains vegetable ferments
- My bedroom closet has jars of miso
- Beer and wine are stored in an upstairs closet
- I stash one-off ferments in my children’s toy closet
Keeping cultures separate is EVEN more important if you’re making cheese, beer or wine, which require very specific strains of yeast and bacteria to work out well. If you’re working with one of these types of ferments, it’s important to remove all other ferments from your kitchen and wipe down the counters with a sanitation solution.
Storing sauerkraut and fermented vegetables
Vegetables ferment best at 64 F (18 C), so try to stash your jars of sauerkraut somewhere cool. A garage or basement is ideal. If cool is impossible, then just keep an eye on them as they’ll ferment more quickly at warmer temperatures.
It’s also important to keep your vegetables out of direct sunlight.
Probiotic beverages, beer, wine and other brews
Probiotic beverages, whether it’s kombucha or ginger bug, do better at 70 F (21 C). So stash them in a warm room or near your hot water tank. Don’t worry if it’s colder in your house, then it might just take a bit longer for them to ferment.
The exact temperature for fermenting beer, cider, and wine also depends on the strains of yeast. In general, red wine and ale yeasts ferment at warmer temperatures. White wine and lager will ferment at cooler temperatures. The recommended temperature should be written on the package of yeast.
While it’s not always possible to maintain the exact right temperature, I have found that just making an effort is enough. I stash my warm brews in the main part of the house and cold brews are stashed in an unheated closet.
The yeasts in sourdough starters are most active at warm temperatures, while the bacterial cultures dominate in cooler temperatures. So a sourdough starter stored in the fridge will have a stronger sour flavor but rise more slowly. Whereas a starter stored at room temperature will rise quickly.
In fact, temperature plays a huge role in the nature of your sourdough starter.
- At 80 F (26 C) sourdough will double in about 3 to 4 hours and it will need a lot more feeding.
- Sourdough starter kept at 70 F (21 C) will double in about 12 hours and will only need to be fed once a day.
- In the fridge, sourdough starter only needs to be fed once a week.
I recommend storing your sourdough starter wherever is easiest for you. It’s the best way to maintain the starter when life gets busy.
Personally, I store my starter in the fridge. Then when I want to bake, I keep it on my desk, next to my heater, and feed it up for 2 to 3 days prior to baking. It’s not perfect… but if I had to do it perfectly, then I would never bake with a sourdough starter!
Long term storage of fermented foods
While most ferments will slow down or stop fermenting if stored in the fridge, if you do a lot of fermenting then your fridge will quickly fill up! Here are some recommendations on where to store fermented foods for long-term storage.
- Probiotic beverages will continue to ferment and carbonate until all the sugars are used up. For the best flavor and to prevent over-carbonation, water kefir, kombucha, and ginger bug should be stored in the fridge.
- Homemade cider made without added sulfites should also be stored in the fridge.
- Beer and wine are best left to age in a cool dark location.
- Pickled vegetables kept under the brine will last for a year in a cool, dark location. However, they will continue to soften over time, so if you like crunchy vegetables eat them within the first month.
- Condiments, pastes, and sauces will last 3 to 6 months in the fridge. They can also be frozen in plastic containers or straight-sided mason jars for long-term storage.