The 2.X branch of GnuPG comes with gpg-agent for caching passphrases. The documentation is good, but here are my notes outlining my usual usage.

Add the following to your ~/.bashrc (see dotfiles for fancy dotfiles maintenance):

if [ -f "${HOME}/.gnupg/agent-info" ]; then
  source "${HOME}/.gnupg/agent-info"

Start the agent with

$ gpg-agent --daemon --display "${DISPLAY}" --ttyname $(TTY) --keep-tty --keep-display --write-env-file "${HOME}/.gnupg/agent-info"
$ source "${HOME}/.gnupg/agent-info"

The ttyname bit will spawn the pinentry call in the designated TTY. This avoids troublesome issues like pinentry clobbering Mutt if they are both using ncurses.

I didn't like any of the pinentry programs available on my system, so I wrote my own in pyassuan.

When you are done with the agent, kill it with

$ killall gpg-agent
$ rm -f "${HOME}/.gnupg/agent-info"

Since these commands are tedious to remember and type, I've wrapped them in little scripts: and