Making flour at home is a great way to step up your bread baking game! I’ve always thought that it would be a complex process, but it’s really not. By making your own flour, you’ll be able to control every stage of your bread and pastries. And if you’re worried that it will cost a lot of money to get set up, there’s a low-cost alternative!
Making your own flour at home only requires just one piece of equipment and some wheat berries. A flour milling machine is the best to use, but a coffee grinder also gets the job done well. Selecting the right type of wheat berries is the next task, but they are easy to get online. Then, the only thing is to mill it!
Many home bakers love making their own flour. The reasons why are similar to why you probably make your own bread. You want to have control, be assured that it’s nutritious and fresh, flavour, to save you a lot of money and because it’s fun! Let’s look at them in detail:
Making your own flour assures that it’s nutritious. No additives, preservatives or other chemicals that you don’t even know the name of are added to it. The nutrients in grain come from the bran which is removed during milling. So, by buying whole-grain products and milling them yourself, you ensure that your bread and cookies are full of fibre, vitamins, and iron.
The flour you make at home is guaranteed to be fresh. Yes, flour does need some time to age, but after this, it deteriorates. If it’s not fresh, it won’t rise well and taste like cardboard. If you buy it at the store, then you have no idea how old it is or how long the ingredients have been on the shelf.
A freshly milled flour will allow you to taste the full flavour of the wheat. This adds more complexity to the flavour of the bread. The taste of home-milled flour is far superior to store-bought flour. I don’t know why exactly, but it just is!
You have control over your flour when you’re the one making it. It’s a very simple process and you’re not paying someone else to do it. You can easily tweak the grind size and consistency of your flour to whatever you prefer. This means you can tweak the grind of your wheat to be more suitable for different products, or switch the wheat berry for a completely different flavour!
Good quality flour can cost a lot in some areas. Even though you might need to purchase a machine for milling, making your own flour can save money in the long run. Also, you can grind what you intend to use for a single recipe and store the rest of the berries in the fridge. This will prolong its shelf life and you’ll still get the benefits of freshly-milled flour.
Further reading: Is it cheaper to make your own bread?
Most of us bake bread because it’s fun and home milling compounds this! Practising milling allows us to really get to grips with every stage of the process. It takes me back to medieval England when families would grow, harvest, mill wheat to make their own bread.
Milling the flour is actually not that complex. You just need to have the right mix of equipment and ingredients. These steps explain how to mill flour at home to help you get started:
A flour mill machine will always work best in milling flour at home. But since this may cost a bit, a coffee grinder can be a good substitute.
The best equipment for milling flour at home is a home flour mill machine. One of these, such as the Nutrimill shown below, gives you the best results and the artisan-quality flour.
It offers you a choice of preferred flour texture, from coarse down to super fine. It’s fast and efficient and can take larger amounts simultaneously. Here’s the Nutrimill I recommend:
The only drawback of this is it can cost a bit. Getting a decent home mill for under $300 is a challenge and they are hard to find second-hand.
But a hand mill like this one from Roots & Branches is much cheaper and relatively popular:
If you already have a coffee grinder or want to save some money on purchasing a mill, this method can work great for you. This can also be a good test to check if you want to go deeper and spend some money on a more precise mill.
A coffee grinder can absolutely do the job, but it has just some drawbacks:
Despite all these, using a coffee grinder is not actually bad for beginners. Please don’t try using other appliances like blenders and food processors, they don’t get the job done!
There’s only one major thing to consider in choosing the type of wheat berries. What would be the purpose of baking and the type of recipes that you want to make?
Hard red wheat is the most common type of wheat in America. Its red grains are larger compared to white wheat. It has a nutty flavour and high protein content, which makes the dough stretchy when kneading. This is ideal for most types of bread baking.
Hard white wheat is slightly higher in gluten than hard red wheat. It’s grown quickly so is milder in flavour and naturally lighter in colour. This gives the bread a sweeter and lighter texture compared to traditional whole wheat bread.
Soft white wheat tends to have a lower gluten content compared to red wheat. It gives a light texture that’s ideal for pastries. It’s best to use for cakes, cookies and pie crusts.
Red wheat has a reddish colour and can make your baked product brown faster than white wheat because of its rutin content.
Once you have chosen the wheat berries, it’s time to grind them into flour. Whether you’re using a grain mill or a coffee grinder, the steps are just the same.
If you’re using a coffee grinder, it is unlikely to achieve the consistency of store bought flour. You can only grind using it for a minute. After that, you won’t get it finer anymore. So if you want a super fine texture, sifting can help you out.
After getting the right texture and consistency that you want, it’s now time to use it! Keep in mind that freshly-milled flour can act differently from store-bought flour. You will likely see a surge in the fermentation of newly milled flour. As it has more vitamins and minerals which provides yeast with something to live off.
That said, fresh flour hasn’t been oxidated and therefore will lack a bit of strength. It’s best to leave the flour to aerate for a month before using it. To do this, store in a semi-permeable container such as an old flour sack. You want something that allows the flour to breathe whilst preventing bugs from infiltrating.
If you can’t wait, add some ascorbic acid to the flour at a rate of 0.03% and give it a light mix. This will add enough oxygen to the flour so you can use it to make bread.
You can experience the full flavour of your freshly-milled flour by making a 100% whole grain loaf. Your taste buds will definitely thank you!
Using freshly-milled flour definitely has a lot of benefits in making bread and pastries. But there are also some minor hiccups that it can bring. Although you don’t have to worry as there are adjustments you can make.
Regardless of what milling machine you use, your flour will be warm after milling. This is caused by the heat from friction during the process. This might not be a problem for some pastries, but it’s important for making sourdough and other bread.
A temp probe will help you monitor the temperature of your flour. Make sure that you don’t let your flour get 43C (110F) as it can damage the wheat. When making bread it is always best to use a formula to measure the desired dough temperature.
This is crucial when making sourdough bread. Freshly-milled flour contains more vitamins and minerals. This provides more food for the yeasts and bacteria to grow and can make the dough ferment at a faster rate. It is also possible that the bran is harder to break down and increases fermentation time! Let me know how you find this in the comments.
You may need to change your time schedule when making bread to deal with the change in the rate of fermentation.
Freshly-milled flour has the tendency to absorb much more water compared to regular store-bought flour. It will depend on the fineness of the grind where an inconsistent grind can lead to you constantly changing the amount of water needed. This is where the MockMill and weighing your flour and water with a decent set of scales come in handy!
Adding an extra tablespoon (15 grams) of water per 100 grams or 1 cup of flour when using freshly milled flour. Freshly-milled spelt is less absorbent so it is often best to use less water.
The storage of both your wheat berries and flour is always going to play a vital role. Not just this assures your products will be fresh and clean, but it can also extend their shelf life.
After aerating your flour, you should put it in a resealable bag or an airtight container. Keep it in a cool, dark place to prevent damage from sunlight. Placing a bay leaf in the bag can also prevent bugs from infesting.
Keeping your flour in the fridge or freezing can be great if you’re making bulk amounts. If a whole wheat flour was left on a shelf it would only last for a few months. But keeping them in the freezer can make them last for more than a year.
Wheat berries are great to store for long periods of time. Just make sure that you’re storing them in a cool, dry place. And since they’re sturdy enough, it doesn’t matter if you buy them in bulk or you just mill as needed. The nutrients it contains will remain intact until grinding.
If you want to learn more about milling flour, I’ve found a great book that explains every stage in plenty of detail. You can view The Essential Home-Ground Flour Book on Amazon here. You won’t regret it!