After spending some time honing in on my sourdough bread baking skills, I felt ready to take it to the next level. I decided to start milling my own flour! But of course, as with anything in bread baking, this brought about a whole new set of skills, knowledge and experience to grasp. Here are some things I learned…
First things first, CAN you mill your own flour at home, and why would you want to? You can mill your own flour at home using whole wheat grain kernels (known as wheat berries), either using a home grain milling machine, or other home kitchen methods to grind the wheat berries into flour. The benefit of using freshly milled flour is the higher nutritional content and better flavor.
Using freshly milled flour, regardless of if you’ve bought it, or milled it yourself at home takes a bit of getting used to. It doesn’t behave in exactly the same way as store bought flour, so it’s important to know the ins and outs of using freshly milled flour before embarking on the adventure.
This guide will give you a round up of everything you need to know about milling your own flour at home, including:
- Why/when you should or shouldn’t mill your own flour
- What you need (and what you can use instead if you don’t have!)
- How to mill flour at home
- What you should know before using freshly milled flour
Why Mill your Own Flour? The Pros and Cons
Milling your own flour is definitely not for everyone. As with anything, there are pros and cons to milling your own flour (or using freshly milled flour if you have access to a local mill). And it’s important to know beforehand if it’s for you or not.
Let’s get into some of the reasons why you may want to mill your own flour, or get a hold of some from a local mill.
QUICK TIP: Etsy is a good online source for freshly milled flour if you can’t access any local mills. Here’s a link to an Etsy seller that mills flour fresh to order.
7 Benefits to Milling your Own Flour
Here are 7 benefits to milling your own flour that may help you decide if it’s for you. (Later, we’ll go into some reasons why it might NOT be for you too) :
#1: Freshly Milled Flour is More Nutritious
Wheat berries hold their nutrition completely intact, right up until the point at which they are broken open i.e. milled and turned into flour.
Once you break the wheat berry open, the nutrition has been exposed. The longer you leave the flour to sit, the more time the nutrition has to ‘escape’.
You can sort of liken it to eating a fruit that has been freshly picked from it’s source. At this point, the fruit will be at the peak of its nutrition. Once you have picked it, it slowly diminishes in nutritional value.
Eating the fruit a few weeks later (or possibly a few months later if you’ve bought it from a store!) is less nutritious than eating it when it’s been freshly picked.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the fruit is bad for you, it simply means it’s not at it’s peak nutritional value. And it’s the same with flour.
Using freshly milled flour means you are using the wheat right at the height of its nutritional peak.
It’s one of the reasons why it tastes amazing too! Using flour after it’s had time to age will give you less nutritional value than using it when it’s freshly milled.
NOTE: There are advantages to using flour after it has aged. Freshly milled flour can be left to sit and age for a certain period of time to help develop stronger gluten. This can be useful for bread baking!
#2: Wheat Berries Can Be Cheaper than Flour
Buying wheat berries can be cheaper than buying the equivalent amount (in weight) of flour. Especially when you buy in bulk. So in the long run, milling your own flour could save you a lot of money. However, this will be dependent on what you have available in your area though, so it’s worth checking out beforehand.
#3: Freshly Milling Your Grain Often Gives You More Choice
One of the benefits of being able to mill your own flour is opportunity to experiment with any grain you wish, including gluten free grains like lentils, beans, or others that are sometimes difficult to get hold of as a flour in stores.
You can also play around with using the same flour ground down to different coarseness, as a way of adding different textures to your breads. For example, adding a handful of very coarse textured flour into a loaf made with finely ground flour, can bring some good textures to bread.
#4: Freshly Milled Flour Brings Better Flavor
There’s no way to describe this one unless you’ve tried it. But freshly milled flour in bread tastes OUT OF THIS WORLD!
Because the flour is fresh and full of nutrition, it will taste different. You will get the full flavor of the wheat and bring a much more complex tasting flavor of bread than using even the most premium organic flours you can buy.
Of course, taste is relative, but if you know anyone that uses freshly milled flour to bake their own bread, they will tell you the flavor is on another level!
This is especially the case when you compare whole wheat flours, because the healthy fats in the grain have not had a chance to become bitter with age. So the result is a sweeter, lighter tasting more aromatic flavored loaf, without the bitter notes that are associated with whole wheat flours. Win win!
#5: Wheat Berries Have a Much Longer Shelf Life than Flour
Whole wheat flours bought from a regular store will expire in about 6 months. White flour can last up to a year. But wheat berries, if left whole until you need them, will last indefinitely as long is it is stored in a dry, cool place.
This is one of the reasons why it’s also possible to save money and buy in bulk. You simply mill what you need, when you need it, and the rest will last a very, very long time.
#6: Milling your Own Flour takes Cooking from Scratch to a Whole New Level!
There’s something amazing about the feeling you get from milling your own flour. The aromas and textures you work with are a whole different experience, and a great one at that. Taking the journey from berry to baked bread is awesome! 🙂 (I haven’t quite started growing my own wheat yet, but hey, never say never, right?!)
#7: You Actually Get the Whole Grain of Wheat
This one may sound a little weird, but did you know that when you buy whole wheat flour from the store, it’s not actually the whole wheat berry you’re getting?
Flour that you buy from a store is almost certainly roller milled in a factory where the bran is separated from the rest of the flour. (Learn about the differences between roller milled and stone milled in my flour guide here).
When you buy whole wheat flour, this is basically white flour with some bran added back in. Not necessarily the same bran from your wheat, rather some bran from a batch of the same type of wheat.
During this process, some parts of the grain get lost, such as some of the endosperm, which is a vital part of the nutritional make up of the wheat.
There is an added nutritional benefit from using the whole wheat berry, because when you mill it yourself, you’re actually getting the whole of the wheat, including all its nutrition, in the proportions that nature intended.
So even if you’re not milling it yourself, you can get these benefits from buying stone ground whole wheat flour, and if it’s freshly milled, then that’s even better.
What you Should Know Before Milling Your Own Flour
Looking at all of these benefits, why would anyone NOT want to mill their own flour, right? Well, there are some things to be aware of, which are worth considering before embarking on the journey…
#1: There’s a Learning Curve to Using Freshly Milled Flour
Using freshly milled flour is not the same as using your average store bought flour. It has different characteristics and will take some time to learn how to use. We’ll discuss these in more detail later on, but for now, you should know that it is not just a matter of swapping it out with your regular flour.
#2: It Can be More Expensive to Use Freshly Milled Flour
I did mention earlier that milling your own flour can be cheaper. But depending on availability, it can be more expensive.
It’s worth checking BEFORE you invest in a flour milling machine on the availability of wheat berries in your area.
BONUS TIP: Here’s a link to the grain mill that I recently bought and love. (Use special discount code TRUESOURDOUGH5 to get 5% off of any purchase from the store!)
And although bulk buying wheat berries will almost definitely save you money over flour, there may be reasons why you can’t do that. Such as not having space to store it, or not having the money up front to buy in bulk.
#3: It’s More Hassle to Use Freshly Milled Flour
You will need to take into account the extra time needed to mill the flour. There will essentially be extra steps at the beginning of your bread baking process that you need to allow for. And how long that takes will largely depend on what method you’re using to mill your flour.
This can be a disadvantage if you’re usually making the bread in a rush, but you can always mill some flour in advance if this helps.
#4: There May be an Initial Investment Up Front to Mill Flour at Home
If you are investing in an actual home grain milling machine, there will be a larger cost up front. And initially, you won’t want to buy wheat berries in bulk; it will be in smaller amounts until you know which type of wheat berry you like to use. Smaller amounts of wheat berry can be more expensive than flour sometimes.
NOTE: If you’d like more information about the best type of flour mill to buy for your needs, check out my Grain Mill Buyers Guide. I also tested two of the most popular home grain mills and documented my results here.
So the initial investment can be:
- The cost of the milling machine (if you choose mill your flour this way)
- The cost of buying smaller amounts of wheat berries.
However, you CAN mill flour without a milling machine! We’ll go through what you can use and how to do it later on.
Now we’ve gone through some of the pros and cons of milling your own flour at home. There are other bits and bobs that you’ll need to know about freshly milled flour. Such as how you use it, and where to buy wheat from to be able to grind your own flour in the first place!
Where Can I Buy Wheat Berries?
Wheat berries are not what they sound like at all. They’re not brightly colored and juicy, they are simply the wheat kernel just before it’s been ground into flour.
Wheat grains that have been hulled but not yet turned into flour are known as wheat berries.
But before you buy, you should be aware that there are different types of wheat berry that you will come across that are suited to different types of baking.
Types of Wheat Berries
The most common and most readily available wheat berries that you can purchase for baking are:
- Hard white wheat – perfect for bread baking due to the higher gluten content. Has a sweeter, lighter flavor than other similar wheat.
- Hard red wheat – will produce a denser bread; great for flat breads such as tortilla. Has a ‘heartier’ flavor profile.
- Soft white wheat – great for pastries and other baked goods that don’t need a strong gluten structure.
Other wheat berries that can be ground into flour include the heirloom varieties of wheat such as:
If you can find a local mill or artisan bakery that mills their own flour, you may be able to purchase wheat berries from there. Otherwise, there are various online stores that sell wheat berries. Here are a few well known ones:
- Amazon (here are some options)
- Bob’s Red Mill – Good for buying a variety of different grains
- Jovial Foods – Specialize in Einkorn berries
- Mockmill – Also have a variety of different grains to choose from
- Pleasant Hill Grain – Good for bulk buying a wide variety of grains
It’s also a good idea to check your local whole food/natural food stores for wheat berries. Other larger stores also sell wheat berries, although you may limited to which type you can get a hold of.
What Can I Grind into Flour Other Than Wheat Berries?
In addition to wheat berries, there are many other grains, beans and pulses that you can experiment with and grind into flour to use for baking! Here are just some of the choices:
- Corn kernels
- Peas (dried)
- Mung beans
- Garbanzo beans
- Chick peas
QUICK TIP: Whole spices can also be ground in a milling machine to give you fresh potent flavors for your breads and other dishes.
Storing Wheat Berries
Wheat Berries can be stored in a dry, cool place indefinitely! They are suitable for long term storage, which is brilliant for being able to buy in bulk and then mill as you go. The nutrients remain intact right up until the point when it’s ground into flour.
Storing Freshly Milled Flour
If you prefer to mill ahead of time, then freshly milled flour can be stored:
- At room temperature for up to 3 days
- In the fridge for up to 7 days
- In the freezer for up to 6 months
Keep the flour in a clean container, in a cool, dry place.
How to Mill Your Own Flour at Home
If you want to mill your own flour at home, there are a couple of options:
- Use a burr coffee grinder
- Use a food processor (although this is NOT recommended unless you have a very durable one!)
- Use a home grain milling machine
Using a Coffee Grinder to Mill Your Own Flour
If you’d like to try out some freshly milled flour, but don’t want to make the investment in a flour mill, you could use a burr coffee grinder like this one (Amazon link). You may already have one in your kitchen, making it ideal to dabble in trying out freshly milled flour, to see if it’s something you want to include in your baking or not.
How to Use a Coffee Grinder to Mill Your Own Flour
It’s fairly simple to use a coffee grinder to mill some wheat berries, and it’s a great option for testing the waters (or testing the flours!) Especially if you already have a coffee grinder at home. Here are the steps:
- Step 1 – Fill your coffee grinder to a maximum of halfway.
- Step 2 – Grind for about 30 seconds
- Step 3 – Check the flour you have made, if you need it to be a finer texture, grind for a further 30 seconds, etc. until you are happy with the texture of the flour.
QUICK TIP: If there are uneven bits, you can simply sift them out and grind them again.
If you are Using a Coffee Grinder…
Be aware, that although a coffee grinder will grind the wheat berries just fine, you will get…
- An uneven flour grind i.e. some bigger bits and some smaller bits.
- It won’t grind to a super fine texture
- It will only grind a small amount of wheat at a time
Using a coffee grinder is a good way to test out wheat grinding, but it’s not ideal for regular use because of the reasons I’ve mentioned above.
It’s a good option if you are curious about the flavor of freshly milled flour in your bread, and it’s a far cheaper option than investing in a home flour mill.
Can you Use a Food Processor to Mill Flour?
A food processor is not really designed to grind flour, and it can damage or wear out your food processor over time, so I wouldn’t recommend it for long term use.
However, I do know that people use their food processor/blender to grind wheat into flour with no problems, and have done so for years. So it’s up to you if you’d like to try it out! You will more than likely get similar results to the coffee grinder, depending on the quality of your machine.
QUICK TIP: If you have a KitchenAid or other stand mixer, you can buy a flour milling attachment for it. This is a really good budget option if you already have a KitchAid or stand mixer at home. (Here’s a link to where you can get hold of one: Remember to use coupon code TRUESOURDOUGH5 to get 5% discount!)
Using a Home Flour Milling Machine
Not surprisingly, a home flour milling machine is going to give you the best outcome, and give you the most control. With the right choice of milling machine, you will be able to get:
- a flour texture that you choose, from coarse to super fine
- fast, efficient milling
- ability to mill larger amounts at a time
NOTE: If you’d like some information about which home milling machine is best for you, I have a full buyer’s guide that you can read here. Or if you’d like to see my comparison between 2 of the most popular grain mills on the market, click here.
Buying a milling machine for home use really is a game changer to bread baking. It brings about a whole new world of discovery with flavors, textures and experimentation of using different grains, beans and pulses.
So, whether you’re just dipping your feet in and getting creative with your coffee grinder, or you’ve just splashed out on a home milling machine, here are 6 things to be aware of when working with freshly milled flour.
Things to Know When Using Freshly Milled Flour
As I mentioned earlier, there is a learning curve that comes with using freshly milled flour in bread baking. It’s not as simple as just swapping it out in a recipe with your regular flour. Here’s what you need to know about using it…
#1: Freshly Milled Flour is More Absorbent than Regular Flour
With the exception of Spelt, freshly milled flour absorbs much more water than regular store bought flour. (Spelt actually has the opposite affect, with it being less absorbent if it’s freshly milled).
Expect to add about 3 tablespoons of extra water per cup of flour than, you are used to in your recipe. (Spelt being less absorbent, requires 2 to 4 tablespoons less per cup of flour).
#2: Freshly Milled Flour Ferments Faster than Regular Milled Flour
If you’re using freshly milled flour for sourdough bread, you should be aware that because your sourdough starter has access to a higher nutrient level than regular flour, it will ferment at a faster rate.
So you either need to make changes to how long you leave your dough to ferment, or make other adjustments to your bread making process to counter the faster rate of fermentation.
#3: The Crumb of Freshly Milled Flour will be Tighter
Freshly milled flour doesn’t get the same level of gluten development than regular store bought flour, which generally leads to a less airy (but more flavorful!) loaf.
There are two reasons why you will get a less open crumb (i.e. smaller holes and denser texture) in your bread when using freshly milled flour:
- The bran levels are higher, which means the gluten development will be inhibited.
- The protein content will be lower, due to the flour being fresh, and not ‘aged’.
Aging freshly milled flour for a period of 10 to 21 days or longer, will make the flour stronger, which is useful if you need a stronger flour for bread making.
So if you find that using it fresh is giving you a more dense loaf than you’d like, you can simply let it sit in a breathable container (such as a paper bag) for some time to help develop some protein in the flour.
Of course, the flavor and nutrition will be slightly compromised as a result, but it’s all about finding a balance that you are happy with!
QUICK TIP: Sifting the flour can remove some of the bran, which also helps in getting a lighter, more airy loaf.
#4: Freshly Milled Flour is More Inconsistent than Regular Flour
One of the most significant changes you will notice when switching to freshly milled is how inconsistent the flour can be compared to using store bought flour. It will require keeping a better eye on your dough during the fermentation to be able to make successful loaves. This is where experience will be your biggest asset.
QUICK TIP: To start off with, I recommend switching only a small amount of freshly milled flour with your regular flour, and gradually increasing the amount. It’s a good way of learning about the new flour without having failed bakes!
#5: Freshly Milled Flour Takes up More Volume (for the Same Weight) Than Regular Flour
When milling flour at home, you will get the same amount of flour as you have wheat. So if you milled 100 grams of wheat berries, you would get 100 grams of flour from it.
But freshly milled flour takes up more volume, because the milling process will have let air into the flour. You will find that if you were to leave it on the counter top or give it a shake, the volume will reduce slightly.
As a general rule for recipes using volume, 1 cup of regular flour will be equivalent to 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of freshly milled flour.
#6: The Temperature of Flour will be Warmer
Depending on which home milling machine you have, the flour may be of a warmer temperature when it comes out of the mill. This is a consideration for sourdough bakers who use temperature to calculate rates of fermentation and schedules. You can read more about how temperature affects dough in my article here.
If you’ve got a little experience behind you with sourdough bread baking, I highly recommend getting into using freshly milled flour. If you need some help deciding which mill is right for you, check out my guide here.