The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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proth5's picture

Treadle Milling?

May 22, 2009 - 11:06am -- proth5

OK, so I'm not the sharpest tool in the box, but even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then.  And although I am an engineer - I am not a mechanical engineer and I'm not 100% confident when I try to innovate - especially when it comes to my (beloved) Diamant Mill.

So I'm putting this out to you-all because it seems like many of you do have that mechanical thinking ability that I lack.

janij's picture

Red and White wheat blend

November 7, 2008 - 4:28pm -- janij

I am fairly new here.  I have been baking for about 10 yrs on and off but got really serious about it about 1 yr ago.  I no longer buy any store bought bread, tortillas etc.  I love this site and have learned a great deal from all of you.  I hope someone can give me some imput here.  I know I read about this somewhere but can't find it.

edh's picture

Question about milling

May 4, 2008 - 8:14am -- edh

I've been grinding much of my own flour lately, but I have a question for the more experienced millers here.

Do you pick over the grain before you mill it? I've been carefully picking it over first to remove grains that still have the hull on them, small seeds of some unidentified type, stones, and the occasional piece of field corn. 14# of spelt produced a couple of tablespoons (at most) of this mixed detritus, so I'm wondering if I'd have even noticed if I'd just left it be.

bwraith's picture

Home Milled and Sifted Wheat Montana Sourdough

Home Milled and Sifted  Wheat Montana Sourdough

My adventures in home milling and sifting continue. Most recently, I did fairly extensive additional test milling and sifting of Wheat Montana Bronze Chief hard red spring berries. In the past, I regularly used flour from two main sources: Heartland Mill, and Wheat Montana. Heartland Mill is a good source of hard red and hard white winter wheat flour and berries. Wheat Montana is a good source of hard red and hard white spring wheat flour and berries. After sending test flours from the milling and sifting session with Wheat Montana Bronze chief hard red spring wheat berries, I wanted to follow that with a "production run" and some test baking. I've already posted a fairly unusual "Reconstituted Mash Bread" made from Wheat Montana hard white and red spring wheat berries. The following is a more ordinary sourdough made from high extraction flour from the same milling session.

A spreadsheet in xls and html format is posted with the recipe and the sourdough timing. Additional photos are posted.

The formula is again much the same as previous test bakes. It consists of a levain contributing 15% fermented flour to total recipe flour made with equal quantities of sifted rye, sifted spelt, and freshly milled and sifted  "cream flour" from my milling session, combined with an overnight soaker of the remaining dough ingredients, which is the remaining "cream flour", 2% salt, about 76.5% water, and 1% malt syrup. The estimated ash content of my "cream flour" is about 1.1%, so it is similar once again to previous high extraction flours that I model after Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo flour.

The bread had some large and small holes, as the dough at 76.5% hydration was a little softer than I expected. As before, it takes some experience to learn the amount of water that my home milled and sifted flours will absorb. I slightly overestimated the amount of water in this case and ended up with a bread more reflective of a fairly soft and wet dough. The crumb was light and flavorful, which was expected, since I've had excellent results from Wheat Montana Prairie Gold and Bronze Chief flours in the past.

bwraith's picture

Reconstituted Whole Grain Mash Bread

This is a recipe idea I've wanted to try since I started milling and sifting my own flour. My milling and sifting process results in a few grades of flour and bran, but in total they represent the entire contents of the whole grain. My idea was to process the different grades of flour in different ways, hopefully resulting in a better whole grain bread. In particular, I very much enjoyed the flavor and texture of the mash bread recipe from WGB by Peter Reinhart, which I blogged a while ago. This recipe is derived from the mash bread recipe and some other ideas in WGB, but it takes advantage of the fact that I have available various separate components of the whole grain flour. The resulting bread, made as described below, is very good, maybe my favorite whole grain bread so far.

I've posted a spreadsheet in xls and html format showing the recipe and sourdough timing. I'm not providing a whole recipe in the blog in this case. Since the ingredients will vary so much, and I used particular output from my milling and sifting process, it's more of an idea than a recipe. Anyone who tries it will have to carefully read WGB's mash bread recipe, look at my spreadsheet, and then make up a recipe to fit available ingredients and/or sifting equipment. I've also posted some additional photos.

To make this bread, I first simmered the bran and very dark coarse granular flour from my milling and sifting process for a few minutes. The idea is to soften the high fiber components of the whole grain flour. Then, when the simmer cooled to about 165F, I added "golden flour", which is higher ash content flour from the first and last siftings. I maintained the temperature at around 150-155 for a couple of hours to get a dark, sweet mash. The mash was refrigerated. Meanwhile, I fermented a levain of whole rye, whole spelt, and some of the whiter flour from my sifting process. In the morning I combined the mash, the levain, and all the remaining whiter flour from my sifting process along with some salt and malt syrup to make the final dough, which rose and was baked later in the day.

Admittedly, this is difficult to duplicate at home unless you have a couple of fine sieves and access to a coarse stoneground whole grain flour. However, a similar recipe should be possible by separating out the bran and larger particles with a fine sieve, simmering that, then adding some of the remaining flour to make the mash, then using all the remaining flour in the final dough.

Using store bought ingredients, another similar version could be to use store bought bran for simmering, a high extraction artisan flour (like Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo) for the mash, and white flour for the remainder. Yet another version might be to use store bought bran for the simmer, store bought wheat germ and white flour for the mash, and white flour for the remaining flour. Or, it would probably work to use store bought bran for the simmer, whole wheat flour for the mash, and white flour and store bought wheat germ for the remainder. All of the above are the same in spirit, which is to reconstitute the components of whole wheat flour in total, while simmering separately the coarser bran, mashing darker flour, and then adding lighter flour to the final dough.

Very roughly, the bran should constitute some 10-15% of the recipe, the dark flour added into the mash should be about 25% of the total flour, and the rest should be lighter flour. Wheat germ, if used, should total about 3% of the weight of flour. Evaporation and some mash left in the pan means you have to estimate the remaining water and flour in the mash, in order to then have the right amounts of flour and water in the remainder of the recipe. Another interesting flour to try in the mash, if you are going with a store bought duplication, is first clear flour. The character of the "darker" flour I added to my mash is somewhat like first clear flour.

Also, as in all the WGB recipes, you could easily make this a yeasted recipe by replacing my levain with a yeasted biga and adding some yogurt or other fermented milk product to bring up the levels of fermentation acids in the final dough.

The resulting bread has a soft, dense crumb, which is normal for mash bread. However, the unique flavor from the mash and the soft, spongey texture more than make up for the somewhat more dense crumb. The lighter color results from the fact I milled and sifted a 50/50 combination of Wheat Montana Prairie Gold and Wheat Montana Bronze Chief. The Prairie Gold berries are hard white spring wheat berries, which have a much lighter color of bran, resulting in a lighter color. I also prefer a mixture of white and red wheats, which results in a milder but not bland flavor that I prefer to either 100% red wheat or 100% white wheat. The more dense and soft crumb makes it an excellent bread for sandwiches or to use with tahini, peanut butter, honey, and so on. I had some this morning for breakfast, and it is one of my favorite whole grain breads, if not the all time favorite.

bwraith's picture

In order to fine tune my milling and sifting process, I ran a series of tests at different mill coarseness settings to see which setting might result in the best separation of bran from endosperm. I then ran a successive reduction multi-pass milling and sifting process at what appeared to be the best first pass settings and sent samples of all these tests to CII Labs to see what some of the ash content, protein content, and dough rheology might be. I also sent in some samples of Heartland Mill flours to use as a reference, since these are the types of flour I would like to emulate with my home milling process. In fact, I use Heartland Mill Hard Red Spring Wheat Berries in all these milling tests.

The equipment and general process has been described in previous blog entries on home milling and sifting.

The processing is accomplished using a Meadows 8 Inch Stone Mill and a Meadows Eccentric Sifter, as well as a sieve shaker that can stack several 12 inch diameter stainless steel or brass sieves of US standard sizes.

The CII Lab results for the initial test of varying coarseness settings of the mill have sample descriptions such as "P1 open 1/3 turn 35-50". The P1 is just a label for the setting of the mill, which is listed next. At 1/3 turn, the mill stones are separated by about 1/2 a grain width. Similarly 1/6 turn would be about 1/4 of a grain width, and so on. The numbers at the end refer to the size of the sieves used. So, a sample labeled 35-50 went through a US standard number 35 sieve and was caught in the US standard number 50 sieve.

The CII Lab results for the second test start with a first pass with a 1/6 turn opening, which seemed to be a good setting to get good initial separation of bran from endosperm in the initial tests to determine the best first pass mill coarseness setting. The sample descriptions have labels like "P2a <70" or "P1 40-80m". The P2a is the label of the pass in the process described in the process flow chart for this milling session. The "<70" refers to product that went through the US standard number 70 sieve in the stack of sieve shakers used for all but the first pass.

On the first pass, "P1", the Meadows Eccentric Sifter was used. It has sifter sections specified by the mesh size of the screens in the three sections of the sifter. So, the "40-80m" refers to flour that went through the 40 mesh section and was caught in the 80 mesh section.It so happens that due to the wire diameters of the material used in the screens, the 26m section has about the same opening size as a US standard number 20 sieve, the 40m section has about the same opening size as a US standard number 35 sieve, the 60 mesh (not used in this session) is about the same opening size as a US standard number 50 sieve, and finally the 80 mesh screen has the same opening size as a US standard number 70 sieve. So, in order to simulate the use of the Meadows sifter in subsequent passes with my smaller sieve shaker that is just more practical for these smaller amounts, I used US standard numbers 20,35,50, and 70 sieves in the stack.

I also include a spreadsheet (xls, html formats) that summarizes the results of the milling session. On the "model" sheet, there is an attempt to model what would happen at other mill settings than the one I used, based on data from the initial runs at various coarseness settings and my guesses about how the subsequent millings would go. All of that may not be very useful, except to me. However, the "model" sheet also shows a summary of the basic ash content output of each stream from the process I ran.

The flour streams with ash content around 1% had very reasonable rheological properties, which makes sense, since I was able to make some very nice breads very similar to what would have been possible with Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo flour. The stream of lower ash content flour seemed to have low mixing tolerance, so I must have inadvertently separated out some important components of proteins needed to form good quality gluten. This tells me I can create a flour with an ash content of somewhere around .85% by mixing some of the other higher protein streams with the very low ash stream to get an off-white flour that is whiter than Golden Buffalo, yet still will create a strong enough dough. I suspect that using the lowest ash stream by itself might result in a dough that doesn't have the best baking properties, since the farinograph showed weak mixing tolerance relative to the other Heartland Mill products or my own higher ash content flours more similar to Golden Buffalo.

Additional Results From Wheat Montana Berries Milling Session (added 2/26/08)

I conducted a similar series of milling tests with Wheat Montana Bronze Chief berries, which are hard red spring wheat berries. I wanted to see if the process would go differently with the harder berries and if this would suggest changes to the process of the mill settings and sifting approach.

A flow chart of this milling session, very similar to the last, other than the addition of a fourth pass, has been posted. The preliminary report from CII Lab (now updated to final as of 3/6/08) is also posted. The nomenclature for the various passes is similar to above. However, the various tests of the "first pass" are labeled with letters. For example, a label of "PA 35-50 1/12 Turn" refers to a first pass test using a mill setting of 1/12 turn (1/3 turn is about 1/2 berry width in the separation of the stones, so 1/12 Turn would be a stone separation of about 1/8 of a berry width), and the 35-50 refers to product that fell through the #35 sieve and was caught in the #50 sieve.

The numbered passes refer to the multipass milling process in the flow chart above, which was used to create various grades of flour, bran, and red granular product.

I also include an updated version of the spreadsheet (xls, html formats) mentioned above that summarizes the results of the Wheat Montana milling session in two addition sheets ("WMactual" and "WMmodel"). On the "WMmodel" sheet, there is an attempt to model what would happen at other mill settings than the one I used, based on data from the initial runs at various coarseness settings and my guesses about how the subsequent millings would go. All of that may not be very useful, except to me. However, the "WMmodel" sheet also shows a summary of the basic ash content output of each stream from the process I ran. The "WMactual" sheet summarizes the actual results for the settings used, but it adjusts for the fact I removed some of the intermediate products to send in as samples for testing at the lab. The model is not exactly what I did, but it is a better description of what would happen if the intermediate samples had not been removed as I conducted the milling session.

Overall, what I discovered is that a finer setting on the mill seemed neccessary to get about the same breakout between "bran", "coarse red granules", "coarse white granules", and "cream flour", which is a rough way of describing 4 products that seem to be produced when I mill berries using a fairly coarse setting for the mill (1/6 turn of the screw from when the stones just touch, corresponding to about 1/4 of a grain width).

Also, I am becoming aware of the fact that there is a threshold effect in the mill setting that has a big impact on the separation of the bran and the yield of white granules that seem to then yield flour with the lowest ash content when remilled and sifted. Only the slightest change in the coarseness setting around the 1/6 turn setting for HRW or at about the 1/8 turn setting for HRS berries seems to make an enormous difference in the relative yield of "white granules" in the first pass of the mill. If the initial pass is too coarse, then result is much more bran attached to large granules, and if the setting is too fine, then the result is too much high ash content flour in the first pass, and less yield of white granules, consequently reducing any chance to extract lower ash content flour in the second milling steps.

I was also struck by the variation in protein and ash content of the berries sent in for testing. I'm wondering if there is a more accurate test or larger sample size needed for the grain in order to get more consistent results. The ash content and protein levels for the berries weren't as expected. For example, the HRS berries (Bronze Chief) from Wheat Montana should have had a higher protein content than the results on the tests show. Also, the HWS berries (Prairie Gold) had an inordinately low ash and protein content than what is normally said to prevail with this type of wheat berry. So, either the tests aren't revealing the true levels for some reason, or the wheat berries vary much more than I thought. Unfortunately, this will require convincing someone at the lab or another expert in this somewhat esoteric area to take a charitable interest in educating me.

Tempering may need to be adjusted for these berries, and I may have learned something new about the tempering time. First of all, it seemed to me that the berries milled as if they needed a little more moisture content. The amount of ash is larger overall. My sense was that the berries and the flour seemed dry. Although I added enough moisture to reach a moisture content over 14%, the moisture content tested at only 13.3%, which may have resulted from letting the berries sit for a little over 48 hours. The tempering period may have been long enough to allow some moisture to escape. Possibly these harder berries have trouble absorbing the moisture, which makes it more available to evaporate from the surface over a period of time. The lids on my tempering containers are probably not perfectly air tight, so moisture may escape very slowly over a period of time. Next time, the tempering for Wheat MT HRS and HWS berries will be conducted in two steps. First, enough moisture will be added to bring the berries to 14% moisture content. Then, in a subsequent step about 24 hours later, the berries will be tested and enough moisture will be added to bring the berries to around 14.5% moisture content followed by an additional 24 hours before milling the berries.

bwraith's picture

Home Milled and Sifted Sourdough Crumb

Home Milled and Sifted Sourdough Loaf

The home milling and sifting adventure continues. My most recent effort felt like a big step forward in several ways. Tempering, based on some suggestions by proth5 in response to a previous blog entry, was explored. Multiple successively finer passes of the mill were used this time, including re-milling of the sifted results from various steps in the process. Home ash content tests were performed, to understand better the distribution of bran and outer seed coat particles across the various outputs of my milling process. The outputs were then blended to a desired ash content and a sourdough loaf was baked. Photos of the process are posted, as well as a video of the tempering system I rigged up at the last minute (this is more for entertainment, but it may have helped). A process flow chart is posted showing the steps followed to mill and sift this flour, as well as a spreadsheet showing the ash content analysis for the various outputs of the milling process.

Notes on the Bread

The recipe for the sourdough loaf is similar to that for previous blog entries except no whole wheat was used in the levain and the rye was lightly sifted through a #25 sieve to remove the larger bran particles. A levain was prepared with 15% fermented flour as a percentage of total flour in the dough. The rye flour was 5% of the total flour, and the remainder of the flour was the home milled and sifted blend from this adventure. The rye flour went into the levain. The hydration was 79%, which proved to be too high. I realize the water absorption is in between whole wheat and white flour, so I probably would have been happier with a hydration around 74%. The resulting dough was closer to a ciabatta dough than I was intending, but the bread that resulted was wonderful. I was using my brick oven for some braising earlier in the day, which forced me to refire the oven in an attempt to bring up the temperature. I mismanaged the heat a little, which caused the somewhat scorched bottoms of the loaves you see in the photos. The resulting bread had a much lighter crumb than previous attempts, showing that I was much more effective at separating out the dark from light components of the berry.


Based on a great suggestion from proth5, I explored tempering the wheat berries before starting to mill. Proth5 added 2% water to the berries. Some discussion in "Wheat Flour Milling" by Posner and Hibbs suggested 14%-17% moisture content. A Delmhorst G7 Grain Moisture Meter was used on Heartland Mill "Milling Wheat (M2 product)" and found to have a 10.6% moisture content. I decided to split the recommendations of proth5 and the suggestions in "Wheat Flour Milling" and added enough water to the grain to bring the moisture content to 14%. In a later discussion with a representative of Meadows Mills (my mill is a Meadows 8 inch stone mill), 14% was considered a touch too high, and 13% was suggested as a reasonable moisture content for my mill. So, Proth5 suggestions were very good, but by then I had already added the water to the berries.

Concern for very even moisture distribution motivated a couple of strategies for tempering the wheat. First, an atomizer was used to spray the water a few grams at a time onto berries, stirring in between sprayings to initially do a good job spreading the water evenly throughout the grain. I then borrowed the rotisserie from my outdoor grill, and rigged it in my workshop to be able to mount a plastic container of grain on it. In order to rotate the grain for a few hours without putting undue strain on the rotisserie, it was counterbalanced by attaching some small, heavy vices on the counterweight, which was too small on its own. A video of the contraption is available, as it is hard to describe accurately, but easy to understand once you see the video. The rotisserie was used for a few hours until the wheat seemed fairly dry to the touch. It was then allowed to sit for about 30 hours before milling.

Multiple Pass Milling and Sifting

After reading some of the chapter on milling in "Wheat Flour Milling" and browsing through various diagrams of milling processes, I took a wild shot at doing what I could as a complete novice to approximate the processes in a general way with my Meadows 8 Inch Stone Mill, and a series of sieves stacked in a Sieve Shaker. The equipment is described in an earlier blog entry.

The basic idea was to first mill very coarsely to separate the bran gently from the rest of the berry, followed by sifting out the flour from the darker material, followed by re-milling and re-sifting the darker material to obtain more flour. True to the discussions in "Wheat Flour Milling", the whiter flour was extracted from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th passes, not from the first pass. I was surprised to discover this, but the ash content results showed much lower ash content for passes 2-5, particularly for the flour extracted from 3rd and 4th passes.

Passes 1-4 were successive, meaning that the "coarse red material" sifted from the #40 or #60 sieve was re-milled and resifted in series. In pass 5 the coarser results of passes 2 and 4 were mixed, re-milled, and re-sifted. In pass 6 the very coarse, mostly bran output caught in a #40 sieve was re-milled and re-sifted.

A process flow chart is posted that shows the details of the milling and sifting procedure followed.

Ash Content and Blending

Six flours, two coarse red "products", and 1 "bran" were the final results of all the milling and sifting above. Home ash content tests were performed on all of those products, as well as on sample saved from some of the intermediate steps. A spreadsheet is posted showing the results of the ash content measurements.

The results show that the flour through a #60 sieve that looks very much like Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo has a very high ash content. It was the flour from passes 2,3,4, and 5 that went through a #60 sieve that ended up having lower ash content. The flour from pass 1 had an ash content of 1.4%, not that far from whole wheat. In earlier one or two pass attempts, the ash content was probably closer to 1.4%, which explains the almost whole wheat quality of the breads from my first two tries. The ash content of passes 2 and 5 was around 1%, a little lower than Golden Buffalo flour from Heartland Mill. The flour from passes 3 and 4 was lowest, around .7% and much closer to a white flour, which might be something like .55%.

In the spreadsheet I created blends of the various outputs, so that I could get the ash content desired. As it turns out, by combining all the "flours" and leaving out all the coarse red and bran products, an ash content around 1.1%, maybe a little lower but very comparable to Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo would be obtained. So, all the flours were blended to obtain the flour used in the bread pictured above. This bread was clearly lighter than previous attempts. The dough handled much more like white flour, created a satin smooth surface texture, and seemed strong and extensible. The yield was much higher than in previous attempts, 85% of the final products and 81.5% of the weight of the berries before tempering, yet the ash content was lower than flour obtained in previous attempts that only yielded around 65% of the initial weight of the berries.

Nutritional Editorial Comment

Sifting, as done here, does remove some of the bran, outer layers, and germ from the flour. However, since the ash content is around 1.1% and whole wheat is around 1.7%, it can be argued that around 2/3 of the outer layers is making it into this flour. So, although it is not a pure whole grain flour, it still has much of the material from the outer layers. By dusting the loaf with the bran, further fiber is added. As a results, this bread should contain a significant proportion of the nutritional benefits of freshly milled whole grain flour. For me, it's worth doing this to be able to enjoy breads with lighter flavors and textures closer to white flours, without much loss of the nutritional values and freshness of milled-on-demand flour.

A More Practical Approach (Maybe)

Many of you may immediately view this little adventure as very impractical - with good justification, too. However, it at least is an example of creating flour of various grades at home, a drastically scaled down version of what happens in a real mill, doable at home, even if a little too large for the majority of home bakers.

I believe a simple version of this could use one #60 sieve and one #40 sieve and a Retsel Stone Mill or other similar mill that provides good control of the coarseness of the flour output. If set to much coarser settings, multiple passes could be performed on the coarse results caught in the #40 and #60 sieves. The sifting could be done by hand, even in quantities up to around 2Kg, although it is a little tedious and laborious. Maybe only 3-4 passes would be done, to minimize the labor, but the results of running tempered berries through at a coarser setting, and then re-milling more finely the coarse results caught in the sieve and re-sifting should allow the extraction of a reasonable flour similar to Golden Buffalo, just as shown above.

Where From Here

Even with a sieve shaker, the sifting is the most tedious and time consuming part of this process. The milling for all the steps combined for about 2Kg of berries was probably only about 10-15 minutes. The milling goes very quickly. However, the sifting drags on for 20 minutes at a time at first. Later steps are quite fast, and the last couple of passes can be done more quickly by hand, given the reduced amount of product.

I've ordered a Meadows Mill Eccentric Sifter (Goetter, hehe?) to add to the burgeoning list of equipment in the workshop. My hope is that this will make the sifting take only minutes at a time, more comparable and well matched to the milling speeds. Of course, this is all massive overkill for home baking. Yes, massive, massive overkill, no question. However, it is a hobby pursued with passion that may not always make sense in practical terms. It is the beauty of the home engineering, the resourcefulness required, and the delicious freshness of the bread that all contribute to the enjoyment.

Another remaining nagging missing piece of the puzzle is a flour analysis tool that would allow more thorough understanding of all the outputs, such as protein content, moisture content, water absorption, and ash content. Maybe I've figured out the ash content using the conductivity method described previously, but it seems to take a good 12-24 hours to get useful results from it. I'd like to be able to get quick turn-around for these measurements, in order to optimize the milling and sifting strategies.

Update (1/28/07)

Loaves Made With Flour From Meadows Sifter

Loaves Made With Flour From Meadows Sifter - Crust

I received the Meadows Eccentric Sifter (see video) and conducted a milling, sifting, and baking session (see photos), as well as some home ash content tests to check out the results with the new sifter. The Meadows sifter is far faster than my original approach with a sieve shaker and produces 4 separations simultaneously with great ease.

The sieve shaker had some advantages, in retrospect. You could inspect the results easily and fine-tune the sifting strategy very easily and quickly. Also, very little product is lost using the mining sieves, which is valuable for the smaller amounts I tend to do each time. The Meadows Sifter kept a couple of pounds in it, probably in the nooks and crannies of the wooden sieves and some built up on the fabric sleeves used to transport the flour. The Meadows Sifter made it more difficult to inspect or change the sifting process, as the sieves are tightly bolted down with wing nuts on long threaded rods. You can open it up, but it's much more time consuming than it is to detach and separate the mining sieves.

In this milling session, I tempered the wheat to a 13% moisture content. The tempering process was shortened to only 12 hours as a result of impatience to test out the sifter. The first pass through the Meadows 8 Inch Mill was troublesome. The breaker tripped even though I had the mill set to a fairly wide opening of about 1/8 turn on the adjustment screw. After several tries, I was able to complete the first pass with the screw open between 1/4 and 1/8 turn. A while later, I tried running untempered wheat at 10.6% moisture content through the mill, and it also had a tendency to jam the mill. Since I really don't have the slightest idea what the right opening is for the first pass through the mill, I'm not sure what to conclude. On the one hand, the milling went very smoothly with wheat tempered to 14% moisture content for more than 24 hours. On the other hand, the Meadows representative seemed very clear that 13% moisture content or less was preferred for the Meadows Mill. However, when I used less moisture and less tempering, the milling seemed more difficult on the first pass. All subsequent passes were uneventful, even on the finest settings.

After completing the milling session, I ran some home ash content tests. Clearly the yield of lower ash content white flours was much lower. I believe this again had to do with using lower moisture content wheat tempered for a shorter time. The flours seemed more like my earlier attempts with the Retsel mill, where one or two passes with untempered wheat berries resulted in a flour much closer to a whole wheat flour.

The sense that the flours were darker was corroborated by the home ash content tests, which showed the flour coming the the #60 sieve had an ash content almost as high as Heartland Mills WW flour (I'm making my flour with Heartland Mills "Milling Wheat (M2)". Output from subsequent passes had an ash content close to 1%, whereas in my earlier attempt with 14% moisture content 24 hour tempered berries, the flour from passes 3-4 that was the whitest had an ash content of about .75%. I think this explains why my earlier one or two pass attempts made loaves that seemed so much more like whole wheat loaves than my more recent multi-pass attempts with well tempered 14% moisture content wheat.

In order to get a flour something like Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo, I had to accept a lower yield this time. The home ash content tests take at least 24 hours of soaking, so I used color and inspection of the flour, plus the knowledge that the middle passes would be lower in ash content to blend the outputs to get a flour of the same approximate "color" as the Golden Buffalo. My "high touch" method came out to have an ash content almost equal to that of Golden Buffalo, but my yield was only about 65% this time, whereas I had a lower ash content with close to 80% yield in my earlier attempt with berries at 14% moisture content and tempered for more than 24 hours.

The loaves were made without any diastatic barley powder this time, and the crumb had no hint of gumminess. The color of the crust stayed slightly lighter than before. The gluten seemed a little better this time, which makes me wonder if the protein content or quality from this session was slightly better. It's hard to say, because I reduced the hydration based on the previous results, and this dough may have behaved well just because of more optimal hydration. However, maybe the gluten quality is somehow improved due to the different ash content, tempering method, and sifting method.

The loaves that resulted were very good. As noted above, the crumb was a touch darker than the last one, which correlates with the higher ash content measurement. However, the crumb was still much closer to a white bread, similar to the last one, as opposed to earlier attempts that were clearly closer to a whole wheat bread.

bwraith's picture

Below is a photo of my third attempt at home milling and sifting, which resulted in a flour very similar to my favorite "high extraction flour", Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo flour. The processes used on my second and third tries are explained further below. Additional photos of the process have been posted.

Home Milled Miche - Third Try

First Try

The first bread from my home milling and sifting project, blogged earlier, looked like a 100% whole wheat bread. Unfortunately, I still hadn't figured out a way to do home ash content testing, but from the results, a guess at the ash content of the flour that went into my first try might have been something like 1.4%. So, it had some of the darker material sifted from it and therefore had a lighter crumb than a 100% whole wheat flour might have produced, but the color and flavor was closer to 100% whole wheat.

Second Try

Home Milled Miche - Second Try

My second try was a little lighter but still closer to whole wheat in character. I allowed the sifting process to go on longer and used a couple of passes. After one pass through the Retsel mill at a fairly fine grind and then sifting through a stack of sieves (#25,35,45,60,70,80) on my sieve shaker, the breakout was as follows. A video of the equipment in operation is posted for fun.

Sieve SizeAmountpercentdescription
#3542g6%middlings and bran
#60107g15%middlings and flour
#7063g9%cream flour
#8099g14%cream flour
thru #80311g43%white flour

I then took the 219g caught by sieves 35,45, and 60, and re-milled them at about the same settings as the initial milling. The output of this second milling was then fed through the #60 sieve. The output was 53g of coarse material caught in the #60 sieve and 156g of somewhat creamy, grayish flour that went through the #60 sieve.

I then created a flour that is about 82% extraction by combining the all the flour that fell through the #60 sieve on the first pass with enough of the flour that fell through the #60 sieve on the second pass to constitute 82% of the total output. The resulting flour was lighter than on my first try, but the bread that resulted still had a color more like a whole wheat bread, although slightly lighter in color. The flavor was noticeably different, though. The second try had a flavor with far less of the grassy flavor of a whole wheat bread. Again, this flour was made before I had a way to test for the ash content, but I imagine from the color of it, that it was probably about 1.25% ash content. It was slightly darker than Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo flour. My second bread also had 5% whole rye and 10% whole spelt in it, as did the first one, so part of the whole wheat character of these loaves is caused by the addition of 15% whole grain flour.

Home Milled Miche - Second Try - Crust and Crumb

Third Try

I received my Meadows 8 Inch Stone Mill and decided to have another go at milling and sifting. Of course, the new mill works differently than the Retsel. The stones are much larger and turn much faster. I can't seem to get the grind anywhere near as fine as the Retsel will produce with just one pass. However, the Meadows mill is far faster, especially when re-milling flour. The Retsel takes forever to re-mill flour, and seems to heat up too much on a second milling. The Meadows Mill takes less than a minute to grind a few cups of grain, and re-milling the output takes only slightly longer.

I was happy to discover that for the amounts I would normally do - not more than a 5 pounds at a time, the flour was very cool coming out of the mill. In fact, it was noticeably cooler in temperature than the flour coming out of the first pass with the Retsel mill. I imagine that equation would reverse for much larger amounts, as the Meadows would heat up over time to a higher temperature, given the large stones turning at much higher revolutions per minute.

This time I went for about a 70% yield. I realize in retrospect that my first pass was probably too coarse, which resulted in only about 600 grams going through the #60 sieve and 323 grams caught in the #25 sieve, out of a total output of 1815g. I then re-milled the middlings from that sifting, and the output was 350g through the #60 sieve. One more pass resulted in an output of another 244g through the #60 sieve. The flour coming through the #60 sieve from this pass was lighter than previous attempts.

I did another sample of about 300g which was milled at the finest settings a couple of times. The result was a finely milled whole wheat, more like what would be done on a very fine first pass with the Retsel. The result was sifted through a #25 and 50 sieves to get 240g of flour, with only 15g of "bran" caught in the #25 sieve and middlings of only 40g. This was probably too fine. I'm slowly beginning to understand what setting of coarseness of the mill will result in a good distribution of particle sizes for more efficient sifting to get the flour desired.

The resulting flour was actually 68% of the total flour made during this session trying a couple of different strategies. This time, I was able to measure the ash content, at least approximately, using the home ash content measurement mentioned in a previous blog entry. The ash content is around 1.05%, maybe a little lower than Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo flour, which their site says is around 1.13% ash content and I calculated to be around 1.2 with my test, such as it is.

Resulting Bread

Home Milled Miche - Third Try - Crust and Crumb

A similar bread to previous attempts was made with this flour. However, I omitted the 10% spelt and raised the hydration to about 81% to compensate. I may have gone a little too far with the hydration, as I had some trouble getting the loaf to hold its shape well. Due to some unanticipated distractions, the loaf was about 20 minutes late getting into the oven, so it was also slightly overproofed. The result was therfore flatter than I would have liked. However, the crumb, crust, and flavor were all very good. I believe this loaf is very similar in most ways to country miches made with Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo flour in the past. The color is a little darker, but I believe that has more to do with the fact the flour is not aged, as the ash content clearly indicated that my flour was lower in conductivity than the Golden Buffalo flour and should therefore be a little closer to white flour than the Golden Buffalo flour. The texture of the dough and the general behavior of the flour while handling it seemed very similar to what I have experienced with the Golden Buffalo flour. By the way, the wheat berries used for this flour was Heartland Mills M2, which may be similar to the wheat berry product they are using to create the Golden Buffalo flour. Overall, I'm extremely happy with this result. The flavor and freshness of the home milled flour is a delight, and the prospect of being able to freshly mill a desired grade of flour on demand is pleasing.

Future Attempts

Now that I have a better feel for the right mill settings, my plan is to do a multiple pass approach, this time hopefully more systematically and with better mill settings. The outputs of the various passes will be saved and ash content measurements performed on each one. Hopefully, I can then make the process much more efficient and flexible. With ash content measurements available, blends can be created based on ash content of the final flour desired, and hopefully better yields will result for the same ash content, with better coarseness settings on the mill on the first and subsequent passes.

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Retsel Mill and Brass Sieves

Home Mill High Extraction Sourdough Miche

JMonkey's many blog entries on whole wheat, as well several other TFLer's posts, helped me learn to make whole grain breads that are light and flavorful, rather than the rocks and bricks I had thought were inevitable with whole wheat. Then, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads came out, and I learned more about the reasons for soakers and mashes and gave mash bread a try. Then, I read some posts by Ron, who has posted passionately about whole grains and pushed me to think about trying home milling. Finally, Goetter mentioned stone milling at home with his Retsel, which he said was easy to clean and use, and I was off and running. I just recently received my Retsel Mil-Rite, and I'm happy to say it works just great - quite fast (5 pounds/hr for reasonably finely milled flour) and easy to clean if you need a few pounds of freshly milled whole grain flour.

However, unlike many or most of the home milling aficionados, I am as interested in traditional methods and recipes as I am in the nutritional aspects of bread. As such, I do want to be able to create "high extraction flour" or maybe even some regular bread flour from my whole grain berries to satisfy interests in country style miches and other types of bread that may call for other than pure whole wheat flour. In order to accomplish that, the flour needs to be sifted. MiniOven mentioned brass sieves, and some internet searches revealed a number of places. I finally purchased a range of brass sieves from number 18 through 120 from, hoping to experiment with them to extract more refined flours from my freshly milled whole grain flour. While conversing with the people at Legend Mine, they said it would be backbreaking to sift very much flour by hand, and that I should consider a "sieve shaker". I don't have the sieve shaker yet, but it will arrive soon.

Sieve Shaker

Meanwhile, I went through a laborious process of discovering the right coarseness of grind and which sieves to use. I found that I could get very reasonable results by setting the mill stone adjustment to be just slightly looser than finger tight. The flour coming out was fairly fine - good for a whole wheat bread flour. Yet, it had some percentage of larger particles. I then successively sifted the flour through my #20, #40, and #60 sieves. The #20 caught large particles of bran, about 5% of the weight. The #40 sieve caught smaller particles of bran and other dark parts of the kernel - probably some of the germ from the look of it, with a weight of about 15%. The #60 sieve was catching what I would call a very dark flour, probably some combination of bran, germ, and outer endosperm, about another 15% of the weight. What came out of the bottom of the #60 sieve was very nice bread flour, creamy and slightly dark colored. I'm sure that flour from # 60 would have made a delicious whitish bread. So, the sifting is nowhere near where it could be with a shaker and will never be anything close to the perfect filtering done by commercial mills. However, for my purposes, even this very spur-of-the-moment hand processing was enough to get 65% fresh, creamy, bread flour.

As for grain, I ordered 25 lbs. of Wheat MT Prairie Gold, 25 lbs. of Wheat MT Bronze Chief, 10 lbs. of their wheat berries (hard red winter wheat berries, I think), and 5 lbs. each of spelt and rye berries. I stored them in 6 gallon buckets with screw on hermetically sealed lids and placed oxygen absorbers in the buckets. A 6 gallon bucket comfortably holds 25 lbs. of grain with enough room for the screw-on lid. All the storage buckets and lids were purchased form

Although the Retsel appears to be more than adequate in retrospect, I went off the deep end ealier in the week and ordered a Meadows 8 inch mill also. This one will grind much faster and hopefully won't be too hard to clean.

To create my high extraction flour, I just took the finest 85% that came out of my sifting, which amounted to all of the bread flour (throughs from the #60), all of the throughs from the #40 (a darker semolina-like flour), and some of the throughs from the #20 sieve (very dark, very coarse), such that I had 85% of the total weight of all the flour that I sifted. I then ran the coarser flours back through the mill at a fairly fine setting, which resulted in making those coarse components much more finely milled. I mixed them in with the good bread flour coming out of the #60 sieve, and that is what I used as my "high extraction flour".

I also finely milled enough spelt and rye to make 55g of whole rye flour and 105g of whole spelt flour. I just mixed all the rye and spelt berries together and ran them through the mill once.

I then made my high extraction miche, along the lines of a Thom Leonard Country French with a spelt and rye levain. The overall recipe is 15% fermented flour in a spelt and rye levain, mixed with a soaker of the high extraction flour with 1% malt syrup, 2% flour, and 1 tbsp of diastatic barley powder.

Some photos of the process are posted. Spreadsheets are posted in xls and html format.


  • 30g firm storage starter (any starter will work - use 25% more batter starter or about 50% more liquid starter)
  • 52g whole rye flour
  • 104g whole spelt flour

I mixed this starter at 12:45AM after a night of much experimentation and exercise manually sifting about 10 cups of grain into 40 samples from the sieves trying to figure out the best settings for the mill. The levain was designed to rise by double and ferment an hour or so more by 9:00 AM.


  • 10g diastatic malt powder
  • 15g malt syrup
  • 30g salt
  • 1024g water
  • 1300g home milled and manually sifted high extraction flour

I mixed the soaker in a large bowl using a scraper until it was reasonably well mixed. The mixing was done at about 1:00AM and the soaker was refrigerated overnight.


At 9:00AM in the morning, the soaker was spread out on a wet counter like a great big pizza. The levain was chopped into marshmallow-sized pieces which spread evenly over the soaker and pressed into the dough with the palms of my wet hands. The dough was rolled up and folded a few times, squished all through with wet hands a few times, rolled a couple of times, and placed in my DLX mixer. The dough was mixed/kneaded in the DLX mixer on low to medium for 4 minutes, allowed to rest for 4 minutes, and then mixed for 4 more minutes.

Bulk Fermentation and Folding

The dough was allowed to rise at a temperature of approximately 74F in a cabinet above my coffee machine. Initially the temperature was around 70, but by the end of the bulk fermentation the temperature was up to about 76F. During the bulk fermentation, I folded the dough at 10:40AM, 11:40AM, and 12:40AM. The total bulk fermentation time was 5.25 hours at roughly 74F.

Shaping and Proofing

One large boule was formed at 2:15PM, allowed to sit for 15 minutes on the counter, and turned upside down into one of those San Francisco Baking Institute lined baskets (12" diameter). I dusted the loaf and the basket liner with some of the bran and semolina-like flour from my siftings mixed with a small amount of rice flour. In retrospect, since the dough was not that hydrated (77%), it wasn't necessary to use the rice flour. I could have just used some of my home sifted bran and nothing else.

The basket was placed in a large ZipLoc "Big Bag" with a warm bowl of water and sealed. The proofing temperature was about 75F. I slashed with cross-hatch pattern and baked at 5PM for a total mix to bake time of 8 hours, and a proofing time, starting from 2:15PM of 2:45.


The loaf was baked in my brick oven. The oven was fired earlier and allowed to cool to a hearth temperature of about 450F. I sprayed the loaves with an orchid mister, sprayed the chamber of the oven until it was full of steam (20 seconds), and sealed the door with my wooden wet towel covered door. The bread was rotated every 15 minutes for a total of about 50 minutes bake time. The oven door was left open after 20 minutes, and the hearth temperature dropped to about 400F at the end of the bake.

To do this in a kitchen oven, heat oven to 450F, create steam however you do it, and then drop the oven temperature to about 400F. If the loaf becomes too dark, cover with foil and/or drop the temperature to 350F. Allow to thoroughly bake, so the color of the crust is uniformly dark but hopefully not burnt and the internal temperature is above 205F.


Allow to completely cool before cutting - several hours at least.


The miche has a color that is darker than my usual whole wheat loaves, which may be partly because my sifting wasn't that efficient, partly because the extraction rate may be higher than for Golden Buffalo, which I would normally use for this application, and maybe just the nature of freshly milled flour, which I've never tried before. The texture is definitely lighter and softer than I expect from a whole grain, so the high extraction worked in that sense. The flavor is closer to a whole grain loaf than I expected. If I want a more mild white flour flavor, it may mean using less of the darker, larger particles, i.e. use a slightly lower extraction rate. By the way, the aroma of the fresh flour when mixed with water is most definitely better than anything I've smelled using commercial flour. Everyone in the house commented on the great aroma coming from the dough and the bread. I do believe the flavor and aroma of the bread is enhanced by the freshness of the milling, something commented on by many on the site.

The Next Phase

When I receive my Meadows mill and the sieve shaker, the next phase of the project will be to discover the right settings of the mills and sieves to gain a more efficient separation of the particles from the milling.

Meadows 8 Inch Light Commercial or Home Mill

But Why Did I Do This?

OK, part of it is just fun with gadgets. However, there are several objectives beyond that. One very significant motivation is that I haven't been very happy with the availability of other than white flour or whole wheat flour. I'd like to be able to create flours with various characteristics in the amount I need when I need it. Also, any flour other than white flour will probably have spoilage issues if kept for too long. So, rather than buy a few pounds of some specific flour, pay a lot for shipping, and then use a small amount and throw out the rest when it spoils, I can create the desired flours to order. Much of the bran can be used for dusting or added to cereal, and even the middlings may be tossed into oatmeal or toasted and used in place of wheat germ, as suggested in the Essential's Columbia recipe. If I can make the process convenient and fast, then it will be easier and cheaper in the long run to occasionally buy bulk amounts of a few different berries, as I already just did. Storage is easy for the berries, and they stay fresh for a very long time in berry form.

The result is a drastic improvement in the freshness of my flours, very little waste or spoilage, and much lower cost. I seem to spend upwards of $4/pound including shipping for small quantities to get particular flours I want over the internet. The berries, purchased mostly in 25 lb. quantities, came to less than $2/pound, even if I'm very particular and buy from Wheat MT or Heartland Mill. It could be much less if I can find sources for high quality berries locally. However, it's not a bad guess to say I lose close to half my purchased whole grain flours to spoilage. I could offset the spoilage with flour freezing strategies, but I just think this home milling approach is better. No freezing, easy to use screw-on lids on buckets of grain, and absolutely fresh flour to order. At least, that's what I'm shooting for.

It's true that the cost of the mill and sifting equipment won't be offset by the lower cost of the berries for something like 2-3 years. However, for me the home milling approach is still justified because of the freshness, flexibility of flours I can generate, and the convenience of storing berries. The fact the lower cost will allow for the recover of the cost of the equipment even if it takes a few years is just an added benefit.

Of course, the benefits above are theoretical. Maybe after the next phase, I'll conclude it's not possible to produce the desired flour characteristics with simple sieves and a small stone mill. However, the first phase was almost sufficient, other than the excessive physical effort required to manually sift the flour. If I can make the separation work a little better by discovering the right series of millings and siftings, which should be far easier to do with the sieve shaker, I'm hopeful the results will justify doing it regularly going forward.


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