The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Every loaf a failure with home-milled wheat

re4mdmom's picture

Every loaf a failure with home-milled wheat

We got our mill a week ago. I've milled nothing but Hard Red Spring Wheat and each and every loaf has failed to rise. I was thinking it was the yeast, but now I'm not so sure. I bought new yeast this morning and made a beautiful loaf of white. I think the problem really starts in the kneading. The dough is SO STICKY and it just doesn't firm up much. I've tried hand-kneading, kneading in my Kitchen Aid and my food processor. I just can't get it to window-pane texture. I mean, it will stretch, but it still breaks and remains sticky. This is really frustrating because I've made close to ten failed loaves and its depressing :-(

Is this just the way fresh-milled flour is? Should I expect the batter to always be sticky, even after kneading for the at least the suggested time in the recipe? Anyone have a full-proof recipe?

Can you see my desperation? ;-)

andrew_l's picture

I always use a lot of home miled wholewheat flour in my loaves and they ARE sticky. Usually I'll have, say, 60% home milled wholemeal to 40% commercial white bread flour. I never have been able to do the windowpane thing with this proportion of wholemeal - and I don't think it is possible, or even needed.
It may take longer to rise, but makes lovely bread.
Today I've used about 80% home milled and the dough was VERY sticky and hard to work, but I used Dan Lepard's minimal kneading approach (mix ingredients lightly, leave ten minutes. Turn out on lightly floured or oiled surface, knead ten seconds, put back in bowl. Leave 10 minutes, turn out and knead 10 seconds. Do this three times, then leave an hour and knead ten seconds, leave an hour, knead ten seconds. Then an hour and fold over like A4 paper going into an envelope - do this twice. Then form the bread).
It is now in my wicker banneton form, rising really well.
NOT looking forward to turning out / slashing - it is so sticky it is bound to "drag" on the lame - but if looks extra rustic - who cares? So long as it tastes good...

So DONT give up! Home milled flour makes delicious tasting bread.


andrew_l's picture

How fine or coarse are you milling the grain? My first few were quite coarsely milled and didn't give such good results as a finer milling...

xaipete's picture

I grind on slow & fine with the Nutrimill. I use Bob's Red Mill's Spring Red Hard Wheat berries and my flour is every bit as fine as KA's. The only difference I can tell is that KA has diastatic malt and mine doesn't.


cognitivefun's picture

I would say that perhaps, the cause is a lack of enzymes in the flour.


Commercial flour is a mixture of grains and includes malt. The malt has enzymes (maltase? amylase?) that work on the long starch molecules and convert them into shorter ones and into sugar. This has an effect on the texture, color and qualities of the final product. It probably affects the texture of the dough, too.

 I wonder if you couldn't include some barley in your mix and if that would result in a better product? 

grainmillgirl's picture

Try and use Marilyn's whole wheat recipe.  I use part hard red wheat but I also mix in some kamut and praire gold.  She gives great directions.  Be sure to try the two step process that she talks about where you soak the flour over night before making the dough. 

Breadwhiner's picture

I would like to endorse the suggestion that you try a finer grind. With a course grind the protein stays trapped in the particles so it can't develop a good gluten structure.

Whole wheat does take more time to kneed develop the gluten. As Floydm has noted, the bran and germ are like razor blades to the gluten. So aside from a finer grind, you could also try--

adding some white bread flour (~50%)

adding some wheat gluten (available from King Arthur Flour, about 1 TB/cup flour)

Also, before getting too deep into the home milling, make sure you can get decent loaves out of commercial whole wheat flour. Once you have that, all you need to do is match your grind fineness (approximately) to that of commercial flour. By the way, Hogsdon Mill makes a very coarse whole wheat flour that made my breadmaking miserable for some time!

Good luck.



re4mdmom's picture

Wow!  Big thank-you's to everyone who replied!  I am very encouraged.  I think this is going to be my new plan of attack:

 1. Use a finer grind of wheat on the recipes which have worked relatively well for me in the past and see how much of a difference that makes.

 2. Adding vital wheat gluten.

 3. Lower my expectations in terms of how high the bread will actually rise- I was expecting my loaves to rise like a white bread loaf- and while I'd like them to rise over the rim of the pan, I know they won't be high and huge like a white loaf.

 4. Use smaller pans.  I was baking these loaves in pretty big pans which, of course, inhibits how high they will rise.  They are also expanding outward as well as upward.

 5. If all else fails, I'll use a mix of flours.

How does this sound to anyone? 

naschol's picture

You forgot to list soak your flour overnight.  Whole grains, in general take longer to absorb the moisture.   I would definitely take grainmillgirl's advice.


I get windowpanes with all my whole grain loaves (I don't use commercial flour anymore).  The key is to give it some time to absorb and to knead the bread well (or stretch and fold or whatever).  I don't usually use vital wheat gluten, either.  The thing you need to remember, though, is that you generally don't get any oven (or very little) oven spring when using freshly milled flour. 


Good luck!  Let us know how it turns out! 


xaipete's picture

Hi Nancy. I also grind my own flour with a Nutrimill and have noticed that I get a good rise and even a good proof on my loaves formed in bannetons, but no oven spring. Why can't you get oven spring when using freshly milled flour? I've not heard that before, only experienced it.

Another question: store-bought ww flour, e.g., KA, has diastatic malt added to it. Do you think that addition has anything to do with oven spring.

When I'm kneading my bread I let it rest for a sufficient period of time. It is never sticky and looks great after a number of stretch & fold sessions. I've never heard of soaking the flour overnight. Am I understanding you correctly? Soaking the flour in water?

If you wait several days after grinding, does that make any difference with respect to oven spring?


proth5's picture

 Some thoughts on what you posted.  I get oven spring with my home milled flour "about like what you'd get" with store bought, so I'm not sure if I will be terribly helpful, but I will share what I have learned.

KA Whole Wheat flour does not have malt added (the All Purpose does, but not the whole wheat.)  Diastatic malt corrects for alpha amylase action that begins the conversion of the starches in the flour to sugar (also needed are beta amylases which are usually available in sufficient quantities.).  If you are getting a good rise in the bulk ferment, you probably shouldn't worry about adding malt.  bwraith and I wore ourselves out a while back pondering malt.  It didn't seem to do anything for either of our breads.

I habitually bake at either 1 or 5 days after milling. I have gone as many as 30 days after milling.  I have not seen this influence my bread.  There is baking folklore that you should bake right away or wait 2 or 3 days.  I can't say that this is fact, but some people believe it quite strongly.

Soaking the flour (in the water from the formula) overnight allows for a longer period of gluten development.  In some hands (not mine) this really does result in more loaf volume.

Oven spring comes from the last surge of fermentation as the yeast metabolizes the available sugars before it dies (and the expansion of the CO2 bubbles created by fermentation under the influence of the heat).  One of the most common causes of lack of oven spring is a final fermentation that is too long.  Perhaps you are asking too much of your home milled in the final fermentation.  Maybe it doesn't need to quite double or not spring back when you press the loaf.  That might be something to investigate.  You will get a smaller rise on the final ferment, but should get better oven spring. On my last batch of whole wheat, I allowed the bulk ferment to go on too long and got less oven spring than usual, which tells me that it is really control of fermentation times that is the biggest factor in oven spring.

Be glad to hear a more complete explanation, though.

xaipete's picture

Hi, and thanks for all your comments.

Yes, you are correct, KA WW flour doesn't have any malt added.

I'm getting really great rise during bulk fermentation (overnight in the refrigerator), and maybe I am just expecting too much during the final proof. It's difficult to tell when an artisan loaf is 150% (at least for me).

Re gluten development: I'm just sure my gluten is getting properly developed, so I don't think that is the problem (some machine kneading, and then some stretch & folds).

I can see no reason why I should either mill and bake, or wait 5 days to use freshly milled flour. I've read about that too and it doesn't make any sense to me.

I set up two tests set up for myself today: one with KA WW and one with freshly ground. This recipe uses a starter so I won't bake until Sunday, but I'll treat both the same and let you know the results.

If you know a good trick for determining when a loaf is proofed 150%, I'd love to hear it!

Thanks again for your informative post.


proth5's picture

If I knew a sure fire way, I would share it.

Suas allows us to use the old "poke it gently and if it springs back slowly it is ready" method.

"My teacher" on the other hand says thinks like "Poke it? What did it do to you?  Gently? What does that mean?"  My teacher insists that you feel the actual loaf. (actually cradle lightly it in your hand) Then you bake it.  If you liked the result, then you try to duplicate how that loaf felt in future loaves.  If it sprung too much, you want the loaf to feel less so of what you felt.  If it sprung too little, then more so. (You must know that this is what makes "my teacher" so right for me.  I mean no disrepect when I post quotes like those.)

"My teacher's" method takes a lot of practice.

I'll let you know when I've got it down...

PS: My baking at 5 days after milling was simply a function of my personal schedule.  I see no reason to wait either, unless it is just a matter of there are only so many days in a week and so many hours in a day. I just wanted to illustrate that I experiences no change based on letting the flour age a minor amount.

xaipete's picture

Sometimes I have used the "string test" (something stupid I invented). I put a piece of kitchen twine under the loaf and tie a knot at the loaf's circumference. Then I carefully remove the string, measure 50% more, tie a 2nd knot, and put the string back. When the circumference meets the 2nd knot, I assume it is at 150%. Do you think that is an accurate way to measure 150%?

This is a volume measure so I'm not sure that works. My cousin is a mathematician, I'll ask his opinion too.

I even have a picture of this test! If nothing else it is worth a good laugh because now I'm laughing at myself.


SteveB's picture


If you want the volume of the loaf to increase by 1.5 times before baking, according to my calculations, the circumference has to increase by 1.22 times.  If I remember my high school geometry:

V (cylinder) = πr²h

r = C/2π

Therefore: V = C²h/4π

Thus the volume is a function of the square of the circumference.  If you want the volume to increase by 1.5, the circumference has to increase by √1.5 or 1.22.



xaipete's picture

So I should make my 2nd string knot about 25% longer than the first knot, instead of 50%. So I'm probably over-proofing and that might account for the lack of oven bang in my whole wheat bread.


PS From your baby picture, you must be a genius! Thanks for the geometry lesson.

SteveB's picture


Baby picture?  You are too kind!  I took high school geometry in 1969.  Dare I say it?... you do the math!  :)



xaipete's picture

So Steve, do you think I can make a "Rule of String" for determining 150% proofing if I make a 2nd knot that is about 1/4 longer than the original circumference?


SteveB's picture

Sounds about right to me.



davidg618's picture

but the analysis hold only so long as the bread shape approximates a cylinder. A boule, for example is closer to a sphere, and the volume would therefore vary more closely to cube of the circumference vis-a-vis its square. Nonetheless, its a clever way to estimate the volume growth, and the estimating errors are small enough that they probably don't matter, especially only proofing to 150%. Hats off to you, Pamela, and Steve.

David G.

re4mdmom's picture

Actually, I thinkI'll try soaking tonight.  I went to buy my wheat this morning and they didn't have nearly enough to actually produce the loaves, but if I soak some of the flour overnight and buy the rest of the wheat I need tomorrow, that should be good.

JMonkey's picture

I've actually goten better performance from my home milled grain than commercial whole wheat. Not sure why, exacttly.
In any case, great advice above. Soaking the grains makes kneading MUCH easier, though if you're soaking them for a long period of time (more than an hour) I'd suggest adding a small amountof salt (about 1/2 tsp per pound of flour) to control ensyme activity. Otherwise your dough may be gloopy.
If you don't soak, you'll have to knead about twice as long as you do with white flour. Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book recommends 20 minutes or 600 strokes, which has been just about right for me.
Also, adding 1 Tbs of butter per pound of flour (approx -- you can add more if you like) really helps with oven spring, though, of course, if you're making lean loaves, that doesn't do much for you. A well kneaded or well soaked loaf CAN rise high, but still not as high as white flour.
Oh -- you'll definitely need more water than you're used to. 75 percent hydration is pretty much par for the course.
Good luck!

rbarbe's picture

I'm delighted to find this forum. I bought a grain mill a few weeks ago and am having some of the same problems. My dough is not sticky,  and rises faster than I've even seen bread dough rise--it expands before my eyes after I shape the loaves--for a short time, maybe 15 or 20 minutes, and that's it. It doesn't double in bulk. There's no oven spring. I'm just glad it's not just me. I have some things to learn about baking with home milled flour, but I'll keep trying. The flavor is delicious, and in spite of the lack of oven spring the bread isn't heavy or dense in texture.

flamingobabe's picture

I bought a Nutramill grinder and have been trying to grind my own flour.  I am  finding that my bread is so dense.  Should I be using all the ground wheat or what would you mix with it.  I am using dough enhancer and wheat gluten too.

flourgirl51's picture

If the wheat you are buying is low protein it won't raise well. You need a protein of 13-14%protein in order to get a good result with rising. Check out the info at

subfuscpersona's picture

flamingobabe on February 17, 2009 wrote:
I bought a Nutramill grinder and have been trying to grind my own flour. I am finding that my bread is so dense. Should I be using all the ground wheat or what would you mix with it. I am using dough enhancer and wheat gluten too.

There are many techniques to help you make a light whole wheat bread with freshly milled flour.

There are quite a few regular posters to TFL who routinely make excellent whole grain bread from home milled flour.

Speaking for myself, I routinely make whole grain bread - either bread baked in a loaf pan or bread baked "freeform" on a baking stone. Like you, I mill my whole wheat flour with a Nutrimill. I have been using a Nutrimill grain mill for the past 2 years. (I have actually been home milling grain for bread for 25 years. Prior to my purchase of the Nutrimill, I used other grain mills.)

In order to help you best, we (the TFL posters) need more information. Without detailed information, you will get general advice but this may (or may not) be useful for you.

If you would post the kind of bread you're attempting to make, I'm confident that bakers on this forum can guide you in your efforts.

Please tell us...

> are you baking bread with commercial yeast or a sourdough starter?

> are you attempting a 100% whole grain bread or do you find it acceptable to include some commercial white flour in your whole grain breads?

> are you baking "artisan" bread - that is, bread shaped "free form" and baked on a baking stone


> are you baking "pan" bread - that is, bread baked in a loaf pan

If you would post the recipe(s) this would help us further.

There are many excellent bakers on TFL who bake whole grain breads using home milled flour. I am confident that, collectively, we can help you with your problem(s).

I would encourage you to start a new post detailing your problems, as this is more likely to catch the attention of regular posters.

Looking forward to hearing back from you - SF

flamingobabe's picture


I took a bread class and she did freeform bread on a cookine sheet but I have been doing bread pans.  She was a big bosch person but I found the prices better for the Nutrimll and I really like the options of fine to coarse.  I have been doing in the middle of fine and coarse. 

I have been having better results with the whole wheat but when I do the soft wheat it never comes out right. I just bought a 50 gal bucket of hard red and hard white wheat from Praire Hills and am going to try to make bread today.    I thought since I have better results with the hard red that the hard white might work better plus it was cheaper.  I am using commercial (red star) yeast and have never used the sour dough starter.  I didn't know that you should be using commercial white flour with my breads.  I think that could be a reason that it is so dense.  When I made bread just from bread recipes with commercial flour it used to come out fine all the time.

Please let me know of a good recipe to try and what I should be doing.




subfuscpersona's picture

Don't use soft wheat for bread. It results in a heavy bread. Save your soft wheat for cookie / pastry / pasta dough. For bread, use *hard* wheat - either hard red wheat or hard white wheat.

Try to use your home milled flour within 24 (or, max, 48) hours of milling. Most home millers on this site and elsewhere agree that flour used shortly after home milling tastes best and performs well. If you hold the flour for a week or two and then try to use it, it may not perform as well.

Flour milled from hard white wheat is much milder in taste than flour milled from hard red wheat. For a discussion of the difference, see

Do use a scale to measure your ingredients rather than measuring by volume.

Use techniques like a soaker or autolyse to help the whole wheat flour absorb the liquid. These are very important to successful baking with whole grain flour. If you're unfamiliar with the terms, just search this site.

I can't tell from your post whether you make 100% whole wheat bread. However, you might try mixing white (commercial) bread flour and home milled whole wheat flour for a lighter loaf. Even if your goal is to make 100% whole wheat bread, sometimes it is easier to start with a recipe that includes some commercial white bread flour, master it, and then gradually move to a 100% whole wheat flour loaf.

Here are some links to recipes for whole wheat breads using commercial yeast (not sourdough) that are baked in loaf pans - the first two are from TFL and use some white bread flour; the last one is from a blog and uses only whole wheat flour. They all contain detailed instructions and photos.


It still would be really helpful to see the recipe you're currently using - both the ingredients list and the procedure used.

When you say

When I made bread just from bread recipes with commercial flour it used to come out fine all the time.
is the commercial flour white flour or whole wheat flour?

There are many other links on TFL for excellent whole grain breads - 100% whole wheat and part whole whole wheat, part commercial white bread flour. If the links I gave are not to your taste, don't hesitate to post back or do your own searches on TFL.

Best of luck.


Big Brick House Bakery's picture
Big Brick House...

I have read all your post and no one has mentioned the tempiture of the grain after being milled.  If you exceed 115 degrees you can kill the gluten and nutrition.  At that point it is filler...

Also Malted barley has several effects in bread.  It is barley that is allowed to sprout, flash dried, then ground.

clazar123's picture

The original poster mentions the dough being very sticky. This sure sounds like overheated flour. Overheated flour will not form long gluten strands.CAn't be used for bread. I would probably grind some more berries and try keeping the flour cooler by cooling the berries before you grind and maybe grinding on not so fine (if you are using a fine setting) Also, immediately after grinding,cool the flour.Bake with it anytime.I never age it.

I grind my own all the time and never have a problem getting a good loaf.My daily bread is a 70% mix of whole wheat and commercial flour (either AP or bread flour).I've never had to add gluten separately.

Find a recipe that you make over and over until you achieve a loaf you like. Start incorporating suggestions above. It takes a while to get it.Bread is incredibly simple and amazingly complex. I find it is technique more than ingredients that is important.Keep notes with every batch.Evaluate and keep going.

My journey has taught me that whole wheat needs more moisture to absorb over time-so it is mixed and sticky, allowed to absorb water over time (a long rise,autolyse or retarded rise),folded rather than kneaded and not overproofed.

It also takes a lower oven temp (375) to let the moisture distribute and escape to set the crumb properly.Keep the loaf exterior moist while proofing and initially in the oven so it has time for maximal expansion before setting in its final crust.


Have fun.Good eating!


Korin's picture

Well I used 4 cups of wheat berries milled using NutriMill with 2 cups of water and obtain good results.  I used store bought yeast and I am in the process of making my own sour dough.  I find the dough raised about 2 1/2 in height.  I suspect that you may be adding too much water.  Also, I add the salt after letting the dough rise the first time;  I find it helps.  No oil was added either.  The whole process was made using a KitchenAid mixer and takes about 10 minutes of mixing the first mix.  First rise is usually 45-60 mins and the second in the mold is the same.  I knead the dough after the first rise with salt for about 5 minutes in the mixer.  Baked at ~375 (really set at 390 but I suspect that the tempurature is off in the over I use) for 20 minutes in a convection oven.

I do remember reading that freshly ground flour will release water after time to make it more sticky so a "harder" dough ball at the start is not always a bad thing.  It does get stickyer with time.

Keep experimenting.



joe_n's picture


I am  grinding whole wheat for all my loaves and have had great success with the Ponsford method:

Even with 15%  whole buckwheat ground in, the method yields a billowy soft dough that doesn't lose its shape after the 4 th stretch and fold.

Try 85% hydration to start with.

(Don't overproof! :))