The Fresh Loaf

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Home Milling Confusion!

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mizrachi's picture
mizrachi

Home Milling Confusion!

I'm just getting started in milling my own grains and I wanted to be certain I know what I'm doing.  I've read some conflicting reports from all over the web and I have a few basic questions that I'm still unclear about. 


Any help is of course appreciated.


1. Is it recommended that I freeze my whole grains before using or storing?  How long should I do this?  I've read that a 48 hour freeze will kill the eggs of any critters that may be in there but I've also read that it's not much of an issue. 


2. What is the best grain storage solution?  Is it best to simply leave the grains in the freezer or in glass canisters or in food-safe buckets with gamma lids?  I've also read not to store my grains on a concrete floor and that I should put a few bay leafs in with the grain.  Obviously, I'm a bit confused here.


3. Should I sift my grains before milling?  Are stones and other seeds common enough to be a concern?  If so, what is the appropriate sized sifter and where can I find one?


4. Once I mill my grains is it recommended that I use the flour immediately as instinct suggests or, as I've read here and there, that I should wait for some period, aging the flour to some degree?  I've also read that some grains should be soaked before milling.  Another confusing issue.


5. Are there any other hints that the home miller should be made aware of?


 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I've been milling for about 9 months, only,but I'll jump in with a few observations.


I store my grain in large buckets and just add a few bay leaves to discourage critters.I haven't got around to the gamma lids,yet.I got my buckets free from a local deli and a hot dog stand. A good washing and airing out and they were ready. Just make sure to get the lids that fit.


The grain I get is pretty clean-so far, only a very rare stone-usually about 3-4 mm, if I find it. I do pour my wheat slowly from an 8 cup measure into a bowl and look for any unwanted debris but I have found very little to worry about. I guess it depends on how clean the grain is when you get it.


I grind 16 c grain (8 c grain makes about 12 c flour) about every 2 weeks and bake every weekend. I haven't noticed any problem with using it immediately or after several weeks.I store it in my cupboard.


At the end of grinding a batch of wheat, I always have about a 1/4 c of rice to dump in to clean the machine-it removes any wheat oiliness from in the grinder and I just let it mix in with the wheat flour.


HAve fun.There is no better taste to your bread than freshly ground wheat-like new-mown grass.

charbono's picture
charbono

 


I put all recently purchased grain in the freezer for at least a week.  Mobile organisms die overnight, and the eggs eventually die.  I also use the freezer or refrigerator for long-term storage, to the extent possible.  If buying large quantities of grain, it's best to buy in the winter, before the new grain is invested with pests.  I defer to others on storing large quantities of grain.


 


Grain at the bottom of a bag will be dusty, mostly from bran bits.  I sift dusty wheat in a #16-mesh sieve.  I sort through all wheat in a wide bowl before dumping in the hopper.  I sort maize more closely.


 


Most, but not all, authorities recommend aging refined flour for a few weeks to strengthen gluten.  Most, but not all, millers believe that any gluten benefit of aging whole wheat is more than offset by the loss of freshness.  Storage of flour in the freezer is best.


 


Soaking grain prior to milling will lead to problems, nixtamalized maize or sprouted grain being exceptions.  If you have a buhr mill and want to sift out a lot of bran, a small amount of moisture may be added to the grain in the tempering process (an advanced subject).  Keep in mind that bringing anything out of the freezer and exposing it to air will probably result in some condensation.  Of course, intact kernels incorporated into a dough are normally pre-soaked.


 


You can probably get more tips by indicating what kind of mill you have and what flour you are planning.


 

shakleford's picture
shakleford

Good answers above, but I thought I'd give my perspective too.  I've only been milling for a little over a year, so I don't claim to be an expert, but I've been happy with my results so far.


1. I had never actually heard of freezing grain until a week or two ago.  I have around 10 different grains in storage, most of which I purchased last spring, and have not had any critters hatch yet, but perhaps I've just been lucky. 


2. I keep my grains in 5-gallon buckets with gamma lids.  These are mostly airtight, keep exteranl pests out, and are pretty cost-effective.  I haven't noticed any decrease in quality so far and have read that grains can be safely stored this way for anywhere from 7 to 30 years, but those timeframes are a little outside of my experience.


3. Initially, I went through all of my grain very carefully, but as I never found anything I've stopped doing that.  However, it's true that even a small stone can damage your mill.  I would imagine that the necessity of sifting varies a lot depending on the source of your grain.


4. I mill directly into my mixing bowl most of the time and haven't had any trouble.  Peter Reinhart recommends using flour within 8-12 hours or aging it for 2 weeks (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/4276/interview-peter-reinhart).  Our resident milling expert Pat (proth) is a fan of using it right away.  I've never heard of soaking before milling unless you're trying to sprout the grains, which is a different matter entirely.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

This is good advice and exactly what I do. As far as critters and stones go in grain. I have never found either. I think where you buy your grain is key. Purchase it from a reliable source and store it immediately and properly.


--Pamela

proth5's picture
proth5

 There is a vast body of information and mis-information out here on the "interweb."  Add to that the fact that honest millers disagree and there is much to sort out.  You've gotten some good advice (in my humble opinion) and I thought I'd add mine.  I've been milling for over two years and gotten myself into it quite deeply.


 To your questions:


 Freeze grain? - I would suggest that worry about tiny livestock depends a lot on the source of your grain.  I buy from a company that is mostly a miller and reseller of grains and they will have a lot of incentive to make sure that their own grains do not have passengers.  Accordingly, I don't freeze my grain at any time.  If you purchase grain closer to the source, freezing is certainly a way to rid yourself of potential pests and their eggs.


 Storage? - I simply don't have the freezer capacity to store grains.  I live in a dry climate and find that storing my grain in the basement in tightly sealed, food safe, plastic containers has worked well. On a concrete floor.  No bay leaf. 


Sift before milling? - I don't find that my grains are dusty. I do keep a sharp eye out for foreign materials (and I have found mostly peas - no stones so far) both while I transfer the grain from the storage container to my tempering bins and while I am milling. I do not sift before milling, though because at the mesh size required to allow the grains to pass through, I might still get a small stone or foreign substance.  There are commercial sifters that take advantage of the oblong shape of the wheat to remove stones.  Frankly I am hoping that my supplier uses those and I have not purchased such a sifter (not yet!)


 Aging?  Let the controversy begin!  I think it is important to remember that there are big differences between whole wheat and white flours.  For example - if the Falling Number for white flour was as high as the one for whole wheat, we would surely correct it.  But, in fact, we don't - there compensating factors when the whole wheat berry is used.  White flours are generally aged.  But what does aging really do?  It oxidizes the flour and to quote the reason for this:



 "At that misty molecular level of things , "what are known as thiol groups and sulfide bonds interact with each other in the presence of oxygen . As the thiol groups oxidize, they donate a hydrogen molecule to the sulfides , creating disulfides . These disulfide bonds strengthen the gluten bonds inherent in wheat flour ."


 Jeffrey Hamelman. Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes. (Wiley, 2004). Page 7.



Given this explanation I have to question the folklore that tells us to use the flour within 8-12 hours or else wait 2-3 weeks.  I've dug up some studies that tell me that gluten development is maximized at about 4 weeks of aging (at room temperature) so if you are committing to aging the flour, the magic number is 4 weeks.  But given the science behind this, what occurs at 12 hours that causes the flour to suddenly be inferior for baking?  Why at two weeks does it suddenly recover?  Since oxidation is occurring one must think that the gluten is growing stronger every hour that the flour is in contact with oxygen.  I've searched for anything that would explain this statement  - and put the challenge out on these pages for an explanation (because I'd really like to know) and to date - nothing.


I personally use near whole wheat flour from 12 hours old to one week old to one month old.  I find that at all of these ages the flour performs within process tolerances.  The older flour looses the fresh taste that makes home milling so worthwhile, however, so if I can use it within 12 hours, I will. I don't have the freezer capacity to store flour, either.  So I store it at room temperature.  As it gets older I use it for applications where the fresh, wheaty taste is not as important.


Soaking before milling? - No.  If you want to make sprouted flour, you soak and sprout the grains, but they must be dry before milling. The grain you are milling must be dry.  I have learned this from hard experience.  I have seen the process of tempering (as mentioned above) described as "soaking" the grain prior to milling.  But this is not soaking the way most of us envision it - taking a large amount of water and dumping in some grain.  What really happens is that very controlled amounts of water (or steam for some commercial mills) is added to the grain and then the grain is tumbled so that the moisture is evenly distributed. (Just to give you an idea, I typically add 0.4 oz of water to 28 oz. of grain.)  If you look at the grain immediately after this, it will be wet.  The water is then allowed to soak into the grain until it is dry to the touch - about 24-48 hours.  This is done to bring the moisture content of the grain to about 13-14%.  This process toughens the bran so that it can be separated more cleanly during milling. This is never done if you have an impact mill and is not required if you want to mill 100% whole grain flour. So, most home millers do not have to get involved with this.  If you have a burr mill and want to mill flour that has some or all of the bran/germ removed you may want to temper the grain, but unless you like to live on the edge, you should not attempt this without a grain moisture meter.


I've enjoyed both the process and the products of home milling.  My advice is to relax and enjoy.  Grind some whole grain flour.  Bake.  Eat.  And then if you find you just can't help yourself, you can take this as far as you want.  I've even found a lab that will do rheological analysis for home millers - in case you want to know...


 Happy Milling!

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

If you're using a micronizer mill (such as the Nutrimill), *never* remill your grain (by remilling I mean milling on a coarser setting, sifting the result, and then putting the coarser, larger parts through the mill again). The manual (you have read the manual that comes with your mill, haven't you?) clearly states this can damage the mill.


The "bay leaves discourage insect infestation" idea is an urban myth (or meme?).


I think what was meant by soaking was really "tempering", which proth5 explained in her post. To repeat her advice - if you use a micronizer mill, do *not* temper it (you can damage the mill).


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Two TFL members who've really explored home milling in depth are proth5 and bwraith (who hasn't posted in a long time). I consider Proth5 to be this site's current expert on home milling.