The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to site and to milling

wwitkows's picture

New to site and to milling


  I'm new to this site and really new to milling or grinding your own flour.  There is a lot of information here on bread making and have learned quite a bit already. Reading through some of the posts I saw that some people sift their flour after milling it. Why would yoiu want to do that? Isn't one of the main reasons for grinding your own flour is to keep in the good stuff like the bran?

Also a little off topic, I've been looking through the internet for sites that have more information on making pasta and other goods with freshly ground flour and haven't really found any. Does anybody know of any good sites?

Thank you.



proth5's picture

You may have read my posts.  The reason that I sift my flour is that I am trying to obtain a "high extraction" flour - that is a flour that has had some, but not all of the bran and germ removed.  This flour is difficult to obtain in my area and makes a lovely bread.

I have also ground pure white and nearly white flour.  Both of these require sifting.

I mill for other reasons than to get maximum nutrition - sheer madness, the understanding and mastery of a process, the taste of fresh, and to have control over the flour itself.

Some home millers are primarily concerned with maximum nutrition and they, of course, would not sift out bran or germ.

Hope this answers your concern.

As for pasta, I would assume that freshly and properly ground whole wheat flour would act similarly to commercial whole wheat, so you may wish to look for sites dedicated to whole whaet home made pasta.  A quick search with your favorite search engine will direct you to many sites.

charbono's picture

I can think of a few more reasons for sifting.

a. To re-mill the larger-granulation pieces for a finer overall flour.

b. To toast the larger pieces to be used as flavor enhancement.

c. With corn, to separate the meal from the grits.

Aprea's picture

I never separate the corn - are we supposed to?  I just assumed ground popcorn made corn meal.

charbono's picture

In a mill, corn breaks into a wide range of granulation -- from flour, to meal, to grits. A given recipe will work better if the appropriate sub-range is used. The mill setting and the corn selection (flour, dent, flint, pop) will provide a partial solution. Sifting is the final step to get the best ingredient for the recipe.

charbono's picture

After milling corn a few times, I realized that adjusting the setting on my burr mill was an imperfect way to achieve the granulation I wanted. I already had an 8-inch kitchen strainer with a mesh of 16 holes per inch. Using the strainer was a step forward in differentiating usable cornmeal and grits. The right granulation range assures even cooking and getting the expected texture.

Web research indicates that there is not a universally accepted granulation boundary between cornmeal and grits, but most mills pick a screen of 18, 20, or 26 for grits separation. A 20-mesh screen seems to be quite common. (There are metric conversion charts for standard screens on the web.) I found an inexpensive 20-mesh strainer and my corn recipes improved again. Most commercial mills seem to use a 12 or 14-mesh screen for limiting the upper size of their grits. I found an 11-mesh strainer, which is close enough for my purposes. If I want a fine grade of polenta, I can use the range between my 20 and 16-mesh strainers.

Small commercial mills rarely offer corn flour; there doesn’t seem to be much demand for it. Web information on the demarcation between corn flour and cornmeal is vaguer than between meal and grits. Meshes of 32, 50, 64, and even 80 are mentioned for separating flour. There is a 32-mesh strainer at Target. I haven’t seen a strainer with a mesh size label; one must count the holes against a measuring tape or stick.

I rarely mill more than a pound of corn at a time. Use of 8-inch kitchen strainers is not tedious for that amount, and they are conveniently-sized for the bowls I sift into. For larger amounts, it would be more efficient to use flat-screened sieves, which are shaped like tambourines. They’re more expensive than kitchen strainers and are hard to find, except on the web.

flourgirl51's picture

I mill tons of flour and don't sift any of it. It makes great bread.

Thomas Mc's picture
Thomas Mc

If you want to make multi-grain breads, you will probably want to sift out the larger bran, to raise the gluten percentage, then you can replace about 20% of the wheat flour with oats, flax, etc. For whole wheat, you don't have to sift, but you will have fluffier bread if you sift and regrind the bran in to smaller pieces. Also, letting the bran hydrate for several hours before kneading will soften it so it doesn't cut the gluten strands, giving fluffier bread.

UnConundrum's picture

letting the bran hydrate for several hours before kneading


Could you explain hydrating?

Thomas Mc's picture
Thomas Mc

It just means letting it absorb moisture. Bran can absorb a lot of water, but it can take hours, instead of just minutes for starch. Another advantage of a long hydration period, is it allows the enzymes in the flour to break down some of the starches into sugars, improving rise and flavor. But if you overdo it, you can get a sticky mess.

You might check out Peter Reinhart's book, WHOLE GRAIN BREADS. There he uses a technique where you create a seperate "soaker" (just flour, water and salt) and a "starter" (flour, water and starter) and let them sit for 12-24 hours, to hydrate and allow the enzymes to do their thing. Then the next day you just combine them, along with anything else you put in your bread. I've been using a variation of that technique for a few months, and it is very effective. It is also a lot less effort than you might think.

mete's picture

You can make pasta from various flours. Whole wheat, refined white, semolina,bread flour. There is even a buckwheat pasta made with an extruder.This is a Trieste,Venezia pasta now usually made with wheat. A white flour is more neutral in flavor so it can be used with any sauce. The whole wheat is a stronger flavor so it's not appropriate with subtle sauces.

subfuscpersona's picture

It really is difficult to answer your questions about milling without knowing what kind of grain mill you use (if, in fact, you have purchased one).

When home millers talk about sifting grain, they are often talking about removing particles of bran (the outer coating of the a kernel of grain). The bran is the hardest part of the grain and it may not reduce as finely as the other parts (endosperm and germ). In a somewhat coarsely (home) milled flour, bran particles are identifiable by "speckles" in the flour. Also, when rubbed between your fingers, the flour may feel somewhat gritty.

Since bran is the hardest part of the kernel, it is the slowest to absorb water. If your mill can only produce a coarser flour, some bakers like to sift out the bran particles and presoak them them before adding them to the bread dough. This is one technique to avoid ending up with heavy whole grain loaves.


PS: charbono is absolutely correct about milling corn. This grain tends to mill unevenly - if you're aiming for fine corn flour, you'll still get some bran particles and if you're aiming for corn grits you'll still get some fine flour. If you're picky, it is advisable to sift your corn flour/grits to get a uniform texture.

zpak's picture

I couldn't do because with the wolfgang mill at it's finest setting, the flour is so fine alot like talcum powder...I couldn't imagine sifting that end result.

Besides, there is nothing to sift.

Why would anyone need to sift when most should be milling at it finest setting anyways.