The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What are the main parts of whole wheat, and can they be eaten separately?

AlChemist's picture

What are the main parts of whole wheat, and can they be eaten separately?

Sorry if this is an odd question but would appreciate some help.  I love plain white bread; artisan type made from "bread flour" water, yeast, salt.  My wife likes whole wheat and says it's healthier, which is probably true.  I told her I would rather eat the equivalent amount of the healthy parts separately; i.e., a spoon of wheat germ or whatever, each time I have my white bread or toast.  That led to a discussion of what actually is removed from wheat to make white flour, are all the parts available separately, and what amounts - approximately - would make say a couple of slices of white bread cut 1/2" or so thick, the same nutritional quality as a couple slices of whole wheat?   Or is this not a valid question because once separated from the bread, there's no way to compensate?  Thanks if you even read all this let alone wrote something........!

CosmicChuck's picture

...I can at least send you this link:

Tonight, it's up to you to figure out the percentages.


leucadian's picture

Whole wheat is 100% extraction, and European style white flour (T55) is about 75% extraction. See the following link, but be aware that the European figures have a higher moisture content than US flours, so the equivalent extraction rates are lower in the US.

You could sift WW flour like proth5 does, and save the bran and germ for your breakfast cereal.


La masa's picture
La masa

Another difference is the type of mill.

I'm now using a 75% extraction flour, but it has been stone ground, so the germ is not removed.

I like this flour a lot, not for its nutritional properties, but for its flavour.

bakinbuff's picture

I wonder whether, if you ground your own wheat berries, you could finely sift the flour to extract the "bits", keep the bits and cook them up with oats or a smoothie or something, and use the sifted (now white) flour for making white bread?  I've thought about doing that myself, but since my wheat berries cost significantly more per Kg than store bought white bread flour, I can't bring myself to do it just yet, plus we all like some whole wheat flour in our bread. 

Yerffej's picture

This should help:

"Bran - About 14% of the kernel weight. The bran is included in whole wheat flour and is also available separately. The bran contains a small amount of protein, large quantities of the three major B vitamins, trace minerals and dietary fiber -- primarily insoluble.

Endosperm - About 83% of the kernel weight and the source of white flour. The endosperm contains the greatest share of protein, carbohydrates and iron, as well as the major B-vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and iron. It is also a source of soluble fiber

Germ - About 2.5% of the kernel weight. The germ is the embryo or sprouting section of the seed, often separated from flour in milling because the fat content (10 percent) limits shelf life. The germ contains minimal quantities of high quality protein and a greater share of B-complex vitamins and trace minerals. Wheat germ can be purchased separately and is included in whole wheat flour."



AlChemist's picture

I so appreciate the helpful replies.  Does 100% extraction mean that nothing is taken from the result after the grain is ground?  I suppose that only 100% could qualify as whole wheat.

Thank you Jeff for the note above; very helpful.  So the basic parts are Bran, germ, and endosperm (white flour).  I was interested to read that (contrary to what is often implird) there really is a lot of healthy stuff in the endosperm part!

I do not mind eating a small portion of "cereal" composed of wheat germ and bran before the real breakfast food ( lol ),  Anyone want to guess at how much of each would be required to make it as if I had eaten a couple of slices of whole wheat bread?


dghdctr's picture

Although you might be surprised by how a lot of whole wheat flour ends up being milled and processed.  Most stone-ground whole wheat flours are just milled and bagged, but larger milling operations use the same progression of steel rollers that are used to mill all their flours, including white flour.

When most wheat is milled into flour, the berries are broken and pulverized, and then the resulting particles are separated into streams of varying densities by blowing them around with a fan.

The bran mostly breaks away in large enough pieces to separate easily, and the germ can be separated this way as well, although each will have some degree of endosperm still clinging to it.  Subsequently, any streams containing significant bran or germ are removed to create white flour.

The companies that mill white flour with steel rollers will take enough of the streams containing bran or germ and re-incorporate them with the right ratio of white streams to make their "whole wheat" flour.

The "ash level" of your flour is actually a reflection of how much bran still remains in the white flour after milling.  It is impossible to remove it all, though the remaining traces can be minute.  "Whole wheat" must contain all the wheat kernel, even after separation and re-incorporation of the bran and germ.  So-called "high extraction flour" has about all the germ remaining, while around 80% of the bran is removed.  "Patent" flours are those white flours that have the lowest amounts of bran (or "ash").

A good white flour for use in artisanal bread baking often has a slightly higher ash content than a patent flour.  The minerals in bran -- even at fairly low levels -- can aid significantly with fermentation, and a slightly higher quantity of them also aids in extension during baguette shaping.

-- Dan DiMuzio


ananda's picture

Hi Dan,

just a few thoughts about extraction rates of different miling methods.

In the modern mills you discuss, all the grain is conditioned with a period of soaking.   This softens the grain, thus allowing an easy removal of the bran layers.   The end result for the miller is to achieve white flour with a higher % extract from the original grain.    Stone grinding followed by sifting will have a similar extract % to roller-milled white flour, but I think we all know which produces the whiter flour!   I think that must also mean that the stoneground flour has the higher ash content too?

Best wishes


subfuscpersona's picture

dry shredded cardboard. Cooked wheat bran tastes like warm soggy shredded cardboard. I speak from experience.

Wheat germ has somewhat more taste. You could try *lightly* toasting it in a low oven for more taste. Wheat germ can be sprinkled over dry cereal or, if you make hot cereal, mixed in with the cereal before cooking.

There are lots of ways to eat a healthy diet. IMHO, eating something that tastes like shredded cardboard is not one of them.

If you don't like whole wheat bread, eat white. At least you'll enjoy your bread.

AlChemist's picture

Some years ago, I received a call from a man who had been part of a cult that required a years worth of food saved by each family in a "bomb shelter"  This included honey, beans, and much wheat.  Having become a Christian (his testimony) he no longer needed all the stuff.  He asked me to take it to a needy mission in the city.  Much was distributrd, but no mission wanted the wheat unground.

Finally, I took it home as I couldn't see it wasted.  Turned out to be 33 steel drums professionaly packed with dry ice and sealed; a hard red, winter wheat.  Well I bought a hand grinder in the local bargain news, and ground the first batch by hand.  This was not realistic.  So I replaced the crank with a pully, and added a gear motor and a hopper to feed the wheat in automatically.

Over the years, when the wife needs whole wheat, I set up the grinder, dump a barrel of wheat berries in the hopper, and grind her a supply.  She thinks it is delicious.  Now with these ideas several have written, I'm wondering if a better whole wheat bread might be possible.........

leucadian's picture

She knows a lot about small batch milling and about artisan bread baking. In this entry she describes how she achieved white flour with a hand mill, some screens, and a lot of thought, patience, and work. (15oz. white flour from 32oz. wheat berries)

It's interesting that a century ago, French millers advertised their whitest flour as the most 'pure', as if the germ and bran were adulterants.

cgmeyer2's picture

my husband refuses to eat whole wheat bread (which i love). i now use a mix of unbleached ap flour, bread flour & whole wheat flour in equal parts. i also add flax seed, wheat bran & wheat germ (2 T. each). so far he loves it. ocassionally i add other  ground seeds & nuts to add interest.

take care, claudia

Yerffej's picture

White whole wheat will often win over non whole wheat eaters.