The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Red vs. White wheat

UnConundrum's picture

Red vs. White wheat

I was surfing the web shopping for a Country Living mill, and stumbled on a thread cautioning a new owner on the use of red wheat, that the flavor "was something you have to get used to."  Is there really such a difference?  Assuming I wanted to use hard Spring wheat, what are the differences between red and white in taste and any other attributes?

mrfrost's picture

Fact is, for whatever reason, some people just don't like the taste of some of the substances in wheat bran. These substances are mostly the tannins, which some people perceive to be almost intolerably bitter.

White wheat bran has much less of these tanins, so for many, is much less bitter, and closer to the taste of white flour(flour which has the bran removed).

Besides taste(and color), the red and white strains are virtually the same(nutritionally, etc.)

I guess that can be some pretty important info for those thinking about grinding their own flour. Not a small investment(relatively speaking).

charbono's picture

For me, the difference in bitterness is not great.  Furthermore, the loss of bitterness in white is accompanied by a loss of other flavor as well.  When given a choice, I pick red.  In the case of winter wheat, red seems to usually have stronger gluten.




Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I like red better most of the time. The white is a little bit nuttier but doesn't seem to have as strong of gluten. I will sometimes use it for something like english muffins where I'm not as concerned about my gluten strength.

I don't notice any bitterness now that I get fresh stone ground wheat from flourgirl51. I think that although some bitterness is inherent to the bran, most is due to the milling and storage of the wheat.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

I'm not often a contrarian, but on this topic I guess I am.  I prefer the white over the red.  The red does not taste bitter to me, at least not as I would describe it.  It does, however, taste "strong", and the white is much milder.  I cordially disagree with Doc Tracy on gluten strength, at least as to performance in my bread if not in absolute terms.  I find that the white wheat flour develops more quickly than the red wheat flour, and rises higher for me.  I suspect that the bran shards in the white are not as sharp as those in red wheat milled to equal fineness, and so do not cut up the gluten strands in the dough so much.  That only argues for greater "effective" strength for the white over the red, I agree, but that's what matters most I think.

Also, just for clarity, I mill my own red and white both, in a 25+ year old Magic Mill, the high-speed electric with the circular meshed steel cutters, not the older stone mill.  I almost always mill at the very finest setting for everything.  In the milled flour bin the bran is clearly visible in both the red and the white wheat flours, so it is not ground so fine that it just blends in.

I still mill hard red wheat and keep it handy, and I do bake with it, although rarely all by itself.  I'm more likely to dilute it with some bread or AP flour.  I don't dislike the red wheat flour.  I just prefer the white over the red.

On Edit:  These difference I mention are not scientific and are likely due to differences in the wheat batches I am getting.  Doc Tracy could be seeing the results she notes for exactly the same reason.  In the end it is all about the grain and you rmileage will vary.

subfuscpersona's picture

preferences. If everyone liked the same taste in bread, we, on TFL, would have little to discuss.

For an extended discussion of baking with (home milled) red vs white wheat, check out

clazar123's picture

I have been working through a 50# bag of hard red spring wheat that has an absolutely delicious, grassy taste in the finished loaf. I happen to like the taste. I never knew why people called red wheat bitter.

Now I know! I ran out of this bag and purchased some organic hard,red spring wheat berries locally until I can replenish my supply and WOW what a difference. The taste is very different. I know this store turns over a lot of these wheat berries so I believe the supply was relatively fresh to the binbut they lack the sweet,grassy taste and have a bitter,flatter taste-not old(I kow what that tastes like). I'm glad I didn't buy too much.

As for the hard white wheat, I would describe it as bland but gluten-wise behaved very well. I didn't suffer from any slack loaves using the flour.I wouldn't say it was nutty but,again, I wonder if that was due to a particular variety that baker had or even a particular harvest.

Kamut flour tastes nutty to me but that flour produces very slack loaves for me.Lots of gluten but very stretchy gluten-doesn't seem to have the ability to tighten up-great for foccacias and pizza dough! I'm learning to add a little higher gluten flour with it or even some wheat gluten and use pans, if I want a sandwich loaf.

UnConundrum's picture

Hmmm.  Thanks everyone.  Seems like I'll be in for a good bit of testing...

clazar123's picture

Most of the world has converted over to white wheat? and the USA is one of the last producers of red wheat?

Please give me some sources for this interesting information.

clazar123's picture

I asked for further information-I had never heard what you had stated and was taken aback by it. Asking for clarification and further information is not calling you a liar.Perhaps the request was too briefly stated.


clazar123's picture

These do talk about the production of white whole wheat being relatively recent in the USA and what the production has been in other countries. By how the market results show, it looks like white whole wheat is gaining in popularity.

Very interesting-I though whit9xieae whole wheat had been around a lot longer than it has.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

white whole wheat all along in my baking outside the U.S.  That last link is rather outdated 2002... wheat prices have soared in between and a shortage did occur for one season when corn was king and weather was hard on grain crops elsewhere.

What do you think of this article?


clazar123's picture

Kind of a reflection of difficulties faced world-wide.I hope the last, optimistic statement in the article comes true for them.

Being in the USA, I was kind of interested in the statement that the rest of the world already used white whole wheat and that the US was a holdout for red whole wheat. I was really looking for people's experience that live outside the US, as I know that this is an international forum.

So I guess my question really is:

Do the bakers outside the US view red whole wheat as unusual to use much like I'd view rice flour as unusual to use? (available but uncommon here and I wouldn't have a clue as to how to use it).When they say "whole wheat bread" or "Wholemeal flour", do they mean white whole wheat or red?

I'm curious as to what the everyday world holds for my counterparts in other places.How are we (as bakers) alike or different? What challenges are there where you are that I may never have considered or that I may share as part of your baking bread experience? That's why I am here.