The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why is my biologic bread flour brownish instead of white, like my non-biologic bread flour?

elcouisto's picture

Why is my biologic bread flour brownish instead of white, like my non-biologic bread flour?

I've got this biologic bread flour, milled on stone. It's rather brownish, like a whole-wheat flour. I'd like to know why it's not white, like my normal non-biologic bread flour...

It may be because there are no additives, or because it's milled on stone. I'm not sure and I'd like to know.

Someone told me it was because it was sifted... But as I found out, sifting flour is simply adding air in the flour by sifting it.


dmsnyder's picture

I assume by "biologic" you mean what is called "organic" in the USA.

It is rare to find white, stone-ground flour here. It is also possible that your bio bread flour is actually a higher extraction flour. That is, more of the bran remains in the flour then the non-stone-ground bread flour.

Sifting removes larger particles from the flour. It is not just "adding air."


elcouisto's picture

Hi David, yes, I meant organic. Also, my non-organic bread flour is bleached, you're right. But if I compare both non-organic unbleached and non-organic bleached flour they're a lot similar color wise...

In my organic flour, could the brownish color be due to the non bleaching? Or is it more probable that it is due to the higher extraction?

Could sifting also cause this brownish color?


This is the flour I'm talking about.

(When I read its description, I come understand that sifting the flour, removing the bran in the process, is actually making the flour whiter, not darker...)


dmsnyder's picture

Bleaching makes flour whiter. Usually, unbleached white flour is still white, but the bread made from it tends to have a yellowish tint from carotene pigments that get oxidized with bleaching. Higher extraction flours can be brownish from bran.

Sifting would generally decrease the bran, therefore the brown coloration.


elcouisto's picture

Higher extraction flours can be brownish from bran.

Sifting would generally decrease the bran, therefore the brown coloration.


I'm confused, those two sentences seem to contradict themselves... Or am I not quite understanding?

Does having more bran in a flour make it whiter or browner?


blaisepascal's picture

"extraction" refers to the fraction of the grain which is made into flour.  Whole Wheat flour, made with 100% of the grain, has the largest possible extraction.  "High extraction" flours have more bran than lower extraction flours.

The bran is harder than the endosperm, and tends to come off in flakes and chunks, while the endosperm is ground into fine particles.  Since the bran is bigger than the white flour, it can be sifted out using fine sifters.  It is also browner.

When I open a bag of stone-ground whole wheat I can easily see little brown flecks, big enough to pick out individual flecks, from the background.

dmsnyder's picture

I trust blaisepascal's response clarified the issue. If not, ask again.


Daisy_A's picture

Hi elcouisto,

I'm a U.K. based baker and I also use stone ground organic bread flour, particularly Marriage's. This has a lovely honeyed colour and I find it gives a wonderful, nutty taste to bread.

Stone milling will make a difference to the final consistency and colour of the flour. This may be in part because the flour is not subject to as much heat as it is when roller milled. As I understand it at present, the heat in itself will tend to have a slight bleaching effect on the flour.

You are right that the wheat is sifted to separate out the whiter part of the grain. However, with some stone ground flours small particles of bran can survive the sifting process, giving a browner tone to the final flour. This is how Bacheldre Water Mill describes the process when referring to their stone ground flour:

"Organic Stoneground Strong Unbleached White flour has been gently dressed to sift out the bran. We don't pass our white flour through any bleaching/heating processes to artificially whiten it. Very small particles of bran pass through the sieve and this characterises the natural wheaten colour of the bread. Ideal for bread making."

  Wishing you happy baking!  Daisy_A

pmccool's picture

David and blaisepascal and Daisy_A have all provided good answers.  I'll try using different words but my answer will be much like theirs.

Your flour looks like whole wheat flour because it is almost the same as whole wheat flour.  The flour was sifted, probably by passing it through screens, each with a progressively finer mesh.  Those screens separated the larger bran particles from the flour.  Some of the bran particles were small enough to get through the last screen along with the rest of the flour. 

Since some of the bran particles (which are darker than the endosperm particles) are removed, the flour is a lighter color than whole wheat flour that still has all of the bran.  Since some of the bran particles still remain, the flour is darker than white flour.  The web page you included (good idea!) tells us that some of the bran was removed but doesn't tell us how much of the bran was removed.

Like its appearance, I would guess that the flour's behavior is somewhere between a whole wheat flour and a white flour.

I hope this helps.


elcouisto's picture

Thanks to all who answered!

I was trying to clarify how sifting worked, since I had been told that the actual process of sifting actually made the flour darker, which as I've come to understand now, is quite the opposite.

If you'd like to share more of your knowledge about milling flour, you're most welcome!

Thanks again,

DonD's picture

I am quite familiar with the Milanaise Flours. Their all pupose and bread flours are organic and ground by steel rollers. Their whole wheat and high extraction flours are organic and stone ground. They have different grades of sifted flours so when you look at the their T-70 and T-90 flours, which are sifted organic stone ground flours, they are both darker but the T-90 will be darker than the T-70 because the T-70 is sifted through a finer sieve, which remove more of the bran and germ resulting in a lighter color. So by comparing the sifted flours against whole wheat flour which is not sifted and is the darkest, the sifted flours will be lighter and lighter as you pass through finer and finer sieves.


ananda's picture


It's great to read so many informed comments about high extraction sifted flours.

I just wonder if my contribution may help to understand why traditionally milled flour is so different to the modern industrial process?

The modern process begins with a "conditioning" stage, which basically softens the grain by soaking it with water.   The grain is then dried out again, to a controlled degree.   This loosens the outer bran husk, and allows the miller to remove this whole.   From there, the grain is milled to white flour by passing the grain through a sequence of rollers which mill it increasingly finer and finer.   All flour is milled to white.   Wholemeal flour is then re-constituted by adding back the bits that have been removed along the way!

The upside of modern milling is that it is more efficient at milling flour to white, and achieving a generally higher % extraction.   The down side is that it is claimed that the heat generated by the intensive milling process tends to kill off some of the vitamin and mineral content.

Traditional flour was produced by stone grinding.   White flour was bolted, by passing the flour through finer and finer sieves.   A flour of, say 72% extract produced using this method would contain more bran, germ and general fibrous matter than the industrially roller-milled variety.   I guess this means that the traditional method can be seen as somewhat wasteful, in that some of the most treasured white endosperm has been lost along the way.

However, traditionally milled local flour, preferably grown sensitively to organic standards, has very special qualities, and generally results in different flavours and charcteristics not found in conventionally-produced roller-milled industrial flour.

Hope this may help

Best wishes


Daisy_A's picture

Hi Andy, hi elcouisto,

Andy - glad you think the posts informed! Credit where credit is due, I have to say I am eagerly passing on information here that you just explained to me so clearly. Also thanks for your recommendation of Marriage's, it's baking very well.


elcouisto - in your first post you mention 'sifting' as adding air to the flour. After that the posts move on to 'sifting' in commercial flour extraction.

Thing is the term 'to sift' is used in both industrial and home baking contexts. My understanding is that in both contexts it means separating one dry thing that is mixed in with another, through movement, specifically agitation and use of a sieve. So don't lose sight of that use of the term - it's not wrong, it's just not the same as sifting for separation in the initial production of flour.

Thus in home baking you might be asked to 'sift' flour through a sieve when making a cake mix in order to separate or break up the larger lumps of flour that had coagulated during storage. As a by-process, this can help to aerate the flour.

Hope you enjoy using the flour.  Kind regards,  Daisy_A