The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

fresh vs aged flour

akupond's picture

fresh vs aged flour adventures with ruth, ep 3

richard bertinet says "fresh flour is bad", and that he likes it to be at least three months old.
can someone explain the reasoning behind this.

ggage's picture

Herve This in his books ,either Molecular gastromomy or Kitchen mysteries says the same thing, I could go and re-read that bit , basicly aged flour is better.

 But, is he talking about big commercial outfits like robin hood flour or Rogers ? Where flour is made in France I have no idea

I mill wheat for my bread and make my bread immediately and have done so for almost twenty years , Because of the comments in that book I am ageing some of my milled grain just to see what happens although I am smelling it often to see if it goes rancid. I resist the idea of ageing fresh ground whole wheat flour.

If you wish I can look the reasoning up in that book----Gage

proth5's picture

Flour when exposed to air oxidizes.  This makes some changes in the molecular structure of flour and strengthens the gluten bonds.

Mr Hamelman gives a great and more detailed explanation in his book "Bread, ...etc."

There are studies that show how long it takes to get to optimal oxidation based on the storage temperature. You can locate these via your favorite search engine.  Many say 3 weeks at "room" temperature.

So I talked to some experienced millers/bakers about all the folklore.  Practical answer: with modern milling and distribution processes in the USA, your flour is sufficiently aged when it arrives to the consumer (3 days to a week at least).  Truely "green" white flour is problematic, so the flour shoud be aged at least for a while - whatever that may be.

Mr. Bertinet is a well respected baker and I will not say he is wrong, but I will say that every baker has his/her ways and these may be from personal preference, habit, or rigorous scientific research.  I leave it to you to ponder his sources.

I have done experiments with aging my home ground whole wheat flour - the small difference in baking performance does not make up for the huge decrease in "taste."  I haven't home milled any white flour since the above conversation.

Hope this helps.

Chuck's picture

Hamelman's book dedicates a whole page to a giant sidebar titled "Oxidizing and Overoxidizing".

After disclaiming that he is a baker not a chemist, he says that "thiol groups" and "sulfide bonds" interact with each other in the presence of oxygen to create "disulfide bonds" which strengthen the gluten bonds.

He says that in very freshly ground "green" flour (which probably means you milled your own) that hasn't aged sufficiently, the gluten won't develop as expected, so the finished loaf will have poor volume and weak structure.

Three weeks is typical for the very large (50#) almost-airtight bags professional bakeries use. Three months may be a bit extreme (if there really is any difference it's probably beyond all but a few pros to sense it). For home bakers who buy smaller, not-so-airtight sacks that are trucked half way across the country only to typically sit on the grocery store shelf for several days, aging should not be an issue. (In other words, you probably can't even buy flour that's not sufficiently aged.)

ggage's picture

I re-read Herve This's comments about aged flour ,basicly as above, but knowing that and also knowing fresh milled wheat can go rancid I'll keep on the method I use now for home milled wheat. My whole wheat bread comes out fine and tastes great. I use store bought unbleahed all purpose white for ciabatta

On the other hand foodies and natural food buffs claim fresh milled whole wheat is more healthy for you , and I know it must digest differently because the only thing I get heartburn from in the whole world is store bought white bread. I found out an uncle of mine I hadn't seen for decades mills his own flour cause "whitebread gives me heartburn " He owns a mixed farm and really does his own wheat. The price of wheat in stores deserves a new thread. He gets around five bucks for a bushell ( 60 lbs ) I pay about $ 40 for 40 lbs. 

Regards Gage

Elagins's picture

two years is about the outer limit for most patent flours; a year or less is better, but very little noticeable loss of quality to 24 months after milling, although older flour will be lighter in color because of the extended oxidation.

incidentally, bleaching is used to accelerate the oxidation process, so bleach flours really should be used much past one year out.

Stan Ginsberg

subfuscpersona's picture

I've found these articles to be enlightening. All were published in scientific journals. All can be found on the 'net by searching on their titles. All are in pdf format and may be downloaded to your computer.


Relationship between Physical Dough Properties and the Improvement of Bread-Making Quality during Flour Aging [2003]

Influence of the Storage of Wheat Flour on the Physical Properties of Gluten [2002]

Changes of Wheat Flour Properties during Short Term Storage [2002]

Changes in the Glutathione Content and Breadmaking Performance of White Wheat Flour During Short-Term Storage [1996]

kolobezka's picture

Yes, all text books state that oxidised flour is better for baking... but hat  about this KingArthurFlour experiment: LINK?


proth5's picture

Again, what I have found is that aging home ground whole wheat or near whole wheat flour does not nearly make up for the loss in flavor.

There are a lot of things about whole grain flour that are exceptions to the rules that we take for given with white flour - for example, if the falling number of white flour were as high as that for whole wheat - we would malt the white flour to correct it.  But, in general, freshly ground whole wheat does seem to rise faster.  Makes no sense, eh?  But it happens. 

There is a lot of pondering going on in the baking world about "whole wheat" that is recombined from the streams of a roller mill and that which is obtained from the whole grain ground all together.  Right now I would say we're in the realm of anecdotal evidence and folklore, but I'm sure we will see a study on the thing someday.

subfuscpersona's picture

proth5 on October 18, 2010 wrote:
what I have found is that aging home ground whole wheat or near whole wheat flour does not nearly make up for the loss in flavor

If we're talking about home milled 100% whole grain flour milled from wheat, I must, with all due respect,  disagree

I don't find a significant loss of flavor in home milled whole wheat flour if that flour is stored, after milling, in the freezer. There is, admittedly, a subtle difference, but, in general, I fiind that bread made home milled wheat tastes pretty much the same whether used immediately after milling OR up to 2 months after milling, as long as the flour is stored in a freezer.

Would love discuss this further with you, since (as my Momma always said)  the devil is in the details.

best - SF

proth5's picture

Ah, those devilish details.

So when I was reading up on flour aging, the materials I read were pretty specific that the flour needed to be aged at temperatures approaching what we call room temperature to get the oxidation benefits over three weeks or so. I could have aged it longer (much, much longer) at lower temperatures, but lacking a good place to do that - I settled on "room" temperature.  I can't cite chapter and verse as to what I read because it was a while ago and my life has been pretty eventful since then.

So, anyway, my whole wheat aging experiment was conducted at room temperature.

Flavor was lost.  Volume was marginally better, indicating increased "strength" of the gluten.

That's how it went down - not 100% scientific, though.

So I talked to Thom Leonard a while back (because that's how I roll) about this whole aging business because he is a home miller, works with professional millers, and is a pretty fair baker.  He is pretty much convinced that even home milled can benefit from aging (at "room" temperatures) but not so much that he doesn't use freshly ground pretty regularly.  So, I felt good about my general conclusions. (And of course, we're talking "whole wheat" flours.)

I can't disagree with you that flour stored in the freezer retains its flavor, because I have never stored it that way.  But the question is (because turnabout is fair play): by keeping the flour at that low a temperature (and probably tightly wrapped) do you really oxidize it sufficiently to change its baking qualities?  Have you "stored" it, but not "aged" it?  I'm sure there are lab tests that could be done, but they can be problematic to obtain for home bakers.

Thinking about it further - we don't use intensive mix because we don't want to "over oxidize" the flour and loose flavor (or destroy those precious "carotenoid pigments" - a phrase that for some unknown reason makes me think of unpleasant things, although I'm sure the pigments are perfectly nice once you get to know them).  OK.  But when we "age" flour we are oxidizing it at just the "right" amount under somewhat gentler conditions.  I have to consider that there is some correlation between "ageing" and loss of flavor.  Wouldn't you think? (This is kind of why I came to my conclusion and then tried to let it go...I can easily over think this stuff.)

Aways good to ponder these things anew, though...


subfuscpersona's picture

A few observations...

> on aging flour: IMHO, recommendations extrapolated from information gleaned about the aging of white bread flour produced by large commercial mills is totally irrelevant for the home miller. Most home millers are baking with 100% whole grain flour. A few (like you) go through a sifting process to produce a high-extraction flour.

> on grain mills: IMHO, the mill one uses affects the baking properties of the flour produced. There are mills that use the traditional design of a fixed groved plate and an adjustable groved plate. There are micronizer mills. Last (but not least), there's the Lee Household Flour Mill, which uses a design that I've never seen on any other grain mill marketed to the home user. I own a Lee Household Flour mill and a Nutrimill (micronizer) mill. These 2 mills produce fine flour with subtle differences in their baking properties. Over time, when I want fine flour, I've come to prefer my Lee mill to my Nutrimill.

> on grain: IMHO, grain matters. I'm not talking hard red vs hard white or spring vs winter, but the actual growing conditions, soil fertility, etc. that impacts the quality of wheat. This is one of the hardest factors to evaluate. All I can say is that I've bought the same class of wheat from the same supplier and have observed differences in the performance of flour milled from my grain over purchases made at different times.

Given all this variability, it's a wonder that home bakers who also home mill their own bread flour can ever produce decent, much less great, bread. And yet we do.

I realize that nothing I've mentioned has anything to do with the topic of aging home-milled flour. I'm just pointing out that, even as we get into a discussion of aging home milled flour, we are already dealing with many variables - therefore your experience can vary from mine, and it may not be due to how we go about aging flour.

In a subsequent post, I'll detail how I age flour, for how long, and cite one or two major baking failures (with home milled flour) that led me to my present conclusions.

best - SF

ggage's picture

I am given to understand the big flour mills remove the germ from whole wheat bread in order to keep it from going rancid. Now that i think about it ,how would they do that ??

Hey Zdenka -great link

when I make WW bread I like to get it going while it is still warm from the mill

I don't have any problems with it except when I change bags of wheat -different protein content I ahve thought, have to adjust my water by 150 mls one way otr the other on 2.5 kgs of flour.

BTW books say the ideal temp for proofing is 27C/80F but my kitchenaid oven proof temp is 140F/60C--it doesnt do well and tastes funny. I don't often use it anyway,just for ciabatta and turn it down to as low as it will let me.

dutchmilkmaid's picture

I mill my own grains and use them on the same day (you could indeed freeze it to keep it fresh). I have no problem with gluten development and the taste of bread made from home milled whole wheat flour is much better than when made of store bought flour. The stuff you buy in the shop has been completely taken apart after milling and some bits (but by no means all) are then put back into the flour to sell it as whole wheat. For more on this read Lori Viets 'no more bricks'. Also many commercial flours have been treated with all sorts of chemicals to make them keep longer. Home milling takes very little time although I do sometimes use shop bought white flour when it's raining (sifting flour leaves a film of flour all over the kitchen so I sift in the garden). It also gives you great flexibility because grain stores much better than flour and you can have loads of different grains on hand! 

Kevin_000's picture

Here is an abstract of Ruth Bennet's "The Natural Ageing of Flour"

"Since 1951 untreated and commercially treated flours of different extraction rates have been stored under temperate conditions for eight-month periods and periodically examined to ascertain the naturally occurring change in baking quality. Doughs were tested by physical methods and other data associated with flour testing obtained. An increase in flour water absorption required to make doughs of normal consistency was observed which in part can be explained by drying out of the flour on storage. A slight toughening in doughs prepared from the earlier untreated flour was evident and was associated with some improvement in bread quality up to storage periods of about 4 months. The change, however, was very much less than has generally been supposed and in no case was it comparable in extent to the improvement in flour produced immediately by commercial gaseous and/or powder treatment. The slight natural toughening of the doughs from treated flour was in some cases detrimental to bread quality. No significant change in the breadmaking properties of flour could be detected during the first few days after milling."


Kevin_000's picture

This article looks a two key changes in flour left to age naturally for up to four weeks.

In summary it points to two key changes in ageing. 

First a slight increase in acidity. (Which can obviously be acheived by adding a little vinegar or ascorbic acid or using a poolish/sponge or sourdough as we well know).

The second was the development of free fatty acids.

"Sullivan, Near, and Foley state that their results agree well with those of Kozmin, with the exception that American flours do not show the improvement which European flours do with the presence of free, unsaturated fatty acids. It was found, however, that after oxidation of the unsaturated acids had occurred that the baking quality was seriously damaged."

Read more:

So is it a case of add a little vegetable oil to fresh milled flour - especially with European flours?

(I write here as a comparitive beginner).



AmyofEscobar's picture

*Rise from the dead, ye Olde thread!"

So, I would personally never age gran, because the oil oxidize and I try to stay away from oxidized veggie/grain/nut oils. But what about only ageing the home  milled white flour? It might just be a lot of work to sift, but if you freeze the bran and age the germ, is that the best of both worlds flavor & leavening-wise?

AmyofEscobar's picture

Typo, *bran*, not "gran".

Jock-y's picture

It has been a while since you posted Amy but I thought I'd add my 2 cents for what it's worth.

I think you have the bran and germ backwards. That it to say, it is the germ that has a high fat content which is prone to becoming rancid if it isn't stored properly. Bran it pretty largely made up of cellulose. Either way, it isn't the bran or germ that is aged but the endosperm; that bit of the wheat berry that makes white flour. During the time the flour is aging some chemical magic happens when oxygen reacts with components in the flour to strengthen the sulphur bonds that make up the gluten structure.

best regards,


IdahoHomesteader's picture

Aging ... Haven't tried it yet on purpose.  We use the flour from our Country Living Grain Mill either immediately, or 3 weeks later.  We bake every 3 weeks or so to provide our home's daily bread as it were.  Given this schedule, it shows that we use our freshly ground whole wheat flour either immediately or after 3 weeks of aging at room temperature.  We do notice differences:

- Freshly ground WW flour absorbs a LOT more liquid than the aged flour.  We use only 3/4ths to 7/8ths the amount of flour in a recipe if using freshly ground WW flour, else the dough is too stiff.

- We do not notice any difference in flavor - and we've compared our fresh, to our 3-week old, and King Arthur Whole Wheat (organic) bread flour from the store side by side.  Perhaps our taste buds are old and dead (LOL....)

- Our freshly ground WW rises just as well, perhaps even more 'vertically', as the aged flour

- Fresh flour, after initial mixing, produces a dough that has a lumpy appearance (sorry - but just like cellulite) and it tears easily while kneading.  Aged flour produces a smoother dough without these characteristics.  But after a cool (65-70 F) bulk rising, both doughs turn out smooth and nice - no problem.  Rising 'kneads' the dough gently and slowly and results in great improvement.

- FYI: Our mixing method for standard 'table bread' (not fancy - just food production) is to just mix all liquids/oils/non-flour ingredients first, add half the flour and whisk then let it sit for 45 minutes.  Then add all remaining flour and run for 3-1/2 minutes at Speed #1 in our KitchenAid Pro 600 followed by another 3-1/2 minutes at Speed #2, then it is allowed to have it's first rise (about an hour).  Second rise is in the bread pans (45-50 minutes), then the bread is baked.

For what it's worth?  I'd say age at room temp for 3 weeks and get more consistent hydration and initial dough quality.  I wouldn't bother if it's for flavor (not for our ability to taste anyway) or other reasons.

...Just my 2-bits and personal experience.  I'm not a scientist :)