The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bad Wheat

charbono's picture

Bad Wheat

I’ve been buying hard red spring wheat kernels
from a bulk bin at my local Safeway grocery for several years.  The bin is tagged Bob’s Red Mill.  After getting my latest purchase home, I
noticed that the kernels were smaller than usual.  They also had a faint, unusual odor like a
feed store.  Another person thought they
smelled faintly like coffee.  I milled
the kernels and made dough.  The dough
had plenty of gluten and rose normally during fermentation.  However, the resulting bread had no oven
spring.  What little flavor it had seemed


If this wheat had been the first I’d
ever bought, I would have stopped bread-making. 
Has anyone had a similar experience?



Chuck's picture

Is it possible the market has left the same old bulk bin in the same old place, but has subtly tweaked the signage so it doesn't explicitly say Bob's Red Mill any more?

(If so, I'm under the impression all the Safeway stores within a few tens of miles are grouped into the same wholesale buying region, and all wholesale buying decisions are made at the regional headquarters rather than at individual stores [so there's no way to get in someone's face].That would mean virtually no one else on TFL would be affected.

If you can find the right regional headquarters person [or someone at the local store who has a backchannel to the right person] and complain bitterly, you may get the old supplier back  ...but that's an awfully big "if".)

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Buying grain (either whole or milled) can be an iffy ordeal.

The bins are filled by employees who make a supermarket wage, so you can't count on them knowing (or even caring) about what really goes where. Take product rotation for example. You'll often see them refilling bins when they're half full, which they shouldn't do. They're supposed to wait until the bins are empty OR remove the old, fill will new, then top off with old (so the old sells first and doesn't expire).

Someone here recently bought (what they thought was) high-gluten flour from a bin labeled as such, but ended up with vital wheat gluten instead–two very different things. His bagel making (I think he was making bagels) was a disaster.

In short, if the product looks different from what you usually buy, it almost certainly is.

The smell you mention (like a feed store) makes me think "malt".

Wheat kernels...

...look a lot like malt kernels.

 Maybe someone accidentally added one to the other? I doubt you'd mistake milled malt for milled flour, however.


charbono's picture

Thanks for the comments.  I don’t see any sprouting, so I don’t think my problem wheat is malt.

I’m attaching a photo of three grain samples.  At the top is the problem wheat.  You may be able to tell that some of the
kernels are shriveled, and hardly any are plump.  They have an odor like a feed store, but not moldy.  In the lower left are kernels from the same source (Safeway, marked Bob’s Red Mill), but purchased several months ago.  In the lower right are some kernels I just bought from Organic Wheat Products (Country Creations) in Minnesota (TFL flourgirl51).  They have a darker color.  The two lower samples have no odor.

This site,, shows photos of some of the problems, including shriveling, that can happen to durum wheat.

I’m dumping the problem wheat. 


Edit:  All three wheats were sold as hard red spring.