The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cleaning/sorting wheat kernels

reedlaw's picture
reedlaw

Cleaning/sorting wheat kernels

I live in central China and there are plenty of sources of wheat. I'm not sure how to judge the suitability of wheat kernels based on appearance alone, but I do take the time to pick out any dark, discolored, or shrivelled kernels along with occasional husks and pebbles before grinding in my Hawos stone mill. Are there any good guides to sorting wheat and identifying bad kernels? I found commercial optical scanners exist, but I'm sure they are out of my price range. Ideally I would love to find a source of perfectly clean organic wheat ready to mill, but until then, does any one have any advice on saving time sorting wheat berries?

clearlyanidiot's picture
clearlyanidiot

The quick guide to cleaning grain by hand is: if you don't want to eat it than pick it out. There seems to be a gap of information for home millers/bakers. At anyrate there are "dockage sieves" that can speed up manual cleaning a bit, but for a more automated set up a fanning mill is needed.

Back in the 1900's most farms had a small hand crank fanning mill for cleaning seeds for planting the next years crop, but as time went on the machines got bigger and then finally it became more economical to just haul seed to a commercial seed cleaning plant. 

I'm in the process of resurrecting a dilapidated fanning mill that I partially redesigned for my grain cleaning needs, but I still have a lot more work to to do.

reedlaw's picture
reedlaw

We found a local flour factory that was willing to sell us their machine-cleaned kernels for just a bit more than the price they gave the farmers. They said their wheat was machine sorted and then washed. The kernels are still a bit damp and tend to clog our stone mill. We still find a handful of pebbles, bad kernels, and husks for each ~5kg of wheat. So we still have to hand sort but it's better than what we had before.

We could buy a sifter like this and see if it does a better job. But I bet the flour factory already uses similar equipment. I wonder why small pebbles still make it through.

DanielCoffey's picture
DanielCoffey

I am wondering why they are selling you damp wheat too - you will have to dry that again before storing it.

reedlaw's picture
reedlaw

The wheat is being fed directly into their mills. They take the kernels out of the their production line for us. So I guess the kernels are dry enough to mill but shouldn't be stored too long. We are using them up quickly enough. Our home mill only gets clogged up if using continuously for too long. If we just do a kilo at a time it's fine.

clearlyanidiot's picture
clearlyanidiot

Clipper makes a small (lab size) seed cleaner, but they're really expensive. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06U9sqZtiVY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnANYXOm4N0

I kinda wish that someone would come up with something simular to the above at a price point (and size) for home bakers.