The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stone ground whole grain hydration

Baron d'Apcher's picture
Baron d'Apcher

Stone ground whole grain hydration

I've been using stone ground high extraction and whole wheat from Farmer Ground Flour and while my intuition (based on what I've read and been told) is that the hydration for a miche should be on the cusp of 80%.  However, in practice, anything above 77% has proven to be almost unmanageable and the couche is wet like a baby's diaper in the morning.

It stands to reason that a coarser stone ground flour would require a bit less water given the limited surface area compared to conventional roller milled flour, but is that correct considering the whole grain's thirst?

I've had modest success with this flour at lower hydration but would like to know if increased hydration or my technique is the limiting factor to a lighter loaf -within the realm of stone ground, whole grain bread.


idaveindy's picture

Recently milled whole grain flour, specifically stone milled and impact milled, even if sifted, has a wide range of moisture content, depending on field conditions, and storage methods and weather around harvest and milling times.

 Big time commercial _roller mills_ "temper" their incoming grain to a standard moisture content so as to facilitate removal of the bran layer. After they bag the flour, the big time commercial warehouses and grocery stores the flour spends time in are generally tightly controlled climates.

Small stone/impact millers don't make those tempering adjustments, and the storage and distribution is likely not as sophisticated.

I mill grain at home, and have experienced a wide range of hydration needs of various wheats.

For a while, I was using 90% hydration, now the grain I'm using prefers 86-88%.

Some older hard red wheat from Whole Foods bulk section needed less.

It seems every bag has its own needs, like it came from a different batch at the mill, a different farm, or a different harvest year.

Big commercial mills constantly adjust so that the Gold Medal or King Arthur product is as consistent as can be year to year, and bag to bag.

 Each type of wheat can be harvested just once a year. But mills operate year round. So the raw wheat berries have to sit in storage until they are needed.

Small stone/impact millers take what they get, mill it, maybe sift it, and send it on, without the fine-tuning.  So if the berries gain or lose moisture waiting to be milled, that's just the way it is.

Whole wheat also has volatile oils in the bran and germ that evaporate over time, adding another factor.


idaveindy's picture

WW will never produce as fluffy-puffy a loaf as white flour.

Aside from mixing in a portion of white flour into your mostly Ww loaf, there are more factors than hydration.

Fineness of the grind is a big factor.

Soaking time prior to adding yeast/levain also is a factor, especially for medium and coarse grinds.

How you develop gluten, whether  by hand, machine mix, or time alone, or a combination of those three also matters. 

Getting the right amount of oil and sweetener also seems to be a factor.

search on: Tangzhong whole wheat

and read the post from 2014 for an excellent loaf.

Hope this helps.