The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking problems with home ground flour

veronica's picture

Baking problems with home ground flour


I'm new here - Veronica Shelford, living in the Gulf Islands off the west coast of Canada.  I'm hoping someone will have had experience that can help me out.  I've just bought a grain mill (WonderMill) and starting grinding my own whole wheat flour for bread recipes I've been using for years, but the results are very poor.  The bread keeps collapsing in the middle.  The flavour is fine and the texture not bad apart from the collapsed area.  The gluten content of the flour appears to be fine.

Are there ways that one should alter standard bread recipes when using fresh ground flour?  Usually collapsing means too much water or too much yeast, in my experience.  But I've read here that fresh ground flour needs more moisture, not less.  Should one let the flour soak awhile before working it?

If anyone else has had any similar experience, and found their way through it, I'd be very grateful for any help.  Or even if not, suggestions will be very welcome.

Thank you!  This looks like a useful forum - glad I found it!

- Veronica

proth5's picture

I went through a long, bad period with my home ground and did eventually find out that I had gotten a bad batch of wheat. Double check your wheat and your technique (i.e. try the same formula with a good quality commercially ground whole wheat) before getting too frantic.  This approach was useful to me, but if you have been using the recipes for years with 100% whole wheat flour, you might want to skip this.

I also had some unsatisfactory results during early milling, but not collapsing in the middle.  But I've been doing a lot of work with the home milled and here are some factors with which I have worked:

1. Starch damage - As grain is ground the starch is damaged.  Some types of mills (and micronizer mills like yours have this reputation) and some milling processes result in excessive starch damage.  This means that the flour will absorb extra water in the mixing process, but release it during proofing to become overly slack and collapse.  Since I have a steel buhr mill I can adjust the agressiveness of my milling to reduce starch damage.  I noticed a significant change in my bread (for the better) with the less aggressive milling.  I am not sure exactly what you could do with your mill to change this (although others use the WonderMill with success.) Off the top of my head given a collapse and your mill - this is what I would suspect as this as the source of your troubles.  Starch damage can be measured by laboratory testing, but there are few of us here (and, yes, I am one of them) that will go to this length.

2. Over proofing - you may wish to change your proofing times as you adjust to the unique qualities of your own flour.  You may need to proof for less time so the structure of the bread is sturdier going into the oven. You might also wish to check your baking time to make sure that your loaves are really baked.

3. Aging the flour - Newly milled flour is usually aged to provide optimal gluten development.  My own experience (backed up by certain researchers) is that it takes 2 months to really see results from this, but others advocate shorter periods.  I did see improvement in the texture of my bread after aging for 2 months, but not enough to offset the loss in taste.  Some folks feel that 2 weeks of aging will suffice.  My data disagrees, but it was only one test. Some people advocate using ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in very small quanties as an oxidizing agent to artificially age the flour and increase gluten strength.

4. Malting the flour - using very small amounts of diastatic malt.  This will increase the enzyme action in the flour and will aid in getting a good rise.  Frankly, this didn't do much for my bread, but wheat can vary quite a bit.  Are you getting a good rise before the bread is baked?

5. Grind size - this is a long shot because of the type of mill you have, but are you grinding your flour as fine as commercial flour?  You might want to consider sifting out any large particles.

I have not really altered my formulas from commercial whole wheat to home ground, but I have made careful consideration of the above factors.

Congratulations - you are entering an exciting period of discovery as you learn to mill your own wheat.  I started out with the vague notion of doing home grinding and well, may have taken it all a bit too far.  But there is a certain satisfaction when you get it right and can say "I milled the grain myself" and milling opens up a world of possibilities for grain applications.

I think my primary partner in milling excess, bwraith, has some great information in his blogs.  There are also others who have been milling longer than I on these pages and I am sure they will chime in. 

Hope this is helpful.

charbono's picture


Do you have any tips for avoiding substandard grain?



proth5's picture


I can only say: Buy from a reputable source and make sure you double check your order.

Hope this is helpful

Joshua in Seattle's picture
Joshua in Seattle

I just bought a Nutrimill and had the same problem with my first few loaves. My friend Annette has spent a lot of time adapting Peter Reinhart's recipe to home-milled grains, and she advised me to try her recipe. I did, and the results were fantastic. It was a light, but sliceable and tasty whole wheat loaf. Since then, I've used my grinder with renewed confidence. I use Annette's recipe as a touchstone, but alter ingredients to create a loaf that fits my own needs and desires.

Here's Annette's Recipe, from her great blog Sustainable Eats.


3 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour (I use hard red wheat)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups milk plus 2 Tablespoons of whey (or you can substitute buttermilk, yogurt or kefir for the milk and whey but your bread will be tangier)

Mix all ingredients until it forms a ball and cover the bowl until you are done with the sponge. 

Sponge or Biga

3 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour (I use hard red wheat)

1/4 teaspoon yeast

1 1/2 cup filtered water plus 2 Tablespoons whey

Add all the Sponge ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and knead using the dough hook for several minutes until it forms a dough.  Let it rest for 5 minutes then knead it for one more minute.  

Place this dough ball on top of the soaker dough ball in the bowl, cover it and let it sit on the counter overnight.  If you won’t be making bread the next day you can put this in the fridge for several days but bring it to room temperature before making bread, which takes several hours to do.

When you are ready to make the bread add:

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 Tablespoons butter (optional)

6 Tablespoons honey, agave syrup, or organic cane sugar (is using sugar add an extra 2 Tablespoons water)

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

Knead this all in the bowl of stand mixer using the bread hook for about 6 – 8 minutes.  Wait until your dough has been kneading about 4-5 minutes before adding more water or flour to get the right texture.  Your dough should be “tacky but not sticky” according to Peter.

Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. 

Knead it again for 1 minute. 

Check the final dough by taking a small piece of dough and stretching it out to perform a “windowpane test”.  Your dough should be elastic enough to stretch, creating a window you can see light through without tearing.

Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it to rise in a draft-free place until you can poke your finger into the dough and the indentation from your finger does not fill in.  I let me dough rise in the oven with the light on for some warmth.   You can also let it rise on the counter but it may take longer.  Mine takes about 1 1/2 hours for the first rise but my house is about 66 degrees. If this takes too long for you try doubling the amount of yeast – but remember that virtually all yeast is GMO so I try to minimize my use of it.

After the first rise you can shape your loaves (which I will have a later post on) then cover them with the tea towel and let them rise again, about 45 minutes to 75 minutes this time.  Keep in mind they will rise slightly during the baking. 

With experience you’ll figure out how high they should look in your pans before baking.  If you get bread with large holes in the top you know you let them rise too long.  If the crumb is dense you did not let them rise long enough.  You may end up with several loaves that you save to make breadcrumbs, bread pudding or croutons out of but the experience you are gaining is immeasurable. 

If you do happen to let the bread rise too long you can take a serrated knife and slash the tops before baking to keep them from rising up more.

Bake your bread in a 350 F degree oven for about 40 minutes, until they are deep brown and sound hollow on the bottom when thumped.  An instant read thermometer inserted into the bottom of the loaf should read 185 – 190 farenheit.

Remove the loaves from the pans and place them on a wire rack to cool completely before you slice them.

Homemade bread will last for several days before it might start to mold so be sure to pre-slice and freeze any bread you don’t plan on eating in that time frame.  You can pop it in the toaster to thaw and/or toast it when you want it.

Now you know how to make amazing whole wheat bread that everyone will LOVE.


Here's how mine looked after following Annette's recipe:

Annette said mine looks slightly overproofed.

My daily loaf today looks very different. I make a tiny 2 cup loaf because it's what my family eats in a day. I make it every day. It looks dense but it's super tasty and very sliceable for sandwiches .Here's what I like to do:  I soak 2 cups grains overnight in just under 1 cup water plus 1 T yogurt (active cultures), pinch of yeast and salt, then next day I add 2 t yeast, just under 1 t salt, 1 T molasses, 1 T oil, and run it on the bread machine's quick bread setting.  Anyway, here's my funky daily bread:

Dang pirates slicing it open before it cools. I am after the crumb and flavor of the chain bakery "Great Harvest Baking Company." I love their bread, which is built around fresh ground grains.

veronica's picture

This is very helpful - thank you!

I do hope the problem isn't with the mill and starch damage, as that way I'm stymied before I start.  It is certainly true that the dough seemed very slack and the rise was flabby.  I wonder whether starting with a sour would give at least some of the flour a chance to adjust to the water.

Problems with the proofing are hard to pinpoint up to now, as I used the only yeast I had around, which is the quick-rise.  I've just picked up some more of the standard yeast, so we'll see if that has better staying power.

Seems a pity to age the flour if much of the nutrient value is lost in the first 24 hours.  I'd rather find other ways around it.

I haven't tried malting the flour, and that might be interesting in any case.  Although on principle I'd like to get things to the point where they work without too many sophisticated additions.  Then the additions are by choice rather than necessity...

Grind size is a disappointment with this mill - ostensibly it offers 3 sizes from very fine pastry flour to quite coarse.  In fact, it's hard to tell the difference between the grinds.  I will need a decent sifter if I'm going to have to separate the bran (and no doubt I'll want to do that sometimes) but I have yet to look for one.  You don't think, when you start something like this, about how much the equipment list is going to grow....

well, thank you again, and I shall appreciate any other comments you or anyone else may be able to make.  And shall enjoy poking around the many threads and blogs on the subject.

proth5's picture


I did some more reading on the subject and it seems that acidifying the flour (either by using ascorbic acid or a levain) can be a big help for improving structure.  If you normally use a sourdough base, you might want to try it.  The slack, flabby rise really does point to starch damage, but the ascorbic acid (and this is something that has other applications, so not really specialized) and levain might help.

Personally, I would not look to malting to improve structure.  I seem to experience that whole wheat flour has a balance of its own and malting to correct Falling number is not needed.

I got sieves from a mining supply store ( opting for the less expensive plastic sieves.  Depending on your definition of "inexpensive" this can be a great option. Mine fit nicely over my "big bowl" so that sifting is not much of a chore.  I do love to be able to sift my flour to various degrees of fineness.  I was very excited when I found I could home mill "almost white" flour.

Good luck and keep posting.  This is an adventure and a work in process and I'm sure you will be back to great bread in the near future.

Hope this helps.


veronica's picture

What an interesting link, Pat ( - what screen size(s) do you use?  Did you have to buy the full set, to get one that was small enough for flour sifting? 

proth5's picture

The plastic sieves can be bought as singles.  I currently use the 14 inch plastic classifiers at #20, #30, and #60.  The #20 is pretty coarse and I'm not sure you would need it.

I have a set of nesting stainless steel bowls and they fit neatly on top of the "big bowl" - then I just hold the two together and shake to sift.  A little low tech, but it works.

Hope this helps.


Drifty Baker's picture
Drifty Baker

Veronica,"You don't think when you start something like this, about how much the equipment list is going to grow...." 

I agree with you.  When I started baking bread at home about 10 years ago, who knew it would lead to so many bowls, pans, stones, mixers, slashing devices, bread books, flours, etc.  I want to expand into home milling but Mrs. Drifty has so far been able to discourage this expansion of my hobby, or she describes it, "my obsession".  

You will enjoy this forum.  There are a lot of very helpful people here that offer very good advice.  Welcome!


Drifty Baker

Go biking while its rising!

knit1bake1's picture

Veronica, this is discouraging, as this was the type of mill I was planning to buy in the future (how far into the future I'm not sure). I'm wondering if some people who have had wonderful success with the Wondermill could write in. I own a Kitchen-Aid mixer, and a Champion juicer. For the mill attachment for the Champion, I believe the yield is only one cup flour/5 minutes, which seems very slow to me. Also, I didn't realize that there would be a learning curve for how to adjust to baking with home milled flour. I was also thinking that if I got the Wondermill I could make chickpea flour, etc., things that one can't necessarily do with some of the attachments.


veronica's picture

Thank you so much for all this input. And especially thanks to Pat for your extra research here! I am going to try to get some of my grain milled by a friend with a hand grinder (not likely to go at a speed that will damage the starch!) and bake that - that should settle whether it is the grain or the mill, I hope.

If it is the mill, I guess I can try what you suggest, Pat, and add some lemon juice or whatever to the recipes and see if that offsets the damage enough. I haven't the space right now to go in for more demanding recipes with levains or sourdough base - we are in the middle of (finally) finishing the kitchen, so everything that would normally be in the cabinets being worked on, is out on the counters. Marginally controlled chaos. And I need to keep a reliable march of bread coming, for the B&B.

Beth - I wish I had found this forum before I bought my mill. I might have done more investigating - as it was, I had read only good things about it. But let's wait and see - maybe the problem is elsewhere. Or maybe I have a defective mill - I'm still doubtful about how little difference there is between the finest and coarsest grinds, wondering if there's something wrong here.

Drifty - thanks so much for the welcome. I look forward to furthering my acquaintance with the folks here, and learning more! Comparing experience is so useful, isn't it?

Thanks again, all!

- Veronica

subfuscpersona's picture

I would first suspect overproofing, second insufficient bulk fermentation time to allow the whole wheat flour to fully absorb liquid and third insufficient kneading (in that order of importance). (I'm just reinforcing observations made by others.)

It would help if you could give more detail about your recipe, ingredients and procedure...

> is the flour 100% home milled whole wheat or does it use some white bread flour?

> does the recipie also use flours (or other ingredients) low in gluten forming ability (such as a multi-grain loaf or rye or spelt etc.)?

> what is the wheat that you're using for milling? - hard *winter* or hard *spring* wheat? 

> are you using any techniques such as overnight, refrigerator bulk fermentation or autolyse or soakers? All of these help whole grain flour absorb liquids.

These are only a few questions that come to mind. The more detail you can give, the more likely you'll get targeted answers. 

Since you're using a WonderMill, your whole wheat flour should be pretty fine (that's good - a coarse flour can contribute to collapse during rising or baking). I sincerely doubt that starch damage from the mill is significantly contributing to your problem. 

veronica's picture

Hi subfusc,

Any of these suggestions are possibilities - thank you!  What all this seems to be implying is that home ground flour does act very differently from the commercial stuff. 

The recipe I was using is the same one I have used for years, coming out perfectly every time.  It calls for 100% whole wheat, which I used in both the home milled and earlier commercial grind versions.  The gluten forming ability appeared to be fine, as I said before.  It formed very strong strings when I beat half the flour with the liquid, prior to kneading.  There are no other flours in it, but a small amount of a multi-grain mix, which hasn't had a bad effect on the earlier loaves.  The wheat is hard red winter. 

This recipe doesn't call for any of the additional techniques you mention - it's just a very straightforward and reliable recipe.  When my first effort didn't turn out well, I returned to doing it with commercial flour and it was just fine again.  Then I tried the home grind again, and it did the dip again.  So I have to assume it isn't the yeast or any of the other ingredients.

It may be that, if home ground flour does have to be treated differently - more babying along to help absorption etc. - it will be something I can't use all the time (while I'm running the B&B) which is a pity but not the end of the world.  I just want to be sure that I'm understanding the process properly, and not taking the wrong inference from the effects. 

My friends have now ground me some flour from the same lot of wheat, on their much slower, stone grinder, so that will be a good test - once again using the same recipe.  Won't be able to do anything about it until Friday, now, though.

I hope, on the one hand, that I haven't wasted my money on the WonderMill and that it can be made to work.  On the other hand, if another mill would enable me to continue without major changes of technique, I guess I should know it.  I'll be glad to apply all these other interesting techniques when I can, but I'm caught between having fun and keeping the customers fed...

Anyway, I really appreciate the time that you and others have given to considering this.  Thank you!


Rosalie's picture

Don't worry, Veronica, you WILL make it work!  Many others use WonderMills.  Keep trying.

You say you've made the same recipe for years.  It's my understanding that some commercial whole wheat bread has the germ removed.  I remember someone saying that one brand admits it on the label.  So the commercial flour is aleady different from your home-milled.

I've been baking almost exclusively with flour coming out of my NutriMill (another micronizer) for nearly a year now.  Not only do I look down my nose at white flour, but I can do it with commercial whole wheat flour too!


veronica's picture

Hi Rosalie, I didn't realize that some w/w flour has the germ removed - that certainly would affect the moisture level and general workability of the flour. 

Glad to know that WonderMills (and other micronizers) are reasonably well spread around - so it must be possible!


home_mill's picture

I use a Nutrimill which I think would make flour similar to your Wonder Mill.

I usually have good results. Here are some things that might help.

I order my wheat berries from Wheat Montana. I use a mix of Prarie Gold and Bronze Chief to get the flavor I like. Either one by itself would be fine as well.

I follow the procedures in Peter Reinharts whole grain breads which involves soaking the dough overnight. I also use buttermilk for soaking the flour. 

I use Bigas or Sourdough. I find Sourdough starter gives me the best dough quality. 

Don't overproof the dough, this is a mistake I have made many times thinking the taller the loaf is going into the oven, the taller it will be coming out. This is not true when it falls or collapses. I am starting to use the finger poke method. When the dough springs back slowly then it is ready. If it does not spring back it is too late. 

 Good luck and keep at it.


veronica's picture

Hi homemill,

By soaking the dough, do you mean doing a sponge or sour that you leave overnight?  (I don't have the book you mention).


charbono's picture

Based on limited experience, the moisture level of home-milled flour seems more variable than commercial flour.  One would have to know what one's final dough should feel like.


veronica's picture

...and encouraging words - thanks to all.  I'm very glad to hear from others using micronizer type mills, that they have worked through their glitches. 

 I will have another go at all this on Friday, when I'm home again, and will report results...


charbono's picture


I have a Retsel Mil-Rite with both stones and steel buhrs.  I don't think they generate any significant difference in the temperature of the flour.

The stones produce a finer granulation.  They take slightly longer to clean.  

In an email, Retsel recommended not using the stones for milling popcorn or any other corn over 10% moisture, in order to avoid glazing.



clazar123's picture

I have been concerned recently with how warm my flour is when I grind it with my Wondermill. Take a look at this thread:

If you are worried about starch damage, this may be helfpul.

I grind my wheat and use the flour immediately and every week,thereafter, without any issues. It is different from using commercial flour and so the rising,moisture and proofing may be a little different. Keep working on it!