The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Question about milling

edh's picture

Question about milling

I've been grinding much of my own flour lately, but I have a question for the more experienced millers here.

Do you pick over the grain before you mill it? I've been carefully picking it over first to remove grains that still have the hull on them, small seeds of some unidentified type, stones, and the occasional piece of field corn. 14# of spelt produced a couple of tablespoons (at most) of this mixed detritus, so I'm wondering if I'd have even noticed if I'd just left it be.

I'm using a hand-crank mill made by Porkert. It produces a pretty coarse flour that works best when soaked overnight, but the price was right ($60.50). On the other hand, picking over adds a lot of time to a process that's already slow by nature; I have to run the flour through 3 times to get it to a fineness I can live with.

Thanks for any advice anyone cares to offer!


qahtan's picture


 I remember this coming up a long time ago on another list.

 I myself buy my grains at the local health food store, and though I only buy small amounts at a time, and I think I pay a premium price for it, I have never had any nasties in my grains.  




home_mill's picture

I use a Nutirmill (high speed impact) and I have read that a stone can damage it.

I have been buying my grain from wheat Montana and have never had a problem or a need to pick through it. It is very expensive to ship so I would like to find a local source, but since I live in Socal I am thousands of miles away from any wheat fields.



subfuscpersona's picture

Stones are a problem and can damage your mill, even a hand cranked one. Gotta get rid of them before they hit the grinding plates so they should be out before grain goes in the hopper. As long as you're getting rid of the stones, you could get rid of the corn too since the corn is easy to identify.

You can probably live with a tablespoon or two of unidentified seeds in 14 pounds of grain or a small amount of grain with the hull still attached.

How many pounds of grain do you mill at a time? Would it be easier to clean just the amount that you intend to mill right before milling?

PS I took a look at the Porket grain mill - doesn't look too different from the Corona grain mill, which was the first grain mill I owned.  

edh's picture

Thanks subfuscpersona,

You confirmed what I suspected; I just wanted to make sure I wasn't being obsessive! I usually do just 5-7 lbs at a time, but generally only clean that much at a time; sometimes enough for two cleanings if there's something good playing on the stereo...

The Porkert isn't bad; sometimes I get mill envy when I read about the ease and fineness that you all produce, but this is what I have and it works!

Thanks again,


subfuscpersona's picture

I've owned 4 grain mills - the Corona manual mill (my first), a 2nd manual mill whose brand name is mercifully forgotten, a Kitchen Aid grain mill attachment (the model made by Hobart and purchased in the early 80s) and a Nutrimill (the "one speed" model that was on the market for a few months in the Spring of 2007 for $200). I still own (and use) the KA attachment and (of course) the Nutrimill.

If a home baker wants to learn about milling grain, micronizer mills (like the Nutrimill) are *not* a good tool. Plus, as you, bwraith and Mike Avery have all shown, a mill that grinds with adjustable plates is much more flexible for producing different kinds of flour as long as one is willing to put some time and effort into the process.

I learned the most about milling grain by using a hand mill. I do love the ease of use and the fine flour produced by the Nutrimill but if I had the $$$, I would invest in a quality hand mill (like the Country Living grain mill) to complement the Nutrimill. When you have to use your own muscles, you really get a feel for grain.

charbono's picture

I make some effort to clean the grain before milling.  Perhaps it’s mostly for my peace of mind.  In my limited experience, buying from a health store is no guaranty of clean grain.


My first step is to freeze the grain to kill any active vermin.  My technique then varies from wheat to corn.


In the case of wheat, I usually mill about three pounds at a time; but I don’t dump it all in the hopper at once.  I put about ¾ cup of wheat in a wide, shallow bowl and briefly push the grains around with my finger tip.  I remove any non-wheat or husks I see, mainly just on principle.  Then I dump the grain in the hopper. I once found a very small stone.  This technique is fast, and I would probably find any significant debris.


For corn, I am much more thorough.  Once the corn has been frozen for at least three days, I will clean several pounds at a time and then return it to the freezer until milling.  I sit at a counter and spread about a quarter cup of corn at a time on the counter.  I push the damaged kernels, bits of cob, and any bugs to the side. Then I blow the dust from the sound corn.  Finally, I shove the clean corn over the edge of the counter into a bowl.  I can clean large-kernelled varieties at a rate of three pounds per hour.  About 3-10% of the pre-cleaned corn weight ends up getting tossed.



edh's picture

You've just made me feel much better! Silly to get so focused on equipment; as a woodworker I know perfectly well that tools don't make the craftsman, but all my baking is extremely low-tech and sometimes I get a little lost in the descriptions of all the wonderful toys I read about here!

It's funny, but with food and fuel prices rising so precipitously recently, I find myself leaning more and more towards lower-tech, people powered solutions to problems (foot powered computers, anyone?), so I guess it's lucky that the Porkert is what we bought years ago, before I'd hit the bread craze. I think I will look into some of the higher quality hand mills like the one you mentioned, as something to save my pennies for. The Porkert often seems a little lightly built to me, and I wonder about its longevity, as I've only been using it consistantly for about a year.

Thanks for the thoughts!


allenwrench's picture

Good work edh

Things are not built for longevity nowadays. If no one bought replacements who would pay for the masses of people needing work?

Things will probably get worse as our fossil fusel are depleted, overpopulation runs rampant and the worlds financial woes get worse.

We have built a defective model for long term population support. . We must accept that we have built our world on unsustainable means - a means built artificially on fossil fuel.

America has been built on debt and spending. 70% of our 'economic heath,' better termed as 'economic sickness' is based on consumer spending. When the consumer can't compulsively spend any longer our economy collapses...we are not a healthy country

IT'S NOT THAT SIMPLE TO DO A 180...Without compulsive spending and conspicuous consumption funded by unaffordable debt, we would fail as a country.

You ever hear the saying...'I got the tiger by the tail and can't let go?' That is how it has developed in the US of A.

Lets say everyone becomes voluntary simplicity and frugal squirrel devotees. We recycle, reuse, repair and just say no to buying more crap. If we stop buying all the stuff that America imports from China - who keeps the billion plus people in China from starving, so they do not go back to old ways of trying to take over the world?

And on a more local level, if the consumer stops consuming even US goods, the US companies go bust, everyone loses their jobs and his or her retirement funds will collapse.

What about growing a a garden...nothing wrong with that?  Lets say everyone starts growing 'victory gardens' in the backyard as food has become unaffordable. So some of the few farmers left in the US go bust cause their food just rots on the shelves unsold. Now there is less food being produced and at even a higher cost to those that can afford it the least.

What about more taxes? Tax the little guy so DC can pay for their compulsive spending disease. More taxes = less for us to compulsively spend 'trying' to buy happiness = lower earnings for the greedy corporations = raise hell with the DOW = less cap gains tax income for the gov to squander = everyone's retirement funds sink lower and lower = even less compulsive spending since everyone is poorer.

Back in the day, (prairie and turn of the century) citizens were more of a self sufficient nature. Most of us have lost that skill of self sufficiency and we have shifted gears to be dependent on gov and a few other such as farmers or oil producers or China to take care of the whole pop of the US. The problem is, it is very hard to go back without causing a lot of pain. (Actually a lot of deaths)

Hell, the impotent people of modern day and age can't even make pancakes or peanut butter sandwiches and have to buy them ready made in the's really scary.

athagan's picture

I've been carefully picking it over first to remove grains that still have the hull on them, small seeds of some unidentified type, stones, and the occasional piece of field corn. 14# of spelt produced a couple of tablespoons (at most) of this mixed detritus, so I'm wondering if I'd have even noticed if I'd just left it be.

If I pulled that much stuff out of a mere fourteen pounds of grain I'd put the rest of it in the feed cans for the chickens. It's a bad cleaning job.

I've used grain from Wheat Montana, Walton Feed, the LDS Family Cannery, Arrowhead Mills, and some from a local natural foods grocery that has a bulk foods area (uknown provenance). I typically grind three canisters of grain at a go (Whispermill) which will be roughly six pounds or so. In that I may find a dozen or so discolored kernels and a few hulls. Stones in an impact mill are bad news so I don't tolerate them from a supplier.


The Prudent Food Storage FAQ

prairiepatch's picture

I get my grain directly from the farmer and although he has had it cleaned at the grain elevator there are always a few things missed.  Anyway I have been told that there are on the market hand sieves made especially for cleaning grain.  They are very low tech and apparently not that expensive.  I am going to check them out myself.  But it sounds like something that might be of help to you.  I mean anything has to be better than cleaning it by hand.  Although I really do admire your patience.

Another low tech way of cleaning grain is to drop the grain very slowly into another bucket with a very strong fan blowing through your stream (Oh that doesn't sound right,  Anyway)  That will get rid of any chaff and dried insect bodies but it won't help with the stones, which apparently the sieves will???

prairiepatch's picture

Personally I will probably just go into town and check at the Peavey Mart but this is what I found after a quick seach.  It kind of gives you an idea of what I am talking about.

This one does have hand sieves on the page

hopes this helps

allenwrench's picture

Picking over grain?


I bought 50 pounds of org oats from Canada and they were filthy as well as rancid.

Most of my wheat is pretty clean. Maybe a green berry here or there. But the Canadian oats left dirty residue and had rocks in it.

Bronze Chief wheat has been very clean.

xaipete's picture

Bob's berries are very clean too--only think I usually find is one or two half kernals of corn or yellow split peas. Never had any stones or debris.


flourgirl51's picture

We run ours through a cleaner before it goes in the bin. Then it goes off to the organic plant to be cleaned again and then bagged up before we sell it.

Airfun's picture

I will scoop and pour my wheat into a soup bowl, stones will make a different sound, it's pretty quick.  I've only found one stone, and some foreign seeds as debris in some local bulk grains. I bought a couple of sacks of grain (hard red and hard white wheat) from Anita's Organic Grain and Flour Mill in Chilliwack, BC Canada and have only found an odd black seed a few times, and a couple of unhulled kernels.  I won't stop checking, it's so quick and easy, I just don't expect to find anything in the Anita's grain :)



Leslie Benson's picture
Leslie Benson

I buy my organic whole grain from Purcell Mountain Farms.  Never a problem with stones or any other foreign matter.  I use the Kitchen Aid grain grinder attachment.  The settings can be changed from coarse to fine grind. 


Troy Larsen's picture
Troy Larsen

I clean mostly to keep rocks out of my mill.  I have hard red and hard white from the LDS cannery.  I have never found a rock or foreign seed in the hard red.  The hard white has foreign seeds, rocks, and kernels with hulls. 

Unfortunately, the hard white works better for bread.  The hard red doesn't seem to have enough protein content.

I am going to try some of flourgirl51's wheat soon.  I expect that her wheat will be cleaner and I have heard many good reports on it.


LeadDog's picture

I don't pick through my grain before milling. I have been milling for over a year and yet to have a problem. The grain comes from a number of different sources.