The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flour lab test results

proth5's picture

Flour lab test results

The tests results are in! (It takes so little to make me happy.)


This particular batch of wheat was tempered for 48 hours with 20% of water added by weight of the grain.


It was then ground as follows


1 – Coarse pass sifted through #20 sieve – contents of sieve returned to mill

2 – Medium coarse pass sifted through a #20 sieve – contents of sieve returned to mill

3 – Medium coarse pass sifted through a #20 sieve – contents of sieve removed from process.  This was about 20% of total weight

4 – Medium fine pass sifted through a #30 sieve – contents of sieve returned to mill

5 – Fine pass sifted through a #30 sieve – contents of sieve returned to mill

6 – Very fine pass sifted through a #50 sieve – contents of sieve retuned to mill

7 – Very fine pass sifted through a #50 sieve – contents of sieve returned to mill

8 – Very fine pass – results combined with the rest of the flour


This is a lot of passes and a lot of sifting and it take me about an hour and a half to do this for 2 pounds of wheat berries with my hand turned, steel buhr Diamant mill (brief tea breaks included.)  However, the multiple passes are actually easier to do than fewer more aggressive passes and the sifting steps decrease the amount of material that needs to be ground in each pass.  The resulting flour is fine and silky and bakes up pretty much the same every week.  I am milling hard white winter wheat.


The flour was stored for about a week before taking the samples.


I had a very small number of tests run – I still need to produce some bread each week, – so I selected those which seemed to be under my control.  Falling number seems to simply be high in these types of flour, and although I am adjusting ash when I extract material from the process, I haven’t been focusing on ash content (but that would have been my next test if I had enough flour.)


So the results are:


Moisture                      10.4%

Farinograph (14% MB)

            Peak (min)  7.00

            Tolerance (min)  9.00

            Absorption  68.6%

            M.T.I (BU)  25

Starch damage %   6.23


The moisture is low despite my addition of water in the tempering process.  This tells me a couple of things.  One, the Mile High City is dry.  Two, I need to get going on getting that moisture meter.


But the other numbers are within what is considered to be required for good bread making flour.  The starch damage is actually on the low side – probably reflecting my “many small passes” approach – but still will within range.  M.T. I. is also on the low end of the range and is not really troubling given how gently I mix my bread.


The bread has been bearing this out, but it is good to have the numbers.


So even with my low tech setup where I hand grind, hand sift, guesstimate moisture content and adjust grind by look and feel – a reasonable quantity of good quality flour can be produced on a regular basis.  My hands on process not only takes the place of a trip to the gym, but gives me some quality time to think about the stupendous journey of the grain or wheat as it goes from field to table.


Now if I can just find a lab willing to give me an analysis of the critters in my levain…


Happy Milling!


bwraith's picture


Your test results seem very consistent with my somewhat more industrial milling and sifting approach, not too surprisingly. We are carrying out very similar processes with similar grain choices.

I would be curious to know the ash content of your flour one of these days. If you happen to have or decide to get a conductivity meter, for fish or bread or some other water testing application, you can try out my home ash content measurement. I blogged it a while back, and it gives rough but reasonable results if you're willing to periodically stir a slurry of flour and distilled water for 12-24 hours and keep track of the conductivity relative to reference whole wheat and white flours.

I found the moisture content varied from about 9.5% to up close to 12% between just two batches of grain from the same supplier purchased a few months apart. My stone mill seems to tolerate about 14-15% moisture content, and as you pointed out to me when I was first trying to mill and sift my own flour, it makes a significant difference to the separation of the bran in the first pass. The moisture meter would probably be good to have for that reason. I'm guessing that a simple and inexpensive one would be accurate enough.

As always, thanks for sharing your method and results. Good luck with planting.

I did a test run with my new burette and stirrer today. It does make it much easier and faster to do a titration. Now, I have to get systematic and start doing some TTA and pH testing on my fermentations. However, it may be all the way until fall before I can really hunker down and have some useful results to blog.


proth5's picture


I may actually have enough flour in the last milling to send for ash testing, but I'm drawing to the end of test season and like you may not do anything too exciting until fall.  I read your blog on the ash tests,  but mailing off a packet of flour seems so much easier...

I'm just procastinating on a moisture meter (how can I claim to be low tech if I buy one of those bad boys), but I did find some pH test strips that will measure to high acid levels.  I've found those tests to be pretty accurate and the cost was very reasonable.

I'll be about the planting now and if we aren't blogging wish you a good summer of sunny days  to dream up milling and baking experiments :>)


bwraith's picture


Yeah, I understand. I haven't used the ash content test after getting a sense of what the ash levels are for a few different extractions. After a few tests, I'm getting to a point where I can recognize the color of the flour as a reasonable indicator of ash now. Particularly, it seems to work best to compare the color of doughs, spread out smoothly next to one another.

Another probably very good ash indicator would be to measure the TTA of your starter when it's fully fermented. I had the very clear result that higher ash flour results in higher TTA at a given pH. If you have good strips for a "neutral" pH, you could easily use a scale, like I did, to measure TTA. You put 4g of NaOH powder in 1 liter of solution of distilled water. Then, you mix a fixed sample, like 10g of starter with 100g of distilled water. Then, add the NaOH solution to your sample a gram at a time and note how much solution was needed to get the pH to a neutral pH. I bet your "fish pH strips" would indicate a neutral pH accurately.

Meanwhile, I had two ideas for the moisture content, if you don't want to disturb the good vibes of your "by hand" environment with yet another gadget. How about moisture test strips? They use them to make sure stuff is dry in a barrier bag, but maybe you could to the reverse and put them in your grain storage container. I don't know if the range is reasonable, but maybe you would find that there is a moisture indicator "card" or "strip" that would change color depending on the moisture content of the grain in the container.

The other idea, if you have an accurate enough scale, might be to dessicate 100g of grain and weigh before and after. I don't know what temperature is ideal, but maybe you have a dessicator of some kind, or probably just an oven set very low, or even sun could be used. Ideally, if you have hermetically sealed storage containers, then you would only need to sample the moisture occasionally. Maybe the sample would dessicate better if crushed or lightly ground.

I haven't checked to see if the moisture content remains consistent over time with my grain. My first thought is that if the moisture content is 10% when you receive the grain, then it should remain close to that level if stored in a tightly sealed container. Every time you open the container, the humidity in the container will equilibrate with the outside air, and unless the container is very well sealed, some equilibration will take place over time, too, I guess. I'm just thinking that one sampling of the moisture content by dessication might be all that's needed upon receiving a new batch, if it's stored tightly thereafter.

Just ideas. Happy planting and growing. Maybe we'll get back into action in the fall.



proth5's picture

As always...

Fall it is!

Smooth Sailing!


subfuscpersona's picture

I've been fascinated by the experiments and testing conducted by bwraith and yourself. It isn't something that I, personally, would care to invest the time or money in, but thanks to you both, I've learned a great deal.

Keep up the good work - SF