If you bake, you should be milling your own flour or buying freshly milled flour. White flour has had all the nutrition stripped away and then artificially returned. Whole grain flour keeps its nutrients but goes bad quickly.
In our busy world, taking the time to grind your own grain may seem like a lot of unnecessary work. However, anyone who bakes should take the time mill their own if they can’t source it locally. Once you have the equipment, milling your own flour is fast and easy.
Why Mill Your Own Flour?
White flour has been stripped of its bran and germ, leaving just the starch and sugars behind. The bran has the fiber that is good for our digestion, while the germ has the healthy oils and nutrition.
Manufacturers try to replace the lost nutrition by enriching white flour. White flour is a dead thing that can last on the shelf for a long time. Manufactured baked goods are made of this white flour and usually have other shelf extending chemicals added to them.
Whole wheat flour also has the germ and bran stripped, but it gets added back in. The same proportions of bran and germ are returned. But the healthy oils and nutrients in the germ do not last.
To get optimum nutrition from your whole grain flours, you need to buy them fresh and store them properly. That means sourcing local freshly milled flour, and then storing it in your freezer for no more than a few months.
Or it means buying your own grains and grinding them yourself. Milling your own flour gives you the freshest flour, and the most variety in your grains.
There are so many grains available to you when milling your own flour. You can find heritage and ancient wheat berries, choose white over red, hard over soft. You can buy organic or sustainably grown wheat.
Besides wheat, you can mill rye, corn, rice, barley, oats, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, lentils, dried beans, seeds, and nuts, depending on your grain mill.
I used to bake with store bought whole wheat flour a lot. I didn’t realize that the bitter, dusty smell from it was not normal. Since I’ve gotten a mill I have learned how freshly ground wheat smells. Fresh flour smells nutty, with no dusty smell at all. It smells fresh.
Grinding your own does take an investment, as grain mills can be expensive. Yet you can save on bulk grains and bake your own rather than paying high prices for real bread.
Try milling your own flour to make different flour blends. You can even make your own gluten free flours.
How to Mill Your Own Flour
Before buying a grain mill, consider testing out whether you even want to mill your own grains. Here are some low cost alternatives that you may already have on hand. They don’t do as good of a job, but they will mill flour!
If you find you like milling your own flour, realize that using an appliance not meant for milling is hard on the machine. If you will start milling regularly, get a grain mill.
Milling Flour with a Coffee Grinder
Using a coffee grinder is probably one of the cheapest ways to test out milling your own grains at home. If it can grind coffee beans, it can grind grains.
To mill wheat, run it through your coffee grinder twice. You may want to sift out larger pieces after the wheat is ground. A coffee grinder will make flour, but it won’t be as consistent as a grain mill.
Coffee grinders won’t mill as much flour at a time, and you may want to watch the temperature of your flour as the grinder heats up. But coffee grinders are cheap, and are an easy way to test out milling your own grain.
Milling Flour with a Food Processor
While using a food processor for milling your own flour is not recommended, if you don’t have other options you might want to try it anyway.
Unfortunately, the wheat berries will dull the blade and possibly kill the motor over time. If you have a food processor that you don’t use, you might try it.
As with the coffee grinder, try sifting the flour and running it through the food processor twice to get a finer flour.
Milling Flour with a Blender
Milling your own flour in a high powered blender can work very well. You want to use a high powered blender because others may overheat quickly.
Put only a cup or two of wheat berries in the blender, enough to let the blades do their work but not too much to overwhelm it. Try sifting the flour after to see if it needs it.
I tried milling with my blender, and it did work well. It also scratched up my plastic jar. After that I bought a real grain mill!
Milling Flour with your Mixer
If you have a Kitchenaid mixer, you can buy an attachment grain mill for $150. Though it is well reviewed, it’s expensive. Reviews say it mills flour well.
Some say it doesn’t work well with the lower end mixers. Since I have a lower end refurbished mixer, I chose to go with a separate grain mill.
There are definitely cheaper options out there for grain mills, whether you want to go manual or electric. There are also more expensive options.
Buying a Grain Mill
Once you decide that you need a grain mill, there are a lot of options out there to choose from. Ultimately you want to choose the mill that works best for you, your baking, and your budget.
Grain mills can be either impact mills (often cheaper, but not as fine of a flour), or burr mills (more expensive but finer flour options).
Impact mills may heat up the flour as it is being milled, so users need to look out for that. Heated flour can lose nutrients. Impact mills are often noisier than burr mills as well, and only come in electric models, not hand crank.
Burr mills are made of steel, stone, or iron. They are usually more expensive but offer more variety in different flour grinds. They don’t heat the flour when milling, and you can find hand crank or hybrid models if that is important to you.
A great guide from True Sourdough outlines some of the whys and hows of buying the best mill for you. Once you settle on what type of mill you want, figure out your budget and look at reviews of mills that look best.
It can be a bit overwhelming to look at all the options out there, even more so that so many are out of stock at the moment. I have both a hand crank steel burr mill and now an electric stone burr mill. Both work well, but the electric one is much faster!
Once you start milling your own flour, you’ll want to try all the grains out there! Though grains ship well, it’s always a good idea to support your local community and look for local grains for your baking!