Switching to Whole Wheat Flour – making the transitions easier

This post was originally published in February, 2011.


I want to take some time to address some of the many whole wheat flour questions I receive from those of you making the switch from white to brown. So many of you email me to say “I wish we liked whole wheat flour…we just don’t. What ideas do you have?”  or “When I bake with whole wheat flour, my food often feels and tastes heavy and grainy. My kids won’t eat it.”  or “Laura, you look really good with flour in your hair, what’s your secret for getting it right there on your bangs?”  Just kidding about that last statement. Thankfully.

My suggestion (and hear me out on this, because I think I know all of your arguments) is…okay actually I have two suggestions:

  1. Use a Grain Mill to grind fresh flour.
  2. Use Hard WHITE Wheat.

Here’s the deal:  I have NEVER liked store-bought whole wheat flour. Still don’t like it very much. The idea of switching to whole wheat flour to me was NOT appealing and I DIDN’T want to.

Until I had a piece of my friend’s bread made with freshly ground hard white wheat flour. That was all the evidence I needed.

I really didn’t believe her when she said that the bread was 100% whole wheat. It didn’t taste whole wheat. It didn’t look whole wheat. It didn’t feel whole wheat. Oh, but did it ever smell and taste good.

It was at that moment (after she answered more of my questions and after I talked it over with Matt of course) that I decided that I would save any extra money we had toward getting my own grain mill. The problem was…we had NO extra money to save toward a grain mill.

What I Did:

I started buying Hard White Wheat and letting my friend grind it for me. She was so sweet to do this, and it worked, but it certainly wasn’t convenient. I then began making these soft pretzels to sell at our local farmer’s market to save for my Nutrimill. It took just a few weeks before I had enough money saved. I ordered my Nutrimill right away! That was five years ago, and I’ve gotta say that saving up for and buying my Nutrimill was SUCH a great investment. My whole family thinks so.

Why Freshly Ground Flour Made from Hard White Wheat is Different (and tastes so good):

Well, fresh flour is…fresh. It’s amazing the difference in taste you’ll notice when you eat bread and other goodies made from flour that has been freshly ground. The whole wheat flour from the store is a little on the old side and is likely even to be rancid. It is usually often made from RED wheat.

Which leads me to my second point about why freshly ground flour from hard white wheat is different and tastes so good:  White wheat is lighter in texture and color than red wheat. Whole wheat flour made from Hard White Wheat produces lovely bread, tortillas, pizza crust, muffins…everything you need flour for.

The Question of the Hour:

But Laura, doesn’t white wheat turn into white flour?

Ah, I didn’t get that at first either. But NO, it absolutely doesn’t. Hard White Winter Wheat is simply a different variety of grain.  Hard Spring Red Wheat has the same nutritional value as Hard White Winter Wheat…but white wheat makes (in  my opinion) a nicer and more palatable whole wheat flour.

I think you’ll notice a big difference.

(White flour that you buy at the store, by the way, is flour made by sifting out the bran and germ after the grain has been ground. This was originally done to give it a longer shelf life. Now, unless otherwise noted, the white flour is bleached to make it whiter. Yum.)

What Do I Suggest?

See if you can find someone who has a grain mill and will let you try out freshly ground flour made from hard white wheat. Hey, if you come over to my place, I’ll let you try some of mine! (I may even share my secret of getting flour in my hair.)

If you like it (the freshly ground flour…not the flour in my hair), I recommend doing a little something to save up for a grain mill. I love my Nutrimill!!! Here’s a video of me showing how to use the Nutrimill. I love Paula’s Bread as your go-to source for purchasing a Nutrimill. She offers great prices and offers wonderful customer service.

And…you may want to look into this online Bread Class offered by Lori. She teaches you to use freshly ground flour to make a perfect loaf of bread…and other great baked goods too! It’s a very helpful class!

Lastly…I will recommend that if you just aren’t able to grind fresh flour right now, try to find store bought whole wheat flour made from white wheat, labeled, White Whole Wheat. King Arthur has a nice variety. It’s not quite the same (because it isn’t fresh), but it’s the best store-bought flour I’ve used.

Those of you who’ve been grinding your own flour…share what you love about it! How were you able to make the investment to get a grain mill? Which is your favorite grain mill and wheat to grind?

(You’ll find more posts I’ve written about grinding grain, where I recommend getting grain, which grain I recommend and ALL kinds of grainy questions answered in this section!)

Disclaimer:  No one here is going to force you to grind your own flour, eat white wheat or get flour in your hair. If you like flour make with red wheat, enjoy! If you can’t afford a grain mill, this is not a guilt trip. I’m just answering many readers’ questions. Hopefully you all found it helpful. And hopefully you are much cleaner bakers than I am. Not only is there flour in my hair, it is also on my kitchen floor and counter tops.  I need to go clean my kitchen. 

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  1. Ashley says

    I am thinking of getting a blendtec blender to grind my flour, and of course serve all other purposes. However, It grinds only two cups at a time. Would this be an issue?


    Laura Reply:

    Hmm, I almost always need more than two cups at a time, so I would find this inconvenient, but that’s just me!


    darcy Reply:

    Hi Ashley
    I use a my health master elite which is a blender but much much better, probably a lot like a blendtec and although I only grind 2 cups at a time it yeilds about 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups and its fast. It only takes about one minute to do it si I can nake 10 cups of flour in about 5-7 mins. my kitchenaid mill take about 10 to grind 2 cups. Hope this helps.


  2. Ashley says

    Also, I used to make huge batches of dough with regular flour, and just break off pieces of the dough to bake a daily loaf. Learned that from this book… http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/

    Can I continue to do this grounding if I start grinding my own flour?


    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I would imagine this would still work fine if you grind your own flour.


  3. says

    Question for you, Laura–how long have you had your grain mill? My husband was asking how long yours has lasted…just thinking about if getting one when/if we would need to replace it?


    Laura Reply:

    I believe I’ve had mine for five years now. Still working perfectly.

    A friend of mine has had hers for 15 years and while some piece of it broke off, it still works fine!


  4. Jen says

    I first heard about grinding my own flour last March. Before then, it had never even occured to me that this was possible even though I had lived on a farm that grew wheat when I was a kid. It sounded like something I wanted to do for my family so I asked my husband if it could be my birthday present the next month. It was one of the best investments I have ever made. Shortly thereafter I found your blog and have been learning ever since. I bought a 45lb bucket of both hard white and red wheat and the red is still full. I just don’t like it much. I am trying to use a little each time I make bread just to use it up but definitely will only by the white in the future.


  5. Victoria says

    I am new to this site, but I LOVE it, and everything you post for us to read. My husband and I are really researching grain mills. My husband spent about 5 hours yesterday reading reviews and watching youtube videos about the different mills and how they work. He is a big researcher.
    I am wondering though, how much wheat you grind at once, and how long you leave it for? Do you grind a 50lb bag in one day and put it in a storage bucket with a gamma lid? Or do you do just a few lbs at a time and store it in an air tight container in your kitchen? Or do you grind it as you need it?
    I am just wondering how long until freshly ground wheat would take to go bad. My husband has been wanting a hand crank grain mill for a few years, but after all the researching he has done, he scratched that idea. YES!!! (I thought quietly in my head).


    Laura Reply:

    No, it’s best to grind your wheat as you need it. I actually usually grind one ice cream bucket full of flour and keep it in the freezer. It only lasts a few hours before losing nutrients once it’s ground. Keeping it in the freezer preserves it a little bit, but I try to just grind as I need it.


  6. says

    I bought my Nutrimill at a garage sale for $25! Best purchase ever! I also discovered that the taste of red wheat versus white wheat is oh so different. White wheat all the way!


  7. Amy Kehrer says

    I have a huge favor to ask: could you please weigh a cup of your freshly ground flour? Or maybe a few and then average them? I’ve found weighing my dry ingredients to be SO much more accurate, and having that number would be SUPER helpful as I make your recipes with store-bought white whole wheat. I’m sure they won’t be quite the same as what you make with fresh flour, but it would help me get a lot closer without a lot of experimenting and dry baked goods :-)


    Laura Reply:

    I’m not sure when I’ll get around to this (I think I have something to weigh it with, but I’m not sure!). I’ll put this on my long to-do list though!


  8. Jo says

    I hope this post gets found at such a late to blog date! I have a vita mix and use the dry blade to make my flour. I got the soft white berries from Azure. My problem? I haven’t had a descent loaf of bread since grinding my own! Really, it is like door stopper hard and heavy. Had no problems before altho I am not a bread making coniseur (sp). Really am disgusted with the results and could use some advice! Anybody had this issue with their bread/flour, maybe specifically with the vita mix? The flour seems to be as fine as can be when done “whizzing”..

    Need help soon please, freezer is getting full of bread crumbs!


    Randi Millward @ Expressions of Perceptions Reply:

    Soft white wheatberries have less gluten and are good for things like muffins. Hard white wheatberries are higher in gluten and are best for breads. I don’t have a vitamix. I grind my wheatberries in a nutrimill, but I also struggled to “get it right” when starting to grind my own. My main problem was the type of berries, the brand. I bought a cheap brand. Once I switched to the Prairie Gold wheatberries from Wheat Montana (through my UNFI co-op), there was a world of difference!

    One suggestion I might make is to try making buns (kind of flat ones like burger buns) and see how they turn out. If your dough is too dense, the long baking time to get the inside cooked might be drying out the outer part of the bread. Also, if you’re using soft wheat, you may want to add a couple tablespoons of vital wheat gluten and double the amount of yeast.

    You could give this recipe a try if you’d like, it always wrks for me.

    3 c. flour (I use freshly ground hard white winter wheatberries)
    1/8 c. sugar
    1/8 c. coconut oil (or butter, or grapeseed oil, or olive oil)
    1 c. warm water
    2 tsp. sea salt
    2-3 tsp. yeast

    I let my breadmaker mix it up for me, but I make it into buns, rolls, sweet rolls, or loaves myself.

    I hope that helps! Let me know if you get your problem worked out!


    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    I found a comment Laura had left on a different post so I thought I
    would post what she had to say here. I hope Randi’s suggestions helped too!

    Laura said:
    “I actually don’t have a VitaMix (although I’ve talked about them before). My friend has one and used it to grind flour. It works okay, but produces a courser flour.”


  9. Jenny S says

    I can order hard white Spring wheat through my buying club – is that similar to hard white Winter wheat or should I try to find hard white winter wheat elsewhere?


    Laura Reply:

    Hard white spring wheat will be fine!


  10. Jo C says

    Whalaa! Thanks for the tip! I bought the hard white and problem is solved! I also refered back to the vita mix manual which stated to mix for 1 full minute, which I am now timing as I may not have been processing that long enough in the last batches. I haven’t tried your recipe yet, but plan to soon! NOW my next question to you bread conisseurs (sp) would be…WHAT BREAD MACHINE DO YOU USE/RECCOMEND?


  11. says

    I found someone willing to give me some of her freshly ground hard white wheat and hard red wheat ground in her nutrimill. I tried making bread from both types and wasn’t happy with either of them – thought the white was definitely better than the red.

    Previously I LOVED my “whole wheat” bread recipe which used 8 cups whole wheat flour and 3 1/2 cups white.

    When I made this the texture was totally different, the dough didn’t wrap around my kitchenaid dough hook like normal, and it didn’t rise well at all. The crust seemed hard and it was all very crumbly.

    I’m not sure what happened. I very occasionally have a flop when I make bread using bought flour, but never like this. I’m really disappointed because I was totally planning to buy a nutrimill but now I’m not so sure.

    I did make one other change to my recipe, and that was to use butter (unsalted) instead of margarine, as I’m switching over after reading your blog! So, part of the taste difference may have been the lack of salt.

    Any thoughts?


    Laura Reply:

    Oh, very frustrating. :( I’m suprised this happened. I don’t have any experience with a kitchen aid, so I can’t answer why that happened, but there is a learning curve that goes along with using freshly ground whole wheat. YOu may have to tweak your recipe a little, until your bread turns out the way you like it.


  12. Abigail B. says

    If I may ask, where do you purchase your hard white winter wheat, or where might be the best place to find it? And what is a good price per lb.?


  13. Lisa W. says

    I heard about grinding your own grain about a year ago and have just now really been interested in doing so. Problem: I cannot find anywhere near me (after hours of online research) that sells the wheat berries. I would have to have them shipped to me. And after shipping it would be roughly $75 for 25 lbs. No kidding. I want to eat healthier, but I just can’t afford that. Any suggestions? (I live in Jacksonville, NC)


    Laura Reply:

    Oh dear, that is really expensive. I’m not sure, but hopefully someone else in your area will see this comment and post a suggestion!


    sarah Reply:

    Hi. I just came across this blog looking for info on soaking grain before
    milling. Saw this comment. I am actually living in Alaska but moving to NC
    in January and have been searching for a vendor/dealer of organic grain.
    I currently buy from a supplier up here that sells Wheat Montana products.
    There is a co-op in NC called the North Carolina Wheat Montana Co-op that
    is in Raleigh but also has pick up in Kinston. You can google their site
    and see about ordering. Or if you go on the Wheat Montana site and click
    dealer locator and use the drop down menu for your state it will bring up
    a page that details the dealers/ resellers in your area. Hope this helps!


  14. Amy says

    Am new to grinding and even though I love the new flavor my kids and husband don’t. I have been using a recipe book just for this type of wheat but was hoping to use my own recipes and substituting the flour but am not sure of the difference in measuring and if I have to cook it any different. Is there any guideline for the amount and for cooking it? Thanks so much!


    Laura Reply:

    Typically, you just need a little less whole wheat flour than white. Also, I’m not sure what kind of wheat you are grinding, but I have definitely found that grinding flour from hard WHITE wheat tastes so much better than flour made from hard RED wheat. That may help your family enjoy the flavor more. :)


  15. Deborah says

    I’ve been working on the subject of wheat varieties, home milling and baking, and the pursuit of excellent baked goods. Your article confirms what I suspected about white wheat. I just grew about 500 lbs of heirloom Sonora wheat and this makes feel confident that I’ll avoid the baking issues I had with hard red wheat… Such a great article!


  16. Jill says

    Still saving up for my grinder. In the meantime, my local health food store has an amazing selection of flours – barley, buckwheat, oat, rye, coconut, garbanzo, and more. I’ve been replacing 1/3 to 1/2 the required amount of all -purpose flour in my recipes with these other flours with pretty good results – and better flavor, to boot.

    This might be a good option for those with access to other flours who are saving up for their grinders. It’s a fun way to experiment and try new flavors, if nothing else.


  17. Tami says

    It might also be of interest to note that there IS a difference between hard red SPRING wheat and hard red WINTER wheat- both RED but completely different in my opinion (grown in different seasons, obviously). The spring wheat is harder to bake with, makes a crumbly loaf, and the taste is not superior. HOWEVER, all you white lovers, it might be worth a taste to buy a small bag of RED WINTER wheat. COMPLETELY different! Beautiful bread loves, taste is phenomenal! I actually like to add it to recipes to give them a better flavor. Our bread is made exclusively with it. I recently bought a bag of the spring wheat because it was cheaper, and now we’re having to find ways to use it quickly! I want to get my winter wheat back!


  18. Kristen Beale says

    I use my blendtec blender to grind my flour and haven’t had any trouble. I have a zojirushi breadmaker and it all works super and makes excellent very yummy breads! A loaf doesn’t last long around here! I have use hard red, soft white and hard white and while each creates a different taste and texture they all turn out well. red is a bit denser and nuttier. Also, bread beckers have co-ops available on the east coast, so you can buy bulk grains (giant buckets)without the super crazy shipping costs. Not sure about the mid-west/west…but I would bet there is something out there serving those areas too. I usually stock up at our local homeschool convention when the bread beckers are there. If I buy 3 buckets or so, it lasts a year or more.


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