Early in my bread-baking efforts I wanted to answer this question. Since every baker has different goals, there’s no one “right” answer.
Certainly, if taking time to grind your own grain would stall or even end your bread-baking activities, use the milled flours you are able to purchase. With all our buying options — in-store, online, direct from growers, etc. — it’s generally not difficult to obtain quality flour for your bread.
And with online purchase options, there’s certainly a wide range of brands and flour types at our fingertips.
Here’s a summary of advantages for both purchasing milled flour and making your own!
Photo by Loretta Sorensen
Purchasing milled flour
- Big time saver
- Finely milled to give you a fine bread texture
- Ability to purchase in quantities large enough for making multiple loaves
- Consistent quality and texture
Grind your own grain
- Ability to manage freshness by grinding the grain shortly before or right before using it
- Create customized grain blends
- Obtain coarse grind flours
- Verify growing conditions (grow yourself or purchase from known grower)
Of course, there are some disadvantages to grinding your own grains. One main hurdle is purchasing proper grinding equipment. Most modern blenders will grind grain. Depending on the blender’s power, the flour may be quite coarse.
Personally, I love a coarse grind to bake my bread. Some visible pieces of the whole grain and bran show up in your loaf. However, if you have someone with digestive/colon issues, those little bits of grain may cause problems.
While you can create customized grain blends by grinding whole grains, there’s no reason not to use milled flours to make grain blends that help you reach your baking goals.
One of my common grain blends is wheat and rye. We enjoy rye bread on occasion. Since rye has less gluten than wheat, my loaves are most satisfactory if I blend 50% wheat flour with 50% rye flour. (If you use this blend, boost your kneading cycles to 18 minutes each to maximize your gluten activity.)
If you’re experimenting with grain blends to find personal taste, nutrition and texture preferences, using milled flour will be faster and may be less expensive.
Grinding your own grain is much easier than you may have imagined. Using a Vitamix blender (use the dry container), you can grind approximately 4 cups of flour in just 5 minutes or less. This will be a somewhat coarse grind, but easily fine enough for baking bread.
If you prefer to mill your own grain, be prepared to invest in a quality grain mill. Some of the highest rated home mills cost at least $500. You may also want to consider how much storage space you have for a mill before you buy one. They’re not huge, but will require a significant amount of storage space.
My goal is to invest in a mill so I can produce the fine flours my family prefers. Once I reach that point, I expect to grind enough flour for 2 or 3 months. Stored in the freezer, they will retain their quality for at least 6 months.
It’s not necessary to grind your own grain to bake bread, but there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with preparing your own bread flour. Once you learn how fast and easy it is, it may be the only type of flour you use.
Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on her blog site at Bake Your Bread Ever, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest and Facebook.