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I've read that most of the nutrients of wheat are stripped for the sake of shelf life. Is this marketing propaganda or is there truth behind it? It was my impression that white flour (even fortified) is nowhere close to the original thing but whole grain flour is still pretty good.

  1. The grinders are pretty pricy and after that even buying large amounts of grain (if you can find it) doesn't ever appear to pay off. Am I mistaken?
  2. Are there any real benefits to doing it yourself (whether nutritional or not)?
  3. Does it taste as good? (Sorry, I know this question is opinion-oriented, but I'm curious)
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

You're very correct the grinders are pretty pricey. I believe we paid about $300 for ours.

There are a few good reasons for me to have a grinder. Whether they are good reasons for you is your call.

1- I can grind whatever I want. Right now I am using hard white wheat. Unbleached, hard, white wheat flour is more expensive than your run-of-the-mill flour and comes in annoyingly small bags. I also grind beans, quinoa, oats, etc.

2- I can control the fineness of the grind. This is a minor thing but it is nice for me to be able to experiment with the texture of the product. In practice I usually leave it on the same setting but it is finer than the flour I can purchase.

3- Wheat flour is very perishable. I go through a fair bit of flour. As much as 200 oz in a heavy week. In order to have enough wheat flour on hand for a couple weeks it would have to live in the freezer. I don't want to waste that much freezer space. Whole wheat berries last almost indefinitely.

4- I like the flavor better. It tastes fresher and more nutty. This may be imagined- I haven't done any double blind tests. I should do that.

5- Cost- I had to do some of the maths as I don't usually pay a lot of attention to this. King Arthur white wheat flour costs approximately $1.00 a lbs.

I buy 25lbs bags of bulk white wheat for $12-$15 or $0.50-$0.60 a pound. If I use around 10 lbs of flour a week (usually a little less, it varies) I am saving about $5 a week. If you don't have access to wheat that cheap or don't make that much bread then of course the savings will be less.

As for nutrition- I read all the time that the nutrients in whole wheat flour degrade very quickly. I'm not a chemist but those results seem plausible to me based on how quickly the flour itself degrades in quality.

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Good thoughts. Though on #5 (cost), I think the cost you're listing for King Arthur is for a 5-lb bag, not per lb. (I'm seeing bags of that size going between $2-3.49, depending on the store). So your savings numbers are a bit specious. You're saving about $0.10-0.25 per pound in materials, energy and other costs excluded, as are "waste" calculations, which are the inevitable bits of wheat that don't make it into your flour bag (probably negligible). –  Sean Hart May 6 '11 at 15:07
    
@Sean- I forgot the exact price and went with what I found on Amazon. Thanks for the correction. From King Arthur's web site a 5# bags is about $5.00. Are grocery stores really that much less? kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/… –  Sobachatina May 6 '11 at 15:31
    
Yes, grocery stores sell it for less. Cheapest around here is probably Walmart, which I think sells it for under $3 for 5lb. Will have to check next time I'm there. In general, do not expect a supplier's online store to undercut their resellers! –  derobert May 6 '11 at 21:19
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Because of #3, you often see people recommending grinding your own if you're planning on keeping food stores in case of the zombie appocalype (or whatever other disaster). You can find places that'll see whole wheat berries vaccuum packed in a bag inside of a 5 gallon pail. Some people claim 30 years storage life for hard red wheat, but if you're going to get into that, you're better off rotating through your stores than just putting up a pail for 25 years, and then pitching it. –  Joe May 8 '11 at 17:10
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"Wholemeal" or "whole wheat" flour is mostly 100% whole wheat in most countries. They used to remove the "brush" though, but I suspect modern grinders take care of these now

As I understand it, when you grind your flour it may not be as good as commercially ground flour if your grinder causes the wheat to heat up. This will effect it's nutrition and shelf life

The source of the wheat is going to be the biggest taste changer. I have had flour from a local Dutch windmill using stone grinders etc, it had a great texture, but did not taste significantly different

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A friend of mine has been experimenting with different kinds of rye bread for quite some time. He's come to grinding the rye flour himself. I've been tasting the bread for most of the time.

  1. The grinders are indeed expensive. Manual ones are cheaper, but it's really a lot of work to grind even a smallish amount of grain (I've tried). Off-the-shelf flour is so cheap that the grinder probably never pays off in that sense.
  2. Where I live, whole-grain rye flour isn't readily available in stores. Thus what you get by grinding yourself is certainly different, and in my opinion tastes better. The shelf life of whole-grain flour is relatively short, but that's no problem if you only grind what you use. I believe the scientific consensus is that whole-grain flour is more healthy than the standard stripped version (but I'm no expert).
  3. It tastes better. If you bake a lot, I'd say that's enough reason to start grinding.

However, having said that, I don't believe there's much difference in taste nor nutrients between off-the-shelf whole-grain flour and self-ground flour. I certainly wouldn't start grinding wheat myself, but I don't like wheat very much. At least here you can get whole-grain wheat flour easily from stores.

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Good point, the question was more about the difference in buying [whatever] instead of grinding [whatever]. I guess that makes my question all the more open-ended. –  Gary May 25 '11 at 18:52
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