Tips for Using Whole Wheat Successfully

Our neighbor, Carmen, who just got a grain grinder as an early Christmas present, asked me some really good questions about using whole wheat. It occurred to me that we might have Cook’n readers wondering the same things. So in the off-chance this is so, here’s what you need to know if you’re wanting to incorporate more whole wheat into your diet.

How much flour does a cup of ground wheat berries produce? 1 cup of wheat berries ground into flour yields about 1½ to 1¾ cups of ground flour. On average, 1 pound of wheat berries will be equal to approximately 4 cups of flour.

Does grinding your own flour REALLY save money? This answer has a few layers to it. First, know that store-bought flour simply doesn’t have all the nutrients that fresh ground does. Second, there’s a flavor issue. Typically, store-bought whole wheat flour is from “turkey red” wheat berries, and these tend to have a slightly bitter taste.

So if you grind your own wheat, you get to choose your variety of wheat berry. Hard white wheat, for instance, is preferred by most experienced bread-bakers. It produces a light and fluffy end product without any bitter aftertaste.

Another good baking wheat berry variety is spelt. It’s a great choice for pastry and bread baking when you're on a budget.

Lastly, when discussing saving money, grinding from your own wheat definitely is cost-effective. This is especially true if you purchase it in 25- to 50-pound bags. Bulk-buying is a proven money-saver.

And your wheat berries stay shelf stable for YEARS. You’re always able to grind a fresh batch of flour, so you never need to worry about flour going bad or turning rancid. You can’t say that about store-bought flour. (Just be sure to store your flour in either the refrigerator or freezer. This method ensures the vitamins K and E keep their potency.)

Where do you purchase the wheat berries or other whole grains? A quick google search will tell you if you have a local grainery near you. If so, then then buying locally usually saves money. Otherwise, the bulk food section of stores such Fred Meyer, Smith’s, Harmons, Kroger’s, Wegman’s, and Giant Eagle, etc. also carry whole wheat berries.

Local food co-ops often have wheat berries (google will tell you if there’s one near you). If you don't have a local source, Amazon or Bob's Red Mill are good online sources. And if you’re interested in trying what’s called “ancient grains” such as einkorn or kamut, you can find these wheat berries at and

Do I have to adjust my recipes for fresh ground flour? Yes, because freshly ground flour absorbs water differently than the typical white all-purpose flour. If you’re using recipes that are designed for store bought all-purpose or bread flour, you’ll need to:

  • use less flour per cup of water when using white or red wheat flour
  • increase the amount of water per cup if using spelt flour
  • increase the amount of water per cup with einkorn flour
  • knead the dough for less time than you would a dough made from white all-purpose flour
  • give the dough more time to rise than you would a dough made from white all-purpose flour

I found that when I first started making bread with whole grains, I had much better success when I relied on recipes created specifically for whole grains. The above issues had already been factored into each recipe.

But don’t just limit your whole grain flour to bread. When it comes to chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies, for instance, whole grain flour takes them to a whole new level!

Finally, be prepared for a learning curve, whatever you use this flour for. Baking with whole grain flour takes patience and practice, but it’s certainly worth the time and effort. Freshly ground flour is simply better for you, health-wise. And when its use is mastered, your end products are far superior in the taste department!


    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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