Monday, February 15, 2010

Nutrimill Review: Why Grind Fresh Flour?

Remember my review of the Bosch Mixer? I promised you a review of the Nutrimill back then. With all the busyness of the holidays and then baby Esther's arrival I hadn't gotten to this. I'm excited to finally share my thoughts with you.

Why did I want a grain mill? Well, its another one of those things I read about on blogs. Once I started learning more about making my own bread, I discovered that some people actually grind their own flour! I knew that white flour was not ideal, along with white sugar, white rice, white bread... all of these products have a very low nutritional value. The vitamins and minerals are stripped from them. Pleasant Hill Grain has a great little display piece showing what is removed from flour (scroll down to The Great Grain Robbery). I guess I hadn't realized exactly how worthless white flour really is. Bleh.

Wheat flour contains so many more vitamins and minerals: the bran, middlings, wheat germ, and wheat germ oil. Removing these vital parts strips the grain of more than 70% of its nutrients. White flour in the US is called "enriched" because the manufacturers are required to add back in a few of the vitamins and minerals to keep people from becoming sick on it. The problem with whole wheat flour, and the reason white flour was invented, is that it goes rancid. There is some mixed information out there about this.

The health-food-bread-baking-wheat-grinding mamas will tell you that whole wheat loses much of its nutritional value once ground. They recommend grinding only what you need for use and storing the rest in the freezer. Supposedly within 24 hours up to 40% of the nutrients have oxidized, and within 3 days up to 80%. I'm not sure where this statistic is coming from and would love to see some research or a study proving this. If its true, then of course everyone should own a grain mill and grind their own grain and use it as freshly as possible.

For now, I decided to ask the flour manufacturers what they thought. I emailed Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur Flour asking them about this:

Bob's Red Mill replied that they do recommend storing flour in the refrigerator or freezer. They say that they haven't had any problems with it losing nutritional value. They state: "There are varying opinions about whether freshly ground wheat is more nutritious than what has been ground and packaged but we have had no reports that one is better than the other." I wonder if they have done any studies though? This kind of sounds like "well, no one has proved it to us".

King Arthur Flour replied "We do recommend that whole wheat flour be stored in your freezer for best and longest keeping qualities." Why isn't it sold in the freezer section of the grocery store then?

I also checked out the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book from the library to see what it had to say. These people grind flour and sell it. If they admit that fresh flour is better, that would be some good proof. I searched the whole book, and although they didn't make a big deal of it, there were a few references to fresh flour being better:

p. 440 "The flavor of fresh-ground whole grain flour is noticeably different than bagged whole grain flour. Why? Because once grains are ground, oxidation of their oil-rich germ begins, and that germ has a flavor profile that most of us associate with whole wheat. The oxidation is actually the germ beginning to go rancid. This rancidity isn't harmful to the flour's performance, nor does it affect food safety; it just adds a touch of bitterness to the flavor. If you think whole wheat has an 'off' or bitter taste, the solution is to grind your own."

Rancid flour isn't bad for the flour's performance or safety but what about nutrition? And does anyone else have a problem with their flour being rancid? I'm not happy with this news.

p. xii "A word about whole grains and storage: You know that whole grains contain the bran and the natural oils from the entire grain. When the entire grain is milled, exposing the oil to air, it begins a slow oxidation process and can, without proper storage, go rancid, affecting the flavor of your flour and your baked goods. ... The flavor of freshly milled wheat flour is divine." It goes on to mention keeping flour in the freezer after purchasing it.

Again, why isn't it sold from the freezer section at the grocery store? I guess because its already rancid and we're all used to the bitter taste. I had the chance to taste some freshly ground whole wheat flour and it was lacking the bittery whole wheat taste. Interesting. One of my challenges in our switch to eating healthier foods has been figuring out how to make whole wheat products that we actually like. If freshly ground flour tastes better, that would help me be able to make better tasting fresh bread, tortillas, pizza crusts, and more.

I've also been learning about a variety of other whole grains that can be used to make lighter tasting bread products. I can't find spelt or Kamut flour at my grocery store, but with a grain mill I can buy the whole grains at my health food store or online and grind it myself.

I purchased a grain mill from Everything Kitchens (at a discount in exchange for this review), and am excited to experiment with different grains and making our own fresh bread products. Check back soon for my thoughts on the mill itself. In the mean time, do you have a favorite whole grain recipe to share with me?


  1. I grind my grain and got my info from the Breadbeckers:
    I have been grinding my flour for about a year and have somewhat mixed feelings about it. My kids are definitely very healthy. They haven't been sick at all this year aside from a couple mild colds. I feel like I'm feeding them actual food that benefits their body. However, shortly after beginning to grind the grain and eat the fresh flour, I developed an intolerance to wheat/gluten. Why did that intolerance develop right then? I don't know. I was already lactose-intolerant, so maybe I just had it coming. The flip side is that I can grind other gluten-free flours that would be ridiculously expensive bought from the store. Anyway, just thought you might like to read the articles in that link.
    And here's the basic bread recipe the rest of my family eats:
    3 c. fresh wheat flour
    1/4 c oil or butter
    1/3 c. honey
    1 1/2 Tbs. yeast
    1 Tbs. salt
    Mix well.
    Add 2 1/4 c. very warm water. Beat 2 min. Add 3 c. fresh wheat flour, 1 c. at a time. Knead about ten min. Let rise. make into 3 loaves. Let rise. Bake at 375 for 40 min.

  2. Sarah, thanks for the link and the recipe! Have you tried soaking your grains to make them more digestible? I'm not sure what I think about that whole thing, but it might be worth a try in your case?

  3. I have tried it. It didn't help. The breadbeckers also have some recipe books that you may like.

  4. hey sarah, have you tried fermenting your grains? For example I ferment my oatmeal with flax and bran mixed in. You take however much oatmeal you want to eat for breakfast, for me its usually about 1-1/2cups and then mix in water so that it covers the surface of the oatmeal and a spoonful of yogurt or apple cider vinegar. I use french vanilla yogurt cause I like the flavour it gives it. then you just let it sit on the counter over night.In the morning you heat it to a temperature you like but there is no cooking time cause the oatmeal is ready to eat. The yogurt breaks down the oatmeal, its like it digests it first before you eat it so it saves your body from having to do all the work. Oatmeal is very nourishing for your body and stomach but its also a bit of a chore for it to break down. Fermenting it also creates millions of probiotics which we need for a healthy digestive system.
    I like my oatmeal fermented way more than just eating it how I use to. Give it a try!

  5. Christy - You might want to try mixing a little white flour or maybe a lighter wheat flour in when you make pizza dough. That may help your kids adjust to the different taste/texture of whole wheat and after awhile you could just used straight wheat flour. Also what helps my family is to add seasoning to the flour when making dough. Usually I add garlic powder and depending on what toppings I am using I also add onion powder, basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, grated Parmesan cheese, chili powder, taco seasoning, finely grated cheddar cheese - the options are endless, have fun with it!