Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wheat Grains Explained

Wheat Grains Explained

What Kind of Wheat Grain To Buy for Prepping and Everyday Baking?

This is a very common question!
I began prepping about a year before Y2K. Beginning any prepping during that time was difficult and for me it had far more questions than answers. There were very few trustworthy information sources for us to use. Normally I search the web for the information I need mostly going directly to the manufacturer or Universities. The problem with some personal web sources and forums you will find that the posting author doesn't even own a grain mill or store any grain but yet claim to be an expert. This is very sad that people would pass along untested and sometimes unsafe methods that will mislead families trying to provide for themselves.

Which Wheat Grain do I buy?
Well, after many trials and errors the grain I use to bake bread and all bread items with every week and also keep several years worth in long term storage is a Non-GMO "Hard White Spring Wheat" purchased from Honeyville Grains. Many retailers sell similar grain I just happen to like Honeyville and their customer service. Hard Red bakes the same but the Hard White is a little milder tasting so it doesn't for some people cause an upset stomach. This is another reason for you to buy hard red and hard white in small quantities like #10 can of each and test bake each to be sure YOU and your FAMILY can eat it without having an upset stomach. During a crisis is no time to find out you can't eat your stored food.

The following wheat grain information is from King Arthur

Wheat varieties
Hard or soft, red or white, winter or spring. After eons of farmers and then scientists isolating and encouraging the genetic development of more “user friendly” characteristics, there are over 30,000 varieties of wheat today, each with its own merits. Most simply, we can classify current wheat varieties as some combination of each of the following: hard or soft, red or white, winter or spring.

Hard wheat
Has a higher protein content than soft wheat and thus produces more gluten, the elastic component of a dough that can capture and hold carbon dioxide (CO2). Therefore, hard wheat is critical for yeast-leavened baked goods, but is also appropriate for a wide range of baking.

Hard winter wheat
Is planted in the fall, mainly in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and other prairie states. It grows until it's about five inches tall, and then with the onset of winter and cold weather, it becomes dormant under snow cover, and continues growing the following spring. It's harvested in late spring and early summer. The protein content of hard winter wheat ranges between 10–12%.

Hard spring wheat
Grows predominantly in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Montana, as well as in Canada, where the climate is more severe. It's planted in the spring and harvested in late summer and early fall. Generally, the farther north you go, the more spring wheat you'll find and the greater the levels of protein—generally 12–14%.

Soft wheat
Has a larger percentage of carbohydrates and thus less gluten-forming protein. Soft wheat can be red or white, and is almost always winter wheat. Soft winter wheat is grown primarily east of the Mississippi, from Missouri and Illinois east to Virginia and the Carolinas in the South and New York in the North. There are also important crops of soft white wheat in the Pacific Northwest. Soft wheat is used to make cake and pastry flour.

Color of wheat
The color of wheat relates to pigments found primarily in the bran. Both hard and soft wheat can be either red or white. White wheat varieties simply lack the pigment that gives red wheat its dark color.

Hard red winter wheat
Has ample protein content to yield the necessary amounts of gluten, the elastic component of a dough that can capture and hold carbon dioxide (the gas produced by yeast that raises your dough) for most yeast bread baking, yet is mellow enough to use in other baked goods including muffins and scones. Planted in the fall in the prairie states, hard red winter wheat lies dormant under snow cover during the winter and continues growing until harvest in late spring. It gets its red color from pigmentation in the bran layer of the wheat berry.

Hard white spring wheat
Has a high protein content and thus is good at producing gluten, the elastic component of a dough that can capture and hold carbon dioxide (the gas produced by yeast that raises your dough). Unlike red wheat, white wheat lacks some of the pigmentation in the bran layer of the wheat berry; since that pigment carries an astringent flavor, white wheat is lighter in both color and flavor. It's planted in spring and harvested in late fall/early winter.

Hard red spring wheat
Is typically higher in protein content than hard red winter wheat and thus is very good at producing gluten, the elastic component of a dough that can capture and hold carbon dioxide (the gas produced by yeast that raises your dough), making it ideal for breads, rolls, and pizza. Planted in the spring in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana, and Canada, hard red spring wheat is harvested in late summer and early fall. It gets its red color from pigmentation in the bran layer of the wheat berry.

Heart of the wheat berry
Our white flours are milled from the innermost heart of the wheat berry, avoiding the dark mineral particles near the bran (outer layer of the wheat kernel) and germ. The heart of the berry contains the lightest color and the richest, gluten-producing protein.

Some flour producers mill closer to the bran so they can get more flour out of a bushel of wheat. Then they bleach the flour to eliminate the darker flecks of bran left in their flour, giving it the appearance of pure white flour. Yet bran left in white flour affects baking performance because its hard, sharp edges cut through gluten strands, making it more difficult to develop good structure in your baked goods.
By avoiding the outer layers of the wheat berry, we both ensure there are no particles of bran to reduce the rising performance of our white flours, and eliminate the need to bleach the flour to mask darker flecks.

Why “organic”?
We believe that providing organic products not only gives our consumers greater choice, it is also good for our environment. Supporting organic farming means embracing biodiversity, and greatly reducing or eliminating chemical toxins and environmental harm. King Arthur Flour is a leading voice in the industry in support of organic farming.

King Arthur Flour is the leading grocery organic flour brand in the United States. While not all of our flours are organic, we believe consumers should have the option to choose organic products when they are commercially available. Our organic flours and mixes are growing in number as more ingredients become available and as more consumers discover their benefits.
Our organic flours are certified 100% organic. The organic wheat used in our organic flour and mixes is grown under the organic supervision of Quality Assurance International the leading organic certifier in the country.

Organically Grown EPA web site and definition:
Is food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Pesticides derived from natural sources (such as biological pesticides) may be used in producing organically grown food.


  1. Now you have me wondering what wheat I have. I bought a 50lb bag of it last summer and it was marked cover crop wheat. It doesn't look red and is definitely a winter variety after the extremely cold winter we had, it is staying green and starting to grow again. Since I am in Virginia, I suspect that it is the soft winter wheat, how can you tell if it is soft or hard?

  2. Good question Sunnybrook. But I just don't know :-(
    I'll do a little research work and see if I can come up with an answer. I think it would be good for all to be able to tell what your buying especially from small retailers like feed store and flea markets.

  3. Sunnybrook,
    I did some searching for a wheat grain identification chart (photo's) and didn't find any, but that doesn't mean there isn't one out there. Maybe someone here knows of one and will share he information.

  4. Great info here, Mike! I just read a piece in "Mother" that wasn't nearly as informative as what you have here. Well done! We're currently in the market for a grain grinder and are, therefore, looking at wheat grain options. There are so many options it can be a bit overwhelming! Decisions, decisions...

  5. Lisa,
    If you like whole wheat bread and whole wheat baked goods you will find that milling your own flower will become an addiction. Knowing where the wheat comes from plus no preservatives in you recipes you'll wonder why I took so long to get on board! :-)

    If you have any questions just ask!