Storing wheat berries

50kg wheat berries in sacks.

Storing wheat berries safely so the bugs will not attack it is so important for the home baker.

You simply cannot purchase 100% whole meal because the fatty acids go rancid within three days of being milled. So you have to grind the wheat berries yourself if you are serious about the nutrition of your bread.

Whole grain wheat flour compared with the counterfeit refined grain.

You can see the wheat berries in the background, our 100% grain that I have just ground on the left and the counterfeit 'wholemeal' on the right that purports to be the real thing.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Panera bread menu recipe
  3. Storing wheat berries

By Bernard Preston

Just like you would not build a beautiful home on a piece of ground right next to a highway or in a brokendown neighbourhood, so you should not bake your bread with inferior ingredients; that means milling your own wheat berries.

And of course you must also then store them safely before they go into the grinder.


I learned this lesson the hard way. To my horror I once opened my sack of wheat berries only to find that it was infested with weevils.

The whole 50kg went to the chickens; they of course were delighted with both the wheat and the weevils.

There are three great enemies; weevils, air and moisture that may allow a fungus called Aspergillus to flourish. It produces a very nasty substance called an aflatoxin that will cause tumours in our livers to develop. 

Warm and humid conditions are to be avoided at all costs.

It is best to mill only as much flour as you need to bake with. It is said you can store it for three days, a week in the fridge and a month when frozen, but it will have deteriorated.

I need 400 grams for a loaf of bread so that is how much I mill; no ground flour get stored.

Storing wheat berries

Storing wheat berries without using dangerous chemicals like Phostoxin to fumigate it is important.


  • A deep freeze set on its coldest setting.
  • Large, heavy duty food grade plastic bags.
  • 25 litre buckets with a sealable lid.

Modus operandi

  1. If your wheat is dirty you may want to filter it through a coarse wire gauze to remove the chaff and dust from the fields.
  2. Pour about 10 kg of wheat berries into the plastic bags, remove as much air as possible, fold the neck over and tie it tightly with twine.
  3. Place these plastic bags into the freezer for at least a week; no harm in going longer.
  4. Then pack these bags as tightly as possible into the plastic buckets and seal immediately.

Tips

Your really want the plastic bags to fill the buckets, so experiment with how much wheat you want to put into them.

An alternative is to use some smaller bags; the idea is to fill the bucket to the brim to keep as much air out as possible.

Do this on a day when the humidity is very low; moisture and air are the two great enemies.

Store the buckets in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.

Freezing the wheat berries for at least a week before storing will sterilise them and kill the weevils and their eggs.

Storing wheat berries first in plastic bags and then in buckets acts as a double action to prevent a secondary infection by weevils after freezing.

It also keeps the moisture out. If the wheat berries look the slightest bit mouldy, discard them. Do not be tempted to use them; aflatoxin is one of the most potent causes of malignant liver disease.

Wheat weevils

Sitophilus granarius, the grain weevil, knows a good thing when he sees it; wheat berries are good food for us, but also for chickens, cattle... and the bugs.

She bores her way into the grain of wheat, eating it as she goes, and then lays an egg inside the kernel.

The egg hatches and the larva grows inside the grain of wheat, feeding on the highly nutritious food, eventually emerging as an adult weevil.

They will then mate and lay more eggs in the wheat berries.

The weevil's eggs may be laid in the field but often the innoculation is in the granary.

It is not called granary weevil for nothing. 

Wheat mills

Hawo wheat grinder.

I wouldn't buy a wheat mill on-line unless you have previously seen it. How fine it grinds the flour, how noisy it is, the heat produced in the flour and how fast it works are all criteria to think about.

Stone ground is best.

Our Hawo has been fantastic but it is very expensive. I've heard good reports about the Mockmill and the KoMo Mio but I have no first hand experience of them.

You can purchase your wheat berries directly from the farmer; accept a bit of chaff and dust; they won't kill.

Storing wheat berries in the above manner as soon as possible is important. Purchase the plastic bags and buckets ahead of time.

This is the only way to have your own freshly ground 100% wholemeal for your bread.

Background

Wheat is a grain that is eagerly sought after not only by humans, but many animals, birds and insects; it is one of nature's most nutritious foods.

There are three parts to the wheat berries.

  • The endosperm which is used to make cake flour.
  • The bran or covering that keeps air out of the grain so it can be stored for years; it contains the very important lignans that help prevent malignant breast disease.
  • The germ which is where most of the essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals are stored.

Once milled, air causes the fatty acids to oxidise. Once refined, most of the goodness is removed; millers sell it at great profit for animal feed. We are left with empty calories that make us obese.

Wheat berries are particularly rich in a vitamin-like substance called betaine that helps prevent inflammation in the body.

The cost of your flour

The real value of milling your own flour is that it is absolutely fresh, and all of these components are present in the normal ratio found in wheat berries.

The mark up from flour to the baker is in theory roughly four times; in South Africa from R4 to R16 per kilogramme.

I say in theory as in fact you are not comparing apples with apples. That which you purchase at the supermarket has had most of the nutrients removed, even if it is called wholemeal. You then have to go out and purchase vitamin E capsules, calcium tablets and a host of other substances.

Our bread machine uses 400g to make a loaf. If you bake daily that's about 3kg per week, or 150kg per year.

From the farmer, 150kg will cost you R600; about $40.

From the supermarket, the flour will cost you R2400.

Milling and storing your own wheat berries means a saving of at least R1800, not including all the extra costs of buying your multivitamin and mineral supplements, and the bran where the lignans are found.

In short your mill will be paid off in no more than two years.

If you take it to the next simple step of making sourdough bread, which is expensive to purchase, your mill be paid off in less than a year. More important, you well-being is so enhanced by milling and storing wheat berries, and the taste of your own fresh bread is sublime.

The real cost of storing wheat berries is measured not in Rands and cents but better health. Kiss constipation goodbye for a start; that's from the fibre.

Ferulic acid incidentally is now thought to be the active ingredient in the bran that is so beneficial to our well-being. Refined flour has very little. True 100% wholemeal flour is one of the essential foods for the brain.

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Hilton, KZN

South Africa

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