This week I made some great tasting but dam square brick, Donald Trump wall building, loaves.

Thats not the story here: The story is about the moisture content of grain. For a couple of hundred years the grain industry has needed grain to be 12% – 14% hydration, anything above 14.5% is breeding ground for all sorts of nasty pathogens, for the benefit of long term storage. Sure we have to store grain, but all of it? Can we mill grain of a higher moisture content. I thought so. I washed (sounds a bit idiotic now) some local grain, it was filthy – which made me think I was undertaking a worthwhile process. When I’d finished washing the grain and clearing it of all the chaff I tipped it into the hopper. Water dripped from the bottom of the hopper, ‘ops’. That didn’t seam right (the first indication my process wasn’t quiet heading in the best direction). I switched the mill on. It was the reassuring whirl of the stones, the hum of the motor, the bristley brushes puffing sprinkling soft clouds of flour out of the wooden shoots, that lured me in to a sense of calm. Shattered!! by the sound of a grinding metal, the likes of a sound I have never heard before: Like the first time you hear a car crash into something at speed or the first time you hear a woman scream during child birth or the first time you hear something break, rip or tear inside your body. The hum had become a screech-grinding-shatter-boom that made me duck for cover. When it just continuedddd!!I quickly rose up and turned the machine off. I could smell something that reminded me of gunpowder?! (a cap gun gong off, thats the closest I’d ever been to gunpowder, so im not 100% about the smell of gunpowder).

Had I broken the mill?


“its not even yours” – my wife reminded me of, whist drinking a G&T, during a discussion on what I’d achieved that day.

This was a week ago. I have been back three time to see the mill and SWITCH ON THE MILL, to be deafened by that sound. Its left an indelible mark on me. That sound will never leave me. Maybe I’m over egging it: its only a bloody mill and not child birth or body snap. 

Anyway…. I fixed the mill by lifting the stones apart with w hydraulic pallet lifting jack. Turns out the the wetting of the grain and then grinding it makes a paste strong enough to stop a 4kw motor – thats a strong, heavy motor to you and I. The stones spin bloody (not going to guess an MPH) fast when not forced together by the mills mechanism – and glue two 1 meter diameter by 40cm granite stones together. So I obviously added too much water. How much is too much? How much is enough? (you wet the grain to soften the bran and make it less capable of cutting the strands of gluten during the milling process. Gluten makes bubbles in your sourdough). Advice I’d received was 2 hours of soaking. The two hours advice didn’t seam tangible. I have decided to follow this advice:

The following method is taken from –


1. A small sample of flour or ground wheat (2 to 3 grams) is weighed and placed in a moisture dish.

2. The sample is heated at 130 degrees Celsius in an air oven for 1 hour.

3. The sample is cooled to room temperature and the residue is weighed.


• Moisture content is determined by heating a flour or ground wheat sample in an air oven and comparing the weight of the sample before and after heating.

• The amount of weight loss is the moisture content.

• Moisture content results are expressed as a percentage. An example of a wheat moisture content is 12 percent. (

Once I know the moisture content of the grain to be milled I can then add some water (temper) for a period of time, as recommended by the BMIN Wheat Conditioning IAOM District Meeting 2016, to raise the moisture levels to less shattering [gluten] levels:

Recommended tempering time :

1BK moisture:

•Hard wheat: 24 – 36 (48) hrs.   16.0 – 17.0% (17.5%)

• Semi-hard: 18 – 24 hrs.             15.5 – 16.0%

• Semi-soft: 12 – 18 hrs.               15.0 – 15.5%

• Soft wheat: 6 – 12 hrs.               14.5 – 15.0%

So what I have learnt so far this week:

dont wash grain and then mill it

Raise the moisture content in a considered and measurable way

First of all – speak to mills and ask them about tempering