Milling - True Grain
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At True Grain, we remain committed to the time honoured method of freshly crafting pure, natural, stone ground, organic grain products; the way nature intended:

Pure – we seek non-hybridized heritage and ancient grains like Red Fife, Einkorn, Emmer, Spelt, Khorasan, & Rye

Natural – we mill on natural stones and do not add conditioners or preservatives

Stone Ground – we grind slowly and at low temperatures to maintain the integrity & nutrients of the grain

Organic – we value organic farming methods which foster healthy communities

The True Grain Mill Process

These mills are very simple technology that has been around for hundreds of years. The grain is poured into a hopper at the top. The grain gets crushed between 2 stones. The lower stone is stationary, the upper stone turns slowly. The ground “whole grain” comes out of the main chute. If a coarser meal is desired, the stones are adjusted apart and he grain is cracked instead of ground. If a finer, sifted product is desired the whole grain is run through the sifter box where brushes push the grain along the chamber. The sifted wheat drops through the mesh sieves and the coarser middlings and bran come out the later chutes.

How is that different than conventional flour?

Large commercial mills are a lot more sophisticated and rely on steel roller technology. These are hundreds of times more efficient at removing the middling and bran, and they are much quicker. They produce a lighter, finer, more refined flour.

What are the benefits of stone milling?

The benefits outlined in the video are that stone milling is generally fresher because it is done in smaller scale settings. The second benefit is that because of the lower temperature it is believed that the nutrients remain more intact. Aside from the temperature, stone-milling simply does not remove as much of the bran, which is the vitamin rich part of the kernel, so more ends up in the bread.


At True Grain, we found three more advantages of milling grain ourselves that were more important.; Food Security (and Food Miles), hybridization of wheat, and commercial milling practices of white flour.

Food Security (and Food Miles)

Once we had a grain mill, we found new relationships forming.  We could get to know the Farmer directly instead of bakery distributors and factories; Farmers.  For the connection to our values and philosophies, this was huge.  In 2005 “The 100 Mile Diet” was written by Alisa Smith and J.B MacKinnon, chronicalling their journey to only eat food grown 100 miles from their Vancouver home. The part they struggled with most was access to grains. In 2008, the price of fuel and wheat skyrocketed.  We began to wonder what would happen if it doubled again.  There was a real realization on how dependent we are on Vancouver Island for the ferry bringing our food.  50 years ago we grew over half of our own food, and in the case of wheat we were an exporter.  I understand today, it is more like 4%.  We began working with Vancouver Island pioneering Farmers like Tom Henry and Mike Doehnel. These guys are really passionate about growing grain on Vancouver Island again.  What Tom found, in particular, was the whole infrastructure had disappeared; not only the knowledge, but the guy who had parts for and could fix a combine, for example. In 2008 we offered the 30 mile loaf and the 30 mile Durum Loaf from a combined 5 acres of wheat planted.  We were severely limited in quantity because the acreage was not that big. In 2009, Tom grew a plot of Red Fife in Cobble Hill on an organic farm owned by David and Nancy Clegg. This 15 acre plot didn’t turn out so well, but we did manage to have enough Red Fife Wheat for a daily “Locavores Obsession” loaf.  In 2010, we found Hope Farm in Duncan that was interested and they grew wheat for us for a few years as well.  True Grain supported these small Farmers and allowed them to slowly build their experience and increase their acres of wheat production. Today, on Vancouver Island there are hundreds of tonnes of wheat grown, and some commercial bakeries now offer a bread made from Island Grown wheat.


At True Grain, we have always used organic grain. We struggled a bit as we needed to support the Island Grain project, while still being True to our values of Organics. For us, the unreachable utopia state was Vancouver Island Grown, certified organic grain. It would never happen, right? Wrong!  Enter Dirk and Bea Graf of Sloping Hill Farm. Sloping Hill, as far as I am aware, is the only organic grain farm on Vancouver Island. We get spelt, khorasan and wheat from them.  We craft our Whole Spelt and Khorasan Pumpkinseed Loaf at our Cowichan Bakery with the flour made from Sloping Hill (note, there is a rye starter in the recipe which is BC grown grain, not Island)


At about the same time (2006) we began to buy organic grains from a grain co-operative based out of Armstrong, BC.  To this day we order Spelt, Khorasan, Rye, Oats, Emmer and Einkorn from Farmers in that area.  When you consider the “food miles” or how far your food travels from field to plate, and the associated carbon footprint, it is cut down by 2/3 buying from BC vs. the Prairies based on distance travelled.

wholespelt bread

Modern Wheat Hybridization

The next benefit of milling your own grain and having access to organic BC grain Farmers is you can challenge them to grow ancient grains and heritage wheat varieties.


Why is this important? You probably know someone who is off gluten and wheat.  Twenty years ago, you probably did not, in fact, if you are like many people, you didn’t even know what it was.  With the exception of the .8 of 1% of the population who suffer from the serious disease called Celiac disease, gluten is not the problem, modern wheat is.  Since World War 2, wheat has been hybridized tens of thousands of times.  The motivation was to resist disease, shorten the season so it could be harvested before an early frost, dwarf the plant to enable it to carry more wheat berries per plant, this increasing yield per acre.  It was later learned that when a grain is hybridized or mated with another, up to 5% of the proteins found in the offspring cannot be traced back to either parent. That means the protein was essentially newly created. So, 5%,5%,5%,5%,5%,5%,5%….In a few generations, you can see what is coming out the end is vastly different than what originally went in.  Now continue the process hundreds or thousands of times.


At True Grain Bread, we try to reach back in time and mill and bake with Heritage Wheat varieties such as Red Fife (circa 1840s) or ancient wheat varieties such as Spelt, Khorasan, Emmer or Einkorn.  If you were to visit True Grain Bread and talk to our customers, many would say something to the effect of..”I have digestive issues when I eat factory bread. I dont know why, but I can tolerate the Red Fife sourdough or light spelt without a problem…”  This isn’t the case for everyone, but it is a solution for many.


Commercial Milling Practices of White Flour

The biggest single thing I learned about milling my own grain was how different it is from commercial milling practices.


There are Canadian Laws governing what has to and what my be done to call wheat flour, wheat flour.  Unlike the laws regarding ingredient labelling on food, it is sufficient to say “white flour”.  This is the link to the Canadian Government Website.


This is not applicable to sifted grains such as spelt, emmer or red fife, but it is for wheat.

To summarize the link, there are 2 main criteria that must be met in order to call flour, “white flour”.


  •       It has to be ground fine enough and enough bran removed to a threshold of not more than 149 microns.
  •       It must be enriched with thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and iron.

In most cases, the enriched minerals are outlined on the label, but not required by the legislation.


The really interesting part about the law is the full page of what manufacturers ARE able to add.  None of this is required on the ingredient label (because it is just widely, understood, right?).


Most of the additives fill the role of making the flour last longer, making it look better and more appetizing, or making it perform consistently or by performing better by enhancing gluten development and baking properties.

Here are some highlights of what is allowed.  What these additives are the thresholds and what they do is beyond the scope of this webpage, but I invite you to do a little research on your own.


  •    amylase, amylase (maltogenic), asparaginase, bromelain, glucoamylase, glucose oxidase, lactase, lipase, lipoxidase, pentosanase, phospholipase, protease, pullulanase or xylanase, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, benzoyl peroxide, ammonium persulphate, ammonium chloride, acetone peroxide, azodicarbonamide, l-cysteine (hydrochloride), monocalcium phosphate.

The most news worthy additive on the list is azodicarbonamide.  A few years ago, a major restaurant chain was forced to have their flour suppliers remove azodicarbonamide from all of their sandwich as the result of a blogger highlighting the fact that it is a key ingredient in making yoga mats.


Another fun one is l-cysteine; ….The majority of L-cysteine is obtained industrially by hydrolisis of human hair, poultry feathers, or hog hair, with human hair being the preferred method……


So, those are some good reasons why we mill our own grains. I am all for progress, but I think people should be aware of what is in commercial flour and virtually all baked goods.  Then they can choose.

At True Grain Bread, we don’t think this should be in our food, so we either mill our own grain or buy organic unbleached untreated white flour.


How do you protect yourself if you don’t want to eat this stuff?


  • Look for flour labelled as “unbleached”. That takes care of the chlorines and bleaching agents.
  • Typically organic flour has less added to it than conventional flour, (but not necessarily)
  • Ask questions of the manufacturer for a list of exactly what is in it.
  • Seek out a small scale producer or a retailer who sells sifted wheat instead of flour or flour that declares untreated and unbleached
True Grain Mill