The Importance of Grinding Your Own Flour

Messerschmidt Hand Mill

by Catherine Haug, May 21, 2011

(photo, left, from Lehman’s (2))

This is a companion post to The Problem with Unfermented Grains. Both topics were discussed at our recent May gathering (Making and Using Sourdough, a Panel Presentation).

In this post, I talk about the importance of using freshly ground flour, preferably using your own grain mill. This is because commercial whole grain flour is most likely rancid (contains toxic free radicals). Ronny impressed this upon us at the Sourdough presentation, but since grain mills do not come cheaply, she offers the following suggestions: 

  • “Rome was not built in a day and neither was the ability to make good sourdough learned in an evening. Pease remember that small steps can bring great results. While you are researching and deciding what grain mill to purchase  or jointly “co-op” with several neighbors, start baking.  Just find the best and freshest flour you can.
  • I talked with the folks at Wheat Montana and they do have milling dates on their flour sacks. You can order good and fresh flour from the Wheat Montana Deli in Kalispell. You just have to make sure that the dates on the flour are fresh. You must request freshness when you order (Yes, we must be proactive shoppers).
  • The only big drawback from the above suggestion is that they sell their organic whole wheat flour in 50 pound sacks! That makes another great opportunity to practice community and go in with your neighbors and share a sack of flour.
  • Encourage your neighbors to go in with you on the cost of a grain mill.”

So what does it mean to be rancid, and why is it bad?


Ronny encouraged us all to obtain a grain grinder, for grinding our own fresh whole grain flour. Store-bought whole grain flour could have been ground last week, or months, even years ago, and is not likely fresh. This is not a big problem with white flour, so if you don’t have a grinder, you are better off using Organic unbleached white flour.

Why is this such a big deal? Because the whole grain includes the bran and germ which are rich in polyunsaturated oils, the kind that are sensitive to heat. These are the essential Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats that are important to human health. But when exposed to heat (such as the grinding process, or storage in a warm warehouse), they break down by oxidation into free radicals and are no longer healthful. In fact, heat-damaged oils are toxic.

Free Radicals

These dangerous species are the reason you take all those anti-oxidant supplements, or eat foods rich in anti-oxidants. They are highly reactive and disruptive – like a bank robber with a loaded gun when the police are arriving at the scene. This is because they have an unpaired electron that does a lot of damage in the quest for a mate.

When a free radical encounters an unsaturated fat molecule in the flour, it oxidizes that molecule, causing it to split into two or more new free radicals, each of which go on to make more free radicals.

For more on Free radicals and antioxidants, see Mercola’s article Free Radicals and Antioxidants (8).

Exponential Damage by Free Radicals

Similarly, when a free radical encounters sensitive tissues (such as arterial lining), they cause oxidation at the point of contact, producing more free radicals, each of which goes on to produce even more free radicals. This continues exponentially, until the process is checked by an anti-oxidant like vitamin E.

For most people, the damage caused by rancid grains (and other free radical sources) is not usually immediately apparent. In fact, it can take years before the problems appear as symptoms. But if you have heart disease, arthritis, cancer, or other inflammatory problems, chances are free radicals are to blame.

Avoiding Rancid Flour

Whole grain flour that is not freshly ground will be loaded with free radicals from oxidation of the unsaturated fats in the bran and germ. You can’t see them, but sometimes you can smell them – the smell of rancidity. But flour can still be rancid even though you cannot smell it. [The same is true of  bottled vegetable oils that are not cold-pressed.]

Thus it is important to grind your own, right before using it. Or you can grind up a few week’s worth and keep it in the fridge or freezer (cold slows down the action of free radicals). However, before using chilled flour, it is important to allow it to warm to room temperature.

The type of grinder is important too. Some grinders generate a lot of heat in the grinding process; heat that will produce free radicals.

If you cannot grind your own or obtain freshly-ground flour from a neighbor, use unbleached white flour. It is ground from the endosperm, which has much fewer heat-sensitive oils, and thus not as prone to rancidity.


Country Living Grain Mill

(Photo, right, from Lehman’s (2))

You can use motorized grinders, or grinder attachments to high-end stand mixers such as KitchenAid, which grind flour with little exertion on your part. Or you can use hand grinders that clamp to a sturdy table, and grind by turning a wheel. Consider a hand grinder that can be connected to a bicycle or treadle, to foot-power the grinder.

I have a Country Living mill that can be used manually by turning the wheel, or connection to a foot-powered device; or it can be connected to an electric motor to drive the wheel.

I suggest a mill that can be operated by a motor and manually (for those times when there is no power). But a good electric mill can also be considered. Here are a few grinders to consider.

Messerschmidt mill

(See photo, at beginning of this article). This mill can be operated manually, or connected to a stand mixer (such as Kitchen Aid) by the use of a special attachment. Learn more about this mill:

You can also get a grain roller/flaker attachment to make rolled oats, etc. that, like the grain grinder, can be operated manually or by attaching to your Kitchen Aid mixer.

Country Living mill

(see photo, above, right)

Ronny brought her Country Living mill for us to see at the Sourdough presentation. This mill is made for smooth, manual operation, either by hand or by connection to  a foot-power device. Learn more about this mill:

It can also be motorized with a belt-driven motorization kit (or you can provide your own motor). See Motorizing your Country Living Grain Mill (6).

Nutrimill (Electric)

Ronny also brought her Nutrimill electric grain mill to the Sourdough presentation. Learn more about this mill:

Related ESP Articles


  1. Family Grain Mill (Messerschmidt):
  2. Country Living Mill:
  3. Country Living Mill:
  4. Nutrimill:
  5. Lehman’s: Grain Mills and Roller/Flaker Mill:
  6. Motorizing a Country Living Mill:
  7. Messerschmidt Grain Mill with Kitchen Aid Attachment:
  8. Mercola: Free Radicals & Antioxidants:


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