Why is WW flour bitter?

(Khasidi) #1

I find that whole wheat flour has a kind of bitter taste. A friend of mine makes bread with Spelt and it doesn’t seem to have this taste. I dislike it so much that I don’t usually use WW flour. If I am going to be using a whole grain flour, I almost always prefer Rye, even though it is really, really sticky. But I am wondering whether this bitter taste happens because the flour I am getting is not freshly milled.

On the other hand, I notice that most recipes for WW bread call for molasses or other sweetener. I’m thinking that this is to counteract the bitterness—which indicates to me that other people notice this problem, too.

It’s kind of weird, because wheat germ doesn’t taste bitter and there are a lot of whole wheat products that also don’t taste bitter—Wheaties® breakfast cereal, for instance. But Wheaties® is made, I think, from sprouted wheat. I am thinking that maybe, if I took the extra step of adding sprouted grain to my bread, or diastatic malt powder, the malt enzymes might eliminate the bitter taste.

I know a lot of people here have more experience than I do about different types of flour. Any thoughts?

(Melissa) #2

WW flour has oil in it and if old, those oils can turn rancid - which is why fresh milled at home or from a place that mills on demand (and then storing in the refrigerator) can make a big difference in flavor.

The bran even fresh can have a bitterness to some palates as well. I don’t find this to be the case even when I am using hard red spring wheat - which is what commercial WW is typically made from, but everyone is different for sure.

There are so many flavors of wheat that I would strongly encourage you to explore them. Durum and Kamut are nutty and buttery. Red Fife and to a slightly lesser degree Turkey Red have hints of baking spices. White Sonora and Hard White Spring are more neutral and creamy. Emmer and Warthog and Hard Red Spring and Einkorn…so many flavors!

Did you see this recipe from a few weeks ago? I’m not sure if I mentioned it anywhere, but my kids happily ate all of the test loaves that went into developing that recipe, and they each have pretty different palates.

(Liz) #3

I can’t really add to what Melissa wrote except to say that WW does not taste bitter to me … but that doesn’t meant my WW would not taste bitter to you :slight_smile:

I made the referenced Einkorn recipe (enriched version) with my white starter so very little white with the Einkorn and I thought that loaf was THE BEST WW sandwich loaf I’ve ever made. I had no expectations really but was wowed by the flavor. I love Kamut Khorasan and frequently mix White, White Kamut and WW Kamut for another favorite. I like Spelt also. Turkey Red and Red Fife are on my list to try.

(Brent Roberts) #4

We have a local small scale mill that we tried whole wheat from a few times over a few years and eventually ended up throwing away all his flour. That sharp acrid bitter taste just would not go. We later found another small scale mill and got sweet smelling and tasting whole grain flour from them … but eventually got a home mill and never looked back. One thing we did read in a serious book by one of the bread guru’s of the world, ( I have a small library of them and apologize for not going thru them all to find the reference) but there was some comments that the very freshest of ground flour did not make the best tasting bread. It needed a few weeks, preferably in a cloth bag with some air exchange, to age it and provide the best flavor. My taste and baking skills are not so refined that I can confirm or deny this but we put our ground flour in a converted wine cooler ( along with our sourdough starter ) at about 50 degrees. We have never had the rancid oil flavor …(yet !!) Maybe Melissa has some comments on this.

(Melissa) #5

I haven’t done deep reading on this, but I’ve heard there is benefit to gluten formation if you age the flour, and benefit to flavor and nutrient profile if you don’t age.
Again, I haven’t read much on the subject or tested it.
Perhaps more people can weigh in.

(Paul) #6

I have never tried aging the whole grain flour I mill (I have a Mockmill). That’s because I have found the flavor of bread baked with the fresh-milled flour to be so superior to bread baked with purchased milled flour that it hasn’t even occurred to me to consider that it might not be that very freshness that is responsible for the flavor difference.

I also roast my own coffee beans at home and with roasted coffee, I definitely have found that I prefer the flavor of the resulting coffee after letting the roasted beans rest for up to a week or two after roasting, rather than brewing it in the day or two after roasting.

I’m a scientist, so that makes me want to test this flour aging idea, but I have to confess that (even with my coffee bean roasting experience) my intuition is rebelling strongly enough at the idea that aging the flour is going to be an improvement that it is interacting with my laziness and making me feel like I might not have that experiment coming in my near future. :crazy_face:

P.S. To the original topic of this thread, I’ll say that I can frequently taste the bitterness in whole grain hard red wheat and that’s why I don’t bake with it. To my palate, Red Fife and Turkey Red wheat perform almost as well (gluten wise) as hard red wheat, but neither of them have that bitterness to me. Of the two, I personally prefer the flavor of Red Fife. I’ve also found that whole hard white wheat performs very well without any bitterness.

(Brent Roberts) #7

I’ll see if I can find the reference in the book and post it.
I should have said that I sift the flour fresh out of the Komo mill and refrigerate the bran and germ immediately and put the extraction in a cloth bag for a few days then refrigerate it.
I’d love to know how to separate the bran from the germ but I have not found any info on that idea anywhere.

(Brent Roberts) #8

A quick google “aging fresh milled flour” search found this link first

and this

and there are more

(Melissa) #9

I came across this article that’s pro use w/in 3 days or 2 weeks if frozen

(kmollyone234) #10

Hi Khasidi,
The bitter taste in red whole wheat is all in the bran. You can just switch to any White Whole Wheat flour and you will probably notice no bitter taste because the compound that is bitter in red whole wheat is absent in the bran of white whole wheat. Humans have specific taste buds for bitter–just like taste buds for sweet and salty–some more than others and some people cannot tolerate the taste of bitter at all. My husband for instance won’t eat any food that is even a little bit bitter tasting, whole wheat included. I like the taste of bitter in many foods, including red whole wheats, but I also appreciate the flavor of spelt and white whole wheat and durum and most of the “ancient” whole wheats. I’m easy to please. I do not think you are likely to be tasting bitter because your ww flour is rancid unless it’s been exposed to very warm temps and for longer than 2-3 months.

King Arthur Flour’s baking gurus say in their books that using only a couple tablespoons of orange juice in any ww bread recipe is enough to diminish the bitter taste for most people and there is no taste of OJ in the bread. I tried this for my family who hate bitter, and I can attest that you cannot taste the OJ flavor. But I’m a poor judge of the bitterness issue since I like bitter. My family still thought the hard red whole wheat flour had a bitter taste in the bread. I also have tried a method from Cooks Illustrated of soaking the entire amount of whole wheat flour in a bread recipe overnight in milk (as a part of the total liquid in the recipe), and this was totally successful. Nobody complained of bitterness and I could not taste the slightest bit of bitter flavor myself.

So you have lots of options to still use whole grain flour in your bread and reduce or eliminate the bitter taste you are noticing–out of all the different suggestions, something will probably work for you. I can’t say for sure, but I don’t believe using malt in any form will take away all the bitter taste as long as you still have the bran of red whole wheat in your bread. I have used sprouted grain and diastatic malt powder and I don’t think either made any difference in bitter taste, although malting definitely sweetens the flour. But try it out! Who knows until you try it whether it will solve your issue.

Good luck with experimenting :slight_smile:

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(Khasidi) #11

Paul, When you do your research regarding aging vs. not aging home milled, whole grain flour, here is something you might investigate. I have heard that it is important to age white flour (that is non-whole grain wheat flour), but that this does not hold true for whole wheat. I have no idea whether this is true, but it would resolve the conflict between aging vs. using fresh milled flour.

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread. It has clarified the issue for me.