Why the home milled flour trend is exploding in New Zealand right now

Kiwis caught out by the great flour shortage of 2020 are taking matters into their own hands. Find out why the homemade flour movement is booming.

There were a few things that none of us expected going into lockdown. One of them was the curious stockpiling of loo roll. The other was the speed with which baking products of every kind were swiped from the shelves. For those of us desperate to get our hands into some dough, flour became a rare and priceless commodity.

As one Twitter user exclaimed, ""NZ panic buying all the flour like they're about to compete in a lockdown bake-off." Apparently, we all had the same genius idea at precisely the same time. We're going to be stuck at home for a while. Let's bake stuff.

Ever the problem solvers, Kiwis went looking for a solution to the upsetting flour shortage and found one. Milling their own at home. Even now that bags of self-raising are becoming a common sight again, the handmade flour trend is booming.

Steph Immler owns Flour/Power/Mills, based in Christchurch, supplier of New Zealand's largest range of grain mills and flakers. She has been stunned and delighted by the sudden increase in interest.

"I have definitely noticed an increase in interest in our electric and manual flour mills as well as the accessories like bannetons in the past few weeks. We have had almost double the enquiries since lockdown started!"

We managed to grab Steph for a few minutes and she spilled the beans (or grains, to be more precise) on why so many New Zealanders are loving home milled flour right now.

1. How does home milled flour differ to commercial product? Does it taste different?

The benefits of milling your own flour at home are huge. Unfortunately, a lot of people have never tried a truly fresh bread or muesli prepared from freshly and locally processed grains. You will not only benefit from increased nutritional value, but you will also taste the difference. There is nothing compared to oven-fresh bread using only the best (ideally organic) flours prepared freshly from grains. The same holds true for muesli, cake, pastries, Bircher muesli, patties, pasta, you name it…

The overall loss of nutrients is more than two thirds of the beneficial components found in whole grains compared to white store bought flour. Even the “whole wheat flour” that you can buy in supermarkets and stores is often highly processed and its main components are first separated and then subsequently recombined according to a standardised formula.

As soon as you start making your own bread and baked goods, you regain control over what you eat. You can choose every single ingredient and you can choose from a great variety of organically grown whole grains and seeds in your local health food shop or online. The grains store for months at home and can be ground as needed.

2. Are there any other benefits to milling your own flour?

There is also a sound economical reason to home milling. An electric grain mill will typically have made up for its purchase costs after 1.5-2 years, saving you hundreds of dollars throughout the years thereafter. Organic whole wheat can be bought in bulk quantities of 10-25kg for prices below NZ$2 per kg, whereas 1kg of packed wholemeal flour typically costs between NZ$4-8 in stores.

3. What equipment do you need to make your own flour at home?

You only need either a hand operated or electric flour mill depending on the amounts that you intend to grind and fresh grains – that’s it. Whereas an electric mill is more convenient especially if you grind regularly and larger amounts, a hand mill has the advantage that it can be run without power and you can take it anywhere.

4. What about the ingredients? What grains can you grind? Are there any that you would recommend starting with for a novice miller?

You can grind all the standard grains like wheat, rye, spelt, sorghum or kamut but also pulses (chickpeas, beans, lentils, etc.), corn, rice, buckwheat, millet or quinoa to name a few. So even if you are gluten free you can grind your own flour and bake your own bread at home. There is not one grain that I can recommend to start with. Just start with whatever your preferences are and the rest is learning by doing. The possibilities are endless really.

5. How long does it take to mill your own flour? Is it complicated?

Grinding your own flour is so easy that even your children will love doing it for you! To mill enough flour for one 1000g loaf of bread takes roughly 3-7 minutes or less, depending on the mill size. The mill does the job – you can do other things in between. Milling by hand takes longer, about 10-25 minutes which also depends on the mill and its size.

6. Do you have any top home milling tips and tricks?

It is important to buy really good quality grains to make sure the grains are not damp and do not contain stones as they could damage the grinding stones. I prefer organic quality and I also buy in bulk directly from the farmers which makes the milling even more cost effective.

7. What’s your favourite way to use home milled flour?

I personally use my home milled flour for literally everything I bake. I make my own bread regularly but also use the flour for cakes, biscuits or pastry. If I need a slightly lighter “white” flour I use a manual sifter to make the flour finer but that doesn’t happen very often. At the moment I trial gluten free baking as well which is a lot of fun.

If you're keen to start milling your own flour, you can order a mill online from Flour/Power/Mills at flour-power-mills.co.nz. The website also features a mill guide, a useful resource for beginners wondering which piece of equipment they should purchase first.