Flour milling in the EU today is an automated and efficient industry, having evolved from the days of water-driven and wind-driven mills.
The milling of flour from grain has its origins in the early history of all major civilisations. It is generally regarded as the oldest known industry. Although there have been considerable advances in the way grain is milled, the process has remained relatively simple.
Milling is the process by which wheat is ground into flour, through which the wheat grain is separated into its constituent parts: bran, germ and white flour.
The milling process
The modern rollermill consists of two cast iron rollers set slightly apart from each other. The top roller runs at a slightly faster rate to the lower roller; when wheat passes through it creates a shearing action, opening up the wheat grain.
The various fragments of wheat grain are separated by being passed through a complex arrangement of sieves. White endosperm particles known as semolina will be channelled into a series of smooth reduction rolls for final milling into white flour
In a typical mill, there may be up to 4 break rolls and 12 reduction rolls, which leads to the production of some 16 flour streams, a bran steam, a germ stream and a bran/flour/germ "wheat feed" stream.
The modern milling process allows the miller to remove the bran particles from the endosperm; grind the endosperm into flour; sift the ground stock and remove flour produced at each stage.
Millers may blend different wheats prior to milling in order to achieve a specific grist. However, they may also blend different flours in order to produce the product demanded by their customers. By blending together the many different flour streams produced by the mill, a miller can create further variations in features such as flour colour.
Very white flours would come from the early streams only, while brown flours involve using most streams. Wholemeal flour is produced when all the streams, bran, germ and flours are blended back together with nothing removed.
Finally, the flour is sifted before delivery to the food manufacturer, bakery or retail outlet either in bulk or bags.
During milling, different parts of the wheat grain are used to make different types of flour. As a result of advances in technology and the skill of the miller, the industry produces over 600 different types of flour to meet a growing consumer demand for a diverse range of products. The best known use of flour is to make bread, but it is an important ingredient in many common foodstuffs. These include biscuits, cakes, pies, pizza bases and soups.
Milling is a continuous process
Milling is a continuous process and flour mills are operating 24 hours a day. Therefore flour millers must secure wheat and rye supply in both quality and quantity.