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Wheat, Durum Milling, Flour classes and varieties

Wheat (Gehun) is used to make Atta (Bread flour), Maida (All purpose flour) Dalia (cracked wheat), Sooji (Semolina)


Wheat has been used in India for over 5,000 years. Wheat today is not the wheat grown up to 1970s. The wheat has gone through major evolution. First major change occurred during 1960s (The Green Revolution What was the Green Revolution?) when existing species was changed to 'Sharbat Sonora' dwarf species. Later on Durum was introduced. Today there are two basic varieties of wheat produced in India to make Atta: Durum (Triticum durum Desf.) and Aestivum (Triticum Aestivum L). Aestivum is a semi hard wheat compared to hard Durum. For discussion, I will refer to Aestivum as Gehun. In India, about 90% of Atta is made from Gehun. Durum is also called Semolina.

Durum is harder than any variety of Gehun. In United States Durum is  used to make Pasta products (Spaghetti Macaroni), and short patent bread flour.



The wheat is categorized by it's hardness. Durum is the hardest. Gluten gives the dough its elasticity ('Loach') and ability for yeast to work efficiently. Harder the wheat, higher is its protein content, and potential to produce gluten. For discussion, we will just categorize wheat as Soft, or Hard and Durum .
I can not resist mentioning a 'cultural' thing in India. Wheat color ranges from creamy white to to reddish tan. In the olden days, the parents of a boy were always looking for a bride whose complexion was 'Wheat-ish' resembling color of soft wheat grain.


Structure of wheat grain

After, the husk is removed, the wheat grain is revealed. It has three layers. The outermost layer (the skin of the grain) is called 'Bran' and represents about 15% of the grain, followed by 'Endosperm' representing 82.5% an then the inner most called 'Germ' representing 2.5%. Technically, The bran consists of two layers, but we will just call it bran.

Bran is basically fiber, endosperm is starch, and germ is the protein


Wheat Classes

In United States, the wheat is divided into six classes:

Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Soft Red winter, Hard white, Soft white, and Durum

In United States, Spring wheat (hard, soft, and durum) are planted in spring and harvested in summer. The winter wheat are planted during fall or winter. In India, spring wheat may be planted in fall.

The white wheat lacks the red gene present in the bran of red wheat. The red gene gives a slightly bitter taste. During 1950s, when India imported the wheat from United States under PL 480 deal, it was Hard Red wheat. The red gene in the bran made the flour was slightly more bitter and harder than the local hard red wheat. Locals cut it with native wheat to make it more palatable for Indian taste.


In India Hard red, Hard white,  and Durum are used to make Atta. Soft white is used to make Maida and Pastry flour. The hard wheat classes are really semi-hard in comparison to Durum.



Household Chakki

In the olden days, I remember every household had a Chakki to mill the wheat. It consisted of two stone disks, each about 20" in diameter, and 3" thick. The bottom disk was stationary, the top disk is rotated to ground the wheat. The top disk has a hole to feed the wheat. As the top disk is rotated, it scrapes the wheat spreading it out to the outer edge. The scraping surface of both the stones is corrugated. The top disk sits on a spindle located on the bottom disk. The different length spindles are used to determine the coarseness of the output. The output is sifted to obtain different varieties of the product.


Chakki Milling/Stone Milling

Chakki milling in India is almost same as Stone milling in the western world. The basic basic principal of Stone milling is same as the Household Chakki milling. There are enhancements like automatic control of the spindles to adjust space between the disks. The process results in 15% to 17% starch damage and no loss of Ash.


Roller Milling

There are three sets of rollers, each consisting of two rollers and associated sifters. The first set of rollers has corrugated surface, one moving faster than the other causing the brown skin (bran) of the wheat grain to be sheared away. The out put is than sifted. After the bran has been removed, the output is passed through two more sets of rollers and sifters  to separate germ and finally producing flour. Normally, this results in 5% to 6% damage to the starch and loss of Ash.

In India, the corrugated surface of the first set of rollers is designed to actually crack the wheat grain and NOT just shear it. This technique results in comparable starch damage of 11% to 13% comparable  the Chakki milling and Ash to 1% needed to make Atta.

Flour Classes

There are two basic classes.

Wholemeal flour Whole-Grain Whole-wheat

Wholemeal is also called Whole-grain or Whole-wheat. This represents an extraction of 94% to 98% of the wheat grain. Minimum amount (2% to 6%) is sifted away as bran.

In United states there are two types

'Whole-wheat' label is used for ground hard wheat high-gluten

Whole-wheat 'Pastry flour' is ground soft wheat low-gluten

White flour

75% of the wheat grain is extracted. Most of the bran and the germ are sifted away leaving mostly the endosperm. This results in a loss of  22 vitamins/minerals, and dietary fiber.
At present 38 states in USA require the  white flour to be enriched with iron and the B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. In India, no products are enriched in this manner at present.

Made of high-gluten hard wheat, and low-gluten soft wheat

Flour Varieties

Main differences in gluten level, strength, ash,


All-purpose flour

A blend of high-gluten hard wheat, and low-gluten soft wheat.

un-bleached/bleached, Bromated, pre-sifted (milled to finer texture)



Atta is made from hard Gehun (Indian Wheat) or Durum.  Milling process (cracking) results in high starch damage suitable for water absorption to make dough. The milling process also minimizes loss of Ash.


Bread flour

A blend of high-gluten hard wheat varieties optimized for using yeast


White flour made from hard wheat, slightly coarser than All-purpose flour.


Cake flour

White flour made from soft wheat and finer texture than the All-purpose flour. Lowest amount of Gluten. High starch, 6 to 8% protein. Bleached. Bleaching toughen protein to support large level of sugar without collapsing



Dalia a cracked whole wheat berries. The wheat may be soft, hard or a blend of both.


Pastry flour

White flour made from a blend of soft and hard wheat (more soft wheat) similar in texture to the cake flour. Higher gluten than cake flour, but lower gluten than All Purpose flour. 8 to 10% protein. Un-bleached


Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour

Made with soft-wheat. This is coarser than cake flour, finer than bread flours, or Atta.

Un-bleached Whole-wheat Pastry flour is the best substitute for Maida



Wholemeal flour made from soft wheat similar in texture to cake flour. In reality, it resembles more to the Pastry flour being a Wholemeal flour (higher protein).


Farina/Cream of wheat

Granular product made from endosperm of any wheat other than the Durum. Comparable to Sooji.



Rava is a Wholemeal granular product grittier than Sooji or Semolina. It is made from Gehun or Durum



Granular (similar to Farina) product made from endosperm of Durum only.



Wholemeal granular (similar to Semolina)  product made from Gehun or Durum.


Durum flour

White flour made from Durum same texture as the All purpose flour.


Self-rising flour

All-purpose flour. The salt, and leavening agents such as baking soda or baking powder, and acid-releasing agents are sifted in the final stage.


Stone ground Whole Wheat flour

Wholemeal flour made from a blend of soft and hard wheat.


Whole wheat flour

Since the roller-milling sifts out the bran and the germ, for whole wheat flour, they are added back in to the All-purpose flour.


Graham Flour

Used only in United States. Endosperm is separated and milled like All purpose flour. The bran and germ are milled slightly coarser and added back to all purpose flour.


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