Millstones versus Roller Mills – continued
Regarding the article by Richard Ellis in Hampshire
Mills Group Newsletter 120 on Millstones versus
have some comments and additional information.
The article says "White flour has had all the
goodness taken out, and is just pure starch".
At some stage in the production of white flour it
might be valid to say that it is pure endosperm
(starch) but the finished product leaving the roller
mill has been fortified (by law) for over 60 years
calcium carbonate, iron, nicotinic
acid or nicotinamide,
and thiamin (vitamin B1).
The demand for the white loaf occurred many
centuries before the rise of roller milling; the
public did not develop a taste for white flour as a
result of roller milling. John Harrison1
explains that as far back as the 14th century there
existed a White Bread Guild in London. The upper
classes were firmly set against keeping the bran in
the flour. The bran was considered to be
indigestible and to cause ‘wind’. John goes on to
explain that the fashion for white bread moved down
the social scale and outside London. By the end of
the 18th century anyone eating coarse bread anywhere
in England could perhaps be seen as old fashioned or
to have fallen on hard times.
If the fashion for white flour hadn't existed it
would have been easier and more cost effective for
roller mills to have just produced wholemeal flour
and save on the capital cost of much of the sifting
and purifying plant.
The invention and introduction of the roller mills
was a direct response to (1) the increased demand
from the public for white bread, brought about by
the increase in the population, and (2) the need for
a solution to the technical problem of milling hard
wheat with millstones.
During the period 1750 to 1850 the population of
England had risen from some 6.3 million to about
16.9 million. Not enough grain could always be
grown in Britain to satisfy demand, so with the
repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, Britain became more
reliant upon imported corn
from countries such as Canada, USA, and Russia.
Additionally, a lot of ready-milled flour was also
imported. The imported wheat was said to be of
better quality and cheaper but tended to be 'harder'
than comparative English wheat. Some English wheat
was mixed with the imported wheat to improve the
flavour, but the home grown varieties at the time
did not have the amount of gluten that the foreign
ones did. Gluten
contributes to the ability of dough to rise and
maintain its shape as it is baked.
Hard wheat was said to be difficult to mill
satisfactorily with millstones. Mowery & Rosenberg2
reported that with hard wheat the millstones had to
be run at high pressure and high speed which
generated heat. The heat tended to discolour the
flour and injure its properties. Additionally, the
bran layers were said to be thinner in hard wheat
and that they would crumble under the pressure of
stone milling, making it harder to sift.
Grinding with millstones is a low volume process:
for example, one pair of burr stones running at
about 120rev/min typically produces 120kg of flour
per hour3, approximately one 280lb sack.
In comparison Kick4 suggests that the
early fully automatic roller mills could produce 60
sacks of flour per day.
Harrison, John (2005) The Rise of the White Loaf.
SPAB Mills Section, ISBN 1898856141
Mowery , D.C. & Rosenberg, N. (1989)
Technology and the Pursuit of Economic Growth.
Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521380332
Harris N.S. (2014) Watermills and
Stoneground Flour Milling. Self-published,
Kick, F. (1888),
Manufacture: A Treatise on Milling Science and
Crosby, Lockwood & Son