What Is It? Wednesday: Stone Milling
Healthy Living on on August 2 2017 by Sarena Shasteen

What Is It? Wednesday: Stone Milling

Welcome to What Is It? Wednesdays! Every other Wednesday, we’ll explore a different ingredient or product in depth. We’ll be covering the benefits, uses, and common misconceptions about each. If you have any requests, leave them in the comments and we’ll work them into the schedule.  Here at Bob's Red Mill, we are dedicated to the time-honored tradition of stone milling to provide you with the purest form of grains. Ever wondered what a stone mill is or how it works? Well, now you don't have to! What is a stone mill? A stone mill, also known as a grist mill, grinds a variety of grains using buhr stones instead of steel rollers. Because the millstones grind at a slow speed and cool temperature, the inherent nutrients and flavor of our grains are preserved, a production "secret" that allows us to seal in the freshness and bring you wholesome, quality foods, just as nature intended. Where do our stones come from? Our operating millstones are hand quarried in La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, France. The stone has the advantage of occurring in a form with a myriad of very small holes in a flint-hard setting. The biting, or "lively" quality for grinding grain is owed to the flinty nature of the stone. Its very hardness means that a pair of stones will last a lifetime. How does stone milling work? The grain starts out in a hopper, which holds the grain. Then the damsel shakes the grains so they can travel down through the shoe and into the eye of the upper stone. This is where the magic happens to provide us with whole grain goodness. Again, the millstones grind at a slow speed and cool temperature, and that’s what helps preserve the nutrients and flavor of the grain. The size of the grain is determined by the distance between the two stones. Check out this fun interactive graphic to see how this process works. When did Bob’s Red Mill start milling flour? Bob's journey began in the mid '60s when he came across a book called John Goffe's Mill that inspired him to search for his own stone mill. With a little time and persistence, Bob and his wife, Charlee, eventually found several sets of millstones in Fayetteville, NC, where they purchased them, had them shipped and began their first mill in Redding, California. In 1978 the couple left the mill and retired to Oregon City, but fate stepped in one afternoon when Bob came across an old mill that was for sale. A few months later, Bob’s Milwaukie-based mill was producing stone ground flours and cereals for local customers . . . and those millstones are still turning! Why use a stone mill for grinding? To make superb whole grain flour, we stick with this time-honored practice of stone milling so we keep the nutrients intact. No modern technology can match the Old World engineering of a stone mill. Our beautiful, century-old buhr millstones are much like the ones used during early Roman times. Unlike high-speed steel rollers, our quartz millstones ensure the most nutritious parts of the whole grain remain, so we can pack wholesome goodness right into your bag. Our grains remain whole grains because we don’t remove the bran or germ, which you lose in processed grains. Want to hear Bob talk about our millstones? Check out this video for more details from Bob himself! If you ever come to Milwaukie, OR, come tour our facility! We would love to show you around our home.

8 Comments

  1. Critical I
    i still don't get why using a stone mill is better than a metal mill? i saw how it says about how stone grinding is "slow and cool"... so metal grinding HAS to be fast (as cited above)? also, exactly how does metal grinding lose nutrition of the grain (as it suggests above)? thanks for clarifying
    Reply
    1. Critical I
      ...actually, on 2nd thought, i believe i just realized the answer to the first ? at least - i'm guessing the "burry" part of the stones adds a texture or increased/complex surface area such that it can cut to the same end-consistency at SLOWER speeds than smoother metal, right? still though... the answer to the second question is desired, thank you.
      Reply
    2. Critical I
      ... ok, so i think i got the answer to the 2nd question too, having to do with the increased heat and losing of nutrition, i can accept that possibility, but of course with that comes the understanding that this scale of making flour itself (compared to homesteading or local community scales, for example) may be convenient for customers and good for business, but ALSO potentially less nutritious (among other disadvantages, like personal and environmental health).

      so also, if Bob's would maybe like to make efforts to help transition agricultural practices to an even more healthy society, i have some ideas, like providing better job and livelihood opportunities for us on the rural ag. lands (via the WWOOF site or numbers or links on the packaging?) in a more permaculture way of life, you know?
      Reply
  2. christian
    I just found a section of a millstone in my garden today, it is made of aggregate quartz, it may have formed a stone 6 feet diameter, I'll try dig someone more tomorrow.
    Reply
  3. Justin
    I found a mill stone 5ft diameter and 18 inches thick and square hole I believe it to be granite. Just curious on what it’s worth and where it came from. Thanks
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Justin - Sorry, we don't have an answer for you on that.
      Reply
  4. Runyararo
    Considering the fact that these mills work slow, how effective are they in pushing volumes when scaling up in business
    Reply
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Pretty well: We mill more than 5 million pounds of whole wheat flour alone each year!
      Reply

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