Which Whole Wheat?

Hard Red Wheat vs. Hard White Wheat

by in Featured Articles, Recipes, Whole Grains 101
Which Whole Wheat?

Which Whole Wheat?

As you might have noticed, here at Bob’s Red Mill we have a huge selection of different types of grains and flours to choose from. One of the questions that we are asked most often here in the bakery is the difference between two specific kinds: Hard Red Wheat and Hard White Wheat. We thought we’d take a minute to give you some information to help you pick out the flour that is best for your baking needs.

The terms “red” and “white” are used to identify the color of the kernel and not of the flour that is eventually milled from those kernels. Hard white wheat was actually originally developed from hard red wheat. The idea was to create a new type of wheat with the same overall nutritional value, but with some different characteristics for baking.

Red wheat has a slightly higher amount of protein which makes it better for more rustic, artisan and generally harder bread loaves. In contrast, hard white wheat’s more moderate level of protein makes for softer loaves such as your typical pan loaves and dinner rolls. In the bakery, we use hard white wheat to create a single-twisted sliced pan loaf which is very soft in texture.

The other major difference between the two types of wheat is in flavor. Red wheat has a certain genetic makeup that gives the bran its darker color, whereas white wheat has been cultivated to be free of these certain genes. By eliminating these genes, the bitter taste sometimes experienced with red wheat is reduced. Health conscious bakers often prefer white wheat because this genetically reduced bitterness requires less additional sweeteners in the final product.

Of course, the best way to discover which flour is the one that you prefer is to test both out for yourself. Here is the recipe that our Quality Control Laboratory uses to test all our batches of flour for consistent quality. They use it to test out all our batches of unbleached white flour, our hard red wheat flour, and our hard white wheat flour. If you try this experiment at home, you will find that just the difference in flours makes for vastly different types of loaves of bread. Our Lab uses a machine that makes consistent 1.5 lb loaves.

Test Loaf Recipe
for a 1.5 lb loaf

1 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp Warm Water (above 80 degrees Fahrenheit)
3 tbsp Canola Oil
3 ¾ cups Flour (Hard Red, Hard White, or Unbleached White)
2 tbsp of Sugar
1 ½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast

Add the ingredients to your machine in the order listed above. Start the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Be sure to share the results of your experiments with friends and family!

Different types of wheat berries.

Different types of wheat berries.

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38 Responses to “Hard Red Wheat vs. Hard White Wheat”

  1. Bob,we talked about dry ice to store red wheat berries I bought your large plastic storage containers. How do I do it? How much ice and what do you place between the ice and wheat? How long to displace the o2 or deplete the ice? Thanks

    • Hard White Wheat Flour is a 100% whole grain whole wheat flour milled from a different version of wheat than conventional whole wheat flour. Typical whole wheat flour is milled from hard red wheat, while the Hard White Whole Wheat Flour is milled from hard white wheat. The hard white wheat gives a lighter color and flavor than hard red wheat. Unbleached White Flour has had the bran and germ stripped away, so it is not whole grain. That is the main difference- one is whole wheat and one is not. Both have about the same amount of protein, but a whole wheat flour will produce a denser, more flavorful baked good. Hope that helps clear things up.

  2. If you were going to put wheat up for long term storage, what would you use, hard red winter, or hard white spring? Thank you, and Merry Christmas!!

    • David,

      Merry Christmas to you too! It really depends on your flavor preference, as both will store well and produce high quality flour if milled. Hard white wheat tends to have a slightly sweeter flavor and may be preferable if you find conventional whole wheat to have a bitter flavor. The main thing to watch for if you’ll be milling the wheat into flour for baking is to be sure to pick a hard wheat and not a soft wheat. Soft wheat will have a lower gluten content and will not work as well for a yeast-risen bread. Hope this helps!

    • Most, if not all, of the vegetable we farm can be considered GMO. How do you think these things were created in the first place? They started out with the wild plant that was discovered, and have been altered over time for our uses. Tomatoes. Potatoes. Onions. You name it, it was derived from a different type of that species of plant, if not a single wild version altogether. Technically, it is a GMO. However!!! It is NOT a GMO like what we are worried about today. There is not a single GMO wheat on the market, although one was recently discovered to have been planted by Monsanto without consent to have even created it. It under investigation and is hopefully nothing to worry about. :)

    • Yes, there is a big difference between a GMO item and a hybridized item. Hybridization is done through plant breeding, just like those little charts from science class. Two plants that display a desired gene are bred for that gene, the plants that don’t display the gene are discarded and the plants that do display the gene are bred again until all plants display the gene. Genetically modifying an ingredient means to actually get into the dna and fiddle with its genetic makeup.

  3. I bought your hard white wheat 4 pack off amazon thinking I was buying red winter and I am planning to use for wheat grass juice. Will there be any problem using the hard white for wheat grass, will it produce a different tasting product?

  4. This might be off topic, but why would you guys recommend consumers using Canola oil for a test loaf? Canola oil does not occur in nature and is actually a genetic manipulation of rapeseed oil. Also 90% of canola seeds grown are of the Monsanto Round Up ready variety.

  5. I know rye & spelt flour has low gluten and high soluble fiber. How about hard red wheat ? is it also has low gluten and high soluble fiber ? is it healthy than spelt/rye ?

    • Mark,

      Hard Red Wheat is not low gluten, though it does contain a healthy amount of soluble fiber. I could not say if it is healthier than rye or spelt, but if you are looking for a low gluten option, spelt and rye are good choices.

  6. Thanks Cassidy,

    which is winner/healthier between whole grain spelt flour and dark rye flour ?

    which has high soluble, lowest gluten ?

    I know rye has high zinc which is good.

    • Mark,

      I can’t tell you which is the winner, since I don’t know what the criteria is for the “best” option. Spelt Flour has a protein count of 14-18%, Rye has a protein count around 10%. If you are looking for the least protein, Rye is the best choice for you.

  7. Thanks Cassidy, I guess least protein means low gluten as gluten is the protein found in wheat species(spelt/dark rye) ?

  8. Can you help me out on choosing healthy baking flours(low gluten and high soluble fiber) between these:

    1) Light spelt flour(some % of bran, germ removed) – protein level is same as whole grain but doesn’t seems to be any soluble fiber
    2) Light rye flour(some % of bran, germ removed) – protein level is same as whole grain but doesn’t seems to be any soluble fiber
    3) Whole wheat pastry flour(bran, germ included) – there is no soluble fiber in wheat so this doesn’t as well ?

    Isn’t it whole wheat pastry flour is healthy because healthiest part of any wheat family is germ and out of three above only whole wheat pastry flour has this included ?

    • Of these three, I would say the whole wheat pastry flour is the best choice because it contains all of the health-giving nutrients in a whole grain. I’m just not sure what your trying to find. From this, I’d really say regular whole grain spelt flour is probably your best bet.

  9. I recently purchased a 25lb bag of the hard white wheat. Milled it and found that it felt like corn meal. Tried again on the finest grind level and still feels very much different than that of the hard winter wheat when I mill it. Is this typical? Also my bread was not at all successful it completely tore apart at the sides. My red wheat bread does not do this. Do I need to be doing something different? I use a 20 + yr old bosch universal mixer for making my bread. Thanks

    • Hi Karen,

      It sounds like your mill isn’t grinding it as fine as it needs to. As far as the bread, perhaps you should try adding some vital wheat gluten? That would help with the loaf staying together. Please give us a call at 800-349-2173 to speak with one of our baking experts.

  10. I’ve been learning about sourdough starters. Which wheat would produce a better starter. I’ve been told that rye is best but I hate the flavor

    • Unbleached white flour actually makes the best sourdough starter, according to our in house chef. If you want a whole grain starter, use half whole wheat and half white flour for optimal results.

  11. Is there a nutritional difference between hard white wheat and hard red wheat? It seems like hard white wheat might be less nutritious.

    • There is no significant difference between hard red and hard white wheat- they are slightly different in color and flavor, but the nutritional profile is nearly identical. The major differences happen between hard and soft wheat. Soft wheat has a lower protein content.

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