It’s a funny term isn’t it? “Soak your grains.” It sounds like you need to dump a bunch of water into your bucket of hard white wheat kernels and give ’em a good soaking. But don’t do that. You don’t want soggy wheat berries.
For those of you who are new to “soaking grains” and have emailed me with questions of confusion as to what this means exactly…I thought I would take the time to explain it a little bit better, and to show some pictures of what a bowl of “soaking grains” looks like!
First, let’s talk a tiny bit about why soaking grains is important. Because I’m not good at remembering big words and how to use them, here is a quote from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook about soaking grains:
Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and, in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available.
In Laura’s terms: When you soak your grain, your tummy will feel better and the nutrients in the grain will be better used by your body.
If you’ve been reading here long, you know that I’m a little bit on the fence when it comes to soaking grains. Sometimes I’m a soaker…sometimes I’m not. It depends on the day and what recipe I’m using, but I do try to soak my grains if I can. There are different schools of thought behind soaking grains and you can read my thoughts about it (and other people’s ideas and comments) here. Matt and I have come to the conclusion that we don’t need to go into panic mode if I don’t get around to soaking our grains. Right or wrong…that’s where we’ve landed. I really like the pressure this has taken off of my brain.
Now, having said all of that…I would like to share what “soaking grains” really means. Ultimately, it means that you are soaking the whole grain that has already been ground into flour . (You can/should also soak oats or cornmeal. Oats are soaked the same as flour. Cornmeal requires a different variety of soaking, which I’ll discuss in a separate post.)
The soaking of said flour or oats needs to be done in an “acid medium liquid” for 12-24 hours, or at least overnight. This means, you can soak your flour or oats in:
- Any cultured dairy product such as buttermilk, yogurt or kefir. You can read about how I easily and inexpensively make these products here. Or…
- If you are not able to use dairy products in your family, you can instead use water with 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar in place of the buttermilk, yogurt or kefir.
The flour doesn’t need to “go swimming” in the liquid. It simply needs to be wet. In any of my recipes that give soaking instructions, I will share the exact measurements of flour and/or oats and liquids needed for soaking. On my site, I have instructions for soaking: Whole Wheat Waffles, Simple Soaked Pancakes, Breakfast Cookies, Breakfast Cake, Poptarts, Pizza Pocket dough, and others that I’m likely forgetting at the moment. :) I also describe how to soak my Whole Wheat Tortillas in my Totally Tortillas ebook.
Here is what my Simple Soaked Pancakes look like in the morning after I’ve stirred together the flour and buttermilk the night before. See the little bubbles that formed? That means we’ve accomplished kind of a “sourdough” effect. Perfect! Next, I mix in the remaining ingredients and make the pancakes. (And then the fam will eat the entire triple batch before I have a chance to grab one if I’m not on top of my game.)
This is what my Whole Wheat Tortillas look like once I’ve mixed them up and left them to “soak”. This recipe with soaking instructions is so simple because I put them all together, they soak, then they are ready right away for me to roll them out and cook them!
Soaking grains isn’t difficult at all…it just requires a little bit of planning ahead!
Some other frequently asked questions about soaking grains include:
Do I need to soak my flour even if it isn’t freshly ground in a grain mill?
Yes, even if it is store bought whole wheat flour, it is best to soak it if you can.
Do I need to soak my white flour?
Nope. The reason it’s white flour is because the bran and the germ have been taken out. The bran is what needs to be soaked in the first place. Since that’s not there…no reason to soak!
What other questions do you have about soaking grains? Are you a soaker?
I have just started soaking my grains. I buy hard red WW flour from Azure. I did notice you buy hard white WW flour? I think…I am remembering off the top of my head.
I have made your simple soaked pancakes twice in the past week and my family LOVES them!! We are a family of four, and if I triple the batch I have enough for a couple breakfasts, and for sending some with my daughter to school for her morning snack. I have not tried soaking for bread yet, I need to do that. I have a multi-grain bread recipe that I use that my family loves, and I was wondering how to convert a normal bread recipe to a soaking recipe….where does the buttermilk come in? And would it make the bread too wet? I dont know….
For that recipe I do use 60/40 WW to white flour. I have been meaning to try it with just WW flour but we always NEED the bread too much for me to experiment with.
Anyway, good job on what you are doing! My friend turned me onto your site about a week ago and I LOVE IT!!!
Thanks for your encouragement about my site! Yes I buy hard white wheat from Azure and grind it myself. I LOVE hard white wheat. Here’s the post you’re probably thinking about: https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/switching-to-whole-wheat-flour-making-the-transitions-easier
Oh, I love that post. It was really great. My husband has been “researching” grain mills for so long! We want one really bad, so I think we will probably try to get one as soon as possible. Until then, is there anything wrong with the hard red from Azure?
Nope, it’s fine! I just prefer the taste of white wheat!
I have found on another website that in order for the soaking to be effective, the liquid ingredients need to be warm first. Do you know if this is true and if so do I warm all of the liquid ingredients or just the dairy? It seems odd to warm yogurt and buttermilk before adding. I’m very new to soaking and I am very confused.
Hmm, I’ve not read that. I use my buttermilk, yogurt or kefir straight from the fridge. What you DON’T want is the liquid to be too hot. THAT will ruin the effectiveness of the soaking. I have to be careful if I’m adding hot, melted butter with my buttermilk when I soak things so that the hot butter doesn’t kill the culture.
What is the ideal room temp for soaking? We have only wood heat in the windter, which makes it sometimes cold in here….as there are days when I just dont feel like starting a fire. In the summer time, we rely only on our ceiling fans to keep us cool. Not very effective as our house will sometimes get up to about 85. I do think I can find a bit cooler room than that though in the summer.
Ok…I didnt read the ENTIRE post before, but I did now, and it answered some of my questions. Maybe my hubby and I can go in together for our birthdays and purchase a grain mill or something….hmmmm
Our kitchen gets pretty warm in the summer too. I just try to soak for a shorter amount of time, otherwise I find the mixture gets too sour tasting!
I too have been reading Nourishing Traditions and have been following her advice. I have to admit to having a feeling a panic when I didn’t soak my grains first. I do like what you said about not worrying about it, sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.
To make it easier on me, I have decided to sprout the berries first instead of soaking. I soak 6 cups of berries in 2 1/2 gallon containers for about 12-24 hours. Then I strain them and wash them really good. I put them back in their respective containers, lay them on their sides and cover them with a towel. Usually about 12 hours later they have small sprouts. I then spread them out into a thin layer and dehydrated them. Then I store them in my fridge until I am ready to grind.
I have to admit, it seems easier.
Thanks for all your great information that you continue to give!
Holly in Virginia says
That is what I would like to do! Of course I’ll need a grain mill and
a dehydrator first but I think that sprouting sounds much simpler than
soaking before each recipe!
Michele Reneau says
So if you sprout them, you do not have to soak them??? I would love to know! Thanks.
Right, if they are sprouted, you don’t need to soak them. I need to experiment with this sometime. :)
The berries still have to soak but it so much easier. I have a full time job so I need to make things as easy as possible. I usually have a bottle soaking or sprouting all the time and then my dehydrator drying the sprouts. I then store the dried sprouts in my fridge until needed. Which usually isn’t too long. It is the perfect solution for me. Good luck
I am a rebel who doesn’t soak any grains – except my steel cut oats. Can I just say that if you toss them in to soak before bed, they cook in like 10 minutes the next day, and they are perfectly chewy and yes, easier to digest, the next! A very convenient step well worth it.
Yep, I’m a soaker for sure! I have noticed how much better my tummy feels when I soak. I also am a fan of sprouted grains for recipes that don’t produce a good end product with soaking, like cookies. I teach soaking classes once a month to help people learn “The Joys of Soaking” – the name of my class and I have lots of soaked grain recipes on my FB page for people to try and adapt to their personal tastes. Thanks for this post and for all your great recipes! Blessings to you, Kelly http://www.facebook.com/TheNourishingHome
We are getting our first order of hard WW from azure on thursday and I am very excited to soak my grains in the next batch of bread I will be making on friday. Thank you for clearning everything up for me! =]
This is so helpful! Thank you so much!
Holly in Virginia says
I don’t soak my flour, I just simply do not like the texture. I also like to do my bread in the bread machine, and when I tried soaking I found myself constantly putting off making bread, or even buying it. Like a previous poster mentioned, I like the idea of sprouting the grains, dehydrating them, then using the flour. I just need a grain mill and dehydrator, lol!
One thing I *must* soak is legumes. If I don’t soak beans for at least 24 hours (6-8 hours for lentils), I am miserably bloated!
How do you soak your beans for 24 hours? Do you just put them in a pot of water? Do you worry about any fermentation, etc..?
Holly in Virginia says
I (loosely) follow the recommendation in Nourishing Traditions, which
is rinse and sort your beans and place in a non-reactive bowl, cover
with a generous amount of water (depending upon the bean they can soak
up quite a lot of water) and add a teaspoon or so of raw apple cider
vinegar. I give it a good swish and leave it sit out uncovered. I don’t
worry about fermentation. It tends to get a little bubbly around the
edges, I figure those are just gasses being released. I then dump the
water, rinse the beans, and cook.
Because you are using an acid medium, a non-reactive bowl (I use the
crock from my crockpot a lot because that is where I am going to cook
the beans anyways. I even bought a spare crock for my 6 quart crockpot
at a thrift shop for $4 so my crockpot isn’t out of commission while
my beans are soaking. For lentils and quinoa I don’t soak as long,
just 6 or 8 hours and I use a melamine mixing bowl.
We are waiting to receive our first 50 lb bag of white whear from Wheat Montana. So excited. Still need to order a grinder, I’m thinking manual. I have made your simple soaked pancakes and they were great!
We are waiting to receive our first 50 lb bag of white wheat from Wheat Montana. So excited. Still need to order a grinder, I’m thinking manual. I have made your simple soaked pancakes and they were great!
I can’t get a grinder yet. But does anyone know where I can get a FRESH white wheat flour???? Azure doesn’t deliver to RI. I’m so anxious to try fresh white wheat flour after reading Laura’s article “switching to wheat…”! thanks!!
I don’t know about the fresh wheat flour, I am afraid it doesn’t exist :) But I order sprouted whole wheat flour from the green polka dot box and I love it. I am in RI too and I miss Azure so much!
I’m a kinda soak when I plan ahead girl.
Im a soaker, too, and I have many “soaked” bread recipes on my site as well.
That being said, I really enjoyed this post :)
One thing I’d add – if I may – is that soaked grain baked goods tend to taste better than unsoaked. Sometimes whole wheat breads can taste somewhat grainy, and I think soaking reduces or eliminates that, causing the bread to be smoother and very palatable.
My recipes are here: http://likeabubblingbrook.com/recipes/
OH my head hurts.
I just got my grain mill delivered yesterday and tried it out right away with Soft White Wheat for pancakes.
I thought I had it all down but all this talk of soaking is got me lost again! I hope I haven’t bitten off more then I can chew!
Oh dear…don’t let this post discourage you! All of this stuff is overwhelming and your headache takes me back to when I first heard of this idea.
I say: Enjoy your grain mill and have fun playing with it. Grind your flour and make your pancakes and such just like you normally would with any recipe. Don’t even think about the soaking thing for now (or ever if it’s too much to ever think about!).
When I first got my grain mill, even eating whole wheat was new to me, so there’s no way I could have added in the steps of soaking and all that jazz. I just wanted to eat my freshly ground flour and that’s it.
If you ever feel like you’re in the groove of grinding grain and want to come back and re-read this post…great. Otherwise, just enjoy your freshly ground flour and call it good. I’m very excited for you that you got a grain mill!!! Have fun with it and headache – be gone!
I will take it slow and just one step at a time! I purchased my first 50 lbs of hard white wheat! So Happy!
Thanks for all the encouragment!
Sara B says
one step at a time! don’t feel guilty for not doing everything all at once :)
I have started sprouting instead of soaking. It’s better for you and you don’t have to remember to soak everything the night before. Sprouting makes it easier to digest by breaking down the starches, but it also makes your grain digest like a vegetable. It increases Vit. C, Vit. B, Caroten, Increases enzymes and allows you to absorb more calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. It’s easy to do. I keep 2 large canning jars out and fill each with 1 1/2 cups of wheat berries and fill with filtered water. Let soak 4-6 hours and then rinse. Turn on side and let sprout overnight. I rinse again and then you can put them in a dehydrator or on a pan in the oven at the lowest setting until they are dry. Then I mill the berries into flour.
Okay, now MY head hurts…lol!
Just when I thought I had all this purchasing wholesome, organic flour and soaking it, under control, there’s something else!
What does all this sprouting business mean? Please educate me!
I had also found no need to soak my grains or flours. No digestive problems here in our family whatsoever. The Breadbeckers have an article that explains why soaking is neither necessary for health, nor Biblically encouraged. It can be found under “articles” on their website, http://www.breadbeckers.com. It is called “Phytic Acid, Friend or Foe?”, written by Sue Becker (a food science major). If soaking flour first helps some to feel better when eating grains, then go ahead and soak! I liken it to the need for some to take a pill when consuming milk products because they cannot handle the lactic acid. It is just what has happened to our society because of generations of eating in an unhealthy way and “science” messing with the food God created. Sadly, many cannot easily digest the foods He has given us without some help. There is an unprecedented number of people with various food allergies now – certainly not something our ancestors had to deal with to this extent. The kids can’t even take pb & j in their school lunches anymore!
Oops! I meant to say they can’t digest the LACTOSE (not lactic acid). Now I’ve got it in the right place!!!
Sara B says
I am excited to try soaking much of what we eat. My 10 month old son was sensitive to gluten in my diet (he was exclusively breastfed at the time) and he won’t get gluten himself until a year old. I am soooo excited to talk with our doctor ( a nutritionist chiropractor) about the possibility of soaked grains being the best choice for him.
I have ordered hard white wheat from a “local” food co-op and it arrives tomorrow! I will be using my mother’s grain mill for now. Whether or not I soak everything all the time, I am still excited to be making homemade treats for my family with home-ground flour.
[email protected] says
I’ve found that soaking flour, oats, and legumes overnight is easy peasy and makes them oh-so-digestable — no more tummy bloat! I soak oats overnight for a smoothly textured oatmeal breakfast (with a reduced cooking time) which my family loves. In addition, and after many, many failed attempts, I’ve been successful with sourdough (and even wrote a Gratituesday post about it! http://happyindolevalley.blogspot.com/2011/02/gratituesday-sourdough-again.html) Thanks so much for this post, Laura! Blessings, Lisa :)
[email protected] says
My link didn’t work, so here it is again. :)
I have been waiting for your recipe because your sourdough loaves looked delicious but couldnt find it. Is it on your site?
Sara B says
I was wondering the same thing!!
[email protected] says
I’ve been typing it up and hope to post it sometime this week! Blessings, Lisa :)
[email protected] says
Ok, ladies, I finally got my sourdough recipe posted. Have fun! :) http://happyindolevalley.blogspot.com/2011/03/sourdough-bread-recipe.html
I soaked the waffles in buttermilk and they had a very sour taste to us after cooking. I have made soaked tortillas using yogurt to soak and they don’t have a sour taste… is it the buttermilk and I’m just not used to the taste? Or do you think I did something wrong? THanks!!!!!!
I think it’s because there is SO much buttermilk in the waffles, which causes the sour-ish taste after soaking all night. The tortillas just have a bit of yogurt in the mix, along with quite a bit of water. That’s going to cut down on the sour taste.
I am a soaker….at least when I can be. I sprout my flour that I will use in faster recipes – like choc. chip cookies – since I don’t soak those or use acidic medium. Sprouting doesn’t neutralize the phytates like soaking, but it does other beneficial things in addition to some phytate reduction.
Because of information shared by Ramiel Nigel in his book Cure Tooth Decay, I am now sifting some of the bran out of my flour before I use it – either soaking or when already sprouted. Because of soaking information about calcium rich (read dairy products) soaking mediums, I am now trying to soak in water with the lemon juice or vinegar.
I haven’t soaked corn yet, so I will anxiously wait for the post. I think it will involve dolomite powder and water, but I will be anxious to see! :)
Kira @ Kissing the Joy says
So much of the time, I feel like you’re reading my mind! I’ve followed you for a while but just started getting the posts via email and it’s been great. I just asked my friend on Sunday “I know soaking grains is supposed to be good for you, but WHY is it good for you.” This post was really helpful, thanks!
So, I was wondering if you could soak your grains in a salt water mixture and accomplish the same thing? The liquid just needs to be acidic, right? (I am guessing that salt is acidic here.) If that is true, can you take any recipe and just soak the liquid, salt and flour overnight? Will most recipes not have enough salt to do the job? Sometimes recipes don’t call for cultured milk, lemon or vinegar (and would taste too different for some *ahem* picky eaters) so I’m looking for an alternative. Any thoughts on this?
Sara B says
I just added a tablespoon or two of vinegar to the water and it tasted no different! I hope I did the right thing for soaking! I didn’t want to use milk so that is what I did for pancakes.
Table salt is not acidic. Table salt is neutral, on the axis of acidity and alkalinity. It is the chemical product of sodium hydroxide, aka lye, and hydrochloric acid, aka muriatic acid. The products are table salt and water. The alkalinity of the lye and the acidity of the muriatic acid are consumed each by the other.
I ordered my nutrimill on Friday! :) Can’t wait for it to get here! I also found 2 azure standard groups near my town that I can join :) I’ll be purchashing my wheat berries next week!! Thank you so much, Laura, for sharing your experience and wisdom with all of us! You are greatly appreciated!
Question…do you order sucanat from azure?? And I’m assuming you buy the organice hard white wheat berries? THANKS!
Sara B says
I was wondering the same thing as well. Where I order from, organic is double the price :/
Thank you for posting this! I made my first batch of soaked-oat granola last week, and I was really afraid I did it wrong, because it wasn’t swimming in anything…
yes, i am slowly but surely starting to soak, but i don’t always think that far ahead. so glad to know that even happens to you!
a question…..i recently bought some sprouted spelt flour from a local farm/store. so am i understanding this correctly, that now i can just use that flour without soaking?
Yes, sprouted flour is great without soaking!
Oops! I meant to say that people can’t tolerate the LACTOSE (not lactic acid)!
One other thought … isn’t much of the purpose in personally milling flour to be able to use it as quickly as possible in order to obtain as many nutrients as possible (since the flour oxidizes and nutrients are lost very rapidly)? In that case, it would seem that by leaving your soaking flour mixture out for 12 or more hours, that more nutrients would be LOST instead of gained (since by baking or cooking with the milled grains the nutrients then become “locked in”). I try to bake as closely to the time that I mill the grain as possible and only freeze the tiniest amounts that might be leftover to be used in recipes where I may come up just a little short.
Do I soak my seeds and grains? Yes and no. Never for the precise reason of increased digestability, unless one counts being able to chew the cooked product as when beans are soaked before cooking. I used to soak our morning oats overnight in order to hasten the cooking of our porridge, but then one morning I realized I had forgotten to soak them. I thought about the small cakes that I sometimes made in the evening, in our microwave, and made a breakfast cake for us using the same ingredients as I had for our porridge with a few changes. These were that I ground the oats, and added an egg and some baking soda. Voila! Healthy cake for breakfast. No more soaking there.
Since I am hoping to use only sourdough for bread leavening from now on, part of my bread flour will always be soaked in acid. Today I learned an important technique. After adding the dry flour to the flour-and-water sponge that grew overnight, the directions said to let the mixture stand for 20 minutes before beginning the kneading. The reason for this was to allow the new flour to soak up the available water before making any adjustments which might end up making the dough too dry and heavy in the end. Since this has been a problem for me ever since I began using home-milled whole wheat, I was delighted to see that it did work. After letting the newly added flour become thoroughly hydrated, the dough became properly elastic when I kneaded it and there was no temptation to add more flour. Apparently whole wheat flour absorbs water more slowly than the refined white flour does, which always caused me to make the final dough too stiff.
So, although I don’t soak a part of my flour in acidic water for 30 minutes in order to improve digestability, all of my flour is soaked for at least 20 minutes in an acidic environment in order to make the dough handle better. Some of it is soaked for much longer, as a part of the slow fermentation that improves the flavor. If there is also a dietary benefit to all of this, I will be getting that as well.
Today’s baking experiment, by the way, was a flatbread which didn’t taste particularly sour to me despite having been made largely of sourdough and partly with water kefir that had gone a bit sharpish.
I found this article, written by Amanda Rose, about phytic acid and soaking very helpful: http://www.rebuild-from-depression.com/resources/book/Chapter13.pdf
There is a chart that shows that the phytic acid in wheat (freshly ground is best) is gone after just 1-2 hours of soaking! I was so excited about this fact. Since I grind my wheat fresh, I just make sure to allow whatever recipe I’m making to sit for at least an hour before baking. She also suggests adding a bit of freshly ground wheat to oats in order to help neutralize the phytic acid.
I found the specific temperatures and times for soaking various grains and legumes very helpful!
I also don’t sweat it if I am unable to soak every single time I bake. Thanks for the very helpful post, Laura. :)
Sarah G says
Okay, call me crazy, but I’m still confused and currently, “not a soaker”. But I’d like to learn more because I understand the benefits.
How does the soaking liquid change the recipe it didn’t originally call for it? Do I refrigerate the soaking or leave it on the counter for that 12-24 hours? Are yogurt, kefir or buttermilk the only options?
I would probably be more apt to use whole wheat in a “white” household if soaking decreases the texture my family can pinpoint in whole wheat. Does soaking make it less chewy and softer in texture in addition to the digestion benefits?
Please help!? I want to learn!
Soaking makes the recipe a little softer and less chewy. No, don’t refrigerate while soaking, just leave it on the countertop. Instead of cultured dairy, you can use water with shot of lemon juice or vinegar.
Michele Reneau says
I have been soaking my flour since I started reading Nourishing Traditions. But I came across this article and am confused. I’d love your take on it as it contradicts NT on this matter, but a lot of what she says makes sense. http://info.breadbeckers.com/phytic-acid/
Here’s where I’ve landed on the issue: https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/more-about-soaking-grains-or-not
Sometimes I soak, sometimes I don’t and I don’t worry either way anymore. I’m not sure my opinion is right or wrong, but it works for my family. :)
I let my wheat kernels soak for 48 hours and they stunk. Are they still edible or do they need to be thrown out? Is it bacteria or beginnings of mold that make it smell like this?
I’m not sure – I’ve never soaked the actual kernels of wheat. As mentioned in this post, I grind it first, then soak it in cultured dairy. My guess is that the kernels are a little moldy. :(
Jules D says
Ok, just made my first batch. I 1/2 the recipe because I do not have a lot of people to feed and I didn’t want to waste my flour in case they did not turn out.
I am “soaking” the grains right now. The dough seemed very liquidy. Not sure why. I added more ww flour until it seemed right.
Hope it works :)
Hi Laura! I’m new to soaking and have had success with oatmeal and rice. I have recipes calling for oat bran and wheat bran. I’d like to soak the bran, and was wondering if the methodology is the same, since it’s a different texture. Thank you. Love your website!
Eek, I’m really not sure!
Sarah D. says
Hi, I “hopped” over from Stacy Makes Cents where I was reading about soaking grains. I’m afraid I would be one of those people taking grain berries and dumping a pitcher of water over them! lol Reading this post and seeing your pictures, “soaking” looks more like sourdough starter or “friendship bread” starter. Interesting. I don’t think I’ll get into “soaking” my grains, except for the occasional “friendship bread”, but I’m glad to know what it is now! Thanks for the info.
Here is where I’ve landed on the whole idea: https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/my-current-thoughts-about-soaking-or-not-soaking-grains :)
Sarah D. says
Thanks, Laura. I appreciate honesty in the blogs I read. =)
I have not soaked any grains yet, I’m still in the research phase. However, I have found out that soaking is not the only way to get the nutrients out and neutralize the phytic acid. You could also ferment with yeast or sprout the whole grains before grinding them if you have a grinder. Or if you don’t have a grinder and/or don’t want to ferment the grains, you could buy sprouted whole grain flour online.