How To Make Barley Flour: Step By Step

Barley flour is a tasty alternative to wheat flour and can be either malted or un-malted. Using store-bought barley without a husk allows you to make barley flour very quickly and simply. If you’d rather enjoy the health benefits of sprouted grain, then taking the time to sprout your seed will be well worth the effort. To learn more about how to make barley flour, we invite you to read the article below.

What is Barley Flour?

what is barley flour

We’re all pretty familiar with regular wheat flour bought from the grocery store, but other grains can be used to make flour too, barley is just one of them.

Like wheat, barley is a grain with a hard outer husk, and it’s been grown for food all around the world for many thousands of years. 

Its fibrous outer shell needs removing to make hulled barley. Pearl barley goes through the same process but is then polished to create a smooth rounded pearl-like product. 

Commercially, flour of all types is made by grinding the grain in a mill. Barley can also be flaked by flattening the grains in a press.

Barley is a very versatile crop suitable for a wide range of climates and growing conditions. By using specific winter barley varieties, it can be grown over the winter months and is more cold-resistant than wheat, making it better for cooler climates such as Northern Europe. 

Some barley varieties are also highly heat resistant. Hordeum spontaneum, for example, will tolerate drought conditions.

What Uses Does Barley Flour have?

Barley flour can be used to replace some of the regular wheat flour in recipes. It has a nutty flavor that is different from wheat flour which some people prefer. Use it to thicken sauces, soups, and stews, or to make bread and baked goods.

If used to make bread with yeast, then it is common to only replace 25% of the wheat flour, as the gluten in barley isn’t strong enough to make a good stretchy dough and won’t produce such a good loaf. When used in other baked goods, including cakes, the best ratio is 50:50. 

You can however choose to use only wheat flour if you add additional gluten, which can be found in various food stores or online.

Because barley flour can become rancid, and to prevent this it needs to be stored in a cool, dry place for up to two months. To prolong shelf life, it can be frozen, and the amount needed for your recipe taken as required.

Can I Make Barley Flour at Home?

Yes, it is possible to make your own barley flour at home, and it is a relatively simple and straightforward process.

In a commercial mill, barley flour is made using a malting process where the hull is not removed. The barley grains are sprouted and rapidly dried, which increases their nutritional value. 

Malted barley has a different chemical structure and is done as a first process when using the grain for brewing purposes. 

To make barley flour at home, you don’t have to sprout the grain first. Provided that it has been hulled, then you just need to grind it down into flour.

How to Make Barley Flour at Home

how to make barley flour at home

There are several ways of making barley flour at home. To make small quantities, you can use a food processor, coffee grinder, or pestle and mortar to create flour from grain.

If you want to make larger amounts, you’ll need a milling machine that can grind the hard seed down into flour. These can be found quite easily on Amazon or other online retailers and start at around $80 in price.

To make barley flour or flour from any type of grain, first, you’ll need to get the grain. This may be homegrown or store-bought. If you’re using whole grain that still has the husk, you’ll need to sprout it first and then dry immediately in a dehydrator before grinding.

Sprouted grain has the most beneficial health properties and gives the flour a malty flavor.

SPROUTING THE GRAIN

There are various methods for sprouting grain, and this one works well and is easy to do. 

Step 1. Soaking or Steeping 

When you get the whole grain barley, it will be dry and hard. By soaking it, the grain becomes softened, and the natural enzymes within it will help it to germinate. 

  • First, wash the grain thoroughly and give it a good rinse to remove any unwanted debris.
  • Soak the grain overnight in a bowl of fresh, clean water, making sure it is completely submerged. Place a lid on top to stop anything from falling into the water.
  • In the morning, drain the barley and spread it out on a large flat, clean surface for a couple of hours to allow it to breathe.
  • Next, give the grain a second soaking, just as you did the previous night. This allows it to soak up more water and further softens the husk. In the evening, drain your grain again and pour it into a clean cotton cloth such as a tea towel. 
  • Tie up the ends of the cloth so that the barley is safely stored inside and won’t spill out. Soak the fabric in water, squeeze out any excess and hang it up overnight.

Step 2. Sprouting the Grain

  • In the morning, open the cloth and spray the grain with water. Retie the cloth and hang it back up. Spray the fabric several times during the day with water to keep it moist. Giving it a final really good soaking before leaving overnight.
  • The following day, open the cloth again and check the grain. You should be able to see the first tiny sprouts. Continue with this process until you can see the grain is well sprouted. It can take 3 to 5 days depending on room temperature and how often you moisten the grain.

Step 3. Drying the Sprouts

Once the grain has sprouted, you’ll need to get it dry as fast as possible. This is best done in a dehydrator but it is also possible to use an oven on its lowest setting or simply by placing the grain spread out in the hot sun.

  • Lay the sprouts out evenly and thinly to allow plenty of air circulation. If you’re using the sun to dry your sprouts, putting them onto clean black plastic can speed up the process.
  • Check your sprouts regularly to see how well they are drying. Once completely dry, you are ready to mill them into flour.

In this video, you will see how to sprout your barley grains:

It’s also possible to buy barley grain with the husk removed “Hulled Barley” from health food stores and other merchants, or you can find it online.

Grinding

With hulled barley you don’t need to sprout, or even soak the grain before grinding. However, by giving it a good overnight soak and then drying it the following day, it will be easier to mill.

I have found that the best way to mill small amounts of barley is by using an electric coffee grinder. This quickly breaks down the small hard seeds into flour. Just don’t try to do too much at once.

A food processor or blender can also be used, although you won’t get such fine flour, and it may take longer. Be sure to use a silicone spatula to scrape down the sides regularly.

If you don’t mind a bit of a workout, then a pestle and mortar will do the job well too. It is best to only do a little at a time for good results. Sieve the flour out regularly.

Should you be lucky enough to have a grinding/milling machine, you’ll be able to achieve high-quality milled flour in larger quantities. They are available to buy on Amazon.com and for a small kitchen size one, the price ranges from around $80 to $200.

Once you’ve achieved a fine flour, sieve it to remove any larger bits that are remaining. 

Now you’re ready to use your barley flour however you want.

Can You Make Barley Flour from Pearl Barley?

Most grocery stores stock pearl barley, and although it doesn’t retain as much of the goodness as hulled or sprouted barley, it is still perfectly suitable for turning into flour. Again, you can choose to either soak it first or not. 

Pearly barley makes a more refined flour than other types and is more suitable for use in sauces. 

You can’t sprout pearl barley or barley that has had its husk removed. So, if you want to gain the additional benefits of sprouting, look for wholegrain barley instead.

Conclusion

Because there are various ways to make barley flour, from sprouted, hulled, or pearl barley, anyone can do it. All you need is a method of turning the grain into a powder.

This can be done simply on a small scale using a device as primitive as a pestle and mortar or a more modern electric coffee grinder. If doing it on a larger scale, you may require a grinding machine.

If you’d like to know more about barley, we have a variety of articles available on our website.

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