Modern mill turns ancient grains to flour
IBarton Springs Mill turns ancient grains into fresh flour. f you’ve recently seen the name “Barton Springs Mill” pop up on restaurant menus across Austin, you’re not alone. For two months, the newly opened mill near Dripping Springs has been selling flour to restaurants across the area on the day the grains are milled. Chefs hadn’t been able to buy that kind of fresh flour locally, and that means Barton Springs Mill owner James Brown is an even busier man than he thought he’d be a year ago when he hatched this idea.
For now, Brown has two jobs. He is the director of worship at First Presbyterian Church and director of the Saint Cecilia Music Series, which focuses on early music from composers on the verge of being forgotten. He is also a pipe organist and plays the viola da gamba, a stringed instrument that faded from popularity in the 16th century.
But on Fridays and Saturdays, he’s milling flour with Cody Hendricks, a part-time employee who was a baker at local restaurants including Easy Tiger and Bufalina.
This isn’t the first time Brown has worked in food. He got a culinary degree from the Art Institute in Houston and ran several kitchens there — after working under Certified Master Chef Fritch Gitchner, no less — before mov-
Barton Springs Mill owner James Brown is working with 10 farmers in Texas to grow heritage and landrace wheat. With 150 acres of wheat in the ground, he’s going to end up with about 150 tons of grain at his new Dripping Springs facility. He currently has seven varieties of wheat grown all over North America, stored in one-ton totes.
Barton Springs Mill’s primary customers right now are chefs, who can order specific grinds and types of organic flour for their restaurants in Austin and beyond. Home bakers can now buy the flour directly from the Dripping Springs facility.
The mill Brown had shipped in from Austria bears the German words for coarse (grob) and fine (fein). Between the setting on the mill and the various sifters, Barton Springs Mill can produce numerous kinds of flour, from a coarse rye to a fine 00 flour, which is used in pastas and pizzas.
After the flour is first milled, Brown and employee Cody Hendricks refine it by sending it through a sifter, right, which separates the flour from the bran — the pieces of the husk that peel off during the milling process and make the flour coarse.
Stonemilling is quite different than the roller mills used in most commercial flour mills in the country. Brown’s mill has two 48-inch stones that he’ll have to sharpen every few years by recarving grooves in the stone. The texture helps ensure an even grind of the wheat berries.
The two stones of the mill create enough heat that Brown has to check the temperature of the flour as it comes out of the mill with an infared thermometer to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. If the temperature gets near 100 degrees, he turns off the mill to let it cool.
More than 200 pounds of wheat sits in the hopper of the Austrian mill that Brown bought for his facility. The tray below the hopper shakes to continue moving the wheat berries into the mill.
By storing the wheat, including rye, in specific conditions, Brown can keep it for years to turn it into flour for local chefs, bakers and consumers.