Mod­ern mill turns an­cient grains to flour

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ad­die Broyles abroyles@states­man.com 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.

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