How Grain is Cleaned: From Fan Mill to Table

Wheat and Wide Skies

A late June sky, a week or two before harvest.
A late June sky, a week or two before harvest.

After I posted a photo essay last summer, showing the wheat harvest on the farm on which I grew up, I had some people say to me, "How do you get the grain clean enough to use for bread?" Today, I'll show you.

There are, of course, more ways of doing it than the one I'll show you, but they all amount to the same thing - shake the dust, insects, and other foreign matter out of the grain. This can be accomplished by using a sieve and a practiced throwing gesture in a bit of a breeze, but I'll show you how my family has done it, using a fan mill.

The following pictures show millet being cleaned for seed, to be used for planting next year's crop, but any kind of grain can be cleaned in a fan mill. The fan mill used here is a family farm model, rather than an industrial model. Industrial models are sometimes housed in semi trailers (huge).

The Electric Fan Mill

The fan mill is a machine designed to shake grain, a little at a time, from a hopper onto a series of screens, discarding the debris as it goes.
The fan mill is a machine designed to shake grain, a little at a time, from a hopper onto a series of screens, discarding the debris as it goes.
A series of tubs, a hopper, and a barrel catch the finished grain and debris. The tubs at the back (facing us) are to catch spillovers, and their contents will be run through again. The grain on the floor can be swept back up and run through.
A series of tubs, a hopper, and a barrel catch the finished grain and debris. The tubs at the back (facing us) are to catch spillovers, and their contents will be run through again. The grain on the floor can be swept back up and run through.
The bag over the hopper is only used when many bushels are to be cleaned, otherwise the grain is dumped in a few gallons at a time, 'til the hopper is full.
The bag over the hopper is only used when many bushels are to be cleaned, otherwise the grain is dumped in a few gallons at a time, 'til the hopper is full.

The Process of Cleaning Grain with a Fan Mill

The fan mill is started, and the hopper adjusted to let only a trickle of grain through.
The fan mill is started, and the hopper adjusted to let only a trickle of grain through.
Too much, and some is shaken off the end of the first screen into a discard bucket or barrel. Too little, and time is wasted.
Too much, and some is shaken off the end of the first screen into a discard bucket or barrel. Too little, and time is wasted.
The grain spills from one screen to another (each with different sized holes), until it falls at the last into a hopper or other container, and is finished.
The grain spills from one screen to another (each with different sized holes), until it falls at the last into a hopper or other container, and is finished.
Here you can see the tilted screens, which shake violently back and forth, sizing the grain and debris as they go. The machine is loud.
Here you can see the tilted screens, which shake violently back and forth, sizing the grain and debris as they go. The machine is loud.
The very small millet pieces, and most of the black thistle seeds, go into this tub under the "too small" spout.
The very small millet pieces, and most of the black thistle seeds, go into this tub under the "too small" spout.
In this barrel, positioned under the "too big" spout, are pieces of grass, insects, and sandburs.
In this barrel, positioned under the "too big" spout, are pieces of grass, insects, and sandburs.

Now the grain is clean, and ready to use for baking and cooking.

The barrel of insects, sandburs and other large weed bits is best destroyed.

The thistle seeds, shown in the "too small" tub, can be given to the chickens or destroyed. How it is dealt with may depend on what the main "ingredients" are - what kind of weed seeds are present? How many? How noxious are they?

The finished grain is stored in closed containers until use, and is kept away from sunlight, moisture, and excessive air, in order to preserve its nutritional and germination values.

Are you ready for homemade bread?

Cleaning Larger Amounts of Wheat for Seeding

© 2010 ButterflyWings

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Comments 5 comments

Jarn profile image

Jarn 6 years ago from Sebastian, Fl

Cool setup you've got there. I had been wondering how you did it, as the only mills I've seen before are the big warehouse sized jobs. I thought maybe you took your grain to one of them to have it milled.


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago Author

Jarn, thanks for reading. I'm trying to get some drafts out of the way, which I've had mostly set up since last summer. Maybe my brain will feel clearer then.

We usually only clean a few bushels at a time, as a bushel of wheat makes a lot of flour, when you're talking about feeding only one family. Of course, the grain which is sold at the elevator is not cleaned first, so we only wind up cleaning wheat once every few years.

I have occasionally cleaned a few gallons of corn or something, gleaned after harvest, the "old fashioned" way of throwing it up in a sieve. I can tell you, I'm very glad of the fan mill after attempting that method. :)


Grain Flaker 6 years ago

The fan mill is large but it's really good one to clean grain completely by the screens used in the fan mill.Thanks for the nice hub.


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago Author

Grain Flaker,

You are welcome. This fan mill certainly does do a nice job. It's nice not to have to pick grasshopper legs and whatnot out of my grain before I grind it. :)


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ButterflyWings 6 years ago Author

I just checked out your site, and I feel it is a great blessing. I have been looking for a good grain flaker.

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    ButterflyWings117 Followers
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    Butterfly has been gardening and preserving food of all kinds for many years, and thrives on the creativity involved in these processes.



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