Flour in Germany: Not as easy as it seems

In America, it was quite easy. You went into the grocery story, you picked up a bag of flour, you took it home and you did whatever you wanted with it. It was the flour called for in every recipe known to man: all-purpose flour. And it would make sense that this multipurpose, good for everything flour is readily available.

So you move to Germany and you go shopping and you find Weizenmehl and you think – ah, flour is flour, right. This must be all-purpose flour. And you bake with it and you cook with it and most of the time things turn out okay…but sometimes things just go horribly wrong. And you start to wonder if it’s you or the flour.

The good news is, it’s not just you! And to be honest, some people have probably lived in Germany for years and never determined that there is any difference. If you’re using flour for very few things in the kitchen, it probably will never have an impact on your life. But if you bake bread, cakes, muffins, cupcakes or other yummy flour-based products, you are eventually going to run into complications.

The Flour Predicament

There are many types of flour here and the majority of them poorly describe what they are to be used for.

flour in germany

  • Type 405 is pastry flour, best for cakes, pastries, pie crusts and other lighter baked goods. It is typically made from soft wheat and has a gluten content of 8-10%. This is what you usually find readily available in German grocery stores.
  • Type 550 is what Americans consider all-purpose flour. It is typically used in breads, cookies, biscuits, muffins, and croissants (although you can also use 405 for cookies, biscuits & muffins as well). It is made from a combination of soft and hard wheats, and has a gluten content of 9-11%. It is relatively easy to find in chain grocery stores like Rewe.
  • Type 812 is bread flour and produces foods with a chewier texture than all-purpose flour. It also gives bread the proper elasticity and strength needed to rise properly and maintain its shape while baking. It is made from hard wheat and has a gluten content of 11-13%. I have yet to find this in a normal store in Germany but you can buy gluten by the kilo which is the important aspect of this flour. You can make your own bread flour by adding one tablespoon of wheat gluten to every cup of all-purpose flour. Always mix the flour and gluten together before adding to your recipe.
  • Type 1050 is often referred to as “first clear” flour in the US, used for heavier rolls and breads, and is great for sourdough starters. It is high extraction flour, with more bran and wheat germ in it, and is overall a more dense, hearty flour. It is made from hard wheat and has a gluten content of 13-14.5%. This is one of the more difficult flours to find, but try dm — they actually have a very extensive collection of flours at very reasonable prices (far better than what I paid at Rewe).

Now if you’re wondering if these numbers actually stand for something, they do! The higher the number on the package, the more ash (and usually other minerals and fiber) you will find in the flour because more of the wheat corns have been ground up into the flour. A 1050 wheat is no less fine than the 405. These numbers are calculated based on the amount of ash (measured in milligrams) obtained from 100 grams of the dry mass of the flour.

Of course that is not the only kind of flour you’ll find over here. There are also whole wheat flours (Vollkornmehl) (usually type 1600) and rye (Roggen) and sunflower and so on. Type 1150 is the general number you will find on rye flour and is considered a medium or dark rye flour, which is ideal for making a typical loaf of rye bread. But you may sometimes find additional types: lower numbers would produce a lighter rye bread or roll, and something up to type 1800 (Roggen-Vollkornmehl) would give a wholegrain rye bread like Pumpernickel. As you get into the higher numbers, you will often find the recipes indicating you should mix several types of flour to get the best results.

There are also spelt flours available here (Dinkel). Dinkel type 630 is sometimes substituted for type 405 Wiezenmehl and will make great breads. But you have to be careful not to over-knead it due to its high gluten content. It’s usually best to combine it with other flours. Dinkel Vollkornmehl is equivalent to whole spelt flour.

flour in germany

More often than not, a regular 405 Weizenmehl is going to be sufficient when you’re covering Schniztel in flour before the egg and bread crumb coatings, and certainly if you’re planning to bake. But when you start expanding into baking your own bread (especially artisan breads) and getting serious about making pizza dough at home, you’ll want to start expanding more into the world of flours in Germany.

Comments

  1. I knew there was some difference but didn’t know exactly what the numbers were all about! Thanks for clarifying ;)

  2. Very interesting…………

    You are becoming a “Cullenary Expert”….

    Your mom was a pretty good cook in her own time.

  3. Alexandra Gordon says:

    Interesting….just made my first loaf of rye bread (without the wheat gluten, which i didn’t have, and turned out surprisingly well, though more like a dense, chewy muffin)…..thanks for the explanations – makes a lot more sense now:)

  4. THANK YOU! I was always wondering this! Now it all makes sense… :)

  5. Sue malick says:

    thanks Tiffany,
    this really was so useful. I do alot of baking while in Germany and have spent way too much time in stores trying to noodle this out. Finally this one is solved. got the leavening issues sorted and look forward to greater success in June.

  6. Thank you Thank you! Friends and I have been struggling with our baking and I think this will really help!

  7. Hello Tiffany, its my first week in Germany and the thought of going grocery shopping is giving me chills . Today I went to buy wheat flour for making chappathis (indian flat bread) and bought home Weizenmehl 405( courtsey googletranslate, they dont take cooking serious enough to give specific numbers :P) , but the texture is similar to the all purpose flour we get in India .I dnt think there is 1050 or 1600 in the shops nearby ,so can u please tell what wheat gluten is and hw to use it ? may be its german too

    • i am also in germany and using wheat 405 and its not the same as in india since the gluten (which is the wheat extract and is rich in protein ) content is less in this type of flour and the flour is much more white in texture and has much more coarse than indian type. Thus we end up making parotas(but still its not like an indian one) and not chappathis which makes it a bit less healthier than .. Neverthless i don’t have any choice since for a 1050 type mehl i have to travel a lot and is not available easily so i have to compromise :(

  8. Thank you for summarizing this!  This is great and exactly what I needed!  Until I moved to Germany, I never knew that buying flour could be so complicated.  :-)

  9. I can’t thank you enough for this post! I’m an American living in The Netherlands and live 10 mins from the german border. I shop there all the time because they have a better selection of baking items..the bread here has frustrated me to no end. In the netherlands they only sell bread flour with the yeast already in it! I have been searching for 5 years on where to get my own..I am now armed with a list and will be shopping in germany this weekend for bread flour :)

    • Glad I could help!

      I find it a bit funny that you travel to Germany to shop at the grocery store, because we used to do the same in Holland as well. Brown sugar for example is something you can’t get here. And although I can make my own, it’s just not so much fun. :)

  10. Hi, I am Saylee from India.i am interested in buying German flour type 550 for baking purpose.can you guide me where  i can get type 550 German flour in india.

  11. I’m just now posting a thank you…I finally headed into Germany and went to Kaufland armed with my list of numbers..lol I was able to get spelt,my beloved bread flour and rye..I can’t thank you enough!!!

  12. I keep forgetting to ask but is there a german version of White Whole Wheat Flour? i cant find it in the netherlands as of yet and wasnt sure if there was a version in germany.

  13. You really seem to be quite good at comparing german and american flour. :D
    It’s funny how you know everything about this, while I (as a german) never noticed (or maybe I just ignored it :P ) there was a number on the flour packet. Now I feel so educated. So all-purpose flour is just type 550? Is it really totally regardless of wether you’re using Weizen-,Dinkel- or Roggenmehl?

    • The numbers are regardless of the type (Weizen, Dinkel, etc) but generally you’ll find Dinkel & Roggen as a type 1150.

      I honestly might never have noticed it if I hadn’t ended up with flat banana bread time after time. For many items, it makes little difference. But some baked goods just need the all purpose flour.

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