The Classification of Flour

Diverse flour classification systems exist in North America and Europe.  Table III is adapted from a text by Schunemann and Treu (6).  The original German edition of this textbook was published in 1986 to meet the technical requirements of the West German educational program for apprentice bakers.   The English edition was published in 1988.   Where appropriate, the techniques and terminology were adapted to North American standards. Table III depicts the types of wheat flour.   Please note that Rye and Other Flours, while depicted in Table III, are not part of this discussion.

Table III

Flour Types

Hard Wheat Flours      
Top Patent 0.35 - 0.40% ash content: 11.0-12.0% protein

Uses: -  Danishes, sweet doughs, yeast doughnuts and smaller volume breads and buns.

First Baker's 0.50 - 0.55%. ash content: 13.0-13.8% protein

Uses: All purpose strong baker's flour, breads, buns, soft rolls and puff pastry

First Clears 0.70-0.80% ash content: 15.5-17% protein

Uses: A dark very high protein flour used as a base for rye bread production; poor color not a factor in finished product.

Second Clears

Low grade flour, not used in food production. Constitutes less than 5% of flour produced by a mill.

Soft Wheat Flours    
Cake Flour 0.36-0.40% ash content: 7.8 - 8.5% protein, chlorinated to 4.5- 5.0 pH.

Uses: High-ratio cakes (cakes with a high amount of sugar and liquid in proportion to flour), angel food cakes and jelly rolls.

Pastry Flour

0.40-0.45% ash content/8.0-8.8% protein, chlorinated to 5.0-5.5 pH, (also available unchlorinated).

Uses: Cake, pastries and pies.

Cookie Flour 0.45-0.50% ash content: 9.0 - 10.5% protein

Uses: Cookies and blended flours. For large-scale manufacturers, flour can be chlorinated to the user's specifications.

Whole Wheat Flour

Various bran coat granulations produce coarse to fine whole-wheat
Rye Flours    
Light Rye (75% extraction) 0.55-0.65% ash content [See Note below]

Uses: Can be blended up to 40% with white flour without a major loss of loaf volume.

Medium Rye (87% extraction) 0.65 - 1.00% ash content.

Uses: Up to 30% blend with white flour

Dark Rye (100% extraction) Limited to 20% flour blend before significant volume reduction occurs in the product.
Rye Meals Fine/medium/coarse/pumpernickel and flaked.  Consist of a variety of  broken or cracked rye grains after being classified in a series of sieves.
Other Flours    
Stone-Ground Flour (100% extraction) Usually untreated and, because of germ content, is subject to limited shelf life.
Cracked Wheat/Rye Available in coarse, medium or fine granulations
Semolina Semolina A fine meal consisting of particles of coarsely-ground durum.
NOTE: Extraction Rate is defined as the percentage of flour obtained from a given amount of grain.

The data in Table IV was obtained from Boriani, Guido, Fabrizio Ostani (7).   Italian law 4.7. 1967. n. 580 establishes that common wheat flours destined for commercial use can only be produced in the following types and with the following characteristics:

Table IV

  Per 100 Parts of Dry Substance
Type & Denomination Maximum Moisture % Maximum Ash Maximum Cellulose Minimum Gluten
Flour Type 00 14.50 .50 NA 7
Flour Type 0 14.50 .65 .20 9
Flour Type 1 14.50 .80 .30 10
Flour Type 2 14.50 .95 .50 10
Flour -Wheat 14.50 1.40 - 1.60 1.6 10

Flour Classifications in France

The table below is adapted from Calvel, Raymond, James MacGuire, and Ronald Wirtz, "The Taste of Bread", Gaithersburg, MD; Aspen Publishers, 2001.

Table V

Classification for Six Types of Flour in France
Classification Ash content as % of Dry Matter Rate of Extraction (Correlative Method)
Type 45 Below 0.50 67-70
Type 55 from 0.50 to 0.60/0.62    75-78
Type 65 from 0.62 to 0.75      78-82
Type 80 from 0.75 to 0.90          82-85
Type 110 from 1 to 1.20       85-90
Type 150 above 1.40       90-98   
Likewise the information below is also from Calvel et al.  This chart compares North American flour grades and offers comments relative to French flour.
Flour Grade Protein Level Comments




7 to 8.5 protein

8.5 to 9.5 protein

It has been put forth in some circles that French flours can be imitated by “cutting” the extra strength of North American bread flours with weaker cake or pastry flours. The logic of this is attractive, but it does not pan out.

Hotel and Restaurant (all purpose)



10 to 11.5 protein


11.5 to 12.2 protein

No North American flour is an exact equivalent of French type 55 bread flour, and bakers must look carefully for an appropriate flour and make certain adjustments … Professor Calvel has had great success in North America with both “bread” flours on this lower end of the protein range and also with “all purpose” (hotel and restaurant) flours of above average strength. Significantly, many months of flour testing conducted by Didier Rosada and Tom McMahon at the National Baking Center in Minneapolis corroborates this, for 12.5% appears to be the maximum percentage of protein desirable for hearth breads. Much work remains to be done, and artisan bread movement has begun to spark an interest on the part of mills to produce appropriate flours.

Premium High Gluten

Medium High Gluten


13.8 to 14.2 protein

13.3 to 13.7 protein

The high gluten flours are too high in gluten despite Professor Calvel’s mention of stronger flour for certain recipes.

Strong Spring Patent

13 to 13.3 protein


First Clear

14 plus protein

Clear flours can add strength to rye doughs when used as the wheat portion, and where their darker color is of little importance.

Whole Wheat

14 plus protein

Stone ground whole-wheat flours are of uniform granulation and contain no additives, but must be used before the wheat germ oil oxidizes and causes rancid flavors.