Grains and Flours

Classification of Wheat

Wheat can be classified in three ways:

  • Colour (e.g., red, yellow, white)
  • Planting season: spring wheat, planted in the spring and harvested in early fall; winter wheat, planted in the fall, harvested the following summer
  • Characteristics of the grain: durum, hard bread wheat, and soft wheat

In Canada, hard spring wheat suitable for yeast products is grown on the Prairies. In southern Alberta, where winters are not as severe, some hard winter wheat is grown. Irrigated land in Alberta also produces some white soft winter wheat. The main soft white winter wheat growing area is southern Ontario.

The CGC categorizes wheat by regions as well as different varieties of wheat by classes. As the CGC states, “the varieties within each class are grouped by their functional characteristics. For example, varieties in the Canada Prairie Spring Red class have medium hard kernels and medium dough strength. Canadian wheat classes are categorized by Canada Western and Canada Eastern, the regions in which the varieties are grown” (CGC, 2015, p1).

A list of the different classes of Eastern and Western wheat is as follows:

Eastern Wheat Classes:

  • Canada Eastern Amber Durum (CEAD)
  • Canada Eastern Hard Red Winter (CEHRW)
  • Canada Eastern Hard White Spring (CEHWS)
  • Canada Eastern Red Spring (CERS)
  • Canada Eastern Soft Red Winter (CESRW)
  • Canada Eastern Soft White Spring (CESWS)
  • Canada Eastern White Winter (CEWW)

Western Wheat Classes:

  • Canada Prairie Spring Red (CPSR)
  • Canada Prairie Spring White (CPSW)
  • Canada Western Amber Durum (CWAD)
  • Canada Western Extra Strong (CWES)
  • Canada Western Hard White Spring (CWHWS)
  • Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS)
  • Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW)
  • Canada Western Soft White Spring (CWSWS)

Both Eastern and Western wheat are broken down by their characteristics and end uses.

Classes of Wheat
Figure 1 Classes of wheat.

[1]

In Canada, grains are divided into “official grains of Canada and “unofficial grains of Canada.” The former is regulated by the Canada Grain Act, whereas the unofficial grains are not subject to grading purposes. An example of an unofficial grain is the Canadian Western General all-purpose wheat, which produces great yield and has high starch but low protein content, thus affecting the end uses. This type of wheat is used for animal feed and, therefore, does not have to meet strict milling requirements.

Additional information on the qualities and protein content as well as classifications of Western Canadian wheat can be found in the CGC document Quality of Western Canadian Wheat.

The United States recognizes seven market classes of wheat. The first five, listed below, are the most important:

  • Hard red winter (planted in the fall, harvested the following summer)
  • Soft red winter
  • Hard red spring (planted and harvested the same year)
  • Durum
  • Red durum

Characteristics of the Major Wheat Groups

The major wheat groups each have differing characteristics. This also determines their use in food production and baking. The following identifies the major characteristics of each of the three major wheat groups.

  • Durum wheats: Durum wheats are generally high in gluten-producing proteins. They are, in effect, the “hardest” wheats. They are used for making semolina, which is made into macaroni and other pastas.
  • Hard wheats: Hard wheats include hard winter wheats and hard spring wheats. Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) is the major hard wheat in Canada. Hard Red Winter (HRW) and Hard Red Spring (HRS) are the U.S. equivalents. They contain more gluten-producing proteins than soft wheat, and are used for making bread flours and all-purpose flours.
  • Soft wheats: Soft wheats are low in gluten-producing protein. Soft Red Winter (SRW) is the chief of these in the United States. They are milled into cake and pastry flours.

  1. Figure 1. Classes of Wheat. Image courtesy of Canadian Grain Commission. Retrieved from https://www.grainscanada.gc.ca/wheat-ble/classes/classes-eng.htm

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