The difference between soaked, sprouted, and sour grains

Should I be soaking grains? Because personally, I still eat bread. Although I’m not a big consumer of it, I love a loaf of fresh bread, warm from the oven, with a slab of cheddar on top. If, after all the anti-grain talk that goes around, you still want to consume grains, this post will help you to understand the difference between soaked, sprouted, and sour grains.

Eating grains has never been so confusing. Some hail grains as a mainstay food group; others say you shouldn’t eat it at all. Still others insist that grains are good for you—if properly prepared.

Why prepare grains? Grains have a naturally occurring “anti-nutrient” element called phytic acid. Studies suggest that phytic acid locks away nutrients in the grain and keeps us from being able to absorb the best parts of it.¹ The solution? Find a way to reduce phytic acid and unlock the good stuff that we all want.

What does “properly prepared” mean? Well, it depends on who you talk to, but generally, there are three main methods for preparing grain: soaking grains, souring, and sprouting.  Let’s examine the benefits of each.

Should I Be Soaking Grains?

The difference between soaked, sprouted, and sour grains

Soaked Grains

Soaking grains happens when flour or grain are mixed with an acid medium (generally yogurt, kefir, or apple cider vinegar) and left in a warm place for 12-24 hours before cooking. During this time, the acid breaks down anti-nutrients in the grains and “unlocks” nutrient potential for human consumption.

Soured Grains

We most often see “soured” grains in the form of sourdough bread. Souring takes grain preparation a step further than soaking and actually ferments the grains. Studies in lab animals suggest that fermentation can further help to make the nutrients in grains more easily accessible.²

sourdough starter is prepared by leaving flour and water to sit at room temperature and feeding it at regular intervals. Over time, the starter ferments and collects wild yeasts for leavening bread. This fermented starter now serves as the acid medium for souring the rest of the flour in a sourdough recipe.

Sprouted Grains

Sprouting grains is just like sprouting a seed. While soaking and souring can be done with ground flour, sprouting begins with the whole grain.

Whole wheat berries (or other grain of choice) are left in water and refreshed regularly until the seed “wakes up” and pushes out an actual green sprout. Next, the sprouted grains are dehydrated at a low temperature and ground into flour for baking. Sprouted flour can also be additionally soaked or soured to further reduce anti-nutrients. Hence, the term “sprouted sourdough.”

Now you know the difference between the three main methods of preparing grains. It seems that everyone has different opinions about which kinds of grain are best for you. However, I personally favor sourdough most of all, because of its benefits over conventional grain preparation. How do you like to prepare your grains?



¹Oberleas, D., M. E. Muhrer, and B. L. O’Dell. 1962. Effects of Phytic Acid on Zinc Availability and Parakeratosis in Swine1. J. Anim. Sci. 21:57-61. doi:10.2527/jas1962.21157x

²Lopez, Hubert W. , Coudray, Charles , et. Al. 1998.  Intestinal Fermentation Lessens the Inhibitory Effects of Phytic Acid on Mineral Utilization in Rats1. The Journal of Nutrition. 128:7:1192-1198.


For more information about sourdough, and using it in your fermenting journey, read the following posts:

How to Make Sourdough Starter

Healthy Sourdough Starter

The Benefits of Sourdough


Abigail is an aspiring homesteader, homeschooler, and music-maker. She lives with her husband and three children on her acre-and a half homestead in scenic Pennsylvania. You can visit her blog about living the homegrown life (and seeking contentment while doing it) at They’re Not Our Goats.

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