Corn Milling 101 Part 3: Cleaning, Cracking & Sifting

The first step in corn processing is cleaning. We remove any cobs or stalks and sort out broken kernels using a screener and separator. Then the corn goes through a magnet to pull out any remaining foreign material. When the cleaning process is finished, the whole corn kernels should be all that’s left.

The clean, whole kernel corn is then sent to the tempering system to loosen the skin, otherwise known as bran or pericarp. A small amount of water is added to the corn and then it sits in a holding tank for a period of time.

After the skin has been loosened, the corn goes to Didion’s degermination system. The corn is cracked into large pieces. During this process, the loose skin comes off the kernel and the germ pops out. For more information on the parts of the corn kernel, check out Milling 101 Part 2: Where Our Food and Fuel Products Come From.

The fractionated pieces are sifted to sort out any fine, floury materials. These soft, starchy pieces are sent to our ethanol plant because they are optimal for fermentation. For more information on how we maximize every kernel of corn through the partnership between our dry corn mill and ethanol plant, check out Milling 101 Part 1: A Fresh Look at Corn Milling.

Next, the bran is removed using an aspiration system. Then it is transferred to its own system within the mill. The remaining starch goes through a series of grinding and sifting. Pieces are sorted using wire screens of various sizes to separate “unders” or “fines” from the “overs” and “select” pieces. These terms refer to where the pieces sit on the wire screens during sifting.

The fines go to the ethanol plant for fermentation while the overs and select pieces are used to make food products in the dry corn mill. Our millers prefer the select size pieces, which is a nice center cut of the kernel. These “center cut” pieces are made from the hard starch. This enables our millers to make a very consistent finished product for customers and product consumers. This is part of the Didion Difference.

By: Curt Miller, Corn Milling Operations Manager at Didion Milling

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Going Whole Grain

Consumers are increasingly seeking healthy food products and food manufacturers are continuing to invest in research and development to meet this need. Why? Many people consume too calories and too much sugar, fat and sodium.

Among these changing product formulations is the use of whole grains. The USDA recommends that half of all grains consumed be whole grains but most Americans are barely eating one serving of whole grain per day and nine out of ten Americans aren’t getting enough whole grain.

Research shows that eating whole grains as part of a healthy diet can improve heart health, weight management and diabetes management, while reducing risks of some cancers. Additional studies have shown that children and adolescents that eat cereal for breakfast have a lower Body Mass Index and waist circumference than those who don’t eat cereal at breakfast or who skip breakfast.

Many cereal companies are trying to include whole grain more than any other ingredient at a minimum level of 10 grams per serving up to 16 grams per serving.

Another area American diets fall short is in fiber consumption. Dietary fiber is important to digestive health and can help curb hunger. Some research suggests that people who have a higher intake of fiber also tend to have a healthier body weight.

The FDA and USDA are creating new goals to improve health and nutrition claim criteria for food products. Food reformulations are also changing because food processors are responding to USDA standards for K-12 school meals, which include meeting whole grain requirements.

Consumers are reading food labels more than ever, so food manufacturers are asking for more recognizable, label-friendly ingredients, like corn.

In response to this, Didion Milling has added whole grain to their family of corn products, specifically made for the cereal market.

Another emerging whole grain need is adding fiber from whole grain ingredients into foods that people are already eating, rather than creating new whole-grain-based foods. This is especially prevalent in cereals and snack foods, both popular applications for Didion’s dry milled corn.

Whole grain corn is an economical, label-friendly way to add whole grain to products. To learn more about Didion’s whole grain corn flour visit our website.

By: Riley Didion, Sales Manager at Didion Milling

Corn Milling 101 Part 1: A Fresh Look at Corn Milling

Didion-DifferenceOur passion is to provide the highest quality corn products for our customers. The corn we process goes into the products our families eat every day. That’s something we’re very proud of. That passion has carried us through 40 years in business and will continue to drive us for years to come. By hiring great people, innovating to produce excellent products and continuing to focus on exceptional service, we keep looking for ways to reinvent the way we do business. That’s the Didion Difference!

Overall, the U.S. dry corn milling business grows one percent to two percent per year, so our unique approach to corn milling is our key to being competitive in the domestic market. We’ve grown because of our sustainable business model – built on the synergy between our facilities. The dry corn mill and ethanol plant need complementary inputs, enabling us to glean the greatest value from every piece of every corn kernel that passes through our facilities. We carefully select the best parts of the kernel for food production and use the rest to make homegrown biofuels. The consistent input and constant innovation drive efficiency and sustainability in both facilities. This results in high-quality finished products for our customers.

Our small size and family-owned mentality have given us an edge because we can respond quickly to market demands and customize products to customer needs. It all comes back to our passion for maximizing every kernel of corn that passes through our facilities. That passion inspires us to take a fresh look at corn milling every day. At Didion, innovation is a way of life. And we’ll never be done improving.

Milling 101 is a six part series about Didion’s unique approach to corn milling, our products and quality standards. 

By: John Didion, CEO of Didion Milling