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Difference Between Wheat and Barley

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Wheat belongs to the family cereal grasses of the genus Triticum family, while barley is a member of the grass family used as an animal feed and a source of raw material for producing beer and other distilled beverage drinks.

What is Wheat?

Wheat is a common source of food raw materials, and you will find it in almost everything you eat every day. From pasta, crackers, bagels, bread, and cake, wheat usage as food is common amongst many people, irrespective of demography. Wheat has many benefits, and what determines what nutrient you will gain from wheat consumption is the type of wheat you consume.

wheat grain
Wheat grain

Types of Wheat

What differentiates the different types of wheat is the harvest season, protein content, and wheat color.

Wheat Classification Based on Harvest Season

Spring wheat

This type of wheat is mainly planted in the spring and harvested in the summer. Now, since not every demography has a spring season, this type of wheat is relatively known to areas that experience the spring season.

Winter wheat

This type of wheat is usually planted during the fall season and is also harvested in the spring. In the US, the winter wheat alone comprises 75% of wheat planted and harvested, while other types of wheat make up the rest of the numbers.  

Wheat Types Based on Protein Content

Wheat types can also be categorized based on the protein content. Now, the thing about wheat is that the higher the protein level, the higher the elasticity of the wheat dough.

Hard red winter and hard red spring

These types of wheat contain the highest form of protein, which is why they are primarily used to produce bread and rolls.

Hard white and soft white

These types of wheat have lesser protein content compared to the hard red winter and hard red spring wheat. Due to their low protein level, the hard white and soft white wheat is best for making muffins, cakes, pastries, crackers, and cookies.

Wheat Types Based on Color

Now, aside from the two types mentioned above, wheat can be categorized further based on the wheat color. For example, the red wheat is darker compared to the white wheat. Also, red wheat is known to have a stronger and bitter taste than the white flavor. Ordinarily, the wheat color should not be a big deal if you are just a home baker. However, if you are considering industrial baking, then it is important you know the difference between wheat colors because of your consumer preference.

What is Barley?

Just like wheat, barley is a common type of cereal grain that people across the world. This cereal grain can be used to make different types of food like beverages, bread, stew, to name a few.

In addition, barley is highly rich in vitamins, fibers, and minerals that can add many benefits to your health. Also, recent scientific research has shown that a diet rich in barley can help tackle diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and to some extent, cancer and other chronic health concerns.

barley grain
Barley grain

Types of Barley

Barley, growing in a field

This is a raw form of barley, and it gives you a clear picture of what barley looks like in the field. This type of barley is the raw form, which means it has a tough and inedible outer hull. Before the barley can be edible, the outer covering must be removed.

Hulled Barley

Apart from being known as hulled barley, this is also called semi-processed barley. This type of barley means the tough inedible out hull has been removed. While this process may be challenging, it needs to be done for covered barley to become a whole grain.

Hulless Barley

Hulless barley has an outer layer attached to the barley kernel. It usually falls off during the barley harvesting period. The essence of the cuts down is to ensure that all the bran and germs are not lost out.

Barley Grits

Once the barley has been harvested, the barley kernel can be cut down into different grits. However, while grits from hulled barley are considered a whole grain, grits created by cutting up pearly barley can’t be regarded as whole grain.

Differences Between Wheat and Barley

Cooking Process

Wheat and barley have a difference when you consider their cooking process. The cooking procedure in wheat is more complex because you can’t just cook it directly. To prepare wheat, you will have to remove mill it to take away the shaft. However, to cook barley, the process is less complex and straightforward, just as cooking rice.  

Grass Texture and Taste

While wheat and barley belong to the grass family, they have differences in their grass texture and taste. Irrespective of the type of wheat, the grass texture is less tough than that of barley. Also, when you place their taste side-by-side, you will realize that barley has a stronger taste than wheat.

Harvesting Period

Barley is best harvested in the warmer season. That is why most barley farmers usually harvest their barley during the spring season. The weather temperature during this period is cool compared to summer when the weather is hot. Wheat, on the other hand, thrives better in a climate season, while the harvest period is carried out before winter gets into full swing.

Beard and Clasping Auricles

Wheat has a shorter beard and auricles with small hair, while barley has a long beard and clasping auricles with no hairs.

Comparison Chart: Wheat Vs Barley

AvailabilityWheat has the title of being the most extensively grown crop globally, making it readily available.Barley occupies the fourth position of the most grown cereal, so this implies that its availability will not be in all places.
FiberWheat in its raw form has a high level of fiber, but most of it is lost during the processing stage.Barley processing is not as complex as wheat, so barley fiber level remains high even after it has been processed.
ProteinWheat is rich in protein. For instance, whole wheat flour has 13.2 grams, and wheat flour has 12 grams of protein.Though barley is also rich in protein, but not as wheat. For instance, hulled barley contains 12.5 grams of protein, while pearled barley has 9.9 grams.
PreparationWheat cannot be consumed in its raw form. Instead, it has to be processed into flour before it can become edible.Barley preparation is more relaxed. It can be washed and prepared the same way as cooking rice.
NutrientsWheat, when consumed as a whole grain, it is highly rich in folate, manganese, thiamine, phosphorus, niacin, copper, selenium, calcium, and vitamin B6Barley, when consumed as a whole grain, is full of antioxidants, chromium,phosphorous, niacin, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganeseand vitamin B1.

Similitudes Between Wheat and Barley 

Although wheat and barley have their difference, the two crops share similarities in some areas.

Both can be used for extensive production

Wheat and barley are crops that can be used for further production of different food. For instance, wheat like durum is used to make spaghetti and macaroni, white wheat can be used to make pastry, and red wheat is used to make biscuits, cakes, and crackers. While barley, when it is processed, is a major ingredient in making beer, carpets, wheat baskets, and food for cattle breeding.

Wheat and barley are both in the grass family

Like siblings, wheat (Triticum aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) belong to the same grass family called Poaceae. The two crops have been part of human food consumption for thousands of years and are still relevant to date.

Global consumption

The consumption of wheat and barley is not limited to a particular country because they are planted and consumed worldwide. However, the production quota of the crops differs due to differences in climatic conditions in each country across the globe.

Frequently Asked Questions

🌾 Is barley a type of wheat?

Although wheat and barley belong to the same grass family, they are not the same crops. The two crops have different nutritional properties and distinctive characteristics, especially as it relates to their planting and harvesting, processing, and grass texture.

🧪 Do wheat and barley have the same mineral contents?

Both wheat and barley are extremely rich in mineral contents; only that wheat is more superior in this line. Wheat has more selenium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, zinc, and magnesium than barley when placed side-by-side. However, barley is richer than wheat in terms of sodium level.

🤲 Can wheat and barley be taken together?

Though both wheat and barley are rich in protein, taking them together can lead to excessive starch in the body due to the high carbohydrate concentration in both crops.

🧐 Is barley a protein?

Barley cannot be categorically regarded as full protein. However, barley types like hulled barley have 12.5 grams of protein per 100 grams, while pearl barley has 9.9 grams.

🌡 How much gluten is in wheat?

The protein content of the wheat is a significant determinant of the gluten level, and it usually ranges between 70% to 75%.

🥵 Is there any side effect from eating wheat?

Wheat consumption is good because of the nutrient it supplies for the body. However, research has shown that too much wheat consumption can cause the intestine to work harder, leading to slow digestion that can cause digestion problems, such as water retention, bloating, and gas.


Wheat and barley are planted and consumed worldwide. They are the source of various foods like pasta, beer, macaroni, animal feed, and stew. The consumption of the two crops can also be traced back thousands of years, making wheat and barley rank as one of the oldest foods in human history.


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About the Author: Tom Vincent

Tom Vincent graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and social studies. He then started his higher education at the University of François Rabelais in Tours with a DUT Information Communication. To expand his knowledge, he also followed a professional degree in e-commerce and digital marketing at the Lumière University of Lyon. On this project, he is in charge of articles covering language, industry and social.
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