Difference Between Wheat and Barley

Main Difference – Wheat vs Barley

A cereal is an actual grass, primarily cultivated for the edible starch components of its grain. Botanically, this grain is a type of fruit known as a caryopsis and it contains three parts such as the endosperm, germ, and bran. Cereals belong to the monocot family Poaceae and are grown in larger quantities and provide more food energy and carbohydrate for the entire world than any other type of crop. Wheat and barley are commonly consumed cereals in the world and they are considered as staple crops. They are a rich source of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, oils, and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) as well as bioactive phytochemicals (polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanin, carotenoids, etc.). The nutrients accumulated in the bran and germ are removed after the refining and polishing process and the remaining endosperm contains mostly carbohydrate. The main difference between wheat and barley is that, although both barley and wheat belong to the cereal group, wheat is a Triticum genus crop and barley is a hordeum genes crop. Wheat (Triticum spp.) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) have different sensory and nutritional properties and this article explores the differences between wheat and barley.

What is Wheat

Wheat is a cereal grain and it is the third most-produced cereal after maize and barley. This cereal is cultivated on more land area than any other commercial food crops. Worldwide, wheat is the leading source of protein in the human diet, having higher protein content than other major cereals such as maize or barley. Wheat is a principal food used to produce flour for leavened breads, cakes, biscuits, cookies, breakfast cereal, noodles, pasta, and for fermentation to make beer, other alcoholic beverages, and biofuel. The whole wheat grain can be milled to remove all other nutrients except the endosperm for the production of white flour; the by-products of this process are bran and germ. The wheat grain is a concentrated source of vitamins, protein, and minerals while the refined grain is mostly concentrated in starch.

Main Difference - Wheat vs Barley

What is Barley

Barley is a cereal grain that belongs to the grass species Hordeum vulgare. It is widely used for alcoholic beverage production and is also consumed as main food in Tibetan cuisine. It is the agricultural commodity with the fourth-highest global production and one of the first domesticated grains. A large share of barley is grown for human consumption as well as animal consumption. It is considered to be high in carbohydrates, fat, protein, dietary fiber, vitamin B, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and folate.  It is also rich in healthy fat and dietary fiber; thus, it is considered to be a healthy food in order to reduce weight. Furthermore, it is also linked with many health benefits. For example, the dietary fiber in barley reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and can lower bad (LDL) cholesterol in the  blood. Barley can also decrease the risk of diabetes and colon cancer.

Difference Between Wheat and Barley

Difference Between Wheat and Barley

Wheat and barley may have substantially different properties and applications. These differences may include,

Scientific Name

The scientific name of Barley is Hordeum vulgare.

The scientific name of Wheat is Triticum aestivum.

Scientific Classification

Barley belongs to 

Kingdom: Plantae and Order: Poales

Family: Poaceae and Subfamily: Pooideae

Tribe: Triticeae and Genus: Hordeum

Wheat belongs to

Kingdom: Plantae and Order: Poales

Family: Poaceae and Subfamily: Pooideae

Tribe: Triticeae and Genus: Triticuma  

Type of Grains

Barley can be characteristically categorized as Two-row barley, six-row barley, and hull-less barley.

Wheat is classified into 6 groups and they are hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, durum (hard), hard white, and soft white wheat. The hard wheat is rich in gluten and is used for making bread, rolls and all-purpose flour. The soft wheat is used for making flat bread, cakes, pastries, crackers, muffins, and biscuits.


In 2013, world barley production is 144.8 in million metric tons. Thus, worldwide barley production is lower than wheat.

In 2013, world wheat production is 713 in million metric tons. Thus, worldwide wheat production is greater than barley.

Production and Consumption Countries

The highest Barley consumption and production were recorded in Russia, Germany, France, Canada, and Spain.

The highest Wheat consumption was recorded Denmark, but most of this was used for animal feed. The biggest wheat producer in 2010 was the European Union, followed by China, India, USA, and Russia.

Selenium Content

Barley is deficient in the essential mineral selenium.

Wheat is rich in selenium compared to barley.


Barley is the main ingredient in beer and whiskey production. This grain is also used for direct cooking, congee preparation, instant rice, and noodles; it is also used in porridge and gruel production. Barley flour and starch frequently are used in bread and biscuits. It is also used in nonalcoholic drinks such as barley water and barley tea preparation.

Wheat is used for human consumption, food products processing such as the breads, biscuits, cookies, cakes, breakfast cereal, pasta, noodles, and couscous. Raw wheat can be ground into semolina or germinated and dried to create malt. Wheat is also used for fermentation to make beer, other alcoholic beverages, bio gas and bio fuel production. It is used to forage crops for domesticated animals like cows and sheep.

In conclusion, both barley and wheat are the world’s more favored staple foods. They are major diets component because of these plant’s agronomic adaptability and offers easiness of grain storage and easiness of converting grain into flour for making edible, palatable, interesting and satisfying foods. Furthermore, barley and wheat are the most important source of carbohydrate and protein in a majority of countries.

Difference between wheat and barley - infographic


Cauvain, Stanley P. and Cauvain P. Cauvain. (2003). Bread  Making. CRC Press. p. 540. ISBN 1-85573-553-9.

Dai, F.; Nevo, E.; Wu, D.; Comadran, J.; Zhou, M.; Qiu, L.; Chen, Z.; Beiles, A.; et al. (2012). Tibet is one of the centers of domestication of cultivated barley. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (42): 16969.

Moon, David (2008). In the Russian Steppes: the Introduction of Russian Wheat on the Great Plains of the UNited States. Journal of Global History, 3: 203–225.

Image Courtesy:

“Hordeum-barley”.  (Public Domain) via Commons

“Wheat close-up” by User:Bluemoose – Own work. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons

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