Background The analyses of protein synthesis, accumulation and regulation during grain development in wheat are more complex because of its larger genome size compared to model plants such as Arabidopsis and rice. In this study, grains from two wheat cultivars Jimai 20 and Zhoumai 16 with different gluten quality properties were harvested at five development stages, and were used to displayed variable expression patterns of grain proteins. Results Proteome characterization during grain development in Chinese bread wheat cultivars Jimai 20 and Zhoumai 16 with different quality properties was investigated by 2-DE and tandem MALDI-TOF/TOF-MS. Identification of 117 differentially accumulated protein spots representing 82 unique proteins and five main expression patterns enabled a chronological description of wheat grain formation. Significant proteome expression differences between the two cultivars were found; these included 14 protein spots that accumulated in both cultivars but with different patterns and 27 cultivar-different spots. Among the cultivar-different protein spots, 14 accumulated in higher abundance in Jimai 20 than in Zhoumai 16, and included NAD-dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase, triticin precursor, LMW-s glutenin subunit and replication factor C-like protein. These proteins are likely to be associated with superior gluten quality. In addition, some proteins such as class II chitinase and peroxidase 1 with isoforms in developing grains were shown to be phosphorylated by Pro-Q Diamond staining and phosphorprotein site prediction. Phosphorylation could have important roles in wheat grain development. qRT-PCR analysis demonstrated that transcriptional and translational expression patterns of many genes were significantly different. Conclusions Wheat grain proteins displayed variable expression patterns at different developmental stages and a considerable number of protein spots showed differential accumulation between two cultivars. Differences in seed storage proteins were considered to be related to different quality performance of the flour from these wheat cultivars. Some proteins with isoforms were phosphorylated, and this may reflect their importance in grain development. Our results provide new insights into proteome characterization during grain development in different wheat genotypes.