26.8.14

Buying a Grain Mill? Some Considerations


As the use of ancient grains and organics becomes more popular so is milling your own flour. It is easier to find the grains than the flour but also, flavour and nutrition are increased when the flour is freshly milled for baking. 

Considerations when choosing a mill include the power source, the type of milling mechanism, its convenience, the heat produced through the process of milling, how much flour you want to mill and cost of the machine.

Manual mills are for the energetic person. Grinding by hand is a workout. Because the speed of milling is slower there is little chance of nutrient damaging heat build up in the flour. However if you have a lot of power outages this may be a better choice. The manual mills attach to a countertop or solid surface like a pasta machine or meat grinder. There is a handle to turn. Some can be converted to a pulley system and powered by a stationary bicycle.

Electric mills are simple to use. Just press a button. There are mills that can be powered both manually or with electricity.

A mechanism is required to crush, beat or grind the grain into meal and usually a range of textures from fine to coarse is most desirable. Most machines will have a recommended list of grains it will grind. Most do not recommend grinding oily or wet items such as nuts and flax. There are two basic categories of mechanisms for the home mill – burr and impact.

The burr has two grinding plates, one fixed and the other rotated. Grain is fed into the gap between the grooved plates and the grain is sheared and crushed. Stone plates are also available and are a composite made from compressing natural or artificial stones in a bed of concrete. Metal burrs are made from hardened cast steel. The difference is that stone burrs crush the grain and metal burrs break and shear it. A burr machine will be heavier than an impact mill.

Impact mills use two flat stainless steel heads with concentric row of teeth that spin within each other at high speeds. Grain drops into the teeth and is hammered rather than ground. This type usually only makes a fine flour.

The convenience factor is an important consideration. How convenient do you need this machine to be? How much does it weigh? Some can be up to 20 pounds. Can it be stored easily? Sizes vary. How much time do you have? Manual mills are definitely slower. How much flour do you require at one time? Mill capacities vary.

As milling time or speed increases it raises the temperature of the flour. This in turn risks damaging the nutrients and gluten. If you do not plan to use the flour right away, it is suggested that you let the flour cool to room temperature before packaging. If it is not allowed to cool it may mold. 112 to 115 F (44 to 46 C) is the upper limit to reduce the risk of nutrient damage. Gluten is damaged at temperatures above 122 F (50 C) and totally destroyed at 167 F (75 C).

I do not own a flour mill and have only two friends who do. Both have a Nutrimill and are happy with it. One friend only mills wheat while the other mills a variety of grains. I have received comments on the Thermomix machine and the Kitchenaid attachment for the stand mixer.

The Nutrimill has very detailed product information to help make a decision. It is an impact mill that can grind from fine to coarse. It grinds at a temperature of 118 F (48 C) and will grind all grains and beans but not oily seeds and grains such as flax. It has an 11” x 13” (28 cm x 33 cm) footprint and has a removable hopper for easy storage in a cupboard. It is low dust and self-cleaning. It has a 22-cup (5.2 L) capacity.
The Kitchenaid user was not happy saying it didn’t provide a uniform product. The company website offers no specifications. The Thermomix user did not respond to questions but knowing the appliance, heat will likely be an issue due to the mechanisms. There is no information on the company web page.

The amount of money you spend is directly related to how frequently you plan to use the mill. If you only occasionally make flour then you won’t want to spend a lot of money. Prices range from $250 - $1,000 or more.

Soft grains like red fife grinds much faster than hard grains like kamut and spelt. The harder grains will take longer to grind and therefore, there is more concern for heat build up. Larger quantities milled at one time will also raise concerns of heat build up. One important note is that you will have whole grain flour. Most grocery store flour is enriched with the bran and germ removed. These two parts are very nutritious. However, the wheat germ oil will go rancid, therefore, it is better if wheat flour is milled just before use. If desired, the bran can be removed by sifting.

Making a choice requires defining your needs and doing the research. Think about how much flour you mill. If it is more than basic household amounts you may need to look at a commercial model. Consider your storage space. Do you want to haul up a heavy machine from the basement every time you mill flour? Consider your budget.

3 comments:

  1. I take the drive to True Grain Breads in Summerland and can buy Red Fife, and other flours in small quantities. If you had your own flour mill that would really be a draw at your local markets. Excellent.

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  2. I'd love to try grinding grains right before baking! Thanks for this info.

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  3. Good info, thanks. I have a Sunshine Mill "Nugget" model, manufactured in McCammon, Idaho USA and distributed by Nazko Distributing (N. American manufactured was one of my criteria when choosing). It is lightweight, manual crank with option to add motor. I have the composite stones, although I think I would like to get the steel blades (which are optional and can be purchased). It is lots of work to grind, so I do only enough for the day I'm baking.

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