Grain Mills for Freedom
March 3, 2011
Nothing beats the wonderful taste and aroma of foods made of freshly ground grains! You will also be getting all the nutrients naturally in the food. Most whole grains contain some oils, which are removed by commercial flour makers because they spoil after milling. For example, Kernels of wheat are a good source of vitamin E, but whole wheat flour from the grocery store has that vitamin removed, so it will keep on the shelf. White flour has much of the healthy fiber removed too.
Grinding your own grains is a way to save lots of money and have better foods. A hand cranked mill will quickly pay for itself. A powered mill will take a little longer to save money, but it will save time and effort right away. It makes cooking whole grains for a large family much easier. If you are considering baking bread or milling grain as a cottage industry, there are mills made for use on small farms. Some are driven by a pulley, so you could use most any sort of motor or engine with enough power to run them. For making hot cereals or livestock feeds, a roller type of mill to break up the kernels of grain is all you need. These are also available in several sizes to meet homestead needs. With a high speed power source, hammer mills are practical for making livestock feed, and a tiny electric coffee mill can grind Flax seed or enough grain for a bowl of hot cereal.
Hand powered mills have either steel burrs or stone plates inside. I prefer the burrs because they are less likely to clog, These mills are also less expensive. Spend a little bit more money, and you can buy a mill with replaceable burrs, just in case you ever damage them. It will take many years to wear a good mill out. But an improperly adjusted mill or a stray pebble, more likely found in dry beans, can ruin the burrs or stones very quickly. In addition to making whole grain flour, a steel bur mill can usually be adjusted quite wide, to crack grain for cereal or poultry feed. It is also much easier on your arm to set the mill wide on the first pass, and grind it again set finer. Even though you run the grain through more than once, it is faster and much less work. Another type of hand powered mill uses splined rollers to flatten small grain making it like 'Rolled Oats' or 'Oatmeal' for hot cereal or granola. There are many Old World recipes for foods made from coarsely ground or rolled grains too.
I use a grain mill attachment on our Kitchenaid mixer, and a mill is available for the much larger Champion Juicer as well. There are many brands of electric powered home grain mills to choose from. My advice is to buy quality 'tools' from a company who supplies parts in case you ever need them. You may want to keep some spare parts on hand too. If you want to be able to use your electric mill even if the power is off, you will need a large enough battery and inverter set up close to the mill. With powered mills, there are more methods of grinding grain. Some are very fast, but could overheat the flour or send dust into the room. Remember you will be grinding just before you bake or cook cereal. Do not buy a mill bigger or smaller than you need for one meal or batch of bread.
Whole grain foods are hearty and healthy. They satisfy your needs for doing hard work and staying healthy with bread and cereal. Cookies, Gingerbread and Pumpkin breads are great made with home ground flour. I like whole grain pie crust, but it is different from what is made from white 'all purpose flour'. Whole grains are not so good for light desserts like pastry and layer cakes. Some of the most expensive powered mills claim they can grind fine enough for those fancy desserts.
First lets look at the grains. Some have a hard coat, hull or husk which must be removed. It is not eatable. For example, Sunflowers, Buckwheat, and standard Oats. Commercially these grains have the shell cracked, and then the grain is separated out. Most of these grains are hard to process at home. Fortunately Hulless Oat seeds are available and allow you to grow and you can grind or roll your own oats at home.
Corn is my favorite grain because it is easy to grow and harvest. Yields are generally much better than the small grains too. The kernels are much larger than other grains, and many home mills will not grind corn. Our Kitchenaid attachment will, and I emailed Champion a few years ago, and was told the attachment they offer will too. It is best to check directly with the manufacturer yourself. Many retailers of grain mills I found on line claim mills they sell will grind corn, while the maker clearly says they will not. I had a roller cereal mill here years ago, which was supposed to crack corn, but would not.
In the USA, wheat is the most common grain used for both bread and pasta. So most mills are designed for grains about this size and hardness. Rye, Spelt and Hulless Oats are similar and grind nicely in most widely sold grain mills. Some mills can also grind dry mature beans, lentils or peas. Most of these are very hard, but if you can make a sort of coarse flour, it will shorten the cooking time. 'Bean' flour can be mixed with grain flour. Ezekiel Bread is made from a recipe in the Bible and contains both grains and legumes like lentils and dry peas.
Unfortunately, it looks like my favorite hand mill, the large PORKERT is no longer being made in the CZECH Republic. One retailer reports the factory has closed. Mills sold by Weston look extremely similar, but in the exploded view diagram, I can not make out a replaceable burr plate attached to the body. They are widely sold for very low prices though. I do like the looks of "Lehman's Best under $200" Grain Mill #C-17B which is made in the USA and offers replaceable burrs. In fact, with an extra set of burrs it isn't too much over $200 at present. An other mid price range mill is sold under a few names, often called The Family Mill from Germany. Some retailers offer it as an attachment for the Kitchenaid or the Bosch mixers, with its own motor or hand cranked. It also has vegetable cutting and cereal heads. I do have the grain mill. It will not grind our corn, and the burrs are much smaller than I would like. Machining and the fit of the Lexan parts is very good, but I do not recommend it because it is slow when hand cranked, and really heats the grain under power. I could not find mine for this test, but if I remember correctly, the burrs are only about 1.5 inches in diameter.
So what do I recommend? Buy a mill right away improve your food and save money. If you can only afford a cheap mill, get one, and save for a better model with extra burrs. It is always wise to buy hand powered tools first, and buy the best quality you can afford, then get power tools for convenience.