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Grind House, or The Mills of the Gods
May 21, 2008 4:48 PM   Subscribe

DH and I are looking at grinders -- specifically, grinders that can handle whole wheat berries but we will, of course, use this grinder for whatever else we can (coffee, for example). Looking for your experiences with and recommendations for grinders, as well as your ideas for what to do with ground substances. There is

DH is lobbying for the Country Living Grain Mill and I am wondering if there's a comparable workhorse at a lower price. He argues that it looks indestructable and would be a hand-me-down to our children. I wonder whether we need that much grinder but have also started wondering about growing our own wheat.

A KitchenAid grinder attachment is not an option, alas.

If you love your grinder, why? And how often do you use it? How is its ease of use? Cleaning? Maintenance?

What do you do with the product you grind? (And yes, I have recently been to an LDS demo on using wheat berries, which is part of what has intensified our seriousness about grinders. They offered a dozen helpful recipes but I can always use more.) I dislike cooking but can make simple things. However, I LOVE to bake and would happily make whole wheat bagels, muffins, etc. I did see this thread on healthy cereal from whole wheat.

Bonus question: DH favors oxygen absorbers but how do you handle storage and preservation issues?
posted by MonkeyToes to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
My somewhat limited experience with grinding barley kernels is that an electric drive is much preferable to hand-working the grinder, if you're thinking of using the result for food. Obviously not as elegant, but it took us a LOT of grinding to get a little barley flour. The person whose grinder I used now has an electric model.

Also, I suspect you would find that coffee taste would be hard to remove from the grinder -- a separate grinder for strongly flavored things (coffee, Indian spices, etc) would be my recommendation.

For best flavor, grind when you want to use the product. Live kernels keep, but once ground the kernels are dead and the oils and flavors begin to go off. Using oxygen absorbers seems to be approaching the problem from the wrong direction.
posted by anadem at 5:10 PM on May 21, 2008


I think grinders tend to be pretty specialized to their purpose. For example, a grinder intended to make flour from grain would not be appropriate for, say, cracking grains to be used in brewing beer, regardless of how course you set it. Similarly, a grain mill would would do a horrible job on coffee compared to a purpose built burr coffee grinder.

So I think you should focus on your primary objective, which seems to be turning whole wheat into flour. If the mill you finally end up with happens to do a passable job at something other than that, consider it a bonus.
posted by jclovebrew at 5:30 PM on May 21, 2008


Coffee and spices are both oily and noticeably taint grinder. If you like spice flavours in your coffee, or coffee-flavour in your spices, good; otherwise, these things need grinders of their own.

Also, what anadem said about storage/oxygen absorbers/flavour volatility.

I use a local clone of a La Pavoni burr grinder for my coffee. It is excellent for an even espresso ground. Back in the day, I used a cheap-as-chips Sunbeam blade grinder for spices, and that was very satisfactory. I doubt whether grain mills are really in the same category.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:19 PM on May 21, 2008


If you are thinking of a hardcore spice grinder consider getting a spice grinder used in Indian homes. The standard used to be Sumeet which has gotten mixed reviews. The kind of grinder you need for spices, hardcore, is one that can usually do cocunut, lentils and other items to the level of making great dals and curry pastes. For super simple you could get a cheap coffee grinder.
posted by jadepearl at 6:56 PM on May 21, 2008


In the coffee shop where I used to work, we would run rice krispies through the grinder after flavored coffee beans, to help remove the extra flavors before grinding a batch of regular beans. I doubt it would entirely prevent flavor crossover if you're grinding lots of unrelated things, but it might be worth a shot.
posted by vytae at 9:05 PM on May 21, 2008


My little Krups coffee grinder has worked reliably for over 25 years now.

Getting the coffee bits out of it is a small task, but doable, if you want to grind something else. Flavors don't stick as long as you wipe it fairly clean. Slivered almonds grind very, very well in it.

However, grinding enough grain for, say, a loaf of bread would be a whole bunch of little batches, and pretty tedious. Grinding enough walnuts for a torte can take the better part of an hour.
posted by gimonca at 9:11 PM on May 21, 2008


I have a CL grain mill and it is, as far as I can tell, indestructible. Grinding is a little work, but it's enormously easier with the handle extension. One of these days we'll hook it up to an exercise bike -- that should be fairly easy.

The comparable workhorse at a lower price is, in fact, a CL mill! We got a price break by asking the Country Living guys if they had any cosmetically blemished mills on hand. I don't remember what the price break was, off hand, but it was fairly significant. The mill is still an investment, though, no doubt about it.

I only use it once every few months at the moment, usually for pasta flour, but as it happens I have plans to use it a whole lot more often as I've lately a pretty good source of local wheat. And for my next trick, I thought I might try bolting my own flour -- sometimes the full-on whole-wheat experience isn't quite what I'm after.
posted by sculpin at 10:24 PM on May 21, 2008


I just bought a corona mill on ebay for $40 and am ambivalent about how good it is. I use it to make essene bread from sprouted wheat and malt. I have also used it to make falafels from ground chick peas and tempeh from coursely ground soy beans. It is a bit of work to grind and I notice that in the beginning of each grind I have to throw out some metal shavings from the wearing of the grinder. I have read that the CL is the best and if it is in your budget go for it, but the corona works on a budget.
posted by aisleofview at 2:24 AM on May 22, 2008


My recommendation would depend on how much flour you are looking to grind and use at a time.

For large quantities I would probably look into a stone grinder, like the Sumeet recommended above. The best thing about these kinds of stone grinders is that the process does not heat the grain/bean/spice being ground and thereby change the taste. The stone grinder work well for large quantities and for when you require a long grinding time for a fine grind.

If you are just looking for a grinder to produce enough flour for a loaf of bread, I would highly recommend a Vitamix blender (ignore the cheesy infomercial stuff on the site!). I keep the grains I want to grind in the freezer to offset the heating of it caused by the blade. This works very well. The drawbacks are that you do have to purchase a separate "dry" container to be able to grind your own flour and the Vitamix is not cheap. But it is EXTREMELY useful for a whole host of things, from smoothies to making soup *in* the blender itself. It might be worth looking into investing in an expensive multipurpose tool rather than an expensive single purpose tool. The Blentec blender is another brand of super blender on the same level as Vitamix, I think, but I don't have one myself.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:31 AM on May 22, 2008


I use my Country Living grain mill (with the extender bar) almost every day. Since I've started hand-grinding flour and baking all our bread every week, I've gotten in much better shape. If you think of it as replacing a gym membership, it pays for itself quick enough! I buy 50 pounds of wheat at a time (hard white wheat is the best for bread) from a farmer out in Kansas. The shipping is as much as the wheat, but the quality is worth it. I use it up in 3 or 4 months, grinding as I go, and I've never had a problem with it going stale or rancid. I store the wheat berries in big plastic buckets. You have to rearrange your lifestyle a bit to grind and bake so much, but it's been well worth it for me. Mail me if you want more details.

Oh, and you need a separate grinder for coffee. (I have a new Zassenhaus, but you might get one cheaper at a good antique/junk store).
posted by rikschell at 7:43 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I use two Cuisinart blade grinders at home, one for coffee and one for spices. They're great for coffee, great for things like stick cinnamon and star anise, but I still go to the mortar & pestle crush peppercorns for things like steak au poivre; the blade grinder can't get them uniform enough without reducing them to dust (fine for some things, but I like very coarse pepper). Cleaning is easy; I wash the lid in the sink, and wipe out the steel bowl & blade with a damp paper towel. Cuisinart also makes a blade grinder with a completely detachable steel bowl; I'll probably get one of those for spices eventually, along with a nice, full-on eat-your-hand burr grinder for coffee.
posted by Cassilda at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2008


Oh, and if I ever have four hundred dollars to drop on a blender, I am totally getting a Blendtec. Although I probably wouldn't use it for food.
posted by Cassilda at 7:51 AM on May 22, 2008


Sculpin, DH called the CL folks to talk with them and ended up chatting with the guy who designed the mill! Thanks for suggesting the blemished-but-works-fine approach.

Rikschell, thanks to you too. I may take you up on the memail offer. We do have an antique coffee grinder that's still going strong after umpteen decades. Good to know that berries are ok in food-grade plastic buckets.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:48 PM on May 22, 2008


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