The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

To mill, or not to mill?

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saradippity's picture
saradippity

To mill, or not to mill?

Okay, let's start with the fact that I am a college student living on financial aid. Dirt poor. However, I am about to enter my final semester of school, and I thought I may have earned a gift for myself. I am dedicated to trying to make the most nutritious bread possible, but obviously my budget is limited at this time. I've been doing a lot of research on bread, and found out how quickly the nutrients deplete as well as how some studies have supported the extra nutritional availability of wheat when using sourdoughs. I have three options for my "go me" gift.

1) Get an electric grain mill. This one seems about right (current price $179). I'm concerned about the heat damaging nutrients and increasing the speed at which the bread's nutrients will decay after milling. However, it seems like I will get a finer grind than with a hand cranked model and with more free time as well.

2) Get a hand cranked mill. Lehman's mill may be more expensive than the electric I found ($250 seems like the best in my small price range, couldn't really swing anything more pricey), but I'm okay with physical labor (I have no car, you should see me walk a couple of miles in the heat with groceries - enjoying myself in an odd way), I like being as self-sufficient and low environmental impact as possible, and I like that the flour won't get as hot. However, I can't be sure that I'll have as much time on my hands once I start working to actually use the mill on bread-making days - sure I'll probably bake on my days off, but I'll also be gardening, doing laundry, and probably running errands as well. Perhaps I can grind the day's flour the evening before and put it in a soaker.

3) Use my existing mortar and pestule (rough textured and fits about 2 cups) to crush wheat berries to use as an additive for a nutritional boost to my bread that won't be as much as freshly ground flour, but could still be more nutrition than I currently have (will the enzyme process in sourdough work on coarser grain in an overnight fermentation?) Then I could take the money and get a cast iron griddle that could not only be used to cook with but could also be stored in the oven for a source of radiant heat similar to placing ceramic tiles on the rack below the bread when baking. I could also get a Mr. Beer because even though it would be the brewing equivalent of Kool-aid (I'm interested in brewing, but only after I've settled in to a larger budget), I've long thought the little plastic keg looked cute and when I'm done with school I've earned the right to a hangover with no social guilt, mommy status aside.

I also have a food processor, I suppose I can use that as an option for busier grinding days if I go with #3. So, what would you do?

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

I looked into this myself, since I live, literally, in the middle of a wheatfield!

My first question for you is: are you already baking bread? If not, then adding home-milled flour to the long list of variables should come only after you've mastered the art.

The reason I decided not to mill (at this time, at least) is because there seem to be a lot of variables related to the raw wheat itself... and I could not confirm that the kind of wheat that I can easily obtain will produce good bread flour. So you need to be sure that you have a ready supply of suitable raw material.

If you're regularly producing satisfactory loaves from store-bought flour, you might next try to find a local mill so you can try your locally grown and milled flour. It should be much fresher than store-bought. The miller can also give you info on suitable local wheat sources.

saradippity's picture
saradippity

Okay, Les. I can totally not wrap my head around being in a field of wheat and not using it, even if only for sprouting and making juice, or pancakes and pastries if the protein content is low. I'd be in a constant state of suspended excitement every time I saw that wheat, planning and plotting, figuring out something to do with it. To each their own, I suppose. If you're really curious about that wheat though, this place will test the protein content for ten dollars. There's probably other labs too.

Yes, I bake bread. I've only been baking it for about a year, and I wouldn't call it "mastered", but the kid swears it's the best bread in the world (he's probably blinded by love). I can get locally milled flour at Whole Foods, as well as some hard red winter wheat in the bulk grain section. I think there's another mill close enough as well, I haven't seen that flour in a while but I bet if I went to the farmer's market I'd find them.

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

As I walk my dog through the ripening wheatfield, I pluck the occasional ear and carefully dehusk each tiny kernel until I get a few (having dropped many), then I'll chew on them for a while until the gluten is like chewing gum. That's the extent to which I'm exploiting the bounty all around me!

It seems so hard to get to the good bits. I just haven't figured out how to take advantage of my situation. Sprouting is a good idea, I didn't think of that. The machinery they use to harvest this stuff is as big as my house. How would you juice it? Certainly not in my old Acme centrifugal juicer!

saradippity's picture
saradippity

Have you read 52 Loaves?  Early in the book (I can't remember if it's before or after the scene in which he's trying to smuggle starter through customs) there's a scene in which he's sowing wheat in his garden and a neighbor walks by. The neighbor asks what he's doing and the author says "I'm baking bread!" so the neighbor looks at him funny and he says, "From scratch!".  Lol. Anyway, in that book he goes through the process of harvesting the wheat and making a loaf close to the way they used to process wheat by hand, I can't remember the exact steps he used but his descriptions of the challenges was pretty funny. It had something to do with putting the wheat down and kind of crushing it, then blowing away the chaff. Surely some website somewhere describes a method that works.

For juicing it, the wheatgrass people say you need a masticating juicer and that a regular blender or food processor or juicer just won't cut it due to the way it tears the cells and oxidizes the product. However, the largest spreaders of this information tend to be the ones that have these masticating juicers for sale, and they are quite pricey (I'm wary when the "experts" all have something to sell). I've seen people online back when I was researching the stuff who used a blender or a regular juicer and were satisfied with their results.

Ultimately I didn't go the wheatgrass route because the nutrition seems to be pretty comparable to other sprouts, I went with regular sprouting trays over wheatgrass for the greater variety and flexibility. It seems though that all you do is plant the seeds in vermiculite, trim them when they grow, and throw the clippings in a juicer. The seeds can be harvested again, but only a couple of times before the grass produces less juice or nutrition or something.

proth5's picture
proth5

Don't worry aout the heat of an electric mill destroying nutrients (or an industrial roller mill for that matter.) That one has been going around and around and although I'm not one of those folks who stresses about that sort of thing - that one is more heat than light. You will bake the bread and it will reach an internal temp of over 200F - your flour won't come off the mill any hotter than that.

Anyway.

The question is - why mill your own?  Yes, there is superior flavor, some more nutrients, just somewhat fresher flour. But why do you want to mill? It's important to know that, because the answer will guide your choice of a mill.

My perspective (and this is important because it colors what I say to you) is that I mill in order to produce flours that aren't commercially available and because I want to produce the best flour possible. I also wanted to be closely involved and be able to control the process. In short, I wanted to mill for the milling itself - and I've equipped myself accordingly.

If you just want fresh whole grain flour - consider an electric mill.  Since your budget goes all the way up to $250 a visit to the Pleasant Hill Grain website will give you a look at the Nutrimill - which may be a better bet than the one you are looking at (plus you get a mini spice/coffee grinder with it!).Buying quality the first time pays off with these things.

I have seen the Lehman's mill in action and my advice is - avoid.  I do hand milling and really, you are talking the Big 3 (Grainmaker, Diamant, Country Living) with their big prices. 

Recently I've been doing some grinding with a molcajete and it's just a lot of work. But if you have the time and energy - go for it.  Again, you have to decide on your priorities - back to the question "Why mill?"

I love my food processor too much to use it for grain and I can't imagine that I could get a fine grind from it. There is loose talk that a Vitamix blender can grind grain - but you don't own that.

Some people use coffee grinders to mill, but you will not get a fine flour from that. But if you don't care about getting a fine flour - that may be a choice for you.

Not knowing where you are located, I do have another thought.  I was tooling about the Mid West a while back and saw electric flour mills in grocery stores - where you bought the wheat berries and milled them right in the store.  Perhaps there is a a supermarket or a health food store in your area that has a setup like that and you can get the benefit without any cost.

Hope this ramble helps.

 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

that proth5 mentioned.  Click here.

Paul

saradippity's picture
saradippity

That is so cool. I don't know though, if I wanted fresh ground flour for every loaf, I'd have to go to the store every day I baked. Hmm. What store was that? 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

but if you read further down the thread, others mention Wal-Marts, Whole Foods, and even independent grocers.

Paul

saradippity's picture
saradippity

Well, I want to mill my own because if I'm going to invest this much time in something, I want it to be the best I can make it be. Nutrition is a big part of it (you have a point about the heat of baking), anytime I make something on a regular basis I try to find some way to make it more nutritious so I feel good about what I'm serving. I'm no health food saint, but I try. Like canned spaghetti sauce, the kid loves it so I'll throw in some nutritional yeast and alfalfa sprouts, maybe some beef, even if I am serving the dinner with soda or on white ultra processed noodles.

I also quite like hobbies that connect to an older style of living, and I tend to make it as hard as possible. For some reason I find that fun. I can't simply knit, I have to purchase a raw fleece, wash it, dye it, comb it, and spin it. I haven't bought yarn in years but I knit almost every day. I'm not totally adverse to modern conveniences, I may have tried dying my wool with local plants I spent a day gathering (and coffee), but mostly I use commercial acid dyes. So it doesn't have to be the hardest method in the world to give me immense satisfaction, but I like to be involved in the whole process, if that makes sense.

So there, those are the two reasons I want to mill my own flour. Thank you very much for saying the hand mill isn't all that great, it was appealing more to that masochistic side of me that one time spent hours peeling the bark off of two grocery bags full of pear twigs just to get an ounce of pink wool (about enough for embroidery thread). I don't want to waste my money on something I won't be happy with though, I suppose an electric mill with the occasional addition of hand ground flour from my mortar and pestle (which seems inspired by a molcajete, but isn't quite one) when I've got that "make it harder" urge.

Actually, yesterday I went ahead and bought wheat berries thinking that I could grind them with the mortar as an additive, but I also have a small electric grinder that I use for herbs. I could try using them both and seeing what kind of loaf I get before I go shopping. That may end up being all I need.

Where were you in the midwest? I'm in Oklahoma.

proth5's picture
proth5

if you like to make things as hard as possible... No, even then, I won't recommend the Lehman's mill.  I'm usually a big Lehman's fan, but I really question that mill.

I'm pretty much of the same mind on things (and I am, coincidentally, a handspinner myself, although various time pressures make it harder these days.  Ever grown and processed flax? I have.) - I have to dig down to the origins.  Although, I will say I'm probably older than you (because I passed dirt a few years back) and as one ages, one learns to choose the battles. :>)

You might have fun with the Wonder Jr (Pleasant Hill Grain, again).  It's not a mill I'm interested in owning, but if you like effort...

I don't own a Nutrimill, but there are many fans of it.  It doesn't meet your needs in terms of connection with the past, but it is a quality electric mill and will make flour.

Personally, I'm a big fan of waiting until I can get the exact thing I want.  Maybe you save the coin, and wait until you can buy a Grainmaker Mill - hand turned, yet well engineered.  Plenty of effort - connection - and I am sure excellent flour.  I own a Diamant - and frankly I wouldn't be happy if I had a lesser mill (and the Grainmaker might even be a better mill).  I can do anything I want with that mill - but it took years of consideration before I dropped that kind of money.

Read my milling blogs to learn the extent of my insanity. Type proth5 into the search engine - they will be some of the older ones.

I happened to be in Iowa when I saw the in store mills, but as Paul's post illustrates - they are in a number of places.

Good luck with your decision!

saradippity's picture
saradippity

if you like to make things as hard as possible... No, even then, I won't recommend the Lehman's mill.  I'm usually a big Lehman's fan, but I really question that mill.

Lol, I love that. That's funny. And no, I have not processed flax, yet. I know I will, and I'll find milkweed to spin too. I have worked with nettle fiber, but I only had an ounce of it to play with and couldn't get the hang of it. It was like white hemp, kind of cool.

I will have to check out that blog, I love insanity. I'll have to compare those mills too, but the kid's about to throw a fit wanting to go and research his pokemon on the computer.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

bread a week as use my Krups coffee grinder for the milling part - about $20 new and $1 on dollar Thursdays at Good will.  Perfect for someone on a budget and not baking more than a couple of loaves a week   Like Pat said, I  don't get super fine flour but is plenty good enough for the breads I tend to bake which to be on the multi-grain, 50% wholegrain side or more.  If your recipes call for a lot of AP and or bread flour I would just buy that at the store.  But the whole grain flours even when sifted to 75% extraction are just so much better than anything you can buy.

I prefer the Nutrimill too at $239 for the electric less costly mils available.  You can find them used on EBay for less money too. 

Happy  baking

grind's picture
grind

I used to luv adding whole wheat or rye berries, soaked in water until tender, to any dough I was making.  Quite delicious and I think nutritious.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

My 2¢ worth though I think Proth5 has pretty well covered all the bases for you.  

My question is 'Do you bake bread now?'  If not, I would suggest buying some really good ww flour (King Arthur, from what I have read here, sells really good bread flours.) and start your baking process with it to find out how baking will fit into your schedule before deciding on a specific mill to purchase.  (From the sounds of what you have written it appears as though your life is very full at the moment with no sign of let down.)

The first mill you linked to was my first mill over 20 years ago and I do not recommend it if you plan on baking frequently as it has limitations.

My second mill was a Nutrimill which fit my needs better than my previous mill but within a year I knew I had to find another one due to it's limitations. I hadn't baked bread a lot once my schedule got hectic with kid activities but when they hit adolescence and began leaving home I returned to baking thinking I would bake once a week….WRONG….I now bake daily and with sd.  The Nutrimill is now obsolete…..

I now own a KoMo and it has been GREAT due to the fact that it fills all of my needs perfectly. A costly learning curve…

So I go back to my question and suggest you question your intentions and do some experimenting .  Learning by doing is big in my life.  Only you know what will work for you and why.

Have Fun,

Janet

P.S.  I should mention that my first 2 mills were more or less the same with end product.  Grains got ground into flour - consistency pretty much the same despite trying to go from 'fine' to 'coarse'.  Nutrimill has a bit more variance but the first mill really has none at all.

KoMo mill does do 'fine' but I can adjust the grind I want all the way up to producing chops.  Huge variance and easy to select and I can see what is happening while the grain is being milled.  

saradippity's picture
saradippity

Oh, I totally bake now. I kind of love staying busy. I'm going to try the coffee grinder/mortar & pestle approach in a day or so, and probably play with that for the few weeks I have to contemplate the pros and cons. Thanks everyone for your feedback!

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

that it ultimately failed to meet your baking needs? Please be as detailed as possible as I'm very interested in your take on this mill.

Thanks in advance.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Once I got 'bitten' by the baking bug I learned how to bake with sd which led to daily baking which led to lots of leaven builds…..

I found the NM cumbersome when I only wanted to mill a small amount of flour for a leaven.  To get to the flour once it was milled entailed taking apart the bottom bowl which catches all of the flour.  Having to clean all the working parts took time that I wasn't wanting to spend each time I milled just a bit of flour.  (By cleaning I mean dusting off the bowl and the filters with a pastry brush.  No big deal when milling maybe every other day but when milling 2-3 times a day….it got old pretty fast…

The other thing I didn't like was that although it says it mills different coarsenesses….it really doesn't.  What you end up getting is more or less coarser fine flour.

Another issue was that I couldn't see the flour as it was being milled in order to adjust to the fineness or coarseness I was after.

Finally, it took up a lot of space on my counter since I used it so often it wasn't worth storing it after each use.  I didn't like a large white plastic object taking up counter space 24/7.

When I 'found' the KoMo I was hooked.  A breeze to clean - brush out the shoot every once in awhile if at all.  I can see what it coming out as it mills.  I can get all sorts of textures from the grains I am milling as I mill.  Very simple construction so if anything goes wrong it is a breeze to fix - i.e. all the working parts are easily reached.  Lastly, I love it's looks so do not feel badly about it being on my counter all day.  I think it is a beautiful piece of wood work and I love looking at it.  Truly a case of love at first sight :- ) (I got the PK1)

If you are only going to mill every once in awhile and you only want fine flour then the NM is fine.  Customer service is good to if you have problems - a good warranty and they handle issues easily.

Hope this helps.

Janet

 

 

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

Terrific reply, very informative. Also sent you a PM. Best - SF

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

The PK 1 shows dimensions of 16x9.7x9.4

The Komo Classic shows dimension of 13.5 x 8.5 x 7.8

It doesn't seem like a large size difference. On the other hand, it is a difference of nearly 25 square inches on the base. I suppose it can be moved easily enough if there is not enough overhead clearance to add the grain.

Do you have it sitting under a standard height cabinet and can you get the grain in the top without moving it, or must you move it?

I am debating between the two models and the PK 1 looks nice, but so does the classic to my eye. I think I am leaning toward the smaller foot print as space is always at a premium.

According to the pleasant hill website, the maximum height of bowl to spout is 5.5" on the classic and 5" on the PK 1.  Does one want a greater maximum height?  That would seem to be the case. Not sure why the shorter mill has a greater height.  The downside is the flour is falling further and could make more of a mess, I suppose.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Yes, mine fit under the cabinet but I now have them on an open cart.  Height difference is minimal.  They are light and can be moved out when you mill very easily.

My opinion only: Go with the one that appeals to you eye as it is your kitchen.

Enjoy

:)

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Janet, you make  a great point I have not seen elsewhere.  I have had a Whisper Mill, and now have an electric stone mill, and the stone mill has much more of a range of coarse to fine than the Whisper Mill which is an impact mill.  Sara,  I would not go with hand powered.  You will be spending enough time making bread, you don't want to add the time in hand grinding the flour.   Based on your budget, you should either go with an impact machine like the Nutrimill, which gives good results, or think about buying used off ebay and look for a mill with stones.  It will cost between $150 to $200 bit you will likely need to rig up your own collection system, since most do not included the original bag or bucket.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I started out with a hand-powered stone mill because I have this survivalist twinge that strikes me every so often, more or less the way your "do-it-the-hard-way" twinge strikes you. I bought the Wondermill Jr because it seemed to be good quality but did not cost as much as the larger hand-powered mills that can be converted to bicycle-power. I did spend hours milling flour for bread, so much so that after a few months my husband suggested that I go ahead and buy the expensive electric mill that I wanted. That is the Wolfgang, the same mill as Janet Cook uses but under a slightly different name.

I immediately found one important difference between the electric Wolfgang and the hand-powered Wondermill Jr. I could mill as little or as much flour as I needed at the moment. If I suddenly wanted to use a couple of tablespoonfuls for gravy today, I didn't have to worry that I wasn't leaving enough for bread tomorrow. Also, I could try different grains, only grinding exactly as much as I needed and leaving the rest as whole grain. Because I can mill just what I need, when I need it, I don't have to worry about keeping flours around. Whole grain keeps very well. Flour does not.

Recently I discovered another important difference. The electric Wolfgang mills beans. Probably the Wondermill Jr would, too, since it is supposed to be able to make peanut butter, but I'd never have the strength and stamina to put, for example, Lima beans through the hand-powered mill the three times that seems to be required to make fine flour from them. Bean flour opens up a whole new vista in cooking, and can be used in baking as well.

I just remembered something else. When I was milling grain by hand, I actually used my hand-powered grain crusher from my brewing hobby for the first step. Milling cracked grain was much easier than milling whole grain, for me. Keep in mind that you can leverage some of the same tools for both baking and brewing. It worked for the Ancient Egyptians. *grin* In a way, this is an argument in favor of the hand-powered tools, but you can crack grain in the electric Wolfgang, too. And beans, for that matter.

Two other notes, I have milled grain in both a coffee grinder and a Vitamix. It is possible to get fine flour from a coffee grinder if you keep using a sifter to remove the fine stuff and continue on with the rest. The problem is that the volume is so low. If you only do it all at once, you do get something resembling graham cracker flour. The Vitamix makes fine flour, but you have to be careful that it doesn't cook it as well. At least this is true of my model. The manual even warns about that.