The Fresh Loaf

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Grinding our own wheat...is it worth the heat?

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Aprea's picture
Aprea

Grinding our own wheat...is it worth the heat?

I recently had relatives visit from Atlanta.  They think I am a little whacky to be baking my own bread (even if they enjoyed it immensely).  I can handle it.  I know this is the best thing for us right now.  The part that is discouraging, is they suggested that I do not grain my own flour - that everyone she knows that has done that has gone extreme in her opinion.  


I am now discouraged from trying this.  I keep reading about how healthy it is, and I am wondering if any of you who have taken on this extra step have any regrets.    My oldest son (14) yesterday walked into the kitchen, sliced a piece of homemade sourdough, and said "Mom - your bread baking is the best thing that ever happened to me".  He was teasing of course, and trying to flatter me, but the pleasure I have provided from my new found culinary hobby of simple bread baking is astounding.  We eat much less junk - my husband has lost weight even though he gets his food cravings satisfied.  A simple piece of toast with avocado and garden fresh tomatoes is enough to satisfy any food craving.


 


What do you think flour millers?  Is it worth the abuse from the naysayers?  


 


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

No regrets on my part. Sometimes it can be a bit messy--esp. rye berries--, but I just take it outside and grind there. If for some reason I don't feel like grinding, I can buy a bag at the store. I don't feel any pressure to grind, but rarely opt for store bought.


--Pamela

sboberg's picture
sboberg

No regrets on my part either. Though folks may think I am a little extreme, it doesn't seem to stop them from requesting loaves for their fund raisers or for the church communion services. I am pleased and enjoy their pleased reactions and comments.


I have even included it as my little teaching lessons for childrens story and childrens church. I explain the biblical breads and how they had to grind and bake the bread. I bring in grain berries and bread so they can see what it looks like before grinding, after grinding and after baking. Soon I intend to let them make the dough and bake some dough.


I think there is no other way to go for me. And the little ones certainly enjoy themselves also.


 

phxdog's picture
phxdog

I'm a grinding baker. I would love to claim that I'm in it for the 'health' aspect but the truth is, my main motivation is taste and the process itself. Freshly ground whole wheat flour just seems to taste and work better for me.


For some reason I love to bake bread. I enjoy being able to put a smile on the face of a neighbor or friend to whom I give a warm loaf. If I accomplish that with (Heaven forbid!) non-organic or even bleached and bromated flour so be it.


I admire and applaud those who are striving to live a healthier life. Forget the naysayers; they seem to find something negative to focus on regardless.


Phxdog (Scott)

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Anna,


One could as easily argue that anyone who thinks that those who bake their own bread are wacky is more than a little bit wacky, possibly even extreme, in a different direction. 


Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

I am pretty dedicated to home milling. You cannot beat the taste. Fresh is best for whole grain or near whole grain flours.


I get the flour I want, not what is available.


I sometimes get a bit tired with the hand milling, but once I start milling I feel better about it.  Kind of like a workout at the gym.


I have managed to be a dedicated and skillfull miller without becoming some kind of whole grain fanatic.  I still enjoy a nice white bread. I buy all purpose (and other types) of flour.   But I can't bring myself to buy whole wheat flour - it's just not the same.  I am spoiled in that regard.


I think you need to set parameters around what you want to gain from home milling.  Impact mills are easy to use and seem to do a nice job for most people.  Remember that I have very different goals in my milling than to feed a family - I really want to learn the full craft of milling and gain experience now for projects that I am contemplating in the future.  So when you read about tempering, sieves, extraction rates, lab tests etc, etc from me, you need to take it in the context of my goals.  I have carefully considered each expensive piece of equipment and made sure that it was right to advance my goals.  Start small.  If you want to expand later, that first impact mill will sell just fine on eBay.  I'm sure I could sell my Diamant in very short order at a profit (if I didn't love it...)


Since you have a family to engage, you should engage them.  I know we "talked" about hand milling in the past.  If you want to do that you should engage the family.  What is everyone willling to contribute to make this a reality?  A 14 year old is plenty old enough to turn a mill.  I'm a little old fashioned in this regard, but I cooked for my family from a tender age and I always felt good about being engaged in the day to day tasks of life. 


I've never been botherd by other people's opinions.  By the same token, I don't tell people that white flour is poison - because I don't think it is - I like it - after hand milling it, I think it is a miracle.  (This could be your relative's fears - that you will lecture them.)  I'm having some version of fun doing what I do.  That is enough for me.  Balance, balance, balance.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I've been toying around with doing a "little bit" of grinding. 


Would an inexpensive, hand cranked mill work for small amounts of flour, or is it just more trouble than it worth in terms of the work involved and the physical difficulty of cranking away (I have bad shoulders)? 


I'm kind of interested in trying that, to be able to add small amounts of whole wheat (1 -2 cups, perhaps) or other whole grains to my baking.  But I know for certain I would not like to do it with an electric machine. 


Janknitz

proth5's picture
proth5

are generally pretty expensive if they are any good, although Lehman's has what they call "their best" grain mill for under $200.  You can look at it on their website (I am not affiliated with them in any way....)  They stand behind their products, so if they say it is good, it probably is.  Depending on your budget, this might be overkill for small amounts of grain.  You could call them and I am sure they would talk to you about the effort involved.


The more expensive hand turned mills have flywheels that help make the grinding easier.


The really inexpensive mills (like the Corona - my first mill) are very hard to turn.


No matter how easy to turn my mill is, it still involves some upper body effort.  Some folks have rigged up pedal devices to turn their mills, but there is more expense to the milling operation.  I'm pretty strong for who I am, so if you do not routinely carry 50lb bags of compost or lift heavy carry on bags above your head, you want to factor that into your perception of my remarks.  I won't presume to tell you what you can and cannot do - you need to know that, but it does take some effort even with my top of the line, flywheel mill.  I would roughly equate it to the effort to put some pretty stiff stuff through a hand cranked food mill - if I grind in several passes.  The Corona was pretty effort intense, even for small quantities of flour even when I was much younger - although I never tried the "mutiple pass" method.  You can buy a Corona from home brew sources for less than 50 bucks - although I seem to recall that even at its finest stting the grain was not ground very finely.  Mine is long gone, but depending on your budget, at the price you might just want to buy one and give it a try. You can donate to charity or resell if it really doesn't work for you.


It's a shame there is not a "try before you buy" store for a wide variety of grain mills.  Hmm - there's a business opportunity...


I know I didn't provide a direct answer, but I hope this helps.


 

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog


Some folks have rigged up pedal devices to turn their mills, but there is more expense to the milling operation. 



That would be me.  I mill about 1000 grams of grain at least once a week.  It is a nice work out and I keep my legs toned up in the winter time.  I guess a picture would be nice just in case someone wants to build one for themselves.


pedal powered mill


And you can read about it here.

sboberg's picture
sboberg

Hi there.


I have both a hand crank and a Nutrimill. The hand crank is okay, it just takes longer to get enough flour. I also have a Nutrimill grinder that is no louder than a good vacuum. I love it and have been using it for almost 3 years. I too have a bad shoulder and would rather deal with a little noise than crank. However, a hand crank is really useful to have if you have a power outage. Hope this helped.

Mur's picture
Mur

I have been looking at the Corona and also the very similar Porket grist and mill (the 150 model) simply because of the low price. I have read many comments on the Corona not creating fine enough flour for bread making. In fact, it seems to be the choice of many beer brewers that only need their barley cracked and don't want to spend 400+ on a better machine. The Porket also seems to be more of a grinder than a mill (except this model also has included stone grinders which makes me think it may be able to produce fine enough flour). But for such a low cost it probably is not worth buy as it is cheaply made. I'm starting to think that for versatility, quality of the machine and product, and ease of manual grinding I'll need to spend some money. 

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog

It will depend on your values if it is worth it or not.  I enjoy home milling and it makes a great tasting bread.  When I want to play around with something other than whole wheat I got to the store and buy flour.  Why let the opions of someone rule your life?  Do what you are interested in and enjoy it.

LLM777's picture
LLM777

I agree with all that's been said so far!


I know I'm doing the best for my family, even in this busy world of fast foods and 30 minute meals. Our family will always remember our love for them by our extra effort and time we spend just for them.


Your friend will have to be careful; every time I said I would never do something, I ended up eating my words. Recently, I said I'd never make my own pasta, well... my husband threw out the idea, "Could you make pasta yourself?" :)


Keep up the great work!!  It's worth it!


 


 

beeman1's picture
beeman1

I have been doing it for a year. I use a country living mill with a motor. I haven't had any regrets. As far as I am concerned it was money well spent. I get wheat from wheat montana which is drop shipped near me. I store it in buckets. Someday I will break even financially but the bread is fresher and better for you.

baltochef's picture
baltochef

Anna -- Sorry for hijacking your thread a little..


proth5 -- The literature for the Diamant Mill claims that it is easy to clean..Is this true??..Do you grind grains other than wheat??..Does the mill have to be taken apart and cleaned between each grain that is ground??..I would like to occasionally be able to grind barley, millet, teff, spelt, rye, and corn in addition to wheat..


Thanks, Bruce

proth5's picture
proth5

There is always a little bit of the last grain that you have ground left in the "screw feed" area of the mill.  Not much, but just enough to aggravate me.  I am considering the puchase of a small shop vac which I am sure would suck this out without having to disassemble the mill.


If you don't mind a little of this and a little of that in your next batch of flour - or if you don't mind grinding extra and discarding it, you don't need to clean the burrs between grinding various grains - you just have that little bit in the feed area.


If "something bad" happens (and it did for me once when I ran some damp wheat through the mill when I was learning about tempering) and you need to clean the burrs, you need to take the mill apart.  But here's the thing.  The mill comes apart pretty easily to gain access to the burrs.  There are a couple of wingnuts to loosen, the front of the mill comes off and you have access to the burrs.  Is that easy?  It is for me.  To get access to the area under the screw feed, you need to further use your socket wrench to remove the bolt that holds the flywheel and then the whole mill is apart - a five to ten minute job.  Slides back together like a champ.  So, is that easy?  Less so for me which is why I'm considering the shop vac (which would have other applications in my life, so it's not as lazy as it sounds...)


I have ground rye and spelt and it does a great job.  I can't imagine why it wouldn't do a good job on corn, barley, etc.  Millet might be interesting.


I've read up on teff  and because of its small size it is supposed to be a challenge to mill so I will not speak to the milling of teff per se.  What would concern me is that one of the big reasons that I would grind teff is to bake for a friend who is gluten intolerant.  Then I would have to pull the mill apart and do a very meticulous cleaning to make sure than not the smallest bit of wheat remained.   That's, frankly, a lot of overhead for me to sustain to mill a small batch of a grain that is supposed to be hard to mill. 


You should also be aware with the Diamant (and I do love mine...) that beyond its hefty price tag, this mill is heavy.  You will need to find a dedicated surface where you will bolt it down and it will live forever after.  Unbolting it so that you can move it out of the way is clumsy at best and moving it a good substitute for working out with the free weights. 


Hope this helps.

baltochef's picture
baltochef

This post is very helpful..I am mechanically inclined with a fairly decent tool shop's worth of tools, including a shop vac..So it does not sound as if the Diamant Mill would be all that hard to clean..


I know that you considered the ease with which the operator can hand crank the mill to be one of the features that you most desire..Have you ever given any thought to adding a rheostat-controlled eklectric motor to the Mill??..


Bruce

proth5's picture
proth5

When I have sweat dripping off my nose while I grind grain in 90 degree weather?  All the time.


I am, however not good with things electrical and the space where my mill currently lives is not conducive to having a motor and drive band.


Since my needs are small and I can use the exercize, it can wait.


In time though, the plan is to motorize the mill - or have it turned by other means than "me power."  That it could eventually be motorized was a factor in my buying this mill...


But thanks for thinking of me...

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

What is "extreme" is the pitiful quality and excessive additives in most store bought bread.  I started grinding my own flour a few years ago and there is simply nothing that can match the sweet aromatic mouth watering flavor of freshly ground flour in bread.


Jeff

Judon's picture
Judon

Hi Anna,


About a year ago I read about grinding flour here on TFL and someone suggested an attachment for a Champion juicer. I found one immediately on EBay and have used it ever since. ($54) Our Champion has to be 35+ years old and the attachment works like a charm from coarse to fine.


I bake Hamelman's Five Grain levain every week (my husband's favorite bread) so I grind rye berries, oat groats and wheat berries fresh in under 8 minutes. Our CO-OP carries all three organic grains. We never have to worry about how long the flour has been on a store shelf and rye and oat coarse ground flour are hard to come by here! And we coarse grind a variety of grains for hot cereal in the winter.


We also use KA artisan all-purpose in 50# bags.


I agree with the others, fresh milled whole wheat is great tasting, economical, and practical. Although a grinder attachment might not be considered home milling, we love the aroma and flavor and freshness. Maybe your mixer has an attachment available to start small.


For every negative comment you'll probably hear 10 WOWs.


Judy


 


 

BvN's picture
BvN

Any problems with producing 6 to 9 cups of flour?


I bake every other day (sponge day, bake day, sponge day, ...)

Judon's picture
Judon

I usually grind 2# of berries and haven't kept track of the time it takes or what that measures in volume. The attachment handles 2# without a hitch.


Next time I grind I'll take notes.


Judy 

prairiegal's picture
prairiegal

I'm quite enjoying mine, and it's not a bad price for something so durable and so flexible in what it can mill.  I'm not sure what your relatives meant by "extreme", but although I have pretty conventional friends who do think me a bit whacky for various reasons no one has commented specifically about my mill.  Perhaps they're too polite!?  Anyway, my children love it and they love the bread I now bake with it, even though the bread is not what I want it to be.  I'm using only 50% fresh-ground at the moment as my children are preschool age and the heavier loaves are too much for them.  Though reading posts about using seives has got me interested in that as a possibility.  Anyway, I can't imagine not having a mill.  I think if you have a good one you would enjoy it.

janij's picture
janij

I also own a Country Living Mill and am very happy.  I know what it like to have friends and family think you are crazy about food choices.  But you have to do what is best for your family and forget the rest.  I would much rather store whole berries than WW flour.  The berries if store properly will last almost forever.  I do have white flour in my house so I am not a sole grinder.  But I much prefer the fresh ground flour for baking.


I also have a Nutrimill.  I want to sell it because it takes just as long to hank crank the flour as it does to grind it in the Nutrimill.  And my hand mill is easier to clean.  So look around and really think about what kind of mill you want.  I bought the electric mill first and had I know that I could grind a lb of flour in about 10 min by hand I would have never bought it.  But the hand mills do need a permanent home.  So keep that in mind as well.


But I think if it is something you want to do, don't let what others say bother you.  Tell them it is your hobby.  And if that bug you you won't bake them anymore bread. :)

nhtom's picture
nhtom

We got a Bell (Ohio) grinder many years ago that I hooked up an electric motor to.  I don't get any ribbing - just fresh flour.  It can be noisy, however.


When someone explored the pyramids in Egypt he found wheat with the entombed.  He planted it and it sprouted!  It seems to me that wheat berries have a 6 thousand year shelf life.  Not bad!  Try THAT with store bought whole wheat flour!


If you buy your wheat berries in bulk they can last forever if you keep them dry.


I don't see a downside.


Tom

BvN's picture
BvN

I go through 10 lbs. / week of Gold Medal Specialty for Bread. I would like to have a coarser grind to lower the glycemic index. Each batch uses a minimum of 6 cups of flour - not counting the flour for kneeding and "dusting". My wife is looking at a Champion juicer and I am looking at the milling attachment. It has a capacity of just over a pint. Is this a serious implementation?


I mill my brewing grain (grist) from whole grain barley and wheat malts and everybody drinks my beer without complaint :-) I am a bit over the top about my live, cask conditioned ales. The milling is just one aspect.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

When I grind (Nutrimill impact mill), I generally use at least 4 cups of wheat berries. The Nutrimill grinds that in 3 or 4 minutes. It can grind the gamut between coarse and fine at low to high. it's a very efficient grinder.


--Pamela

Aprea's picture
Aprea

As you can see, this is something I have been considering for some time.  I just placed an order from flourgirl51 - I want to have my first try of fresh flour.  I am afraid I have to take baby steps.  The idea of being able to store wheat berries for a long time is very appealing.  I just have to consider space, humidity, etc.


 


 

ilovetodig's picture
ilovetodig

Everyone is a little whacky is some ways--enjoy yours and don't let anyone diminish the pleasure you and your family receive from something as healthy and enjoyable as grinding your own wheat and baking for your family.  My family thinks some of the things I do are a little whacky, but who do they call when they need advise or want something?   Do what you think is best for your family and have fun at it. 

icz's picture
icz

This made me laugh -- only because I can sympathize!


I first tried home milled flour in cupcakes a friend made, of all things. I was blown away by how good they were, and how they didn't make me feel terrible a half hour after eating them. So, I was hooked. I don't mill a lot, but I actually hid the fact that I had a mill from one friend because she had been so disparaging about the cupcake-lady grinding her own wheat. My family just laughed when I told them that is what I got for Christmas -- they already think I am extreme!


I think as long as someone isn't holier-than-thou about it (i.e. everyone "should" do this. . .) then why would anyone have the right to comment on it? People, I think, see it as a criticism of their own lives when you try to do something a little healthier -- but that is their issue, not yours, right?  Your family loves your bread, and you are having fun. Let other people's hangups be their hangups.

Aprea's picture
Aprea

I am thrilled about all of the responses that were posted.  It makes a lot of sense to not having the attitude of "holier than thou".   I love the pedal mill!  If only I knew how to rig something like that up!


 


Have fun everyone! 

symplelife4me's picture
symplelife4me

I haven't been on here much so I'm really late to this thread but wanted to chime in too. I have been milling our flour for about four years now and we will never go back if we can help it.

I get the comments and the strange looks and stuff like that too but we like our bread enough that I just don't care. I figure they don't know what they're missing out on! When people do take the time to talk to me about it (instead of just making snarky comments) I tell them going from processed flour to freshly milled is like going from black and white to color, there is a huge difference! If they let me feed them they end up agreeing with me. :)

Even if every other person thought I was a nut case the fact that my four kids prefer wheat and whole grain breads to white bread is enough for me. About two years into it I broke down and bought a loaf of bread because I was short on time. My family just about staged a mutiny! They told me it was the most bland, tasteless junk they'd ever eaten and they would prefer to eat cardboard next time I can't make bread! (This was from the KIDS not the husband!)

For the record I have the Country Living Mill with the motor and I absolutely love it. I killed a Nutrimill twice and gave up on it. (I'm hard on appliances and got one of the first ones off the line so I'm thinking they were still working out the bugs because I've heard nothing but good about them since.) The Country Living Mill will give me very coarse cracked grains which I like because I enjoy making my own grain cereals both for eating and for putting in breads. The only thing I miss about the Nutrimill is the speed. The CLM will do baby-powder fine flour if that's what you want but it will take awhile.

Sorry to write a book! Take the plunge and mill your own flour! You won't regret the decision for health or taste!