The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hand mill questions

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Hand mill questions

I'm interested in grinding my own grains--just in the daydreaming stage, BUT I have some questions:


1.  Just how hard is it to crank a hand mill??  Is it something a wimp could do (the wimp being me)?


2.  One of the reasons I don't want an electric mill is the noise.  Are hand cranked mills noisy?


3.  The other reason I don't want an electric mill is that with bad asthma I don't really need to be breathing in a lot of grain dust.  Is that much of a problem with a hand mill?


Any recommendations for a hand mill that is easy to crank, doesn't produce too much dust, is adjustable for differnt grains and grinds, and reasonably priced?

proth5's picture
proth5

We all know that I have a Diamant.  I just published the results of the 80 turns test on the post below this in the forum.


I am a little old lady.  At very fine grinds I have to put some effort into it and if I am grinding 4-5 pounds of flour I need to take tea breaks occaisionally.  The more I mill, the stronger I get and I actually consider this an advantage of home milling.  We all know what happens to the upper arms of little old ladies - not me.


The mill makes a sound, but it is a low pitched pleasant sound.  It blots out the TV in the next room (unless I crank the volume) but the miller and a person nearby can carry on a conversation at a civilized tone.


There is some dust involved - but you control how it flys about by keeping the speed relatively slow and not milling in windy conditions. I also sift my flour and for me, that is the big dust creator.


And then there is the price...


The Country Living Mill gets reviews like "OK, not as good as the Diamant, but much more reasonably priced."  You might want to look at that - and the "power bar" option might be good for "wimps."  Also Lehman's carries a mill that they call "Our best mill" - it doesn't have a flywheel, but if you call them to talk - I'm sure they would give you details.  They might even take the thing back if you find you can't grind with it...


Milling takes longer, but you actually get better flour with less effort if you make a couple of passes rather than trying to go from berry to flour in one pass.


But for sheer ease of milling, that flywheel on the Diamant means a lot.  I always urge people to scour eBay - that's how I got mine...


Hope this helps.

Crider's picture
Crider

Try and get a feel for what it's like for people to hand-grind wheat by watching these videos.


Diamant. Someone at a farmer's market trying out the mill


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERKHPYbaVPs


 


Lehman's Best. A woman using hers for the first time


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clriJE15HcE


 


Wonder Junior. Using that one begins about 3 and a half minutes in.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyRWsxWhf2Q


 


Grainmaker mill. Caption says, "My husband using the Grainmaker hand mill on a very fine setting"


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL7_y5gpwdU


 


Country Living. Grinding rice, coarsely on the first pass. Actual grinding begins about 4:30 into the vid.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBZcZD4fETc


 


Family Grain Mill. There aren't any vids of anybody using it manually, but I've read it's the easiest to crank. Here's a power vid.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGntlshwQXw


 


Retsel Uni-Ark or Little-Ark. No videos, but there's a vid of an electric Mil-Rite which I would have gotten since I ended up motorizing my Uni-Ark anyway (cost me a lot!).


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKCNCVozhyY

proth5's picture
proth5

Geez, you creally can find videos for everything on the "interweb."


Now I know that a Diamant is really not in play for a moderately priced mill, but others see these posts and I have to clear something up.


That video of a young gal struggling to grind grain with the Diamant is just cute as the dickens, but is not representative of the effort it takes to turn the mill.


Those 80 revlolutions that I can get on 50 seconds are done with one hand.  One hand of a little old lady.


Like any tool you can use the Diamant to best advantage - or not.


Because of the type of flour I generally mill, I mill in up to 5 passes, but for a simple whole grain flour I will do at least two and probably three passes.  This produces a fine flour without undue effort.


People get hung up with grinding fine flour in one pass.  It can be done, but with much more need for strength.


It may take slightly more elapsed time to mill in two or three passes, but it takes less total effort.  Trust me - I do this nearly every week...


Hope this helps.

MichaelH's picture
MichaelH

I have only been milling flour for a few months and have followed your posts with interest. You said that you make 2-3 and up to 5 passes through your mill to get the flour you want without undue effort. That makes sense, more so for a mill that is harder to turn than a Diamant.


It occured to me that the more passes you make the greater the chance of excess starch damage. Do you think this is possible? Have you thought about starch damage or has it not been a problem?


Michael

proth5's picture
proth5

Which may indicate that I am a serious home miller - or that I need to get a life.


Excess starch damage can be created by milling "too agressively" - which in roller milling terms means putting the wheat through rollers that are too close together too early in the milling process.


I mill with steel burrs - not synthetic or natural stones.


So when I was working on my milling process I incorporated the multi pass approach - not only for ease of milling, not only to more effectively sift out bran at the beginning of the process (I mill "high extraction" flour which is normally a bolted flour), but to address excess starch damage.


I did send my flour out for analytic testing and the starch damage numbers were in the low, but acceptable range.  My long lost milling pal bwraith did a more aggressive milling technique (with stones) and got some excessive starch damage numbers.


So I have stayed with the multi pass approach.  Even with the Diamant taking grain from berry to flour (and when I am milling to my very best flour -  my 80% extraction flour is silky to the touch) is quite an experience.  I was actually rocking the heavy maple bolted to cast iron table onto which the Diamant is bolted.  Yes, fine flour came out, but that was not worth the agita.


Professional millers that I have spoken to favor a one pass approach (and then bolting if high extraction flour is to be made) but their experience was with stone mills.  With roller mills they are careful not to mill too agressively (this also keeps their flour temperature lower).


I also temper my wheat - which the millers I spoke to didn't favor for stone milling but thought to be a critcal step in producing quality flour from roller mills.  Tempering should not be untaken lightly or in the absence of a grain moisture meter - you can really damage your mill with improperly tempered wheat.


Hope this helps.

MichaelH's picture
MichaelH

Thanks for the reply. I believe I have a setup similar to yours, with The Country Living Mill instead of the Diamant. Its design is similar, with steel burrs, although it is not as massive as the Diamant.


I have the Keene Sifters in 20,30,50. If you are doing a 3-4 pass grind, when and how do you sift to achieve an 80% extraction?


Michael

proth5's picture
proth5

I think I wrote up the whole procedure in a blog a ways back.


Lately I've been doing some sloppy milling as I am concentrating more on formula development and am just grinding to get whole grain or high extraction flour that will be only part of the flour.


I temper the grain to about 13% moisture over 48 hours - raising the moisture content of the grain about 1% per day. You must have a moisture meter to do this.  If you make a mistake on the high side, you will gum up your mill pretty good (and I do mean "your" mill - people with other types of mills should not assume they can do this.)


I usually do two or three passes - fine crack to "hippee whole wheat" and then sift through the Keene 20.  This gives me a certain amount of bran/germ/endosperm in the classifier.  If this is about 20% of total weight - I will take it out of the milling process.  If not, I'll adjust to "slightly finer than hippee whole wheat" and mill again.  Sift through the 20 and usually this is 20% of the total weight and I will remove this from the milling process.


At this point I'm usually discarding a little "flour" with the bran.  If I feel compulsive, I'll mill a bit finer  before removing material from the milling process - or remill on the same setting and sift through the 30 (but this is not required).   What is left in the seive is usually about 20% of the total weight and I will remove it from the process.  This is obviously a subjective thing.   At this point I have perfectly acceptable, finer than commercial whole wheat flour.  These days, I will then adjust the mill to "nearly as tight as it will go" and mill all of the flour that passed through the sieve and then done.  This is finer than commercial whole wheat, but is still slightly gritty.


If I am trying to get "silky" flour I will put the setting at "almost as tight as it can go" and then sift through the 50.  Why sift? Because at this point I am getting tired and don't want to put any more material in the mill than I need to.  I will remill whatever is left in the sieve at the same setting.  I will sift again.  Usually what remains will be bran the flour that passes through will be nearly white.  Then I will set the mill to "tightest where I can mill" and remill the bran once or twice (or on a good day three times) to get it to a fine powder.  I'll mix that back into my "nearly white" flour and done.  Remilling on the same setting does produce increasingly fine output - especially when dealing with bran - as the bran tends to be a little tougher than the endosperm.


If I am making white flour (Which is just because it is a challenge - there is no reason to mill white flour on a home mill - the aging process that it must undergo really removes any advantage of "fresh ground".)  I will sift through the 100 mesh classifier.  The flour will be pure white and silky - after aging you should consider malting it.


As you can see, this is pretty hands on - your settings will be different than mine - because your mill is different.  There are people who measure the turns of the threads and figure this all out - I was starting to be one of them until I noticed that on some days the mill just felt "tighter" or "looser" at what should have been the same setting.  For me it's like baking itself - measure, but know what it is supoosed to feel like.


In fact, that's one of the good thing about home milling for me - it is really hands on - I'm getting more "muscle memory" about how the flour feels and how it bakes.


Hope this helps.

MichaelH's picture
MichaelH

I am going to try your methods for a while and judge the results. It really can be quite strenuous to do a few cups of flour, but the flavor is worth it. Recently I have been doing the first milling with an electric mill, which gives me a fine crack, before moving to the hand mill for the final grind. This saves one pass by hand. I was surprised that you apparently rarely use the 30 mesh.


Thanks again for sharing your experience.


Michael

proth5's picture
proth5

I used the 30 mesh -but what I found was I could get enough of the bran separation earlier in the process to get my 80% extraction from the 20 mesh (again - you mill may vary).


There really was little point in sifting a flour that was all going to be milled until it went through 50 mesh and yet was not fine enough to satisfy my requirements and over time I have used it less and less.


Hope this helps.

proth5's picture
proth5

strenuous for a few cups?  Ok - just to compare (again, "liitle old lady" here...) a few cups doesn't even reach my conciousness anymore - I can grind that without thinking.


A few pounds  (OK - I'm doing them at 4-5 pounds per batch these days) will take me an hour or so (and wouldn't take nearly that long if I was just grinding true whole wheat and didn't sift.)  I 'll need a nice cup of tea after, but I won't be exhausted.


Someday, after I get my "Simple Home Milling" book advance :>) I'll get one of those Country Living mills and compare the two side by side.  My intuition says that the big cast iron flywheel makes a big difference...

MichaelH's picture
MichaelH

"Simple Home Milling" indeed. I have located your older posts and exchanges with Eric and Bill. You could make a first draft of a home milling book from these posts alone; however, I would change the title to "Advanced Home Milling for those with Big Muscles and Bigger Wallets". A moisture meter alone costs more than most people pay for a mill.


Sign me up for the first copy when your advance comes in. You can tell the publisher that at least one copy is presold. Meanwhile I intend to work my way through those posts. And I have no doubt that a Diamant can easily outgrind any other person powered mill :)


 Michael

proth5's picture
proth5

Watching that "Lehman's best" mill grind was painful.  I'm going to stop even mentioning it. 


One thing to consider is that something like a Diamant or a Country Living mill is usually bolted to a solid surface.  This makes the whole arrangement a little more robust.  The more stable the mill - the better leverage you get when you turn it.  If a mill can't be bolted down, I guess I would consider that a defect.


And I don't know if it is the video or the fact that the Country Living mill was essentially mounted on a soundboard, but it is way noisier than the Diamant.


Should you find that bargain Diamant, you should realize that you will need to decide where to bolt it down and become used to it being there - it is too heavy to be moving it around.  I find my mill to be so beautiful that I actually take pleasure in looking at it - so I'm OK.


You know, "they" all laughed when I started hand milling.  Common wisdom is that a hand mill eventually becomes just a dust catcher.  I've stayed with it pretty well and I am grinding more and more grain at a time over the passing years.  I really believe that the quality of the mill makes a big difference.  Whatever you buy, you want to get the very best that you can afford.  You need to "sign up" for the process.


Good luck!

Crider's picture
Crider

Yah, I didn't even bother getting the clamp when I ordered my Uni-Ark because I had seen enough of these videos. I figure that woman using the Diamant was being goofy, but it is the absolute only video I saw of that mill.


Like I had said before, it is work grinding in that Retsel, I'm a little old man and after a couple of weeks, my muscles became fit enough to do it just fine, but the joint pain made be get paranoid that I was on the edge of getting arthritis. 


By the way, I often use a #50 Keene classifier to sift wheat and clogged it up by taking a paint brush to 'assist' the flour to go through. Do you have any favorite method to clean that thing? I'm at the point where I think I'll have to soak it for a long while and then use a stiff brush or a jet of water from my hose to clear it.

proth5's picture
proth5

I use a gong brush to clean my Keene classifiers after each use - it's a relatively stiff brush and is also handy for cleaning brotforms.  I've never had to wash or soak them in any way, but I'm sure they would hold up.  Just want to dry them really well. Legend Mining does sell a classifier cleaning brush, but the gong brush was more "economical" and works perfectly for me.


Frankly, all the videos made the mills (other than the Diamant) look like flimsy toys to me.  I really love that thing.


Lehman's has a video of one of their people using "their best" grinder and it was still painful to watch - the clamp on that thing is not up to snuff.


I don't think Diamant feels any need to advertise.  Lehman's, I believe, is the sole districbutor in the US for that mill and even at its eye popping retail price the thing goes on backorder quite frequently. And those of us that have it don't want to constantly gloat that contrary to Country Living's claim to be the best in the wolrd - we really own the best (was that me gloating???)


Good luck with the classifier...

Francine's picture
Francine

Has anyone in this group used the Family Grain Mill attachment that can be fitted to the Bosch Universal Mixer? Or is anyone familiar with or used any of the Family Grain Mill products?  If so what do you like or not like about the Family Grain Mill? What limitations if any does this grain mill have? Thank you for your reply.


Cheers,


Francine

Crider's picture
Crider

There's a non-profit organization called Compatible Technology International that designs and produces all sorts of interesting devices for use in the third world. They were started by some engineers at General Mills.


They have two mills, the Omega 6 and the Ewing 3. Very unusual design and if you look at the operator manual, you'll see the sweet-looking burrs they use. I inquired about the cast-aluminum Omega 6 model last summer, and they emailed back and said it was $325 plus shipping. The Ewing 3 is cheaper and has the same burrs. I didn't ask about the price of the Ewing. The profits from the sale of the mills certainly go to a good cause.


Paddlers2's picture
Paddlers2

I have been using the family grain mill with the motor base for a few years now, and I'm perfectly happy with the results - I tried the hand-crank routine just to see if it was feasible, and in an extended power outage, it would be perfect if a little slow.   But the motor base is not loud at all, especially compared to the jet engine sounds of some of the others, and there is virtually no dust.  Plus I have found no unreasonable temperature increase during grinding.      The steel burrs are adjustable down to a nice find grind - maybe some mills will go finer, but I haven't found a need for that.    Plus, it adjusts open to coarse or even cracked grains.    The flaker attachment adds more versatility yet.   It may take a few minutes to grind 6 or 7 cups of flour, but I like it just fine.   One limit - if you're going to grind garbanzos or popcorn, this is not it (I use my Vitamix - works great)  - once it's broken down, the FMG does the rest for great chickpea or corn flour.