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Home Milling Project

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ehanner's picture
ehanner

Home Milling Project

I have been considering milling my own grain, especially Rye and WW recently. After looking at the details of the process, I have come to the conclusion that if you want to produce tasteful high quality flour, sifting is necessary. The whisper mill type impact mills shatter the grain and make sifting impractical. Essentially all of the grain is included in the flour since it is processed so finely.

On the other hand the age old milling process using adjustable stone, ceramic stone or stainless burrs allows for grinding to certain sizes and grades. Sifting can then be employed to arrive at the grade desired. I'm thinking about Medium Rye and White Rye in particular. Both of those products seem to be hard to locate in many markets and they also seem to be sensitive to spoiling in a short time.

After talking with Bill Wraith, who is a long time contributer here and is a trustworthy source of intelligent discussions in many areas, I'm confident that I can produce great flour that will help me bake the best tasting rye breads.

Proth5. I'm hoping you are reading this and are seeing a comrade in arms in the march to better home milling.

Suggestions and comments are welcome. 

 

 Eric

 

Comments

proth5's picture
proth5

After a summer hiatus, my home milling is going back into full production.  I am working on the Detmolder rye method right now in my baking and will be sticking with commercial rye flour until I think I have my arms around that, but the wheat bread production is now also back in full swing (ya gotta eat...).

That being said, I am currently doing research on milling rye.  What I am finding is you mill rye "about like how you'd mill wheat."

You may have noticed that I have an inordinate about of "mill love" for my Diamant grain mill which is a steel buhr mill.  It continues undiminished.  For me, there is just nothing bad about that mill (except the price), but I enjoy using muscle power rather than electric power. 

I hand sift using plastic classifiers.  My finest sifting yields nearly perfectly while flour.  I blend back the reserved bran to get high extraction flour.

I have been procrastinating on getting a moisture meter (I'm just plain chronically cheap and hate to part with money) but I really should get one (I cannot describe how finally springing loose the money for a good refractometer has changed my jam and confectionary work - why I went without it all those years I'll never know...).  I believe moisture level and the tempering process to be crucial.  My initial research seems to indicate that this is true with rye as well.

Glad to welcome another maniac miller to the group.  Let me know how I can be of  help. 

Pat

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Hi Pat,

Thanks for taking the bait. Bill said you were as dedicated to the concept as he is and figured you would pop up at the first mention. So you have a hand mill eh. I don't really want to spend for a motor driven mill if I don't have to and at the moment I'm looking at this for improving my rye and whole wheat breads.

Knowing what you have learned what would you recommend for a mill?

Bill gave me the site for the mining screens. He thought I could probably get away with 1 or 2 screens to arrive at light or medium rye. I don't have any experience with any of this so please be direct with me in your suggestions.

Thanks Pat.

Eric 

proth5's picture
proth5

Eric, 

I love my Diamant mill.  I am not a fitness buff by any means and I can easily mill a couple of pounds in a milling session without knocking myself out.  You can take a good look at the Diamant on the Lehman's site www.lehmans.com - they are the only US dealers.  (I've never called Lehmans for information - but they have been 100% reliable in all my dealings with them- they seem like good folks...) (Just be careful - their site and their catalogue can be addictive.) Some good points on the Diamant are the burrs for fine through coarse milling and its ability to mill oily grains.  It can be motorized.  I find that the cast iron flywheel makes hand milling easier.  It is beautiful.  You must sacrifice a surface to bolt the thing down.  In my situation, I need to live with the thing in sight - so I am glad it is beautiful.  It is like a work of kitchen art.  Have I mentioned that I love it?  I do.

But look at the price!  (wow, wowwie, wow - I just went to the site and looked and the price is even more fabulous than I remember - exchange rate must be a factor there...) I got mine on eBay, but it is rare that they are listed on eBay and the bidding was cut -throat.

Lehmans does offer their own mill which is less expensive, but doesn't have the cast iron flywheel.  I've heard good things about the Country Living grain mill.  Homestead products http://www.homestead-products.com/mills-countryliving.htm has some things to say about the comparison of the Diamant vs Country Living.

I can't tell you what is right for you.  I love my Diamant (did I mention that?) and knowing what I know now, I would buy it again.

Other posters are correct, the debate of stone vs steel milling on mills of this type is really not valid.  The issue is heat.  If I am milling very fine and crank very fast, I can heat up the flour - but not by much.  The steel burrs served me well when I got a little too agressive with tempering and had to take my mill apart and clean it.

In terms of sieves - I use the lmine 14" plastic classifiers.  I have the numbers 20, 30, 50 and 100.  I use the 20, 30 and 50.  The 100 will produce very fine white flour, but in very small quantities.  My final wheat flour for bread baking is ultimately sifted through the #50 and it is a fine, silky flour - actually finer than a commercial whole wheat.  My educated guess is that I would use a #50 for the final pass for medium rye flour.

The 14" classifiers sit neatly on top of my "big bowl" and hand sifting is a fairly easy operation.   I both shake the sieves and use my hand to push the flour around so it drops in the bowl.  It provides a nice break from cranking the mill and really takes little muscle power.

If I were writing up my project budget for home milling - this time I would include a line item for a moisture meter.  So you may wish to factor in mill price vs your ability to buy a good grain moisture meter.

Hope all of this is helpful.  Let me know of anything else you need.

Pat

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Hi Eric:

Check out the benefits of stone-milling: http://eap.mcgill.ca/Publications/EAP35.htm

If nutrition isn't your bent, I've both stone and metal milled, and haven't found an increase or decrease in baking quality with aging stone milled flour like I did flour milled with metal burrs (I emailed Monica Spiller and she verified my observations).  Because I have a commercial op, I have a Meadows Mill stone mill, but you can get home size stone mills as well.   It might be hard for you to find local wheat or rye flour (not sure of your location), but the berries normally aren't as difficult.  The flavor of the grain seems much purer: no rancidity, and I can mill it just the way I like.

I am interested in hearing about these screens.  Do you have a link?

SOL

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks for that link. I'm about 1/2 way through the article and it's interesting and scary at the same time.

Here is the link to the mining company that you can get sieves. Look on the left side for the button. I think Proth5 uses the plastic body screens that are a little cheaper and shakes them by hand,

http://www.lmine.com/

Eric 

edh's picture
edh

Hi Eric and Pat,

I tried to follow everything you and Bwraith talked about, Pat, I really did! But you were so far over my head I could see contrails!

That said, I've been fascinated by the lengths to which you all have gone with milling. I use a hand-crank, but it's metal burr, not stone, due to economic considerations. I don't want to hijack here, but could you tell me anything about affordable stone (hand) mills, or is that an oxymoron?

Hand powered is slow, but I love the flour I get, though anything I don't use immediately is stored in the freezer. I've ground red wheat, spelt, kamut, and rye, and it's all way better than what comes from the store, but I've noticed the biggest difference in the wheat and rye.

edh

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I haven't decided yet on stone (ceramic) or steel or powered vs hand crank. I guess I would rather not turn this into an aerobic exercise but from what I hear it doesn't take long to make a few pounds.

Eric 

dougal's picture
dougal

I put the quotes round "steel" because any time anyone uses that term in connection with milling you have to ask yourself just what they mean.

 

In discussions of flour milling, "steel milling" will almost always mean "commercial-scale steel roller milling" - where the grain is passed between multiple differently spaced (and textured) high speed rollers. The flour produced at each roll is initially kept separate - because rather different things are produced at each of the stages. This business of taking off the layers of the grain individually is an intrinsic part of the multi-stage rolling process. BTW, there's a good description of the process in Glezer's 'Artisan Baking (across America)' and the historical context in Elizabeth David's 'English Bread and Yeast Cookery'.

Eventually, some of these fractions get blended back together again.

But the essential points about this "steel milling" are that it is -

- a multi-stage process that by itself divides the flour into its components

- fast and heats the grain and flour (to the detriment particularly of the nutritive, but delicate germ oils, which don't store well either, and which are therefore not generally blended back)

- dependent as much on the subsequent blending as on the milling, as to the type and quality of flour produced

 

Using a hand cranked home mill that happens to use steel grinding burrs is absolutely nothing like the commercial process. The energy input (by hand) is one limiting factor to the heating produced!

 

"Stone" milling, by contrast, involves no separation of fractions (unless you 'bolt' or sieve it), and its a relatively slower and hence lower temperature process - less damaging to those nutrient-rich wheatgerm oils - which are also not removed by the process.

 

It should be apparent from the above that any 'home milling' process (even using steel burrs turned by an electric motor) is going to be much more like "stone grinding" than like commercial "steel roller milling".

ehanner's picture
ehanner

My understanding is that some grains don't do as well with ceramic or stone burrs and stainless steel burrs don't require cleaning as often. Bill said he thought the steel burrs would be a good compromise but the ceramic burrs are good with most common grains.

Thanks for the detailed poston the process. It is interesting how much there is to know about this process that most people take completely for granted. There certainly seems to be an opportunity to make a markedly more healthy product to bake with. Even if it didn't taste any better home milling is starting to look like a good idea.

What I'm trying to get my head around is if the impact mills that produce flour from 100% of the grain (since sifting isn't really an option after all of the grain is turned to fine powder) should be considered a good alternative. Slow turning adjustable stone burrs allow the miller to selectively destruct the grain and sift out the unwanted portion (what ever that would be). It sounds like this should be possible to do.

Eric 

proth5's picture
proth5

What I have been doing has been to roughly simulate the commercial milling process by making a number of passes through my mill.  I start by roughly cracking the wheat - sifting it throught the #20 sieve and re- milling what does not pass through. 

At some point, I decide that what is left in the #20 is largely bran (and when you look at it closely - it looks like bran and acts like bran) and put it aside for other uses.

I then continue to mill finer and finer and sift finer and finer until I have the flour I want.  There is usually some "stuff" left in my #50 sieve which I call bran and use as such (bran muffins, dog biscuits, etc).

This takes time.  It takes me an hour or so to produce 2 lbs of flour - sifting and resting making up the bulk of the time.  If I just do a couple of passes on my mill at a fairly fine setting, 2 pounds takes me 20 mins or so - including resting.  I wish I could mill more often than I do - because surely the rest time would go down. I like that I am using my own power to feed myself and others rather than running on a treadmill to nowhere.  I do wish that I could get a real dog treadmill (the kind that can be used to power things like mills and butter churns) and put the resident dog to work.

My starch damage is well within the acceptable range and I think that is a consideration. 

I don't know how this would work with an impact mill.  What I get is options.  I control the mill - it doesn't dictate to me.

The other thing that is important to me is that the milling process is quiet and fairly serene.  This is a hobby for me and I want to enjoy the time that I spend doing it.  I hate loud noises and I am told that impact mills will make a lot of noise.  Why would I do it?  I can look out the kitchen window to the koi in the pond and crank a mill and sift.  I want an excellent product and I want a pleasing process.  I feel that I get both.

Your priorities may be different.  You may have a space to store a large and unattractive mill out of sight.  You may not have a problem with noise. 

But I think you will find an impact mill limiting if you want to make a wide variety of products.  And you will.  If the bug bites eventually you will want to do more than just make flour.

Hope this helps.

edh's picture
edh

I think I did read the description in Glezer's book, but it didn't really sink in. My mill is a rather low-end little unit that produces tasty but pretty coarse flour. I'd gotten used to it, but after buying some KA WW recently, realized just how coarse mine is, and how very easy it is to handle dough made with the finer stuff!

Someday, when I strike it rich :-), I'd like to upgrade to a higher quality hand-crank, but haven't figured out whether stone or steel is preferable. This is all strictly theoretical at this point of course, but it's so interesting to read about what you all have discovered in your experiments!

BTW Eric, I have to run the flour through my mill 3 times to get it as fine as possible, but doing it that way I take an hour to grind about 7 lbs.

edh

staff of life's picture
staff of life

The comments on non-commercial steel milling are interesting.  I've read somewhere that in commercial steel mills, the grain can get up to nearly 400 degrees, obviously a reason why they tell us whole grain flour turns rancid quickly: it's probably rancid before it leaves the mill.  I do know that my stone mill leaves the flour below 100 degrees; most of the time it feels slightly above room temp.  The Nutrimill I had been trying out before left the flour above 100, 120 if memory serves, but again, nowhere near 400.  I've had my stone mill only a few months, so I haven't needed to sharpen the stones yet.  The idea of doing that makes me nervous.  When I was looking for a commercial mill, I did find metal burr ones that could mill a lot more things: seeds, herbs, bones(!).  Both my stone mill and the Nutrimill are loud, although the Nutrimill had a higher-pitched whine that really grated on my nerves.  I also found the Nutrimill not to be as neat in its operation that it claimed to be.  Line things up wrong, and you'll find your kitchen dusted with flour.

SOL