The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Grain mill or food processor?

Marni's picture

Grain mill or food processor?

Hello knowledgeable bakers- I do not own a grain mill, but do own a couple food processors.  In the past I have sometimes whirled some oatmeal to add to a recipe.  How is a grain mill different?  I'd like to grind some flax and quinoa,  I had thought of using a small coffee grinder (an unused one) but I'd get a grain mill if that's the best way to go.  Are they expensive, can I just pick one up at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and which one is the best?  Thanks for any input you can share.


rainbowbrown's picture

I have a food processor and a coffee grinder and I've never used a grain mill. I can't say anything about grinding large dry grains in a food processor or coffee grinder, but I use a coffee grinder for flax seeds quite frequently and it works great. Quinoa, though, not so great. I've tried grinding small amounts of dried quinoa in the coffee grinder and got some powder, but mostly chunks and whole peices. I tried grinding quinoa sprouts in a food processor, and they wouldn't even break up even though they're softer. I don't really know anything about the make-up of a mill, but for seeds at least, your ok with one of the things you've got. You can try quinoa in a food processor or coffee grinder, but it's never worked for me. In fact if I were you I would try it before thinking about buying a mill...they're mighty pricey.

When you ground up oatmeal, was it rolled oats, groats, steel cut...?

buns of steel's picture
buns of steel

I'm pretty happy with my Vitamix, a really high powered blender.  Then I get to use it as an excellent juicer, and other culinary uses.  The grain jar is a separate jar that makes nice flour.  Not cheap, but a great machine in general in the kitchen.  Made in USA, 7 year warranty.

subfuscpersona's picture

How much grain do you need to mill at a time? Do you want to mill other grains besides quinoa? How fine do you want the flour to be?

Many posters here in the past have reported using a blender for relatively small amounts of grain at a time (? say 1-3 cups). They find it satisfactory. I've used an older blender for small amounts of rye, wheat or spelt. It has a small base so I can only do about 1/2 cup at a time. I can get a kind of gritty flour, which can be just what you want if you are using whole grain flour as a relatively small proportion of the total flour in a bread recipe, to add a certain texture and flavor interest.

If you have several food processors, I would certainly give it a try. One concern is that, over time, you might dull the cutting blade - remember, grain is a lot harder than oatmeal. I also don't think you could get as fine a flour with a food processor. Quinoa is a small grain (isn't it about the size of millet?) and softer than wheat; You might be able to get a satisfactory meal or a somewhat gritty flour with it. On the other hand, it's small size might make it harder to mill in a blender than a larger grain like wheat / spelt / rye etc.

Flax is an oily seed. Sometimes oily seeds can discolor the plastic bowl of your food processor. (Check the manual of your food processor and see if says anything about this.) I would recommend a small electric coffee grinder for seeds (used only for seeds, as you note).

It sounds as though you don't, at this time, have a need for an electric grain  mill. I would certainly experiment using the equipment you have to see if it can produce the kind of flour you want.

pjaj's picture

Although I do not own a grain mill, I think that the technical difference between a true mill and a food processor / blender is as follows

The mill uses two slightly rough stones (natural, artificial or steel plates) one fixed, the other rotating relatively slowly to crush the grain. They usually have a slightly conical gap or some equivalent set-up so that the only way the broken grain can get to the outlet is to be in sufficiently small size pieces to pass through the gap at the closest point of the stones - i.e. as flour. The flour grains will be fairly uniform size because of this arrangement. The exact mechanical details mayl vary from make to make, for example the stones may contra-rotate.

On the other hand a processor / blender has a number of blades, usually two, that rotate at high speed and hit / cut the grain at random. Some grains will be reduced to a fine powder whilst others will be left nearly whole. It is difficult to grind anything to a uniform size (dust and lumps).

Some food mixers have a grain mill attachment, you may find that a more economical alternative, especially if you only want to grind grain occasionaly.

nicodvb's picture

I've been using my coffee grinder to grind rye, wheat and spelt, but in many occasions I had the feeling that the flour was "cooked" and dead to some extent. I had to grind for no more than 30 seconds to prevent overheating it.