What to look for in a grain mill?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by riptorn, Sep 7, 2018.

  1. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (82) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
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    I’m thinking about getting a grain mill. Hand-crank is fine as long as it can be converted to electric in the future, either with a drill motor or dedicated plug-in standalone motor.
    Which parts can develop looseness over time or show detrimental wear?
    What should I be wary of, other than signs of normal wear and tear?

    Any other features that are a "must have", like 3-roller over 2-roller, gap settings, etc?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (82) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Trader

    These are of interest in case I come across a used one on the cheap.
     
  3. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (385) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    I use a old Victoria or, corona sty which is not popular on this site, but it works well, adjustable and I have a drill on it.

    Whatever you buy, after a while you will want the drill. Saves a lot of time.
     
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  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,645) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    “Any other features that are a "must have"?

    I am uncertain whether it is an absolute “must have” but I would recommend that you buy a grain mill that is adjustable. There may be a time (e.g., differing grain types, efficiency optimization,…) when you would like to change up the gap settings.

    Cheers!
     
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  5. Prep8611

    Prep8611 Aspirant (245) Aug 22, 2014 New Jersey

    Being adjustable and convertible to a drill would be my old concerns when searching for a mill. I have the cereal killer which only has a 7lb hopper. In hind sight I wish I got one with a larger hopper as I often make ten gallon batches that use 20-30 pounds of grain. But still happy with the 99.99 I spent.
     
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  6. redgorillabreath

    redgorillabreath Initiate (127) Mar 29, 2015 Pennsylvania

    FWIW, I always do a double-crush; one at 0.060”, the second at 0.025”. All grains sail right through the mill (both times), good efficiency, no stuck spares.
     
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  7. redgorillabreath

    redgorillabreath Initiate (127) Mar 29, 2015 Pennsylvania

    Sorry...no stuck sparges. Autocorrect (and a long week) got me.
     
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  8. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (794) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    My first mill was a concerted pasta mill I picked up at a garage sale for 5 bucks and took a dremel to. Got 75% efficiency, ha!

    I’d say beyond adjustable gap, there are no ‘musts’.
     
  9. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (435) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    Accessories: 1) plan on mounting the mill to something that can take a soaking (it'll be rinsed each brew day). My mill came on a fiber-board platform that is slowly delaminating (and stinks). Get a heavy piece of Marine-grade plywood and be set for life. 2) a good feeler-gauge and lubricant to keep it from rusting-out. 3) my area has a corrosion problem, so went with SS mill . . . YMMV
     
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  10. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Disciple (366) May 2, 2006 Utah

    I would have never thought of rinsing my mill. I just occassionally brush mine off. Do you condition your grain before milling, or is the rinsing somehow related to living in a high humidity area? I'd be interested to hear if others rinse their mill. Cheers!
     
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  11. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (435) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    No grain conditioning, but after every use I have a very noticeable layer of grain caked on the rollers and dust on the hopper, more so than a brushing will correct. If I set the base down on a counter-top it leaves a nasty grain-dust imprint. So, it goes straight to sink for a thorough rinse (top and bottom). I have no other experience than high-humidity milling . . .
     
  12. redgorillabreath

    redgorillabreath Initiate (127) Mar 29, 2015 Pennsylvania

    I don’t rinse, but I have the same dust / flour issue that #PortLargo mentioned. I brush it off, cover the hopper, and set it on a paper towel.
     
  13. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (82) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Trader

    Thanks all for the feedback.

    My original posts missed the mark of my true curiosity. Instead of “must have” it would have been better stated as “must look for if buying used”.
    Then I got to thinking that a grain mill is a simple machine, almost primitive…..a set of rollers geared to counter-rotate and powered by either human or electro-mechanical means. About the only bell or whistle is a way to vary the gap.
    It seems the main thing to look for in a used mill would be if the rollers turn and whether the gearing has excessive slop.

    I expect to eventually use a dedicated drill or standalone motor but will likely do the hand-crank thing initially (unless a killer deal comes along).
    The fact that you said “old” coupled with input elsewhere of folks who’ve had their mills for a long time, suggests they can have good, long life if treated appropriately.

    While I’m not averse to spending extra bucks for something that’s gonna last a lifetime, I like your early approach. It’s one that adds to the self-satisfaction of “doing it yourself”.
    Not that I’ll now look for a pasta mill in lieu of a grain mill, I'm curious what it was that you took a dremel to.

    Thanks for the marine-grade tip. My environment is pretty humid but certainly not as much as yours....plus I don't have the salt air to contend with. I’ll probably check my mileage before dunking, but the SS recommendation is great.
    Never even crossed my mind I'd need a feeler gauge....just figured there'd be a knob with markings or detents or similar.
     
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  14. redgorillabreath

    redgorillabreath Initiate (127) Mar 29, 2015 Pennsylvania

    My mill has one “driven” roller, and one that free-wheels. I already had feeler gauges and a cordless drill, so no-brainer there. My mill’s adjusters have gap markings, but for the minuscule time it takes to use the feeler gauge...

    I think that if you get your own mill, you’ll be happy that you did. For me, it was clearly a step that helped my efficiencies up to where they should be and repeatable.
     
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  15. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,645) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    No rinsing for me. I am able to 'clean it' via brushing.

    Cheers!
     
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  16. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,745) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Premium

    I bought this one, regularly sold at $99, and remain pleased after about 4 years. More expensive ones are out there with a lifetime warranty, but I've checked the lifetables and figure I probably wont need one that lasts forever.
     
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  17. Prep8611

    Prep8611 Aspirant (245) Aug 22, 2014 New Jersey

    Ya this is a good cheap mill. May not last forever but it was a good entry point.
     
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  18. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (82) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Trader

    Thanks for the tip on the Cereal Killer. Just ordered it from AustinHomeBrew.com. Free shipping plus 11% off orders over $49, total for the mill $88.99.
     
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  19. KeyWestGator

    KeyWestGator Devotee (491) Jan 21, 2013 Florida
    Trader

    I brush off my mill and the same fiber board that @PortLargo mentioned. I oil it every so often and keep it inside so it doesn’t rust. I’ll change the rollers to SS when it is necessary but that’s an unneeded expense for now. The hopper is galvanized so I do spray that off and leave it in my garage.
     
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  20. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,645) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    What type of oil do you use and what specific parts are you applying the oil to?

    Cheers!
     
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  21. KeyWestGator

    KeyWestGator Devotee (491) Jan 21, 2013 Florida
    Trader

    Mineral oil. Used for wooden butcher blocks so it’s food safe. I put it on the rollers and bushings and pat it dry. And then it sits for a month or more until my next batch, so it’s definitely dry by then.
     
  22. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (794) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Just kinda etched a crude checker pattern into the rollers. Worked pretty damn well, but not sure how long it would hold up for as barley is a bit tougher on that metal than pasta dough.
     
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  23. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Devotee (492) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    I use a hand cranked Victoria. My original plan was to convert to a drill, but the piece on the mill where the drill would attach is too big and weirdly shaped. No big deal, especially with partial mashes. Even with all-grain it feels kinda manly to hand-grind all the grain. I could see how other people wouldn’t like that tho. FWIW :slight_smile:
     
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  24. brchapman

    brchapman Initiate (67) Nov 18, 2014 Georgia

    As a multi-year owner of the Cereal Killer, I would say it is a good double roller solution. The only nit I have with it is that I would prefer to have a larger hopper, (?), so I can dump all my grain in at once. My plans have always been to fabricate something but it never rises to the level of an active project.

    Never dunked or rinsed and my calibration tool is a credit card so you may want to discount my comments based on those data points!
     
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  25. invertalon

    invertalon Devotee (426) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio

    I use a MM3 mill, which I love. Being able to change and set various gaps is a must, IMO. Especially when working with wheat/rye when you want to basically mill that into a flour.

    If you don’t have a drill, I highly recommend picking this up: https://www.harborfreight.com/12-in-heavy-duty-d-handle-variable-speed-reversible-drill-63114.html


    With a 20% coupon that HF often has online to print, it’s about $35 out the door. Thing is a beast (just got it to replace my old drill that died out). Milling some wheat for my beer this weekend, it ground it up without the smallest hesitation, even with a fine grind. Super over-powered, but for the price, you can’t beat it. They have another ½” drill model for like $29, or like $25 with coupon, but the motor I believe is 6amp vs. 9amp of this one.
     
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  26. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (82) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Trader

    The hopper was damaged when it arrived. Austin HomeBrew was quick to replace it, no questions asked.

    The base of mine is not fiberboard, but plywood. The outer ply's are not pine but almost look like birch. While waiting for the replacement I sanded the base and gave it three coats of some spray PlastiDip I had on hand. Not sure it will hold up to dunking but am confident it will take rinsing for as long as it stays adhered. If not, and if dunking is needed, I'll make a new base from marine-grade plywood or some other waterproof/resistant material.

    Austin HomeBrew said to keep the damaged hopper, so I'll see if there's a way to modify and attach it to the existing. If not there might be a way to fashion an extension from some flashing like this and attache via rivets.

    Thanks for the tip. A 20% HF coupon came in the mail Saturday, good through end of October. I'm eat up with drills, most of them dedicated and others either old and weak or overkill. If none of them seem suitable for the long term I'll probably get that one from the Disposable Tool Co and go to my inventory for backup if (yeah...some will say WHEN) the HF model ever fails.
     
  27. Genuine

    Genuine Devotee (419) May 7, 2009 Connecticut

    I'm getting to the point where I want to buy a couple base grains in bulk and hit up my LHBS for any specialty grains come brew day. Been thinking about the Cereal Killer Mill for a while.
     
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