Archive for the 'tools' Category

Tools Part II - Grain Mills

Sharon March 18th, 2008

Ok, if you are storing a lot of grain, you are probably going to want something to grind it with - and something better than the manual coffee mill that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family used in _The Long Winter_.  They pretty much had to spend all their time grinding their wheat to eat - you probably don’t want to do that.

 So you’ll probably want a grain grinder, and probably one that works without power, so that you can use it even in a crisis.  If you want an electric mill too, for daily grinding, the only one I have any personal familiarity with is The Whisper Mill, which I’m told is the quietest of the bunch (although it sounds like elephants trumpeting, so take that for what it is worth ;-)), which several people I know recommend.  But this is third hand knowledge - we have a manual grain grinder and use it almost daily, and don’t mind not having an electric.  I rather enjoy grinding grain.  Note, however, that we have a strong healthy household with lots of kids who think it is fun to give the grinder some turns.  Not everyone has that, and they might want to look into an electric for everyday use.  It is also sometimes possible to electrify a mill - or even hook one up to an exercise bike.

Note - I have absolutely no connection to any of the companies listed here, with the exception listed below and benefit in no way from these sources (again, with one exception).  I also don’t swear these are the cheapest sources, just the cheapest I happened to find.  Please do your own research.

But I do think everyone who stores large quantities of whole grains other than rice should probably have a manual grain grinder.  Which one depends on how often you are going to use it, how much money you have, what grains you are storing and your state of health and upper body strength.  Here is a link to a review of most of the grain grinders mentioned here: http://waltonfeed.com/self/grinder.html.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything they say, but they cover most of the material and electric grinders as well.

 So let’s go through this.  At the very low end of things is the Corona Mill - it was designed for poorer nations where corn is the primary grain.  Corn is an easier grain than many others to grind, and if you have more time than money, and no expectation of using it except in a crisis, a Corona Mill is a good, cheap grain grinder.  New, they cost under $50, and even better, there are tons of these around used.  So if you live in a place where corn is the staple, and don’t imagine grinding grain unless you have to, or have no money, this is not a bad idea.  Not only that, they can be converted to other uses, including hulling rice, if you grow your own or find a source for unhulled paddy rice (unbelievably hard to find in the US).  The lowest price I saw on ebay for a new one was $38, enough less than the Back to Basics Mill that I bother mentioning it. 

 Next up, on the price scale is the Back to Basics Grain Mill, available in a lot of places.  I’ve borrowed a friend’s and it isn’t a terrible little grinder - it is definitely more work to use than the one I own, but it is substantially cheaper.  If  you think you might actually rely on the grinder, but have very little money,  I’d spend the money, if you can, to get this one.  It will still take a good while and a bit of effort to grind enough to make a loaf of bread or pan of cornmeal, but it does work, and seems reasonably sturdy.  I still don’t  think this is as good as some of the others, but it is cheap - I found it here for under $50

The Family Grain Mill is a good basic mill for people who plan to grind some flour regularly by hand.  This is a big step up from the lower priced ones, and of much higher quality - not as high as the Country Living or Lehmans best, but quite decent.  It is reasonably quick, but doesn’t grind that finely.  A friend of mine has used hers quite extensively, and generally likes it a lot.  Best price I found was $114.  If you think you’ll use it a lot, this money well spent.  The one bad thing is that it is attached to a piece of wood, not a sturdier metal clamp, and I’ve heard of them breaking.  But still, it is pretty good.  It can also be electrified, which means you can buy one mill and use it either way.

Riding up the price ranks a bit, I own a Lehman’s Best - and use it all the time.  We do like it quite a bit.  This is not reviewed on the Waltonfeed page.  It does require a bit of effort, but nothing too strenuous and has stood up to a lot of over-enthusiasm by the kids.  It is easy to clean and pleasant to use, and substantively cheaper than the next mill.  I think it is the best and most reliable of the middle priced mills at about $180 - I see no reason why mine won’t last a long time.  As far as I’m aware, Lehmans is the only place that sells these, but I could be wrong about that.  I really like my mill.

I don’t know how it compares to the Country Living Mill, but from the reviews, the CLM is a fairly substantive step up, and if you have the money to throw around (the best price I’ve seen is $365), probably well worth it.  My friend Tom at Sustainable Choice (ad on the sidebar) also sells them, (this would be that potential bias thing ;-)).   I couldn’t find anyone who owns one - but all the reviews I’ve read say it is a nice, nice mill.  I think if you have physical limitations but want to hand grind, this might be a good choice.  I also haven’t been able to get ahold of a Diamant mill - the near-$600 price range apparently being a barrier in my neighborhood.  But I think I’m going to take the Waltonfeed reviewer at their word, and accept that it is pretty much as good as the Diamante, for $200 less.  And if you are going to grind all your own grains in perpetuity, the CLM is probably a good investment, assuming you can afford it.

 There are other grinders out there, but none of them seems to be good enough to bother with compared to others in their price range.  I’d recommend if you can that you save up and get the best grinder you can afford within the parameters you are likely to make use of. 

If you can’t afford a grinder, is that the end of the world?  No, I don’t think so.  You can store more rice, make bulghur and store some flour.  But it is a nice thing to have and it opens up your options a good bit.

Ok folks, tomorrow more on tools and organizing!

 Sharon