Hello everyone. I hope you enjoyed the last rendition of Homebrewing Gadgets (Rubbermaid 1 Gallon Bouncer). For the next article, I wanted to touch upon something that we (me and my co-brewer, a.k.a. “The Wife”; aka “The Brains”; aka “The Boss”) didn’t have to begin with and had to purchase. If you brew beer, I am sure you ran into brewery purchase overload like I did in the beginning. There are just so many gadgets related to brewing out there on the market. From brewing systems to kegging systems, it was overwhelming. I found myself building a complete brewery with my shopping carts soaring to well over $3,000 dollars. That’s when my wife had to smack some sense into me and help me refocus. She said, “Only get the things we need most!”. So after much thought and consideration, we bought a grain mill and that is what we will discuss today. So keep reading and raise your hand if you have any questions (now don’t you look silly raising your hand while reading an Internet article about homebrewing gadgets) or just post a comment below.
At first, a big problem for us was that we were planning 6 brews ahead, but was not getting to brew every weekend. We were ordering grains from online vendors and having the items shipped to the house. We would always get our grains crushed via the vendor because we had no way to crush our own grain. This meant we had crushed grain sitting for several weeks. Well eventually those weeks became months and when we went to brew again, our crushed grains were rather stale. There are many articles/pieces of information about storing grains so I won’t go into that, but the gist of it is that crushing the grain allows it to go stale quicker than if kept whole. Stale grains can give you less sugars and provide less flavor in your finished beer. We saw this in our own beers that were coming out with lower gravity and off flavors. That’s when we decided to purchase a grain mill.
Why a Grain Mill?
Having our own grain mill would allow us to control the crush of the grain (important for many reasons when all grain brewing). When you buy your grains crushed already, you lose the ability to control the grain crush. Some vendors will let you know the crush they use or even let you set your crush, but that typically doesn’t happen. The finer the crush, the more sugar can be extracted from the grain, but you have to be careful. If you crush the grain too fine, you will create flour and not be able to extract the sugar because you have created a dough ball instead. On the flip side of that, if you crush it too coarse, you will extract less sugar from the grain. Are you confused yet? Well let me make it simple….If you do all grain brewing, the crush of your grain is kind of a big deal.
Another great reason to crush your own grains is cost savings. Crushing your own grains allows you to purchase grain in bulk. That means instead of buying 7lbs of 2-Row (a type of brewer’s malt) 7 different times (7lb * 7 orders = 49 lbs of grain total) from your local shop or online, you can buy a 50 lb bag of the 2-Row. The bulk bag is usually much cheaper than buying grain by the pound. And because it is cheaper, buying in bulk will save you money over time. As if saving money isn’t enough, another benefit of buying in bulk is that your grain will keep longer if kept in an airtight container. That means fresher grain for you when you decide to brew.
Better control of crush, money savings, and fresher grains…Do I really need to list any other benefits? Now these benefits do not come without a cost. Even the cheapest mills will run you around $20 dollars and in my case, I had to convince my wife to let me buy a more expensive model. The next section discusses the different types of crushers, so don’t stop here. Keep scrolling.
Different Types of Mills
There are all kinds of ways to crack your grains to get rid of the husk and expose the kernel that will give you the sugars needed to make beer, but here are two main types that everyone seems to be using: corona or rollers.
The corona mill might be something you saw in your grandmother’s kitchen. It has been around for decades and is used today much as it was in the beginning. This type of mill uses two metal plates to crush grains. Users set how coarse or fine the crush is by moving the metal plates closer or further apart. These mills are usually less costly, but are said to provide less consistent crush of the grain. I have never personally used one of these, but I do know other brewers who have and they eventually switched to the next type of mill.
The second type of mill uses two metal rollers. I don’t know the exact history of this type of mill, but am sure it has been around for decades as well. The principle is similar to the metal plates of the corona mill, but instead this one uses rollers to crack/crush the grain to a desired consistency. Users set how fine or coarse the crush will be by the gap between the rollers. These types of mills can be quite pricey depending on number of rollers (2 or 3), but are said to provide a more consistent crush of the grain.
So which did we buy? That is answered in the next section.
After doing my typical research (reviews, forums, and talking to other homebrewers), we decided to go with a roller mill. This was a difficult decision because these types of mills are $75 dollars and up, but we finally decided to purchase the Cereal Killer mill (love the play on words there). This mill only has 2 rollers, but included several features that we were looking for in a mill. It included a wooden base that fits over a 5 gallon bucket and a hopper that will hold 7 lbs of grain. The rollers are adjustable which was another feature we wanted. Because it had all the features we wanted, had great reviews on the site and in forums, and because it was on the cheaper side of roller mills, we pulled the trigger and made the purchase. I have to say that we have been COMPLETELY satisfied with our purchase. We have put the mill through over 20 batches so for and have never had any problems. Below are some more spec/tech details about the mill.
So why is a grain mill so crucial to the brewing experience? The honest answer is that it isn’t. I can’t say that purchasing a grain mill is vital to making good beer or to homebrewing. As I have already pointed out, milling your own grain allows a brewer to save money by purchasing grain in bulk and allows the brewer to fine tune the crush of their grain for each brew. This was one of the first big purchases that we made for our homebrewing setup. I had to convince my wife that spending around $100 on a piece of brewing equipment was worth it, but in the end I think she was very pleased with the purchase. She usually helps me weigh out the grains for each recipe now and helps with the milling of the grain.
So if you are on the fence about whether or not you should take the leap into crushing your own grain, I would say go ahead and take the leap. Do some research on your own and decide what is best for your setup, because in the end, you have to purchase that which will work best for you and that which will make you happy. I would definitely tell you to take a look at the Cereal Killer Grain Mill as it has served us very well during our brewing adventures.
I am not an employee of the manufacturer of this product and I am not getting paid to write this article. I am just a guy who likes to brew and wants to share my experience with products that I have purchased and come to rely upon during my brew day.
As always we welcome your comments so please post below or hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
Andy from Perzell Brewing
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