Most homebrewers don’t begin their brewing obsession by rushing out and buying a grain mill. They start by brewing extract batches. These beers are well-received, consistent, and usually pretty darn tasty. After a while, these young brewers want to venture off to the land of all-grain brewing.
Let’s face it, one of the biggest reasons why homebrewers venture into homebrewing is to have the freedom to brew when and what they want to brew. One piece of equipment that can allow brewers the freedom to brew is their very own grain mill.
Grain mills also allow Brew in the Bag (BIAB) brewers the possibilities to mash as fine as they wish. Finally, having the ability to crush your own grains fits with buying your grains in bulk.
Why we brew
As consumers, we are constantly restricted to certain perimeters that prohibit us from being able to purchase what we want. If the peaches at the grocery store are not looking too good when I go shopping, my family will have to do without peaches for that particular week.
This applies to the modern homebrewer as well. There have been times when I really want a nice Belgian Blonde Ale and go figure the bottle shop or local brewery does not have a decent selection for your liking. This is why we brew!
We can brew whenever and whatever we want to brew. This grain mill is a symbol of our brewing freedom.
The convenience of having a grain mill at home
I may be perusing my local homebrew shop and notice there are a bunch of guys all huddled around the front corner of the store. I wonder if I missed the invite to the special party. Then suddenly I realize these guys are all waiting to use the homebrew shop’s only grain mill which now is broken.
Now my goal of getting out of there and being totally prepared for tomorrow’s brew day has gone to the waste side. Now I have all my ingredients for this beer but cannot brew with uncrushed grains. Plus, I do not know when I will have a chance to brew other than tomorrow.
This would not be an issue if there was a grain mill waiting for me at home.
After making the purchase of important items such as a kettle, a burner, a cooler to be converted to a hot liquor tank, and/or BIAB, the grain mill really needs to be considered for purchase. Grain mills offer homebrewers the freedom to brew when and what they want to brew.
The ability to purchase grains at bulk prices really helps me out throughout the year. There is a local homebrew club that opens their group buys to anyone. I take advantage of this great opportunity every year, sometimes multiple times a year.
Another advantage of having a grain mill is to be able to purchase grains at a discount price. Who does not like this? Even if the prices for group buys are still a little steep, splitting the grains and price is always an option.
I like the ability to have grains on-hand ready to be crushed whenever the urge kicks in to brew a batch of delicious beer. These days that urge is in overload.
Having the ability to control your mill gap
Finally, having the control and ability to control your mill gap is tremendously helpful, especially for the BIAB brewers like myself.
One of the many advantages I feel that I have with brewing is having the ability to control the gap on my grain mill. Being able to set the gap to the lowest setting offers me the opportunity to grain as fine as I can, almost to a flour-like consistency.
Due to having my own grain mill, I am afforded the great advantage to set my mill the way I want to and how I see fit for my own brewing. Seeing that I am a BIAB brewer, setting the gap as close as possible serves me well.
The same cannot be said for the grain mill at the local homebrew shop. Seeing that not everyone brews with BIAB, this would not serve everyone’s needs. Owning my own mill gives me that ability to crush that much finer.
The reason this is so important is that of the exposed endosperm that allows me to convert the starch to sugar just that more effectively. Due to this conversion, my efficiency is at a record high 82% consistently over the past year. I am using fewer grains and still making award-winning beer.
Some tips when considering a grain mill:
- always mill outside to keep the dust down
- mill the grain and store in a bucket with a lid in a cool place
- purchase the best homebrew grain mill you can afford along with a drill to power it
- if there is a hopper add-on available, purchase it when you order your mill, you will thank me later
- if you are handy, build a stable table to mount your homebrew grain mill on with a way to stabilize the drill
- on my Cereal Crusher, when the rollers won’t grab the grain, I sometimes run a thin knife across the gap…this either removes an obstruction or forces grain into the gap…I’m not sure which but it works more times than not
- keep your gap gauge in a nice dry place with a light coat of oil…they rust easily
- check your crush as you go and adjust the gap if needed
- keep drill in place with the mill for easy use whenever the urge hits to brew
In Conclusion, having my own grain mill has paid for itself already.
The homebrewing hobby is not a cheap hobby by any means. It is expensive. I firmly believe that the one hundred dollars that I spent on my Cereal Crusher about four years ago is the single best investment, next to my brew bag.
Having the freedom to brew what I want, when I want, and save money all while participating in a rad hobby that keeps me happy. I could not be happier with the beers that I am producing these days.