Serious Mills: The Big Three

GrainMaker Grain Flour Mill  

Further research took me far and wide, but the pattern emerged: all the mills costing less than $400 were more like toys. They had small burrs in steel, cast iron, or even stone or ceramic, and they were usually hard to turn for fine flour, and some didn’t hold their settings well. I’ll save you some time and money by writing this right now: if you are serious about grinding your own flour, forget all of the cheaper mills. Don’t waste your time, and don’t spend your money. Get a serious mill, one that has these qualities:

- Serious mills have serious burrs: well made in tool-grade steel or iron, having larger diameters, 5″ or more. These massive burrs absorb heat generated during milling, and that helps keep the flour cool so as not to spoil the natural oils. The size gives a much greater grinding surface, so they mill much faster. Other things being equal, 5″ burrs grind nearly 60% faster than 3″ burrs;

- Serious mills have large cast iron flywheels with comfortable wooden handles. The diameter of the flywheel (or the length of the bar holding the handle) determines the length of the lever arm. The longer the arm, the easier it is to turn the mill. A heavy flywheel helps you keep going when the grain is really hard, like hard wheat or popcorn;

- Serious mills have large grain hoppers that don’t need to be refilled several times during the milling process;

- Serious mills may have clamps for light temporary duty, but they can be bolted down for stability during higher volume production;

- Additionally, serious mills have been made for years by established companies, and most or all of the bugs have been worked out.

 

In short, the serious mills work. The serious mills can reduce the hardest grains to a much finer flour much more easily and much faster than the “toy” mills. I know of only three serious hand-turned mills in the world, and I’ll list them in the order that I came to know them: the Country Living mill, the Diamant mill, and the GrainMaker mill. Read on for a review of each of them.

GrainMaker

CLM

Diamant

~Craig MacDonald

The Wonder Mill Junior


The Wonder Mill jr. is the namesake of the electric mill, which has been around for a number of years, and is manufactured in India.The body of the mill is cast aluminum with a powder-coated finish. The grinding plates are artificial stone (for more on the debate about artificial stone see our Grinder 101posting).One nice innovation of the Wonder Mill jr. is the double clamp, which allows the mill to be easily mounted to any counter top of up to two inches in thickness.As far as functionality, this mill turns with reasonable effort and produces a decent bread flour one pass through, which is no mean feat and is more than can be said for many hand mills. The grinding plates are adjustable by the front knob, however, I found that the stationary grinding plate is only loosely affixed to the body of the mill. Instead of being screwed down it rests on three posts, so that when the outer (rotating) plate is loosened the stationary grinding plate also loosens. The net effect is that this makes it difficult to dial in a specific setting for coarser grinds.

For in the range of $50.00 WonderMill jr. offers stainless steel grinding plates, which they advertise as being designed “for grinding oily or wet seeds, grains, nuts and coffee”. Once again, these claims seem to be founded on wishful thinking. My test with peanuts resulted in the grinding plates clogging almost immediately, and I produced only a few flecks of peanut butter during the five minutes of grinding. Many companies claim their hand-mills will grind nut butters and oily seeds, but I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t a miserable failure in actuality. (I’ll happily report otherwise when I see the hand mill that does a good job with nuts and seeds)

In summation, as long as the stone grinding plates aren’t an issue for a person the Wonder Mill jr. is a quality grain mill effective for grinding a nice bread flour. Someone looking for a wide range of adjust-ability may want to look at other mills, and someone hoping to grind damp or oily seeds or nuts by hand should put aside the notion until a grain mill company releases an innovative design that actually works.

Porkert Mill Review

Porkert Flour MillI found the Porkert Grain Mill. In retrospect, I can say it was the best value of the inexpensive mills, selling for well under $100. It was made of cast iron, had an integral screw-type augur that could feed any type of material, and had two sets of burrs, metal and ceramic, which you could change without too much trouble. The metal burrs were well-suited for grinding coarser materials, but like the first set of burrs that came with my $15 mill, they didn’t make very good flour. However, the ceramic burrs did make good flour. I worried that the ceramic burrs would break down over time, adding little bits of ceramic to my flour. I worried about damaging my teeth. And the Porkert mill was not without problems.

 

Porkert Mill Problems

It was very similar to my $15 mill, in that it was very hard to turn when set for a fine grind, and it heated the flour. Unlike the $15 mill, the Porkert could NOT be bolted down. I found its integral clamp was not strong enough to keep it from wiggling around when I ground flour. I gave the Porkert mill away to introduce a bread baking friend to the joys of grinding flour, and I was back to my problem of finding a better mill for me.

 

Original Review Conducted by Craig MacDonald

GrainMaker Grain Mill No.99 Review

I had stumbled across a reference to the GrainMaker a few years ago. I visited the website of the manufacturer, but the site was not convincing back then. I came across an independent review, and it was not very favorable. The reviewer mentioned several problems. However upon closer reading, the reviewer didn’t seem to understand the mill, and he or she was not able to explain the problems well. So maybe there was hope?

GrainMaker Grain Flour Mill

Indeed there was. I revisited the revamped GrainMaker website. I was much more convinced that this was the mill I had been searching for. Their website now had some high quality videos that showed the mill being manufactured, tested, and used in a kitchen. The advantages seemed numerous, the problems non-existent. I telephoned the company. My questions were answered by Bonnie, the wife of the genius who had designed and builds the mills. She was as kind as a person could be. She told me about how the mill comes standard with a nut/bean augur called the “grain-breaker” in addition to the standard spring augur, and it comes standard with a long arm for easy turning. The mill had a 30-day no questions asked money-back guarantee, and then a lifetime warranty — even on the burrs! She told me about the special package that included the mill and an ingenious and beautiful clamp that looked and sounded like just what I needed in this small apartment. And she explained a holiday sale that gave me a discount that more than covered the shipping costs. The whole package was less expensive than the Country Living product. I ordered it, and couldn’t wait to receive it.

My mill arrived about two weeks later. It was as good looking in real life as it was in the photos and videos. My impression was that Bonnie’s husband is a design and technological genius. The machined parts, including the burrs, are works of art.

The overall design is well thought out. I can get standard big round bowls under the burrs to catch the flour. The fineness setting is held by a clever system of three spring-loaded ball bearings that give a positive click, click, click, as you change the setting. No cheesey hardware store washers, extra nuts, or slipped settings as on the Country Living mill. The dust shield comes off in a snap for easy access to the burrs and when making peanut butter and similar things.

The burrs themselves can be removed in about 10 seconds with no tools, the rear burr snapping into place rather than being held with multiple screws. This makes changing the augur a snap (from the default spring-like augur for small grains to the massive “grain breaker” nut and bean augur or vice versa), and there are no small parts to lose. That feature makes homemade nut and seed butters a reality. All other mills are too difficult to clean, except maybe the Diamant.

The clamp is an amazing piece of engineering, worth the nominal extra cost if it works in your situation (see below). With it you should be able to mount the mill to many possible work surfaces, and then the mill can be easily removed and put away if you don’t want it out all the time. Otherwise, the base of the mill has 4 bolt holes to permanently mount the mill somewhere. The clamp locks elegantly into the base of the mill using two of the bolt holes. I think this is shown in one of the videos on the GrainMaker website.

I assembled the mill in 30 seconds with just the Allen key that comes with the mill (only having to use two screws to mount the bar that holds the wooden handle). I noticed that the flywheel doesn’t have much mass and thus not nearly as much momentum as that of the Diamant, but when I tried it, I found the mill to be relatively easy to turn, even on a very fine setting. I could easily turn the handle with one hand. I guess the internal sealed ball bearings and precision engineering make sure the mill is easy to turn.

The comfortable hardwood handle was shorter than the Country Living and Diamant mills. That keeps it out of traffic, saving me from bumping into it, and I can still grab it with both both hands if I want to, so there would be no advantage to a longer wooden handle. Like the Other mills of the Big Three, the GrainMaker can be motorized. But unlike the others, GrainMaker sells the complete motorization kit. They’ve done all the hard design work and engineering. They even have a kit to hook it up to bicycle power. I don’t think any of that is necessary, but it’s available if you want it.

One other thing I like that is unique among the Big Three: The GrainMaker is not painted inside the grinding chamber. Looking inside from the burr end, I see shiny machined steel. There is no paint to eventually chip off and get into the flour. The rest of the mill, other than the burrs, the adjustment knob, and the hardwood handle, is nicely powder coated in fire engine red.

The proof of a mill is in the result: the flour from the GrainMaker could be extremely fine. When I used a medium fine sieve to sift the flour of the GrainMaker, there was nothing left in the sieve! It had ground everything to a fine powder, even the bran. When I similarly sifted the flour of the Country Living mill, I got a fair amount of bran, similar in quantity to the much less capable mill I have been using for 10 years. If I sieve the flour from the Diamant, I get some bran (in an extremely fine sieve that I have in my home over there). Based on this I would say the Diamant can grind more finely than the Country Living, but the GrainMaker can grind even more finely than the other two. The GrainMaker’s burrs are machined, and they seem sharper than the cast burrs of the Country Living mill and the Diamant. That may be why it can grind so finely. Of course, the GrainMaker can be set for a coarser grind that would keep the bran intact enough to sift it out.

GrainMaker Mill Problems
Are there any problems with the GrainMaker? Yes, but only a couple of minor ones.
1. The clamp, while beautiful and ingenious, turned out not to work well in our apartment. It might work fine in yours, but our kitchen counters are 2″ thick, Formica-covered, with a “waterfall” edge. On this sort of counter, the clamp couldn’t hold the mill firmly enough to dare turn the crank. Note: by “waterfall” edge, I mean that the edge is rounded off with about a 3/8″ radius, about the same shape as “quarter round” trim often used at the joint of baseboard trim and a floor). To work on my kitchen counter, I guess the clamp needs to have a deeper throat to extend further under and over the counter-top edge. The other possible place I could use the mill with the clamp would be on a surface that is 3/4″ thick, but I quickly discovered the clamp cannot close that far.

So, reluctantly, I wrote to Bonnie and asked for instructions to return the clamp. (This was a good test of their customer service). She was very understanding and was very willing to take the clamp back and issue a refund. She even sent me a UPS label to make the return painless. I described the clamp problems in detail to Bonnie, and I suspect her clever husband is working on a solution already.

2. The other “problem” isn’t really a problem. The hopper, well-crafted in rather thin steel, has corners that are sharper than those of the Country Living and Diamant hoppers. No, I can’t cut myself on them, but it would probably hurt if I were to accidentally bang my hand against one of those corners.(This has since been resolved by Randy)

Meanwhile, I’ve bolted the GrainMaker down, and it is making a very good quality flour of even the hard Kamut grain that I am using as one of the grains in my bread these days. I have tried both the spring augur and the grain breaker augur. Both seem to work well. I suspect the spring augur works better when wanting very fine flour, because it does not force the material into and through the burrs, rather drawing it in gently. The grain breaker augur was designed to force material through the burrs, and it is a good choice for coarser grinds and for larger materials that don’t need such a fine setting or for softer materials that would tend to clog the burrs. For fine flour, you want the hard wheat to make its way through the burrs slowly, not forced through. That way, the grains remain in contact with the burrs longer and thus get ground more finely.

The GrainMaker’s spring augur is similar to that of the Country Living mill. That is, it leaves some material in the bottom of the grinding chamber. So if you don’t want your peanut butter to have chunks of wheat in it, you need to clean out the chamber before grinding the peanuts. You must do this cleaning operation whenever you change to the grain breaker augur. Why? With grain or other material left in the grinding chamber, you can’t get the grain breaker into the mill. The tolerances are too tight (this precision machine is manufactured to very close tolerances).

But cleaning isn’t a problem, since of the three good mills that I’ve talked about here, the GrainMaker is the easiest by far to take apart and clean. It can literally be done in less than a minute, and off you go, making peanut butter with plenty of time to have it ready to put on the bread that’ll be out of the oven before you know it.

My advice: get the GrainMaker mill, and get cranking.

I’ll summarize all the above very simply:
- If you are serious about making your own high quality flour, don’t waste time or money an any mill costing less than $675(updated from Org. Review for accuracy).
- Any of the Big Three high-quality mills (Country Living, Diamant, GrainMaker) will serve you well. All of them can grind every material at any degree of fineness you want, (but you must buy the three extra-cost options sold with the Country Living to equal the performance of the other two). All of these mills can be motorized later if you decide you want to, but motorizing the GrainMaker won’t require any work. Just buy the kit.
- For far less cost than the Diamant and significantly less upfront and lifetime costs than the Country Living mill, the GrainMaker mill offers equal or better performance, and it has a lifetime guarantee.

So the choice is easy, and because the manufacturer can ship to anywhere, the choice is true for wherever you live, USA, Europe, or elsewhere: Get a GrainMaker mill, and get cranking.

@ the request of the  owners here is the GrainMaker Website

Original Review completed by Craig MacDonald

The Corona and Victoria Grinders

Really, the Corona and Victoria grinders are virtually identical, both of them being made by Corona, in Columbia, South America. The biggest difference between these two grinders is the Victoria costs an extra $20.00. All the important parts come from the same mold.I really have nothing good to say about these grinders. On the first grind with the burrs set as tightly as I could set them and still be able to crank the handle, the grinder barely cracked the wheat. In fact, a few kernels were still whole. On the second run, the grinder broke the wheat down a little further to the point of cracked wheat. Running the cracked wheat through more times didn’t improve the grind. I’ve read posts on the different forums from people who say they have made bread from the wheat they ground in a Corona. Me, I’d really like to see what that pitiful bread must have looked like. It had to be as heavy as a rock.

This grinder can not be mounted on your kitchen counter like all the other grinders in the study. This is because there are protruding ridges on the bottom of the mount that are designed to sink down into the soft wood of a board. I mounted it to a 2X8 for the grinding test and the mount did hold it very securely to the board. While I was tightening the clamp, I got a hammer and tapped rather heavily on the mount, trying to set the ridges down into the board. On the first strike of the hammer I broke a corner off the mount. I didn’t hit it that hard! The frame of the Corona is made of cast iron, and not particularly good of cast iron.

The Corona has a thin plating on the outside which is probably chrome. This plating is also on the burr faces and worm feed. This is a real problem because the cracked wheat that comes out of the grinder has an occasional metal flake in it. The chrome may very well be a recent improvement to keep the grinder from rusting. In doing my research, I talked with a lady whose father sold hundreds of these things several years ago. She said she remembers seeing dozens of Coronas in the back room rusting away.

The Corona wasn’t made for grinding wheat, even though hundreds of them have been sold for this purpose. They were made to grind field corn. It’s amazing how many of these grinders can be found. They have been sold all over North and South America for at least the last 30 years.

The Corona Grinder pushed those 10 cups of wheat through the grinder in about 5 minutes. The problem, as I’ve already pointed out, was that it didn’t grind it. Because of this, I’ve put N/A (Not Applicable) in the Corona’s columns for efficiency in the Grinder Performance Table. It’s impossible to compare the efficiency of a grinder that won’t do what the other grinders accomplish.

 

The Silver Nugget and The Little Ark

The Silver Nugget
The Little ArkI’m putting these two grinders together because they both grind so similarly. They look nothing alike on the outside, but it’s what’s inside that counts.
Both the Nugget and Little Ark, because of their stones, produce a fine flour. But there’s a price to pay for that finely ground flour. These grinders are harder turning, requiring 11 lbs of pressure on the handle. It’s a lot of work to turn these grinders for a long period of time. By the time I had finished grinding 10 cups of wheat with these grinders I felt like I had a new set of muscles.
The ten cup grind test took me 47 minutes with the Little Ark and 43 minutes with the Silver Nugget with the stone spacing set at 0.005 inch. I ask the wife and Tammy, a fellow employee, to see how long they could crank it at one time. Five minutes was about it and then they were done.  My feelings are that this is not a good grinder for the average woman or child, or especially for someone who is aged, as the Nugget or Little Ark do require a big effort to produce enough flour to make a four loaf batch of bread.
A negative point: I didn’t like the grooved knob on the Nugget. I can only guess they put grooves in it so the knob could be the more easily grasped. However, because of a lack of bearing surface between the knob and handle, it’s easier to let the knob turn in your hand than to force the bolt to rotate between the knob and the handle. When this happens the grooves in the knob rotating in the hand get the skin sore much more quickly than if it was a smooth knob. The Little Ark’s knob doesn’t rotate easily where it attaches to the handle, either. But as its knob is round and smooth it’s much less of a bother. A soft, cloth work glove would solve this problem with both grinders.

Like the Country Living Mill, both these grinders can be motorized. It would take quite a bit of trouble to do this, however, as there needs to be an idler pulley between the motor and grinder. Going straight from the motor to the grinder would turn the grinder far too fast. They recommend the grinder not turn faster than 120 RPM, or even slower. The makers of the Little Ark sell a kit for this purpose, but you must furnish your own motor. Both the Little Ark and the Nugget have long bushings for their bearings. These bushings can’t be as durable as the ball bearings in the Country Living Mill. I’ve talked with a couple of different people who have motorized them. They say after years of use the drive shaft still sits tightly in the bushing. So, it must be good enough.The Nugget grinds about 33% faster than the Little Ark because of an improved feed mechanism which is also reflected in the Nugget’s price. Me, every time, I’d go with the grinder that ground more quickly. There is so much work involved in producing flour from these grinders that it would be worth the extra $40 dollars to have a grinder that made flour a little quicker. In my opinion, the Nugget looks a little better built–especially the Sunshine Nugget with its Country Living Mill like powder coat. The Little Ark and the Nugget are made by two different companies just blocks from each other here in the USA.

The Back to Basics Mill

This is the smallest grinder we tested and also the least expensive. It’s also the slowest grinder, and requires the wheat to be ground twice to get a sufficiently fine flour to make decent bread. This little grinder is all metal except for the top of the funnel which is plastic. The drive mechanism is steel from one end of it to the other–unlike the Family Grain Mill which uses plastic pieces.
I personally don’t own one of these grinders, so I borrowed one for the test. This first grinder took 25 minutes to grind one cup of wheat during the 1 cup test. I called another friend who also has one of these grinders and she told me her grinder was a lot faster than that. Using her grinder, I ground a cup of wheat in only 6 minutes.
I took the first grinder apart and found that the burr cone was damaged. It looked like someone had ground wheat with a little piece of metal in it and had dulled the little teeth on the burrs. The small grinding teeth, instead of being broken off, like you would expect if they were made from good quality steel, were bent over, reflecting soft steel. When I took this grinder back to its owner, he said he’d only had it for a year and didn’t know when it became damaged. I can only expect the burrs are made out of too soft a metal. So if you get one of these grinders, you need to be extra mindful to only grind very clean wheat. Your grinder will drastically lose it’s efficiency in just a second or two if it encounters a kernel sized piece of metal.
It took me 80 minutes to grind 10 cups of wheat with the undamaged Back to Basics grinder. This included the time it took to put the wheat through twice as it grinds so coarsely on the first pass. I really don’t like this grinder because it takes so long to grind a bunch of wheat. Even turning it at 120 rpm, which is about as fast as you can turn it, it takes 6 minutes to run a cup of wheat through this thing twice. The second time through, the coarse flour doesn’t feed well through the hopper and must be continually worked down with a table knife or a similar instrument. The other grinders in this study got me too spoiled to put up with how slow this mill grinds.
This grinder does turn easily, however, being the easiest grinder in the study to crank. Because of this, it would be a good grinder for those people who aren’t very strong.
So, what’s this grinder good for? If you never plan on actually using it, but are keeping it in reserve for hard times, then maybe this grinder will fit your needs. It will grind wheat, however it will grind the wheat slowly. I expect that it could grind a lot of clean wheat before it wore out. But for those of you who only keep a grinder in reserve for hard times, the argument can be made that if your family ever does find hard times, you are going to want a grinder that can grind a large amount of flour fairly quickly.
If you feel this way, don’t get a Back to Basics. The Back to Basics would be well suited for grinding up small quantities of seeds for specialized purposes. I’ve talked with several people who have bought these things for grinding herbs. If your herbs consist of bark, leaves or wood, this grinder will disappoint you. Throw those things into a fast turning blender instead.

The Family Grain Mill Review

This little German made grinder really surprised me. I expected it to have about the same performance as the Back to Basics Grinder (review impending). This is because the Family Mill’s cone burrs look so much like the Back to Basic’s burrs. Was I ever wrong. As far as performance goes, this is one fine little grinder. It turns easy and is really fast.

One draw back is that it grinds only a coarse flour on the first grind. If you want a half decent flour you must put this coarse flour through a second time. Over the years I’ve picked up several prejudices concerning grinders. One of them is that if you must put wheat through a grinder twice to get it fine enough to make bread, that the grinder is not worth having. I found that putting the coarse flour from the first grind through the Family Grain Mill a second time just wasn’t a big thing. During the second pass, the handle turns almost effortlessly so the second grind is really easy. Even including the second pass in the efficiency calculation, the Family Grain Mill is the only grinder I tested that had a better efficiency ratio than the Country Living Mill, the acknowledged champ of grinders. After the second grind, the flour was close, but not quite the same fineness as flour ground through the Country Living Mill in one pass.

It took me 41 minutes to put 10 cups of wheat through the Family Grain Mill twice. As already stated, we needed that second grind to improve the flour fineness–as it grinds so coarsely during the first pass. Because it’s an easy turning grinder, this would be a fine grinder for women or children.

There are several things I also don’t like about the Family Grain Mill. Speaking of the physical aspects of the grinder itself, there’s not that much to it. The 1.1″ thick plywood base is made out of 17 layers of wood. It’s expensive plywood, but a solid block of wood this size wouldn’t cost the manufacturer much more. Another negative is that most parts of the mill are made from plastic, including the body.

The grinder itself is small and two of the interconnecting drive pieces are made out of light weight plastic. I have my concerns if these plastic drive pieces would stand up to long term use, especially if larger seeds such as beans or corn were ground. Of all the grinders in the test, this grinder seems to be the least rugged of the bunch and would probably break the first. (Note: The manufacturer of the Family Grain Mill does not recommend grinding popcorn)

When I buy something I like to think I’ve got my money’s worth. Because there really isn’t much, physically, to this grinder, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth anywhere near the $126.00 it costs. Based on performance it’s worth every penny, but the durability of the mill is in question.

On the plus side, the Family Grain Mill has several attachments, one of them being a flaker mill (about $70.00 additional). The flaker can take oats or any other grain about the size of wheat or smaller and roll them. I’ve been told it won’t roll hard wheat without soaking, as it’s too hard, but I didn’t have any trouble when I tried it.

I’d really like to get a few reports from people who have put a couple of tons of wheat through these things to learn if this grinder holds up under long term use. A great performing grinder isn’t worth very much if it won’t pass the test of time.

The Family Grain Mill internal parts. Not shown are the plastic drive from the crank which turns the plastic auger (left), which turns the rotating burr (second from right). The non-rotating burr is shown second from left and the fineness control that connects to the rotating burr is on the right. Aside from the clamp to attach the grinder to the counter top, the crank handle and the two burrs, every part of this grinder is made from plastic including two parts of the drive mechanism.

Diamant Review

Back overseas, I still wanted and needed a good mill. With a kind tip from Lehman’s Hardware, who sell the Diamant in the USA, I was able to contact the Diamant D.525 mill manufacturer in Denmark (this was in 2003; now the Diamant is made in Poland and is sold by a different outfit overseas. Lehman’s still carries them in the USA, but at over $1200 plus shipping! The price is so high because of the dollar being currently weak against the Euro. In 2003, I was able to buy the mill in Europe for about $350, when the dollar was much stronger against the Euro.

 

It is a monster of a mill, the largest of the Big Three. It has the largest burrs at 5.25″. That doesn’t sound much bigger than 5″, but that equates to 10% more grinding surface, which means 10% more throughput in theory. The whole mill is cast iron, designed and built to last forever, as far as I can tell. The cast iron has been painted inside and out, and the mill is attractive, in an old-fashioned way. The flywheel is the largest of the Big Three, and by far the heaviest. The mill has no ball bearings, but it doesn’t seem to need them. It seems to be the easiest of the Big Three to keep it going, probably because of the leverage of the large diameter flywheel and also because of its weight, which gives momentum. I can grind hard wheat into a fine flour with one hand, but I have to change hands every 25 revolutions. With two hands, I can grind all day. In practice, the mill has very good throughput, and it only takes a few minutes to get enough fine flour for a loaf of bread or a batch of pasta.

 

The Diamant allows easy and precise adjustment of the grind, and there is a positive, hand-operated lock ring that keeps the setting right where you set it. There is no slippage on this mill. The only augur is a large grain-busting screw augur. It seems to work fine for all materials, and it moves everything out towards the burrs. No material is left in the bottom of the grinding chamber, so it is easy to start grinding another material without contaminating it with the former material. The cast iron burrs grind flour as finely as any of the Big Three. One can buy specialty burrs; in addition to the standard (fine) burrs, you can get coarse and extra fine, each at extra cost, about $130 (2010 prices). I have no experience with coarse or extra fine burrs.

 

The dust cover that covers the burrs and contains the setting mechanism comes off in seconds after loosening two thumb nuts. The front burr slides off the main shaft, then three screws hold the rear burr, as in the Country Living mill. If I ever wanted to give the inside a good cleaning, I’d need a screwdriver handy. The mill comes with a free screwdriver, so that’s not a problem. I don’t do peanut butter or grind other oily materials with the Diamant, so I haven’t had to clean it. It would easily do those materials, but I can’t get organic peanuts over there, so I don’t. Like the Country Living mill, the Diamant’s flywheel has a “V” to allow you to motorize it some day. I hope I never have to, but I can.

  1.  

    Diamant D.525 Problems

    There are a few problems with the Diamant. It has a comfortable two-fisted handle, but as I wrote above under the Country Living mill, you have to watch where you put the mill to avoid catching the handle in your groin as you walk past. The mill is very heavy, so you need something substantial to bolt it to (no clamp is available, nor could I imagine one strong enough to hold it down). It is also the largest of the Big Three, meaning a little more trouble finding a spot for it. Lastly, it is impossibly expensive in the USA. Except for the cost, these few problems are surmountable, and I am very happy with the Diamant. It can grind anything to fine powder, it is easy to turn, and it just keeps going and going.

     

    So, I had my good mill in the overseas house, but I still needed a good mill here in the USA apartment. I wasn’t excited about the Country Living mill for the reasons mentioned above, and I couldn’t afford the cost or the space requirements of the Diamant. I thought I was stuck. I borrowed my friend’s Country Living mill and tried it again. I wanted to like it; what other choice did I have? It still made good flour, but now, a few years after I first used it, the mill was getting harder to turn at the fine setting. I looked at the burrs, and they were showing some wear. That wear translates to more friction, which means more effort to turn the handle and more heat generated during grinding. Heat is our enemy when grinding fresh grains. Enough heat can denature the natural oils of the grain. I also got reacquainted with the problems I mentioned above. So, I wanted to like this mill, but I couldn’t. I started another search, and I found my answer: The GrainMaker mill!

    Original Review done by Craig MacDonald.

Country Living Mill Review

I still hadn’t settled on a workable mill for our home overseas. A friend here in the USA received a gift of a Country Living mill. We tried it and found it could grind a fine flour. It was attractive, seemed well-made, my artist friend was impressed with the mill’s “sand-cast” [carbon steel] burrs, and the mill was sold by a wide variety of outlets on the Internet — although there didn’t seem to be any price competition between them. Don’t waste your time looking for the best buy. In my search, they were all within about $5 of each other, when you included shipping. I made bread and pasta with this mill, when I could borrow it from my friend for a weekend or so. If you want to grind other materials than wheat and similar grains, you need to buy the optional nut and bean augur for about $36 extra. And don’t buy the mill without the extension bar for the handle, what they call the “power bar”, costing about $25 extra. And unless you have a rectangular pan of some sort, you’ll need something like their special flour bin to catch the flour, costing an outrageous $25 (See Problem 1, below). The mill can be hard to turn on a fine grind without it. For example, I cannot turn the mill with one hand when it is set for a fine grind with hard wheat in the hopper. The standard setup has the handle mounted on the outer edge of the flywheel, but the flywheel isn’t large enough in diameter to give you much leverage, and it isn’t heavy enough to have much momentum.

 

The cast body is handsome and has no sharp corners or edges. Yes, it is made of aluminum, but don’t let that scare you away; it has been powder coated. The mill has replaceable sealed ball bearings for easier turning. Under normal hand use, you will probably never need to replace them, but if you do, you can. The wooden handle is comfortable and long enough for two hands. The cast iron flywheel has a “V” to accommodate a belt from a motor, so you can switch to a motorized set-up in the future. Besides being able to make a good quality flour, those are the good points. However, now that I know it intimately, I recognize several frustrating bad points of this mill:

 

Country Living Mill Problems

1. The overhang isn’t large enough to get a standard bowl underneath the burrs to catch the flour as it is ground. Some of the sales outlets offer a special rectangular plastic bin to use with the mill, but who wants another single-purpose plastic thing around? I like to grind the flour right into my round mixing bowl as I am making bread, but I cannot do that with this mill. A round bowl just won’t fit under the burrs, and I can’t make bread in a rectangular bin.

 

2. The dust cover being fixed in place over the burrs means that oily materials such as peanut butter make a mess. You can’t use your spatula to scrape off the oily materials as it exudes around the perimeter of the burrs, since the dust cover is in the way. When you get out your screwdriver (you have a screwdriver handy, right?) to remove the burrs to be able to clean them with detergent, you are still left with a hard-to-clean sticky mess inside the dust cover, and that messy area is too confined to get a spatula in there. Good luck.

 

3. I mention again that the standard mill doesn’t have enough leverage for grinding hard materials finely (corn, hard wheat, etc.) It would probably be fine for soft grains, like oats, rye, and certain soft varieties of wheat. An extension bar for the handle called the “power bar” is available, but costs extra. I think it should be part of the basic design.

 

4. The grinding chamber is painted inside, making me wonder if I’ll be eating some of that paint as it slowly breaks down over the years. I wouldn’t worry about the inside of the hopper, also painted, because it won’t be subject to much wear and tear like the inside grinding chamber will be.

 

5. A nut/bean augur, necessary to grind materials any larger than wheat, like corn, beans, nuts, etc. is available, but costs extra. If you are only going to grind wheat and similar grains, you won’t need it. But with a mill this capable, wouldn’t you want to use it for everything you can? Peanut butter comes to mind.

 

6. The standard augur is a spring that doesn’t reach the bottom of grinding chamber. Consequently not all the material you have dumped into the hopper gets pushed out to the burrs. Thus when you stop grinding, there is a layer of grain left in the bottom of the mill. How are you supposed to get it out when you change materials, say from wheat to sunflower seeds? Well, either you unbolt the mill (no clamp is available) and turn it upside down and shake it, put it back up, and rebolt it, or your take off the adjustment screw, take off the outer burr (watch out for the tiny metal key that holds the burr to the shaft! It is easily lost), get a screwdriver, and take out three screws that hold the inner burr, remove the inner burr, remove the spring augur, now try to dig out the stuff you don’t want mixed into your sunflower butter, then put it all back together. Careful, don’t strip the threads of the aluminum body when you tighten the steel screws to hold the rear burr. Do you still have the tiny metal key? Good, put it on the shaft, then slide the other burr onto the shaft with the slot going over the key, now screw back on the adjustment screw, and voila! Does that seem like too much trouble? It is, since there is a better choice that I will tell you about later. It wouldn’t be too much trouble if this were the only mill out there, but it is not.

 

7. The 5″ grinding plates do a very good job. They have enough surface area to have a good throughput, they are massive enough to absorb the heat, keeping it away from the flour, and they seem sharp enough when new. The problem is they have an estimated life of only 3-4 years under normal one-family use, they are warranteed for only one year, and it will cost about $100 to replace them. I foresee a mill that keeps costing more and more over its lifetime.

 

8. The adjustment knob can slip, and that fine flour you started to grind is suddenly coming out as cracked grain instead. There is a fix that involves sanding the shaft to give it more friction. That fix won’t last long, and then you’ll have to start using an extra nut as a locknut on the end of the shaft (requiring a wrench to set it). That makes the adjustment process cumbersome. Who wants to keep a wrench handy to change the grind? But I guess you already have a screwdriver handy, so why not a wrench, too?

 

9. The two-fisted wooden handle can actually be too long. Depending on where you mount a Country Living mill, that handle can stick out into traffic patterns. It doesn’t feel good to catch that handle with your groin.

 

10. Finally, a minor problem of aesthetics: the Country Living mill uses two common hardware store washers behind the fineness adjustment knob. They are supposed to help keep the fineness setting from slipping, but as I wrote in problem 8 above, this washer system has problems. Moreover, they are not an elegant solution.

 

So I was disappointed in the first of the Big Three serious mills. I decided not to buy a Country Living mill to take overseas. Yes, it could do the job, but isn’t there something better? Yes, there is: the Diamant D.525.

 

Original Review completed by Craig MacDonald