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

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