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?
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