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Making the Decision to Purchase a Grain Mill

GrainMill 

This Christmas, my husband surprised me with a grain mill attachment for our Kitchen Aid mixer.  Avid bread makers and do-it-yourselfers, we had talked about making this purchase for a while but hadn’t yet because it seemed like a big investment and we wanted to be sure it made sense.  I tend to overthink things (as you’ll perhaps guess from this review) so luckily my husband did some research and used the holiday as an excuse to bite the bullet. 

So, am I happy with the purchase?  Definitely.  Below I explore our (his) choice in grain mill as well as a number of considerations that have lead me to believe that this purchase was a good move.

Health Benefits of Grinding Your Own Flour

One of the reasons we wanted to purchase our own grain mill was an attraction to making as much of our own food at home as we possibly can.  Yes, we still have to buy the wheat berries, but we believed that starting with the berry instead of the already processed flour would provide us with a fresher and more nutritionally-valuable ingredient.  Our instinct is backed by scientific research that demonstrates that flour can lose a variety of nutritional components in less than two weeks after being ground.  This is because the protective coating of the berry has been removed and the grain and can be less stable, especially when exposed to heat or humidity (hence why some freeze flour for longer term storage); nutrients break down and the flour can become rancid.

Return on Investment

We typically purchase King Arthur Flour in bulk (because we are lucky enough to live relatively close to the King Arthur Flour factory store in Norwich, VT) and store what we aren’t using quickly in the freezer.  We keep both All Purpose flour and White Whole Wheat on hand for our regular baking, and we buy smaller amounts of things like rye and regular whole wheat for special recipes.  Though we often prefer to purchase organic products, we do not always buy organic flour because of the price differential.  However, my husband purchased both a 5lb bag of organic white whole wheat berries and a 2lb bag of organic “Emmer” wheat berries when he purchased our mill (www.breadtopia.com).  Initial test runs showed us that ounce for ounce, grinding our own organic flour came in at about the same price as purchasing a regular 5lb bag of non-organic (but good quality) flour from the grocery store.  Buying a 25 or 50lb bag of conventional flour was still going to be cheaper overall, but the ability to lean toward using more organic sources is a plus.  Lucky for us, King Arthur Flour and our local health food stores both sell wheat berries of various types so we are able to source these locally without having to order online.  That said, we highly suggest checking out some of the more unusual varieties and flavors available through companies like Breadtopia.  Not having to store our flour in the freezer may also lead to energy savings.  Of course, the cost of grain and storage is only one part of the equation – you also have to decide how much you’re willing to spend on your mill.

The Right Mill in Our Price Range

There are a variety of mills on the market and they range in price.  The first way we narrowed it down was by looking at mills that were made for in-home use and not for the scale of use that would be required by a business.  Among the options available are some truly high quality mills that look beautiful on your counter top and grind flour to a very fine texture much like what you would buy in the store; these models can handle higher frequency and quantity of use.  However, these models can range from $400 – 800.00 and that price point was not within reasonable consideration for us.  Mid-range models were more appropriate for our ability to invest and the frequency with which we assumed we would use the mill (once or twice a week or a few cups at a time). 

The next consideration was space.  We seem to have a lot of kitchen gadgets and tools and not that much counter space.  We wanted to be able to use the mill frequently without having to take up valuable real estate on the counter top or having to store it in the hall closet where we might be less likely to reach for it.  My husband made a great choice (in my opinion!) in the Mockmill Kitchen Aid Grain Mill Attachment.  This smaller mill separates into two parts (the mill and the feeder) and attaches right onto the kitchen aid mixer that we already keep on our counter.  It is easy to take on and off and stores easily in the same place as our wheat berries.  The Mockmill has coarseness options for grinding; even on its finest setting, it does not grind flour as finely as what you would purchase from the store.  But if, like us, you actually like a little bit of bite in your bread that’s not such a bad thing.  Both pancakes and bread made with our home ground flour had a  “toothsome” texture which we enjoyed.  The only downside is that we probably won’t use this flour for more delicate products like cakes, but since bread and other hearty pastries are made much more regularly in our kitchen this made sense too.

While we won't use our grain mill on an everyday basis, we are likely to use it about once a week.  For us, this was reason enough to make the investment, which will hopefully last us for many years to come!

Carrie Williams Howe is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston, Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about being an authentic, participatory leader in various settings. She is a contributing editor at Parent Co Magazine. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here


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