Grain Mill FAQs

The Real Food Living FAQ and reprints are provided as information only. The comments contained in the FAQ are the opinions of our readers. Before making any radical changes in your diet, please talk with your personal health care provider.

1. PURCHASING A MILL

1.1 Why is a mill an important purchase?

A. Based on my years of study and experience in the nutrition field, I strongly believe that freshly-ground whole grain is extremely important to better health. Even if you go slow on other things, freshly-ground grains as opposed to stale, rancid flours will make a HUGE difference. I  encourage each family to grind whole grains or find a good source of freshly-ground flour.

1.2 A mill is pretty expensive. Is it worth the money?

A. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I wouldn’t trade my mill for *any* of my other kitchen appliances. I think it more than pays for itself in a year. 1 cup of grain berries ground yield about 1 1/2 cups flour. A 50 lb bag of wheat will yield about 50 lbs of bread or 50 one pound loaves for about 30 – 50 cents a loaf. This will of course depend on what other grains or items you put in your bread. Some grains are more expensive like amaranth which is high in calcium.

Basically, you can produce a wonderful healthy loaf of bread for 50 cents easy and that beats the unhealthy bread at $1.69 in the store which has preservatives (and other stuff) without the fiber and nutrition you may need. Store-bought Whole Wheat flour isn’t much better than regular flour. If it still contains the germ it will go rancid quickly. If it doesn’t you are losing very valuable nutrients and many of the other nutrients oxidize out of the flour within the first 72 hours of being milled.

1.3 I understand the health benefits, but it seems expensive to buy all that wheat!

A. I make my bread for about $.50/loaf. We eat (on average) about 6 loaves/week = $3/week = $12/month = $144/year. To buy the same quality bread in the store I would pay approx. $2/loaf = $12/week = $48/month = $576/year. That’s a $432 savings – more than enough to pay for a machine in a year. Now you might be saying that you don’t buy that much bread ’cause you can’t afford it. But with a mill it is *much* cheaper to make your own and your total consumption of whole grains increases dramatically.

1.4 How do I know what kind of mill to buy?

A. There are quite a few kinds to choose from, and you must first ask yourself and your husband some questions to decide which direction to proceed. Here are some questions which will help.

  1. Do you need a mill that will adapt for non-electric use? If so, you need to look into stone and/or steel burr mills that can adapt to a hand crank. Make sure the stone mill grinding stone does not contain aluminum.
  2. Do you need small amounts of grain at one time, or larger? If your needs run to the 2-4 cups of flour at one time, you may consider small non-electric hand mills, grain mill attachments to popular kitchen machines you may already own, like the Kitchen Aid, Bosch Universal, Champion Juicer and others. The Vita-Mix blender can grind 2-4 cups of flour as well at one time. If your needs run more to the 5-20 cups at one time, you may consider purchasing a stand-alone mill that will hold up to the task and give flour whenever needed in large or small amounts. Mills available are: large non-electric (manual), electric stone and/or steel burr mills, and micronizer (impact) mills.
  3. What is your budget for a mill? Small non-electric hand mills are the least expensive, between $60 – $150, but require strength and a good bit of time to do more than 2-3 cups at one time. The grind is fairly good, but somewhat coarser than electric mills. Large non-electric mills are more expensive in the $200 -$400 range and still require strength and time, but some can be attached to small motors or stationary bicycles for power. Micronizer (impact) mills range from $200 -$300 and are very popular. The mills grind fast, and extremely fine and are less expensive than their stone and steel counterparts. Large stone and/or steel electric mills are in the $150- $500 range and are the most durable and well built.
  4. Do you want your flour to be fine enough for bread? Some mills grind grains, but the flour is so coarse that it tends to make bread heavy and crumbly. To achieve a fine crumb, and good light texture in your bread, you must have a flour milled finely. In some mills, you may have to sift and re-grind several times to get the flour the way you want it. Your time, effort and what you hope to get in the way of flour should be a consideration. If it’s too much of a hassle, or you are dissatisfied with the flour and bread, you will be less inclined to grind your own grains and the investment is not worth what it should be.

1.5 What the drawbacks of the different kinds of mills?

A. Each one of these classes of mills have their drawbacks, and you must decide which ones fit your family better.

Manual mills are slow, time consuming and take a great deal of elbow grease to produce enough flour for more than 1-2 loaves of baking. They are good back-ups though and can crack grain as well as grind for flour.

Attachments to kitchen machines are either stone or steel burr or plate and can usually only do small amounts with a fairly coarse grind.

Electric stone mills are heavy-duty and good family workhorses. The drawbacks of the stone mill is they grind a little coarser than the micronizers (impact mills), and the grain must be completely dry or the grain will glaze onto the stones and must be removed to continue grinding. Some stone mills tend to glaze up more than others, and some not at all, reported by customers. For those who seek to grind oily beans or nuts, some stone mills have optional steel burr attachments. These attachments allow you to grind nuts for nut butter, soy beans for soy flour and all grains whether moist or dry. The drawback with the steel burrs is the coarseness of the grind. It is however excellent for making cracked grains, as is the stone mill. Be sure to look for slow speed, no cabinet stone mills, as these in our opinion are the best and as was mentioned previously, check the composition of the grinding “stone” as sometimes these are composite materials and contain large amounts of aluminum.

The most common complaint about micronizers (impact mills) is that they are LOUD, (very loud, damaging loud) and that you have to double-check your wheat to be sure it is completely free of any stones or other debris so that you do not damage the mill (and invalidate the warranty!) However, some models of micronizers (impact mills) are less noisy than others.

1.6 What is your favorite brand of mill?

A. These are selected responses from various members of the Real Food Digest:

“I know the ladies in the loop love the WonderMill, but I use the K-Tec mill. It is noisier, but the price was right. We got a few ladies together and ordered a few and got the dealer price. And it comes with a 7 year warranty, so the complaints folks make about plastic parts isn’t a big concern to me.”

“We love the WonderMill in the micronizer/impact category and we love the Retsel electric stone mill in the stone category. We use both in our home.”

“I just bought a Jupiter mill (made in Germany). It is not as noisy as a Grain Master or KTEC and it gives me cracked grains for cereal and does coffee! It retailed for $299 and I purchased it for a $100. It has stainless still burrs and it doesn’t heat the flour.”

“My favorite appliance is a Vitamix, which grinds wheat and other grains into flour, kneads bread dough, makes nut butters, raw vegetable soups, smoothies, and ice cream! We just got it last year, and have enjoyed new recipes using the Vitamix.”

“I have a Magic Mill III. It IS loud, but it does a good job of grinding. It has several grinds (fine to coarse). It can grind wheat, oats, corn and legumes. I am very happy with it.”

“I have a Golden Grain stone grinder and I am very happy with it.”

“The Family Grain mill is affordable and can be either electric or manual and has some neat attachments like a roller/flaker for making rolled oats. We really love ours.”

1.7 Please compare the different micronizers for me.

A. Some popular brands are the WonderMill, Blendtec/Ktec, UltraMill and Nutrimill and the impact mills (aka micronizers) are the newest types of grain mill on the market. Other types are stone mills and burr mills and are found in electric as well as manual models. Some electric stone or burr mills can be adapted for manual milling. Some stone mills can be adapted with burr milling heads.

In the electric impact mill, rows of steel teeth rotate at super-speeds to mill the grain extremely fast and extremely fine textured. These mills usually do a good job and serve well with a few exceptions. The noise level of some brands is almost deafening. With the exception of the WonderMill, micronizer’s “jet-engine”-like motor falls in the seriously dangerous decibel level. We recommend hearing the mills in a demonstration BEFORE you buy it! The manufacturer should be able to provide you with a list of people who might demonstrate their mill for you. If you do purchase one of these mills, it is wise to always wear industrial quality ear protectors, and make sure your children are not in the same room while the mill is operating.

Another concern for the potential impact mill / micronizer purchaser is the fact the wheat must be triple cleaned to avoid a stone or any other foreign particle damaging the teeth. The manufacturers recommend the grains be at least triple cleaned before milling. Even those distributors that claim their grains are triple cleaned will not guarantee a stone will never show up in the grain. So… to be on the safe side, it is recommended that you clean your wheat before milling. Cleaning grain to remove stones is not a hard task, but it is time consuming.

It is reported that Blendtec / Ktec are known to emit a fine dust of ground wheat into the air and allergy and asthma sufferers should be cautious of milling indoors. The WonderMill has 2 filters and has very little dust emissions.

The UltraMill must be turned on before milling and should not be turned off until milling is complete. The WonderMill and NutriMill can be stopped and restarted at any stage of milling. This updates the previous information concerning the WonderMill, which introduced a larger, more powerful motor which can be turned on and off during a milling cycle if necessary.

1.8 I’ve heard there is a new stone grinder out which operates slow enough not to heat up the flour. I’ve no idea what the name of it is though. It’s shaped like a torpedo though, and is about 2 feet long. Do you know anything about this one?

A. There are several on the market, but the slow grinding stone mill you are referring to is the Retsel.

1.9 What do you think of the Retsel?

A. The Retsel is: Low speed, no cabinet, extremely heavy, durable and well built and very, very quiet. The warranty is 5 years and comes with the hand crank for non- electric milling. Because there is no cabinet, flour getting stuck and attracting and bugs are not a problem, All the parts are available to clean with a cloth and there is no accumulation of flour anywhere to draw insects. The slower speed concerned me until I started using it, and I found I adapted very easily. I begin to grind and then assemble my ingredients and by the time I am ready to bake, my grain is usually done. For extra large Bosch batches though, I grind earlier and have the flour ready for me. The lower speed has some good advantages as the milling temperature of the grain remains low and thus protects the nutrients, there is no dust in the air at all. The Retsel is a true “grist” type mill and the grain lightly falls from around the stones and into the catch pan.

The stones are a different material than other stones and the lifetime expectancy is 20 – 25 years. It is designed to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can run the mill empty if it happens because these stones do not grind. against themselves and there is no chipping or grit. The hand cranking operation was voted the easiest when tested by Rodale Press Books some years ago because this mill is the only one that can separate the motor (1/4 HP) from the front stones. SO, when you crank by hand, you use less effort and are more efficient as you are pulling the stones only, not pulling the stones and the motor as in other hand adaptable mills.

The Retsel can grind any dry grain or non-oily legume as any micronizer can. The Retsel also has an optional steel burr attachment for grinding all oily beans, and nuts. It makes nut butter as well. The burr attachment is very easy to exchange for the stones. Another advantage of the Retsel is that a stone in with the wheat can damage the teeth and motor of any of the micronizers. Even with triple-cleaned wheat, there is no guarantee it is completely stone free, (although the Montana wheat has an excellent reputation for being stone free.) If you have a stone, it will not damage the Retsel either stones or burr, so there is no time consuming cleaning of wheat as may be necessary with the micronizers. That makes a huge difference in time for me, as I use less expensive but high-protein wheat, but I have found some stones in my wheat that would kill my micronizer mill.

The only down side of the Retsel for me has been to make sure my grain is extremely dry before grinding or it will glaze up the stones and this is a hassle.

The steel burr attachment of the Retsel will eliminate all glazing and will grind any grain or bean, dry or oily, but the grind for grain is slightly coarser than with the stones. As for the fineness of the Retsel stones, if the grain is dry, my finest grind in the Retsel matches the very fine (but not finest) grind of the Whisper Mill.

1.10 What do you think of the K-Tec Mill?

A. “We are happy with it. It is noisy, but is powerful as well.”

“I like mine, but the noise is too much. Also, the clamps holding the bottom pan have broken off and dust spits all over my kitchen.”

“I am thrilled with my Ktec and it has some features that other mill don’t. The flour collection pan is see-through, so I know when it is full. Also, I can stop the mill at any time, even if there is still grain in the hopper, and then turn it back on and finish milling. I will say though that the noise is very loud. I wear ear plugs all the time I am using the Ktec.”

1.11 I am considering buying a used Magic Mill, what do you think?

A. These are no longer made or supported. “Unless you are getting a very good deal, I would save up my money for the WonderMill I didn’t like the noise of the Magic Mill or the dust cloud. It also was hard to clean. I sold it and bought a WonderMill and I couldn’t be happier.”

“I’ve had a Magic Mill for many years and it does the grain very well, but everyone is right, the jet engine sound while it’s milling is awful! ”

1.12 What are some comments about the Golden Grain Mill?

A. “We like ours very much. I have heard that the Retsel stones can gum up but we’ve never had that happen with the Golden Grain. It does a great job.”

“The Golden Grain Mill is beautiful with its wood cabinetry, very heavy and sturdy, high-speed, within the range we could spend, but more expensive than the Whisper Mill, and was hand crank adaptable. If I had to do it all over, I would get the Whisper Mill.”

“The Golden Grain had some serious concerns for us: We found that a common problem with the mills with cabinets, and with the GG in particular was that the flour that fell into the inside of the cabinet could not be cleaned effectively and caused mold, weevils and other bugs. The high speed was actually a negative in this mill because the high speed meant there was more friction between the stones, causing a higher milling temperature of the grain, thus losing precious nutrients, and the speed caused flour to spit into the air causing a mess. Also the material of the these stones had been known to crack and chip and needed replacing every few years, but also the stone grit was deposited into the grain as it ground, and so we would be eating the stone grit. Also, when tested the GG mill was hard to crank by hand as the motor and the stones needed to be turned by hand and this was a more difficult job than expected. Also the GG is much louder than the Retsel.”

2. USING MILLS

2.1 We got a wet batch of wheat and it gummed up the stones so badly, I was de-glazing every 5 minutes. What should I have done?

A. Very moist grain can cause some stone mills to glaze and micronizers to overheat and the motor to stop, so it’s important to use dry grain in any mill. Moist grain is easily rectified. We have 2 good options for drying grain for grinding:

  1. We laid out the grain in baking dishes and toasted the grain in the oven at 150 for about 20-25 minutes, This worked well and also if no electricity is available can be done in the woodburning stove quite easily.
  2. I found my food dehydrator worked very well for drying grain and was easier for me as I did not have to stand over it. I just set it and left, came back later and it was dried. I need to do this as we live in a pretty humid part of the country, if your humidity is lower and your store your wheat well, this may not be necessary for you.

2.2 Can I make oat flour out of rolled oats in a grain mill? What about oat groats (the whole oat berry)?

A. Do not try to mill rolled oats in any electric micronizer/ impact mill.
The Bosch blender does a great job of reducing rolled oats into oat flour. (Most other heavy duty blenders will as well. ) You can mill whole oat groats in your electric impact mill to get oat flour.

2.3 I had a stone in my micronizer mill. It damaged the machine and it isn’t covered in my warranty! What should I do?

A. ANY micronizer / impact mill will be damaged by a stone passing through the teeth. It is extremely important to make sure your wheat is triple cleaned before grinding. A stone in your wheat is not covered by the warranty of any of the machines, even the lifetime warranty of WonderMill, since it falls under something you could have prevented by using cleaned wheat. You must pay to send the mill back and repair the milling teeth. I called one manufacturer today and I was told that if you put a stone through the teeth, the motor will need to be replaced, about $90.00 plus shipping. (That’s one advantage to the stone mills, they grind the stones up with your wheat and give you more “minerals” in your diet.)

3. ALTERNATIVES TO PURCHASING A MILL

3.1 Can I use my coffee grinder to grind wheat?

A. You can, but you need to be very careful. Wheat grains tend to pit the plastic around the grinding chamber of coffee mills, and the plastic could then be in your flour. My coffee mill had steel blades too, but the top part, (where the beans are ground) is plastic and the force of the grains hitting the plastic took chunks out. This may not be true of all coffee mills. I would advise you to just be careful, use small batches, watch for cracks and pitting in the plastic housing.

3.2 How about my Cuisinart?

A. The directions for my Cuisinart say not to grind grains or whole spices in it as it will damage the bowl.

3.3 I just can’t afford a mill right now. Do you have any ideas?

  1. Ask your health food store if they have or will purchase a grain mill for customers who buy the wheat from them. Sometimes the store will allow you to grind for free, sometimes they add a nominal fee. A local one here uses a Champion juicer that has a grain mill attachment and allows the customers to grind grains they buy there.
  2. Ask a friend with a mill to let you grind your grain (you can offer to take her young ‘uns during the day, or make her a dessert in exchange). Just remember to be kind and if she has an impact mill (steel teeth) make sure the grain you use is triple cleaned or you can damage her mill.
  3. Ask a friend or 2, or 3 or 4, if they want to “split” a mill with you. Each of you could buy “shares” in a mill and pass it around to each family on a weekly basis.
  4. Look for used mills in buyers papers etc.

4. OTHER WHOLE GRAIN ISSUES

4.1 How do I crack the wheat?

A. I crack the wheat in my Kitchen Aid grain grinder attachment – if your mill doesn’t crack grains you can buy cracked grains at the health food store. Bulgar wheat would also be very similar and would work, I think.

You can crack your wheat in a blender if you have one. You can crack wheat in certain models of coffee grinders. Also, there are inexpensive hand mills available that crack wheat. We like the WonderMill Junior, Family Grain Mill, Back to Basics grain mill and also larger manual mills.

4.2 I was given several buckets of soybeans. What do I do with them?

A. You can make soy flour with them. I use soybeans regularly in my whole wheat bread making. I do not cook and dry them first, but merely stick them in my grinder when I am grinding the wheat. I use about 3/4 cup to a cup along with about 11 cups of wheat. Perhaps you could use more, but this has worked well for me. Soybeans boost the protein of your bread too. You also can use 1 T. of soybean flour with 1 1/2 T. of water to substitute for one egg. You can make soy milk with your soybeans too.

Remember, each family is different, therefore your needs are different. Seek the Lord and be in agreement with your spouse before making a decision on any type of mill.

© 1995-2013 Vickilynn Haycraft and Real Food Living. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this content may be copied, stored or transmitted in any medium, for any reason without prior written permission of the author.

About Vickilynn Haycraft

A student of health and nutrition for 30 years, Vickilynn Haycraft has over 25 years of actual hands-on experience reviewing and personally using different tools of the homemaking vocation, focusing on the areas of health and nutrition. Vickilynn is a magazine columnist, product reviewer, cookbook author and now radio talk show host, as well as being full-time wife and mom to 5 children. Read Vickilynn's Product Reviews and Family Preparedness Articles at Examiner.com. She blogs at the Real Food Living Blog.