I realize that there are about 400 threads here asking which grain mill is the best, and pretty much every single one of those threads has about 50% of the responders saying they loved their Barley Crushers, and then another 30% is roughly divided between people praising either the Monster Mill or the CrankNStein. Another 15% thinks their Corona Mill or some other mill works just fine, and only about 5% have much negative to say about any of the mills (with most negativity directed at the Corona Mills). That's roughly the impression I've gotten so far anyway. So I'm pretty sure I'll be thoroughly happy with whatever mill I end up with. I'll be a bit more specific with my questions.
First, the situation: I've finished about 4 AG batches so far and have started putting together my own recipes rather than just relying on kits. Since we don't have a decent homebrew shop in the area (we've got kegkits, or Pearly Gates, a store where anything that isn't sealed up airtight smells like incense, and anything that is sealed has probably been on the shelves for 9 months), so I've been looking forward to buying bulk grains and milling it myself (I'm one of the few that is opting to go this route long before I start kegging my beer!). We are getting a nice tax refund this year, so I can justify getting a fairly nice grain mill, though I want to try to keep it under $200. I don't need top of the line, but I want a mill that I'm going to be happy with throughout my homebrewing career.
I've pretty well settled on the Monster Mill. It's only slightly more than the Barley Crusher (especially since I'd go with the larger hopper anyway), and I figure that I won't be unhappy going with the larger rollers. I can get the basic mill plus base and hopper for $149, but I could afford to upgrade slightly. Here are my options:
1) 3 rollers
2) Hardened steel
3) 2 inch rollers
I can really only afford to pick one of those 3. Which one is likely to give me the most flexibility and be the best pick for my money in the long run? Also, in the cases of option 1 or 2, would I be better off getting the 1/2" drive shaft?