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Old 02-27-2006, 12:12 AM   #1
diebiersnaab
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Default Are coffee grinders just for coffee?

I like to brew partial grain, which means that I always have a couple pounds of grain I need to crack. Grain mills are a little too steep for my modest budget, and so far my technique for cracking grain has involved an old cutting board, a bandana, and a big wooden club. I've pretty much come to the conclusion that my method is for the birds, and am looking for an alternative way to get my grain sufficiently crunched up, which brings me to my question. Has anyone used a coffee grinder before? Really I'm talking about one of those big industrial electric coffee grinders, because I've got easy access to one up at work and I'm sure nobody's going to object to me putting some barley through there. I'm just curious and I know that somewhere out there someone has had the same idea at one time or another. So, did it work?

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Old 02-27-2006, 12:27 AM   #2
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I use my coffee grinder every day for rinding coffee. It works really well for that.
Even if I adjust to the coarsest setting, it still grinds much to fine for cracking malt, and I am sure that putting malt through it wouldn't help the taste of the coffee.
I would buy the grain pre-crushed if you don't have a mill. It may cost a bit more, but is will surely be easier than bludgeoning the grain.

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Old 02-27-2006, 12:57 AM   #3
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I've got a how to brew book, where the guy actually cracks his grain in a blender. He tosses in a couple of handfulls and gives it a pulse or two. Then he dumps it out and does some more. This might work better than a coffee grinder in a pinch.

Do a search online for Corona grain mills. They are usually pretty darn cheap if you find the right website.

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Old 02-27-2006, 02:03 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lounge Lizard
I've got a how to brew book, where the guy actually cracks his grain in a blender. He tosses in a couple of handfulls and gives it a pulse or two. Then he dumps it out and does some more. This might work better than a coffee grinder in a pinch.

Do a search on line for Corona grain mills. They are usually pretty darn cheap if you find the right website.
The problem with the coffee grinder, blenders, and Corona mills is that they chop up the grains and hulls into small bits. A roller mill crushes the grain between 1 or 2 steel knurled rollers. when the grain is crushed in this fashion the husks stay at least partially whole and the grains themselves aren't chopped too small. This is critical for the Mash and sparging. The husks form the filter bed when the water is sparged through it. If everything gets ground up into little bits, the husks can't filter and the grains are too small resulting in stuck sparges. Also, with the husks being so small, they will get into your boil kettle and you will get astringent flavors.
I would recommend having your supplier grind your grains until you can afford a decent mill. Buy your base grain in 50 pound bags. Use the money you save toward a mill. I use the Phil Mill. It is fairly inexpensive and it works great.
http://www.williamsbrewing.com/PHILMILL_P220C71.cfm
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Old 02-27-2006, 05:15 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichBrewer
The problem with the coffee grinder, blenders, and Corona mills is that they chop up the grains and hulls into small bits. A roller mill crushes the grain between 1 or 2 steel knurled rollers. when the grain is crushed in this fashion the husks stay at least partially whole and the grains themselves aren't chopped too small. This is critical for the Mash and sparging. The husks form the filter bed when the water is sparged through it. If everything gets ground up into little bits, the husks can't filter and the grains are too small resulting in stuck sparges. Also, with the husks being so small, they will get into your boil kettle and you will get astringent flavors.
I would recommend having your supplier grind your grains until you can afford a decent mill. Buy your base grain in 50 pound bags. Use the money you save toward a mill. I use the Phil Mill. It is fairly inexpensive and it works great.
http://www.williamsbrewing.com/PHILMILL_P220C71.cfm


I'm sure a roller mill is the way to go. I was just giving a poor man's (like myself) suggestion. diebiersnaab indicated he didn't want to invest in a mill at the moment.

A quick one-second or so pulse in a blender isn't going to grind the grain up a heck of a lot, or shouldn't. You should see how fine my LHBS grinds grain. Yikes, they probably over do it. A lot of it falls right through steeping bags.

I have a Corona mill that is still in the box. It is my understanding, that you can adjust the thing way out, like if you were cracking sunflower seeds or something. I'll have to check it out.

Back to the poor man's ideas, just be glad I didn't mention putting a couple of inches of grain into an empty extract (or larger) can and banging away with three pieces of pipe taped together.... lol
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Old 02-27-2006, 09:10 PM   #6
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You may need to find an alternative means of relieving stress if you give up the wooden club method. That said, if your coffee grinder has the settings I've seen on other industrial strength models, the more coarse settings might work. My suggestion is to do a test (grain is cheap, right?). Put in a handful at the coarsest setting and see if it cracks - not crushes/pulverises - the grain. If it is not enough, adjust settings until it gets to where you need. If it powders vs. cracks the grain at the coarsest setting, you're stuck with the club method or, as others note, buying things cracked from your vendor.

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Old 02-27-2006, 09:19 PM   #7
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I use a Corona mill I bought from Northern Tool for $14 and get 78-85% efficiency from it without any stuck sparge issues or husks in my wort, so I think they're pretty adequate if you don't mind supplying the manpower. It's a good 20 minute workout to grind out an average batch.

I think even a burr coffee grinder is going to grind things too finely (or too much might be more accurate), but that wouldn't stop me from giving it a shot if I had access to one. May be adequate for steeping/partial-mash applications.

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Old 02-28-2006, 12:32 AM   #8
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[quote=Lounge Lizard]I'm sure a roller mill is the way to go. I was just giving a poor man's (like myself) suggestion. diebiersnaab indicated he didn't want to invest in a mill at the moment.

A quick one-second or so pulse in a blender isn't going to grind the grain up a heck of a lot, or shouldn't. You should see how fine my LHBS grinds grain. Yikes, they probably over do it. A lot of it falls right through steeping bags.

I have a Corona mill that is still in the box. It is my understanding, that you can adjust the thing way out, like if you were cracking sunflower seeds or something. I'll have to check it out.

I wouldn't put any grain through a coffee grinder as it would chop the garin too fine. I use a porkert which is a corona type mill and get a decent crush. I have adjusted my mill by adding flat washers between the main body and the clamp on part of the body so that the discs are further apart. I can then fine adjust by using the screw in part to adjust the actual spacing between the discs.

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Old 02-28-2006, 01:54 AM   #9
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[QUOTE=boo boo]

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lounge Lizard
A quick one-second or so pulse in a blender isn't going to grind the grain up a heck of a lot, or shouldn't. You should see how fine my LHBS grinds grain. Yikes, they probably over do it.
I actually experimented with this tonight while fixing dinner. (I had a pound of british chocolate malt, which is a lifetime supply for a small-time extract brewer.)

I threw a small handful in the blender--the results were not too good. After 3-4 1 second pulses, some grains were ground to dust, but about half were not cracked at all.

Maybe I'll try the food processor tomorrow night. I'm the cook, so SWMBO doesn't pay that much attention to wehat whacky thing I'm doing in there, as long as I dirty everything in one night.
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Old 03-06-2006, 03:51 PM   #10
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Skip the coffee grinder, it will turn into a bigger headache then you want to deal with, plus your SO may not go for it.
You do have some alternatives to the coffee grinder provided you have these resources available.
A blender seems would work a little better then the coffee grinder.
A food processor with a plastic blade may also do the trick even better then the blender.
A Corona Mill is fairly inexpensive, and will last forever.

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