Buying grain mill vs buying crushed grains

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RyPA

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What are the benefits of having a grain mill? Is it just so you can buy grains in bulk and mill yourself on brew day? Or is it better because grains are fresher the later they are milled, and you can order your ingredients for a batch ahead of time and then mill on brew day?

I personally will be brewing a batch every 2-3 months or so, and was planning just to order the grains crushed.
 

Bobby_M

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It is definitely nice to have stuff in stock as it lets you brew on a whim and on paper it saves you money. Here's the rub though... it's inevitable that you don't always have the specialty malts on hand for what you want to brew so you have to buy those. Then you think of all the bulk savings you're going to enjoy but before you know it, you're tossing out half a bag of something because you didn't get around to using it for 2 years. I'd say owning a mill is justifiable if you don't have a decent shop nearby to buy ingredients per batch, or if the only one in town refuses to mill properly.
 
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I don't brew enough to justify stocking up on grains as I only brew a few times a year. All brew shops are around an hour away from me so I prefer to just order stuff online. But it's good to have shops accessible just incase I am in a pinch leading up to or on brew day.

With a ton of online shops to pick from, who offer milling, I guess I will stick with ordering my recipes milled. What's the agreed upon shelf life for milled grains?
 

smata67

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The main reason to mill your own grain is for the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing it yourself to your own standards. Unless you are brewing a great deal it makes no sense from a financial standpoint and once you factor in the value of your time to pull out the mill, weigh the grain, mill it, clean the mill, and put it back up, you are well into the hole unless your time is worth about 12 cents an hour.
 

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I don't have any good brew shops near me, unfortunately. So I buy almost all my grains online, but the shipping can get expensive if I'm not buying from a place with free shipping. So I now keep a sack of two-row on hand so I don't have to buy as much base malt online. I also tend to plan out my brews about three months in advance and buy all my specialty malts for those at once so I'm not paying to ship too many boxes. I get them uncrushed so they stay fresher. I also biab and was getting low efficiency with the crushes from online or local shops. For all those reasons, it made a ton of sense for me to get my own mill. I always thought it seemed unnecessary, but I've been really happy with the purchase so far. It really has added a lot of flexibility to my process. If you have a great shop nearby, buy one recipe at a time, and don't keep bulk grains, I probably wouldn't get a mill. I'd just up my grain bill a bit to account for lower efficiency if that was a problem with the store's crush.
 
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RyPA

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I guess I have 2 options:

1. Buy base malt in bulk from a local shop and buy a grain mill. When I am ready to brew, order specialty malts online and then mill everything myself.
2. Continue to buy everything online, pre-milled, and eat the shipping costs.

Option 2 sounds like the easiest. I'm sure with option 1 I could eventually pay off the grain mill with money saved on shipping base malts, but I'm not strapped enough to worry about it.

Though, I do have interest in milling myself and I found a mill on Amazon for around $100, so I may do it eventually.
 

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I don't have any good brew shops near me, unfortunately. So I buy almost all my grains online, but the shipping can get expensive if I'm not buying from a place with free shipping. So I now keep a sack of two-row on hand so I don't have to buy as much base malt online. I also tend to plan out my brews about three months in advance and buy all my specialty malts for those at once so I'm not paying to ship too many boxes. I get them uncrushed so they stay fresher. I also biab and was getting low efficiency with the crushes from online or local shops. For all those reasons, it made a ton of sense for me to get my own mill. I always thought it seemed unnecessary, but I've been really happy with the purchase so far. It really has added a lot of flexibility to my process. If you have a great shop nearby, buy one recipe at a time, and don't keep bulk grains, I probably wouldn't get a mill. I'd just up my grain bill a bit to account for lower efficiency if that was a problem with the store's crush.
I was getting ready to add my two cents, but this post pretty much echoes my thoughts exactly. I buy big sacks of base malt and try to plan about three brews ahead when ordering specialty malts. I used to get everything pre milled, but it's nice not feeling like I'm racing the clock on freshness now.
 
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RyPA

RyPA

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Thinking about this more, maybe I will get the grain mill and try to plan out my brews for a year and order bulk grains from my LHBS. This way when it comes closer to brew day, I will only order hops/yeast and whatever else I need. I will not take a beating on shipping 4 times a year, probably paying off the cost of the grain mill pretty quickly.
 

palmtrees

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I guess I have 2 options:

1. Buy base malt in bulk from a local shop and buy a grain mill. When I am ready to brew, order specialty malts online and then mill everything myself.
2. Continue to buy everything online, pre-milled, and eat the shipping costs.

Option 2 sounds like the easiest. I'm sure with option 1 I could eventually pay off the grain mill with money saved on shipping base malts, but I'm not strapped enough to worry about it.

Though, I do have interest in milling myself and I found a mill on Amazon for around $100, so I may do it eventually.
Option 2 is definitely easier and a very reasonable way to go. Freshness was my biggest concern, followed by better control over efficiency. I wasn't as concerned with making up the cost difference with the mill, though I got a pretty basic one. But it's all very specific to your individual process, imo.
 
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palmtrees

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At that price point, I'd get the cereal killer from Adventures in Homebrewing. It's $99 with free shipping, and it's great. I've had one for about nine months now and love it. Not as good as the more expensive three rollers, but gets the job done. I expect you'll get much better customer service from AIH than Amazon.
 
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At that price point, I'd get the cereal killer from Adventures in Homebrewing. It's $99 with free shipping, and it's great. I've had one for about nine months now and love it. Not as good as the more expensive three rollers, but gets the job done. I expect you'll get much better customer service from AIH than Amazon.
Agreed, thanks for the recommendation.
 

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With a grain mill, you can literally dial in the crush that is best for you. There is no universal crush that is best for all mash and sparge styles. so you get what is best for you. Plus you can adjust the gap to accommodate different grains. I.e. the optimum gap for barley malt might be different for wheat malt and different for rye malt.

Looks like you do not brew often enough to use the "I buy 55 lbs of bulk grain, I need a mill" rational.

But consider the penalty for nonoptimum crush is mostly lower efficiency, which means "buy more grain". So you invest in a mill today to save buying extra grain next week. Avoid buying an extra 100 lbs of grain at $2.00/lb gets you a $200 mill.

I think grain mills are an advanced homebrewer's equipment. Should you buy one? You do not "need" one. You can brew beer at home without one. At some point you might have acquired all the other cool and useful tools for a home brewer and mill is at the top of the list.
 
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RyPA

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I'm not advanced enough yet to be able to dial in a crush based on grain type--I'll be relying on the forums for that. But I think, as you said, a mill is up there in the list of tools for home brewers, and see it worthwhile to purchase, especially at only $100.
 
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At that price point, I'd get the cereal killer from Adventures in Homebrewing. It's $99 with free shipping, and it's great. I've had one for about nine months now and love it. Not as good as the more expensive three rollers, but gets the job done. I expect you'll get much better customer service from AIH than Amazon.
What's the beneficial difference between the cereal killer and crop duster? Crop duster is around $20 cheaper.
 

KyBeer

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I buy two bags of 2 row and pick it up at my local HBS. I get a 10% discount for AHA membership on everything. The final cost is $63.00 per bag. I purchase 2 bags and all the specialty grains for five or more different recipes, hops and yeast at the same time. Watch the dates on your yeast, and hops when you plan in advance. The freshness on my un-milled grains the last thing I need to worry about. I make up all grain kits and store then in bags in sanitized plastic cat litter buckets. Hops are kept in original packaging un less I purchase a full pound then measured and resealed with a vacuum sealer. Yeast is marked with a sharpie for the brew. I might use 6 bags a year. That pays for my mill just in base malt not counting time or fuel. Wait my car is a small hybrid!
I mill my grains for the highest efficient yield (conversion). Buy a good supply of rice hulls if you buy a mill. You might find too fine of a mill without a good grain bed can stick the mash.
IMO, it was a needed investment to purchase the mill to save trips to the HBS and avoid shipping charges. With COVID out there the less time I am around unmask and unvaccinated people the better. I'm an old guy and plan to brew a long time before I die.
 

bruce_the_loon

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What's the beneficial difference between the cereal killer and crop duster? Crop duster is around $20 cheaper.
Depending on structural stability being similar, the cereal killer has hardened steel rollers and the crop duster has stainless steel ones. The hardened steel ones will last longer, but you need to clean them properly or they might rust if there is high humidity and the dust gets damp. The stainless steel ones may wear out sooner, but have less risk of corrosion. For most home brewing use, the wear difference is likely of no concern. Reports of many hundreds or thousands of pounds of grain being crushed before wear becomes an issue on either type.

The other difference may be whether the crop duster has bearings instead of bushings. The cereal killer does and that contributes to a smoother roll and way less wear on the axle shafts. Bushings can allow grain dust entry which may either jam them up or contribute to wear.

My vote for the bearings and hardened rollers would be the cereal killer.
 

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I bought a cereal killer a few years ago and it's been great for me. I've never had to clean the rollers or worry about rust. I like to crush my own grains for consistency in my process and to get a finer crush than the LHBS offers for my BIAB method. I buy base malts in bulk which has saved enough to pay for the mill ($89). It is a small amount of extra work to get the mill out of it's box and crush the grains for each brew, but I don't see it as a significant amount.
 

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If you’re brewing 4-6 times a year, it’s never going to make financial sense to get a mill. At that rate, you’re not going to be going through bulk grains fast enough to avoid throwing some away after a couple of years. Plus, most places online that mill for you only charge 10-20 cents a pound.

The reason to go ahead anyway is if you just can’t get the crush you want unless you do it yourself. The tipping point for me was when I made a bad batch of an all-wheat beer because it wasn’t crushed enough. At least I think that’s what happened; it’s hard to troubleshoot when variables are out of your control. But if you BIAB, and/or use alternative grains a lot, you’ll get better reproducibility and repeatability crushing your own.

Of course, fast forward two years post mill acquisition, and I’ve got six 50-pound bins, ten 10-pound bins, and 25 2-pound containers of specialty grains in my garage. (Then again. I brew multiple times a week.)
 

AZ Maverick

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I mill my own.
I don't brew in volume big enough to warrant buying and storing grain.
I mill my own simply because it is slightly less expensive for me to purchase the grain un-milled, and since I BIAB I want the crush finer than what the typical milled crush is from a HBS which then has to charge even more for the twice milled grain.
I also just like the feeling of doing it myself and finding the mill setting that works best for whatever I'm making.
 

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What are the benefits of having a grain mill? Is it just so you can buy grains in bulk and mill yourself on brew day? Or is it better because grains are fresher the later they are milled, and you can order your ingredients for a batch ahead of time and then mill on brew day?

I personally will be brewing a batch every 2-3 months or so, and was planning just to order the grains crushed.
if you order them crushed , how do you know what the conditions or time frame after the crush to the time you get them? if you buy whole grain malts and you crush them yourself , you can control the crush size and time before mashing. There are actually a few malt suppliers who only sell uncrushed grains so if you have your own mill , it is never a problem. I prefer to crush my own . on brew day I get my strike water just about to temp and then mill my grains minutes before mashing starts. I'm not one of those zero oxidation brewers but it just makes sense and good practice to not introduce any more oxygen to the procedure as possible. The more things (brewing steps)you can control ,the better your beer can be.
 

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It is definitely nice to have stuff in stock as it lets you brew on a whim and on paper it saves you money. Here's the rub though... it's inevitable that you don't always have the specialty malts on hand for what you want to brew so you have to buy those. Then you think of all the bulk savings you're going to enjoy but before you know it, you're tossing out half a bag of something because you didn't get around to using it for 2 years. I'd say owning a mill is justifiable if you don't have a decent shop nearby to buy ingredients per batch, or if the only one in town refuses to mill properly.
The spontaneity is one key advantage; lower costs and grist control are the other two.

My first grind-your-own experiment started with a 50 lb bag of two row brewer's malt. Next time, for me, I'll buy a bag of malt with more character than 2-row so I can get more flavor out of any SMaSH I try.
 
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BrewZer

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The main reason to mill your own grain is for the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing it yourself to your own standards. Unless you are brewing a great deal it makes no sense from a financial standpoint and once you factor in the value of your time to pull out the mill, weigh the grain, mill it, clean the mill, and put it back up, you are well into the hole unless your time is worth about 12 cents an hour.
Adds half an hour, for me, at most. And it's a hobby, so there's no hourly wage accounting going on in my books.
 

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Looking at picking up this one

The model from Northern Brewer (essentially the same) has a comfort grip on the hand crank.
 
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I have 2 HB shops in my town. The crush from both is wildly different, so having a mill allows me to have consistent crushes. I don't mind the extra time and any time I get to break my power drill out is a bonus.
 
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With all that's been said it sounds like I may not absolutely need a mill, but having one wouldn't hurt. Being it's not breaking the bank, and I have curiosity, I will likely pick up the cereal killer.
 

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I don't mind the extra time and any time I get to break my power drill out is a bonus.
I consider the 30 minutes that I may spend weighing and milling my malt to be a much better use of my time than the 90 minutes I spend mowing my lawn! Of course I also use a #8 Jointer Plane to true-up my boards for glue-up.:p
It's therapeutic.
 

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Plus you can adjust the gap to accommodate different grains. I.e. the optimum gap for barley malt might be different for wheat malt and different for rye malt.
That BrewLand mill you linked to on Amazon has quite a limited adjustment range:
"adjust the spacing of the rollers from 0.025 to 0.1 inch"
0.1" is useless, way too wide for anything grain. 0.055" is where it begins to crush barley, and very coarsely at that.
On the other end, 0.025" is barely tight enough for small kernel grain such as rye and wheat and definitely too wide for oat malt, triticale, millet, and other tiny/narrow/needle-like grain. For example I mill/crush oat malt on a 0.019" gap, and have set it even a little tighter now.
 

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Honestly I think only you can answer this question, I bought a corona mill when I started in AG and I’m glad I mill my own grains, the only LHBS I have is at least a half hour away and they charge you to mill your grains. I buy in bulk and always have I like being able to brew when I want and not worry about going somewhere to get my grain and mill it, I know you said you only brew a few times a year but that might change if you can brew whenever you want too.
After rereading some of your posts it sounds like you made your decision.
 

bruce_the_loon

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Another reason to get a mill is to avoid having to post early on a Sunday morning asking how best to crush grain that the LHBS sold you uncrushed because nobody was paying attention at the time. Thus you avoid the endless debate about driving over the grain placed between two wooden planks and using SWAMBO's antique pastry roller thing.
 

IslandLizard

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I'd say owning a mill is justifiable if you don't have a decent shop nearby to buy ingredients per batch, or if the only one in town refuses to mill properly.
That's the general problem with buying pre-milled grain. Order any grain (or kit) from MoreBeer or Northern Brewer and the crush is total crap!

One of my 2 Local HBS' has been milling way too coarsely for the past 13 years I've been shopping there, and won't change it, and I know everyone there personally. A nice couple new to brewing had brewed a wheat beer that was milled on the store's mill. Any wheat flavor/character was nowhere to be found. The beer was thin, weak, bodiless. When we looked at the crush for their repeat effort, most of the wheat malt was still whole. Nuff' sed!

The other LHBS mills for you... and is not much better, especially when brewing BIAB, which I'd say over 3/4 of their customers do.

I buy base malt by the sack, and love milling my own for having total control. Small kernel grain gets milled separately on its own, tighter gap.
So yeah, the mill gets reset (at least) once each milling (brew) session. It stays on that gap for the next brew, where it mills the grain appropriate for that gap, then reset for the other.
 
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RyPA

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I mainly want it so I can order my grains further ahead of time and then brew when ready, versus buying pre-milled, ordered at the last minute for the sake of freshness. I am not experienced enough to know variations between mill level/quality, but that's something I can at least be mindful of and now control. It will also add another element to the brewing process/hobby, so why not. I don't foresee myself ever not being a beer drinker, and I enjoy brewing, so the mill will not go to waste.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am the only beer drinker in my house, which is good and bad. I scored 2 corny kegs and a glass carboy at a garage sale years ago for $20, so I've been set on 5 gallon batches. I am considering doing smaller batches as I find myself wanting something else, while my keg is still half full. I guess I could do 2 gallon batches in my 5-10 gallon equipment, but then I think to myself, all of the work involved with brewing, why not do a full 5 gallon batch, especially if the batch comes out great. My current batch I kegged October 16, and I think I still have 1/4 keg left. To you sole household drinkers, do you do 5 gallon batches, and how long do they last?
 

IslandLizard

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The other, cheaper option is buying a Corona style mill. Knockoffs can be found for $25 or less, shipped.
They need some tweaking to get the right "crush," but for BIAB they work very fine. Fine in both ways. ;)
 
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I tend to splurge on stuff to avoid buyers remorse. $100 doesn't seem bad, and it looks like its plenty for me as it can rest on a 5 gallon bucket and can be spun with a drill.
 

Transamguy77

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@RyPA you could brew a 5 gallon batch and split it in half and either add a different steeping grain, different dry hops or a different yeast then your still making 5 gallons but ends up as 2 different beers. I make 10 gallons at a time and I will do that occasionally, take a lightly hopped blond and turn half into a stout.
 

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A big advantage for me in owning a mill is the freshness factor. I can mill right before I brew, so that the grain has little time to oxidize and go stale. If you buy whole grains and store them in airtight containers in a cool place, they will last a long time, maybe a year or so. You can stock up enough grains for a few upcoming brews.

Without a mill you could buy crushed grain on a just-in-time basis. Order only the ingredients you need right away and brew soon after they come in. But the time from the brew store milling them--the packaging and shipping--could still be a week or more. And there's no control over the conditions while in transit.

Buying crushed malt from the brew store means you have no control over crush. And if you brew with grains like rye or wheat, that standard mill gap set at the brew store may not crush those smaller grains very well.
 
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I'm sold. Where can I find the manual on good crush settings for each grain type?
 

MaxStout

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There's no "manual." It's more trial and error to get the crush that provides best efficiency. Ballpark, I'd say around .030 to .035 for barley; tighter for small grains like wheat and rye, perhaps .025 or so. What works best can be dependent on the mill rollers--the depth of the knurling on those. Get a feeler gauge from the auto parts store to measure the gap.
 
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That's what I meant, just the general guidelines, I'll need to do some research
 

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With all that's been said it sounds like I may not absolutely need a mill, but having one wouldn't hurt. Being it's not breaking the bank, and I have curiosity, I will likely pick up the cereal killer.
I guess I am conditioned to think of home brewers are (on the whole) a frugal bunch. I include myself a member of the penny pincher club.

if the money is not an issue, than go for it.
 
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