Recommendations Without Breaking The Bank

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Slim M

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In the not too distant future would like to make the following additions to my equipment.

2 roller mill ( been using corona for years )

Refractometer ( seem like less hassle)

Digital Thermometer for the mash

What in your opinion on what is the best bang for the buck and where did you get yours? I’m not necessarily looking for the fanciest, name brands, or anything just functionality and reliability.
 

RM-MN

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If you already have an accurate thermometer (accurate within a couple degrees at mash temp) I'd say the refractometer. I don't believe you will gain much from a roller mill other than speed of milling. If you are using a conventional mash tun, a BIAB bag works very well with a Corona mill.

I have a digital thermometer and it spend most of its time in the drawer. I made a hole for the thermometer in the lid of my pot that I use for mashing (BIAB) and just watch the thermometer as it approaches strike temp.
 

IslandLizard

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A refractometer is around $20, off Amazon. That's pocket change well spent, beats the hydrometer especially pre-fermentation.
Even during or after fermentation, it only takes one drop to keep track of progress, plus using a correction formula to compensate the reading for the alcohol being present (alcohol skews the refractive reading).

Many digital thermometers can be had for $15-20 off Amazon. Not a major purchase either unless you want a Thermapen.
I used the CDN-DTQ450X for many years (and still do) until I splurged on the somewhat faster and arguably more precise $80 Thermapen ("open box" purchase with full warranty).

Now a 2-Roller mill, that's a major purchase. I've been very happy with my Monster Mill MM-2 I bought in 2014, still going as strong as day one.
Crankenstein also has excellent mills, which may well be my first choice now.

You also need to reserve some cash (~$40) for a Heavy Duty Low Speed drill (Harbor Freight) to drive the mill. And... I'd advise to make a "stand" for it.

And... if you go for an MM-2 and motorize it, select the 1/2" shaft, not the 3/8".
The hopper is A-OK and useful, the baseboard, a bit crappy, MDF. I just use it as a mount to the larger plywood platform:

Mounted-Monster-Mill-MM2_500.jpg
 
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Slim M

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If you already have an accurate thermometer (accurate within a couple degrees at mash temp) I'd say the refractometer. I don't believe you will gain much from a roller mill other than speed of milling. If you are using a conventional mash tun, a BIAB bag works very well with a Corona mill.

I have a digital thermometer and it spend most of its time in the drawer. I made a hole for the thermometer in the lid of my pot that I use for mashing (BIAB) and just watch the thermometer as it approaches strike temp.
Yeah I made a hole in my lid also for the mechanical thermometer but the digital will be more of spare thing used for multiple things.

Your correct I biab but have only ever had the Corona and yes it works fine but it has milled tons of grain over the years powered by a drill and it’s slower than I would like when milling 20+ lbs also I’ve never been crazy about how it treats the husk.
 
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McMullan

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I was using a Corona mill for years. To be honest, I still use it occasionally for things like rye and 'raw' wheat. Anyway, I went for a Monster mill and, after about 8 years, it's still brilliant. I think it's going to last me forever. If not, I'd buy another one 👍

5FFF8116-DA21-4D9F-8BB4-F1DCAEF93A89_1_105_c.jpeg


Refractometer? Still got my cheapo hydrometer. It does a fine job. I'd rather use that - and sacrifice about 100ml fermenting wort - than a refractometer.

Try Inkbird for a digital thermometer.
 

Deadalus

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It's not particularly expensive to get a digital thermometer as @IslandLizard notes. What I like about mine is that it provides quick checks at multiple areas, providing better understanding of what is going on in regard to temperature. Something I didn't think of when I bought mine is to get one with a decent length so you can probe different levels of the mash or even a HLT if using something like an eHERMs.

I originally used a Corona mill for several years. I was super elated at the speed and ease of my two roller mill after purchasing. It cut milling time in half at least. The Corona mill drifted a lot and needed constant adjusting. Milling was really a chore before but I was much happier after I switched. I put a drill on it now which is even faster but I didn't mind it really before I just needed the drill for something else.
 
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Slim M

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Yeah for the mill I’ve seen a few knock offs on Amazon, looked at Crankandstien, & others on the supply sights. Some of the mills out there look really nice like the Crankandstien and Monster but I’m trying to stay under $150 on the mill sorry maybe I’m too cheap. Looking at the Barley Crusher, Northern Brewer Hull Wrecker, or maybe the Evil Twin.
 

renstyle

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I have a Cereal Killer 2-roller mill. Regular price is a benny, sometimes you can find it for $80 or $90 on a deal.

It's nothing fancy but coupled with an "okay" corded drill it does well and has for about 20 batches.

I don't fiddle much with the crush, just occasionally re-check with a feeler guage.

My digi-thermometer was a $12 amazon special and works well enough for my needs.
Both my refractometer and hydrometer were had for less than $20 each.

The digi-thermometer and refractometer are low hanging fruits. Just buy them.
Unless you already have a hydrometer. Then just get the thermometer. :D

Then ask your friends to pitch in on a $100 group holiday gift, all you need to do then is promise to keep them in good beer for a few months! this is a win-win in my book.
 

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Personal opinion: If your trying not to "break the bank" in the long run but are determined to buy something now, go with either the thermometer or refractometer, as they're cheaper than a mill..BUT: Buy best you can from a reputable seller with good reviews, and save up for one of the well-reviewed mills at some later time. I read the new posts here everyday, and the three items you're considering are frequent features in terms of problems or even wether they're appropriate the the posters prefferred methods. "Buy Once, Cry Once" is worth repeating.:mug:
 
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Slim M

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Personal opinion: If your trying not to "break the bank" in the long run but are determined to buy something now, go with either the thermometer or refractometer, as they're cheaper than a mill..BUT: Buy best you can from a reputable seller with good reviews, and save up for one of the well-reviewed mills at some later time. I read the new posts here everyday, and the three items you're considering are frequent features in terms of problems or even wether they're appropriate the the posters prefferred methods. "Buy Once, Cry Once" is worth repeating.:mug:
Yeah the digital thermometer is really not necessary and I’ve got a few hydrometers but would like to try a refract. I’ve brewed low tech for many years and results are great just looking to make life easier on myself in a few areas. Probably will focus on upgrading the milling situation first. I’m shelfing my plate chiller it works good but I never really enjoyed cleaning it, my new 50’ Jaded just got dropped off by FedEx.
 

Stormcrow

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Yeah for the mill I’ve seen a few knock offs on Amazon, looked at Crankandstien, & others on the supply sights. Some of the mills out there look really nice like the Crankandstien and Monster but I’m trying to stay under $150 on the mill sorry maybe I’m too cheap. Looking at the Barley Crusher, Northern Brewer Hull Wrecker, or maybe the Evil Twin.
I've got the northern brewer mill and have no complaints. Only been using it for two years though.
 
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Slim M

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I have a Cereal Killer 2-roller mill. Regular price is a benny, sometimes you can find it for $80 or $90 on a deal.

It's nothing fancy but coupled with an "okay" corded drill it does well and has for about 20 batches.

I don't fiddle much with the crush, just occasionally re-check with a feeler guage.

My digi-thermometer was a $12 amazon special and works well enough for my needs.
Both my refractometer and hydrometer were had for less than $20 each.

The digi-thermometer and refractometer are low hanging fruits. Just buy them.
Unless you already have a hydrometer. Then just get the thermometer. :D

Then ask your friends to pitch in on a $100 group holiday gift, all you need to do then is promise to keep them in good beer for a few months! this is a win-win in my book.
After watching & reading some reviews I went with the cereal killer mill. Comes with a base and has ball bearings. How do you like the ball bearings? I saw folks had issues getting the blue film off the hopper but in my experience in dealing with ss sheet panels is a heat gun sure help that film loosen up an come off easily.
 

renstyle

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After watching & reading some reviews I went with the cereal killer mill. Comes with a base and has ball bearings. How do you like the ball bearings? I saw folks had issues getting the blue film off the hopper but in my experience in dealing with ss sheet panels is a heat gun sure help that film loosen up an come off easily.

The blue plastic comes off easily enuf... just make it an ASMR afternoon and all will be well. :cool:

Bearings: never given me issues, always smooth sailing. I play it easy and run a near-constant 0.30" gap (about a credit card...ish) pretty consistent.
 
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Slim M

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I'm assuming you have a means of temperature control for your ferment?
Yeah I got an old deep freeze and couple half fridges and a couple external controllers. The old freezer I put a self piercing valve on the suction side because he likes a hit of R-134 every once in a while but I think I can limp him along for a while.
 

bwible

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I have a JSP geared mill from the 90s that has held up so well its like new. I’m still using that but if I were looking for a mill today that Monster mill looks great. Bigger hopper than my JSP. The hopper on my JSP holds 2 pounds. That looks like it would hold at least 5.

I don’t see the big deal with a hydrometer vs a refractometer. I only take a gravity reading once after my mash is done and the wort is collected. I do it right out of the brew pot, adjust for temp and I return the sample to the pot. And thats just to get an idea where I am on gravity pre-boil.

For a thermometer I have a dial probe thermometer. Its all I need.

I do electric with an Anvil Foundry 6.5.

I have a Tilt hydrometer that goes in the carboy. I use that to adjust wort to desired gravity before adding yeast. Absolutely love seeing gravity, temp, and progress in real time without opening the fermenter. And it shows you all the data points and a progress graph on the software. The drawback is I only have 1, so I can only have it in 1 beer at a time.
 

IslandLizard

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That looks like it would hold at least 5.
The Monster Mill hopper holds around 10 pounds. Now I do mill small kernel grain (wheat, rye, etc.) on a tighter gap than barley, around 0.023" now. Oat malt even tighter. So I do have to reset the gap at least once during a mill session. I tend to brew two different 5 gallon batches back to back so each gets milled during the same session, reducing the amount of gap resets.

The gap adjustment is easy on the MM-2, but from what I've read, a PITA on the MM-3, probably on most 3-roller mills, not sure.

Looking at the [...] Northern Brewer Hull Wrecker, [...]
Someone on the forums here, in the past 3-4 months, IIRC, reported having major issues with his Hull Wrecker. The rollers wouldn't grip the grain anymore. NB originally didn't deal with his claim, but eventually sent him 2 rollers from a returned mill (possibly the whole mill), which appeared to fix the issue.
 

bracconiere

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well, if you're asking what's the best bang for the buck. and comparing a couple of trips to the grocery store in gas, to an heirloom...

how broke are you? ;)

i used a phil mill for many years, upgraded to a JSP. way better. both a refrac, and digital thermometer are the price of hamburger.

the mill is a trip cross state lines and a motel stay....
 
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BPenny

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For a thermometer, I would definitely recommend a ThermoWorks ThermoPop. It’s water resistant, and definitely fast and accurate enough for a mash, plus it’s made by the same company as the ThermaPen, but it is much cheaper ($21 plus shipping, or $35 plus shipping for the upgraded version), and has a better battery life. If that is more than you are willing to spend, then just stick with an old fashioned dial thermometer for $5-$10 and make sure to keep it calibrated. Personally though, due to the importance of temperature when it comes to mashing, pitching yeast, etc. I wouldn’t lowball the thermometer too much.

I have personally never felt the need for a refractometer. I have been told that they are way more accurate than a hydrometer, but then I also hear people struggling to figure out the calculations with them once fermentation has started. I like to keep my equipment pretty simple, but I will admit that the Tilt Hydrometer does look pretty amazing (although expensive and not really necessary either).

As far as a mill, If you want to keep prices down then just do BIAB and keep using the Corona. I personally use an old Burr coffee grinder for malt and sometimes a victorio hand cranked flour mill for un malted spelt, rye, etc. I keep wanting to get a roller mill because it would be quicker, but I also keep hearing the same complaints about adjusting gap width for different types of grain.
 
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Slim M

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For a thermometer, I would definitely recommend a ThermoWorks ThermoPop. It’s water resistant, and definitely fast and accurate enough for a mash, plus it’s made by the same company as the ThermaPen, but it is much cheaper ($21 plus shipping, or $35 plus shipping for the upgraded version), and has a better battery life. If that is more than you are willing to spend, then just stick with an old fashioned dial thermometer for $5-$10 and make sure to keep it calibrated. Personally though, due to the importance of temperature when it comes to mashing, pitching yeast, etc. I wouldn’t lowball the thermometer too much.

I have personally never felt the need for a refractometer. I have been told that they are way more accurate than a hydrometer, but then I also hear people struggling to figure out the calculations with them once fermentation has started. I like to keep my equipment pretty simple, but I will admit that the Tilt Hydrometer does look pretty amazing (although expensive and not really necessary either).

As far as a mill, If you want to keep prices down then just do BIAB and keep using the Corona. I personally use an old Burr coffee grinder for malt and sometimes a victorio hand cranked flour mill for un malted spelt, rye, etc. I keep wanting to get a roller mill because it would be quicker, but I also keep hearing the same complaints about adjusting gap width for different types of grain.
Got a Corona that I’ve used for a lot of years and it’s not bad just slow when doing 10 gallon batch grinds. I’ve never had a roller mill before so I guess I just got to see if the grass is greener. Same with a refractometer I check gravity sample pre-boil, post boil, & of course final and it’s seems the refract would make things just a little easier if it’s reliable. One day I hope to have a Tilt or something. I find the Kegland Rapt pill interesting also but haven’t seen it in the US yet. Yeah I use to have a 3 tier system but I’m a Biab guy now and don’t plan on going back.
 

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I’d save for all of it. It depends on how vested you are in the hobby. I use a Thermopen, MM-3, cheap hydrometer, and some cheap refractometer. I wouldn’t give any of them up. I just grew with the hobby. Bought all of my stuff over time. MM-3 and Thermopen are at the top of the list. I only use the refractometer preferment.
 

aceluby

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I’ve got a $100 mill I got on Amazon, attached a drill I don’t use to it, a refractometer for $15, and a thermometer for $15. So I think you can get all your upgrades without breaking the bank.
 
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Slim M

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I’ve got a $100 mill I got on Amazon, attached a drill I don’t use to it, a refractometer for $15, and a thermometer for $15. So I think you can get all your upgrades without breaking the bank.
Got a cereal killer mill on the way so I knocked the most costly of the 3 out first.
 

AzOr

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+1 for the Cereal Killer. Going on at least 8 years. Works great, no drama.

I also have a therma pen and love it. 90% of the time it’s being used for cooking, especially smoking meats.
 

seatazzz

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I received a Blichmann Brewvision thermometer a couple years ago as a competition prize; this year I bought two more, both with the long probes. Have one in each vessel (HLT, MT, and BK). The BK doubles as the BIAB when I'm brewing that way, it's awesome to be able to heat up the mash if I need to. I love them, can be in another part of the house and see where my mash or HLT is at on my phone. Dead easy to install, set up, and use; anything Blichmann is sturdy and built to last. Of course they're useless if what I'm heating up is below the probe, but I've got a couple of reliable stick thermometers from Amazon for that. Cheap refractometer ($20) from Amazon as well, and my (2nd) hydrometer.
 

OakIslandBrewery

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There's a lot of folks out there selling their equipment, including here on this site. Just be cautious about what you are buying and the costs. An item used going for 100 bucks might seem like a good deal but with some searching you might find the new items marked down. Contact a local brew club and see if there's people there selling items, even consider trading. A few home brews go a long ways in the trade department.
 

seatazzz

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+1 to what @OakIslandBrewery said above. Another sometimes overlooked place to find used equipment is a small brewpub/taproom; many of these guys started out as homebrewers, and as they've expanded, their original equipment might be gathering dust in a back room. Sometimes used for small test batches, but if they're successful might want to part with their old stuff for cheap. That's how I got a lot of my equipment (also a great mentor).
 
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