Thursday, February 28, 2008

So I bought a cheap grinder

I was walking through Big Lots the other day and on the end of the kitchen utensils aisle I found a grain grinder that was only $15. It was labeled as a corn grinder and there was more spanish writing on the package than English but it was basically the same thing as the cheap, cast iron grinder that you can get from Amazon. The first thing that went through my mind was the post that I made a few days ago about buying too cheap. I make my own beer so I knew I could use it to crack my grain. It also grinds stuff like coffee beans and nuts which you're supposedly not supposed to do with some of the "better" grinders that are capable of producing baking flour. I'll easily get my $15 worth out so I went ahead and picked it up.

It was easy to put together. I had it ready to rock in about 2 minutes from the time that I opened the package. The plates are easy to adjust and everything fit well although the hopper seems to be a bit flimsy. It's more well built than what I'd expect for $15.

I had just picked up some grain from the home brew store so I went ahead and cracked some of that first just to see how it would handle it. With the plates tightened down almost as much as I could get them it spit out exactly what I need. The handle was easy to turn and it cracked about a cup's worth in well under a minute. From there I decided to give beans a shot. I filled up the hopper (probably about 2 cups or so) and ground up some dried pinto beans. It pulverized them quite nicely into a course powder that could be used for paste or refried beans. Once again it was easy to turn and it didn't take long. Rice was the last thing that I tried. I ran a few cups through and ended up with the same consistency as the beans. It ended up looking like cream of wheat or grits. I ran it through again and it didn't look much different.

I only had a couple of issues while using it. I said that the hopper was flimsy. When I was grinding the beans I was holding on to it for leverage and it flew off. Luckily I was grinding beans so it was easy to clean up. I didn't touch the hopper after that and didn't have the problem again. Also, producing enough usable flour with this thing for a batch of bread would probably take hours of grinding and sifting. It aint happening people. I already knew this, though, and didn't buy it with that particular function in mind.

I've already done my research on grain grinders and I've been in the market for a good one for a while now. I just keep putting off the purchase. I'd really like to get one that's capable of making baking flour but those are prohibitively expensive. I just keep stockpiling flour and baking my own bread to keep it rotating.

If you don't have a high end grinder then something like this is most definitely better than nothing. There's a lot you can do with wheat besides just making flour but you've got to be able to crack it most of the time. When beans get old they get too hard to cook and being able to grind them up could be the only way to make them edible. You're not supposed to run things like coffee beans and nuts (or other oily products) through most high end grinders because the oils lubricate the grinding surface and are difficult to clean. If you can't afford a "good" grinder then something like this would be a lot better than nothing. Even if you do have a good, expensive grinder you might want to keep one of these around for certain jobs. You can find them for around $25 - $30 online (after shipping). After getting the chance to play with one and because I don't own something "better" I'd say it's money well spent unless you really intend to buy something better soon.


Anonymous said...

Good info. Not long ago I found one of these grinders on Craig's List. She wanted $15 for it and threw in a 40lb bucket of red winter wheat! How could I say no?

Also liked your "learn to cook" post the other day. I've baked bread before, but I recently decided I should learn to bake bread in my dutch oven. I made a few loaves and they turned out pretty good. I kew it could be done, but I feel better now that I have done it myself.


Survival Topics said...

This is certinly the way to go - grind your grains. The grain keeps for many years if you don't turn it into flour but wait until you need it.

Another bread that is extremely easy to make and cook is simply bannock. The method and some recipes here if you would like to see them"

The Urban Survivalist said...

I go as simple as I can on my bread. 7 cups of flour, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp salt, 2.5 cups of water and a tablespoon of yeast makes two big loafs that last me a few days to a week. It's about 10 minutes worth of actual work but you have to set aside a couple of hours while you wait for it to rest and rise and all that crap.

I've got my first sourdough starter going right now. I figure that if things ever get bad yeast will be the first ingredient that becomes hard to come by. Once I get making a sourdough starter down I'm going to try to use it to brew a batch of beer just to see how it turns out.

Anonymous said...

Other uses, good point to have multiple tools doing similar jobs. Even if the jobs can crossover the extra specialization for one job over another is good to have on hand. You gave me a eureka moment.

Anonymous said...

Was wondering if this will split beans (pinto, black, red, etc) - I need to split them open without breaking them into small pieces ... how wide apart can the two stones be set to??