Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back to Basics Grain Mill

One of the most popular preparedness food items that survivalists and preppers everywhere like to tout is wheat. It lasts forever when properly stored. It's extremely affordable. It's nutrient dense. I have more wheat put away in my long term storage than any other single food item. The problem with wheat is that you need a way to process it.

Enter the grain mill. There are a lot of grain mills on the market. You can get electric and hand crank mills. Since extended power outages can result from a wide range of situations worth prepping for I'd recommend getting a hand cranked mill. Now if you start using it a lot and find out that you like fresh flour then by all means splurge on an electric one. I'm sticking to hand cranked options for now. They range from the cast iron Corona mills that you can get online for $10 plus $50 shipping to the venerable Country Living Grain Mill. I own and have used a Corona mill. I actually use it regularly to crush my grain when I'm making beer. I've even made bread out of the flour. The problem with the Corona mill is that it's extremely labor intensive to make flour that's suitable for baking. It's good for a lot of things but if you want to make flour on a regular basis you really need something better.

Yesterday I picked up a Victorio grain mill. It's basically a rebadged Back to Basics Grain Mill. It uses precision machined cutting burrs to grind the wheat. It comes apart very easily and is only made up of a few pieces. It's mostly machined aluminum. The burrs are steel. It does have a few plastic parts but nothing that looks like it could wear out under normal use. It's simple, lightweight and compact.

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It was very easy to set up. The instructions are just a few pages and most of those pages are recipes. You just clamp it down to the edge of a counter, attach the handle and you're ready to rock. You can set it for different grinding consistencies by loosening the knob that holds the handle on. Just don't tighten it too much or you could damage the burrs.

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For this exercise I tightened it down to finger tight. It was a lot easier to turn than my Corona. I did have to switch hands a couple of times but I managed to grind out about 3 cups of flour in 5 minutes or so. The clamp was extremely solid. It's got a rubber strip in the top part that prevents it from sliding around. It works wonderfully. The flour was perfect.

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I've heard in the past that you can't get flour from these in one run. Either they've improved on the design or someone was trying to sell a more expensive mill. This mill fits the bill perfectly if you need a quality mill that you can have on hand just in case. The Country Living Mill is obviously much more solidly built. It's got a flywheel handle so you can motorize it or even hook it up to a bicycle (just make sure that you gear it right or it will spin too fast and you'll lock it up and/or cook your grain). You can also get replacement parts for the Country Living Mill. You can buy four of these Back to Basics Mills and still have enough left over for a couple of sacks of grain, though, so it's up to you whether you think you'll go through enough replacement parts to justify the expense. Even if the SHTF and I'm using this mill every day I don't foresee the need to grind more than a few cups of flour at a time with it. If I had a big family or was planning for the whole neighborhood then I'd seriously consider the Country Living Mill. Whatever mill you want to go with be sure to check out Our Happy Homestead first. They've got a great selection of mills to fit anyone's needs plus a ton of other stuff.

5 comments:

Suburban Survivalist said...

Thanks for the review and insight. The next step for my brothers and I is long-term food storage and wheat is at the top of the list. I also prefer a manual mill since any scenario where we need to use it would probably mean no electric for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Based on your article I bought the BTB grain mill. I purchased it through everyday kitchenneeds.com for only $39.99 (http://www.everydaykitchenneeds.com/grain-mill-p-228502.html). It was really easy to put together and take apart. I initially mounted it directly to the table but found that the mill had a tendency to wobble slightly back and forth no matter how tight I made the mount screw. I found that the rubber pad glued to the surface of the clamp was working loose just as if the glue was grease. So, I removed the pad. I then used a 3/8 inch block of wood between the table top and the mill. This worked to raise the mill's level, stabilized the rocking motion and helped to prevent marring my table. I then proceeded to try and grind some oats. They do not work too well in this mill. The oats had a tendency to clog the hopper and would not fall into the rather small area where the blade mechanism could pick them up. I then tried rice which worked very well, making two cups of a coarser flour in about 10 minutes. This mill would work a lot better if it had an auger at the bottom to feed the blades rather than relying solely on gravity making the grain fall into the mechanism. Overall, it was a good deal for the price I paid. It will make a nice manual backup piece just in case there is no power to run an electric mill.

Anonymous said...

I am going to pick one of these up - compared to the Corona, this is just a staggering improvement. Thanks for the review!

Adventures in Self Reliance said...

As the others have said thanks for the review. I have been looking for a decent grain mill and was afraid to buy because there is so much junk sold out there. Also I'll be doing some home brewed beer and hoping to do it with grains rather than just a couple of cans in a kit.

fyooz said...

A refit kit is available for the Corona, to put stones on it instead of metal burrs. The maker claims this kit will mill flour from wheat in first pass. Costs more than I spent on the Corona itself, but may make the Corona more useful for preppers. I might try that kit soon.