Monday, December 4, 2017

Wheat Grinders 101

Post-SHTF, there are a lot of preppers who will be sitting on large stockpiles of inexpensive healthy bulk foodstuffs, mostly in the form of rice, wheat, and beans.

Sadly, out of the preppers I know that have these kind of preps, I know quite a few that do not have any way to turn the stocks of grain/beans/whatever into flour for baking and cooking with. This can lead to an awkward situation.

In order to avoid this, I recommend a wheat grinder. Also known as a grain mill, a wheat grinder consists of a hopper to put grain into, a grinding mechanism, and a power source. The home models come in three basic varieties:

Manual Grinders
These tend to be the least expensive option, with a smaller grain hopper and the power for grinding the grain provided by your muscle power.

Most hand power wheat grinders clamp to a surface in order to keep themselves stable. If it is a soft or unstable surface, the clamp can wear into it.

These are best for a beginner who is unsure that they will upgrade any time soon, and someone who expects to grind grain without power.

Electric Grinders
These cost more than manual grinders because they have an electric motor providing the power source. Unsurprisingly, they grind the fastest out of all the various options, and because of this they typically also have a larger grain hopper.

They can be very very loud while running, often compared to jet engines in sound. This comes from the open funnel shape of the hopper, which acts as a speaker for the engine that the grain is going into.

(I own one that can be heard by the neighbors, two doors down, through closed doors. Mine is louder than most, and also an antique, but be aware that noise can be an issue.)

Hybrid Grinders

This type is the least common, but it's my favorite. They default to hand-crank operation, but if you have the money, can also use a specialized electric motor. (It's worth noting that you can buy the motor later if price is an issue.)

Hybrids cost more than manual grinders, and cost more than most electric grinders of the same quality, but if you may be in a situation where power is intermittent, they are the best option.

Price Range
As with all things, quality comes with a price. Expect to pay $40-45 or more for a quality hand crank grinder, with prices going up from there. Electric grinders cost $150 and up for a quality model, with a lot of them starting closer to $200.

A better quality model will often be quieter, easier to operate, and produce a finer flour. It may come with an adjustable fineness setting on the grain, and will usually produce less dust. It may also come with accessories that allow for nifty little things like grinding peanut butter.

A better quality model will often be much easier to clean as well.

For some hand powered and hybrid wheat grinders you can purchase a larger hopper, making it easier to do larger batches of grain.

A number of grain mills have special attachments to make it easier to make specialty flours, such as rice or beans. I have a friend who uses a lot of rice flour in baking and actually had her grain mill pay for itself with a cheap attachment for rice flour.

Use and Cleaning
The vast majority of grinders are fairly simple: add grain and crank the lever or turn on the switch. Read the user's manual first, but I have rarely had issues.

Make sure to clean your grinder thoroughly after every use with dish soap and water or a food safe multi-purpose cleaner, If you end up getting any parts wet, make sure that you dry them completely before using it again.

I recommend using a damp cloth to wipe down the exterior before use. Having an unused toothbrush and some Q-tips to clean hard-to-reach areas can be useful.

Other Options
If you own a Kitchenaid stand mixer or one that is compatible, you can get an attachment for it that grinds grain. If you have a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja blender, there are instructions online on how to grind grain with them.

If you are really desperate, it is even possible to grind wheat with a coffee grinder. I don’t recommend this since it takes a lot of effort, produces a lower quality grain, and is very hard on the coffee grinder, but if you have no other choice it's better than nothing.

Good luck finding the wheat grinder for you, and don’t forget to practice.

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