Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Back to Basics

This is the smallest grinder we tested and also the least expensive. It's also the slowest grinder, and requires the wheat to be ground twice to get a sufficiently fine flour to make decent bread. This little grinder is all metal except for the top of the funnel which is plastic. The drive mechanism is steel from one end of it to the other--unlike the Family Grain Mill which uses plastic pieces.

I personally don't own one of these grinders, so I borrowed one for the test. This first grinder took 25 minutes to grind one cup of wheat during the 1 cup test. I called another friend who also has one of these grinders and she told me her grinder was a lot faster than that. Using her grinder, I ground a cup of wheat in only 6 minutes. 
I took the first grinder apart and found that the burr cone was damaged. It looked like someone had ground wheat with a little piece of metal in it and had dulled the little teeth on the burrs. The small grinding teeth, instead of being broken off, like you would expect if they were made from good quality steel, were bent over, reflecting soft steel. When I took this grinder back to its owner, he said he'd only had it for a year and didn't know when it became damaged. I can only expect the burrs are made out of too soft a metal. So if you get one of these grinders, you need to be extra mindful to only grind very clean wheat. Your grinder will drastically lose it's efficiency in just a second or two if it encounters a kernel sized piece of metal.
 
It took me 80 minutes to grind 10 cups of wheat with the undamaged Back to Basics grinder. This included the time it took to put the wheat through twice as it grinds so coarsely on the first pass. I really don't like this grinder because it takes so long to grind a bunch of wheat. Even turning it at 120 rpm, which is about as fast as you can turn it, it takes 6 minutes to run a cup of wheat through this thing twice. The second time through, the coarse flour doesn't feed well through the hopper and must be continually worked down with a table knife or a similar instrument. The other grinders in this study got me too spoiled to put up with how slow this mill grinds.
This grinder does turn easily, however, being the easiest grinder in the study to crank. Because of this, it would be a good grinder for those people who aren't very strong.

So, what's this grinder good for? If you never plan on actually using it, but are keeping it in reserve for hard times, then maybe this grinder will fit your needs. It will grind wheat, however it will grind the wheat slowly. I expect that it could grind a lot of clean wheat before it wore out. But for those of you who only keep a grinder in reserve for hard times, the argument can be made that if your family ever does find hard times, you are going to want a grinder that can grind a large amount of flour fairly quickly. 
If you feel this way, don't get a Back to Basics. The Back to Basics would be well suited for grinding up small quantities of seeds for specialized purposes. I've talked with several people who have bought these things for grinding herbs. If your herbs consist of bark, leaves or wood, this grinder will disappoint you. Throw those things into a fast turning blender instead.

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