Monday, May 11, 2009

GrainMaker Review

The first thing I noticed about the Grain Maker No. 99, besides its fire-engine-red powder coating, was its impressive all steel construction. With a shipping weight of 23 pounds and the price of $675.00, it is definitely a sturdy piece of machinery. Its frame is built on a tube of steel with welded joints. Equally impressive are the steel plates, which show some intricate machining.

The Grain Maker comes with a limited lifetime warranty and I with this kind of construction I can see why the manufacturers (BitterRoot Tool and Machine) were willing to back up their product.

The flywheel is a few inches smaller than that of the Country Living Grain Mill, but the extension bar is long enough so that it equals that of the Country Living Mill with the power bar extension accessory--and provides the same amount of leverage.

The proof of the grinder is in the flour, so I mounted the Grain Maker to an immovable work bench with washers and wood screws and set about to give the Grainmaker a test run.

The adjustment knob requires a provided hex key wrench to adjust the consistency of the flour. The hood sits directly over the plates and knob, and I found it difficult to adjust because of the minimal clearance between the knob and the hood. Those with smaller fingers might have an easier time of it. However, the hood is removable and the plates can be adjusted more easily without it in the way.

I adjusted the grinding plates so that the mill was producing a decent, but slightly gritty, bread flour (about a 7 on the scale of 1 to 10: 10 being a cake flour). The first thing that I noticed was that the mill was next to impossible to turn with one hand (some background: I'm 190 pounds and lift weights to stay fit). I could only get short bursts of motion, and not enough sustained momentum to make an entire revolution of the flywheel.

Seeing that it was necessary to use both hands, I found that the handle was a couple of inches too short to comfortably use both hands, but by overlapping I was able to get the mill moving--barely. This mill, plainly, wasn't designed for manual use by anyone but Hercules or the Incredible Hulk. After five minutes of grinding I felt as though I had done three sets of bench presses, and I discovered the weak point in the mill's construction. The handle is a drilled plastic rod with some foam padding for comfort. By the end of five minutes the foam padding had slipped off and torn.  Note: The handle design has been improved on current models.

The literature that comes with the Grainmaker suggests that you should "expect to output one cup of flour a minute." This may be true for a very coarse flour, but I found that for a slightly gritty bread flour that 2 1/2 minutes per cup is closer to the truth. This is still quite speedy, but you'll need someone burly to do the grinding.

Close inspection of the instructions suggests that it "may be necessary to take out the stainless steel Grainbreaker auger for easier grinding". I think that not only may it be necessary, but you should immediately take the Grainbreaker auger out of the mill and toss it into the garbage can.

With the Grainbreaker removed the difficulty of grinding grain with the Grainmaker finally falls into the realm of capability of the less than super-human. The mill will produce a finer flour (8 on the scale of 10) at a rate of one cup per 3 1/2 minutes. The mill still requires a fair amount of torque to turn--more torque than it takes to turn a Country Living Mill equipped with the power bar extension handle option.

Another claim that I put to the test is the assertion that the Grainmaker can do peanuts. The nuts wouldn't feed, so I had to mash them into tiny bits. At this point the bits began to feed into the grinding plates. Unfortunately, those bits never exited--even when I loosened the grinding plates. The only peanut butter that I managed to produce was the goo stuck between the plates. Any claim that the Grainmaker can grind oily product like nuts or seeds appears to be founded in wishful thinking.

Let's face it. Hand grinding flour is hard work, but grinding flour with the Grainmaker is harder work than comparable mills. Its saving grace is that, like the Diamant and Country Living Mill, it has a v-groove in the flywheel, which can be hooked to a motor. However, if you plan to motorize your Grainmaker you'd better make sure your motor has plenty of torque.


Mike said...

My understanding is the auger is for large grains and nuts, such as corn and peanuts. I think I read this on the companies website and on another site that gave a brief review.

So I wonder if you used the auger for the peanuts and still had problems, or did not use the auger for the peanuts?

I have not purchased one, nor do I have anything to do with the company, but I have been researching this mill and the Country living grain mill.

Trebor said...

We tried grinding nuts both with and without the grainbreaker auger, neither with any success.

We've yet to find a hand mill that does a good job grinding nuts.

Approse said...

I've been using this mill for over a year now and the review here is right on the money! The grinding plates are MUCH to fine to be of any use for anything but grinding wheat or the like. Once motorized with a gear unit it does make good flour, I didn't last past the first few hoppers of manual grinding. The biggest annoyance of manual grinding is you absolutely have to trickle in the grain you're grinding. With the amount of effort required to turn the mill you just can not do both operations. I've recently been trying corn meal with limited success. I did 30lbs this week but you have to stand there and trickle a few grains in at a time. Otherwise it will clog the "throat" at the cracker area, and/or will gum/clog the plates. The plates definitely can not handle anything but the driest/non-powdering grains. Rice - no, tapioca -no , barley - yes but will clog very easily. Most other smaller grains it handles well.
As a final note, evidently the instructions have changed since I purchased my unit. There were no references to the auger, much less a stainless one, mines plastic. The only instructions (which were totally unhelpful) instructed you to set the adjustment and run it through..... DOESN'T HAPPEN THAT WAY. Also, although everything was registered 5 ways from never and purchased on EBAY from the company, there has been no communications from the company at all concerning updates for parts, operating procedures or anything else. In the very near future, I'll be purchasing a CLGM to do what this one can't.

Bonnie said...

We would appreciate an opportunity to speak to you concerning this post since it concerns our product. Our desire is to keep a good name and we make every effort to keep our customers happy. We have offered to refund your money, replace your mill or check into any parts that may be giving you problems. My husband designed this mill for me eleven years ago and it is personal to me when someone is not satisfied with their product. Please give us the opportunity to make this right for you. Thank you. Bonnie

viragoxvsepa said...

RE: Corona grinder; I'm a real newbie to grain grinding but wanted to try making tortillas from lime soaked yellow dent corn. After treating the corn I put the damp corn into my Wonder Mill Jr. But even at the coarsest setting the auger was not large enough to handle the large corn kernels, even though smaller hard wheat is ground nicely. I switched to a Corona grinder I'd bought new at an auction; the corn went through like magic and though a little coarse, was just fine for my initial cooking attempt. Bottom line is the Corona may have a place in our "kitchen tool shed"! I intend to look for a larger auger for my Wonder Mill Jr.
Thanks for a great, much needed discussion site!

~AnnaB~ said...

Anyone heard anything on the red paint not being FDA approved or toxic?

Bonnie said...

Thank you for your question. The finish we apply is a powder coat finish that is baked on and not paint. We NEVER put any type of finish on the inside of the feeding tube where the grain is being fed to the burrs so there is no chance of any material coming off in your food supply. Thank you again and please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Zero21557 said...

I have been looking at several manufacturers of grinders and this model continues to come up. People either love it or have issues with it. At $700 I need to be certain it will be a wise investment for part time and emergency use.based on the comments posted here I should stick with another brand, however I see the model here everywhere. Is this a market flood or a good product? Thanks.


Zero21557 said...

I have been looking at several manufacturers of grinders and this model continues to come up. People either love it or have issues with it. At $700 I need to be certain it will be a wise investment for part time and emergency use.based on the comments posted here I should stick with another brand, however I see the model here everywhere. Is this a market flood or a good product? Thanks.


Michael Kunst said...

Although the last post dates back quite a while, I'd like to add my experience. I was - like many others intrigued by the GrainMaker Mill. Sturdy, beautifully handcrafted, build in the US etc. We are a group of three bakers who bake weekly and thought the GrainMaker could get us started on moving from pre milled flour to grinding our own. Purchase and delivery was flawless and we admired the mill after it arrived. Milling turned out to be really tough (see the comments above - we could either only get very coarse flour or had to rest after a cup max. that was how hard it was to produce fine flour). We got back on the phone with Bonnie form GrainMaker and she was extremely helpful and professional. We had to send the mill back with a sample of our grain and it turned out the moisture content was too high which made for the hard crank. This is apparently a common problem for grain locally sourced in the North East (we are in Boston) so I thought I'd share our story so that the mill is seen in the right light. With regrets we had to return the mill and now have a Nutrimill. it does the job but the joy of operating it is a far cry from the GrainMaker - and for you bread aficionados, I know you will understand. I want to thank Bonnie and the GrainMaker for their great help and although the outcome was negative for us, I will remember the interaction fondly/. I learned a lot about grain.

Pearl Emmons said...

@ Michael Kunst.

I am looking for a mill and I live in new England and use local grains. Would love to hear more about your experience.