Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Diamant Review

Diamant's Model D - 525 Grain Mill was used for this test. I ground 6 cups of flour in two passes. The Diamant will grind finely in the first pass. However, I have found that it's much easier to grind it coarsely then grind it a second time at the fine setting. In total, between the two grinds, it took me 1090 revolutions at 80 RPM which required a time of 13:31 to turn this into a very fine flour.


  • The flywheel, axle and one burr (the rotating parts) equal 21 lbs so once this weight is turning, the momentum (inertia) makes grinding easier than mills without a heavy flywheel.
  • The flywheel handle is longer than some other mills. Two people can turn it by facing each other, each person using one hand to turn the flywheel.
  • The mill contains a 3 inch long brass bushing between the housing and the drive shaft for long life (Note: these have since been upgraded to ball bearings like the Country Living Mill).
  • The flywheel has a groove for a "V" belt if motorization is desired.
  • The mill weighs 53 lbs. Bolting the mill down is highly recommended. Users should be careful not to drop the mill body. Cast iron is far more brittle than steel or aluminum and susceptible to cracking.
  • Mill comes with wrench, screwdriver and parts list.
  • The mill is adjustable to some degree, but different textures of flour require different sets of grinding plates. Diamant sells the All Purpose, Extra Fine, and Extra Coarse grinding plates. Each set runs approximately $135.00.
  • Manufactured in Poland
  • Though the Diamant makes claims of being able to grind nut butters, the truth is that it doesn't do a very good job of it. The Diamant will produce a small bit of nut butter before clogging, and subsequent nut butter must be forced through with some sort of pestel or rod. The Diamant will suffer similar problems with any soft, moist or oily grain, bean, or nut. This is a common difficulty with hand-grinders and not a limitation unique to the Diamant.
  • As flour is hot to the touch as it exits many electric mills, the heat generated may damage the vitamin E content of the flour. The 80 RPM average hand speed in this test using the Diamant didn't heat the flour in any way.
  • Current Price is approximately $1,300.00
Here are the results for a second timed grinding test:
    • I performed two tests using 3 cups of Hard Red Wheat and then again with 3 cups Hard White Wheat to make a total of 9 cups of very fine flour. I milled the grain twice but this time I attempted to make the effort and revolutions the same for the first and the second grind. I measured the threads per inch on the adjustment screw that pushes the rotary burr against the stationary burr so that the burr to burr distance could be determined.

      • First Milling - 0.018", 712 revolutions
      • Second Milling - 0.006", 695 revolutions

      The 1407 Revolutions took 21.6 minutes or 65 RPM. Nine cups of very fine flour were produced from 6 cups of grain, or 156 Revolutions per cup of flour.

Large portions of this review were derived from information and testing data supplied by Don Craig of Kentucky.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Country Living Mill Review

I used to think the United-States-made Country Living Mill (CLM) was over-priced. Our tests have proven to me that the Country Living Mill is the best manual grinder you can get anywhere and well worth the money. Being a burr grinder (carbon steel grinding plates*), it gives quite a nice, fine grind the first time through. It is an easy grinder to turn and grinds fast. It will grind wheat to a nice flour twice as fast as the other grinders in the study. The Diamant is the one exception-- however, the CLM's performance is roughly equivalent to the Diamant but $900.00 cheaper! The CLM is a wonderfully durable grinder. It actually uses ball bearings, at one time the only grinder that didn't use bushings (Recognizing a good thing, recently the Diamant and at least one other grinder has adopted the use of ball bearings). This grinder will last a lifetime, maybe several.

The CLM is light, being made of an aircraft grade aluminum. For those of you with aluminum concerns, the CLM has what is called a 'powder coating' which is baked into an extremely hard protective coating. With the powder coating, you never have to worry about your grain coming into contact with the aluminum. The burrs are made of carbon steel. In my tests, only the Family Grain Mill beat the CLM's efficiency. But because that grinder is such a light duty machine, grinding efficiency is the only comparison that can be made between the two grinders.

I ground 10 cups of wheat in 22 minutes with the CLM**. It was not hard work. That extra-long seven-inch wooden handle was especially nice. The handle alone made the job so much nicer as I could easily use both hands on it. As much as I liked the handle, I'd have liked it even more if it was just one inch longer. For the first 5 cups of wheat ground, I used the power bar extension. For the second 5 cups I took the extension off. Because of the shorter radius I was able to turn the grinder even faster as it still wasn't that hard for me to turn. Women and children may need the extension, but should not find it a difficult grinder to operate. I personally own several different grinders. If times ever get tough, I'm certain the CLM will be the very last grinder I'll give away when helping my neighbors. I just love this thing, and as a bonus, I think it's the prettiest grinder made.

Peanut Butter Update: As of early 2015, Country Living introduced a patented accessory called the Peanut Butter Plus, which swaps out the grain grinding plates in exchange for a steel sleeve which inserts into the throat of the mill. A specially designed auger with very close tolerances slides into this sleeve, and a rotating grinding plate locks onto the end of the shaft.

At first, changing out these parts is a bit slow but after a bit of practice it goes fairly quickly. It also helps that clear instructions (which include photographs) come with the Peanut Butter Plus accessory. Additionally, it turns out that there are video instructions on the manufacturer's website and this clears up any lingering questions one might have about the installation.

A number of other grain mills claim to grind peanut butter, and anyone who has tried grinding with these other mills might be forgiven for being skeptical about the Country Living Mill's claims, as well. Once the peanuts are poured into the hopper it takes about thirty seconds of grinding for the auger to load up and for peanut butter to start extruding from the grinding plates. The auger has a hook on it which breaks up the nuts as they are dragged toward the grinding plates.

Though a wooden pestel is included with the Peanut Butter Plus accessory, I found it wasn't necessary to use it with peanuts at all--and the mill grinds peanut butter at a faster rate than any of the other mills I've tried. The front hub is adjustable and locks in with an Allen wrench when you find the desired setting. Those who like crunchy peanut butter can adjust the mill accordingly, and those who like medium crunchy or smooth peanut butter can easily do those as well with just a little bit of experimenting in order to find the right setting.

At $185.00 for the Peanut Butter Plus accessory the price is fairly steep, but the performance is light years ahead of any other hand mill I've tried. There's no plastic and every part is a machined steel casting.

For those interested in grinding other nuts you might be interested to know that it handles cashews, macadamia, walnuts, and pecans, though some of these must be broken up with the pestel to accommodate feeding. Almonds don't handle as well, as they are harder nuts and don't have the oil content of these others, though I discovered that a mixed nut blend which includes almonds grinds without any difficulties. 

Coarse coffee grinds are managed facilely with the Country Living Peanut Butter accessory and I find that very fine (Turkish or espresso grinds) can be accomplished quickly and easily if one dribbles smaller quantities through while grinding. If one attempts a fine coffee grind with a full hopper the grinding becomes very difficult as the auger loads up. 

*Some cast iron or steel burrs can produce as fine as flour as stone burrs. The fineness of the grind is a function of the design of the burrs and not just the material from which they are constructed.

**The manufacturer's estimate for the speed of flour production is more conservative than the results of this test. They suggest setting aside 20 to 25 minutes to grind 7 cups of bread flour.

Comparing Flours

We start out with the coarsest grinds on the left and progress to ever finer flours as we move to the right. The finer the grind, the better the gluten will develop - the better the flour for bread making.

  1. This is wheat after the first pass through the Corona or Victoria grinder. The wheat is just cracked. Some whole kernels of wheat make it through.
  2. Wheat after a second pass through the Corona or Victoria grinder. It's finer than the first grind, but still has the coarseness of cracked wheat. The Corona and Victoria mills are not good grinders for bread making.
  3. This is Germade, which is included as a reference point to give you some idea where the surrounding flours are on the scale.
  4. This flour is from the Back to Basics or Family Grain Grinder after the first grind. In my opinion this flour is still too coarse to make good bread.
  5. This flour is from the Back to Basics or Family Grain Grinder after the second grind.
  6. Flour from the Diamant, Little Ark with burrs, and Silver Nugget with burrs. This is not a super fine flour but good enough for bread making.
  7. The Silver Nugget with Stones.
  8. The Little Ark with Stones.
  9. Flour ground with an impact grinder - almost the consistency of white, processed flour. This sample, coming from an electric grinder, was also a reference point to compare the other flours to. It's a little darker in color than white flour because of the wheat bran but if you conduct a 'Pinch Test' you will feel very little difference between the two flours. The Silver Nugget, The Little Ark, and the Country Living Grain Mill are capable of producing flour as fine as this on a tighter setting--though production of flour is measurably slower.
  10. White, processed flour --bleached and nutritionless--included only as a reference point.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Grind Test Chart

From top to bottom: The Country Living, The Nugget, The Little Ark, The Back to Basics, The Family Grain Mill, The Corona and the Diamant.

Click on the chart to view a larger version

[1] With power bar extension handle

[2] Minutes and seconds required to grind one cup of flour at 60 RPM with stones or burrs set at .005 inch. The Family Grain Mill and Back to Basics Grinder burrs were set tight.

[3] Minutes required to grind 10 cups of flour. This time included putting wheat through twice with the Family Grain Mill and Back to Basics Grinders because of their coarse grind on the first pass.

[4] The Country Living Mill will produce a talcum-powder fineness of pastry flour on one pass, but the speed of production is greatly reduced.

[5]The Diamant will make a fine grind with only one pass, but the Diamant test administrator chose to grind the wheat in two passes as he feels it easier to grind this way.

[6] There will be some variation in cost from vendor to vendor