I like to make and eat whole wheat bread, but whole wheat flour does not store well. I have been buying whole wheat flour, a bag at a time, and using it to make my whole wheat bread; and then I have been keeping white flour in my food storage. The problem is that I don’t ever use the white flour, and it doesn’t keep for very long either (about a year). The other day I had about 30 pounds of white flour come up for removal, meaning that I had to dump it in my compost bed. This did not make me happy. It is just too wasteful.
So, I decided that I would go the route of storing hard red wheat and grinding my own whole wheat flour using a hand operated grain mill. Hard red wheat can be purchased in nitrogen packed barrels that hold about 45 pounds of wheat and have a storage life of around 30 years if left unopened.
I am not one to jump into anything without doing a little research and experimentation, so I decided to buy a bag of hard red wheat at the local health food store (25 pounds for $12.10) and a medium grade grain mill to test the process out. I went on-line and looked at several grain mills and read the reviews. I didn’t want to buy a piece of junk, but I also wasn’t ready to invest a bunch of money in a mill only to find that I wouldn’t use it. I decided that the Victorio Back to Basics Grain Mill looked like a good middle of the road mill that I could use to test out the process without a huge investment. The Back to Basics mill retails for anywhere from $65 to $80 dollars. Always one to look for a good deal, I went on E-bay to see if I could find one there. There was one, new in the box, up for bid, and I ended up getting it for $28.00 plus shipping.
When the mill arrived I removed it from the box, washed it off and assembled it. Assembly was pretty straight forward and simple.
Insert the rod with the grinding burs through the hole in the body of the mill.
Slide the neoprene washer over the rod.
Slip the cranking handle onto the end of the rod.
Insert and snug down the screw that holds the crank on.
Attach the mill to the edge of the counter.
And, finally, place the hopper on top of the mill.
The first thing that I noticed is that the burs of the mill sit fairly low, so you will have to use a shallow bowl to catch the flour. After I had a bowl in place I decided to test the capacity of the hopper. It holds about two cups of head red wheat. I wanted to measure the amount of flour produced and the time it takes to grind the flour, so I decided to put only one cup of wheat into the hopper for my experiment.
I loaded the hopper with one cup of wheat and started grinding. The crank was fairly easy to turn, and the flour started spilling out into the bowl. I set a fairly slow but steady pace with the crank, turning it one revolution every two seconds. I felt that this was a pace that I could keep up for an extended period of time. At this pace it took me almost exactly seven minutes to grind one cup of wheat. That one cup of wheat produced just a little over one-and-a-half cups of flour. Since my bread recipe calls for four cups of flour per loaf, I figure that it will take about twenty minutes of grinding per loaf.
I noticed that the flour is a little more coarse than what comes from the store, so I ran a cup through the mill a second time. It didn’t seem to make much difference. I went ahead and ground up enough flour to bake a loaf of bread and cooked it using my usual recipe. It turned out very well. Click here for a link to my bread recipe.
My over all impression of the Back to Basics Mill is that it is a good middle of the road grain mill. It is well made and operates easily. It is the perfect mill for hobbyists who like to bake the occasional loaf of bread, make home-made tortillas, etc. I do not think that it has the capacity, speed, or durability that you would look for in a mill that you plan to use on a regular basis for year after year.
I enjoyed grinding my own flour to bake with, so I will pursue the idea of storing hard red wheat. In the mean time I will be looking for a more suitable grain mill. I have read good things about the Country Living Grain Mill and that may be my next purchase; but at $429.00 I may have to save my pennies for a while. I particularly like the idea that the Country Living Mill can be attached to a bicycle so that you can grind by pedaling. I’ll let you know more about it when I get one.