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02/13/2005: "to the grind"

Today I decided to finally use my new toy, the grain mill I bought last week. I'd purchased a pound of hard wheat with it for something to test it with, and today my wife and I finally got around to deciding that we'd make flour, and then make muffins. I'd originally wanted to do a side-by-side comparison of homemade flour and store-bought flour by baking two batches of the same recipe, but I got lazy. Maybe some other time.

Making your own flour is definitely an interesting experience.

I got the mill out and attached it to our kitchen island. I figured that would be the best place to do my grinding and subsequent clean-up. I set the mill up, dumped in the pound of hard wheat kernels, and started cranking. Well, I tried. Despite the substantial crank arm on the mill, cranking was a real workout. So much so that I realized that I had to move the mill. Our island isn't actually fixed to the floor, it's a floating unit. Of course, being full of cereal, books, small appliances, and such, we really can't move it unless we really try. Well, cranking on the mill started shifting it around, so I opted to re-mount the mill on our kitchen table.

Of course, the table isn't any heavier, so it too was shifting around with each crank of the handle. I managed to get into a rhythm at some point, such that I was cranking smoothly and bracing the table with one foot at the same time, resulting in a pretty good flour production rate. However, I think I'm going to have to find a more substantial mounting point for future grinds.

Speaking of which, this particular mill is attached by screwing a clamping surface to the underside of whatever surface you're mounting to. Well, despite getting it as tight as possible by hand, I quickly had to resort to some sort of leverage to get it even tighter, and even after that reefing the mill was still walking along the edge of the table. I would think that ideally I would simply clamp the unit to something permanently that I can actually screw into with the clamp to ensure a good solid mount. We'll see what happens next time.

After a few minutes of cranking, almost breaking a sweat, and laughing at the table trying to walk away from me with each crank, I had 3 cups of organic whole wheat flour in front of me. I noticed that there were still some kernels left in the feed screw, which were being left there due to the clearance between the feed screw and its housing. I tried putting a few tablespoons of flour back through the mill to push these out, which was partially successful. Most came out, but some stayed behind nonetheless. Next time I won't bother, as it simply makes for more clean-up (flour being on every part of the mill). I'll just grind more kernels at a time, as the amount of waste will always be the same. Either that, or I'll simply collect what doesn't get ground up and save it, as whole grains keep indefinitely.

Once I was done grinding I remembered to touch the milling plates. This isn't a normal part of grain milling procedure, but I wanted to see how warm/hot the plates got during grinding. One article I read warned against high milling temperatures, as the temperatures will destroy beneficial parts of the resulting flour. As it turns out, the plates were warm, but just so. I could tell they were warm, but they certainly weren't hot to the touch by any means, likely well below any threshold that I'd need to worry about.

As for the muffins, they're tasty. I think I ground the flour a bit coarse, however. Once I got going I didn't even think to try to get things finer - I was producing what looked like fairly fine flour. The muffins tell a slightly different story, however, as they taste slightly coarse, as compared to store-bought flour. They're still very yummy, just not icing sugar fine. I'll play with it again next time and see how fine I can go.

So far, so good. Off to by more grains!

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