After our hand-made bean flour experiment, we looked around for a handcrank flour mill that wouldn’t be too expensive. Even though mankind has been grinding grain by hand much longer than with machinery, we felt that a simple handcrank device would be a nice item to have for not only processing grains but also nuts, herbs and spices too.
We don’t store wheat and we don’t use much flour. We do store beans, rice and rolled oats and we’re learning to get what little flour we need from these foods. We plan to try turning the local crops like corn and soybeans into flour later this year. There’s also some foraging opportunities in our area that could potentially yield some wild grains and seeds for flour.
There’s a pretty fair selection of these mills with prices ranging from under $20.00 to around $90.00. We selected a mid-priced model sold by Weston Supply. Weston’s distribution center and Customer Service are located in the US. This mill is made in China.
The mill arrived undamaged by UPS along with assembly and use instructions. The first step in the instructions stated the mill’s parts needed to be cleaned with a mild detergent and warm water. This is an understatement. When the box was initially opened, the fumes from the corrosion-preventative nearly knocked me over. The parts are plated or “washed” in what is probably nickel but the factory also apparently dips them in an oil that can best be described as smelling like dirty fuel oil. Mild detergent didn’t have any effect on this oil and I ended up washing them in a citrus degreaser first and then a mild dish detergent. The instructions advise against using a dishwasher but I don’t know the reasoning behind that…there doesn’t seem to be anything about this mill that couldn’t withstand a cycle in the dishwasher.
Once cleaned, we took a close look at all of the pieces. This mill appears to have been hand finished after casting. Nothing fancy at all. In fact, some of the craftsmanship is pretty rough. The plating is good and all the parts look solid and non-defective.
Assembly is simple and well documented in the instructions. Everything fit together fine. The only complaint I have is a minor one: There are some gaps around the base of the feed bowl when it’s installed on the mill which will allow some smaller sized material to fall out of the bowl.
Once assembled, we were anxious to give it a try so the mill was clamped to a bench. The mill came with a rubber foot that fits over the clamp to protect your counter’s surface. The clamp works well and held tight throughout the following test.
We test-ground three items: Rolled Oats, Rice and Red Beans. The rolled oats were first. A cup’s worth were dumped into the hopper and the mill was adjusted to “coarse”. The oats were run through the mill and indeed came out coarse. They were run through two more times with the mill being adjusted finer each time. The final run produced a beautiful, fluffy fine flour. Each pass through the mill took less than 30 seconds. And as expected, the gap at the bottom of the bowl did allow some of the grain to leak out before grinding. Not much but it is still something that could have been avoided if the two parts would have been fitted properly at the factory.
Rice was run through next in the same fashion, coarse to fine. The mill did a good job although the flour produced was not as fine as the oats.
The red beans were ground last. The mill struggled a little on the first pass but each pass was easier. This first batch of bean flour ended up being coarser than the rice flour. It’s possible that the beans weren’t dehydrated enough and some material caked up on the grinder plates preventing complete adjustment. Further experimentation may be necessary but even the flour that was produced this time could be sifted and would be fine for flatbread. It may be hard to see the difference in the flours in the photos below but you may be able to tell by the dark particles in the bean flour.
Overall we like this little mill and we can recommend it. We will probably order another just to have a spare. There’s a few flaws with ours but they don’t impair it’s performance. It’s completely constructed of cast iron (except for the stainless steel hopper and wooden handle). There’s not much that can go wrong with this mill. I don’t see any potential problems that would make me think it could break. The grinding plates could possibly wear out at some point with heavy use so I may end up ordering an extra set. If you want a simple piece of equipment that can grind big pieces into little pieces, this will meet your needs. The workmanship is a little rough so if you’re looking for perfection this mill isn’t for you.
This mill is available from Amazon.com