If I am honest the majority of us brewers did not start our beer making journey by running out and picking up a grain mill for home brewing. Most of us started out but picking up an extract beer kit either online or at the local home brew supply store.
Our first beers were an adventure to say the least. We had fun making them and we had fun drinking them. But over time we decided that it was time to spread our wings and venture deeper into the world of brewing and that is when we got the bright idea to jump into the world of all-grain brewing.
One of the highlights and reasons why home-brewers get into this awesome hobby of homebrewing is so they can have the ability to make whatever type of beer they want, whenever they want. How great is it to be able to craft the perfect beer for your taste buds.
And one of the pieces of equipment that allows us homebrewers to accomplish this is a grain mill.
A big reason I am a huge fan of having your own grain mill and crushing your own grains is that I am a huge fan of BIAB or brew in a bag. And one of the strategies a BIAB brewer implements is getting a fine crush to his/her grains, because this will allow the efficiency to be similar to other forms of all grain brewing.
And of course there is a huge cost savings when you buy your grain in bulk. However in order to buy in bulk you will in most cases need to crush your own grains.
One of the Big Reasons We All Brew
In the words of William Wallace… FREEDOM!!
One of the reasons we brew beer is because it allows us the freedom to brew what we want when we want. As home brewers we are no longer restricted by the whims and desires of others.
I hate when I am in the mood for a certain style of beer that I can almost taste it, only to get to the pub or tap room and they are all out of that style. As homebrewers if we want a certain style of craft beer we can have it whenever we like and we are no longer restricted to only drinking what our local brewery has on tap this week.
If I am in the mood for a Dry Irish Stout as a home brewer I can have one on tap or bottled up ready to drink when the desire to have one hits me. It’s a great game changer and one of the reasons most of us brew.
Just as the sword was William Wallace’s weapon against oppression the Grain Mill is ours!!
Having a Grain Mill at Home is Simply Convenient
Get your grains, fire up the mill and crush those grains and you are ready to roll.
No more waiting around your local homebrew shop for the store employee to crush the grains of all of the other brewers who got their brew day order placed before you. And if waiting is not bad enough, how about when he gets to you and politely lets you know that their mill has conked out and is out of order for the day. There goes brew day. She gone!
With my local home brew shop you actually order your grains online and then drop by and pick them up. There is an added charge for them to mill your grains for you and you have to wait an extra 24 hours to pick up your order, so last minute brew days are not possible.
So with both of those situations my plan of being prepared nice and early to fire up the burners and get my brew awwn would be gone. I have all of the ingredients my recipe calls for but because my grains are not milled I am unable to brew and will have to put it off until next week. Major freaking problem that could have been avoided if I had my grain mill at home.
In my opinion the grain mill is the top of the 2nd
set of equipment you purchase.
Of course if you were a beer kit brewer you started out with the fermenter, bottles or keg. And then when you first get into all grain brewing you will want to get your brew house set up, if you are like me that would consist of an all-in-one electric brew system which is basically an electric BIAB system. If you are not a brew in a bag brewer then of course you will need your 2 or 3 vessel system.
But after you have all of this stuff the grain mill should be next on your wish list.
Bulk Buying Simply Makes Sense
Homebrewing has gone insanely popular. Jump on Facebook and I promise you there is a Facebook group set up for local homebrewers in your area.
Get involved with the group and if it is not already happening (it probably is) set up a group buying program where people in the group order grains together from suppliers in bulk. This will become a major cost savings for you throughout the year.
Even if you don’t set up a buyers group, I still highly recommend you buy your grains in bulk for yourself. When you do so you will experience a major discount in grain cost. At least buy the base grains in bulk.
I love having grains on hand in my home brewery ready to go when I feel like brewing. Once you go this route you will see there are a ton of advantages to doing so verses having to order or run out and pick up grains every time you wish to brew.
However, you will of course require a grain mill to make this happen.
Controlling the Gap – Is a Big Plus
As stated earlier. Being able to set the gap in your mill resulting in how fine of a crush you get is a huge advantage. And this is especially true for Brew in a Bag brewers like me. (LINK)
I like to really crush my grains up. Some people complain that when you do so you end up with more dough balls in the mash, but I do not find this to be true. Perhaps it is because I stir the heck out of my mash when I dough in and throughout the mash itself. What I like about being able to set the gap close and milling my grains fine is that my efficiency goes through the roof.
I notice a big difference in my efficiency when I mill my own grains verses buying them pre-milled from a local homebrew or online shop. Even on my 2 vessel system in my old Micro-Brewery I found the finer the crush the better. So this is not just an advantage for BIAB brewers.
An added benefit of increasing your efficiency is you use less grains. Resulting in you saving even more money. Win win baby!
Big Robb Tips to Using a Grain Mill
- Don’t go cheap on your homebrew grain mill. Buy the best one you can afford. Save up a little longer and get a good one. Quality really matters with mills.
- You will want to mill your grains outside or in a very well ventilated area. Or get a dust mask to wear. The grain dust can build up fast.
- Make sure you get a hopper with your mill. This will allow you to mill more grains at a time without having to stop to pour more into the mill. Although this may sound like something minor, trust me once you get that drill cranking and milling at the perfect setting you do not want to stop to add more grains. The mill can get blocked with grains and stopping the drill will make it more prone to do so, which means you will have to clean the mill in the middle of your milling.
- Mill your grains into a plastic bucket or rubber maid container. If you are milling the night before brew day be sure to put the cover on the container.
- Sometimes you will find that the mill will not grab the grain and crush it. What I have found is if I stick a flat head screw driver or a butter knife down between the rollers it will either remove what is jamming the rollers or it forces grains down into the gap and allows the rollers to grab onto them and off it goes again.
- If you do not have a gap gauge to set the gap between your rollers; I have found that a credit card works great. The width of the card results in pretty much a perfect crush.
To Wrap It Up
A grain mill for home brewing is not a make and break it deal by any means. You can brew and do so very well without one.
However, it is your next step if you are serious about really dialing in how your beer turns out. By being able to control the crush of your grain and dialing in your efficiency you are getting into next level brewing stuff. The beers made with the help of a mill are the ones that win the gold medals at the homebrew events.
Plus as indicated having the ability to brew when you want any time you want is a huge benefit of owning a mill and the amount of money you will save in grains will pay for the mill in no time.
If you have any questions about how to use a mill feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to help. Simply drop a comment in the comment section below and I will be sure to get back to you.
Cheer and happy home brewing.
Big Robb, well he gone!!