Q & A: Grain Mill Options

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Welcome to the Question and Answer series at GNOWFGLINS! Many questions come through the comments or the contact form; some of them can be better answered by reaching out to all of you for your input. So, please jump in with your thoughts, suggestions, and best advice to help a reader out.

Today, we have two questions because they are related. They come from Jory, my college friend. It is so good to reconnect with you, Jory!

She asks:

  1. Which is the best way to grind grain: Vitamix (even though there is a danger of overheating the grain) or a grain mill?
  2. What are your reader’s experiences with Vitamix vs. Blendtec?

Because I can only speak about the Vitamix, I’d like to ask for your input on these questions. I’ll talk a bit about my experiences, and then you take it from there! :)

Vitamix v. Stand-Alone Grain Mill

With regard to the first question, I can say that I am happy and content with my Vitamix. I have read criticisms that the flour is not fine enough, but I handle that by never exceeding the 2 cups of whole grain recommended per batch of flour. Also, I grind each batch for 1 minute and 19 seconds on high, while constantly moving the tamper to keep the grain circulating. Vitamix recommends 1 minute on high for a batch of flour.

Here’s a recommendation: Don’t ever, ever use the wet container to grind flour. Use the dry container; it is designed for the grinding. The other day I grabbed the wet container by accident. Don’t ask me why, I’ve had the Vitamix for 6-1/2 years and never made that mistake before. I ground two batches of flour in it before I realized that I was using the wrong container. The machine sounded funny and it could not circulate the grain well. The blades were hanging up in the grain, instead of everything circulating freely. I was happy to find out that the problem was user error instead of broken machine.

Before I got the Vitamix, I used the grain grinder at Whole Foods to produce fresh ground whole wheat flour. I compared that flour with the Vitamix flour, and I found that the Vitamix flour was more fine. I wish I could compare the Vitamix flour to a Whispermill’s flour, as the Whispermill seems to be to be the industry standard, most popular, stand-alone home mill.

A good test of whether flour is fine enough or not is: how do the baked goods turn out? My breads turn out soft and fluffy, and my pastries turn out chewy, gooey, or whatever texture they’re supposed to be (as long as the recipe works, too). So, I’m happy and content.

The Issue of Heat

Now, the second part of the first question, regarding the heating of the flour. The main risks of heating the flour are that the flour will lose more nutrients through oxidation, that the oil in the grain may tend toward rancidity due to heating, and that the flour’s enzymes will die.

The flour does come out warm from the Vitamix, but not hot. When I think back and remember grinding flour at Whole Foods, that flour came out warm, too. Still, since the flour is warm, no doubt about it, let’s address those risks.

First, nutrient loss. This is possible. I wish I could find some information on how temperature affects nutrient loss. Let’s assume some nutrients are lost. No matter what, this flour is still better than purchasing flour at the store,where the grain has likely been sitting around many months and is pretty far gone in terms of nutrients. Now, could another mill like a Whispermill do better? You tell me.

Next, rancid oil. Let’s use wheat germ oil for an example, as that would be the fat present if you were grinding whole wheat. Its smoke point, the temperature where it burns and denatures, is 225 degrees Fahrenheit. (FYI: Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.) Now I haven’t measured the temperature of the flour, but I believe I can say it is definitely not that high. But because the fat was heated somewhat during the grinding, it is possible that the oils wouldn’t last as long if you were to store your flour indefinitely. But instead of being a reason not to use the Vitamix, that’s just another reason to grind your flour fresh and use it right away.

Finally, enzyme loss. Enzymes die when their temperature exceeds 118 degrees. Since enzymes expire during baking anyway, this is irrelevant to me. And anyway, whole grains (unsoaked) contain enzyme inhibitors, God’s natural way of preserving the whole grain until germination. So if another mill could do a better job at preserving enzymes, the inhibitors would prevent us getting any use out of them (More.) But remember, they die when baked anyway.

Ways to Produce Less Heat

Some ways to reduce the heat produced during the grinding process are:

  1. start with frozen whole grains
  2. allow the Vitamix time to rest in between batches
  3. use small batches
  4. grind each batch for a shorter, rather than longer time
  5. grind with liquid (ala Sue Gregg’s blender/batter recipes)
  6. use the dry container for grinding flour, NOT the wet container

(Some of these tips came from The Fresh Loaf.)

Vitamix v. Blendtec

I simply can’t answer the second question. What is your opinion? I don’t suppose anyone has owned both machines? ;) No matter, if you bought one or the other, can you say why you made that choice? If you chose another mill entirely, would you share why? Thanks for your input, everyone!

Got a question for the Q & A series? Use the contact form to let me know.

I’m sharing this post in FoodRenegade’s Fight Back Friday.

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Comments

  1. Magda says

    I happen to have a Blendtec and love it. My mom has a Vitamix and loves it as well!! I have heard good things about both. I honestly think you cannot go wrong with either. My mom has made smoothies and hot soups in hers. I have mainly done smoothies and milkshakes. I cannot comment on grinding since neither one of us has done it in our machines.
    I went with a Blendtec because I got a good deal in ebay. It was a floor model, so barely used but came with a warranty in almost brand new condition. I noticed prices were much better for used Blendtecs vs used Vitamixes. My almost new Blendtec was cheaper than used Vitamixes.
    Costco is now selling Blendtecs so that may be a good option if you want to try one out.
    Hope this helps.

  2. says

    I have used a Whisper Mill for 13 years and it’s still going strong. We use it for all grains.

    As for the blender, we’ve only used a Vitamix. We purchased ours at Costco several years ago and use it daily (sometimes several times a day.) Absolutely could not do without it.

  3. says

    I received a NutriMill for Christmas last year, and it was an investment we have not regretted. Previously, I had been “borrowing” a mill from a generous friend; we would split a 50# bucket of wheat, and she’d grind it for me as-needed (this is a GREAT option if you can find a friend to split the cost of a good mill — unfortunately, my friend moved away and took her mill with her).

    The drawbacks to a NutriMill:
    1) It’s big. You’ll want to have a place to stash it when you aren’t using it (mine stays in a low cabinet when not in use).
    2) It’s loud. Good thing the baby sleeps upstairs.
    3) I haven’t found that there’s much variety in the coarseness of grains. So I can’t grind corn so that it’s a very coarse grind, even though it’s supposed to have that ability.

    The flour comes out warm in my mill — but it’s hard for me to believe that it’s much warmer than hand-grinding; it’s the friction that causes heat, not the motor — right?

    So, yes, I love mine. Now, if I could just get a dehydrator…
    .-= Katy@ThoughtForFood´s last blog post… GO, MIDWEST!!!! GO, GO, MIDWEST!!! =-.

  4. gabrielle says

    when i wanted a high power blender, i tried out my friends vita-mix for one week. it was good, but i had a few gripes with it: i didnt like having to plunge everything; it was too tall and ungainly to fit on the counter, under the cabinets; it had very limited settings/controls (just a high and low basically).

    for the price, i wanted something that didnt have these issues and another friend recommended blend-tec (she had both and preferred blend-tec hands down). when i found out it would save me a coule of hundred dollars AND could be used for wet and dry in one container, i was sold.

    i researched this and found that blend-tec was the industry standard for commercial kitchens. most coffee places (starbucks, dutch brothers, all those little drive-thrus) use the blend-tec. but it was always sold commercially and not marketed for home use. this is what made it less expensive. they do not have to pay commissions for people to demonstrate at costco or link from websites, or stock it in stores with a mark-up.

    i am very pleased with mine for nearly 5 years now. and they have a great warrantee (as does vitamix). they also have excellent customer service. and it has a wide range of speed and settings with one-touch preprogrammed settings for certain items (like for smoothies it starts slow, then builds up speed and slows again- all automatically). and the design of the blender container makes a tamper unnecessary.

    recently, my friend wanted me to come over and make artisan bread with her because she loved mine but couldnt get the same results when making it herself. well, i figured out the difference right away. her flour was not nearly as fine from her vitamix as mine was. we were able to make it finer by grinding it longer, but it definitely took longer than my blend-tec.

    maybe it is just her machine… i do think they have updated since, and changed the control panel. but i definitely recommend the blend tec, even at the same price, let alone for less $$. now that they are competing in the home market, they are definitely going up in price : (

  5. says

    I have a Family Grain mill which has a much smaller footprint and is slightly less money. What I love about it is that you can crack grain for steel cut oats or hot cerreal and you could buy the roller which would let you roll oats or spelt for cereal as well. I did a post about it here: http://www.sustainableeats.com/2009/02/02/the-grain-mill/. A year later I’m still happy with my decision. For those few times a year I want to make a fancy cake & want cake flour I want white flour anyway so I just buy it. That is only for birthdays, the rest of the time we just use whole spelt, wheat or other flour ground to our specs.
    .-= Sustainable Eats´s last blog post… Juicer Talk =-.

  6. says

    I have a nutrimill and have loved it since the day I got it about 6-7 years ago. I can grind any grain and beans in this mill. The flour does come out a little bit warm, but that has never bothered me. Wardee, you have cleared up any misconceptions about the oils being too hot etc.
    I have heard, since working at Bosch Kitchen Center that the old fashioned stone mills are not the best. I have been told that the older they get, the stone wears off and goes into the grain. Just something to think about.
    And as Wardee says, anything ground at home will be so much fresher and nutrient dense, and that’s a good thing.

  7. Sara B says

    I just ordered a Blendtec last week and am anxiously waiting for it to arrive. I chose the Blendtec because it is shorter, no is tamper needed, and I like the design of the container and that it is wet/dry. I ordered one with a larger container and larger blade.

    They are both good choices and I think it comes down to personal preference.

  8. Michelle says

    After much research and deliberation, I just bought a Blend-tec at Costco (slightly cheaper than online, longer warranty). I debated this choice for over a year. I have seen both the Blend-tec and the Vita-mix in action. I chose the BT because it is shorter, and so fits under the cabinets (can sit on the countertop without having to be put away after each use). It only requires one container, instead of separate ones for wet and dry. It does not need a tamper, but creates a vortex that circulates everything on its own. It is less expensive than the VM. Basically, all things that everyone else has said. However, I know of a couple of people who have both and prefer the BT. In fact, when I was purchasing mine, there was a man in front of me who was buying one. He had a VM at home, and preferred the BT, so was passing the VM on to his mother and getting the BT for himself. To me, that is the best endorsement. I think that everyone I know who has a VM likes it … just like BT better. However, I have not tried grinding flour with it, as I am trying to reduce (cut out?) grain consumption, at least for a while.

    HTH,

    Michelle

  9. April says

    I have had a Family Grain Mill for about 3+ years and love it. A friend grinds her wheat in her Vitamix, but is looking to purchase a Family Grain Mill after watching/using my mill and another friend with a Nutrimill. This friend researches EVERYTHING she purchases and these are her thoughts. With Family Grain Mill you can adjust the coarseness of the grind and it is not as loud nor takes up as much space as the Nutrimill. While she loves her Vitamix it takes longer to grind grain since you can only grind a small amount at a time.

    All that said I think a lot depends on personal preference and all of the equipment discussed so far are wonderful purchases

    Wardee thank you for you lovely site.

  10. Susan says

    I have the nutrimill and it is great!!!!! I have used it for about 6 years. I can put in 8 cups of grain and do something else while it is milling my grain. I mill extra flour ahead of time and immediatedly freeze it. This way I do not have to get the mill out every time I make bread. I take flour out of the freezer and directly put it into my bread maker or bosch mixer and have never had a problem. I love milling my own flour. My bread is so much fresher!!! It is a worth while investment!!!!!

  11. Jory says

    Wow! Thank you for your comments. I appreciate everything you have all expressed. It is so helpful. I have decided to order a Family Grain Mill. A friend of mine has one and highly recommends it (after having purchased another and not liking it). Since I actually got to see hers in action (and she has a Vitamix too), I decided to go with the Family Grain Mill. I will keep you all posted on how it goes: how warm the flour is, course vs. fine flour, noise level, storage, etc. My friend says her favorite things about it are:

    1. It’s motor base is small so sits easily on her kitchen counter w/o taking up a lot of space.

    2. She can measure other things into the bowl WHILE its grinding since it grinds right into whatever bowl you are using to mix.

    3. It has a large hopper that can hold up to 5 C of whole grain to grind at a time.

    4. It has the flaker attachment to make rolled oats, etc.

    Pleasant Hill Grain website had an interesting comment about Whispermill service in case anyone wants to go read it.

    As far as blenders, it sounds like I might need to start saving for a Blendtec. How exciting! I’ll keep checking back to see if others have posted more experiences.

    Wardee,
    Thanks so much for hosting this discussion. I’ve read many food blogs/websites over the last 4 years but this is the FIRST time I’ve ever posted anything! Thank you for posing my questions. It is wonderful to have a community of people who love good food and are pursuing a NT lifestyle of eating. God bless you!And I look forward to more!

    Jory

  12. Heather H. says

    This may be the worlds dumbest question. I am brand new to grain grinding, am am excited to start. These comments were hugely helpful!

    But if you are going to cook the grains in a 350 degree oven, does the slight heat of the grain mill really matter? Assuming that you are using the grains right away, of course. Is my logic off? Am i missing something? :)

    • says

      Heather – I think that’s a great question. I totally get your point, and in fact, that’s the point I made with the enzymes at least. They die anyway during the baking. With regard to the other nutrients, I don’t know what the oven does to the rest of them, but if they are going to die anyway from that heat, then the heat from the grinder doesn’t matter. But clearly some nutrients make it through the baking (otherwise the bread wouldn’t be any good for us at all), so in that sense, it would be important to minimize oxidation and nutrient loss through grinding.

      • says

        There is more to the heat story than temperature. You can put your hand in a 500 degree oven and come out fine. Dip it in 212 degree boiling water and it is a different story.

        Mix flour with water like when you bake, and the water acts to protect the flour at higher temperatures. No scorching like you get if baked by itself.

        But I have no idea if bread is less nutritious if the flour is heated to 155 degrees when made in a blender. I expect so, but it is not a conclusion scientifically arrived at. Lots of things go on when making bread, and your flour is not heated up until after it ferments. So nutrition aside, the flavor no doubt changes depending on what enzymes are alive during the fermentation.

  13. Kimber says

    Hi, Wardee – I’ve been hopping all around your blog today: beef jerky, granola, and now grain mills! As a result I have an answer here that probably fits in more than one place.

    Last month I won an Excalibur Dehydrator (!!!!!) in a giveaway, and today I was browsing through the guide book that came with it. Here is an excerpt from p. 16 under the heading “Enzymes and Temperature”:

    ” There are many varying opinions among raw foodists concerning the temperature at which enzymes become deactivated. The most frequently quoted temperature is 118F/47C (food temperature) based upon the studies of Dr. Edward Howell. However, he also states that the optimal temperatures for enzymes are between 45F/7C and 140F/60C, and temperatures above 140F/60C will destroy all enzymes. We have discovered through research and testing, that the second of these two statements is more accurate when dehydrating, and that enzymes can actually withstand food temperatures into the 140F/60C s. According the Dr. John Whitaker, a world recognized enzymologist, and emeritus professor and Dean of the Food Science and Nutrition department at UC Davis in California; most enzymes do not becove deactivated until they reach between 140F/60C and 158F/70C. This supports Howell’s statement of 140F/60C, as well as our tests and scientific experiments. We have tested food samples for enzymatic activity that were dried at temperatures up to 145F/63C and fount it to be the same as in the foods dried at lower temperatures.

    Enzymes are also most susceptible to damage by high heat while the food is wet. Once a high percentage of the food’s moisture has been removed, they enzymes become more stable or dormant, and can withstand food temperatures higher than 155F/68C, according to Viktoras Kulvinskas. When the food is rehydrated with water or in the digestive track the enzymes become active again and assist your body’s enzymes in the digestive process.”

    The guide goes on to state, under the heading “How to use your Excalibur for Living Foods”:

    “According to Ann Wigmore and Viktoras Kulvinskas, the best way to preserve the living enzymes, and overcome the potential of spoilage or bacteria growth, is to set the dehydrator on the highest temperature setting for the first two or three hours, then turn it down to less than 120F/49C for the remaining time. During the initial hours the food temperature will not exceed 118F/47C because of the high moisture content in the food. Neither will the air temperature immediately rise to 145F/63C. It may take several hours to get up that high. Following this procedure will cut the lengthy (30+ hours) drying time in half. If you cannot be there to turn the dehydrator down your may set it at a lower temperature between 105F/41C and 120F/49C, but keep in mind that the lower the setting, the longer it will take to dehydrate.”

    Hope this helps! I haven’t typed from a book in a LOOOOOOOOONG time. That was quite a workout! ;-)

    • says

      Kimber – You WON an Excalibur! That is amazing. What a blessing!

      My goodness, you typed up alot. :) Thank you. I have that book because I got an Excalibur dehydrator in December – and I remember reading that now. I know it made an impression on me because I have been starting out dehydrating most foods at 145 degrees for the first two hours and then lowering the temp, but I had forgotten the discussion of the wet/dry. So, thank you! I definitely needed that refresher and I hope it helps others, too.

  14. says

    Jory – I’m REALLY happy for you! I think, like others have said, that no matter what you choose, it is hard to go wrong. Be sure to keep in touch and share how you like the mill.

  15. Kimber says

    I know! I was amazed, too. I never win anything, and to win and Excalibur?!? (BTW, it was a contest I entered over at Cheeseslave, so sending some love to Ann Marie. Thanks!)

    It actually arrived in the mail just a few days before Christmas, so I put a big “To: Mommy” on it and under the tree it went. :-)

    I’m so glad to hear you were able to get one, too. Keep those yummy recipes coming!

    I’m going to start a NutriMill fund next… after I get some new glasses. Mine are about to disintegrate!

  16. DGarcia says

    Hi,
    To all of you that have blendtec to grind your grain, what model # do you have? I found a blendtec on craigslist and want to make sure I’m getting the correct model.
    Thanks.
    ps: can you please email me your response. thx

  17. Jory says

    Hi All!
    Just following up on my grain mill experience. I LOVE IT!!

    I bought at Family Grain Mill with electric mill and also a flaker attachment so I can roll oats or other grains. I love my mill! I definitely doesn’t grind as fine as store bought flour but that hasnt been a problem. Ive also been grinding rice for quick breakfast cereal and I love rolling my own oats for granola, granola bars, and oatmeal. It doesnt heat grain hardly at all, but I guess, as another post pointed out, that really doesn’t matter since we are going to bake it at high temperatures anyway!

    Thanks again for all the comments.

    Blessings,
    Jory

    • says

      Jory – I am so happy to hear you’re glad about your purchase. I love hearing what you’re doing with it. One thing I’ve always wanted to do is be able to make my own flakes.

  18. LaniQ says

    This may be a really lame question as well (I have never done any grain grinding, and am looking into less expensive options for starting out) do any of you know if the grain grinder attachment to the kitchen-aid mixer is any good?

    • says

      LaniQ – This mill gets bad reviews, from what I’ve seen. There’s someone in the eCourse forum who doesn’t like it. I have an old friend who doesn’t like it either. The reasons I’ve seen are: poor flour quality and burned out motors.

    • says

      I’ve been using my Kitchen-aid flour mill attachment for years, and it’s worked very well for me. I grind flours for the family and even crack corn for our small poultry population. If you already have the mixer, getting the grain mill attachment seems like a thriftier choice than purchasing a new machine. My original Kitchen-aid needed repair after over 25 years of steady use and I ended up buying a second reconditioned ‘new’ model as well. It’s a luxury having two machines when I make pasta at home – one to roll it out and the other to cut it.

  19. Terry says

    I use both the Family Grain Mill and the Vitamix, and love both. The Family Grain Mill is best at large amounts of wheat, spelt and other grains, or for flaking them. I use the Vitamix with dry container for quick, small batches of grain flour, and for initial grinding of beans and popcorn. The grain mill can then take that and grind into a really fine powder to make bean flours for breads and soups, and fine cornmeal from the popcorn. Using this combination prolongs the life of the grain mill and nothing ever gets more than slightly warm.

  20. says

    The flour can be a little warm, definitely not hot, if I grind more than a few cups. The flour can be very fine. I would sift it to remove the bran (and germ?) if I wanted it to be like store-bought. The Kitchen-Aide guide says not to grind more than 10 cups at one time in order not to overheat the machine. They recommend a 45 minute wait before grinding more. I seldom grind more than four cups without the wait, since I really don’t want my flour to get hot. But I have space in my kitchen to leave the mixer out for a few hours, grinding a few cups every hour, so it isn’t in my way.

  21. Aspiring Bread Maker says

    Hi,
    Thank you for this post! I was wondering if you sift your flour before use? Some online are saying the bran contains anti-nutrients and should be sifted before use, but I wonder if this process also removes the germ? Also, because the VitaMix (what I have) blends so finely, I wonder if much of the bran ends up being blended in very finely and unable to be sifted. I do see bran after I blend, but I wonder how much gets blended in finely.

    • IthacaNancy says

      I di sift all of my flour. I save the siftings and use it when I make granola or breakfast cereal.

      Since I wrote the last post, I bought a KoMo mill. It’s beautiful, but I am surprised how hot the flour gets – at least as hot as it does in the Kitchen-Aid. Kitchen-Aid grain mill is also more versatile, cracking corn that gums up the KoMo mill. The KoMo has a lovely fine screened sifter chamber, which creates a very nice flour.

    • Aspiring Bread Maker says

      Update: So I kept digging around, and I found wonderful information from Sue Becker of Bread Beckers. She has very informative articles on her website, and I have decided it’s not necessary to worry about the phytic acids present in whole grains. In fact, I have decided to “keep” them and will mostly be using unsifted flour. While I love the taste of fresh bread from refined flours, receiving the nourishing nutrients from grains is my top objective. However, I have read that you can achieve a “white flour” like dough if you use soft, white wheat berries, so I will be trying this soon as well. How fun. :)

  22. Valerie says

    I have a Champion Juicer. I bought the grain mill attachment, and have used it for over a year. It is loud, and a space hog, but it grinds well. I usually run the wheat berries through twice, once to crack them, then tighten the the knob all the way to grind again for a fine grind. This allows me to grind a bit faster without it getting too hot.
    The attachment allows flexibility with the grind size, but the hard wheat berries never get fine enough to use only that flour in my baking and still maintain lightness and gluten power (stickiness). I usually blend my whole wheat flour with store-bought all purpose flour, and everything comes out great. I haven’t experimented with soft wheat to see if that will do the trick.

  23. momoffive says

    wow! I am so educated after reading all of the preceeding! However, I am wondering what everyone is refering to as small batches? My family of 7 celiacs/wheat allergy/dairy allergy is spending a fortune on gf flours and products. I was thinking of getting a vitamix for smoothies and grain milling. We eat maybe 3-4 loaves of bread, a batch or two of waffles, another 2-3 lbs. of flour for pizza or cakes, and smoothies a couple of times a week. Would I be overusing the vitamix? Would it take forever? Now, I am thinking I need a blendtec and family grain mill, but cannot afford both! So overwhelmed with info overload! opinions?
    :)Thanks

  24. Mama23girls says

    I just came across this post because I’m wondering about buying a nice blender and was thinking maybe I should sell our Nutrimill to fund a Vitamix or Blendtec. But after researching some this morning, I don’t know that I could give up my Nutrimill. You can throw 8 cups of grain (wheat is what I’ve traditionally used but am going to need to explore some more options) in there at one time and walk away from it. It’ll produce about 12-13 cups of flour from those 8 cups of grain. I always make a double batch of rolls because I give so many away, that I can’t imagine standing there and grinding up 2 cups at a time! Maybe it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I’m always running around doing something while my grain is grinding, so I like that I can just leave it.

    To momoffive—that’s my thoughts right now on grinding a lot of grain, anyway. I love our Nutrimill and we were able to buy it used for a good price through a co-op. I think if you thought you’d be PRIMARILY using it for grain, I’d go for a stand-alone mill. Just my 2 cents. ;-)

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