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!
- Which is the best way to grind grain: Vitamix (even though there is a danger of overheating the grain) or a grain mill?
- 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:
- start with frozen whole grains
- allow the Vitamix time to rest in between batches
- use small batches
- grind each batch for a shorter, rather than longer time
- grind with liquid (ala Sue Gregg's blender/batter recipes)
- 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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