A high end malt mill is not a necessity, in fact it’s a bit of a luxury item. When I started all grain brewing, the local homebrew store was kind enough to crush the grains in their mill for me, and I thought that was great.
However I did have one memorable batch that changed my mind. I had not brewed any beer in a while, but had crushed grains for the next batch stored in bags in the garage. To be honest, some of the grains had been there a long time, and it was summertime.
Needless to say the batch did not turn out as I had expected. In fact it was quite bad. I learned an important lesson about something called oxidization. You see crushed grains begin to oxidize when exposed to air, and it gets worse if you apply a little heat in the garage. This is not a problem if you buy some crushed grains and brew a few days (or even a few weeks) later, but it is a problem if you store the crushed grains for an extended period.
After a bad experience with a cheap Corona mill, I did my homework and purchased a Barley Crusher a few years back. There are several different kinds of grain mills, but an adjustable dual roller mill is generally considered the best. Dual roller mills have two rollers that rotate in opposite directions and draw the grain through the gap between them.
A dual roller mill will crush the inside of the grain and leave the outside hull largely intact. The finely crushed grains give you great efficiency while the hulls act as a filter bed during sparging to prevent a stuck mash.
The Barley Crusher is a dual roller malt mill, and the gap can be adjusted by turning a knob on the unit. It comes in two hopper sizes (7 lb and 15 lb), and I ended up purchasing the 7 lb model. The mill itself is built like a tank – with cold-rolled steel rollers and machined-aluminum housing. BC Products offers a free lifetime warranty on the mill.
It has a nice long metal hand crank, though the axle can be driven by a 3/8″ drill motor. If you have ever crushed a lot of grains, you will understand why I wanted a mill that could be run with a motor. The hopper is aluminum as well, and the unit comes preassembled on a wooden base that has guides on it to fit over a standard 5 gallon pail. All you have to do is put the handle on it and start cranking.
In practice the mill works great – it is quick and as promised gives you finely crushed grains with the husks still largely intact. I used mine with the preset .039″ gap, which seems perfect for barley grains. After a bad experience with no mill, and then another bad experience with a cheap Corona mill, the Barley Crusher was a breath of fresh air.
I have not set mine up with a drill motor yet, but even with the hand crank I can finish off 10 lbs of grain while the mash water is heating up. You can remove the handle easily and use a 3/8″ drill motor to drive the unit instead.
The Barley Crusher 7 lb model retails for $114.50 (plus $21.50 shipping) and 15 lb model for $138 (plus shipping) on their site, but I did contact BC Products and arrange a small discount for our readers. If you want to get one through our discount program, you can order it from our discount site (sorry, US addresses only) at a discount price of $109.95 (plus shipping) for the 7 lb model and $132.95 (plus shipping) for the 15 lb model. Disclaimer: Barley Crusher Inc is an ongoing sponsor of the BeerSmith brewing sites, via the discount link shown above. The review unit covered above was purchased with my own personal funds and extensively used before BC became a site sponsor.
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