crushing grain?
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    i don't have a proper grain mill.
    there is an excellent thread on building one on the cheap here :http://homebrewforums.net/discussion/74/thrifty-grain-mill-build#Item_4 and i have been looking for used pasta rollers for this purpose.

    in the meantime, i have some questions about crushing the grain.
    i have always just put it in a freezer bag and beat the hell out of it with a rolling pin and then a beer bottle. inevitably, the bag gets a little hole in it and dusty powder gets everywhere.

    could i just put the grain in a grain bag and smack the heck out of it? is that dusty powder important?
    i feel like i would get a better crush in a grain bag, so that could negate the loss of the powder.

    if you didn't have a grain mill, please describe how you crush your grain, in detail, and what you are looking for to know it is thoroughly crushed.
    i realize that some LHBS stores crush grain for you, assume that is not an option.
  • JayrizzleJayrizzle
    Posts: 84,438
    Well first off the dust is the stuff you don't want to loose. It's the starches and stuff that makes beer. The hulls don't matter as much, but they keep things from forming cement in the sparge (why people add rice hulls when using a lot of unhulled grain like rye or wheat).
    I usually get my grain crushed from the supplier, but the rest of the time do about the same thing as you. You can overdo it and mess up the hulls too much by doing this. If you think about a roller mill you have a set gap of about .037-.043". With the rolling pin you're doing the same thing with out a set gap.
    The best way I've found to use the rolling pin is to crush just a little at a time. It's best to only crush one layer of grain with two or three passes of the pin. This takes a long time and I haven't found a great way of holding the grain. I mostly do it with out a bag on a clean table (I loose some that shoots all over the room, my wife does not approve).
    To know it's crushed right I pick up five or six hulls at random. If they are all busted open I move on. If one or two isn't I give it another pass.

    I'm planing on making a roller mill out of some pipe and concrete. I'll post about that if it ever happens.
    "I don't have TP, but I do have ammo."
    -Some guy in Ohio
  • JayrizzleJayrizzle
    Posts: 84,438
    So I milled some grain with a rolling pin in the few hours since writing that, and I must say it's a PITA. I was doing it at about 1lb per 15 min. This is the first time I'm milling my own base malt. I think darker malts are easier to crush.
    "I don't have TP, but I do have ammo."
    -Some guy in Ohio
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 48,764
    as far as a crush is concerned, you want every kernel broken into little pieces. the smaller the pieces, the better your efficiency will be, but the slower and more likely to get stuck the sparge is going to be. since the rolling pin/hammer method probably won't separate the husks from the starchy bits, you'll have to pick them up and check them, as the dr. mentioned.

    the dust that spills everywhere is referred to as flour, because that's what it is: barley flour. You want that in the mash. just brush it off the table and dump it in with the crushed grain.

    The pinnacle of lame and awesome in one singular moment. -Lake
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 48,764
    if i didn't have a mill, i'd probably just use a hammer. get out your aggression while you crush the grain. ~X(
    The pinnacle of lame and awesome in one singular moment. -Lake
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 48,764
    if you have a micheal's nearby, this would help out with the pasta roller. mine was $12 with one of these:

    http://dealspl.us/michaels-coupons/376076p
    The pinnacle of lame and awesome in one singular moment. -Lake
  • JayrizzleJayrizzle
    Posts: 84,438
    I'm starting to think two boards and my car could do better than a rolling pin. It would sure take less time
    "I don't have TP, but I do have ammo."
    -Some guy in Ohio
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 115,478
    having a two-roller mill, im a bit spoiled and have had to get creative on this front. but i would look to something relatively heavy to roll over the grain. I can say that based on the amount of effort it takes to feed the grains through the mill, they can withstand quite a bit of compression before they actually crack.

    The darker roasts will be a lot easier... hell the really dark stuff like black patent is practically little charred carbon pellets. but some base 2-row is tough stuff.

    I bet spreading it out on a board an laying a second one on top then driving over it would hardly do anything to the grain, maybe a few cracked grains but mostly it would just hold you car up, because the load is spread out over a large surface area.

    now if you can concentrate the load over a smaller surface area then you can start smashing stuff. something like a 40lb weight plate rolled over some grain laid in a thin layer would probably do the trick, or the FZ brute force method of smashing it with a hammer would work. i would go easy with the hammer though. you're likely to end up with a stuck sparge if you beat the grains to death. you really just want to crack them open and move on.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • BenvarineBenvarine
    Posts: 1,606
    I just did my first this weekend and I don't know how well I did. I used the ziploc rolling pin system, hard to do and I am still questioning how well I did and how much it will impact the final product. In Charlie Papazzian's book be mentions not to do this where you brew. The dust has bacteria on it and once stirred into the air can infect your cooled wort. No clue myself, I just read it yesterday before crushing mine. If I have to do more, I'm coming up with some sort of mill.
  • JayrizzleJayrizzle
    Posts: 84,438
    After messing with a rolling pin for an hour (and killing my wrist) I broke out my meat grinder/grain mill. It's like a non adjustable corona mill. It really is for making flower, but I made it adjustable. I think I'm going to end up with a stuck sparge and bad efficiency, but at least it's done
    "I don't have TP, but I do have ammo."
    -Some guy in Ohio
  • scoobscoob
    Posts: 16,617
    How did your numbers look? I have a two roller mill so I am sorta spoiled. I set my mill to. 028 and after conditioning it I crush the piss out of it. I sit between 87-90% efficiency with not even a hint of a stuck sparge .

    Were I to try an alternative method I might use a food processor to get the grain crushed, then use rice hulls to keep from sticking the sparge.
    Jesus didn't wear pants
  • JayrizzleJayrizzle
    Posts: 84,438
    azscoob said:

    How did your numbers look? I have a two roller mill so I am sorta spoiled. I set my mill to. 028 and after conditioning it I crush the piss out of it. I sit between 87-90% efficiency with not even a hint of a stuck sparge .

    Were I to try an alternative method I might use a food processor to get the grain crushed, then use rice hulls to keep from sticking the sparge.



    I hit about 70% plus some starter wort. Not good for a 1.042 beer, but I think many of the hulls weren't even scratched.
    I've done the food possessor thing, it's crazy loud. Though I was using unmalted grain. I also tried it with wet grain with okay results. Just soak it in warm water for a few hours before the brew.
    "I don't have TP, but I do have ammo."
    -Some guy in Ohio
  • JayrizzleJayrizzle
    Posts: 84,438
    oh, and for my first few brews; back when I didn't know what I was doing at all. I soaked the grain and ran it through a meat grinder. That seemed to work alright too, I can't say how well, because I didn't know what I was doing.
    "I don't have TP, but I do have ammo."
    -Some guy in Ohio
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    i have a food processor.
    just a few pulses maybe? or like a full on 30 second blast?
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    and what's this about wetting it before putting in the food processor?
  • JayrizzleJayrizzle
    Posts: 84,438
    Well if you do it dry it'll take some time, and you'll want your hearing protection. If dry it'll take less time, and make a lot less noise, but try out a little. I was using unmalted grain, which is harder.
    "I don't have TP, but I do have ammo."
    -Some guy in Ohio