So, you’ve been drinking beer for years and fancy yourself a beer expert. Now you want to venture into the world of brewing. Welcome to the club!
Homebrewing is a dream for many beer drinkers. What could be more satisfying than returning home after a hard day’s work than enjoying a homemade beer in the backyard? Or serving up tasty snacks to hungry guests alongside beer brewed by your own fair hand?
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It’s a romantic idea and a road many beer fans choose to travel. However, the reality is hard work, plenty of research, the right tools, and a lot of trial and error. Yet, when everything comes together, and you produce that first batch of delicious, thirst-quenching beer, you’ll find the result is well worth the effort.
As most people already know, beer is made through the fermentation of malt, hops, and yeast to create alcohol. It’s a mainly drink with a cult following due, in part, to the rise of the craft beer scene. It’s also a way of life for many Europeans, celebrated during Oktoberfest in Bavaria, Germany. Beer is the drink of choice for barbecues, festivals, and sports events. The hoppy beverage has been a part of society for as long as we can remember, with evidence of a beer drinking culture dating as far back as 4300 BC. Beer is here to stay, so why not discover how to make it at home?
What is a grain mill?
As the title of this article suggests, a grain mill helps in the process of making beer by crushing the grain so it can be successfully brewed. The Electric Brewery offers a step-by-step guide for brewing beer, and actually suggests using a rolling pin for crushing small amounts of grain. If you are using more than a few handfuls though, it’s worth investing in a mill to save time and ensure consistency.
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There are several different types of grain mill on the market in varying styles, shapes, and sizes. The guys from How To Brew say a good crush is essential for the enzymes from the grain to be converted. The crush has to be just right, with particles too fine or too large resulting in poorly brewed beer. Brewing is a science, so let’s make sure we get it right!
A Corona style mill is a hand-cranked device that looks like a sausage maker. It works by forcing the grain through two rotating plates. The Electric Brewery recommends the Corona style for budget-conscious extract brewers, as well as those individuals using smaller amounts of grain (the funnel holds 1 to 2 pounds of grain at a time). How To Brew says a Corona mill can be picked up for a reasonable price, but warns against setting the crush too fine.
For readers who are serious about brewing beer or are slightly more experienced, it may be a good idea to invest in a roller mill. A roller mill acts like a clothes wringer and crushes the grain between the rollers. It can be a single, dual, or triple roller, with most brewers opting for the dual variety. How To Brew likes using this type of mill because it causes less damage to the husks, and The Electric Brewery recommends it for all-grain brewers. The roller mill is significantly more expensive than the Corona style ($100 to $300), but more adjustment options are offered with the higher price tag.
The Barley Crusher
The people behind The Electric Brewery are big fans of The Barley Crusher, a dual roller machine with an adjustable gap size. This is a machine for brewers wanting to produce larger amounts of beer, as the mill can hold either a 7 or 15 pound hopper (basket/container) of grain. The Barley Crusher style also comes with a hand cranker. The Electric Brewery suggests getting your kids to help out with the brewing process. It’s fun for the kids, promotes family bonding, and is free labor for you (of course, always supervise children when any kind of machinery is involved).
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The beer making industry is so established that there are specialty stores offering milling facilities for avid brewers. The stores are an excellent place for aspiring beer producers to mill their grain without causing a mess at home or forking out the big bucks while still in the experimentation stage.
Using a supply store is also a great way to try out the Corona and roller mill styles while networking with other beer lovers. According to the Brew Your Own site, the only downside to supply stores is the equipment setup, which can be frustrating and inconvenient. They recommend milling grain far away from where you will be chilling and fermenting the wort because grain dust contains bacteria that can contaminate the beer. No one wants contaminated beer after all that effort!
Now that you know the basics for choosing a grain mill, it’s time to get experimenting. Happy brewing, everyone!
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