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What is a grain mill? A beginner’s guide to grinding your own flour

New to understanding what's behind the flour you buy at the grocery store? All flour starts out as wheat berries and is ground by a grain mill. Let's learn all about this process and what makes grain mills a handy tool in your kitchen.
Pouring whole wheat berries into a grinder

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When I first started baking bread at home, I was surprised to learn about the importance of using freshly milled flour. I quickly discovered that the best way to achieve this was by using a grain mill. But what exactly is a grain mill?

In simple terms, a grain mill is a device that grinds grains into flour. This can be done manually, using a hand-cranked mill, or with an electric motor. The resulting flour can be used for baking bread, making pasta, or any other recipe that calls for flour. But why is freshly milled flour so important?

Freshly milled flour contains all parts of the grain, including the bran and germ, which are often removed in commercial flour production. This means that the flour is more nutritious and flavorful, with a higher fiber content and more complex flavor profile. By milling your own flour at home, you have complete control over the process and can ensure that you are using the freshest, highest quality flour possible.

Understanding grain mills

As someone who loves baking, I have always been curious about grain mills. Grain mills are an essential tool for grinding grains into flour, which is used to make bread, pastries, and other baked goods. In this section, I will explain the basics of grain mills and the different types available.

Basics of grain mills

Grain mills are machines used to grind grains into flour. They consist of two main parts: the grinding mechanism and the container or hopper that holds the grains. The grinding mechanism can be powered by hand, electricity, or water. Hand-powered grain mills are usually the most affordable and portable, while electric and water-powered mills are more efficient and faster.

Grain mills can be used to grind a variety of grains, including wheat, rye, oats, corn, and barley. The grains are fed into the hopper and then ground into flour by the grinding mechanism. The resulting flour can be used to make bread, pasta, cakes, and other baked goods.

Types of grain mills

There are several types of grain mills available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Stone mills use two circular stones to grind the grains. The stones can be made of granite, quartz, or other materials. Stone mills produce a coarser flour than other types of mills, but they are also more durable and produce less heat, which can damage the nutrients in the grains.
  • Burr mills use two plates, one stationary and one rotating, to grind the grains. The plates can be made of steel or ceramic. Burr mills produce a finer flour than stone mills, but they also produce more heat, which can damage the nutrients in the grains.
  • Impact mills use a high-speed rotor to pulverize the grains. Impact mills produce a very fine flour, but they can also produce a lot of heat, which can damage the nutrients in the grains.
  • Roller mills use a series of rollers to crush the grains. Roller mills produce a very fine flour and can be used to grind a variety of grains, but they are also the most expensive type of grain mill.

Grain mills are an essential tool for anyone who loves baking. They allow you to grind your own grains into fresh flour, which is healthier and more flavorful than store-bought flour. When choosing a grain mill, consider your budget, the type of grains you will be grinding, and the type of flour you want to produce.

How grain mills work

Grain mills are essential tools for turning whole grains into flour, meal, or cereal. They operate by crushing grains between two hard surfaces, such as stones, burrs, or rollers. The resulting powdery substance is then sifted to remove any large chunks or impurities.

Mechanism of action

There are two main types of grain mills: burr mills and impact mills. Burr mills consist of two grinding plates, either stone or steel, that rotate against each other at high speeds. The grain is fed into the gap between the plates and is ground down into flour as it passes through.

Impact mills, on the other hand, use high-speed rotating blades to break the grains apart. The resulting flour is then blown out of the mill by a fan, which separates it from any remaining debris.

Power sources

Grain mills can be powered by a variety of sources, including hand-cranked mechanisms, electricity, or even water. Hand-cranked mills are the most basic type and are still popular among homesteaders and traditionalists. They require no electricity or fuel and can be used anywhere.

Electric mills are more efficient and can grind larger quantities of grain in less time. They are the most common type of grain mill found in homes and commercial bakeries. Some electric mills even have settings to adjust the coarseness of the flour.

Water-powered mills are the oldest type of grain mill and were once common throughout Europe and America. They use the power of moving water to turn a large wheel, which in turn drives the grinding stones. While water-powered mills are still in use today, they are much less common than they once were.

In conclusion, grain mills are simple yet essential tools for anyone who wants to grind their own grains at home. Whether you prefer the traditional hand-cranked models or the more modern electric mills, there is a grain mill out there to suit your needs.

Benefits of using grain mills

As someone who regularly uses a grain mill, I can attest to the numerous benefits that come with milling your own grains. Here are some of the most significant benefits:

Health benefits

When you mill your own grains, you have complete control over the quality and freshness of the flour. Store-bought flours are often made from grains that have been sitting on shelves for months, if not years, and may contain additives and preservatives. In contrast, freshly milled flour retains all of its nutrients and enzymes, making it more nutritious and easier to digest. Additionally, you can choose to mill grains that are organic, non-GMO, and free from pesticides and herbicides, further enhancing the health benefits of your flour.

Economic advantages

While investing in a grain mill may seem like a significant expense upfront, it can actually save you money in the long run. Buying whole grains in bulk is often cheaper than buying pre-packaged flour, and freshly milled flour is more versatile and can be used in a wider variety of recipes. Moreover, milling your own grains means that you can avoid the markups that come with pre-packaged flour, making it a more cost-effective option in the long run.

Overall, using a grain mill can be a great way to improve the quality of your flour, enhance the health benefits of your baked goods, and save money in the long run. With a little bit of practice, milling your own grains can become a fun and rewarding part of your baking routine.

Choosing the right grain mill

When it comes to choosing the right grain mill, there are a few factors to consider. As someone who has gone through the process of selecting a grain mill, I can tell you that it can be overwhelming. But with some research and consideration, you can find the perfect grain mill for your needs.

Factors to consider

  1. Type of Mill: There are two main types of grain mills: electric and manual. Electric mills are powered by electricity, while manual mills require physical effort to grind the grains. Consider which type of mill would be more suitable for your needs.
  2. Capacity: Think about the amount of grains you will be grinding at a time. If you plan on grinding large quantities, you’ll want to choose a mill with a larger capacity.
  3. Grind Settings: Different mills offer different grind settings. Consider what types of grains you’ll be grinding and what type of flour consistency you’re looking for.
  4. Price: Grain mills can range in price from under $50 to over $500. Consider your budget and what features are most important to you.

Popular brands

  1. WonderMill: The WonderMill is a popular electric grain mill that can grind up to 100 pounds of flour in an hour. It offers a variety of grind settings and is easy to use.
  2. Country Living Grain Mill: The Country Living Grain Mill is a manual mill that is built to last. It has a large capacity and can grind a variety of grains. (This is what I use!)
  3. Mockmill: The Mockmill is an affordable electric grain mill that is perfect for home use. It offers a variety of grind settings and is easy to clean.
  4. KoMo: The KoMo grain mill is a high-end electric mill that offers a variety of grind settings and is built to last. It is perfect for those who want the best of the best.
My grain mill turned these Einkorn berries (bottom) into whole grain flour (in a 1/2 measuring cup).

Choosing the right grain mill can be a daunting task, but by considering factors such as type of mill, capacity, grind settings, and price, you can find the perfect mill for your needs. Popular brands such as WonderMill, Country Living Grain Mill, Mockmill, and KoMo offer a variety of options to choose from.

Maintenance and care for grain mills

As a grain mill owner, I understand the importance of maintaining and caring for my equipment. Proper maintenance not only ensures that my grain mill operates efficiently, but it also prolongs its lifespan. Here are some tips on how to maintain and care for your grain mill:

Regular cleaning

One of the most important aspects of maintaining a grain mill is regular cleaning. After each use, I make sure to clean the mill thoroughly. I start by unplugging the machine and wiping down the exterior with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. Then, I remove the hopper and the plates around the rollers using a screwdriver. I use a brush to clear any sticky debris from the rollers and wipe all interior parts down with a second dry cloth.


Lubrication is another important aspect of maintaining a grain mill. I make sure to lubricate the moving parts of my mill regularly to prevent rust and ensure smooth operation. I use food-grade lubricant for this purpose. It’s important to note that over-lubrication can be just as harmful as under-lubrication, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.


Regular inspection of the mill is also crucial to ensure that it’s functioning correctly. I inspect my mill for any signs of wear and tear, loose or broken parts, and any other issues that may affect its performance. If I notice any problems, I address them immediately to prevent further damage.


Proper storage is also essential for maintaining a grain mill. I store my mill in a dry, cool place, away from direct sunlight and moisture. I also make sure to cover it with a clean cloth to prevent dust and debris from accumulating on the machine.

By following these simple maintenance and care tips, you can ensure that your grain mill operates efficiently and lasts for many years to come.


In conclusion, a grain mill is a machine used for grinding grains into flour or meal. It has been used for thousands of years to process different types of grains, including wheat, corn, rice, and oats.

Grain mills have evolved over time, from simple hand-operated devices to sophisticated machines that use electricity and advanced technologies. Modern mills employ pairs of steel cylinders instead of wheels to grind grains into flour. For example, wheat is ground between a series of cylinders, beginning with a set of grooved cylinders to break the grain open and ending with a final set of smooth cylinders to reduce the coarse meal to fine flour.

The process of milling grains is an important step in producing food products such as bread, pasta, and cereal. It allows the grain to be easily cooked and rendered into an attractive foodstuff. Milling processes can also be used for extracting gluten and starch (wet milling) from grains and cereals.

Overall, a grain mill is an essential tool for anyone who wants to produce their own flour or meal. It provides a convenient and cost-effective way to process grains at home, and it allows you to control the quality of the final product. Whether you are a professional baker or a home cook, a grain mill can help you achieve the perfect texture and flavor for your recipes.

Frequently asked questions

What can I grind using a grain mill?

A grain mill can grind a variety of grains, including wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, and rye. Some grain mills can also grind beans, nuts, and seeds.

What are some popular grain mill products?

Some popular grain mill products include the NutriMill Classic High-Speed Grain/Flour Mill, the GrainMaker® Model No. 35 Grain Mill, and the KoMo Classic Grain Mill.

What is the difference between a flour mill and a grist mill?

A flour mill is designed specifically to grind grains into flour, while a grist mill is designed to grind grains into grist, which is a coarse flour used for animal feed.

Why is it called a grist mill?

It is called a grist mill because it grinds grains into grist, which is a coarse flour used for animal feed.

What is the purpose of a grain mill?

The purpose of a grain mill is to grind grains into flour or grist, which can be used for baking, cooking, or animal feed.

How does a manual grain mill work?

A manual grain mill works by using a hand crank to turn two grinding plates against each other, crushing the grains between them. The resulting flour or grist falls out of the bottom of the mill.