Proper grain mills can be expensive, especially here in New Zealand so when I found out that some home brewers were having success with converting cheap pasta makers into grain mills it seemed like something worth trying and I picked up one on TradeMe for $22. The rollers on a pasta maker are smooth and won’t pull in the grains so the first task is to roughen up the rollers. Reading through online forum discussions on this topic I learned that some people have disassembled the pasta maker, removed the rollers and got them knurled. But I also read about a much quicker and easier approach that also seems to work well and this is what I did. No need to disassemble, simply run a drill back and forth across the rollers and the drill bit will roughen up the surface of the rollers enough to allow them to bite on the grains and pull them through.
The next thing is to construct a hopper to feed the grains into the rollers. I’ve seen some examples online of fancy woodworking or metalworking skills being used to construct hoppers for the pasta grain mill, but again I opted for the path of least resistance – cardboard and duct tape!
It can be powered with the hand crank that came with it, or by an electric drill.
I milled a few kilos of grain for my latest brew this weekend and I was pretty pleased with the results. I think I got a pretty good crush. The operation started off well but did start to go a bit slow after awhile. I came to the conclusion that my rollers were not quite rough enough so I wasn’t getting a strong bite on the grains and they were coming through quite slowly. I gave up on using the drill after awhile and went back to the hand crank as I found I was just spinning my wheels with the drill bit when I wasn’t getting enough traction and the slower speed of the hand crank was more effective. I got through all the grain that I needed for the recipe but planned on doing some further roughening on the rollers at another time. Here’s an example of the crush:
This evening I had another go at roughening up the rollers some more, again by running a 6.5mm drill bit back and forth across the rollers. A bigger drill bit would probably have been more effective but that was the biggest I had so it had to do. After further roughening I ran a small amount of grain through to test it and it pulled it through no problem. I also played around with the gap settings to find what works best. What I found is that it goes through quite easily on setting 3 but you get quite a few kernels coming out that appear to be whole. On closer examination of the ‘whole’ kernels, I found that most of them were actually cracked to some degree. Then I found if you take this crushed grain and run it through again, it will go through easily on setting 2. And pretty much none of the kernels survive looking intact after going through on that narrower setting. Testing it further, I found that I could even run the grain through a third time on setting 1 and completely pulverise it into mostly flour and husks. That would be crushed beyond what is necessary but good to know that I can get a finer crush than I will need.