One of the many important steps to proper brewing is crushing one grains, ESPECIALLY for the brewer who bypasses extracted malts and brews all-grain. You see, the all-grain brewer must extract sugars from the starches hidden inside malted barley. To access this treasure trove of future beer, the husk of the barley must be cracked open in a process known as crushing. One does not want their barley to look like flour after having been crushed, but they do want to see each husk split open. While most home brew stores will do this free or at minimal cost, a lot of us home brewers like to take on every aspect of the brew process; it makes us feel better about our beer. Besides, I myself order a lot of my grain online and prefer the grain to be un-crushed in case I decide not to use all of it at once.
I use a Phil Mill to crush my grains. The Phil Mill just my be the least sophisticated method of crushing grain. In fact, it looks like something Laura Ingalls Wilder would have lying around her kitchen. Unlike many larger two roller crushers that crush large amounts of grain between two steel rollers, the Phil Mill gets the job done with one small steel roller that compresses and crushes the grain against a curved steel plate. The single roller–only about 2.5 inches long–is turned by hand. The grain is fed into the simple mechanism via a hole less than an inch wide. I fix a empty 2 liter soda bottle to the whole to feed the grain through.
Crushing 19 pounds of grain in this manner is a tiresome, but rewarding process. Tiresome, because one pound of grain takes about 55 cranks. You do the math…you’re in for a bulging bicep via this method. Nonetheless, it is rewarding for several reasons. First, the grain is crushed to a level of perfection I have yet to see any of my home brew shops attain to. And I am not the only one…check out this guy’s review of the Phil Mill. Besides this, I am rewarded each time I crank that little steel wheel, because I am reminded of the ancient and commonplace history of beer. I think of all the farmers, vikings, monks, and family men of days past who produced their beloved beverage with the sweat of their brow and without the aid of sophisticated equipment. I am reminded that beer is not rocket science…it is love and devotion. Yeah, that probably sounds corny…but it is pretty darn accurate.
The history behind my Phil Mill makes the process even more rewarding. I bought the mill from a guy off Craigslist who was helping his buddy’s widow liquidate his estate after his buddy’s untimely death. When I bought it, he told me his deceased friend was a home brewing fanatic. It’s nice to know that the little Phil Mill allows a legacy to live in while performing a steadfast duty. It’s kind of like Toy Story Three…for home brewers.
Yeah…beer is all about sentimentalism.