A few months back we decided to start crushing our own grain so that we could buy bulk grain sacks and have better control of our mashing process. After shopping around and reading all sorts of reviews we went for the Barley Crusher through Northern Brewer.
A few days later a huge but light box arrived on our doorstep. We quickly ripped into it and pieced the bottom base and the hopper together securing it with two screws. The base of the hopper has three rubber feet that help to secure it snuggly onto a 5 gallon bucket. We opted for the extended hopper since we generally do 10 gallon batches on our system and wanted the extra space. Even with the extended hopper we usually have to fill the hopper twice to get through all the grain we are crushing.
The Barley Crusher comes with a manual handle so you can crush your grains by hand if you choose to. We tried it out the first time, spent a few minutes spinning it around, looked at how much we had accomplished (next to nothing) and decided that we would only pull it back out again for friends to use when they want to come over and join us for a brew session (make them work for that homebrew). We then hooked up our drill instead and blew through the grain much quicker. The drill has become our go to way of using the mill. It attaches to an extended shaft and is as easy to attach as a normal drill bit. We are using a little Ryobi cordless drill and we can usually get through the full 20+lbs of grain before the battery goes dead. A corded drill would probably work better for this purpose but we haven’t decided to pick up a new drill yet. We almost always crush directly into 5 and 7 gallon buckets which we then add to our mashtun. We usually have to use two buckets for an average 10 gallon batch with a third bucket for those really large grain bills.
One thing I read about but wasn’t completely sure would happen is that crushing your own is supposed to increase efficiency. It has, the Barley Crusher has helped increase our efficiency by about 10%. Before we started crushing our own grain we would get crushed grain from our LHBS and a few online retailers. We usually got around a 65% – 70% efficiency with these crushed grains. Now crushing our own grains we generally get 75% – 80% efficiency. It has actually made us scale back our recipes slightly to still maintain the same profile we used to brew them at.
It’s also helped us to be more flexible in our brew sessions. Now we keep a number of bulk base grains on hand in Vittle Vaults and a good supply of adjuncts. It’s great being able to look at our inventory and our recipes and decide that this is the beer we want to make and have the supplies on hand to just do it. Even better if a brew has to be cancelled for some reason the grain has not been cracked and is still instead waiting in its air tight container.
Overall we are really happy with the Barley Crusher and the added flexibility, efficiency and fun it has added to our brew days. If you are doing all grain batches and haven’t decided to crack your own yet you should really consider it.