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DageraadBen
02-04-2013, 12:40 PM
I'm setting up a brewery and my consultant is encouraging me to not buy a mill and to buy pre-milled malt instead.

The benefits, as I understand them are:
Save money on a mill, gristcase and flex auger
Get a better grind with the supplier's 6 roller mill than I could ever get with my own 2 roller mill
Save the space used by a mill
Save the time taken to mill malt
Save the mess and dust of milling

The downsides are:
I'll be charged $2.50 a bag for milling, but I might get part of that back in the form of improved extract from the better-milled grain.
Milled grain will stale faster than unmilled grain, but that should only be a problem if I leave it sitting around for a long time.
It might take a little longer for my supplier to get grain to me if I need it in an emergency.

Am I missing anything here? Is this actually a good idea?

schmogger
02-05-2013, 07:13 AM
Do you have the $$$ in the budget to get a mill? If so I would personally would get the mill. I have used premilled malt and it is convenient to use but I know I had lauter problems when using it. Very slow runoffs but my mash tun was narrow and the grain bed was fairly deep. If your mash tun is large and has ample surface area you should be okay. If you are pinching pennies to get open then save the money and get yourself a mill. What is your consultants back ground, has he ever worked in both a small or large brewery or is he just book smart?

poltz
02-05-2013, 07:57 AM
To me it is like renting vs buying. Having them mill your gain is like renting their mill for your grain order. Eventually, you will far exceed the price of a mill, auger, space, etc. (and probably in pretty quick order I think). Not that I would volunteer to mill all of your grain, but I vote strongly for the purchase of the mill and the equipment.

Also....remember one of the most important benefits of an auger system. You don't have to hump the grain into the mash tun. That gets old in a hurry. Humping it out is bad enough.

As far as efficiency, you may be right, but with the proper crush you can dial in your system pretty well.

Good Luck,

P

Ted Briggs
02-05-2013, 08:50 AM
Get a mill IMHO

BrewinLou
02-05-2013, 08:57 AM
With premilled you are at the mercy of the venders mill gap setting. Which is from what I have seen a little fine for a mash tun without rakes. Get the mill, then you can tune in the mill gap for your system.

It's a good day to brew.

kugeman
02-05-2013, 09:38 AM
I've also worked in brewpubs that used pre-milled malt and currently work in a pub with a mill & auger. In my opinion the only reason NOT to have a mill is if you don't have the space. You can make good beer with pre-milled malt and can make that system work for you (FYI it takes way longer to mash in with pre-milled, dumping 1 bag at a time into that mash tun and then mixing etc...) if necessary. On a 7 bbl system the mill & auger will pay for itself in 3 or 4 years if you're at all busy.

If you truly don't have the money, then I would set up your brewery so that you can add the mill & auger later when you've got some cash flow. Being able to have control over your grist crush is important, and the pre-milled stuff won't be dialed in for your specific brewery. And it definitely won't be the same every time you order.

Buy the mill if you can.

Bainbridge
02-05-2013, 09:47 AM
In another thread, user ConradG recently posted this powerpoint from Briess http://www.brewingwithbriess.com/Assets/Presentations/Briess_2007CBC_Practical_Milling.ppt Interesting read.

One of the pages in it is an economic analysis of the break-even point for a mill setup (mill, grist case, auger, etc.). Seems to be that unless you're making 1000+ bbls it isn't worth having a mill. I disagree a bit, in that I'd at least have a grist case and auger. They're comparatively cheap and will allow you to pre-load the grain so you can mash in easily all by your lonesome without running around, manually chucking bags in. Particularly if you have to carry bags up a steep brewhouse ladder. And you need it if you're using a hydrator.

DageraadBen
02-05-2013, 05:55 PM
Thanks for all the responses. Sounds pretty overwhelmingly in favour of a mill.

My consultant has worked at several small breweries and he's opened two. I don't think he's ever used pre-milled malt himself, so maybe he can't see the downside to premilled. He hates the mess of milling his own grain and he seems to think that I'll get better extract from Canada Malting's 6-roller mill. From what a lot of you are saying, I might get worse runoff.

If I went this route, instead of an auger and grist case, I'd put a little hopper on top of the hydrator and feed the bags in while mashing in.

I don't like the idea of losing control over my crush and my own numbers indicate that this mill will pay for itself in 4 or 5 years, including the grist case and auger.

It's something I'll have to consider. Thanks everyone for your input.

brewmaster 2011
02-05-2013, 06:16 PM
I felt that when it comes to control, but i have been using pre milled malt from Brewer Supply Group and have never had a problem. I add each bag one at a time directly into the mash tun. With a 3:1 ratio I got 5 bags, 4 bags, 3bags, ect... mixing it for 2 minutes in between. Don't waste the money for somthing like a mill when the money can be saved for another fermenter or brite tank.

Bainbridge
02-05-2013, 10:39 PM
I agree there, and brewmaster 2011 makes a good point. On one hand, yes, you've got control. Great if you need to mill in, say, a lot of rye or wheat or six row. On the other, you have to set the mill correctly. I'd trust the maltsters to set their mills correctly. Me on the other hand? Though, as has been mentioned, it can depend on if you've got rakes or not. Because if you don't have the mill set right... Wheeee, a horribly slow lauter or a stuck mash. Or "darn, the sparge sure was easy but I missed gravity by 10 points. Looks like I made a session barleywine." We had some efficiency shenanigans a while back where the grist looked ok in our palms, but we were missing gravity left and right. Turns out we were milling too fine and getting leftover doughy pockets full of sweet wort. So I would definitely invest in a manual shaker set and adjust your mill by "SCIENCE!" and not just your eyeballs. :) We cheaped out and just use the #14 screen, the lid and the pan. (Those things are surprisingly expensive! Though we've just got the two roller mill, I'd do the full set if I had a 4 or 6.) We check it every month or so to make sure the mill hasn't moved, like, hit a rock or something. Ideally shooting for 70% in the screen, 30% in the pan after 3 minutes of shaking with our Fabulous Science Ball in there. Works for us!

NHBrewer23
02-06-2013, 07:49 AM
Just a question but has your consultant worked with or installed a grain handling system before? Is it just that he isn't comfortable with installing or sourcing the equipment?

My vote is to go ahead and buy the mill. My entire grain handling setup which included a new 2-roll mill, (2) 50' Flex Augers, and a 58 cubic foot stainless steel grist case was $13,500. I will admit I could have purchased some components for less, but having my equipment supplier source everything was just one less thing to worry about.

Knowing how much I spent, and realizing this is a rather high price, take what you anticipate brewing volume-wise for the first year and determine how much grain is required to produce that volume. Now multiply the extra milling cost by the total pounds required and see where you stand cost-wise. Depending upon your volume, you may find that the cost of having your own mill will certainly be justified by 5 years.

Van Havig did a great presentation on brewhouse efficiency which can be found on google: van havig brewhouse efficiency. He demonstrates the effects of different grinds and how much extract you can achieve just because of your mill gap setting. In addition to Van's presentation, Briess Malting has a technical presentation on, "Practical Milling for the Craft Brewer." That presentation can be found here: http://www.brewingwithbriess.com/Malting101/Technical_Presentations.htm. This presentation describes the pro's and cons of having your grain pre-milled versus milling your own including the cost per batch difference.

Slight brewhouse inefficiencies can really add up over the course of a year and as a new brewery, it is imperative to keep your COGS low. Best of luck.

sok454
09-10-2013, 12:05 PM
Interesting read. Takeaway is approximately under 1000 bbl go w pre-ground.

dick murton
09-10-2013, 03:12 PM
If you are unsure, and can cope for a short period, then I would try pre-milled. A correctly set up 6 roll mill will give you far more consistent results than a 2 roll ever will, and if you supplier gives consistent malt, I would stick with the pre-milled stuff.

Think of the other downsides of having your own mill. You have to consider the maintenance, electricity supply - both cost and safe installation to ensure no sparks. You have dust generation issues - ventilation, explosion risk in a small space, environmental cleaning from any dust leaks. In Europe, and I bet in the States as well, you will have all sorts of legal issues associated with that lot. Oh, and you have to find time to actually mill the damned stuff and monitor it for consistency. What happens if your mill plays up? You can't send it back. And a bit of space simply for the mill.

But I agree that a grist case in some form or another, plus a masher is useful. The grist case doesn't have to be up high either. It can be at floor level, so you load up a few bags at a time, directly from the pallet, and an auger carries it up to the mashing in system.

You don't say what size your brew kit is, but I know plenty of people running 10 UK barrel (about 14 US barrels I think) using only ready milled malt.

So for my money, if you have say a 10 UK barrel or less, definitely go for pre-milled. I agree with your consultant.

dick murton
09-10-2013, 03:14 PM
I forgot to mention noise as well

Coolhand
09-11-2013, 04:02 PM
Gents -

Who is your favorite supplier for pre-milled malt in the Rocky Mountain area? I just ordered my first pallet of pre-milled 2-Row, started through Country Malt but ended up with the Brewcraft arm since Country Malt doesn't do pre-milled. I know BSG does pre-milled as well.... Any words of wisdom? Freight rates are pretty brutal for me (N. Central Wyoming).

Thanks,
Justin

brewmaster 2011
09-11-2013, 04:49 PM
I only buy my pre milled malt for BSG Denver. I get 80%+ efficiency with it too.

Luch15
09-12-2013, 06:38 AM
We have been using premilled malts from BSG since we opened about 3 years ago. We have on occasion had runoff issues, I have noticed the milling is a bit too fine on occasion. It hasn't been a real problem for us. We have very limited space in the brewery and a mill would really complicate things so this is a really great option for us. I will also say that having a small system (5bbl) that we double and triple batch, the heaving of bags is really not a big deal, in fact we triple batch start to finish in 12 hours, so there is no time savings with a mill, if anything it would lengthen the day I think. We are currently running at 1000bbl/yr. I will also tell you I enjoy not cleaning up dust, and maintaining a mill. For us the cost tradeoff is worth it.

My 2 cents.

Ted Briggs
09-12-2013, 10:01 AM
Who is your favorite supplier for pre-milled malt in the Rocky Mountain area? ... Any words of wisdom? Freight rates are pretty brutal for me (N. Central Wyoming).


BSG works well for me. Order full pallets for a better price and to maximize shipping $$.

But I would still buy a mill. 5C/pound x 30k/year (only 500bbl) is 1500$ in your first year saved, Plus you can mill how you want. The downsides of a mill are nothing compared to cost savings and controlling your own grind. Dust issues, Really? Buy a shop-vac and a broom...

OneMoreBrewer
09-13-2013, 08:06 AM
I am sure I may get some guff from other members about this, but really, pre milled malts? I think that there will be a considerable amount of oxidation that occurs between the time the supplier mills the malt and the time your using it to brew. We won't even mill in the night before a brew unless its absolutely necessary. Save money and effort and costs? I've heard you can brew with extracts too! Maybe I'm a purest, but I don't consider it to be the same as brewing from the scratch ingredients. I mean if its all about costs and labor we would all make RTDs. I think that you will have a degradation of your product if you use premilled malts. That being said, your product may be great with use of premilled malts, I just feel it would be better with fresh milled malt.

You can make great beer without fancy equipment. You can make better beer with fancy equipment!

Bainbridge
09-13-2013, 11:15 AM
While pre-milling malt does increase the rate at which it oxidizes and spoils, and I know it feels like Sooner = Better, but I do wonder, scientifically, how much that rate increases? And whether it's linear? At home right now and don't have my books handy, but I wonder whether it really makes a difference whether the malt's been milled that morning vs overnight. My guess is that it's negligible compared to any potential cockups you might cause during mash-in by having One More Thing To Do that morning. (As you can guess, we mill in the afternoon before.) But milled that week vs. that month.... Country Malt Group says to use bagged malt within six months and pre-milled within three. If a brewery was ordering malt once a week for the next week's brews most of that malt will have only been ground for a short while. Think the problem will be with stuff like say, Black Patent, where you're using like 15lbs out of 50 and leaving the rest for possibly months to come. There's gotta be an MBAA or New Brewer article on this somewhere.

Then there's the argument that oxidation over-all is bad, but a little bit could be beneficial. Hops can be like that.

tariq khan
09-13-2013, 10:05 PM
I'm with Dick on this one, used premilled in the UK, never had any problems, of course the maltsters were all close by. Here in Canada I've had to get our mill repaired, as well as the auger, and silo. Very expensive! not to mention the time involved in milling and clean up.

If you could get a guarantee that you would get your malt in a timely manner, I'd go with PM if your brewery is a smallish operation.

T

OneMoreBrewer
09-15-2013, 08:36 AM
While pre-milling malt does increase the rate at which it oxidizes and spoils, and I know it feels like Sooner = Better, but I do wonder, scientifically, how much that rate increases? And whether it's linear? At home right now and don't have my books handy, but I wonder whether it really makes a difference whether the malt's been milled that morning vs overnight. My guess is that it's negligible compared to any potential cockups you might cause during mash-in by having One More Thing To Do that morning. (As you can guess, we mill in the afternoon before.) But milled that week vs. that month.... Country Malt Group says to use bagged malt within six months and pre-milled within three. If a brewery was ordering malt once a week for the next week's brews most of that malt will have only been ground for a short while. Think the problem will be with stuff like say, Black Patent, where you're using like 15lbs out of 50 and leaving the rest for possibly months to come. There's gotta be an MBAA or New Brewer article on this somewhere.

Then there's the argument that oxidation over-all is bad, but a little bit could be beneficial. Hops can be like that.

Personally, I am of the opinion that all oxygen is bad, unless I have measured it and placed it where and when I want in a controlled measure (like oxygenating yeast). I don't generally subscribe to an unknown factor unless I have to. It's rather irrelevant whether the oxidation is a linear, or curved equation to me as I can control this factor by milling in immediately before mash in. That would be the point with least oxidation in either equation. Again I don't see anything specifically "wrong" with pre milled, but I don't see where it is any advantage to the product. The 6 roller mill, IMHO will be similar in extract, and possibly problematic in lautering. The in house 2 roller, gives you flexibility to adjust grind. I don't know the cost of the grist case/auger/mill setup, but 2.50 a bag would cost us over $6,500 or so per year and we're not very big. It seems to me the only reason to go premilled is from the cost/labor perspective and not from the product quality perspective.

Bainbridge
09-16-2013, 12:10 PM
Agreed. While I think a blind panel would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a beer milled in that morning and one milled in the day before, I do think you'd notice one milled a couple weeks earlier. It is about practicalities: if you're pressed for space, don't have room for a mill, grist case and an auger, the added cost can be made up for by decreased rent, labor, etc.. It's about the efficient use of the space you have, and the compromises we all have to make. I've seen breweries that have a mill, but no auger or grist case. So they have to mill into buckets or malt bags, then add them into the mash tun. Messy, dusty, laborious. Why bother with that, the labor, space, and equipment expense, if you can get pre-milled bags? It gets down to size, layout, planning. Our mill-room is about 200sq ft, including specialty malt storage and the grist case (we mill straight down into the case and auger over to the mash tun), and it's tight in there. How many nanos and brewpubs have an extra, conveniently located, enclosed and separate, 200sq ft around? Which is why that study mentioned earlier showed that below 1000bbls you get diminishing returns from the mill investment. But if you're up around that level, or have plans to grow past there, it's certainly worth it from both a cost and a quality perspective.

gitchegumee
09-16-2013, 06:50 PM
Tariq: Why bother with that? Well, it takes us a month on a hot container to get our malt order. No way I could ever buy pre-milled. And we necessarily store it on site in temperature and humidity controlled environment for a month to six weeks maximum after we get it before it's all used. So we mill. No auger--no grist case. It's milled a bit remote from the brewery where we store the malt--not near the brewhouse. I purposely put together our small brewery to facilitate hauling bags to the mash tun easily. Our used mill was $1500 before shipping. (found it on probrewer.com) Oxygen? Sure that's part of the reason we choose to mill, but especially with elevated temperatures. For us, milling is the way to go. Both price and quality of product.

So there is a case to be made for a mill, IMHO. Not so much for an auger--especially without (or AFTER) a grist case. Auger seems to me to be weakest link, so I don't want its eventual failure to be halfway through mash in and ruin product, labor of cleanup, more labor of repair, and scheduling interruptions. Milling into bags isn't that difficult--unless using Weyermann, who's milled product doesn't fit into the whole-grain bag. Labor? It's not that bad for anything around 10bbl. Get some exercise. Dust? Maintain your mill so it doesn't leak so bad; use a tight-fitting chute and a bungee strap to secure your receiver bag; and wear an appropriate mask. Consistency? Buy a sieve set (even if you're buying pre-milled). Milling soon before mashing not only keeps malt from oxidation, but also from rancidity and from going slack.

Dick: Another significant issue with milling malt, or even with dumping bags into the tun is respiratory exposure to malt dust. My biggest concern in chronic brewery exposure. Ever hear of "farmer's lung"? Not a good way to go!

dick murton
09-17-2013, 02:51 PM
Re farmers lung. I am well aware of that fact, but pouring bags of malt into the malt hopper and the dust given off by the rest of the milling system produces dust as well. So I reckon it is as broad as it is long. Good dust masks are required in all cases. And I agree that it may be easier to isolate the milling system from the rest of the brewery, so reducing spread of dust throughout the brewery (so better for hygiene as well)

Given your location, and the time taken to get malt from the supplier, then I think you undoubtedly do gain by milling your own. But if the bags have been sealed properly, I wouldn't have thought by much. But since I have no experience of using pre-milled versus milling on site in hot countries, with such a supply distance, this is not based on experience. I have only used "on site" milling in hot countries - with dreadful milling systems in most of the sites, and (referring to another thread) use of high speed centrifugal pumps for moving the mash around in a couple of cases - but this is another story on its own.

Cool country, short distance from supplier to brewer, small brewlength ? I would still opt for premilled, principally for simplicity.

tariq khan
09-17-2013, 11:04 PM
Tariq: Why bother with that? Well, it takes us a month on a hot container to get our malt order. No way I could ever buy pre-milled. And we necessarily store it on site in temperature and humidity controlled environment for a month to six weeks maximum after we get it before it's all used. So we mill. No auger--no grist case. It's milled a bit remote from the brewery where we store the malt--not near the brewhouse. I purposely put together our small brewery to facilitate hauling bags to the mash tun easily. Our used mill was $1500 before shipping. (found it on probrewer.com) Oxygen? Sure that's part of the reason we choose to mill, but especially with elevated temperatures. For us, milling is the way to go. Both price and quality of product.

So there is a case to be made for a mill, IMHO. Not so much for an auger--especially without (or AFTER) a grist case. Auger seems to me to be weakest link, so I don't want its eventual failure to be halfway through mash in and ruin product, labor of cleanup, more labor of repair, and scheduling interruptions. Milling into bags isn't that difficult--unless using Weyermann, who's milled product doesn't fit into the whole-grain bag. Labor? It's not that bad for anything around 10bbl. Get some exercise. Dust? Maintain your mill so it doesn't leak so bad; use a tight-fitting chute and a bungee strap to secure your receiver bag; and wear an appropriate mask. Consistency? Buy a sieve set (even if you're buying pre-milled). Milling soon before mashing not only keeps malt from oxidation, but also from rancidity and from going slack.

Dick: Another significant issue with milling malt, or even with dumping bags into the tun is respiratory exposure to malt dust. My biggest concern in chronic brewery exposure. Ever hear of "farmer's lung"? Not a good way to go!



Yeah Philip, your situation totally makes sense to buy un-milled, your location is a bit unique though ;-)

Cargill Malt
09-19-2013, 04:24 PM
Having worked as a brewer and a supplier I would personally choose to buy a mill every time, with the rare exception of a situation where it was simply not possible due to space or other constraint. I have tasted beer made with pre-milled malt and the beer is very good, so it can be done. However, the science tells us that milling malt weeks ahead of its use is problematic from an oxidation standpoint. Unlike hops where some oxidation of the oil fractions is considered positive (primarily in the UK), any oxidation of malt is negative.

Milled malt is also more likely to pick up moisture, and it is also more likely to attract bugs. There is also a significant decrease in flexibility in buying malt premilled as you do not want your supplier to hold the material in inventory, but rather mill to order. This increases lead times.

As far as brewhouse performance is concerned, I'd much rather be in control of my grind and optimize regularly for my own process, even with a two roll mill.

Again, you can make perfectly good beer with premilled malt. We sell premilled malt because some brewers do require it for their process. You will however make beer that is likely more stable when milling onsite and you will have more control over your process.

Good luck with your decision.

gitchegumee
09-19-2013, 08:11 PM
Very good points by all in this thread. It seems to address most of the issues facing a decision whether to mill or not. Maybe there's a way to "sticky-wiki" this to the "dumb stuff every brewer should know" or at the top of the malt section?

is_wiz
12-16-2013, 01:57 PM
Something to consider is how much paying one of your staff to mill all that grain is going to cost you. Milling requires of course a mill but also a place to mill, probably isolated place where dust can't get out. And there is never enough space. That's all hard physical labor that takes time. That is gonna cost you more than having the vendor mill it.

OneMoreBrewer
12-18-2013, 10:34 AM
The milling will be done by their employee or yours, so then the question would be... Is my employee cheaper than theirs? To that same degree - I can watch/regulate/control my employee. Does their employee have the same vested interest in my company? Having worked in grains for many years, I can tell you that there are few truly honest employees that would say something if they accidentally threw a 2-row American bag in, instead of a pilsner malt bag. I suspect if your using someone else to mill, that degree of difference will not matter to you.

Ale
02-15-2014, 12:15 PM
Looking at what will probably be a 4 hour runoff I decided to add to this thread. Consistency and control are my two main reasons for the decision to buy a mill after using pre-milled for some time. Grain suppliers are not maltsters and mine gets milling wrong an unacceptable amount of time. Very often the grain is the opposite of what I specified, and because we have a very fine screen on our mash tun this results in a painfully long runoff and poor efficiency. So being able to consistently control milling is a necessity for us.

The third reason would be cost savings. At $2.50 a bag we will have a ROA in under 2 years.

The main reasons we did not buy a mill at start-up were cost of the mill and milling room and space restraints. Now we can afford a mill but we still have some space constraints so I'd rather not build a mill room. I also don't want to spend the money on a properly vented explosion proof room which is the only way we would do it.

Which leads to the question what are those with a mill and no milling room doing? Milling outside? Are there dust-free mills?

gitchegumee
02-15-2014, 08:33 PM
Greetings "Ale".
Gotta ask why a 4 hour runoff? Seems excruciatingly long to me. Try rice hulls and keep more liquid in the mash while you lauter; don't let the bed compact due to lower liquid levels. I shoot for 2 hour total runoff time and try to keep that very consistent. But that's not your question... Mill rooms seem to have gotten lots of scrutiny from regulators & bureaucrats recently. Explosion-proof is over-the-top in my opinion, but I may be in the minority. I would prefer a room to not having a room. Outside? No thanks. Don't want my schedule trumped by weather. If you have a covered apron outside your brewery, or a loading dock or some other such area; then maybe. I'm a fan of NON-portable mills that are securely fastened to mother earth. Machines work better when anchored. Dust-free mills? That's kind of a relative/subjective/semantic issue. All mills generate dusty obviously. We just want to contain it to inside the milling system. Malt mills NOT purpose-built for brewing--and I'm speaking about the overwhelming majority of mills sold with smaller "turn-key" systems--are feed mills meant to be operated in barns. These throw dust more than a brewer would like. Other mills that ARE purpose built for breweries are amazingly dust-tight. They are expensive--but worth it IMHO. All that being said, we use a stationary feed mill inside a large warehouse with LOTS of natural ventilation. Looking for a new mill though... Good luck!

Ale
02-16-2014, 12:48 PM
Yeah, 4 hours is a killer. Thankfully it was only 3.5 :eek: .The screen on our mash tun is very fine and anything but a coarse grind of grain results in a very slow runoff. Only after mashing in normally, which usually results in a 1.5 hour or so runoff on our 15 bbl system, did I realize the grain was crushed so fine.

And gitchegumee, thanks again for all of your insightful input to this forum!

SouthHouseBrew
02-18-2014, 09:43 AM
Other than reducing explosion risk, isolating your mill is mostly good for keeping dust off walls, ceilings, support beams, conduit, pipe insulation, the top of your cooler, etc. etc.

Even with a tight mill, you'll inevitably have dust from opening bags, transporting/conveying milled grain, and mill maintenance. Its a tiny amount, but it really adds up over time, and is a PITA to clean off, especially if its been around awhile or gotten wet.

It doesn't have to be a big space, and you can widdle away at it when you have time, milling outside (or using pre-milled with rice hulls) until its finished. LOTS of examples on the web.