If you ever made the mistake of purchasing malt that didn’t come crushed (like I did when I purchased everything to make my first ever beer batch), then you may have taken it to your local homebrewing store to ask them to crush it for you, and you may have had to pay for it as well.
In my case, they offered me to come in and do it myself with the mill that they had but I didn’t want to drive all the way out there, so I did some digging and ended up finding a way to crush the grains myself.
In this article, I will be sharing how to crush the malt at home, what mistakes to avoid, how fine to crush it, etc.
So, without any further ado, let’s get started!
How to Crush grains without a mill for Homebrewing
Crushing grains at home can be done using a food processor or a blender and processing small amounts of grain every time as to prevent too much of the grain turning into dust, and if none of these are an option then you could consider using a hand blender, a coffee grinder, and even a rolling pin or a mortar & pestle.
Each of these methods have their pros and cons but, generally speaking, using a regular blender or food processor is the better alternative.
Food Processor or Blender
Out of all the methods of crushing the grains at home, aside from purchasing your own mill, using a Blender or a powerful food processor is definitely the better alternative since you can crush a fairly substantial amount of grains in one go.
What you will have to look out for, however, is that, since food processors & blenders aren’t designed to uniformly crush grains, some of the grains will still be intact while some others may get over crushed, basically resulting in a lot of malt dust which isn’t that great.
I found the best results by processing about two cups of grain. Filling up the food processor/ blender too much will leave the grains at the top nearly intact while the bottom ones turn into dust.
Lastly, if you can, shake the blender a bit while it’s running or stop it every 5 seconds or so and either shake it or use a spoon to stir the grains.
Hand Blenders can also be used to crush grains as long as you pay attention and don’t let the blender overheat (mine felt like it was right on the edge of coming up in flames at any second), which also means that it will take quite a lot of time to blend a large number of grains.
What worked for me was putting about one cup of grains in the typical measuring cup that comes with the blender and covering the top hole as much as possible with my hand. If you don’t cover the hole, as soon as you turn the blender on, the grains will fly all over your kitchen.
The good thing about this method is that it doesn’t over crush the grains as much and it’s much easier to control the amount of grain dust generated, but it takes much longer than doing it with a regular blender or food processor.
Well, coffee grinders are designed to, well, grind coffee beans, so it’s quite logical to assume that they would be a great choice for crushing malt, right?
While they can definitely crush malt without any issues, they are not designed to crush large amounts of it in one go, since you generally use them to crush enough for one cup of coffee.
This means that it will take a lot of time to crush enough malt for a typical brewing batch, but if you don’t have a blender or a food processor, then this method might work.
Again, don’t let the coffee grinder turn the grains into dust.
Now, on to my least favorite methods.
Rolling Pin method
You can put some grains in a ziplock bag, lay it flat on the counter and then roll over them with a rolling pin (or you could softly hit the grains with it as well) until you can see that most of them have been crushed.
The pros about using this method is that you will probably never over crush the grains and end up with much less grain dust than using something like a blender, but this will take a LOT of time and effort. If you don’t end up sweating I’m going to be extremely surprised.
Note: If you don’t have a rolling pin, use a baseball bat.
Optional: Mortar & Pestle Method
This is by far my least favorite method since it takes forever and like ⅓ of the grains end up flying out of the mortar, but if the only resource you have left, then you could use it.
Note: Don’t use it like you normally would and don’t grind the grains, but rather use the pestle to softly hit the grains against the mortar.
However, if you’re serious about brewing and want to save money in the very long term, then you might want to consider getting your own mill since you could easily get one for about $30, but buying already crushed grain generally only costs about $1 more than buying it without being crushed, so you would have to brew a lot in order to start seeing some savings.
Get your own cheap Grain Mill
There are hundreds of mills available that you could purchase to crush your malt, and you could get a really cheap- hand operated one, or you may consider spending a little more and getting an electric mill.
I would personally recommend a hand operated one simply because of the cost and because with these mills you can actually crush 10 pounds of grain in no time, so it’s not really worth getting an electric one unless you’re working in bulk.
How Fine should you crush the Malt?
Generally speaking, you want the malt to be crushed as coarse as possible, meaning that you should be able to see the inside of the grain, which is white, but the shell should be as intact as possible. Basically, large pieces with the inner parts of the grain exposed.
Of course, whenever you crush grain, some dust will be present, but this isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s not too much.
Can you overcrush the malt for homebrewing?
Over crushing malt is definitely a possibility and can lead to stuck sparges as well as contribute to a hazier beer.
Using a food processor, blender, coffee grinder, etc., will lead to a lot of grain dust, which is why I mentioned that you should always blend really small amounts of grain at the same time.
How long before brewing should you crush the malt?
For best results, you should crush your grain right before you brew since it produces better tasting beer and limits the chance of stale or oxidized flavors, although you could certainly crush the grains and store them in a sealed, air-tight container or bag for 2 to 3 months without them losing all of their properties.
Crushing your own grains is definitely possible but not something that I’d recommend unless you get yourself a mill since it will take way too long and the results will be suboptimal, but you could do it in a pinch.
The food processor/blender method is definitely the best one if you have a powerful enough one. Just make sure to put in small amounts of grain and to not over-blend them.