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I want to make my own peanut butter. I've read of various grinders--both hand-operated and electric. I'm most interested in finding a durable hand-operated peanut butter grinder. I know there are many spice grinders that can be used for peanut butter, but I don't want to skimp and get something that will break if I use it primarily for making peanut butter.

What should I look for? How do I know if a grinder will survive a large number of peanut-butter batches?

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I've edited this to be a more general question about selecting equipment; please note that this site is for Q&A - product polls/recommendations aren't allowed. –  Aaronut Jun 17 '11 at 3:09
    
+1 Because I'm curious about an hand grinder for peanut butter. –  Adam S Jun 20 '11 at 20:03

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I am answering my own question with information I have gathered after doing some of my own research. Several hand mills claim to make peanut butter, but the mill that seems to have the best public following and reviews for flour making, the Country Living Grain Mill, does not claim to make peanut butter in their marketing literature. I contacted the manufacturer, and got this reply:

We do not recommend doing nut butters in our mill. However, we are applying for patents on a nut butter attachment for the Country Living Mill that does a superlative job.. We hope to have it available by this Fall.

We have noticed that other grain mills on the market claim nut grinding ability and even show butter coming out of their mills. We have purchased these mills and tested them and quickly realized that it was an arduous task at best to produce anything resembling nut butter...we can do the same with out mill but feel that it is misleading and certainly unfair to make such claims. Hope this helps.

Of course their answer has every reason to be biased, and not tell me if there is a good peanut butter hand press available on the market.

Another popular press, the Wondermill Junior Deluxe claims to make creamy peanut butter with their stainless steel burrs, and one Amazon review agreed it was possible, but too messy to be worth the effort.

Reviews of two different griners at http://www.grainmillcomparison.com/ seem to agree with the general consensus that hand-made peanut butter isn't the state of the art (yet):

The nuts wouldn't feed, so I had to mash them into tiny bits. At this point the bits began to feed into the grinding plates. Unfortunately, those bits never exited--even when I loosened the grinding plates. The only peanut butter that I managed to produce was the goo stuck between the plates. -- GrainMaker Review

And:

My test with peanuts resulted in the grinding plates clogging almost immediately, and I produced only a few flecks of peanut butter during the five minutes of grinding. Many companies claim their handmills will grind nutbutters and oily seeds, but I've yet to see one that wasn't a miserable failure in actuality. -- Wondermill Junior Review

I have not been able to find a single first-hand account of making peanut butter with a hand mill that said it was worth it. As already mentioned, the amazon review mentioned above said it was far too messy. Many other reviews I've found have said the end result only vaguely resembled peanut butter--and never creamy peanut butter.

In an effort to directly answer the question at hand, though, the only feature I so far have been able to find that is required specifically for peanut butter is that the mill have steel burrs, as opposed to stone which are desirable for finely ground flour, as the stone will absorb oil from nuts, causing the system to clog.

EDIT: I got an additional reply from the Country Living Grain Mill manufacturers, explaining (in no great detail) what is required for a nut-grinder:

There are a number of factors such as the mill must reduce the nuts to a manageable size prior to grinding, and propel them with enough pressure to be squeezed out between appropriately designed grinding plates. It sounds simple, but the reality is that it's a very tricky thing to manage.

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Thanks for the edit - great insider info! –  zanlok Jun 29 '11 at 23:31

I can understand that grinding nuts into butter without the use of electricity has it's ecological, and other merits, but after having made many batches of peanut butter with a Champion Juicer, I can attest that it takes a pretty powerful engine (or arm ) with plenty of endurance to get a good consistency and a generous quantity. The cleaning of any grinder of residue of peanut butter is a little messy, but with a good brush, even a simple toothbrush, soap and hot water, one can develop a good routine. I don't find the cleaning any more difficult than with other appliances, such as food processors, or blenders.

I would suggest the Champion be considered, and it's versatility will reward you manyfold. We have made juiced carrot, apple, beet combinations; ground soybeans for the process of making soybeans, and made many batches of delicious fresh peanut butter with our 2nd hand model for over 3o years. It is still keeping up the good fight. The nice thing about making your own peanut butter is that you will be getting the freshest product possible, and have control over adding or not adding salt. We purchase roasted Valencia peanuts, and keep the nuts that we are not using immediately in the refrigerator. The consistency of the Champion juicer made peanut butter is smooth, but not creamy.

Although I haven't tried using any hand grinder for peanut butter, I have purchased several items from Lehman's - lehmans.com - and they are a reliable company. They do sell a hand grinder that can be used for peanuts. They offer replacement cast iron burrs, and a wooden stomper with the following comment in the hard copy catalog, "oily foods like peanuts tend to clog in the mill. Our stomper is required for peanuts ..." I use a wooden stomper with the Champion, and I would expect that advice.

After reading the reviews, and watching the demo video for the Lehman's hand grinder, I would still go with the electric Champion Juicer, if it were me.

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Could you go into what qualities specifically (in addition to versatility) make that one stand out? I think that is the real intent of the question, in addition to hearing the experience you've had with it. –  mfg Jun 22 '11 at 3:02
    
Two reasons I'm interested in a hand grinder (aside from the ecological impact, you mention): 1) Precisely because of the effort involved, that you mention, it will encourage me to make smaller batches, which improves the nutritional value, versus making a large batch that will last several days/weeks. 2) I suspect it will be easier to clean (other hand utensils seem to be easier to clean than their electric counterparts--egg beaters, for instance). –  Flimzy Jun 22 '11 at 5:13
    
Can you elaborate on your experience making peanut butter with an electric device? What is the quality/consistency of the peanut butter? How difficult is the device to clean? How messy is the overall process? –  Flimzy Jun 27 '11 at 3:55

These are not hand grinders, but you can try a "wet grinder", but they are very slow (takes hours to make a few jars).

If you don't mind ordering from a Chinese factory (assuming the freight is not exorbitant), you can view some real Peanut Butter machines here:

http://www.guoxinmachine.cn/search/product?_csrf_token_=16h2n36xl7_jw&IndexArea=product_en&SearchText=peanut

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I found a review of the Wonder Junior done by these two fellows on youtube who are an authority on grain mills and suchlike. They have a video where they grind peanut butter with the stainless steel burrs, and it seems like it was both easy and that they got a lot of peanut butter...and best of all they didn't have to ad any oil or anything, which is why I don't like using my blender or a food processor...they always tell you to add oil.

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