The Fresh Loaf

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Lee Household -used S600 or new version?

Andy Avery's picture
Andy Avery

Lee Household -used S600 or new version?

I am considering a splurge on a (Royal) Lee mill - tired of using my screeching little Magic Mill for grinding 2-5# a week. I grind wheat, rye, spelt, kamut and durum to fine consistency. I have the option to buy a newer current 1hp model, or a used S600. Aesthetically, I love the Aliens Invade Earth look of the s600. I ask because - well, some things just aren’t built like they used to be (40 year old Cuisinarts, etc in my arsenal). And of course, some things are much better in current iterations. I’d like to make a good choice -only want to do this once before I die. Anyone have an opinion or experience with the old and the new versions? Thank you!

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Andy,  I have owned a number of the Lees ,  including the  600 and the S 600 ( bought them used and gave them to family and friends), but have never seen the new version in person. 

Short version - if you can try out the used one in person, I would go that route.  If you can't and the cost of the used one is more than $300 or so, and you don't have the right to return, a used one may be a mistake.  I probably have bought a half dozen or more- one had a blown motor - more about that below, which makes it worthless, the motor can't be repaired, one had a bearing that went bad, but that can be replaced, and the others worked fine.  I still have one. and while it works fine,  I almost never use it. 

First,  I would ignore the claim of 1 hp.  I can get very technical if you want me to send a pm, but even if it were a true 1 hp, that would not make it any better than the  S600.

Second,    When they first released the Royal, I thought there were more photos and details on the differences between it and the original, but can't find that now.  The main change that I see is that the original discharged into a bag - which was a pain. The new one discharges into a clear bowl, and uses a fabric to connect the bowl to the machine.   The fabric connector will not fit the older models  ( I bought one when the new ones come out, the discharge chute on the S600 is larger than the new one, so it won't fit )  You can rig something up that is similar,  it would take a little doing, but would be a vast improvement over trying to empty the flour out of a bag where there is elastic in the top of the bag.  For each of the ones I owned, I made an adaptor to let it discharge into a tupperware container - much easier to clean out. 

Third, both machines work in the same fashion - and will produce a finer flour than any other machine I have owned, and I have owned quite a few.  On the other hand, it won't be the same as white flour made in a commercial roller mill, and I am not all that sure that a finer flour is better in most uses.  Yes, if you do a very coarse grain, that will impact the texture of the loaf, but I currently use a Retsel which grinds a little coarser than the Lee on its finest setting, and don't observe any difference in the bread.  I have also read a study that suggests that loaf volume decrease as you mill below a certain size - though that was a  scientific paper and specialized equipment, so not sure if they were milling finer than the Lee.  Also, for the Lee, the finer you set it the longer it will take to mill, so much that I almost never set it to the finest setting.

Sorry for the long post, but the main thing is that all versions of the Lee use a universal ac motor.  As the motor is faced with more of a load, it turns a little slower , which decreases the fan that blows air over the motor to cool it.  Heat is the enemy of electric motors.   That same reduction in speed is essential to the design- as it goes fast, there is an opening that allows berries into the milling chamber, as it slows down, that opening closes- so it then grinds what is in the chamber, and as it grinds it and the chamber empties, the opening gets wider letting in more berries. Assuming the used one you buy has been treated well,  than I am sure it will work well.  If it was abused, there are two potential issues.  If it was allowed to overheat earlier in its life, when you turn it on and it is empty, it will turn on full speed and sound fine, then as berries get into the chamber ,  it will slow down, then slow down even more, again as it slows down, the fan slows so it gets even hotter, and in the worst case, the motor will come to a full stop and not grind.  I bought one of those. No way to really know until you use it for a while. I think someone here bought one with the same issue.  In the days when the were common on ebay for $100 or less, most sellers did not have any familiarity with the mill, and even those who did, did not  have wheat berries to test it, so I really can't fault them.  Alternatively,  if someone let it run at full speed with no berries in it for extremely long periods of time, that can wear out the bearing.  Not all that hard to replace, but it is a pretty rare size  ( for me, I just took the bearing out of the one with the dead motor ).  Finally, there is a possibilty on a used on that the bushes have worn down and need to be replaced -  that task is much easier than replacing a bearing, but you would need to track down the correct sized brushes.

I just did a ebay search for completed, and the price range was a low of $100 for mill listed parts only because when the seller turned it on it was very loud  ( could be a bad bearing, but could be fine, it is very loud when running empty) to mid $300.  While a few said in good working condition,  I doubt that they ran berries through it,

So to bring this long post to an end, if you can test it and get it at a good price go for it.  A good test would be to have the owner turn it on, run 2 cups of wheat berries through it, and time it.   If you can't test it, but can get it at a great price, you can still come out ahead even if the first one is a dud, since the new ones, at Pleasant Grain, are $850. 

Andy Avery's picture
Andy Avery

Hi Barry,

Thank you for your very thought-full reply. On kind of spur of the moment I decided to buy an s500. I wanted an s600 but decided that for the reasonable price, it was worth the risk. Since I am currently only milling fine setting anyway, I decided it may be worth it. I just could not feel the love to commit to pre-ordering a Komo Classic or XL, or a local Nutrimill Harvest that is new and $300, though it did tempt me sorely. I'll see how I feel down the road. I do wonder if anyone has ever used a Corona or Victoria mill to first crack grains before putting in the Lee's and whether that decreases mill time (I know you are not supposed to remill through the Lee's)? I anticipate doing about 5 lbs of grinding at a whack to minimize the misery of cleaning. And is the compressed air blower on a previous thread a good technique to use to avoid having to remove the stone? I'm in favor of simplicity!

Thanks so VERY much for your reply!

Andy

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Andy,  the S500 works just as well, just a bit older and a different color. You do not want to crack the grains before putting them into the Lee.  The feed mechanism is made for uncracked berries -  and the entire design of how the mill lets more berries into the milling chamber is based on whole berries.   As to cleaning,  I don't clean any mill after each use.  I probably cleaned the Lee once every few months.  If you are concerned that the uncleaned mill will be a food source for pantry moths, you can use plastic wrap to seal the discharge chute so they can't get in.

Andy Avery's picture
Andy Avery

Thanks again. I was dreading removing the stone (or perhaps that is only on the s600?), I've read it is difficult to re-insert. It looks like some flour does sit inside after milling, and that bugs me a bit..

Couple of questions since you seem to be the Lee Guru.

1) Will the Lee's mill harder grains like whole semolina durum? And softer spelt or rye? Any problem premixing rye and WW in the hopper or is it better to mill each separately with their different hardness and berry/grain size??

2) Does storing my grain in the freezer convey any advantage to the finished product, or is the milling time so long that it negates any cooling benefit?

3) Are you satisfied with your Retsel?

I have a bunch of questions about oxidizing/aging fresh milled flours and I can see from my forum searches that the topic is...controversial, at best. I've read varying things, and while I like "sciencey" explanations, sometimes the science is dealing with minutiae that does not impact a finished product or my palate's ability to perceive. There are a lot of variables at play in sourdough, especially when you use mixed grains, preferments, soaks, etc. Part of the joy and occasionally the frustration of SD - getting consistent results is still a challenge for me. So, guess I will play around with this new added variable (fresh milled vs. aging or oxidizing) and come to my own conclusions (I'm baking sourdoughs w/ WW, durum, rye and spelt and rarely a bit of AP, occasional conventional yeasted WW/AP loaves). I have had weevil problems in the past. I do not relish having flour sitting around in paper bags creating the possibility of having to give my pantry another purge! On the other hand, considering that milling is a lengthy/noisy affair with the Lee, and sometimes I bake spontaneously, I do want to mill in larger batches. What to do.. Thanks in advance!

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Andy

1) Will the Lee's mill harder grains like whole semolina durum? And softer spelt or rye? Any problem premixing rye and WW in the hopper or is it better to mill each separately with their different hardness and berry/grain size??

The Lee will mill grains as long as they are similar in size to wheat berries and are not oily or too wet.  If they are oily,  like sesame seeds, the oil will cause the flour to stick to the surface of the stone, so it will stop grinding -  same is true if the berries are too wet.  Spelt and rye will have no issues,  and you can probably mill them all at the same time.  I don't know about semolina  - you might check this   https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/70784/making-semolina-flour-home

 

2) Does storing my grain in the freezer convey any advantage to the finished product, or is the milling time so long that it negates any cooling benefit?

I don't store berries in the freezer - i did once, then took them out, and due to the relative humidity and the lapse between when I took them out and got around to putting them in the mill, they picked up some condensation and stuck to the stone.  In general, the Lee is going to be a lower temp chamber than most other mills -  it is always blowing air through the milling chamber so that keeps it from getting too hot.  Plus, as you guessed, the milling time is quite long, so they will probably come to room temp by the time most of them go through the mill. 

3) Are you satisfied with your Retsel?

Very.  It will not grind as fine as the Lee  when you set the Lee to its finest settling, but it is much quicker than the Lee, and it is built like a tank. I have the big one, it is pretty heavy, and not at all as attractive as the Komo, so you probably would not want it on your counter all the time, but you wouldn't want to lift it back and forth either.  I keep mine on a table in the garage.  I have not bought any mills new, but have heard dealing with Retsel customer service can be a pain.

 

Removing the stone -  that seems to vary from Lee to Lee.  On some, you turn it a bit - like clockwise and counterclockwise, and when it is turning easily, you just pull it forward.  On others, it is very tight and on those, it is a pain to get it out and to put it back on.    While a little bit of flour will stick to the inside, that is true in all mills that I have used.  On the Lee, when you turn it on when it is empty, you will hear a very high pitched whine.  As berries are fed into the milling chamber, the pitch will drop a bit and keep dropping till the chamber is full, then it will stay at that pitch -  then often you will hear the pitch raise for a few seconds  as flour milling chamber empites, then the motor speeds up, and then more berries are admitted into the chamber.  If you have a good sense of pitch, you may be able to hear when the chamber is completely empty just by the pitch.  I usually mill at least once  a week and was not all that worried if a tsp of berries flour was in the chamber. 

 

Can't help with the aging issue - I have read conflicting info.  I mill hard white at least once per week. It goes into a container in the freezer  - I draw from that when I make dough -  sometimes it comes straight from the mill  ( if the container is mostly emply )  other times from the freezer.  I have not noticed any difference.  I mill red and soft wheat less frequently, and that goes into plastic bags in the freezer.  While I take some out each week, I often mill enough to cover a month or two at a time.   Again,  I haven't noticed a difference. 

Andy Avery's picture
Andy Avery

Barry, I’m so grateful for your input. 
Just had a chance to mill and bake. Made WW/Semolina/kamut/spelt/rye loaves -milled all but the durum. I’m blown away by the fineness of the flour, and the better spring I’m getting with this whole grain bread. I’m completely pleased. Milling speed was not unreasonable for my modest needs. I do see the wisdom of milling into a bowl, that bag is a pain in the backside! Guess I’ll try to sew a cloth chute to a bowl, and put the seams on the outside. Was going to share a photo of my loaves but it appears I will have to study how to do that here!

Thanks so much for your patience on this topic and your considerable expertise!

 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Andy ,  glad you are liking it,  I have owned a more mills than I can to admit to, and none can go as fine as the Lee.   Yes ,  you will want to make a chute.  Look at the ad for the Royal Lee and that should give you some idea - elastic at both ends ,  narrower at the top and wider at the bottom to go over a bowl.  BTW,  my pleasure,  i would never have bought a Lee without what I learned on this forum from others, like  subfuscpersona      https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/13634/lee-household-flour-mill