December 3, 2012 by KAREN FOSTER
All Blenders Are Not Created Equal: Which One Is Best For Your Needs?
A frequent question from many readers is which blender is best. First of all, there is no "best blender" for everybody. Secondly, choosing the right appliance entirely depends on your needs and budget. Both are important in helping you make the most practical decision for your kitchen and the most effective blender for your needs may not be the most expensive.
Why Use a High-End Blender
Many of my colleagues are raw foodists who will not consume any food or beverage that has been mixed in a high-speed blender. Their reasoning is oxidation. Yes, high-speed blenders will oxidize food, but so will cutting an apple. It is impossible to avoid oxidized foods for the rest of your life because the majority of populations don't live on farms with the leisure or convenience of picking fruits and vegetables for immediate consumption. Researchers have found that simply picking a fruit or vegetable from its area of growth, whether soil, or trees, initiates some loss of electrons and thus increases its oxidative stress instantly.
So it's not whether you're food will be oxidized, but how much it will be oxidized. Blending fruits and vegetables is far superior from a nutritonal perspective than cooking since the maintenance of enzymes, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients is greatly reduced via most methods involving high heat yet more likely retained in a high-speed blender because despite the rotational velocity of the blade, the temperature will never rise to an appreciable level in comparison to cooking.
If you're interested in making the best
soups, nut butters, smoothies, dressings, desserts, batters, breads and even flour, there is simply no substitute for a high-end blender. Mid-level blenders are also satisfactory for many of these recipes, however they have trouble matching the raw power needed to meet the demands required for nut butters, flour and many desserts.
Four Excellent Blenders Depending On Your Needs
After decades of experimentation with both average and top-rated blenders, I've gone through approximately one dozen of these mixer appliances since I equipped my first kitchen. Currently, and still on the market are four blenders I have used extensively and highly recommend for any serious consumer interested in raising the bar on conventional food and beverage preparation.
I will omit blenders that cost less than $100
from this analysis. Every blender I have ever purchased lower than this price point has never met a satisfactory result for the demands of functionality or lifespan, especially if applying the performance to the moderate home user. Cheap blenders just don't measure up to the power required for even some of the most basic blending techniques needed for many recipes. So if you can't quite afford a blender above this price point, my advice is to save a bit more money until you can. Otherwise you will be thoroughly disappointed by having to re-purchase blenders yearly.
From experience, blender brands of inferior capabilities include Black & Decker, Hamilton Beach, and most Oster models. If you're interested in getting the most out of your appliance, a long life-span with the ability to effectively break down ice and liquify a wide diversity of food products, stay away from these brands. They will typically breakdown prematurely with burned out motors without ever meeting even modest expectations.
The four models I recommend (and have owned myself) are as follows:
Breville (Die Cast Hemisphere 800BLXL)
The High-End blenders are $400 and up. It's difficult to find high-end blenders on ebay or amazon for less than this price but it does happen.
The Mid-level blenders range between $120-$200. Check reputable sellers on ebay or amazon and you may find more affordable prices.
Mid-level blenders although good at complementing most recipes, have a hard time creating truly smooth blends without some graininess persisting.
How Much Blending Power Do You Need?
This becomes the biggest complaint from owners of low to mid-level blenders -- their ability to puree or liquify all ingredients is subpar compared to their more expensive counterparts. Have you ever made a refreshing smoothie only to find a chunk of ice or fruit in your glass? How do those chunks escape the path of the blades? That usually comes down to design. The Vitamix and Blendtec do an excellent job of creating a vortex bringing all ingredients down to blades and circulating even a full container of liquid with ALL its ingredients. They will handle almost anything you put in their path. This also due to a higher horsepower range of the motor and the blade design itself. For the record and despite what a salesperson may suggest, unless you're a smoothie expert, you will not notice a difference between a 2HP or 3HP blender. From a functional perspective, once you move past the 1-2HP barrier, the end result depends more on blade and container design rather than power.
The Breville and Kitchen Aid can make a great smoothie if you don't mind some very tiny remnants of your raw materials. They will break up ice effectively without motor breakdown but they lack the power to create nut butters, flour and many different types of desserts that require a very smooth consistency.
Here is where the mid-level
brands shine. Both the Breville and Kitchen Aid blenders come with glass pitchers. They are very easy to clean, resist staining and allow more ingredients to slide off the walls of the container with ease. Glass is a much better insulator than any type of polycarbonate or copolyester, so it does a great job of keeping your recipe cold or hot for longer periods until serving. Glass is the purest of containers with no chance of long-term health effects.
Both the Vitamix and Blendtec state that they have not found suitable glass containers to meet their safety and performance requirements, however I believe the issue comes down more to weight and cost in manufacturing and production. That would then translate to higher retail prices which may affect market share. Both Vitamix and Blendtec currently use copolyster hybrid containers which are not particulary beneficial for our environment and whose long-term health implications have never been fully assessed. Both these containers stain quite easily (less than 2 weeks) and the only way to effectively clean them is with vinegar and a gentle scrubbing pad. Otherwise, you'll be looking at cloudy container which does not look very appealing in the kitchen.
The Noise Factor
You won't get a nice purrrring sound
from high-end blenders. They roar and if you're committed to making early morning or late night recipes while others sleep, the power of these blenders may wake up even the soundest sleeper. By the time you put ice cubes into the mix, you're looking at close to 100 decibels which is on the same level as a hand drill. More power equals higher rotational velocity equals higher decibels equals more noise. It's hard to get away from this equation with high-powered blenders. Please be aware of this before purchasing as it is a turn off for some.
Mid-level blenders on the other hand have a lower decibel range due to weaker motors and probably won't wake up your neighbour if they're taking a nap.
The Blendtec and Vitamix Blenders backup their quality with excellent warranties. Consumers can rest easy with their customer guarantee which is well beyond standard one year warranties.
Vitamix and Blendtec both offer impressive standard warranties and back their machines with a FULL warranty for 7 years. That alone is peace of mind.
Breville and Kitchen Aid don't budge from a standard one year warranty so if they happen to break down beyond this period, you're out of luck.
COMPARING THE BLENDTEC AND VITAMIX
This is a tough one because I own both, use both and like both of these blenders for different reasons. Bottom line is you can't go wrong with either of them because they are vastly superior to any other blender on the market for home use. Here's a breakdown of the pros, cons and little annoyances of each which may give some insight and direction for your purchase.
This may be a concern for you. Based on the height available between your kitchen counter and the bottom of your cupboards, which is usually less than 17 inches, the height of the blender container/base may not fit in some kitchens. The Vitamix is one of the tallest blenders on the market reaching over 20 inches including the base and container. The Blendtec is a tad over 15 inches so it fits better on most countertops between counter and cupboard. I use both on an island counter so it makes no difference for me, but I know many people who lean towards the Blendtec solely based on this one feature since the shorter measurement better integrates with their kitchen design.
Container and Blade
Both containers are copolyster hybrids (BPA-free) and they will both stain over time.
Both will also self-clean easily in less than 60 seconds by placing two drops of dish washing liquid and getting the rotational velocity to the highest setting. Unless you're making a dessert recipe with a date paste or something similar that sticks the blades, the self-cleaning technique will work after most applications.
While the Vitamix comes with a 64oz container, the Blendtec can come standard with a 96oz container which I must say when completely filled, blends ingredients slightly faster than the Vitamix due to a larger volume of space for ingredients to mix. When comparing these two containers, and depending on the recipe, contents, and load, Vitamix blenders may jam more frequently than Blendtec and need that added push by using the tamper which is not a problem at all for the Vitamix since it comes with this handy tool. For a family of more than four, the 96oz container may be more suitable without mixing two separate loads.
Contents are easier removed from the Blentec due to a combination of the container and blade design. The Blendtec has straight walls which make it easier to remove your nut butters, pastes and other sticky recipes compared to the fluted design of the Vitamix. The Blendtec has a two sided blade which also makes extracting sticky contents easier than the four sided blade of the Vitamix which must be rotated many times before fully getting all the contents out.
Hands down, this is a HUGE benefit of the Vitamix that is absent from the Blendtec. With the Blendtec, if there is ever a jamming of the blade with nut butters or other ingredients, you must open the lid and carefully dislodge the contents while blending. If you go too far down in this process and hit the blade while you are still blending, it could destroy the functionality of the blade if your choice of tampering tools is something metal. My son once used a wooden spoon on our Blendtec, pushed slightly too far and we had a nice shredded wooden spoon strawberry smoothie which had to be dumped. Thankfully the blades were not affected since he used a wooden tamper and not a metal one.
With the Vitamix, a customized tamper (which comes with the unit) fits through the top of the blender via the access lid and it is designed to always stop short of the blades regardless of the pressure you apply. I can't emphasize enough how useful this is. This is ideal for any recipe which requires ingredients to be pushed down towards the blades. To be fair, the 96oz Blendtec container does require less tampering, but this is one of my favorite features of the Vitamix and allows recipes (especially nut butters) to mix very quickly and easily.
The Vitamix is definitely quieter than the Blendtec. Both are loud blenders but the edge on lower decibel range goes to the Vitamix. There is also a rubberized base which the Vitamix container sits on and that appears to muffle the sound. The walls of the Blendtec container are also slightly thinner than its denser Vitamix counterpart, so that may also be responsible for transmitting less noise through the Vitamix. My first thought was "ear plugs" when I initially turned on my Blendtec...it is very noisy.
The Blendtec comes with an LED computer controlled display which does give you additional information and features that are not available on the Vitamix. For example, it can be programmed to run at different speeds for different cycles. It will also indicate how many cycles you've used the blender as well as an auto shut off feature after a cycle if required. The problem is, the more gadgets, the more probability of breakdown. The Vitamix has manual controlling which is no nonsense and if you're not all that great with buttons and technology like I am, it may be more user friendly.
The bearing assembly for the Vitamix is heavier duty and likely more durable than the Blendtec over time. I had to service my Blendtec bearing assembly after only two years due to problems meanwhile I've had my Vitamix for over five years now without any problems at all. That doesn't mean all Blendtec blenders will require servicing within a few years time, but if you take a close look at the bearing assembly of each, there is no doubt that the Vitamix is heavier duty.
So between the two, both the Blendtec and Vitamix have their advantages and disadvantages. The end result is the same. Both will create consistently smooth recipes, grind flawlessly and mix whatever your heart desires.
If you want reduced noise, manual controlling, less probability of breakdown and a fool proof tamper, go with the Vitamix.
If you don't care much about noise and you like computerized controlling, programming, auto shut-off, less height, larger container size and easier extraction of contents, go with the Blendtec.
The choice is yours, but I can tell you from experience that both blenders are phenomenal for the home user. Once you try either of these, you will likely never purchase another mid-level (or lower) blender
BREVILLE OR KITCHEN AID
If price was not a consideration and I had a choice between these two models, I would definitely go with the Breville because it has more power and it's much easier to clean. I've owned and operated both and actually still own the Breville Die Cast Hemisphere which works just fine. It's as close as you can get to high-end models without paying the price. My KitchenAid did eventually break down and I replaced it with the Breville, however while it was functional, the KitchenAid did a fine job on smoothies and purees.
Many easier tasks, such as making pesto and salad dressings were a breeze. Crushing ice was also not a problem although they often left very small little chunks that are completely crushed with high-end models.
This was the model I first purchased and it still works today. You can alternatively go with the glass version BBL550XL Ikon which is a slightly different model with the benefits of a glass container.
This blender is a lot more powerful than the KitchenAid. Equipped with a 1000-watt high-torque motor, this is powerhouse blender for its class and not only quickly crushes ice and blends drinks, but it can also shred veggies and chop nuts. It will give controlled speed maintaining consistent results, even under heavier loads. I love the smoothie and ice/auto pulse features and used the smoothie feature the most because it would automatically shut-off after a few cycles. The one annoyance with this blender is that it creates too much power for the lid design to stay on, so I often have to stay by the blender during mixing and hold down the lid to make sure it does not fly off.
The blender includes a large capacity 67oz polycarbonate container. This blender has quieter blending cycles compared to its counterparts with this kind of power.
The blade assembly can be removed for
The flagship of the KitchenAid blender line are the Kitchen Aid 5-speed blenders.
They all share the same size, same weight, same construction. They all boast 5 speeds, just over 15 inch height with 56oz for the polycarbonate container and 48oz for the glass container (KSB565) which is a bit small for some recipes or smoothies depending on your load, but still easier to clean than the polycarbonate.
KitchenAid blenders are also fairly durable and powerful for this class. With 0.9 horsepower, or around 740 watts in power, they will get most jobs done. This blender will last at least a few years and tackle many basic recipes, however the Breville can manage a wider range of recipes with more consistent results.
This is by far the hardest blender to clean of all those listed above.
Hope this review will help guide you in the right direction to select the best blender for your needs. Happy blending.
Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.