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The high-power blender topic


Fat Guy
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I replaced my old seventies era Vitamix with a newer one a year or so back. I looked at the Blendtec, but the programs turned me off. With the Vitamix, you're the master of your own destiny. Plus I had a predisposition to Vitamix after decades of good service from their machine. At least at the time, the Vitamix also had more than double the warranty of the Blendtec.

If I were to do it again, I'd have to give the Blendtec with the 3 quart jug a more serious look. It would be nice to be able to fit the machine under the cabinets without separating the container and the base. The in-counter Blendtec is about as sexy as a blender can be too. :wub:

They make a 32oz carafe for the vita-mix, but I can't quite justify spending $140 on it...yet

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I did three frozen-dessert tests yesterday and today with the Blendtec. I'm pretty surprised how well the program cycle worked.

Here's a video I made of the Blendtec producing a yogurt freeze. That's plain yogurt, frozen mango, frozen pineapple, frozen strawberry, sweetener, and a little water. I eyeballed the quantities the same as I did on the Vita-Mix, the difference being that the Blendtec actually made it happen without resort to tamping.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Today I really put the Blendtec through its paces. We had five for a four-course Blendtec lunch. The menu:

Healthy Lifestyle Menu

In Honor of Liz & Steve

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blueberry-peach-banana smoothie

(blueberries, peaches, banana)

White-bean/roasted-garlic puree with Stacy’s pita chips

(white beans, roasted garlic, olive oil, turmeric)

Healthy Lifestyle soup

(carrot, celery, tomato, potato, parmesan, cheddar)

Cheese biscuits

(mixed cheeses)

Mango-pineapple-strawberry yogurt freeze

(mango, pineapple, strawberry, plain yogurt, sweetener)

The Blendtec performed admirably. The smoothie course was a cinch, but of course this is what the Blendtec excels at. I do think, however, that the smoothie program on the Blendtec is too short. I've been getting the best smoothie results from using the sorbet setting. I guess the Blendtec smoothie program would work well for very liquid smoothies, but if it's that Jamba Juice smoothie texture you're after then the sorbet program is better. (By the way I went to Jamba Juice this morning and had a pretty bad service experience, but I digress.)

I didn't know what to expect with the white-bean puree. I wasn't working from a recipe. I just cooked a pound of white beans for a couple of hours, added about half to the Blendtec pitcher, and added roasted garlic, olive oil, turmeric and salt by eye. I pushed the dips/spreads button and the machine did indeed turn it into a hummus-like puree. I had to add a little more salt and pulse a couple of times at the end, but it was delicious.

For the soup I tried to do basically what I sort of remembered the guy at the Costco demo doing. I boiled a potato, washed some celery, carrots and tomatoes, and cut a small piece each of parmesan and cheddar. I added it all to the pitcher with some warm tap water and salt. I pushed (or rather had my son push) the soup button and the unit went wild for 90 seconds, after which there was a steaming hot soup in the pitcher. This was everyone's favorite item of the day, served with biscuits. At the Costco demo they added some tortilla chips to the soup at the end and pulsed. I didn't do anything like that, so it was a totally smooth-textured soup.

Finally I made a capacity batch of frozen yogurt from plain yogurt and frozen fruit. This really pushed the Blendtec to its limit, and if I hadn't had my hand on the pitcher it surely would have flown off the base. So I'd say that's a defect (I had the same problem with the Vita-Mix). It did, however, accomplish the task without a tamper -- no way in hell the Vita-Mix could have done that without a tamper. With about 12 seconds left on the program, a household fuse blew. I guess I should have shut off the air conditioner that's on the same circuit as the kitchen. But the last 12 seconds were not necessary -- the right texture had already been achieved, so I served up the dessert and then switched the fuse.

One other defect I've noticed so far with the Blendtec: the rubber feet are not non-marking. I had it on a white countertop and it was a real pain to clean off the black smudges left by the feet.

All in all, a good day for the Blendtec.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have to say that we have had our VitaPrep in the kitchen for over a year now. (This is a commercial kitchen) It gets used for at least 4 things a day, including making 5G of soup every other day. We do purees, soups, infused oils, all kinds of things with it. Granted, it doesn't get a LOT of frozen things put through it, but occassionally. Also, this thing has been dropped (both base and pitcher), overheated, had water spilled all over it, had the small inner lid thing put through the blender, had that terrible thing where the pitcher gets "leaned" off the base while it is running, and every other abuse that you can think of done to it, and it is still going strong. I understand your argument that you shouldn't need to "pussyfoot around" with a $400 blender, and I agree with you, but you also have to keep in mind that it's still just a kitchen machine. A really good one, but just a kitchen machine. You may have to use a slight bit of restraint and some common sense when feeding it. And I do mean feeding it. That's why there's that little hole in the top...so you can add things gradually if need be.

That being said...would it have killed them to put in a manual reset swith instead of a thermal regulator? You know how long it takes before you can use this thing once it gets shut off?

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For the soup I tried to do basically what I sort of remembered the guy at the Costco demo doing. I boiled a potato, washed some celery, carrots and tomatoes, and cut a small piece each of parmesan and cheddar. I added it all to the pitcher with some warm tap water and salt. I pushed (or rather had my son push) the soup button and the unit went wild for 90 seconds, after which there was a steaming hot soup in the pitcher.

Could you say a little more about this? Is the friction from the blades heating the soup up (above the warm tapwater temperature)?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I just bought I VitaPrep Tuesday. I made gazpacho without even bothering to seed anything. It came out fabulous! I think washing the vegetables was the longest part of the process. Then today I made stock with a roasted chicken carcass. Just tossed the chicken with a few carrots, celery, and a peppercorns. On impulse for some reason after I strained the stock I tossed in a potato or two until tender. Then put the stock and veges in the blender! Wow--it was fantastic. I sliced some of the chicken put it in the bowl and added the soup. Tossed with a dollop of sour cream...

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My conclusion from this discussion is that anyone who buys an expensive high-powered blender necessarily goes on a liquid diet for about three weeks after setting it on the counter.

Don't tell me about the steak. I don't want to know.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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For the soup I tried to do basically what I sort of remembered the guy at the Costco demo doing. I boiled a potato, washed some celery, carrots and tomatoes, and cut a small piece each of parmesan and cheddar. I added it all to the pitcher with some warm tap water and salt. I pushed (or rather had my son push) the soup button and the unit went wild for 90 seconds, after which there was a steaming hot soup in the pitcher.

Could you say a little more about this? Is the friction from the blades heating the soup up (above the warm tapwater temperature)?

Correct.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I wondered about that and will definitely experiment, though with summer on the way I'll probably be focusing more on cold soups for a while.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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No idea if this is accurate or not but Wikipedia says a potato is cooked when it reaches 99C. If so, the temperature of blender-friction soup never gets anywhere near that. I'm guessing 80C is normal for blender-friction soup. I think it might therefore be necessary to pre-cook the potato. Then again maybe the action of the blade breaks cells down in a way similar to cooking?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This calls for an experiment.

Anyone want to stick a thermometer in their (safely unplugged) hotrod blender before and after blending a few things up?

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Final temperature really depends on how long you run the blender. I'm sure it's theoretically possible to hit boiling temperatures, but I'm not aware of anybody who bothers to do that. It's already a staggeringly inefficient way to heat food, so the idea is to heat it only as much as needed to serve warm.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In the meantime, my friend Sean now has a Waring Xtreme. This is the other and newest contender in the high-power blender arena. Sean and I spend a lot of kitchen time together, so I'll be experimenting with his blender over time. My preliminary reaction to the Waring Xtreme is that it's still a beta product but we'll see if it grows on me.

Any reviews of the Waring Xtreme? I've been considering one of these because they're available with a stainless container.

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I can't vouch for any of this, but here's a review site. They seem to like the vita prep 3 ...

http://www.3blenders.com/Choose.html

By the way, I wish someone would call out these manufacturers on their looney-tunes power ratings. 3 horsepower? No way. A motor that's 100% efficient (which doesn't exist) would consume over 2200 watts. The maximum consumption of the 3hp Vita Prep is barely over half this. Such marketing doesn't inspire my confidence, but the makers are all guilty ...

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 2 weeks later...

How do the high powererd ones work with small quantiities?

I am using a 1 cup dualit mini chopper for everything from nut butters to vegetable purees. I usually just need a quarter to half a cup.

I'd think that is where they fail correct?

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I don't think there's much difference between a high-power blender and a regular junk blender in terms of minimum quantity needed for processing. Neither is going to go down to the quantities that a mini-prep kind of device can handle.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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No experience with the other brands, but I've been torturing the same VitaMix for over 15 years, and it's done everything I've ever asked it to do. I did go through a "liquid diet" phase where there was a smoothie or two every day, but I mostly use it for sauces, purées, and soups now. One thing which hasn't been mentioned in the discussion so far is the availability of a container and blade setup with the geometry optimized for dry solids, like grains. I bought mine as a refurb package from VitaMix, and the package included both containers. I haven't used the dry container a lot, but I've made dal flour for Indian recipes, and mung bean and rice flour for Vietnamese banh xiou (which I'm sure I'm spelling wrong).

I just bought a second VitaMix for my wife's kitchen a few months ago (also as a refurb), and was told that, in the current product line, they've changed the sourcing on the motors, using a Swedish OEM now, in preference to the previous US-made motor, because they think it will hold up better. (They also re-engineered the container's cover latch, which is easier to use than my old machine's.) I also explicitly asked about the relationship between VitaMix and VitaPrep, and was told that there are no engineering differences. The marketing, pricing, and warrantees are different, with the assumption that the VitaPreps are going to get rode hard and put away wet, and that consumers get all whiney and want to have a nice warrantee story told to them, and are willing to pay for that.

They don't publicize the direct-sales refurbs, but they're generally available, and priced well. You've got to call them up and see what's available.

Oh - motor power: they play the same game as the power tool manufacturers - it's momentary peak, not sustained output. I don't think it really matters; I've never been able to make the thing bog.

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I've now been through 44 cycles in the Blendtec (it tells you the total when you turn it on) and can make some preliminary conclusions:

The Vita-Mix is highly dependent on its tamper. The Blendtec is far less tamper-dependent, which is good because it doesn't come with a tamper. If your Blendtec cavitates or otherwise loses traction on what it's blending, you need to shut it down and manipulate the ingredients. Some practice is required to avoid the need to do this. But all other things being equal, for example in a given frozen-dessert recipe, the Blendtec can do without a tamper what the Vita-Mix can't. This is I think largely due to a superior pitcher design.

In my experience with the Vita-Mix, use of the tamper is the big challenge to the system. Especially with frozen items, when you start pushing down that's when you can cause the system to shut down or you can damage the various parts. With the Blendtec, since you don't work with a tamper, that stress never gets put on the system. That's why, I think, the Blendtec is going to last longer for me even though as far as I can tell it's not as hefty and sturdy as a Vita-Mix. It doesn't need to be. Which isn't to say it's flimsy. But the Vita-Mix is definitely a more robust product that, for me, is more easily broken because of its dependency on the tamper.

I think if you only ever make smoothies, soups, dressings and other easy stuff -- the stuff you can make in a normal blender and just comes out better in a high-power blender -- you're never going to test the limits of either machine. They'll both probably run for a good long time without much stress on their systems. If you're going to get into frozen desserts and other stressful things, then you start pushing the limits of the devices. In this regard I'll be interested to see how the Blendtec holds up over several months of using it a couple of times a day on frozen stuff. This destroyed my Vita-Mix but perhaps the tamper-free design of the Blendtec will give it more longevity.

I think in a given number of seconds the Vita-Mix makes a slightly smoother smoothie, probably because of its sharper blades. I find that I need to run the Blendtec about 10 seconds longer to liquefy flax seeds and eliminate the graininess of blackberry seeds and such. In the end, however, I prefer the texture of the Blendtec smoothie. It comes out more like a Jamba Juice smoothie, assuming you use ice or a decent percentage of frozen fruit. The Vita-Mix makes a more liquid smoothie, whereas the Blendtec smoothie is more slushy -- I prefer slushy.

Ergonomically, I vastly prefer the Blendtec. Even though the pitcher holds the same amount as the Vita-Mix, it's much shorter. It's also dishwasher-safe. The Vita-Mix pitcher asks not to be put in the dishwasher, but it's an academic request. I routinely ignore manufacturers' instructions not to use the dishwasher, but even if you want to put a Vita-Mix pitcher in the dishwasher you can't because it's taller than the bottom rack of a residential dishwasher will tolerate. The Blendtec pitcher fits just right, and the base is designed to drain when upside-down so It doesn't collect dishwater -- water runs out through four little holes in the corner.

Likewise, because the Blendtec base is more compact, you can store the base and pitcher on the counter under a normal-height kitchen wall cabinet. This is the sort of thing that, as a home cook, I have to care about. As much as I'd like not to care about the size of my kitchen equipment, I have no choice.

I've read that the Blendtec is louder than the Vita-Mix. I'm not so sure. But both are quite loud. I've taken to using hearing protection.

The Blendtec's program cycles are nice but not terribly useful. First, you really have to operate the blender with a hand on the lid or you risk having it jump up off the base. So you have to be there. At Jamba Juice, where they use pro models in sound enclosures, it seems they don't have to worry about that. It may also be that for simple smoothies there's no jumping risk. But when you do frozen stuff the risk is very much there. I also find that the program cycles aren't necessarily right for a given application. The frozen-dessert program works better for smoothies than the smoothie setting, etc.

More thoughts to come.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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One thing which hasn't been mentioned in the discussion so far is the availability of a container and blade setup with the geometry optimized for dry solids, like grains.

I haven't done any tests with grains or nuts, but literature-wise the Blendtec claim is that the Vita-Mix wet container is inadequate for dry ingredients so you need a special dry container, whereas the Blendtec container works for both wet and dry.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Vitamix asserts that the dry container is the "opposite" of the wet. The blades in the dry are designed to push material up and over the blade for kneading bread doughs, whereas the blades in the wet container are meant to drag the contents down towards the bottom of the container.

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One thing I can say for sure is that the Vita-Mix and Blendtec have very different blade designs. The Vita-Mix has a four-blade design and the blades are very sharp. The Blendtec has a single blade kind of like the rotor on a helicopter, and it's not sharpened -- it just does its work by blunt-force trauma. Both the Vita-Mix wet blade and the Blendtec blade pull food down through the blade, but the Blendtec blade seems to do a better job of it.

I've read one comparison that said the Vita-Mix dry container does a better job with grinding grain than the Blendtec all-purpose container -- better job being defined as a finer grind. I don't know. I haven't explored that area.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I agree with Kayakado, I also have a Vita Mix 4000 and thought about getting a new one. I think I'll stick with my all-metal workhorse. I've had it 15 years and it runs perfect and no cracks or broken parts. I've only had to replace the seal on the dome.

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