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Fat Guy

The high-power blender topic

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I'm considering a Blendtec or Vita-Mix and leaning toward the latter because it is available at Macys where I have my wedding registry. However, in doing some research, I came across this Popular Mechanics blender faceoff on youtube and was confused and disappointed by some of the results. Neither did that much better than a $100 Kitchenaid blender, and the Blendtec completely failed at the apple test. Has anyone seen this?

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Pretty much all those tests show is the difference in performance between jar designs when used to do an arbitrary task. (I'm not sure what it matters that you can liquify a whole orange, anyway. Is this a common smoothie ingredient?) Pick a different ingredient -- strawberries or bananas -- and you'd probably get very different results. I'd also point out that their failure to read the manuals caused the VitaMix and Blendtec to appear to be less capable than they actually were.

I guess if you're buying an appliance to pulverize whole fruits the size of apples and oranges, then you should get the KitchenAid. But I can tell you from experience that it's not a very good blender.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Jeremy Clarkson had a pretty powerful blender on Top Gear once...

Might need some refinement though.

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Loved the Top Gear Blender!

My recently acquired VitaPrep has paid for itself in not going to Jamba Juice anymore. And now I am discovering the joy of homemade hummus. And savings as well!

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When I was doing blender research I came across the articleconnected with that Popular Mechanics video. It seemed so ill-informed, so clearly written by people who have no clue about blenders, that I was unable to extract any useful information. If you focus on unintended use when doing product reviews, you get silly results. It's like saying "We took these five automobiles and drove them into a lake, then measured how long they floated before sinking. Surprisingly, the Kia Rio floated the longest, easily beating out more expensive vehicles like the Porsche Cayenne. We give the Kia our highest rating." Fine, it can float, and it's still a piece of junk.


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'm nearly sold on the Blendtec, but am having a little trouble figuring out whether I should get the standard pitcher with the 3" blade or the larger pitcher with the 4" blade. Does the larger pitcher and 4" blade really outperform the standard pitcher with the 3" blade? Help me out here. Or maybe I should simply go with the option that allows me to purchase both pitchers?

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I too am on the fence between the BlendTec and the Vitamix. They sell the BlendTec with both jars. May not be a bad thing to have an extra jar for doing multiple tasks.

The Popular Science video although not really representative of what you would normally do with a blender still made me think twice about the prosumer blenders. One thing I've heard more than once in reviews is that the BlendTec can over blend quickly. Orange smoothie becomes orange juice. Anyone have input on this?

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I recently picked up a Vitamix blender at Costco. So far, wifey and I are very happy with its performance. The main usage is from making smoothies for me in the morning, baby food for my daughter, and a frozen cocktail when necessary. Vitamix has a longer warranty than Blendtec and much simpler controls, hence my decision.

Dan


"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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I think the best move is to get the Blendtec at Costco. If you buy the Blendtec from Costco you get a 7-year warranty from Blendtec as well as Costco's own unconditional warranty on top of that. So, for example, let's say you have the Blendtec for a year and it breaks. If you bought it from Costco you have two options: 1. You can send it in to Blendtec for warranty repair, or 2. You can return it to Costco for a refund.

You can only buy it at a Costco during a Blendtec roadshow event. You can look on Costco's website to find out where and when these are happening. They only sell the Total blender standard package, not the bigger pitcher, but I've been entirely happy with that package.

scubadoo97, I've never had an overblending issue with the Blendtec program cycles. If anything, I find myself adding time. I guess if your ratios of frozen stuff to liquid stuff are not ideal, the friction generated by blending will melt stuff too much. That's going to be an issue with any high-power blender, though, I think.


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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Thanks so much for the feedback. That helps.

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I have had my VM 5200 for at least 6 months now. When I was pregnant, I made green smoothies every day for about 3 months. Now I frequently make smoothies, frozen desserts, puree soups, make hummus, etc. I have had zero issues with durability. Every time I use it I think how glad I am that I bit the bullet.

BTW, Vitamix offers a 3-month payment plan on their website. They just break it into 3 payments and take it out of your card for 3 months. It worked great for me.

As far as Mole/chile sauces go, it eliminates the need to ever sieve your chile pastes again. Completely smooth. Amazing. Here is a blog about it: http://porterhouse.typepad.com/porter_house/2009/10/classic-red-mole.html That link also has my very favorite green drink recipe.

Oh, and though I try not to do it often, my VM pitcher will fit in my dishwasher, no problem. So it depends on your dishwasher.

Edited to add that I will actually have had my VM a year next month.


Edited by Becca Porter (log)

-Becca

www.porterhouse.typepad.com

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So, I think it is clear that the Vita-Prep is in lots of kitchens of restaurants everyone in this thread would consider well informed, for making sauces, mixtures for frozen desserts, all sorts of things. The Blendtec dominates the blender-store market, Jamba Juice, Starbucks, etc. Does that tell us anything? Why do serious chefs prefer the Vita-Prep?

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So, I think it is clear that the Vita-Prep is in lots of kitchens of restaurants everyone in this thread would consider well informed, for making sauces, mixtures for frozen desserts, all sorts of things. The Blendtec dominates the blender-store market, Jamba Juice, Starbucks, etc. Does that tell us anything? Why do serious chefs prefer the Vita-Prep?

I suspect it's the automatic modes. And don't some of those Blendtecs come with a noise reducing enclosure?

Overall I'm willing to bet the Vita-prep 3 is the better blender, if you're not looking for automation and other juice bar features. This site suggests so, and they sell all the blenders in question. They are pretty dismissive of the home Vita-mix blenders, which they put in a different category.

That company also sells a Chinese made blender called the Omni, which looks promising. Performance close to the Vita-Prep 3 for $250. I can't vouch for it.


Notes from the underbelly

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I'm pretty sure the Vita-Prep units they market to smoothie places have automatic cycles and sound enclosures. The market consensus just seems to be that the Blendtec models are better for that application. Or it could just be the herd mentality, or effective sales and marketing.

For example, when I asked the guys at a local restaurant, Beacon, why they chose the Vita-Prep they said "Because that's what our supplier carries." A lot of restaurant purchasing decisions are made that way.

I can't speak from experience on the question of professional Blendtec v. Vita-Prep models. What I can say is that the home Blendtec Total blender seems like a better product than the equivalently priced Vita-Mix 5200. I've owned both for enough cycles to be pretty sure about that.


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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As Steven says, in many/most of the professional situations, it comes down to what the supplier carries and what the prevailing trends are. That said, when we look at the base units that most people buy and consider what the units are best known for, it suggests that they have different strengths depending on what you want to do.

From what I can tell, the BlendTec has some clear advantages when it comes to making thick, smoothie-type preparations. The ability to toss a bunch of frozen stuff in there, press a pre-programmed button and walk away is a big advantage. Yes, I'm sure that VitaMix makes some machines that might have some similar functionality, but they're certainly not known for it the way BlendTec is.

On the other side of the debate, I think the VitaPrep has some clear advantages over the BlendTec when it comes to certain applications that a restaurant might typically want to do. For example, I have had occasion to turn blanched/shocked/squeezed arugula into a vibrantly green, perfectly smooth puree so dense you could call it a paste. This was a process where the VitaPrep's plunger and the base's variable speed dial made a huge difference in getting the thick herb into the blades and controlling the temperature. I don't see how something like this could possibly be done in a BlendTec without cooking the green out through friction or adding more liquid. On the other hand, if you make a million smoothies and aggressively rock the container around on the base while plunging like Steven did with his VitaMix, then having the plunger design is clearly a liability.

This, to me, all points towards figuring out what your priorities might be for use. Me? I don't really care about smoothies and I like to do a lot of things that really depend on the plunger, so I have a VitaPrep. On the other hand, if I were going to open a tiki bar, I'd make sure the blenders were BlendTec.


--

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It's also important to remember that either blender will kick the snot out of the sub-$100 variety, in basically all culinary applications. It's only at the fringes (very thick/very hard) that the two blenders become distinguishable from each other. Both will make simple purees, etc. with equal aplomb.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Two disadvantages to the BlendTec style blenders -- mine's at ~150 spin cycles:

1. Things get hot, even when you don't want them hot. Blend too long and your food heats up from the crazy rpm's.

2. Cellulose gets pureed when you're souping hard vegetables like carrots or broccoli, and you end up with a very unpleasant texture that you must sift out. Sometimes it's foam at the top and it's easy to remove. Other times it's all blended in and leaves you with poor mouthfeel.

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I have the Vita Prep 3. I purchased an additional bowl with an ice blade, just for blending smoothies and ice drinks. It works great, I think it was around $100, for the pitcher, top, and ice blade.

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I guess I am terminally prejudiced. I love my VitaMix blenders and have ever since I played with the one my mother had, purchased in 1951.

I got my first one in 1969 (3600). My husband got that one in our divorce settlement so I bought a new one for myself (the 4000) in 1978. I still have it and it still works. (I even have the original plunger, a rather crude item made from what looks like a couple of wooden dowels.) It has the stainless steel jug.

I got the 5000 (Total Nutrition Center) when I had my kitchen remodeled in '94 and it is still going strong. I've used it for every task you can think of. It came with the extra dry grinding container and it has handled a lot of wheat, rye, oats and etc., over the years, until I got a dedicated grain mill.

A few times, while blending mustard, which gets pretty stiff, the motor would stall but after allowing it to cool down for the required time, it would start right up again with no problems.

I've never used a BlendTec, although I did have one of the grain mills made by this company (K-Tec grain mill) before I got my Nutrimill. The K-Tec did not survive my pickyness. I wanted flour or meal that was even in consistency and I didn't get it with that mill. I returned it and had some problems getting a refund and was rather put off by the attitude that it was my fault the machine did not work properly.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I have the Vita Prep 3. I purchased an additional bowl with an ice blade, just for blending smoothies and ice drinks. It works great, I think it was around $100, for the pitcher, top, and ice blade.

Interesting. In doing some googling on this, I saw the following post from a VitaMix rep on a VitaMix customer service discussion board:

The Ice blades contains four blades that are square at the ends with blunt or squared edges that are designed to pulverize and crush ice or frozen fruits.

The Wet Blade also has four blades but they are pointed at the ends and have a tapered sharp edge for cutting through a wide variety of foods.

I note that the BlendTec blade is square at the end and has some squared edges, rather than being all sharp and pointed, which may explain some of the differences in areas of strength between the two brands.


--

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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?

I did an experiment this morning with my Vitamix 5200 to see if I could boil water in it. The answer: absolutely yes.

I started with 1.5L of cold tap water at about 20C. I slowly ramped the speed up to high over the first minute, and then let it run at high until I reached 100C. This took about 18 minutes; see chart below from my Vernier datalogger. When I turned the mixer off, the water was definitely boiling with bubbles rising from the blades.

This experiment with water should hold for other things like soups or purees. Given that water has a specific heat of 4.186 joules/gram-C, this means the mixer was pumping about 465 watts (0.62 HP) of power into the water. Since the specific heat of water is higher than any other common substance besides ammonia (i.e. water needs more energy to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree C), the 465 watts going into a soup should result in an even faster rise in temperature. I may have to try an experiment with potato-leek soup....

1500ml_water.jpg

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Welcome to the forums Borgstrom. Best first post ever.


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.

I would have to agree; not only does the blender take longer but it's incredibly noisy!

Just for grins, I repeated my experiment in bringing 1.5L of room-temperature water up to a boil, this time in a covered stainless-steel saucepan on a gas stove instead of in a Vitamix. Unsurprisingly, the stove was almost 2X faster, completing the job in about 10 minutes vs. 18 minutes for the Vitamix. This implies about 837 watts going into the water from the stove vs. 465 watts from the blender. See chart below.

I think I'll stick to the blender for blending and the stove for cooking...

1500ml_water_vitamix_vs_stove.jpg

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