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seannymurrs

Best Sous Vide Setup for $400-$500?

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Looking at upgrading my current Sous Vide system, and have about $400-$500 to spend. The two I know for sure fit in this price range would be the FreshMealSolutions eiPOT and the SousVide Supreme. Not sure if PolyScience has any systems under $500, but if they do I'd be willing to consider that as well. Anyone have any suggestions/recommendations? I'm currently leaning towards the eiPOT, but haven't been able to find anyone who has one and can vouch for it.

*edit*

Another option I forgot to mention is the Nomiku. It's not shipping until next month, but looks like it might be worth considering.


Edited by seannymurrs (log)

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In short: I have the eiPOT and am happy with it (in a 28L cooler).

eiPOT™ Review

Here it is, my Xmas present:
eiPot as delivered.jpg
The eiPOT™, i.e. the SousVideMagic 1500E PID-controller and the new version of the FreshMealsMagic immersion heater/bubbler. The whole combo fits into a box of the size of two SVMs. Shipping from Hong Kong to Switzerland took 42½ hours (including 7h time difference).

The SVM 1500E is the same as the 1500D, except it has an integrated air pump (which makes it necessary to offer different versions for the 110V world and the 220V world), a top display instead of a front display, and adapters for wall mounting. So it can be placed in different positions:
1500E different positions.jpg

Rear panel:
1500E rear panel_2000px.jpg

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT READ MANUALS:

As the controller contains an air pump which is connected to tubing that is being submerged, it is mandatory to place the controller above water level.

There seems to be a check valve in the air tube, but it is still safer to follow the rule to place the controller above water level.

BTW the air pump causes practically no vibration and a noise that is audibly weaker than usual aquarium air pumps.

The two NTC temperature probes that come with it have a metal plug instead of a plastic plug:
1500E Mits sensors old and new plugs_2000px.jpg

The new FMM has a flexible hose instead of the metal tube of the old FMM, long enough for 80cm submersion of the heater. Weight has been reduced from 1255g to 765g by omitting the air stone, and the flexible hose instead of the metal tube makes it less bulky for shipping. They ship it with the temperature probe mounted so that its tip is between the two metal plates and very near to the heating element; this is to prevent fools from setting their house on fire by powering it without submersing in water. In my experience this leads to severe oscillation, I prefer to place the tip of the probe about 5-8cm above the metal plate and on the opposite side of the hose, facing the wall of the pot to avoid contact with food pouches.I measured a resistance of 26.4 Ω which yields 2000W at 230V.

Now to set up a SV rig, I modified a 28L Campingaz beverage cooler by cutting a notch in the cover to accommodate the FMM’s hose plus the temperature probes of my Greisinger GMH 3710 high precision thermometer and of the Voltcraft K202 data logger, plus two notches to accommodate a skewer bent from 3mm steel wire with a sharpened tip for easy penetration of bags. If you do not have a supply of 3mm steel wire at hand, just use a hanger from the dry cleaning store.
Making a skewer.jpg

Cover with notches for eiPOT hose and skewer_2000px.jpg

Beverage cooler with eiPOT and skewer_2000px.jpg

Ramping up to 55°C from ambient 22°C took roughly half an hour which is in accordance with the calculated value, see my table “Water-bath ramping up time 22°C to 55°C”.

Autotuning results with SP=55°C and Ar=50% were P=3.9°C, I=1876sec, D=58sec.This resulted in a postdisturbance overshoot of 0.3°C and postdisturbance oscillation of ±0.115°C.

With very responsive systems with low thermal inertia (heating element in the water) I prefer using P-control only, as with a very narrow P-band there is almost no negative offset
which would have to be corrected by Integral action. In contrast, with rather inert systems like rice cookers, coffee urns or the like (heating element outside the vessel wall) large P-bands are necessary to avoid overshoot, resulting in the need to correct negative offset by Integral action.

So I did simple closed loop tuning:

Closed loop tuning with 25L water in 28L Campingaz beverage cooler:
SP=55°C, I=0, D=0

Closed loop tuning.jpg

I decided to use P=0.5 I=0 D=0.

A test gave the following results:

eiPOT 28L cooler P=0.5 I=0 D=0 SET=55_run2.jpg

CONCLUSION

Functionality of the new FMM is the same as the old FMM, but handling is more practical, and it is less bulky for stowing away.

SVM 1500E is made for professional use, and it has the advantage over the 1500D of a built-in air pump which on the other hand has the disadvantage that the SVM 1500E must be placed above water level, which might necessitate wall mounting. I clamped mine on top of my “tower” of SVMs (different software versions for testing and calibrating); I fear I will reach the ceiling before SVM 1500Z.

eiPOT testing laboratory_2000px.jpg

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I'm pretty sure if I brought a setup like that into the house my wife would burn it down :-)

I have the Sous Vide Demi and love it. Exactly the right size for me (family of 4). If we have guest I usually use my bbq or the oven, so it's 98% home use only. It might be too small for say a group of 10. Then their regular machine would be my choice.

I just can't have cables and controllers and pumps and tubes all over. As much as I'd personally be quite happy with a kitchen that looks like I'm making meth or gold or curing cancer. I'd be very happy with that and thanks for sharing the photos!

I might get a 2nd outfit someday, then I'd go with a controller/heater/pump thing I can use in any pot or cooler of different sizes. Upside with those is that they store smaller, the Demi and it's big brother don't change size once you're done cooking.

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seannymurrs, I think there is no such a thing as a "best setup". It all depends on your needs, requirements and intended usage. First, different categories (baths, immersion circulators, and external controllers) offer different options in terms of versatility, safety, precision, integration of parts, or mobility. Then each specific brand and model within a same category have specific implementation details to value or worry about.

I own 3 units, representing each of the categories: a water bath (SousVideSupreme Demi), a circulator (Addèlice SWID) and a controller with in-water heater and bubbler (eiPOT). I like all three, and can not recommend one or the other, it all depends on your needs.

SVS Demi is self-contained, you don't have to worry about getting a properly insulated container or start cutting lids with special saws, which is very convenient. It also has the look of a standard kitchen appliance which helps with acceptance. But the fixed pot size and integration of parts make it less mobile, less versatile, and require permanent countertop space. Having the thermometer and heater out of the water and using natural convection make it less precise, slower for short cooking times, and requires being more careful with bags positioning, but also make it easier to clean and require less maintenance. It is not very powerful: long heating times and does not perform very well with temperatures between 85 and 90ºC. No safety mechanisms for things like low water level.

SVS It is my default choice for long cooking times (tough meats), because it is properly insulated from scratch, it is totally noise-free, for those cookings absolute precision and water circulation became less important, and if electricity goes off for a second the cooking process goes on when it comes back. The latter is not the case with the other models, which means that if you have a short outage while sleeping or not at home you will likely have to throw the food to the garbage.

Addélice SWID offers all the versality of a circulator, it efficiently circulates the water and controls temperature with much better precision that SVS. Also has more safety mechanisms, like controlling the water level. It's not big and can be easily stored on a cabinet or taken with me to parties or when going on holidays. Detects automatically the pot size and insulation and adjust to them without any hassle. Very powerful, heats the water 3 times faster than the Demi and allows pots of very different sizes up to almost 50 liters. The aspect on the countertop starts to look strange, you have to search adequate recipients and lids and maybe insulate them yourself, and is a little noisier than SVS (though not much). Also requires some more cleaning and maintenance (I really like that in this model cleaning does not require unscrewing plastic parts like Polyscience and others). Circulators take a good part of the useful water volume of your recipient, and make it harder to adapt lids to properly cover different baths to limit evaporation. SWID has an extremelly useful timer up feature that most other models do not implement: by default it will show cooking time if you don't program a specific time, and if you define a cooking time it goes down to zero then a led (and alarm) signals finishing and the timer starts going up and shows you the additional time the food has been cooking.

SWID is my default choice for shorter cooking times, especially if they require precision, and when I want to rapidly adapt to using different baths. Also if I need to prepare a lot of food for parties and the like.

An external controller offers maximum versatility, and if combined with a submersion heater like the FMM II (eiPOT) it is an excellent alternative to a circulator. It not only adapts to different bath sizes like the circulator but also to different heaters. This comes at a cost, though, and autotuning can be pretty slow when changing baths or require expert knowledge to figure out the best parameters. Your kitchen will start to have the "mad scientist" look, which your partner may not like... and the positioning of the controller above the water bath if you require bubbles with the FMM is cumbersome at times, you may not be able to position it like that in the place where you would like to have the bath. On the other hand the small profile of the cables of the FMM make it great for any pot or bath without removing useful space, and with a beer cooler you have a cheap perfectly insulated bath with lid from day 1. It is very powerful and can heat big baths, only the baths must have different geometry (tall and narrow) than big baths for a circulator (low and wide). You can tune many parameters and options in the controller, which can offer hours of wonder if you are of the geek type...

eiPOT is my default option to travel and take to parties (the beer cooler doubles function to move the food to the party, then as the cooking vessel, and the eiPOT is the lightest unit), for cooking eggs (offers the required speed & precision and the forced bubbles from bottom to top do not move the eggs around like the circulator does), or for short cooking times in soup-type pots.

As you see, no clear winner. You have to match the unit to your needs.

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In short: I have the eiPOT and am happy with it (in a 28L cooler).

sdf

Pedro, excellent review, very useful!! I was very surprised to see the severe temperature oscillations (lalmost 8 degrees C up in a couple of seconds, then down again), but it eventually stabilizes. I also though it had something to do with the probe positioning, I'll try changing it like you.

Where did you get your Greisinger unit and probes? The official site says it's only for professionals and does not show prices... I have Thermoworks but I would like to have a European provider as every package from the US has to pay heavy custom taxes.

I think your mad-scientist-style setup will scare off anyone starting with sous-vide, please do not make them run away!!!! X-D

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Oh, and my eiPOT stopped bubbling a few days ago (it is supposed to bubble all the time when it is connected, isn't it?), I have to contact Frank to find out what may have happened...

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Thanks so much for the awesome responses, extremely informative. After giving it some thought and consulting with the wife, I think I'm going to have to eliminate the eiPOT and SVS from the running. My wife took one look at the eiPOT setup in some of the pictures and almost immediately vetoed that option. I decided against the SVS as I think I'd prefer a circulator type device instead of relying solely on convection. The two I'm going back and forth between now is the PolyScience Creative model that is available from William-Sonoma and the soon (hopefully) to be released Nomiku. I know it's hard to compare the two since the Nomiku isn't out yet, but I was hoping some of the sous vide experts here could give me their thoughts on how it would compare to the PolyScience based on what we know so far.

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. . . .

Where did you get your Greisinger unit and probes? The official site says it's only for professionals and does not show prices... I have Thermoworks but I would like to have a European provider as every package from the US has to pay heavy custom taxes.

. . . .

The GMH 3710 / SET1 ( -20, 0, 70 °C ) Calibration Pt100-High-Precision Measuring System is EUR 254.- excl.VAT. To see the price info you have to create an account (free) and log in. See if you have a calibration laboratory (e.g. http://www.testo.es/online/abaxx-?$part=PORTAL.ESP.HomeDesk&$event=go-home ) nearby for recalibration.

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Thanks so much for the awesome responses, extremely informative. After giving it some thought and consulting with the wife, I think I'm going to have to eliminate the eiPOT and SVS from the running. My wife took one look at the eiPOT setup in some of the pictures and almost immediately vetoed that option. I decided against the SVS as I think I'd prefer a circulator type device instead of relying solely on convection. The two I'm going back and forth between now is the PolyScience Creative model that is available from William-Sonoma and the soon (hopefully) to be released Nomiku. I know it's hard to compare the two since the Nomiku isn't out yet, but I was hoping some of the sous vide experts here could give me their thoughts on how it would compare to the PolyScience based on what we know so far.

The Poly-Sci unit (creative series) available from WS is made in China. If you're going to go Poly Sci, save up a few more hundred bucks and get the pro model...my $.02.

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the Poly Sci Pro is made where?

USA according to their web site.

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. . . My wife took one look at the eiPOT setup in some of the pictures and almost immediately vetoed that option. . . .

I totally agree that a setup like this has zero WAF, but I have it downstairs in the air raid shelter. If I were forced to have my SV rig in the kitchen, I might opt for the Vac-Star SousVideChef II which is easily stowed away in a drawer.

eiPOT testing laboratory_1200px.jpg

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If I were forced to have my SV rig in the kitchen, I might opt for the Vac-Star SousVideChef II which is easily stowed away in a drawer.

The Vac-Star SousVideChef II is a pretty new unit, I have read several people is having problems with it, including a friend. I'd personally choose Addélice SWID (in fact I did). Older SWIDs also had problems with the pump, but after a model revision their problems seem solved.

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If I were forced to have my SV rig in the kitchen, I might opt for the Vac-Star SousVideChef II which is easily stowed away in a drawer.

The Vac-Star SousVideChef II is a pretty new unit, I have read several people is having problems with it, including a friend. I'd personally choose Addélice SWID (in fact I did). Older SWIDs also had problems with the pump, but after a model revision their problems seem solved.

Are either of those units available in the US? Seems like they both might be over my $500 limit.

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If I were forced to have my SV rig in the kitchen, I might opt for the Vac-Star SousVideChef II which is easily stowed away in a drawer.

The Vac-Star SousVideChef II is a pretty new unit, I have read several people is having problems with it, including a friend. I'd personally choose Addélice SWID (in fact I did). Older SWIDs also had problems with the pump, but after a model revision their problems seem solved.

It seems that they had some quality control issues in the first production run. I got one of the units with a bent propellor drive shaft. I must say that their customer service was excellent, including dispatching a replacement unit to Australia freight free (I retained the old, semi-functioning unit as it would have been too expensive to send it back). The Vac-Star Unit circulates the water very well and will work with up to 40 litres of water.

With freight to Australia, the Sous Vide Chef-II came in under $500. It is, however, a 220-240V unit and I'm not sure that they have a 110V version. Looking at Addelice's site it seems that they also do not have a 110V version.

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Thanks so much for the awesome responses, extremely informative. After giving it some thought and consulting with the wife, I think I'm going to have to eliminate the eiPOT and SVS from the running. My wife took one look at the eiPOT setup in some of the pictures and almost immediately vetoed that option. I decided against the SVS as I think I'd prefer a circulator type device instead of relying solely on convection. The two I'm going back and forth between now is the PolyScience Creative model that is available from William-Sonoma and the soon (hopefully) to be released Nomiku. I know it's hard to compare the two since the Nomiku isn't out yet, but I was hoping some of the sous vide experts here could give me their thoughts on how it would compare to the PolyScience based on what we know so far.

Seannymurrs....

I know you have ruled out the SVS, but I'll give my .02 anyway. At time, the higher priced units were not an option for me, and to be quite honest, I don't think there were that many options about 2 1/2 years ago when I got my SVS. Note, I do not have the demo but the full model (demi came out later). I'm glad I have the full model as when I cook, I normally in "batches" and want all the space I can get.

My SVS is permanently out on the countertop, due to it's looks this is acceptable with SWMBO. Even though I would LOVE to have a Pol Sci pro, there will be no lexan tubs sitting around in my kitchen!

In the 2 and 1/2 years I've had the unit, I've never had a problem with losing water due to evap (keep the lid on with the mat on top) and it.....just works. It may not be as accurate as some of the other models, and may only rely on convection (which isn't the best), but I can keep it on the counter and I'll tell you....it is ON way more than it is OFF. For as much as I use it....or just keep it on (sssshhhh), I'm surprised it hasn't croaked yet.

Anyway, as Enrique noted, you need to take into your decision all of the things that are important to you. For my wife, especially when I mentioned you cook things for days sometimes, this (the SVS) was the only acceptable answer.

And although not as easy as some of the other units, I have traveled to friends and family houses and have brought it without any problems, obviously not as convenient. I'm a big fan of the SVS.

Cheers...

Todd in Chicago

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I reviewed all the systems I could locate on the web. eIPOT by Fresh Meals Solutions was for me, the best system out there. It is well engineered, easy to set up and very quiet. Could not be happier with my purchase.

eIPOTsetupjpg.jpg

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Are either of those units available in the US? Seems like they both might be over my $500 limit.

Don't think so...

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. . . .

Where did you get your Greisinger unit and probes? The official site says it's only for professionals and does not show prices... I have Thermoworks but I would like to have a European provider as every package from the US has to pay heavy custom taxes.

. . . .

The GMH 3710 / SET1 ( -20, 0, 70 °C ) Calibration Pt100-High-Precision Measuring System is EUR 254.- excl.VAT. To see the price info you have to create an account (free) and log in. See if you have a calibration laboratory (e.g. http://www.testo.es/online/abaxx-?$part=PORTAL.ESP.HomeDesk&$event=go-home ) nearby for recalibration.

Thanks Pedro!

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Ahhh, OK - I get it! I'm happy with my SVS, but if I was buying now, I'd save up for the Poly Sci Pro unit simply because it's easier to store.

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I have the SVS: Demi and have found it to work very well. I've had it for about two years - here's my thought:

It does not have an active pump, and relies on natural convection to keep the bath isothermal. Some purists may argue that this causes a temperature gradient in the bath (which it may, although I can't imagine that it would be significant to affect cooking) - in either case everything I've made in it (a LOT of food) has turned out great. It's nice that it has a lid to prevent evaporation for those 3-day cook times, and since the entire unit is insulated I would imagine it is more energy efficient than a Polyscience unit on a stovepot. Operation is 100% silent since there is no active pump.

It does take up quite a big amount of counter space though - about the same size as a small microwave.

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