If I had the money, I'd buy the Vitamix Pro 300. For $550, you’ll get a high-performance blender that’s powerful and durable enough to blend anything you can throw at it and a seven-year warranty to back it up.*
(*I’d like to give a big thank you to Lisa McManus and our friends at America’s Test Kitchen for giving us access to their seemingly endless knowledge of food, cooking, and the hardware that makes great meals and healthier living possible.)
Blenders occupy a sweet spot between juicers and food processors. Juicers are great for squeezing the juice and nutrients out of vegetables and fruit. Food processors use a wide variety of blades and attachments to preform a number of tasks, like mixing up a batch of pizza dough, chopping up tons of vegetables, grinding seeds or spices and shredding cheese. Blenders? They liquify. If you want to puree or emulsify anything edible, you want one. With a blender, you can crush ice for making frozen boozy treats, puree cooked meats, raw or cooked fruits and vegetables, or liquify a number of ingredients to make a smoothie. Depending on how powerful they are, some blenders can even tackle some tasks typically left to a food processor, such as milling seeds into flour or making nut butter.
As you’re here reading about what blender to buy, I’m betting you already have an idea of why you want to own one, so let’s get down to business.
As I said, given my choice of blenders I’d go with the Vitamix Pro 300. But what are some of the factors to consider before taking the plunge?
Well, if you’re interested in entering the world of raw food smoothies, you’ll want to consider a blender with no less than a 700-watt motor to make sure that foods like uncored pineapples or kale can be transformed from tough ingredients into tasty purees without leaving your blender a broken mess. Most people won’t need more than 1,500 watts in their kitchen: According to Kolher, that’s enough power to mill flax seed into powder.
You’ll also want to ensure that your blender’s jar is large enough to mix enough of what ever you’re making. Forty-eight ounces is the minimum I’d want, and I wouldn’t go for anything above a 64 ounce jar. Storage becomes an issue after that. A lot of blenders come with automatic settings for blending smoothies, pureeing vegetables and crushing ice, but in my experience the map is never the terrain. You want a device that comes with manual controls in order to fine tune the blender’s performance to your particular tastes.
“Sometimes you find something at a lower price that seems good,” says McManus. “But in the case of a blender, you get what you pay for. Blenders have a really hard job to do in that little space. The motor is only so big. The blades have to be able to move the food through the jar and create a vortex, so that the food is sucked down through the blades and back up again. There’s a lot going on in a blender. It’s kind of a challenge, engineering-wise. If you make it do something difficult every day, a lot of them burn out. If it’s being put in the dishwasher every day, the jars can crack, things loosen up, they leak. It’s a lot of stress to put on a little machine. They’re either not durable enough or they can’t handle it in the first place.” She knows because ATK had to recently recall a recommendation.
In 2009, after reviewing a number of blenders, the editors chose a relatively inexpensive option, the KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender, as their main pick. Within a few months, a number of ATK editors and readers who bought the blender discovered that the KitchenAid began to suffer from leaks and cracks in its jar and gaskets. As a result, McManus and her staff were forced to publish an update with a warning about their pick’s lack of durability, a rarity for a publication known for testing new hardware over the course of weeks or months.
I had to search for a long time to find a blender that would stand up to the sort of beating described by McManus, one that came with a solid warranty and also had the other features you’d want to make using it a pleasure. Most blenders are only covered by a one-year limited manufacturer’s warranty. Waring and Omega offer five-year warranties on a number of their blenders, but online feedback on the build quality of their hardware led me to believe I’d have to rely on their warranties sooner than later, so I passed on them.
The other companies I found that offered exceptionally long warranty coverage were Vitamix and Blendtec, both of which offer seven years of protection.
Both companies set their prices high — their consumer models cost over $400 — but both are also consistently mentioned by editorial reviews, raw food fanatics, bartenders and professional cooks as being the best buy for the money. The two most popular blenders, by far, are Blendtec’s Total Blender and the Vitamix 5200 Total Nutrition Centre. Both offer similar specs: high-powered, two-peak, multi-horsepower motors, rock-solid build quality, large capacity jars with spill-proof lids and a seven-year warranty. But there were differences, too. The Blendtec comes equipped with pre-set blending controls. The Vitamix doesn’t. The Vitamix ships with a collared tamper that users can jam into the blender while it’s running to help agitate the jar’s contents. Blendtec doesn’t offer that.
Since I lack a background in cooking, or much experience with blenders in general, I asked McManus and John Kohler of DiscountJuicers.com what brand they preferred. John likes the Vitamix, due to the hardware’s simplicity of operation and the fact that Vitamix blenders are quieter than Blendtec’s. He also mentioned that while Blendtec’s blenders are of a high wattage, Vitamix hardware offers a higher number of RPMs from fewer watts, making it a more efficient machine. McManus and her staff, still smarting from the durability failure of their top pick for 2009, embarked on a new series of tests that pitted the Blendtec Total Blender and the Vitamix 5200 against each other in a head-to-head brawl.
“We didn’t like the Blendtec as much,” said McManus. “We preferred the Vitamix. The main problem with the Blendtec that it was almost overpowered. We made a smoothie and it made it into thin juice. You kind of want a little texture to your smoothie, but it liquified everything to the point where it was watery and runny. The other thing was that when we tried to crush ice, it just whips the ice out of reach and then just throws it around. This was something a lot of the cheaper blenders have done. We were like ‘man, it can’t crush ice. That’s sad.’ It could crush ice if you could get the ice to the blades, but we found that it would make a tunnel and push all of the ice to the wall of the jar and then it wouldn’t chop anymore unless you got in there and pushed around, whereas the Vitamix did it just right.”
In the end, McManus’ people awarded their prize of best blender to two models: The Vitamix 5200, and a surprising, less expensive dark horse, the $199 Breville Hemisphere Control — a 750 watter capable of matching the Vitamix’s performance.
I asked each of the three companies to send me their blenders for testing. Blendtec and Breville sent me the models I requested.
But instead of sending me the 5200, Vitamix sent me a newer model — the Pro 300. It comes with the same horsepower, operational features and capacity as the 5200, but in a compact package that’s more likely to fit under your cupboard. It’s also 40 percent quieter, and, at $530, costs roughly the same as the Vitamix 5200.
The Pro 300 weighs 12 pounds. Much of that weight comes from its heavy-duty 1,200 watt/two horse power motor, which is capable of driving the blender’s blades to a top speed of 240 mph, or 24,000 rpm. Like the rest of Vitamix’s blenders, the Pro 300 features a central power control knob with 10 different settings, a start/stop toggle and a pulse toggle. The blender’s 64-ounce jar is made from shatterproof, BPA-free Eastman Tritan Copolyester. It’s dishwasher safe, but you don’t need a dishwasher to clean the jar after use. Just throw in a cup of water and a drop of dish soap and turn the blender on high. In a few minutes, the jar will be clean, ready to be rinsed and dried. The Pro 300′s thick rubber lid is easy to remove, but feels sturdy and secure when afixed to the jar. Thanks to an included tamper, you’ll be able to agitate your ingredients to ensure fast and consistent blending, without removing the blender’s lid, or having to worry about touching the Pro 300’s blades while in operation.
Despite the fact that the Pro 300′s specs closely mirrored the 5200′s, I wasn’t entirely comfortable testing hardware different from what I had requested. So I asked John Kohler from discountjuicers.com, a guy who has made dozens of youtube videos about juicing and blending, to explain the different models in the Vitamix line. “Overall,” he said, “they are basically the same, with minor differences.”
I also contacted Vitamix to ask them what, if anything, made the Pro 300 different. They told me something that the blender’s spec sheet didn’t mention: The Pro 300 borrows its vibration dampening and airflow management technology from a $1,200 commerical blender the company offers called “The Quiet One,” a device typically used by professional chefs and high-end eateries that can afford dropping that much coin on a single countertop appliance.
So, for a few bucks more than the Vitamix 5200, the Pro 300 offers the same performance, is more compact than any other Vitamix blender, and has baked in noise reduction technology that’s typically associated with hardware that costs more than twice as much. Got it.
On with the testing.
All three blenders are designed along traditional lines. Their motors and controls are built into their bases, with a blending jar seated on top of the works. Based on the price, I expected the Breville to feel cheaper than its competition. I was wrong. Both the Vitamix and the Blendtec blenders had bases encased inside a plastic housing. The Breville was clad in aluminum. But the Breville is lighter because the Vitamix and Blendtec have a pair of heavy-duty motors. The Vitamix Pro 300 packs a two-peak 2 horsepower 1200 watt motor capable of producing 24,000 rpms. The Blendtec is even more powerful, and boasts 1,560 watts of power, while the Breville has a relatively modest 750 watts. Direct drive motors, like the ones used in these blenders, need to be able to stand up to the punishment caused by friction and vibration. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why Breville would be the lightest of the three.
Despite its metal exterior, the Breville’s plastic touch panel controls felt cheap, but not as cheap as the Blendtec. I could push on the Blendtec’s screen with a finger and feel it move and crunch. The Breville, by comparison, was rock solid. Like the rest of Vitamix’s blenders, the Pro 300 is controlled through the use of hardy analog knob and rocker buttons.
The Breville, Blendtec and Vitamix all ship with jars large enough to serve multiple people — 48 ounces, 32 ounces and 64 ounces, respectively. All the jars are topped off with rubber stoppers featuring plastic inserts that can be removed during operation in order that additional ingredients can be added. On closer inspection of the lids, I was once again disappointed by Blendtec. The rubber lid that the Total Blender ships with felt flimsy in comparison to those that came with the other two blenders. I have my doubts as to how long it might last after repeated uses. The Breville Hemisphere Control’s top felt marginally better than the one that comes with the Blendtec, but once again the Vitamix came out on top. Its lid is constructed of thick rubber that was satisfyingly difficult to remove from or place back on the jar. It’s also worth noting that both the Blendtec and the Breville jars featured measurement marks that were painted on. The Vitamix’s measurement marks were moulded right into the plastic, which leads me to believe that it’d likely stand up to repeated adventures in the dishwasher better than its two competitors.
Does any of my niggling over build quality matter? Well, maybe not at first, but over time, I think it will.
It’s likely that no matter which of these three blenders you choose, they’ll all perform as advertised well out of the box. They’re powerful and well featured for the prices they’re offered. But everything breaks down or wears out over time. Your blender’s having a crappy rubber lid or flimsy digital display might seem moot if it makes amazing drinks, soups and dips, but these shortcomings can come into focus really quick when they switch from being flimsy to broken. Sure you’re covered by warranty — seven years apiece for the Vitamix and Blendtec and one year for the Breville — but you’ll be without a blender while you wait for your hardware to be repaired or replaced.
So yeah, The Vitamix Pro 300 gets my vote for hands-on build quality and durability.
Now, let’s talk about results. Who cares if their blender’s built like a tank if it keeps cranking out terrible food? In order to test the Blendtec, Breville and Vitamix hardware, I decided on a few benchmarks: How well each blender could crush ice, liquify kale, and create a yogurt, ice and frozen fruit smoothie.
Crushed Ice Test
I threw three cups of store bought ice cubes into each blender and cranked them on for five seconds a piece, starting with the Blendtec, which has an automatic crush ice setting. In the allotted time, the blender was able to reduce to the ice cubes to the consistency of sleet. Next, I put the Breville’s automatic ice crushing setting to the test. With half the power, the ice in the Breville’s jar had a consistency similar to the stuff made by the Blendtec, but with a number of large chunks left. Last in line for the ice crush test was the Vitamix. Unlike the first two, the Pro 300 is a manually controlled device, so there are no presets to rely on. I turned it up to four out of ten and at the end of the five seconds, all of the ice in the jar was stuck to the sides of the container and had been reduced to the consistency of snow. I was able to take it out and pack it into a snowball.
For me, that makes the Vitamix a winner.
If I invest in a blender, it damn well better be able to make a smoothie. For each blender, I used one cup of water, one cup of low fat vanilla yogurt and two cups of frozen mixed berries and peach slices. I started with the Vitamix, and after blending my ingredients for three minutes, I was treated to a thick, smooth beverage that might have benefitted from a little more water. But there were no lumps, and when I sampled it, I found the texture to be very smooth. Next was the Breville. It comes equipped with an automatic smoothie setting, but it wasn’t able to handle the frozen fruit. I found large chunks of frozen berries and peaches caught underneath of the blades and throughout the mixture. I cleaned it out and tried it again with the blender’s manual speed settings, but had similar results. The Blendtec also has a smoothie setting. Unfortunately, while the Blendtec didn’t wind up with frozen fruit underneath of it’s blades, I found that the consistency of the smoothie wasn’t as smooth as the mixture the Vitamix blender had whipped up.
Once again, the Vitamix came out on top.
Kale is hard to blend; its tough fibrous leaves and stems are capable of crippling most low-powered blenders. To test each blender’s ability to liquify kale, I poured two cups of water into each jar and then jammed the remaining space with fresh kale. As the jar shapes and capacities varied from machine to machine, I didn’t look at how much kale was in each machine, only that each of the jars was loosely packed with the leafy edible. I started off with the Blendtec. The blender’s Whole Juice setting runs for 60 seconds at a time. In order to fully liquify the kale, I had to run the blender through four complete cycles as I jammed the kale down towards the blades using a tamper. By the end of the test, the Kale had caused the motor to work so hard that the kale and water mixture was steaming. Admittedly, I was kind of scared and turned it off immediately. That said, the consistency of the liquid was smooth and dark green in colour.
Next was the Breville. Given that has it packs about half of the power of the Blendtec or the Vitamix, I didn’t have high hopes for it’s kale destroying capabilities. I was surprised to find that after two one-minute cycles of the Breville’s Liquify setting, the kale and water had been pulverized without the need for tampering or the threat of spontaneous combustion. However, I wasn’t able to get a smooth consistency out of it. While the kale had been pulverized, the result mixture was a thin, pulpy mess.
Once again, the Vitamix Pro 300 came out on top. Without the aid of a specialized setting, it was able to reduce the kale and water into a smooth liquid in under two minutes with minimal interference from a tamper.
So That’s It For Blendtec
The Blendtech preformed better than the Breville, but not $250 better.
Sure, it’s got a huge amount of power under the hood and a seven-year warranty, but it’s not as good as the Vitamix, flat out. We can easily eliminate it based its only-OK performance and high price.
So that leaves us with the Breville Hemisphere Control and the Vitamix Pro 300. In terms of performance, there’s no contest. With the $530 Pro 300, you’ll get a high-powered blender that easily beat the Breville Hemisphere in every test I threw at it, as you’d expect from a more powerful, more expensive blender.
Unfortunately, the Pro 300 is so new that I wasn’t able to find any editorial endorsements for it online. That said, there’s a whole lot of love out there for Vitamix on the whole. Recently, the company received the National Restaurant Association’s 2012 Kitchen Innovations award for their Automatic Mixin’ Machine, were named Best In Class for their blenders in 2011 by the Food Service & Supplies Magazine, and in the same year also picked up a Kitchen Innovations award from The National Restaurant Association for their Quiet One blender–the $1,200 machine that had its vibration and airflow management system lifted for the Pro 300.
Aside from professional accolades, there’s lots of general praise out there for Vitamix, too. Johnathan Cochran of Blenderdude.com wrote that ”…Vitamix has been the de facto name in the high-performance blender market for approaching 80 years.” There’s that ATK review that I keep mentioning — you can find it online or in the September issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Goodhousekeeping.com awarded the Vitamix Professional Series 500 an ‘A’, and back in 2009, Boing Boing posted a video review of the Vitamix 5200 by Joel Johnson. Johnson stated “’I’ve yet to find food it can’t turn into a healthful slop — eventually.”
All of this speaks to Vitamix’s reputation, and the Pro 300 is rated with similar motor specs as the 5200, so it’s on par. So I’d be willing to stake my reputation on the Pro 300′s resilience and excellence of operation. Once the reviews for it start to pop up online, I’ll update this story with the links to back up my own findings.
As cool as it is, the Vitamix Pro 300 isn’t without its faults. For starters, it’s expensive. For most people, $530 is a huge amount of money to spend on a small kitchen appliance. While it comes with a seven-year warranty, a number of Vitamix owners have complained online about the quality of customer service they received when trying to get their blenders repaired. It’s loud, too: the Pro 300 might be 40 percent quieter than other Vitamix blenders, but it still sounds like a Harrier jet taking off.
Still, there are other excellent high-end blending machines out there. The aforementioned Vitamix 5200 is a well-loved pick that’s been tested to death. The same goes for the 1732 TurboBlend VS blender: That said, neither the 5200 or the 1732 are as quiet as the Pro 300. The Hamilton Beach HBH650 is a serious piece of hardware. For $455, you get a blender with a 3-horsepower motor. But it’s only covered under warranty for two years and comes equipped with a polycarbonate jar. The Omega’s B2300 2-Speed blender comes with a polycarbonate jar as well, but costs only $313. Unfortunately, it lacks any way to control the blender’s power level: You get a choice of on, off or pulse. The Omni V 3 Horsepower Heavy Duty Professional is worth looking at. For $389, you get a 3-horsepower blender that’s covered by a seven-year warranty, just like a Vitamix or Blendtec rig. However, it’s has a horrible control scheme. Aside from on, off or pulse, the Omni V only offers a low, medium and high setting and three different runtimes: 35, 60 and 90 seconds. That’s significantly less control than that offered by the Breville or Blendtec hardware I tested, and for me, that’s unacceptable. On the whole, none of these options offer the same combination of power, ease of use, or quiet that the Vitamix Pro 300.
If you feel like spending only $200, you could go with the Breville Hemisphere Control. As mentioned before, America’s Test Kitchen liked it just as much as the Vitamix 5200, and I thought it performed damn near as well as the Blendtec Total Blender. But you lose a lot when you move $330 bucks down the food chain. For starters, the Breville packs a little more than half of the power of the Vitamix Pro 300. The difference between what a 750 watt and a 1,200 watt blender is like night and day, based on my testing. You could argue that some of this comes down to the design of each blender’s jar and blades, but you’ll still arrive at the same answer: The Pro 300 did a better job of tackling everything I threw at it. Speaking of jars, the Breville’s is smaller than the Pro’s: 48 ounces vs. 64 ounces. I also like that the Vitamix gives you total control over your blending, relying on manual controls for switching the machine on and off, as well as for setting power levels. The Breville, with its digitally preset blending modes, doesn’t do that. It also only has a one-year warranty.
Still, in the end, If I could afford a Vitamix Pro 300, I’d get one.
Vitamix Pro 300 on Amazon
Vitamix Pro 300 on Vitamix
Vita-Mix 5200, ConsumerReports.org, May 8, 2012Change Your Lifestyle Not Your Diet, "I have tried most blenders out there, yes I had a Blendtec, and while is a very good machine, it's just not a Vitamix. Watch the cooking shows or walk into a chef's prep area and you will not see a Blentec, only Vitamix... Now Vitamix has a Pro 300 series that has a low profile 64 oz container that is 40% quieter and a more powerful motor.Vitamix is built like a tank and will last for years, just read the reviews on other sites, you will find it hard to find even 1 complaint about its durability and performance."
Review: The Vitamix 5200, BlenderDude.com,"There are other blenders with comparable motor strengths, functionality, and ease of use on the market today. All of them, though, use the Vitamix standard as their benchmark. In fact, during my tenure in this business I’ve yet to meet a wholly unsatisfied customer of one of their products. I have, however, met several second and third-generation owners of the very same Vitamix machine – it having been passed down from one family member to the next. They are built to last".
Vita-Mix 5200 Blender, BoingBoing.net, July 8, 2009,Video Review: "...its laudable blending ability doesn’t even make itself apparent unless you’re blending quite a bit of food at once. But over the course of the last month, I’ve yet to find food it can’t turn into a healthful slop—eventually.
Excellent Blender, Amazon, June 23, 2012,"Through it all it has performed well. Above and beyond any blender that I have ever used. I love that most jobs take less than 1 minute with this blender".
The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, Amazon, July 9, 2012,"My first experience with the VitaMix was at the Culinary Institute of America as a student. Every kitchen was equipped with a VitaPrep, the professional version of the Vitamix. I personally saw students commit acts against nature on a daily basis. That bad boy stood up to everything we threw at it on a daily basis for year after year".