After pushing almost 40 pounds of leafy, crunchy, pulpy produce through nine top machines, we think the Tribest Slowstar is the best and most versatile juicer for the home for the second year in a row. Its single vertical auger turns at a slow 47 rpm, making it one of the slowest juicers available—key for getting maximum nutrients and enzymes from produce—and it still yielded more juice than nearly every other model we tested, meaning there’s less going to waste. It comes with a 10-year warranty on parts, so you can crank it up every day without worry about wear and tear.
If you can’t get the Tribest, the Omega VSJ843 is a very good runner-up, especially if you prefer only green juices. Juice from the new VSJ is virtually pulp-free and full of flavor with minimal foam, and the yield for green juice was especially high. The machine itself has a lower profile and runs at a quiet hum. This newer design eliminates excessive nooks and crannies within the individual components, so cleaning the parts is easier than with other juicers. Omega’s 15-year warranty makes this a machine that will earn its keep over time. However, it is a less versatile machine than our pick, with lower yields on carrot-apple juice and no nut-butter attachments, and it costs about $100 more.
If you’re not ready to spend up to $400 on a juicer, we still think our original top pick, the Omega J8004, is a good cheaper option. This commercial-quality machine is good at greens (though it didn’t quite give us the yields of our top pick and runner-up). It’s the best with hard roots and fruits, though. While it isn’t exactly cheap, remember that the cost of undersqueezed produce will add up quickly for lower-yield machines. A 15-year warranty helps to make the Omega a great value.
I do not claim to be a healthy living enthusiast, but I understand the need for more live nutrients in my diet. I regularly enjoy grassy green juices and spicy beet turmeric shots. My significant other also owns a juice bar in Brooklyn which I frequent, not only because they make delicious concoctions, but also because I get lazy about making my own juice from time to time. I try to drink as much green juice as possible because sometimes eating a plateful of vegetables isn’t an option in my busy life.
We read through editorial for reviews of the new models and spoke to John Kohler of DiscountJuicers.com and Matt Shook of JuiceLand in Austin, Texas, to find out what to call in for testing. To see if the more expensive juicers were actually worth the money, we ran nine models in different price ranges (including our previous pick, the Omega J8004) through tests for yield, ease of use, heat transfer, and foam production.
Juicers are expensive machines that take up a lot of counter space; they’re not for dabblers. If you are already a juice enthusiast, you can offset the cost of boutique juice by making your own at home. A bottle of freshly pressed juice can cost $9 in some areas. To make a quart of juice at home with kale, apple, carrot, cucumber, and ginger, I spent less than half that. More efficient extractors give you more juice for your money. If you drink green juice five times a week, even factoring in a little extra for electricity, the savings can add up to hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
To pick from the many styles of juicers available, start by thinking about what kind of juice you want. Different machines don’t always handle soft fruits, hard roots, and leafy greens equally well. John Kohler of DiscountJuicers.com, a 25-year juicing enthusiast with extensive knowledge about juicers and hundreds of YouTube videos to prove it, stressed to us that to understand what to look for in a juicer, it’s important to factor in what kind of juice you want to drink.1
While we’re not advocating that everyone stop eating solid food and go straight to a liquid diet, fresh green juice is an excellent way to get a boost of vitamins and nutrients. However, it’s important to know that juice isn’t a magical potion. As doctors at the Mayo Clinic point out:
“Juicing probably is not any healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables. Juicing extracts the juice from fresh fruits or vegetables…. However, whole fruits and vegetables also have healthy fiber, which is lost during most juicing.” They go on to say: “The resulting liquid contains most of the vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals (phytonutrients) found in the whole fruit.”
As Sweethome founder Brian Lam put it in his original juicer review, “…this is the unarguable truth about juicing: It makes getting the equivalent of vegetables as simple as downing a beer. It’s not as much fun, but it’s more fun than eating three giant salads every day.”
Good vegetables are pricey in the quantities needed for juice, and you should make the most of what you get. If the yield on your current juicer isn’t very high, or you have a model geared more towards soft fruit rather than tough greens, we recommend upgrading.
And if you’re not sure if you want to commit to juicing regularly, check eBay and Craigslist for used juicers, especially Omegas and Huroms, since they’ve been around a while. A lot of people sell their machines after realizing they’re not ready to give up the money, counter space, or time required to make juice regularly. You won’t be able to take advantage of the warranty, but you can get really good deals (and even resell yours if you get tired).
There are generally four types of juicers:
Oxidation is a controversial topic. The prevailing theory among juicers is that if less oxygen is whipped into a juice, the enzymes remain more active. The foam that accumulates on top of your juice is a good indicator of how much air has been whipped into your juice by the machine; more foam equals more oxidation. As Harold McGee says in On Food and Cooking, “Because juicing mixes together the contents of living cells, including active enzymes and various reactive and oxygen-sensitive substances, fresh juices are unstable and change rapidly.”
Certain nutrients are more vulnerable to oxidation than others. Still, most of the information you can find about nutrient retention and enzyme activation comes from the manufacturers as selling points. John Kohler mentioned this in one of our email exchanges: “There are few (if any) peer-reviewed research on this subject that I am aware. It’s all manufacturers data for the most part, which I take with a grain of salt.” The prevailing advice: no matter how much foam your juicer makes, drink your juice fast to minimize the chance of oxidation.
A slow, cold juicing process helps avoid the major pitfalls of heat and oxidation, which can zap juice of its live enzymes. Fresh is better than bottled because the latter is pasteurized to make it shelf-stable, which some say degrades the nutrients. Juicing enthusiasts also say cold-pressed juice is best; at the very least, starting with cold vegetables from the refrigerator can help to retain nutrients and enzymes most people turn to juice for.
“Enzyme deactivation happens when temperatures exceed 118°[F],” says John Kohler. In our tests, none of our picks raised heated the juice more than 12 degrees above the temperature of the raw produce. Even if you are juicing room temperature vegetables, your juice will be no warmer than 85°, well under the temperature at which nutrient degradation begins.
When selecting a juicer, the important things to look at are juice yield, ease of use, foam production (oxidation), and longevity. Slow juicers deliver better results than centrifugal models when it comes to juice yield and foam production. Models with a smaller footprint, like our top pick the Tribest Slowstar, are great for those with limited kitchen space. Slow juicers also tend to be quieter. This might not be an issue for everyone, but if you make juice early in the morning while the house is asleep, noise might be something to consider. We found that all of the juicers had one thing in common—they were a bit of a pain to clean. The parts aren’t dishwasher safe, so you have to clean the components by hand.
If you’re going through the trouble of juicing fruits and vegetables, you want to get the maximum yield possible. The more juice you extract, the more you will get for your money. Healthy habits take diligence and discipline to maintain. The last thing you need is a machine that is tedious or difficult to use. While most of the models we tested were similar, we found that the size of the feed tube made the biggest difference when it came to ease. The smaller the feed tube, the more time you need to prep your produce—kale needs to be cut into thinner, more manageable strips, large apples can’t be cut into simple wedges, and those fat carrots need to be quartered lengthwise instead of simply halved. During the course of a busy morning, those minutes can really add up.
Warranties can also add value to an expensive juicer. While there is generally little wear on parts with the slow juicers, the juicing screen tends to be the part that breaks the most, according to John Kohler. A long warranty on the motor isn’t a bad thing, but juicer motors seem to be pretty sturdy and not as susceptible to breakage as individual parts.
Juicers can also be pretty in-your-face appliances, depending on size and noise level. The small footprint of vertical juicers is ideal for smaller kitchens with limited counter space. The oval bases hover around seven to eight inches in diameter. A vertical juicer can be tucked into a corner quite easily, though they are generally taller (about 16 to 18 inches) and require cabinet clearance. The horizontal juicers can hog a lot of space, with the footprint of one model, the Omega J8004, measuring 16 by 7 inches. Slower juicers aren’t as noisy as centrifugal juicers. They tend to operate at a low hum which keeps others in your house undisturbed.
Juicers are notoriously difficult to clean, because the components should be washed by hand. The vertical juicers come with specialized brushes to make cleaning easier, and the Omega horizontal models are a little simpler to clean since the juicing screens aren’t as big. None were particularly easy to clean, though. I can only recommend that you juice very often; all of that practice will make you a speedy cleaner.
Home juicers can run you anywhere from $100 to $600, but generally, the more you pay, the higher the juice yield and the lower the pulp. Our top two models have newly designed augers with two cutting blades, as opposed to single-blade older models, to make quicker work of pulling the vegetable into the juicing chamber. The augers juice vegetables and fruits slowly, crushing the cell walls with pressure, not speed, to minimize heat and oxidation.
The four main juicer companies at the forefront of juicing technology are all Korean: Tribest, Kuvings, Omega, and Hurom. John Kohler says that these companies innovate and improve upon their technology, and the cheaper versions are often Chinese knockoffs. Australian company Breville has a slow juicer in their line, also made in Korea.
For this guide, we focused on green juice first. As Brian Lam explained in his original juicer review, “Juicing is sort of like healthy fast food. (When I talk about juicing, I’m talking about the green stuff, mostly. Juicing with too much fruit misses the point. You want the nutrients found in leafy greens like kale, not copious amounts of sugar–which, without fiber holding it back, gets into your bloodstream a little too fast, according to nutritionist Darya Pino from Summer Tomato. I might toss an apple into my kale juice to make it taste a little sweeter, but that’s about it.) After that first glass, I became an addict.” When fresh, vegetable-based green juice is nutrient rich.
In our 2013 juicer guide, we relied on expert testimony to help narrow the field down to a single winner. For the last two updates, we decided to call in a number of models for some hands-on testing. John Kohler and Matt Shook both recommended that we include a few different vertical single-auger juicers to test against our original pick, the Omega J8004. All of the single-auger models we brought in to test promised low speeds, minimal oxidation, and high juice yields. Along with the slow juicers, we brought in two centrifugal-style juicers to compare yield and quality.
Over the course of two years, we put 13 juicers through two tests. We noted ease of use, yield, foam production, flavor, ease of cleaning, and amount of prep required. First, we tested their ability with greens and soft fruit by making a kale-grape juice with eight ounces each of curly kale and Thompson green grapes. We then tested each juicer for their ability to juice hard fruits and vegetables, using eight ounces each of carrots and apples, four ounces celery, and one ounce of ginger. All yields were measured by weight.
For 2015 we tested our three picks against new contenders: the Kuvings Silent Juicer, Juicepresso Platinum, Tribest Solostar, and Omega NC800. They were put through the same tests as the 2014 testing group. In the end, our picks remained the same.
We tasted all juices for freshness and pulp. Three juicers in particular, the Kuvings Whole Slow Juicer, Kuvings Silent Juicer, and Omega VRT 400, gave us unpleasant levels of fiber.
For the second year in a row, the Tribest Slowstar, a vertical single auger, slow-press juicer, aced all of our tests. It yielded nearly the highest amount of green juice and hard vegetable juice with low effort, experienced no motor jams, and generated minimal foam. John Kohler of DiscountJuicers.com cites the Slowstar as one of his favorites. This juicer is one of the most efficient with greens, ejecting very fine, dry, almost sawdust-like pulp after extraction. It has a generous feed tube opening which makes for quicker prep and easier juicing. The quiet machine is backed with a 10-year warranty that covers the motor and parts, one of the better guarantees among the juicers we tested.
Tribest markets the machine’s “Duoblade” auger, which has two cutting edges to chop and crush more with each rotation than single edges can. The motor uses a three-gear system that allows it to turn slowly but with plenty of torque; in our testing, we found that this translates to low-temperature juice with maximum yields from even low-moisture greens like kale.
An efficient design allows the Slowstar to crank out a high volume of juice within a small footprint of 6½ by eight inches. The feed tube opening is a relatively wide 2½ by 1½ inches. I know that doesn’t seem very big, but it’s 67 percent wider than the Omega J8004’s, which measures only 1½ inches in diameter. A wide feeder allows more leeway with pre-juice vegetable prep. The solid waste collects cleanly in a waste container that’s included. The Slowstar has a reverse button in the back in case you need to dislodge stuck vegetable matter, but I never needed to use it.
The Tribest handled a constant stream of kale with super soft grapes without gumming up or stalling out, unlike the Hurom Elite which had to be thrown into reverse a couple of times. The yield from one pound of greens and grapes was 11.1 ounces by weight, the second-highest yield of all the juicers. When we put the Slowstar and the VSJ843 in a head-to-head one pound spinach challenge, the Slowstar produced exactly one ounce more juice than the VSJ845.
Flavor was a good indicator of how much of the greens actually made it into the glass; juices that were sweeter had extracted less kale and more grape. The flavor of the Tribest juice was as fresh and bright as any I’ve had at boutique juice bars, with a nice balance between the kale and the grapes. The hue was a vibrant green, like Technicolor in a glass. The foam was minimal, too, measuring half an inch off the top of the surface of the juice; lesser juicers had up to four inches of foam at the top.
The Tribest also handled 21 ounces of hard and fibrous vegetables and fruits like a champ. The carrot-apple-celery-ginger juice yield was exactly 16 ounces, the third-best result of all the models tested. Again, this was a well-balanced juice with great, even flavor and very little foam.
Juicing enthusiasts say low and slow extraction makes for the most nutritious juice, and the Tribest delivers without overheating the final product. I ran a pound of cut curly kale through the Tribest in about 10 minutes with a starting temperature of 72°F; even with the machine constantly running for that amount of time, the final product measured 85°F. There was a small, but pleasant, amount of pulp in the juice. If you don’t like pulp, Tribest includes a stainless steel hand strainer to catch solid bits. The Tribest was also fairly easy to clean with practice—there are five parts to rinse and no sponge-shredding teeth anywhere. The parts aren’t dishwasher safe.
Speaking of butter, the Tribest Slowstar doesn’t just juice. It also comes with a “homogenizing” mincer attachment that grinds without extracting liquid—useful for making sorbets, nut butters, and more. You can see it in action in this Discount Juicers video. The separate bowl attachment fits onto the base, using the auger to pulverize the food and push it through a large chute without a screen.
Juicing is a costly habit no matter how you do it. We realize that $300-plus is a lot to spend on a small appliance, but we’ve found that it’s worth it to pay a bit more for your machine up front. While the initial investment on our pick is high, you won’t be throwing money out with partially-extracted, soggy pulp.
Even though we love this machine, nothing is perfect. I had a bit of trouble navigating the tall feed tube underneath my low-hanging cabinets. It’s not a big deal, and I have a small apartment, so I understand that this is not a problem for all. It’s also slow, but that’s the point, right? Slower juicing retains nutrients.
After 14 months of use and a second round of testing, the Tribest Slowstar is still turning out high-yield, flavorful juices. The machine itself shows light wear, and all the juicing parts–auger, juicing screen, and feed tube–are in perfect working order. The key to longevity is to let the machine work at its own pace, and cutting vegetables into small-ish pieces that can easily fit through the feed tube. Cramming vegetables and fruit through the feed tube only makes the machine stop. I haven’t used it for anything other than making juice, so I can’t attest to its food-chopping and frozen-fruit-sorbet-making abilities.
The Omega VSJ843 turns at a very slow 43 rpm, the slowest of the machines we’ve tested, and it shows in the low-foam juices it produces in its very quiet operation. The VSJ843 produced 25 percent more green juice than even the high-yielding Tribest, so if you’re only interested in smooth green juices, you might prefer it to our pick. However, for most people, its higher price, lower yields on carrot-apple juice, and lack of versatility make it a close runner-up.
Standing at a squat 15.5 inches, this quiet, low-profile juicer will fit under low-hanging cabinets and is easier to stash away in a cupboard. While all slow single-auger juicers are quieter than their centrifugal counterparts, the VSJ seems to be quieter than even our top pick, but not by much.
The VSJ843 has really improved on its predecessor, the VRT 400, with almost pulp-free juices, certainly the smoothest juice I’ve ever produced in a home kitchen. I was hard pressed to detect very much solid matter in the three juices I made from this machine.
The Omega VSJ843 features a dual-edged auger that looks almost identical to the auger on our top pick, the Tribest Slowstar. According to John Kohler, Tribest pioneered the dual-edged auger and Omega copied it. The space on the underside of the auger is roomy, so it’s very easy to wipe out packed solid vegetable matter with your finger. Another feature that makes cleaning easier is that the individual parts have smoother surfaces than the Omega VRT 400. While cleaning the unit, I didn’t need to use the included cleaning brush at all; I just hosed down the parts with the spray nozzle on my sink. Our top pick takes a bit more effort to clean because it has small dimples at the bottom of the juicing screen, requiring use of the included brush to release all pulp.
While the Omega VSJ made slightly less carrot-apple juice than the Slowstar, yielding only 14.3 ounces, it blew the Slowstar out of the water with a kale-grape yield of 13.9 ounces. Compared to the 11.1 ounces produced by the Slowstar, that’s almost 3 ounces more juice, and those savings can add up over time. The Omega VSJ843 comes with a 15-year warranty on motor and parts, which means you can juice with confidence for a very long time.
While some buyers have complained about fussy assembly, I didn’t have any trouble taking it apart or putting it back together. None of the parts were fidgety or stuck to each other; it was very intuitive and user-friendly. Everything locked into place and unlatched easily.
In his video comparison of the Omega VSJ843, Kohler mentions that the Omega had a few stoppages as he juiced two pounds of carrots, but we didn’t experience that during our tests.
One drawback of this machine is that, unlike our top pick, it doesn’t have extra attachments to make nut butters and pâtés. I can still make nut milks, frozen fruit sorbets, and smoothies, but that’s where it stops. We don’t think this is too much of an issue, as the most important job of a juicer is to juice.
The Omega J8004 is a quality machine and a favorite of our founder, Brian Lam. This commercial-grade juicer is a perennial favorite with John Kohler. If you’re on a budget and have some extra counter space to spare, this is still a solid choice.
As Lam said in his original juicer guide, “It’s more efficient at squeezing nutrients and liquid from leafy greens than the more popular (and admittedly great) Breville juicers. Compared to the Brevilles, some juice experts say you’ll get nearly double the juice from the Omega. And why would you go to the trouble of spending money on fresh produce only to leave half of it behind? At about $260, the Omega costs slightly more than low-end juicers, but it offers better quality and taste, it’s easy to clean and it’s built to last a decade.”
In our tests, the J8004 extracted a fair amount of green juice (9.7 ounces kale-grape juice, 9.1 ounces of straight kale juice), falling in the middle of the pack, but excelled with hard vegetable juice (17.3 ounces of carrot-apple, the highest of all the juicers).
The Omega J8004 was the easiest and fastest to clean of all nine models tested, too, because the juicing screen is smaller, so there are fewer tiny holes to scrub.
Though it’s not the cheapest of the juicers we tested, the Omega J8004 represents the best value, especially considering the excellent 15-year warranty on the motor and parts.
Though its price is much more palatable than the Tribest’s, there are some tradeoffs. First, it’s quite big, requiring a 16-by-seven-inch space on the counter. It also isn’t great with softer, juicy fruits. And, as we mentioned earlier, its feed tube is an inch narrower than the Tribest’s, which makes a difference in how much prep work you need to do with vegetables. Though you’ll save about $150 up front, you may lose some of those savings in juice left behind in the pulp you toss every time you use the machine.
Tribest Solostar 4 is a horizontal juicer, like the Omega J8004 and NC800, and performed similarly. It has a slightly squatter body, so the footprint is a tad smaller. When pushing through stubborn vegetables, the juicing assembly gave a bit with every push of the plunger. The Omega models never did that. Also, for around the same price, you can get the Slowstar, which produces higher yields with a smaller footprint.
For the money, Juicepresso is not worth it. The auger and juicing screen are one part, which the company advertises as “unique technology.” It just makes pulpy, low-quality juice with very high foam production.
The Kuvings Silent Juicer made by far the juice with the most pulp. This model is actually the predecessor to the Whole Slow Juicer we tested last year. Since Kuvings is one of the top four Korean juicer companies, I thought maybe the Whole Slow juicer was a misstep towards innovation, like New Coke. I was wrong. Kuvings can’t hold a candle to Tribest or Omega when it comes to juice quality, and its juicers are heavy foam producers. The Kuvings Silent Juicer was also an underperformer, giving us over an ounce less of green juice than the Slowstar.
Whereas the Omega J8004 is a commercial quality machine, the Omega NC800 is designed for household use. When it came to green juice, the output was almost identical. The carrot juice was a different story, though. The NC800 only yielded 12.3 ounces. Kohler at DiscountJuicers.com said that this machine put out 15 percent more juice than its predecessor, but we found that it actually put out 25 percent less carrot juice than the J8004. The nice feature about this juicer is it boasts larger feed tube than its predecessor, which makes prep a little easier.
I wasn’t very impressed with the expensive Kuvings Whole Slow Juicer. It boasts a three-inch feed tube that, in theory, can accept whole fruit. The thing is, most apples in the store are much bigger than three inches in diameter, so that’s a wash. Also, the feed tube has a plastic blade in it that you have to push your produce forcefully through. The resulting juice was unpleasantly pulpy.
The Omega VRT 400, a vertical masticating machine, was a bit of a disappointment. The first trial of the green juice was a failure; the auger couldn’t pull anything through. I disassembled it, cleaned it, and put it back together and finally got it to work. Its yields were disappointing and it felt really flimsy, almost buckling as I pushed leaves of kale and apple wedges through the feed tube. It produced the most foam of all the juicers in the testing group, even more than the centrifugal juicers. It does come with a 15-year warranty.
Breville Juice Fountain Crush is the company’s slow juicer offering. This Korean-made juicer gave us good-quality, high yield juices. The motor stalled out a few times, and it didn’t have a rubber stopper on the juice spout. That’s not that big of a deal, but did lead to a bit of splatter. While testing proved to be generally favorable for this machine, there isn’t much online about the longevity of this juicer. Breville doesn’t seem to promote this one as heavily as their centrifugal juicers. With a short two-year warranty on parts and 10 years on the motor, it doesn’t have the guarantee of our budget pick.
L’Equip Pulp Ejection Mini Juicer: This compact juicer is a little beast. The motor is so strong that when you turn it on, the whole unit hops up off the counter. Spinning at up to 10,000 rpm and standing at one foot tall, this compact juicer made quick work of leafy greens and hard vegetables. While the kale-green juice yield was almost two ounces more than the Breville Juice Fountain Plus, it tasted mostly of grapes. The kale in the waste receptacle was really wet and full of juice. Surprisingly, the L’Equip gave us less yield with the carrot-apple juice than the Breville Juice Fountain Plus.
Breville Juice Fountain Plus: Yes, it’s fast and popular. Yes, it’s featured in a movie about juicing for weight loss. It paled in comparison with the slow juicers. The yields were low and it was the least effective at juicing greens. In my one-bedroom apartment, you can’t hear the television in the living room when a Breville Juice Fountain Plus is fired up in the kitchen.
In our original guide, Brian Lam called the Norwalk Juicer “the ultimate machine” which “uses a two-step process to break down and then hydraulically press out juice.” However, at around $2,000, it’s meant for pros.
A twin-gear juicer such as the Green Star can extract the most from greens like kale, spinach, and wheatgrass. They are also quite expensive. These are specialty machines usually used in professional juice bars. They are also specifically for vegetables, as they aren’t as good at juicing fruit. To justify the cost of something like this for the home, you should be a dedicated green juice consumer. We did not test any twin-gear juicers for this review.
All juicers need to be washed by hand as soon as you are finished juicing for the easiest cleanup. Most juicers come with special brushes to clean the nooks and crannies that normal sponges cannot reach. John Kohler says that while you can sterilize your juicer parts in boiling water, he doesn’t recommend it because it can cause those parts to break down faster.
Be patient with your juicer. Try not to shove a bunch of stuff into the feed tube all at once, even though you might be rushing to get out the door in the morning. Slow juicers are just that—slow. If you let your juicer do its thing, you’ll have fewer backups, stalls, and instances of wear on parts.
The more juice you drink, the more sense it makes to juice at home. Over the long run, you’ll save money while also mainlining your nutrients that much faster. We think the Tribest Slowstar is a great choice if you want to become less dependent on your local juice bar or want to experiment with juices yourself.
(Photos by Michael Hession.)
Originally published: January 7, 2016