Archive for February, 2014

Making a Banana Milk in the Vitamix Pro 300 and Blendtec DesignerSeries side-by-side (with video)

Back when I bought my first Vitamix, a 5200, one of the very first things I made, and one of the reasons I bought it, was Banana Milk.  Basically, blend a frozen banana and milk.  Made correctly, it’s awesome.  Unfortunately, it will eventually (or quickly) break normal (weaker) blenders, and getting the entire banana blended so there are no chunks left takes time or a good blender.

Banana Milk is a pretty demanding test for any blender, so when I bought my 7500 back in 2012, I compared it to the 5200 by making a Banana Milk in both blenders simultaneously:  Making a Banana Milk in the Vitamix 7500 and Vitamix 5200 side-by-side (with video)

Not long after that video, unique circumstances lead me to get a Professional Series 300 and returning my 7500, though the two blenders are essentially identical.  That is the blender that I have been using regularly for a little over a year now.

Exactly one week ago I got a Blendtec Designer Series, and while I broke out my camera to document the physical differences (Physical Comparison: Vitamix Professional Series 300 vs. Blendtec Designer Series) between the two blenders, I was far more interested how their performance compares, and that’s what I set out to by making a Banana Milk in both the Pro 300 and Designer Series.

Last time, I subjected both blenders to an overly grueling test, as I did not include as much milk as I normally would, and did not use the tamper.  You can watch that video if you want to see how a Pro 300 or 7500 performs without a tamper, so I thought I would use a tamper this time to reflect how I normally make Banana Milks in the Vitamix.

While I documented the various run times of the pre-programmed cycles on the Blendtec, I hadn’t actually used them before this video, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but the Smoothie cycle seemed stronger and longer than the Milkshake, so that is what I decided I would use for the Blendtec.

As you’ll see in the video, in addition to preparing equal amount of milk and equal sized bananas that were frozen in my refrigerator over several hours, I took four kids cups from Moe’s and wrote B on the bottom of two and V on the bottom of the other two, the idea being that I would mix two glasses of the Banana Milk made by the Blendtec and two glasses made by the Vitamix and mix them all so that even I didn’t know which was which, and see if I could tell the difference between the two.  Watch the video to see how the actual mixing went:

The Blendtec pre-programmed blend was definitely not up to the task, and even on various manual settings, I could not find a good setting that effectively blended the banana.  As I noted in my physical comparison, the Blendtec has two large, dull blades, while the Vitamix sports four sharp blades.  It seems that the combination of the blades and blender container design make the Vitamix more effective at blending a large, thoroughly frozen banana with milk.  Another side effect of using the Blendtec that have noticed in my limited use is that the Blendtec seems to more effectively heat the mix it is blending than the Vitamix.  That could be great for soup, but it’s not great when I’m blending something frozen and the Blendtec already needs to significantly longer to blend.

So what were the results after the camera stopped rolling?

The Blendtec was warmer, still had large chunks of unblended banana, and lacked the whipped, rich, creamy consistency that makes Banana Milk such a treat.  The Vitamix wasn’t perfect, there was a very small chunk I missed, as I was trying to pour the Vitamix glasses a tad earlier than I normally would, in anticipation of the Blendtec being ready to pour at the end of it’s 40 second cycle (the Blendtec does count down it’s cycle in seconds on the LCD panel, which is a nice touch), but it turned out the Blendtec was nowhere near ready to pour.

Yes, it’s a disappointing result for the Blendtec, but it’s very likely the Blendtec Smoothie program is not the best way to make Banana Milk.  As with the issue that I had trying to use the Blendtec to make powdered parmesan cheese like I do with my Vitamix, it’s likely that part of the issue is my lack of familiarity with the Blendtec.   I’ll move on and try some of my other favorite recipes and I’m looking forward to hopefully finding some areas where the Blendtec shines.

The lengths of six pre-programmed blend cycles on the Blendtec DesignerSeries

I went looking for what I assumed would be readily available information, and I wasn’t able to find it.  I wanted to know what the length of the Milkshake cycle on the Blendtec Designer Series blender is, and since I couldn’t find that information, I thought I’d share it so the next person can.

For those of you not familiar with the Designer Series, in addition to the power button and variable slider that allows you to choose between eight speeds, there are also eight icons on the Designer Series touch screen.  Those icons are described in the Designer Series user guide as follows:

The eight icons that appear on the blender in addition to the power button and variable slider

The eight icons that appear on the blender in addition to the power button and variable slider

Here are the actual run times for each of the six presets:

Batters / Sauces / Dips / Dressings 23 seconds
Ice Crush / Milkshake 35 seconds
Smoothie 40 seconds
Ice Cream / Frozen Yogurt 45 seconds
Whole Juice 50 seconds
Soups / Syrups / Fondues 90 seconds

If you’re interested in photos that show what the touch screen looks like, check out my Physical Comparison: Vitamix Professional Series 300 vs. Blendtec Designer Series post, which has multiple photos of the Blendtec Designer Series along side the
Vitamix Professional Series 300/7500.

Physical Comparison: Vitamix Professional Series 300 vs. Blendtec Designer Series

I was holding off on using the Blendtec Designer Series I just got because I wanted to take some good comparison photos of it before I used it.  This post is going to attempt to detail what I see as the major physical similarities and differences between the Vitamix Professional Series 300 (as seen in this post, basically the same as the Vitamix 7500) and the Blendtec Designer Series.  These were the kind of details I would have been very happy to see back when I was shopping for a blender, so I dusted off my DSLR and combined my nerdy interest in blenders with my nerdy interest in photography in hopes that this post will be helpful for some people out there who are looking at these blenders.  (As a camera nerd, I made a conscious decision to take all photos SOOC, no post processing of any type has been done.)

Front and Top Views

The Blendtec Designer Series does a very good job of looking small and sleek. It is smaller than the Vitamix Pro 300, but looks smaller than it actually is. I do like the Blendtec touch panel, but I’m also a huge fan of the simplicity of the Vitamix design and ease of use.

Another thing I really like about the Vitamix is the physical power switch that kills the LED light, minimizes electricity usage when not in use and ensures the Blender won’t be accidently turned on. The Blendtec power button glows fairly brightly as long as it’s plugged in.

The front of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered off.

The front of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered off.

The front of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered off.

The front of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered on.

The top of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered on.

The top of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered on.

Back View

One benefit of the larger Vitamix base is that the power cord can be completely wound into the base of the blender or fully extended. The Blendtec has the benefit of a smaller profile, and the cord length should work for most home users, but I definitely appreciated the ability to have a lengthen or shorten the power cord with the Vitamix by winding the excess cable into a guide in the bottom of the blender body.

The back of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, showing power cord lengths.

The back of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, showing power cord lengths.

The back of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, with power cords stored/tied.

The back of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, with power cords stored/tied.

Container Blades

One thing that surprised me is how different the blades are. The first physical difference that jumped out when I was looking at these blenders is that the socket connecting the container to the blender body on the Vitamix is much larger than the Blendtec, but I doubt that has a major impact in how either blender performs. The blades, however, are a different story.

The Vitamix family of containers uses a four pronged blade that reminds me of a four-pointed shuriken with two of the four blades pointed up. And blades is the right term, as they are sharp enough to cut.

The Blendtec WildSide Jar and Twister Jar blades vary slightly from each other, the WildSide being larger, but they both have a two blade design. Don’t let the word blade fool you into assuming that they are sharp. They taper on the side of the blade that impacts food, but they are nowhere near as sharp as the Vitamix blades, which I am sure is intentional.

I expect the very different blade designs to have pros and cons for each blender, but don’t yet have enough experience with the Blendtec to know what those are.

The Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series sport very different blade designs.

The Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series sport very different blade designs.

DSC_1986

Containers

The Vitamix container includes measurements up to 64 oz (I’ve actually made double sized batches of hummus before, so it’s blended over 64 oz of hummus on more than one occassion).  The Blendtec book states that WildSide Jar has a volume of 90 fl oz, but for whatever reason only has measurements up to 36 fl oz.  The Blendtec Twister Jar has measurement lines up to 16 oz.  I’m almost certain the WildSide jar would be able to handle 48 oz of almost anything (if not everything) that I’d make in the Vitamix, so I took photos with 48 oz and 12 oz of water in each to show the various sizes.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series containers with 48oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series containers with 48oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series with 48oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series with 48oz of water.

Vitamix Compact 64oz container, Blendtec WildSide Jar and Twister Jar with 12oz of water.

Vitamix Compact 64oz container, Blendtec WildSide Jar and Twister Jar with 12oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series and Twister Jar with 12oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series and Twister Jar with 12oz of water.

Cookbooks

Both the Vitamix cookbooks are larger and thicker at first glance, so if you’re rating them based on how impressive they look on a bookshelf, the Vitamix books win that comparison. I’ve always been a fan of the Whole Foods book that came with the
5200 because of it’s ability to turn the cover into a stand and easily reference a recipe while using the blender.  The Professional Series 300 comes with a nice large hardcover book, but I’m more interested in the contents than anything else, so I’m looking forward to digging into the Fresh Blends book that comes with the Blendtec Designer Series, which apparently has more than 200 recipes.

The cookbooks that come with (from left to right) the Vitamix Professional Series 300, Vitamix 5200, Blendtec Twister Jar (top) and Designer Series (bottom). (101 Blender Drinks [top] also included for scale)

The cookbooks that come with (from left to right) the Vitamix Professional Series 300, Vitamix 5200, Twister Jar (top) and Designer Series (bottom). (101 Blender Drinks [top] also included for scale)

Another view of cookbooks that come with the Vitamix Professional Series 300, Vitamix 5200, Twister Jar (top) and Blendtec Designer Series (bottom).

Another view of cookbooks that come with the Vitamix Professional Series 300, Vitamix 5200, Twister Jar (top) and Blendtec Designer Series (bottom).

Initial Conclusions

Both blenders are impressive beasts.  I’ve used my Vitamix Pro 300 so much that even my second blender container (I have two) is clouded, and the blender is what I’m used to.  The Blendtec is sleek and shiny, especially in these photos, as I waited until after I’d taken these photos to first use it.  Any talk about which is better based on small differences in size, cord length, the inclusion of an on/off switch or a cookbook seems like it would be meaningless for most people, as the real question is:  How do they each perform?

I’m thrilled with my Vitamix, but as I dig though my reasons in that old post, I realize I don’t know enough to know how it compares to the Blendtec yet.  In fact, I’m very hopeful that I’ll find that each blender has it’s strengths and that there will be things that the Blendtec does better.  Looking at the Fresh Blends book, it seems that the Blendtec may have more of a focus on dry grains than the Vitamix.  The Vitamix does have a dry grains container, but I’ve said before that I don’t do enough with dry grains to justify buying a separate container.  Maybe that’s a chicken and the egg issue, and the Blendtec could send me down that road.

Similarly, the Twister Jar is something I’m very much looking forward to using.  I’ve said before that one of the few disadvantages that the Vitamix 7500 and Pro 300 have compared to the 5200 is that the wider container base means that they are not as well suited for very small batches.  While Vitamix does offer a 32oz container, I personally didn’t think it was something I needed, so I’ve made due with the larger container.  I can certainly see the Twister Jar being very good for dips, sauces, baby food and other recipes that are made in very small batches.

I’d love to be able to give a definitive answer on which blender would be good for what kind of person, but I don’t know yet.  Tonight we had pasta, and I wanted to turn some parmesan into parmesan powder, a great use for the Vitamix that I’ve written about before.  I figured I’d try the Twister Jar, thinking that the twister lid might help me mix it more evenly.  The slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano that would easily hit the blades in the Vitamix was long enough that it became stuck in the container, sideways and above the blades, and then mixed unevenly before over-mixing into hot and soft clumps.  I later found a recipe in the Fresh Blends book specifically for mixing Parmesan Cheese, so I’m sure the Blendtec can create better powdered Parmesan in the hands of a more competent user than what I made today, but I clearly need learn some things from the Fresh Blends book and I probably need to learn some other things the hard way as well.

If you’re in the market for a blender, it’s worth pointing out that, similar to the Vitamix refurbished options I’ve written about, Blendtec has a Recertified Blender option.

Please do let me know any question or requests you might have. I’ll learn more about the pros and cons of each blender as this year goes on, and I’d love to share feedback that will helpful to others.