Vitamix or bust
January 13, 2013 1:07 PM   Subscribe

About to pull the trigger on buying a Vitamix, an object of lust for some time. A few questions for Vitamix-experienced folks...

I know blenders are a slightly controversial topic: "My $50 blender is just as good as a $400 blender!" versus "NOTHING is like a Vitamix/Blendtec", not to mention the Vitamix-Blendtec holy war. Suffice it to say that I've been thinking about this for a while, and have come to side with the super-blender advocates.

We're currently looking at the Professional 200 model, which looks to retail about $450. It seems to be equivalent to the 5200. Questions:

How necessary is the variable speed? It seems like many people/recipes/videos say to start low and ramp up to 10. Makes sense, but if I'm going to keep it one one speed and not notice the difference, I'll save myself a few bucks.

What is the best place to buy? I'm currently looking for online retailers with free shipping or brick-and-mortar in Delaware to avoid sales tax. Is there a good way to bargain-hunt these things without waiting forever? (I don't have a Costco membership, and the closest one is about 40 minutes away.) Spending so much, I'm a little wary of EBay.

How well does it do with small amounts? Will I want to add on a smaller carafe for pesto or smaller-serving smoothies?

I have a fantasy of blending a large fruit and vegetable smoothie in the morning for breakfast, then bringing the leftovers to work for lunch. (I rarely eat breakfast now but really should.) Any recommended "Total nutrition in a glass!"-type cookbooks to help wedge those super foods into my diet? Any tips on making it dead simple and super-quick? (Something like doing prep once a week.) Weight loss is not a goal (and would actually be a bad thing).

Anything else that Vitamix veterans can pass along would be greatly appreciated. (I have seen this question, which helped push me over the edge.)
posted by supercres to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
They really are a great product. My dad bought one almost 20 years ago after seeing a demonstration while on a business trip, and theirs is STILL running beautifully.

It's very, very loud, but it's pretty easy to clean and will last forever.

The best thing about it in my opinion is the smoothie/ice cream capabilities. My dad used to make strawberry ice cream with just frozen strawberries, milk, and a little sugar. It came out beautifully and didn't have that burnt-rubber taster from normal blenders.
posted by shortyJBot at 1:14 PM on January 13, 2013

I've got one (Vitamix), they're great. The variable speed makes a difference, but it's pretty hard to quantify. Honestly I didn't know they had Vitamixes without variable speed. I wouldn't want one like that.

Re: bringing leftovers to work - probably not going to work, vegetable smoothies and such have a shelf life of about 10 minutes - a leftover smoothie would be pretty gross. I bought mine from Vitamix itself, because I wanted to know who to go back to if there was a problem. Been over and year and I've had zero issues.
posted by facetious at 1:15 PM on January 13, 2013

Forgot that I had one more question: I've seen folks advocate for making fruit juice by putting the whole thing in-- orange with peel, apple with seeds and core, etc. How well does that really work? Does the pith give a bitter taste?
posted by supercres at 1:19 PM on January 13, 2013

The variable speed is vital, to me. I make things like hummus, and starting on the lower speed gets the ingredients into smaller pieces which the higher speeds have an easier time with. It also makes it clear when there isn't enough liquid (I don't follow recipes very often, so this is important to me).

I've found the best recipes by asking demonstrators for theirs whenever I see them. One of the best ones I found included a list of things you can put in and can't put in. Memail me a reminder, I'll scan it and send it to you. Off the top of my head -- DO NOT put in apple seeds. They're poisonous (I think). You don't want to put in peels, either, too bitter. What you do get (that you wouldn't from a juicer or low-quality blender) is all the pulp and white stuff in between slices, etc. I don't think taste is the point, it's that you're getting the more nutrient-rich part of the fruit/veggie.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:23 PM on January 13, 2013

Oh -- also the best pricing I've seen in general is at Costco. If you know someone who has a membership, give them cash to pay for it. I got mine at QVC, they have a one-day sale on it every year (my mom has an employee discount, so I don't know what the original price was).
posted by DoubleLune at 1:25 PM on January 13, 2013

Amazon usually has free shipping on these. I am very happy with my purchase but with juices please note that they will need to be strained unless you can handle a lot of that's a second step you dont have with a juicer. Happy blending!
posted by manicure12 at 1:37 PM on January 13, 2013

Blendtec is sold at Costco (and you can get it online, often at a discount and with free shipping) and has a 7 year amazing warrantee. Costco in general is the place to buy things - their return policy is extraordinarily generous, even months/years after purchase.

I've had mine for several months, I really like it but it is definitely loud - I don't use it after 8:30 pm or so (or before a decent hour in the morning) which is a little annoying.

I spent a few weeks debating Blendtec vs. Vitamix, finally just bought it because that was what Costco has.
posted by arnicae at 1:39 PM on January 13, 2013

Another way to get a good price is to buy a refurbished one from the Vitamix website. I bought my 5200 at Costco, but I live right next door to one. I love my Vitamix. I had a Ninja for a year before that which I wore out. I expect the Vitamix to last for a very long time.

I did look at Blendtec, but I liked the Vitamix better.
posted by monopas at 1:40 PM on January 13, 2013

My husband and I were discussing the Vitamix versus our old blender smoothie this morning. We both agreed the Vitamix smoothie was far superior. Smoother, icier, quicker, easier to clean, more controllable, larger. It is very, very good. Worth $500? Who knows. It's a luxury good, for sure, and we aren't traveling this year, so.....we indulged.
posted by Malla at 1:48 PM on January 13, 2013

Amazon charges me sales tax, unfortunately, so if I order online I'll probably go elsewhere.

The reconditioned ones from Vitamix look great, and with a 5-year warranty, I guess the quality is still solid. Anyone have experience going that route?
posted by supercres at 1:49 PM on January 13, 2013

Honestly, we received one as a gift from a relative who wasn't using hers and I hated it. It uses up a huge amount of counter space and sounds like a jet. I make smoothies frequently, and have had two old waring blenders (only got rid of the first when I dropped the glass carafe and it broke and it was cheaper to just get a whole new unit) last 5+ years each, purchased for less than forty dollars on etsy. The key is old. I don't think the motors in newer ones are quite so high quality and are more prone to burn outs. From the sound of it, I use the blender in the way you're suggesting--make a huge smoothie at breakfast, eat the leftovers for lunch--and a standard sized blender is more than large enough. The vitamix was overkill. Also, if I recall correctly, the one we had was fixed speed and everything came out in this gross slurry. Think chuice.

That being said, the person who we gave the vitamix swears by it, so maybe I'm some kind of grump, I don't know. The relative bought it from Costco, for what it's worth.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:09 PM on January 13, 2013

I love my Vitamix. It was a totally extravagant but worthwhile purchase. I bought it at Costco (rather, my brother who has a membership bought it, and I wrote him a check). I've had it for just about a year now, and I use it multiple times a week. That's way more often than I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, rice maker, toaster, or basically any other kitchen appliance. I find the variable speed critical for making less liquidy things like hummus, and the plunger thing isn't as annoying as I thought it would be. Clean up is so much easier than my old Oster blender, provided that I rinse it out promptly. The only sad part about clean up is when I'm making hummus or something that sticks to the bottom - I feel like I'm wasting more food in the Vitamix than when I make it in the Cuisinart food processor (it's easier to scrape out the food processor). But it's way easier to clean than the food processor.

I usually make smoothies with it and have become less adventurous recipe-wise as I've perfected my preferred smoothie. But I did get this book, which has a ton of adventurous smoothie recipes. I don't use it much in winter due to the types of specialty greens they recommend, but it was useful when I got started. I've had no problems bringing a smoothie to work in a Nalgene bottle in my insulated lunch bag - I just shake it up when I want to drink it a couple hours later. The cookbook that came with the Vitamix is pretty good, too.

Also, the Vitamix makes amazing margaritas and other things involving crushed ice - my old Oster blender died a painful death trying (and failing) to crush ice and frozen fruit.
posted by Maarika at 2:42 PM on January 13, 2013

If you plan on doing a lot of ice (margaritas and other frozen drinks), you can either buy a $40 blender once a year, or buy a Vitamix once.
posted by xedrik at 4:47 PM on January 13, 2013

I got my Vitamix at Bed Bath and Beyond. My local BBB let me use a supposedly 'online only' 20% coupon since they didn't actually have them in stock. (you can sign up on the website to receive the coupon) Since I was ordering through them instead of the website, the shipping was free. With the coupon the price was competitive with what I was seeing online - I'm not sure about the price diff between them and Costco, our costco was out when I went to buy it.
posted by snowymorninblues at 4:57 PM on January 13, 2013

My rule of thumb for big purchases like this is: It's probably worth the $500 bucks, if you'll actually use it. Do you have a flimsy blender that you use all the time today, and would really appreciate the deluxe version tomorrow? Then buy it.

If you're setting your hopes and dreams on a big expensive thing, (it'll make you eat healthy, it'll bring happiness into your life, you'll win the admiration of your peers!), than you're probably being taken on a ride by marketing. If you'd like to start making smoothies for breakfast, would a $20 blender tomorrow get you making those smoothies?

But, I'm a frugal person, so feel free to ignore that part of my answer.

As for a good breakfast smoothie, you can easily do lots of prep in advance. Freeze your ingredients separately. So for bananas, freeze them in slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 30 minutes. Same with fresh berries/veggies. Put liquids/yogurt in ice cube trays. Then combine the individually frozen pieces into 5 baggies, one for each morning. Then you can dump the contents into a blender in a pre-caffinated haze with minimum effort.
posted by fontophilic at 5:02 PM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like having the variable speed for thicker foods - I can't imagine not having the option. The VitaMix is fanfreakingtastic for blending frozen fruits into a quick sorbet, which means my kids also love the VitaMix. Don't use the peels and pits, they'll be too bitter. I do just roughly peel citrus and half it before blending - but then I dont mind a few seeds in the mix. Just spring for one, you won't regret it. Really.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:31 PM on January 13, 2013

Oh, and clean it immediately after use. Get yourself a bottle brush for getting stubborn stuff from around the blade.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:32 PM on January 13, 2013

I have friends who have a refurbished model and have had no problems with it. They also love it.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:47 PM on January 13, 2013

Wonderful machine; variable speed is quite useful and allows you to prevent a tidal surge when you first turn it on. Indeed loud, but it's on for such a short time that it's requires no great endurance to use.
posted by alexandermatheson at 6:50 PM on January 13, 2013

I have a non variable speed refurbished vitamix and adore it, my parents have a variable speed one I use when visiting so I can compare. First off, I use it pretty much entirely for smoothies and faux-Wendy's frosties. Mine has an on/off and low/high. Obviously, you would start it on low and ramp it to high after the big chunks have been integrated. I don't see a big advantage to my folks' variable speed, because you pretty much work at gear 1 and gear 10, and my home smoothies work out the same as the ones I make at my folks' house. Ps - love vitamin, hate remembering the dark days with the black and decker blender. I don't even need to add ice most of the time, the frozen spinach and berries I've always used are enough to make thick, soft serve consistency smoothies with the vitamix! The same ingredients plus almost a cup of ice in the b&d made a not so thick, bearable, chunky smoothie.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 9:10 PM on January 13, 2013

I don't have a vitamix, but in terms of variable speed it's important when you're blending thicker, less liquidy things. At high speed everything gets thrown straight out of reach of the blades.

So you end up either adding much more liquid to things than you would like, or continually stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender.
posted by sarahw at 9:57 PM on January 13, 2013

I do not recommend putting citrus peels in it. Just put citrus peels through my juicer -- i.e. not my Vitamix, so I'm barely ingesting much peel -- consistently makes my face dry out and peel a LOT, when normally I have oily skin. I tested this multiple times and have never had any other food make me react this way. Citrus peel and oil are POWERFUL stuff and will probably cause some issues if you eat them.
posted by Nattie at 1:14 AM on January 14, 2013

Oh, and apple seeds contain arsenic. The seeds of one apple or two may just make you feel bad, but you could slowly poison yourself doing that. Kind of defeats the point of juicing/smoothies to ingest harmful things you wouldn't normally ingest.

Plants have a lot of chemical defenses, and not all of them are good for you like antioxidants. Some of them are meant to keep you (and other creatures) from eating them and are very harmful. There are websites that go into different things that are and are not safe to juice, which goes for smoothies too. When in doubt, Google something like "safe to juice ______" and you'll find info about which compounds are harmful. Also, even though many things are better for you raw, there are some things you really should not eat unless they're cooked, so you shouldn't juice/blend those either. And further, some things (like carrot greens) are a common allergen for many people so you'd want to check that too before you juice/blend something you've never ingested before, or never ingested raw.
posted by Nattie at 1:22 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

My wife just bought a Vitamix after lusting long, and loves it. It immediately earned a permanent spot on our limited counter space. She does some juice/smoothies, and really enjoys making soups.

And apple seeds do not contain arsenic. They do contain a tiny amount of a cyanide compound. Unless you are on an apple-only diet, wiping out whole orchards, and blenderizing or cracking the seeds, you are in no danger. If you're juicing with apples, I say throw the whole thing in.
posted by attercoppe at 6:45 AM on January 14, 2013

I got interested in the apple seed thing. It is a cyanide compound, and apparently it would take about 100 grams of pulverized seeds to dispatch a 70 kg person. That's about 14 apples' worth.
posted by supercres at 8:12 AM on January 14, 2013

Take good care of the blender container.
A replacement is $130.
posted by JABof72 at 8:28 AM on January 14, 2013

Err, right, cyanide; it was late so I guess that's why I wrote arsenic. The point remains, it's not good practice to ingest cyanide on the grounds that it's just a little bit of cyanide. Poisons have ill effects on your body that ramp up as you approach the lethal level and you don't have much to gain from eating apple seeds. You might have to learn that lesson the hard way like my friend who started getting chest pains and palpitations and shaking and a weird throat pain she supposed was thyroid after juicing whole fruit and vegetable parts she normally threw away, but I don't expect it will take you long to catch on if you have bad effects.

Here is the Wikipedia article about chronic cyanide exposure:

"Exposure to lower levels of cyanide over a long period (e.g., after use of cassava roots as a primary food source in tropical Africa) results in increased blood cyanide levels, which can result in weakness and a variety of symptoms, including permanent paralysis, nervous lesions,[5][6][7] hypothyroidism,[6] and miscarriages.[8][9] Other effects include mild liver and kidney damage.[10][11]"

Really though, it's better not to be lazy. Why bother with smoothies if you're going to purposely and knowingly ingest harmful substances? You won't get any health benefits from eating inedible parts of plants that are packed full of harmful substances to ensure that no one eats them. If people don't normally eat it, you shouldn't juice or blend it. You can Google any of the symptoms above with "juicing" and read real message board threads from real people experiencing those symptoms and people tell them the same thing I'm telling you. For most of human life the poisons people died from
came from nature; just because apple seeds weren't made in a Russian lab doesn't mean they won't harm you.

The other thing you'll learn about a Vitamix is it can blend so finely that strawberry seeds disappear. The availability of the cyanide will be a lot higher for you than someone who crunches on the seeds, the pieces of which may pass through the digestive tract barely digested. And that goes for any other poison.

There are plenty of great things to blend without resorting to poisons. I can't force you not to, but please do Google the problems people have experienced before you go forward with it. And if you have kids that you're going to give smoothies to, please at least do not allow poisonous substances in theirs even if you decide you don't care about ingesting poison personally. It takes a lot less to hurt them, and their developing organs and glands can get pretty seriously damaged. A kid with thyroid damage is going to have a cascade of issues as they grow older.

Good luck with whichever thing you choose to do.
posted by Nattie at 1:48 PM on January 14, 2013

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