Wanting to get a KitchenAid mixer but confused by all the options.
February 7, 2014 2:32 PM   Subscribe

We are in a financial position that I can finally get my dream mixer but I when I look at all the options for size of bowl, power (wattage) and tilt or lift I have no idea what I need.

Firstly I am not set on the Kitchenaid brand, it is just my father was a chef and I grew up around the huge professional ones so I am a little biased that way, but am open to other options.

I need a mixer to make the occasional loaf or 2 of bread, say once a fortnight or so, that can knead pasta and pizza dough and for cake, pavlova & cookie making. So what would your recommendations in regard to "specs"?

I am also thinking that I would get the grinding attachment (I like to grind my own meats and my $5 grinder from the secondhand shop is dying) and I make a LOT of tomato sauce so the fruit and veg strainer would be high on my list but I'd love any other suggestions for must have paddles or attachments, what ones can't you live without?

I have seen the earlier question and am also now thinking of getting a refurbed machine so anyone with experience with a refurbished model I'd love to know what you think.
posted by wwax to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Just get the base model. No need for heavy analysis of "specs". I had whatever the entry level model is and did dough just fine. It will come with a dough hook and a bowl large enough for a loaf of bread or a batch of your baked dessert of choice (cookies, cakes, etc).

A friend of mine is a more serious "top seeded amateur" sort of baker and also has the bog standard "Williams Sonoma wedding registry" edition and it seems to do everything she needs, as well. She may have an extra bowl for it, though, who knows?

I can't weigh in on meat grinding or vegetable straining.
posted by Sara C. at 2:38 PM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Err on the side of the bigger bowl. I have a smaller bowl kitchenaid stand mixer, and the only thing that is not perfect about it is the bowl size.

Get this one.
posted by royalsong at 2:39 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Former 5 qt owner (the one royalsong linked to) and current 6 qt owner here. Tilt vs. lift has not made any difference in my life. 5 qts should be totally fine unless you want to knead two loaves of bread at once. A great upgrade is one of the plastic paddles with the flanges on it -- waaaay better than the metal one it comes with.
posted by karbonokapi at 2:49 PM on February 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

I got a refurbished Kitchenaid mixer as a wedding present in 1998, and it still works just fine. I also have the grinder attachment which I have used a few times for grinding sausages and it seemed to work fine, too, though I have no point of comparison.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:53 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have an old lift model; my Mom has an old tilt model. I prefer the tilt one for ease of use.

Two bowls are nice if you're doing anything that requires beating egg whites separately.

Get a splatter guard.

The attachments all work amazingly well.

Caveat: our machines are over 30 y.o. so I don't have experience with newer ones.
posted by mightshould at 2:54 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're going to do a lot of cookies or heavy doughs (King Cake comes to mind), I'll warn you that I had the "entry level model" and ended up zapping the motor after a year of ownership. I used it once or twice monthly.

My experience prior to that was also with the giant, heavy-duty mixers that I used when I worked as a baker and decorator for a couple of years.

So, I don't have a recommendation, but I am saying that thinking about what you're likely to make and matching that with motor power does matter.
posted by batmonkey at 2:54 PM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have the Artisan 5 qt. It definitely sometimes slows down worryingly when grinding meat and making bread/pizza dough. Definitely wish I had a little more wattage on those tasks. If you're going to grind a lot of meat, I would get a metal grinder attachment-- next best thing to a dedicated grinder (and another thing I wish I had).
posted by supercres at 2:55 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like the tilt just a little bit better than lift- it's easier to add ingredients mid-mix with a tilt head, but I actually bought a lift because it was on sale. My friend has the Cuisinart 5.5 qt mixer, which I actually got as a wedding present for him, and is also quite happy with it (Cooks Illustrated recommended it). Just, you know, to help complicate your decision a bit. But I do think the KA models do have a price premium because of the brand name.

None of the 6 quart KA models have tilt heads, as far as I know.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 2:57 PM on February 7, 2014

Best answer: I've used a Artisan tilt-head model and a 600W 6qt bowl-lift. I definitely prefer to 6qt. The difference in power is appreciable and it is nice to have the extra volume. There is more wobble in the tilt-head design when kneading bread dough.

You can get the 600W 6qt model for about $250 if you shop carefully and are patient, so it isn't as if the price difference is all that much for something you plan to keep for decades.
posted by ssg at 3:03 PM on February 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I despised my KA mixer for the glee with which it flung dry and wet ingredients throughout my kitchen, for the incredible difficulty of scraping down the food caused by the beater-sized bowl, and for the absolute impossibility of scraping down food if the splatter guards were attached (and for the splatter guards ineffective guarding against splatter).

I went on a hunt for a better mixer, and bought an Electrolux after reading a review of it that said the biggest problem with it is that the bowl is too cold to sleep with. I looooooove this mixer. It's machined. It's solid. It doesn't have plastic moving parts that apparently the new KA mixers have (leading to burned out motors about 20 minutes after the warranty expires). I'd seriously recommend looking beyond the KA. Its market dominance isn't deserved, in my opinion.
posted by Capri at 3:07 PM on February 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Some years ago I bought a 300 watt tilt head Kitchenaid mixer for my wife on mother's day. She loves it, uses it all the time, it was one of the most successful gifts I've ever bought for anyone. Every time we walk past one of the bigger lift models she looks longingly at it and mentions she wishes she had the bigger model for larger batches. Someday. Get the bigger one!

We have 3 accessories: The slicer/shredder (we use it all the time, it's grate for cheese, carrots, and zuchinni), the the food grinder (used it a few times, you can make lean ground beef more cheaply), and the pasta roller (store bought pasta is so cheap , good enough for us, it wasn't worth the trouble.

Get the bigger one!
posted by Daddy-O at 3:09 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: plastic moving parts that apparently the new KA mixers have (leading to burned out motors about 20 minutes after the warranty expires).

Actually, the plastic parts are designed to prevent burned-out motors. The plastic gear snaps or strips instead of the motor burning out. Then you need to replace a $1 gear instead of the motor.

Of course, you can just put enough horsepower on the motor so it just powers through anything you could possibly throw at it, but that has its own issues, like potentially throwing stuff all over your kitchen or even injuring you.

I definitely recommend the 6-quart bowl-lift KitchenAid over the 5-quart tilt-head. The 6-quart bowl just fits in the top of the top drawer of our dishwasher; I kind of doubt the larger ones would. But it's plenty roomy.
posted by kindall at 3:24 PM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a 5 qt, refurbed, lift Kitchen Aid. I got it for Christmas like 6 years ago, and it still runs like a champ. My husband uses it to grind meat a couple times a month, and I use it for cookies/brownies/etc about that often. It was on Ebay for around $250 or under--my dad is a huge comparison shopper and it was his job to buy it for me, and he couldn't find a better deal. We were a little concerned with how a refub model would do, and I've had absolutely zero complaints. I wanted the lift bowl since my Nana's mixer had it, but my mom had the tilt, and I think I prefer the tilt having used both. I will disagree with a comment upthread and say I think KAs ABSOLUTELY deserve their amazing reputation. I love my mixer!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:27 PM on February 7, 2014

Best answer: Nthng Kimball, it is the plastic gears which strip, not the motors burning out. I am a reasonably active/advanced home bread maker and bought a Bosch universal plus which is built around a belt, not gears to avoid this. But I make a lot of bread.

A bonus for me was being able to order it overseas (Amazon.de) for literally half the price of Australia (and much cheaper than kitchen aid for indisputably superior equipment) And they have the same voltage as us (not like US, do not buy appliances like this from US, you will need Ann expensive adaptor if you do).
posted by smoke at 3:33 PM on February 7, 2014

Best answer: I am unable to get too detailed re model but I ended up getting one on the kitcheniad refurb site. It was several years ago, so maybe you can find a better dea, but I ended up getting one like this for less than they were selling the basic tilt-head in stores, even with sales. I've never had an issue, use it all the time and love it.
More than a bigger bowl, I desire a second bowl.
posted by atomicstone at 3:45 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been coveting an ice cream bowl for mine. ymmv.
posted by vignettist at 3:55 PM on February 7, 2014

Best answer: Two bowls is like five times more convenient than one bowl, and bigger is almost always better. The splash guard really does work.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:03 PM on February 7, 2014

The meat grinder is fantastic for grinding meat, but actually terrible for stuffing sausages. If you make a lot of sausage in casings, you might want to look to spend the cash elsewhere. I do a batch every 4 months or so, and it's a bit of a hassle.

Not mentioned in your needs, but the pasta attachment is amazing And works like a dream. We actually use that attachment more than any other we have.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:16 PM on February 7, 2014

Best answer: Be aware that if you get a refurb, the dough hook that shipped with the unit as of several years ago had a bit of a design flaw in that dough tends to "climb" up the hook as you knead. You can get a newer replacement hook to get around this issue.

It's not a must-have, but the ice cream maker attachment is great if you enjoy making desserts.
posted by trunk muffins at 4:29 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a base model tilt that still works reasonably well at age 24. Love it to pieces. However, I have burned out the slowest speed (oops) and the tilt mechanism has gotten somewhat rickety over the years (mostly from being held in by a hinge pin that works its way out in heavy use). Yes on the splatter guard.
posted by plinth at 4:55 PM on February 7, 2014

I own the Artisan 5-quart tilt model in red. I rarely use the dough hook, mostly for whipping egg whites for pavlova or meringue or whipped cream. I generally mix my cakes by hand so never use it for those. If it's something involving cream cheese, I will tend to use it for that (cheesecake comes to mind).

My daughter has worked as a baker at resorts and she covets the 6 quart lift model.

Whichever unit you choose, go with a dust cover, as I am always wiping it down before I use it. Which is about every two weeks or less.

Mine came with a splatter guard but I don't often use it. 7 years and still going strong, never any problems.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:58 PM on February 7, 2014

Best answer: If you're going to ever bake more than one batch of cookies or one recipe of cake, get the larger model. I have two of the base models and really, I would trade both of them in one second for one 6qt.
posted by Sophie1 at 5:03 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a refurb Kitchenaid Artisan that I bought from the outlet store in Greenville Ohio, where they're built. It's held up really well. Any refurb mixer is thoroughly checked over before they decide to sell it.

I DID managed to break it once on a particularly awful pretzel dough (found other complaints from people who tried the same recipe and also killed their mixer too, so I believe it's the dough, not the mixer on that) As others have said, it was the cheap plastic gear, and not too bad to replace. That was the only problem I ever had with it.

I see that you're in Indiana. If you can get to Greenville without too much trouble, and aren't desperate for a mixer right this very moment, I would suggest that you wait for this summer. In August Greenville has an 'Annie Oakley Days' festival, and Kitchenaid goes absolutely rock bottom with prices on their refurbished units, and goes a little crazy with free gifts. I got the Artisan mixer and a 9 cup Food Processor for about $225, and they threw in an extra mixer bowl and ice cream maker attachment. If you're not too far away, and don't need it right away, the savings might be worth it.
posted by Caravantea at 6:27 PM on February 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sorry op, I thought you were still in Australia.
posted by smoke at 6:47 PM on February 7, 2014

Best answer: As others have said, it does depend on what you're going to use it for, and for most uses, a smaller Artisan would probably work just fine. I actually have 2, a tilt and a lift, one in 5 qt and one 6 qt. My tilt-head 5 qt Artisan was a refurb and is still running strong, but it does strain when doing big batches of dough or when running on high for 10+ minutes. It's a champ but it sometimes sounds sickly. The 6 qt lift model is a BEAST and is much older than the Artisan but outperforms it in every way. Feels more solid and doesn't strain as much. If you think it'll be mostly single batches of cookies and the occasional single batch of bread then the entry model is probably fine, but if you're going to do more than that then yes, upgrade. And I would not worry at all about getting a refurb.

As far as accessories, I love the Beater Blade (someone linked to it above) and buying a second bowl for my mixers was a godsend. I have a glass bowl with a pour spout that I adore, but even another metal bowl would be swell.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 7:12 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely listen to those saying go for the 6 qt. It is so frustrating to have a batch of something trying to climb out of the bowl.
posted by HotToddy at 7:28 PM on February 7, 2014

One advantage of a bigger motor is that you can mix things quickly, making patisserie with with a small motor can be impossible because the ingredients start to cook in the bowl from the continued friction.
The ultimate is the Kenwood Chef Major 1500 W, having used one of these everything else now seems like a toy in comparison.

Unfortunately thats a UK only model, the USA does get a slightly smaller version but it's a lot more expensive.
I guess these must be expensive items to ship long distance.
posted by Lanark at 2:54 AM on February 8, 2014

Best answer: Like Stoneweaver, I have the KitchenAid 7 quart Pro model, and am thrilled with it. I didn't know what I needed, either, but I caught this one on mega-sale at CostCo and it was cheaper than the lower-wattage models available in my city at the time. The larger bowl has definitely never been an issue but I could see how smaller ones might be--more spillage etc..

The only caveats: it takes up a fair amount of counter space, so if you have a tiny kitchen, you might want to think about that. Sometimes I find it awkward getting the bowl in and out, and wonder if a tilt model might have been easier to work with. And it's definitely worth getting a second bowl, even though they are a bit on the pricey side.
posted by rpfields at 3:27 AM on February 8, 2014

Best answer: Some good info here on The SweetHome about the regular KA model vs pro, other models and brands, etc.
posted by illenion at 9:43 AM on February 8, 2014

Best answer: It's just like any other tool: you'll never complain about having too much power. Buy the biggest you can afford; it'll last longer if you're not constantly pushing it to its limits. And it's cheaper to buy a big one once than a smaller one twice.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for everyones input. I have finally settled on this model. Which is actually the same price as one at Sams club I was looking at but with a bigger bowl and motor.
posted by wwax at 11:46 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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