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Help Me Find the Perfect Blender

I finally found something that a blender will do better than a Cuisinart food processor: crushed ice based milkshakes. There's a reason. It involves the question, IS my great cooking the reason my husband, Richard, had to start going to Weight Watchers (where, consequently, he discovered he loves their low-cal thickshakes)? Actually, assignment of possible guilt for his weight gain doesn't matter because I actually like fruity or chocolatey thick shakes myself...

I did try making a Weight Watchers thickshake with my beloved Cuisinart full-sized food processor, only to discover, after bragging about its invincibilty many times here, that it's just WRONG, very wrong, for the thickshake job. So, I dug around in my "closet of shame" which, contrary to what you might assume, has nothing to do with concealing my boring and unremarkable sexual orientation. Nay, what my closet of shame actually conceals from view are all those small appliances that I discovered JUST DID NOT WORK OUT tragically too late to return them to the store for a refund.

So, rather than leave the deep fryer, the wildly expensive Zojirushi bread machine, the quark maker (don't ask), and the pasta machine out in the open to collect dust and otherwise mock me, they are consigned to the dark recesses of the "closet of shame". The blender had been in there, sadly among their sorry ranks for 25 long years! It was a wedding present - horribly ready waiting to remind me of the bad-taste of the early 80's in all its harvest gold maize colored glory...

So chowhounds, please help me choose a new blender. I have a recent Wall Street Journal article comparing the margarita making capabilities of 5 widely available blenders. They chose the Kitchenaid 5-Speed Custom Blender with Polycarbonate Jar as "best overall" for $129.99, but available at some retailers for $89.99. Their "best value" choice was the Cuisinart Brushed Stainless and Black Bar Blender for $99.95. Lesser, but acceptable grades were given to the Waring and the Oster blenders.

But, I'd really like to hear your own opinions, personal experiences, advice and recommendations for the perfect thickshake-making blender before making my final selection.

Thanks!

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  1. I don't know about "perfect", but I am quite happy with my Oster Beehive with a glass jar. It makes short work of the frozen berries in my smoothies, and crushes ice quite well. It also blends moles and other sauces smoothly. I got the 500 watt model, and I think I paid $60 on Amazon.

    Good luck!

    7 Replies
    1. re: bear

      I will second the Oster beehive. Minimalist and perfect, I've never found another that measures up.

      1. re: themis

        To the Oster Bee Hive lovers out there: the WSJ article stated that the top and the base are not as easy as the other brands to fit together properly, that it took "a little jiggling". That was the precise problem that convinced me to ditch the otherwise operational harvest gold number I dug out of my "closet of shame" - I fit the thing together, turned it on and it proceeded to leak all over the table. Apparently, I did not attach the various parts properly. The WSJ article praised the Cuisinart entry for fitting together so very easily, thus sort of dissing the beehive which it had singled out for complaints in that area.

        Now, obviously I'm not advocating for any particular brand, but since I've recently demonstrated some serious lack of talent with assembling any blender properly, would you please comment on your own experience in this regard with the Oster Bee Hive? Have you ever turned it on only to have IT leak all over the table (thus demonstrating improper or tricky assemblage)?

        1. re: niki rothman

          Never. I have had that happen with other blenders, though, and it's aggravating. Maybe they fixed the issue.

          1. re: themis

            I had also read that, but decided to take a chance since it had 500 watts as opposed to 350 and there were more positive reviews than negative. I must say that I haven't had a problem at all, but I've only used the blender a couple of dozen times. If I do have any issues in the future, I'll post. So far, I'm very happy.

      2. re: bear

        unfortunately it seems that all blenders have their share of problems and a lot of reviews you find don't put the blender to test for a long enough period to test for durability. many consumer reviews either love them (but the review is posted within a month) or hate them (the review is posted after 6 months of use when the motor burns out, etc). it's really difficult to find one that has everything for the average consumer while maintaining a relatively low to medium price point. a friend, who is a chef, told me to just get a good quality basic blender like this Oster: http://amzn.to/RwpSTz She said if you really know how to use it, along with being aware that the order of how you put ingredients into it (larger things first), will go a long way for many uses.

        1. re: alternapop

          Your friend is right on the money...take CARE of your stuff, know and respect its limitations and you are more likely to experience blender bliss without breaking the bank.

          1. re: MikeB3542

            Five years later, my Oster is still going strong.

      3. A Vita Mixer maybe? I've had one for about 15 years.

        1. What is a "Weight Watchers thickshake"? Recipe please. Thx.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sharuf

            Weight Watchers sells a lot of different products to all those desperate souls who will buy anything that offers them hope. The irony is in the delicious sounding names they give these unappetizing "treats" in order to maximize sales. The "granola" bars have names like "ultra lemon dream" or ""very berry cheesecake" which tastes nothing at all like cheesecake.

            The Weight Watchers thickshakes are packets of powder that come in a box. They are very expensive. "thick" shake? The thickness comes from the crushed ice courtesy of the blender. I tasted one of these "thickshakes" and it WAS thick but it was also bland and insipid, putting the lie to the name the WW marketers invented to sell it to the desperate fat customers: "double chocolate fudge" Doubtless there was some chocolate in there but it certainly was not "double" anything. And to call it "fudge" goes beyond hyperbole into the realm of lying.

            If you are tempted to try any of the commercially ubiquitous weightloss shakes out there, do what I did: add more artificial sweetener, some unsweetened good quality cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and perhaps a pinch of salt. But then if you just add some skim milk powder or nonfat milk to those ingredients and just add ice you can make a pretty good low cal thick shake on your own - without giving the Weight Watchers company any of your no doubt hard earned cash at all.

            1. re: niki rothman

              I have looked at the stuff you can buy at WW meetings. Anything that's supposed to be sweet has artificial chemical sweeteners in it -- AACK! -- and that fact is usually buried rather than posted as a warning. I did get some instant oatmeal once and discovered yes, it is possible to ruin this basic healthy food by putting in various artificial flavorings and sweetening junk.

          2. I can offer you advice on what blenders to avoid. Let me start by saying that for my wedding seven years ago I received an Oster. In between then and now I have owned a couple of different blenders because I thought that I needed more power and I have come back to the Oster both times.

            We looked up on consumer reports a couple of years ago and they recommended a Braun. We searched all over the city and found one of two stores that carried that model. After the purchase we were quite happy with the power of the Braun. It crushed ice like nobody's business, however, there was a serious design flaw. The little attachment on the bottom of the blade whose teeth fit into the gear on the machine was made of hard plastic. Over the course of six months the teeth broke off. We took it in and after a month received a new blade with new teeth...which again proceeded to break off rendering our machine useless.

            Before that my M-I-L gave me a Back to Basics Smoothie Maker from Bed Bath and Beyond. It has a cute little spout at the bottom of the base and a little stirer to push whatever your blending towards the blade. It never had enough power for me and after several months of use the spout broke.

            I guess I would say, look for a blender that has a soft plastic/rubber-type teeth piece at the bottom of the blade as hard plastic becomes brittle. Also, the little spout and stir stick are nice features, but if you don't have enough power you don't have a smoothie. At any rate, I have twice come back to my Oster and been completely happy with it. I shall never stray again.

            2 Replies
            1. re: amy_rc

              Just for the record - when you mention the "little spout" at the bottom of some blenders - I think the feature to which you refer is a sort of tap with a pull down handle that siphons the liquid down through a little faucet at the bottom of the blender. Sometimes you see these little faucet type taps on the bottom of those large sun tea glass jars, or most often in office and home delivered water coolers.
              WARNING: dampness accumulates and stands around getting moldy and breeding bacteria in the tight spaces inside these taps that you can never open up to air or dry out - there is no way to keep them clean. So, I'd avoid anything with this feature in droves.

              1. re: niki rothman

                I can't imagine any self respecting milk shake or smoothie whose viscosity would allow it through one of those little spouts.

            2. B lendTec.

              No more need be said...

              11 Replies
              1. re: renov8r

                sorry renov8r, but something more DOES need to be said...so as it's my original post, I'll be the one to say it.

                I'm going out on a limb and assuming B lendTec is some revolutionary fabulous blender that will make me immediately shell out whatever the people who sell the B lendTec are asking for it, and name all my future cats renov8r (no kids in my future - what with the global warming and the menopause and all) to thank you for the big blender tip, BUT...just WHAT's SO DAMN GREAT about this particular blender???
                er...excuse me...

                1. re: niki rothman

                  I've had mine for about 4 years. It is the exact same blender that many of the "frozen coffee drink" companies rely on. It pulverizes ice into a super fine snow incredibly fast.

                  They have gotten even more expensive lately, but they have a web site with lots of YouTube video where the "blend" everthing from golfballs to iPods. http://www.blendtec.com/

                  They also market a slightly less automagic model under the k-tec designation. I have one of those at my weekend place and it works very well too.

                  On by the way, these things are loud -- like "is that jet landing or are using the blender" loud. Which is why the ones at Starbucks have those sound shields over 'em...

                2. re: renov8r

                  Love my BlendTec!!!!
                  You'll never use another!

                  It is quite loud however, and the kids think a plane is landing in the kitchern (OK, that's a bit extreme but it is loud). If I could of purchase the "cone of silence" they use at with it Jamba Juice, I might consider it.

                  1. re: renov8r

                    BlendTec -- is that the several-hundred-dollars expensive blender they demonstrate and sell at home shows and county fairs? Where they pour in some skim milk and blast it into a whipped cream look-alike?

                    1. re: Sharuf

                      My BlendTec Total Blender cost about $270 3 years ago and is still going very strong after almost daily use.

                      Prior to this, I spent $90 each on 3 separate units, none of which lasted more than a year. You do the math.

                      1. re: MSK

                        Ahhh...I totally forgot about seeing a demonstration of this magic machine at Costco a year ago. My husband got me outta there before I could sign the check. I totally would have bought that, it had LOTS of power!

                        1. re: amy_rc

                          How much does Costco charge for the Blendtec?

                        2. re: MSK

                          This popped up on my profile list so I thought I would add an update.

                          It has now 4 years after I wrote this post and my Total blender is still going as strong as ever!! And............ it gets almost daily use as my kids have become hooked on Acai bowls.

                          I noticed last week that it was getting louder and examined the jar to see something black on the bottom. I called Blendtec who told me that the seals and bearings may have become worn over time and it may be time to replace the jar. It has been 8 years after all. I picked one up yesterday and the unit is working as good as new.

                          Still cannot say enough good things about my Blendtec!!!

                          1. re: MSK

                            nothing wrong with the blentec. The one thing the similarly priced vitamix has over the blendtec is that you can blend a lot of frozen ingredients better in the vitamix due to the extra high setting and the use of the proprietary tamper without overheating the motor and the level of pulling those ingredients together in a thick semi frozen state is much better. I like the shape of the blendtec jar better.

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              I have news for you--the Vitamix upgrade has a shorter jar with a wider base.

                        3. re: Sharuf

                          And where they have streaming videos with a guy putting things that don't belong in a blender into said blender?

                          www.willitblend.com

                          It looks really really nice, but I'll stick with the Beehive design Oster I picked up recently, thanks.