Really useful info about immersion blenders
I'm interested in getting an immersion blender for use in making smoother soups and tomato sauces, and after doing mucho online research I narrowed the possibilities down to 3 choices in the $179 range: the Bamix Gastro 200, the Dynamic MiniPro, and the Waring Quik Stik WSB40. (after reading all the user complaints about the KitchenAids, Cuisinarts, and surprisingly even the Viking, I knew I didn't want to waste my money on another luck-of-the-draw made-in-China appliance)
Some further comments about the Waring and Bamix ultimately had me leaning toward the MiniPro, but since I still had some questions about it, I emailed Dynamic directly to ask. The exchange of emails of questions/answers that resulted from my initial inquiry has REALLY educated me about immersion blenders and so I think this would also be valuable info for others who might be in the market for one. Although some comments are directed toward specific units, IMHO the underlying information that was imparted to me in answer to my questions obviously applies to all immersion blenders regardless of make or model. Here's how it went:
Q. I see the MiniPro and the Bamix are both 200 watts, while the Waring is listed as 350, all for the same pricepoint. I would be using it in my 4 qt, 6 qt, or 8 qt pots -- is 200 watts enough to handle that? I read a Gastro200 owner comment that it is good for "fine" sauces but not so good on other/larger jobs. On the other hand, I don't fill my pots to full capacity and so the 4-qt is apt to actually contain no more than 3 qts, the 6-qt pot probably won't have more than 4 or 5 qts in it, and so forth.
A. The maximum capacity for the MiniPro is 4 qts (1 gallon), so at 6 to 8 qts you'll be stretching it. If purchasing one of the more powerful models isn't an option, for optimal performance you should cut the larger batch sizes in half.
As for wattage, the other brands don't rate their motors real-world (under load) and so that gives them a higher wattage result but it's inaccurate, misleading and in actual use doesn't mean anything. You'll read tons of threads about various problems with immersion blenders but it's a combination of the junk people buy and the fact that they are not using it properly, which doesn't help.
Q. When you said some people may not use these appliances properly, what do you mean? Cleaning, actual use, or both? I see tons of complaints about the KA models being impossible to clean thoroughly.
A. Proper cleaning is to run your unit in a container of sanitizer and water, unplug it, and wipe dry. People tend to put the detachable shafts in dishwashers and it's bad for the lower bearing assembly and seal.
As for use the most important thing is to make sure whenever an immersion blender is running it is ALWAYS submerged. People run them "dry" and that's when liquid gets pulled into the shaft through the seal. Mixers look for resistance, so thick is good; but when it's running in just air, it runs too fast and that's where the problems start. Some retail brands run at a very high RPM (for instance around 20,000) but it's too fast and the internal parts can't keep up, so you'll see owner complaints that their IB simply stopped working. We make ours at 9000 RPM so that just in case it's ever run dry it stays stable, and when it's submerged it's even better, averaging 4500 RPM.
Q. Ah, I understand: so a "fast-spinning" immersion blender is NOT a good thing if the quality of all the parts aren't up to the strain that kind of speed produces?
A. If you just need one to use only a few times a year, you can buy the KitchenAid etc but they are all basically the same at that level because they are retail/domestic mixers made for home use only. Regardless of what their specs say, all the working parts are made in Asia and if you use them with any regularity, expect to have to replace them. Our models are made in France, for a restaurant environment, and will last a lifetime if used and maintained properly.
Q. I can see that the MiniPro blades are interchangeable, and I honestly don't think I would be using more than the standard blade anyhow, but are the blades removeable for cleaning on the other models?
A. All the Dynamic models have removeable blades, because immersion blender blades should be changed every year if they are used regularly. A dull blade produces drag on the motor which in turn makes the motor brushes deteriorate faster. Obviously it's cheaper to replace a blade than a motor.
Q. Are the detachable shaft models more prone to parts breakage problems? It seems to me they would be much easier to clean thoroughly, which is really important to me (I always wash by hand, so no dishwasher issues, LOL).
A. The purpose of a detachable shaft is to provide the flexibility of adding an attachment in the future. It is not for the purpose of cleaning, as some people think. The reason the MiniPro has a detachable shaft is because we'll be offering 3 new attachments (whisk, potato ricer, and food processor) early next year, although for the most part the different blades it comes with take care of all applications already.
Keep in mind that although detachable-shaft and fixed-shaft blenders, even in the same series, can have equal power specs, they will not be equal in actual use. Detachable-shaft models have a variable-speed dial and are run through a coupler or a piece that connects the motor to the shaft. These two things affect power and reduce it by about 20%. Fixed-shaft blenders are direct drive, and without the variable speed option they will deliver 100% of their full power rating. If you don't need or want to swap out attachments (whisk etc) those are the most efficient.
Q. So in other words your Junior Standard (fixed shaft) delivers about 20% more power in actual use than the Junior Plus (which has a detachable shaft that can be replaced by a whisk attachment) even though the power specs for both are the same?
A. Yes but also keep in mind the Junior series is a "replenishing" blender which means it's used to (re)mix something that has already been mixed previously. In other words it's meant to be used as a refresher. It's rated at a 5-gallon (20-qt) capacity for replenishing/refreshing but is really a 2 or 2.5 gallon (8 - 10 qt) capacity if you're blending something from scratch. This is why it's important to understand what you actually need the immersion blender to do in real life.
Q. But when talking about the ability to easily blend a certain quantity of ingredients, the Junior models can tackle things that the MiniPro can't, correct? I'm confused because the Bamix Gastro200, the MiniPro, and the Junior series are all listed at 200 watts, yet there seems a great difference in performance between the Junior line and the other two . Is that because the Juniors have a 10" shaft rather than a 7" one like the others do?
A. Both the MiniPro and the Junior line are all 200 watts but are technically different items from top to bottom. It's not just the shaft length, there are other factors that allow them to handle a greater capacity/volume load. Any Junior model has about double the capacity of either the MiniPro or the MD95 (our original mini). Actually the MD95 is only 180 watts so technically it's less powerful than the MiniPro BUT it's built differently and is considered a heavier-duty unit because of the fact that it's direct drive (fixed shaft), single speed (no variable), and has a bearing rather than a bushing at the seal. Wattage is not the sole determining factor for immersion blender performance; neither is RPMs.
As a result of getting all this information I feel that I now have a far better understanding of how these appliances work, and why they work (or fail!) the way they do. I admit that when comparing specs (research junkie that I am, LOL) I assumed that more watts were better, higher RPMs were better, etc., without taking anything else into consideration including what each is actually designed to do versus what I intend to use it for. Not to mention not even thinking that duh, of course, it makes just as much sense to replace an immersion blender blade as it does to keep one's knives sharp: a dull blade requires more force, and that in turn creates strain on whatever's supplying the force -- whether it's an appliance motor or a human hand/wrist/arm. But IB blades aren't made to be sharpened, so they need to be replaced when they start to get dull from whizzing through chunks of veggies or whatever. ESPECIALLY if the blades are contacting harder/denser stuff. Perfectly logical, as Spock would say, LOL.
I have to also say I was hugely impressed by the expertise of the person at Dynamic that I corresponded with. He clearly knows their products inside and out, unlike the typical customer support reps from the more mass-market brands who can only reiterate whatever is printed in the owners manual and have no idea WHY something works or doesn't work. I've gotten more than my share of those kind of boilerplate responses (or worse, the dreaded Call Center in India!) from other manufacturers, but in this case the responses I got to my relentless barrage of questions (LOL) not only educated me about immersion blenders in general but made me feel confident that if I did ever have an issue or question with one of their products it would be handled promptly and efficiently. That's definitely a big plus in my book.
This goes way beyond Immersion Blenders in its scope. Other than price (and there is a reason for the price difference) there are a lot of differences between "professional" and "home" electrical applainces and tools. The difference in price is in part the difference in construction. For example as the Dynamic rep pointed out, one model has a bushing and the other a bearing. The cost difference is significant and how long it will last is also much different. Not only the fact it has a bearing, but the size of the bearing will also play a role in how long it will last. You typically find the size of the commutator and armature to be considerably larger in the professional equipment than the home owner models, these larger parts are sturdier and last longer. The down side is these tools typically weigh more than the less robustly built home owner models. But what you learned applies to a great many pieces of equipment beyond the immersion blender.
I agree, but I still did learn quite a bit that I will apply to the proper use of my IB (especially the cleaning, because I was one of those who assumed the detachability was to allow thorough and careful cleaning of the bell-and-blade area without worrying about accidentally dropping the entire appliance into the sink, LOL).
We have a little (and I do mean little... it's only about 6" or 7" long overall) Rosle milk frother that I use to make single serving quantities of vinaigrette, and I do clean it via the whirring-in-soapy-then-clean-water method BUT before learning about RPMs etc I'd blithely "dry" it by then whirring it in air. :-( But now I know better, and realize that every time I did that, that tiny little motor was making tiny screams of protest, LOL!
By the way, the MiniPro actually is the same weight as the Bamix Gastro200 (see below); I think the other mass market home models (KA, etc) come in at pretty much the same weight. The next step up from the MiniPro (their Junior) is a BIG step up in weight though, at 4 1/2 lbs! If I recall correctly even their MD95 which is considered a "mini" model is about 4 lbs ... no doubt due to the different motor and the other parts that you mention.
I suppose if you are going to use your IB extensively, and don't have other kitchen appliances like a stand or hand mixer or a food processor, spending that kind of money for a stick blender MIGHT be justified. My IB has rendered my blender redundant because it eliminates the need for cleaning an additional container. I use the IB a couple of times a month. It's perhaps 15 yrs old and I got it for $10 at a pharmacy. It has no attachments and the blade is not replaceable. But I am not chopping wood with it. IB's are used with liquid, cooked, or already-chopped ingredients.
How dull is that blade going to get? Pish-tosh. I submerge it in a 4-qt pot of hot soup that has cooled only to the point of no longer bubbling. Although except for the blade, everything else touching the food is plastic, there has been no damage. I whirr it in soapy water to wash it, rinse the same way, and let it air dry. If and when mine dies, I will replace it with another cheapo. I think the OP is being oversold, although s/he is free to spend as much as s/he likes..
The price factor is something to take into consideration, I do agree. Many people wouldn't want to (or can't) spend more than, say, $50 for an IB and I respect that. However I do wonder, since your IB was made about 15 years ago, in what country was it made? Fifteen years ago there was not the overwhelming prevalence of made-in-China appliances that there is today. I have a Krups two-beater hand mixer that I've had for probably about the same span of time, and it was made in Ireland; I'd venture to say that most if not all such mixers on the market today are made in China.
Whether for health/safety concerns or for philosophical reasons, it's a fact that an ever-growing number of people today simply don't want to buy Chinese-made goods. Unfortunately it's also a fact that there simply are NO small electrics in the less-than-$100 range that are NOT made there (as far as I know); in most cases one does have to bump up to the $100-$200 range if a non-Chinese-made appliance is wanted. In the case of IBs that are small and light enough (the MiniPro weighs in at 2.2 lbs which is the same weight range as the Bamix Gastro200 which IS marketed for the home kitchen), the only two non-Chinese-made choices are the MiniPro (France) and the Bamix (Switzerland) and both are at exactly the same retail pricepoint of $175-$180.
There's another thread going currently about trying to find a USA-made toaster/countertop oven .... but other than the $700 BroilerKing, there just isn't any. Or any other non-China-sourced current models for less than that pricerange, apparantly. Actually I feel lucky to have found a non-China-sourced IB retailing for less than $250, LOL.
As for hard items, some of the IBs are marketed with separate containers so that they can be used as mini food processors (the Bamix does that) and for people who use them that way (for instance to chop nuts) I would think that yes, the IB's blade would very well get dull depending on frequency of use.