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Older/Vintage Kitchenaid Mixer Users - Get a Solid State Version or Not?

Ok, so I'm looking to find a vintage Kitchenaid and I read someone calling the K5-A as the "holy grail" of kitchenaid mixers. However, I learned that the K5-A was replaced by a "Solid State" Version called the K5SS (and the Tilt Head Model K-45 was replaced by the K45SS solid state version).

So I am wondering if there are any Kitchenaid Guru's that can tell me which one would be best between the older version and the solid state version? (Please don't recommend one over the other if you really don't have any experience with both - Thanks!)

Usage: I am looking to use it to make everything from bread and thick fudge to cookies, cakes and icings. I would want to be able to make single batches as well as multiple batches as we do make all sorts of goodies to sell at Yard Sales and other events nearly weekly.

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    1. I wouldn't buy a kitchen aid for multiple batches of bread on a regular basis. Vintage or not. You'd be better off with an Bosche compact or universal or an Ankarsrum.

      11 Replies
      1. re: rasputina

        Sorry for being unclear. While I will occasionally use it to make bread, we will primarily be using it for multiple batches of "treats" such as cake batter, cookies and icing.

        1. re: dz5003

          Sounds like regular use, so I don't think you need a "vintage" KA while the new ones are work horses- and come with a warranty.

          1. re: monavano

            No the new ones aren't work horses, not by a long shot. There are a lot better mixers on the market, specifically the ones I mentioned up thread.

            1. re: rasputina

              For home use?
              KA are just fine- mine is 8 years old now and it's a gem.

              1. re: monavano

                I am going the vintage route, that I am firm on. I just need to decide what model, which is what I asked for input on.

                1. re: dz5003

                  I bought a K5SS after reading a lot here on CH about how much better the all-metal vintage models are than the newer ones. Based on the prices they fetch on eBay, it's clear that we are not the only fans of vintage KA mixers. I got mine more cheaply because it was listed as a Hobart bread mixer so nobody else found the listing. I envy folks who find these gems for $20 or less at yard sales and thrift shops. Slimmer pickings in my area, for sure! Frankly, I didn't know the SS was substantially different from the S line. Mine's a lift-bowl and I do recall reading that this style is better than a tilt-head for bread and other thick doughs, because the tilt-head allows the beater/hook/whisk to wiggle a bit. The lift-bowl does not. Other than that, I don't use the mixer very often so I cannot tell you anything about the comparative function of the S and SS models.

                  1. re: dz5003

                    The reason the vintage Kitchenaids are so desirable is that they were manufactured by Hobart which is pretty much the standard in commercial kitchens today. If you are willing to pay a little more, you can get a Hobart N50. A little more than a month ago, one in good condition went for around $400. These are designed for commercial kitchens so they'll be able to withstand anything you put at it.

                    1. re: GOJIRA

                      Unfortunately $400 is out of my price range and as a second point, the Kitchenaid look nicer in the kitchen. I think I'm leaning toward the lift model instead of the tilt head, I just have to decide if I need to go for the Solid State Motor or not.

                      1. re: dz5003

                        I think you'll like the lift bowl.
                        I also think the Hobart is not particularly attractive, which counts for me, as I keep my KA on the counter.

                    2. re: dz5003

                      I am all about vintage kitchen stuff but be very careful buying a vintage mixer unless you don't mind the expense of fixing it. I saw a very cool 1970s KA with mushrooms and harvest colors ($20)but it looked like it had been used a lot. Also saw a yellow one with Hobart on the side with hall kinds of attachments and two bowls go for close to $200 at an auction. I have a K45ss from the early 80s and it did overheat once making divinity. It has recovered but I don't use it for anything heavy duty.

                      1. re: wekick

                        i agree with wekick: i had a kitchenaid that lasted about 15 years. then the head got wonky... i decided it wasn't worth the hassle to try to get it fixed, based on a variety of reasons. I gave it away. while i sometimes regret my decision, I also would be hesitant to by a used/vintage appliance, esp. one that plugs in!

          2. What is the non-solid state version called? In audio it's tubes, but I doubt that applies here.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jay F

              Solid State was a "Motor Improvement" that had to do with how the motor got/used the electric current. I am trying to figure out if it is a necessary upgrade or if no one really notices it, but only the people who have used the OLD ones without Solid State AND the Solid State ones made right after the upgrade can answer my question.

            2. I can't help with the SS model, but I've had my K5-A for 40 years now. I saved my money for months after I finished college in order to buy it.... It's had very regular use, and is still perfect. I do quite a bit of bread in addition the cakes, cookies, etc. A few years ago I bought a SideSwipe (Amazon) beater, which has been a great addition.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jjw

                Thanks for bringing up the SideSwipe.
                I made a cheesecake yesterday and was bummed with the lumps ;(

                1. re: jjw

                  Good to know that you are happy with yours. From what I read, I believe the earliest models including yours reduce the amount of electric going into the motor to produce the slower speeds. That changed with the solid state motors but I can't really comprehend or explain how the solid state produces the slowers speeds, just that it is different.

                2. Not a "Kitchenaid Guru" but I do have some experience with various older KA models as well as owning an older K5ss.

                  First thing: the "solid-state" is not the motor but the switch/lever on the side for speed control. (Think gear shift or throttle). The older models used a mechanical rheostat for this. Both the old and new switches tend to be very long lived, very reliable components. (Not saying they never fail -- some do fail which is why replacement parts have been available.)

                  Second, my experience with KA mixers: in the 90s, I sometimes used several friends' old K45 (rheostat speed controls) mixers before buying my own K5SS (solid-state speed controls) from Costco around 1998. Since then, I've occasionally used another friend's old-style K5, too. (Mainly, helping make mutliple batches of fruit cakes.)

                  About the only difference I've noticed between working the old rheostat-contolled models and my "SS" model is a slightly a slightly different "feel" to moving the control lever. Not better feel; just a little difference in the smoothness of the detents. To me, there was no difference in usability and if I hadn't been told that the switch was different, I wouldn't have noticed.

                  I certainly understand limited budgets and "get" the attraction of the savings of a durable used model over paying the comparatively high prices of new models. When others mention "holy grail" or "best" in this context, I'm not sure I understand the application of those terms for practical use.

                  Maybe it is because I'm not a collector. Maybe my preferences are not sufficiently refined or are too plebian for those who perceive a mixer model as a "holy grail or "best." Seems to me that notions of "holy grail" and "best" are a lot like enthusiasms for vintage cars which I also don't "get.". Which vintage Bentley's are the best? Has Chevrolet ever surpassed the '57 Bel Air? Those questions are very important to some people but totally pass me. Mind, I am not deriding the enthusiasts. I'm simply recognizing that the interests of enthusiasts may be different from my own purely utilitarian perspective.

                  Maybe "best" means longevity and durability? My friends' old K45 is still running without problems as is the other friends' old K5. The friends do the cookies, fudge, cakes, etc. kind of baking but not much bread. Once a year, they both make fruitcakes for holiday seasons and that's probably the heaviest load they put on their machines. My friends with the K5 also occasionally use the meat-grinder attachment to grind a pound or two of meat for hamburgers. They also occasionally use a pasta roller attachment.

                  I, on the other hand, have used my K5SS much more heavily over the 16 years that I've owned it. For a while, when I first started making sausages, terrines, etc. I borrowed the meat grinder attachment, (I quickly found that a stand-alone grinder was much better for the 10 and 20 pound batches I now work with,) Every week, I mix up multiple batches of breads, making 2 to 4 pounds of dough per batch. For a while, I was grinding grain (using the KA grain grinder attachment) on my K5SS and then making 5 to 6 pound batches of whole wheat and rye breads. I started out mixing those doughs in two batches but then, in the middle of the previous decade, I got lazy and started doing it all in one batch. The heavy loading inevitably took its toll and the sacrificial gear eventually sacrificed itself in December of 2006. Quick, cheap fix. The part was about $4.50 but shipping and handling were a lot more :>(. It took all of about 20 minutes to swap out with ordinary tool-kit tools.

                  Some people hear that and say, "see, I told you the old ones were better because they didn't use no stinking plastic sacrificial gears." Except that Hobart did. The current KA part is interchangeable with and can be used to replace the same "plastic and fiber" part on the the old K5/K45 models, too. If you abuse your old Hobart built K5 models as I abused my supposedly "crappy-new" K5ss unit, the same "crappy plastic" gear will shear in order to protect the motor from an overload. Replace the gear and stop abusing it, and the unit will go on for many more years.

                  So, if you are trying to decide between a good used K5ss and a more expensive older, Hobart-made K5, I'd say go with the K5ss. Of course, buying a used appliance can be a bit of crapshoot because we usually have no way of knowing if and/or how it has been used or abused over the years.

                  As for making "single batches" --- what is a single batch for you?

                  If you mean tiny quantities --- say, whipping the white of one single small egg or a quarter cup of whipped cream -- that's what I think a hand mixer is for. One pound loaf of bread, a cup of heavy cream, 3 or 4 egg whites? No problem with the K5SS nor the old K5 or K45, either. (Try to find a manual, though, as you might need to adjust bowl heights with an older K5 or K5ss.)

                  Also, a Side-Swipe paddle beater that is a good thing to get as jjm mentioned.

                  All other things being equal, I might be be inclined to go with the K5SS because parts are more readily available and because the collectors' theories of "best" and "holy grail" have bid the prices up on the older models.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: JWVideo

                      Great post. I am set on a vintage model but I have decided to look for an older (Hobart Era) K5SS or K45SS - I need one soon, so which ever presents itself in decent condition and at a decent price is the one I will get.

                      Thanks so much!