I made hot soup, pizza dough, and mocha with Vitamix's incredible $600 smart blender, and now I get why people love them
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- When it comes to blenders, you get what you pay for. The cheaper blenders suffer from a lack of power and durability. Yet, the top-of-the-line models are built to last and backed by strong warranties.
- Vitamix blenders are widely considered the best on the market, and their price reflects their track record of performance.
- I was impressed with how easy the Vitamix was to use out of the box and the wide variety of tasks it could complete that would normally be reserved for a heavy-duty food processor or stand mixer.
- The Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender is not cheap (currently $549.96 on Amazon), but it can replace a number of other household appliances while providing seamless operation and cleanup.
If you rely on a cheap blender you received as a housewarming present or picked up on sale at a big-box store, you likely have an adversarial relationship with it. The low-cost blenders currently on the market have trouble pureeing anything but the softest items. I've had blenders like these. I'd look at the appliance with disgust as I chose to eat a whole apple rather than bother with a smoothie. A bad unit just takes up counter space and causes you to shy away from recipes that call for a blender.With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to test a Vitamix.
The company recently launched the "Ascent Series," and their representative sent me the A3500 model to test. This model "has all the bells and whistles." Below, I will explore what makes Vitamix blenders so great, share my experience with the A3500, and let you know if it's worth your money.
Why consider Vitamix blenders?
Based in Ohio, Vitamix is a privately owned and operated company that specializes in high-performance blenders for consumers as well as the restaurant and hospitality industries. The company was founded in 1921 by William Barnard, and the current President and CEO of Vitamix, Dr. Jodi Berg, is the fourth generation of the Barnard family to head the organization.
Today, Vitamix is one of the most reliable blender brands available. According to a Consumer Reports reliability study, the likelihood of a Vitamix experiencing mechanical problems within the first four years of ownership is about 6%. This is significantly lower than any other brand. For example, two other high-end brands, Breville and Blendtec, had problem rates of 16% and 15% respectively.
Still, even though they are reliable, you may want to skip the high-priced Vitamix blenders if you are on a tight budget, or you just don't get very adventurous in the kitchen. On the other hand, any home chef who spends a significant amount of time crafting tasty meals would benefit from having this tool available. That's why, whenever you look at the set of your favorite cooking shows, you will inevitably see a Vitamix.
What's special about the Ascent Series?The main features introduced in the Ascent Series blenders that are not found in other Vitamix blenders are Self-Detect technology and built-in timers. The Ascent Series blenders come with a 64-ounce container but are compatible with Vitamix's 48-, 32-, 20-, and 8-ounce containers. And, the Self-Detect technology uses built-in wireless connectivity to sense the size of the container being used and adjusts the program settings and times accordingly.
When you are busy hustling around the kitchen preparing a large meal, you don't want to babysit the blender. This is where the built-in timer comes in handy. You just start the blender, and you can easily monitor how long your ingredients blend on the digital display.
The Ascent Series is also unique in that it offers the longest warranty of any Vitamix blenders at 10 years.
There are four models in the Ascent Series:
- A2300 (currently $399.95 on Amazon) - This is the basic model with all of the above features along with what you might expect from any Vitamix blender: variable speed control, pulse, clear lid, powerful motor, and four color options.
- A2500 (currently $499.95 on Amazon) - The A2500 is a step up from the A2300 with three pre-programmed settings for frozen desserts, hot soups, and smoothies. Just set the dial to one of these programs, and the A2500 senses the container and runs at the ideal speeds for the predetermined amount of time.
- A3300 (currently $399.95 on Amazon) - The A3300 doesn't have any of the pre-programmed settings, but it does have touchscreen controls, and you can program the digital timer to stop after your desired amount of time.
- A3500 (currently $549.96 on Amazon) - This is the model Vitamix sent me. It has five pre-set programs: cleaning, purees, frozen desserts, hot soups, and smoothies. Plus, you operate the programs using touchscreen controls.
My first experiences with the Vitamix A3500 Blender
As I removed the A3500 from the box, I was first struck by how simple it seemed. The blender consists of a low-profile 64-ounce container and a motor base. My previous blender, a Ninja, had mechanisms for locking the lid to the container and the container to the base. This is not the case with the A3500. The lid snaps into place, and the container simply sits on the base's centering pad. The entire set-up is 11" deep by 8" wide by 17" tall so it fits under the cabinets on most kitchen counters.
A low-profile classic tamper, quick start guide, and a hard-cover recipe guide with dozens of recipes that test the range of the appliance were also included with the blender. I liked that the tamper was sized so that when you use it through the lid hole, it falls just short of touching the blades. This helps you avoid destroying the tamper and possibly hurting yourself.
If I was intimidated by the prospect of using such a powerful and expensive device, those feelings went away fast as I picked up the quick start guide. They recommend starting with a classic smoothie and offer a handy guide on how to properly load different types of smoothie ingredients with liquids first and frozen ingredients last.
For the initial smoothie, I went a little wild with the frozen berries and neglected to add anything more fluid than yogurt. The Vitamix handled it for a little bit then the blades stopped. Criticism accepted: I introduced some actual liquids to my smoothie, and the rest of the blending process proceeded without a hitch. I appreciated that the blades stopped rather than simply trying to plow ahead and potentially burning out the motor. Motor burn out is pretty rare with Vitamix blenders.
How the Vitamix A3500 Blender performed
I had a fairly straightforward process for testing the Vitamix A3500 Blender. My goal was to make as many different dishes as possible with it. For ideas, I reached out to friends, leafed through the slick recipe book that came with the blender, and searched the 500+ recipes on the Vitamix app. In addition to making various foodstuffs, I closely tested the self-clean function of the device and noted its effectiveness.
When I brought up Vitamix blenders in conversation, people would often ask if it was able to heat up soup. And, I can now answer from firsthand experience that it does indeed. For this experiment, I made Cauliflower Soup. I simply added the ingredients - which included raw cashews, leeks, and of course cauliflower - to the container and pressed the Hot Soup button. The soup is heated by the friction created by the blade so it runs at high speeds for about six minutes. The resulting soup was piping hot and delicious.
A vegetarian friend asked me to make a vegan cashew cheese sauce. This was another no-brainer recipe that simply involved loading up the container and blending. The results were excellent. My sons had no idea that it was made of cashews (though they didn't mistake it for cheese.)
One of my biggest culinary challenges is making pizza dough. I've had a few failed attempts and have resigned myself to a life of buying premade dough from the store. So, when I saw the recipe in the app, I had to give it a try.
The Vitamix app is supposed to work with your blender and a smart scale. I didn't have a smart scale but was still able to enjoy the benefits of the app. The app pretty much holds your hand as it takes you step-by-step through the recipes. First, put the dry ingredients in the container, then press the blend button in the app and the play icon on the touchscreen, and the blender will automatically run for the right amount of time. You then add the wet ingredients, blend again, and voila! You have a ball of dough that is ready to rise.
The pizza dough turned out delicious. My only qualm was that the recipe was supposed to be for one large pizza, but it was easily enough for two. I didn't recognize this right away, so we ended up with one incredibly thick crust. I had even more success when I used the A3500 to create a cauliflower pizza crust.
Smoothies are a regular afternoon treat in my home. And, the smoothie button is enough to blend the ingredients well. However, when I served others before adding a greens powder and running the smoothie mode again, my beverage ended up a somewhat less-refreshing lukewarm. I mention this so you will learn from my mistakes and not over-blend your smoothies!
I'll share one more surprising trick: coffee. My espresso maker was being temperamental recently (turns out I needed to delime it), and in order to have my morning cup of joe, I followed the Mocha Spiced Coffee instructions in the recipe book using instant espresso, milk, and flavorings. After five minutes of high-speed blending, I had a hot, frothy caffeine fix. Feel free to take the day off, espresso maker!The A3500 has a pre-programmed self-cleaning setting. Basically, after you are done making your concoction, you put a drop of dish liquid in the container, fill it about halfway with warm water, pop it back on the base with the lid on, and run the self-clean program. In under a minute, the container and lid are clean.
For the most part, this process worked well. However, there were a couple items that didn't come off easily, even after running the self-cleaning mode twice. The pizza dough and cashew cheese sauce both required some additional, by-hand cleaning. Also, the self-cleaning function obviously doesn't clean outside of the container. But, a sponge, detergent, warm water, and a little elbow grease finished the job quickly.
Some concerns about the blender
The Vitamix A3500 is better than any blender I've ever used. That said, there are a few limitations. I found removing thicker foods from the container, such as the cashew cheese sauce or nut butters, is a pain. You need a good silicone scraper or spatula to get the finished product out.
The app was incredibly user-friendly, except for one flaw. All of the recipes were either listed in ounces, grams, or milliliters depending on how you set up your profile. Online, Vitamix has the same recipes listed in classic US units of volume (e.g., cups, tablespoons, teaspoons, etc.) It would have been nice if the app had these same measurements.
Lastly, I would like to see Vitamix produce an automated pulse program. With the app's smart blending, many of the recipes would not blend automatically. Others would only do one or two pulses. I understand that this is done so that you can properly assess the consistency of your ingredients, but it gets tedious when a recipe calls for pulsing 50 or 60 times.
Overall, if you have some extra money to spend and you love to cook, then treat yourself with the best blender on the market. If someone were to steal my Vitamix tomorrow, I would eventually replace it once I saved up enough money. It makes so many tedious DIY kitchen projects so much easier and inspired me to eat healthier.
But, since the Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender costs about $600, you may want to consider one of the more affordable Ascent Series models. This is especially true if cost is important to you and you don't mind sacrificing features like pre-set programs and a programmable timer.
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