Have you ever thought of adding a blender to your kitchen? You’re not alone. More and more of us are becoming conscious of the food we eat. Organic food, raw food, increasing numbers of vegans and people who simply want to eat more nutritious food are ever more popular trends. A blender is essential for many of these styles of eating, and it's become just as common a machine on the kitchen worktop as a coffee maker or toaster. Blenders – sometimes called mixers – are a kitchen appliance with many areas of use, including smoothies, juices and drinks, making soups and crushing ice. To a large extent a blender can replace what a food processor, stick blender or juice squeezer is expected to do. There are loads of recipes on the internet for tasty smoothies and soups that you can prepare in just a couple of minutes. It's a lovely healthy feeling on a Sunday morning to quickly be able to make up a glass of smoothie from coconut milk, chia seeds, banana and apple.
The range of blenders has also increased exponentially over recent years, with more models and stronger motors. Having a blender that can do everything has become a status symbol – Blendtec's series of "Will it blend?" videos on YouTube has had millions of views. Some brands have even started measuring the motor strength in horsepower instead of watts. You can get blenders with up to 4 hp motors – that's like a small outboard motor! Blenders are also among the first kitchen appliances that children think it's fun to use, and "smoothie challenge" is a well-known social media concept for many children and young people.
So what's it important to consider when you're choosing a blender? Pretty much all blenders consist of the same five parts: a tall container of hard plastic or a glass jug, a motor unit with a control panel, a lid, a smaller centre lid which can also be used to add ingredients, and in some cases a mixer rod to stir and scrape out the jug. All of these are relatively easy to use and clean. We think the most important thing is whether the blender does the job you want – how well it makes things like dips, smoothies and soups or crushes ice. In addition to this there are other practical aspects such as quality, user-friendliness, noise level, how easy it is to store the blender, whether it can be cleaned in the dishwasher and how the different parts are designed – and, of course, the price. One thing to remember with blenders is that all models are very easy to clean. So we have given this less emphasis in the final score.
Another rule of thumb is to choose a blenders with a strong motor, from 800 watts and upwards. Many people ask a great deal of their blenders. They are expected to quickly smash up large bits of vegetables and nuts, prepare ice cream and mix heavy spreads. Many people have become very frustrated with motors that are too weak, which give off a smell of burning and finally break down completely. A strong motor is therefore useful, but perhaps less environmentally friendly as you consume more energy. At the same time, you often don't use a blender for more than a few minutes at a time, so it's not a massive difference in energy consumption. Another simple tip is to buy a blender with a mixer rod, which significantly facilitates food preparation.
And sticking to a few basic rules during preparation is perhaps as important as choosing the right blender. Always start by adding the liquid. If you are blending lots of hard ingredients and large pieces, add them a little at a time. Otherwise you risk the ingredients getting stuck above the blades. Always put the heaviest things at the top, so they help to press everything down towards the blades. When you crush ice (or other hard ingredients), always add a little water to start with.
We tested 12 of the most well known blenders in different price classes, including Vitamix, Blendtec and Magimix. However, we have not looked at the cheapest variants with weak motors or the most expensive models which are primarily intended for professional use in restaurants or juice bars.
We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. Our blender tests were carried out by an inspired foodie and gadget nerd. All models have been tested by preparing many different dishes under the same conditions – smoothies, soups, spreads and crushed ice. Some tests were repeated several times. When evaluating the results, we used a jury consisting of several people. We also had children use the products. We tested the noise level and how easy it is to clean the blender. We have carefully reviewed user manuals and guarantees. We also spoke to employees of juice bars to benefit from their experience of different models.
We evaluated the promises made by the manufacturers; for example how quickly ice can be crushed. All models have been tested over a longer period, and some have been tested over several years. We retain the models that perform best for long-term testing and continuously add updates to our reviews.
In our assessment we have focused on the following areas:
Functionality and performance: How many pre-set programmes does the blender have, and how strong is the motor? How well does the blender do what it's intended for? Are smoothies smooth? What about hummus or sweetcorn dip? Is it easy to crush ice?
Ease of use: How easy to use is the blender? Are the buttons and controls easy to understand and use? How easy it is to clean and does it take up a lot of space? Is the blender so noisy that it'll wake the neighbours? How safe is the blender for children to use? How long is the cable and is there a cable winder?
We have given each blender a score according to its value for money, in other words how good it is at each task in relation to the price tag. We thus have higher expensive of an expensive product than a cheaper one, and vice versa.
Well-known French brand Magimix was founded in 1970s, and their blender is simply called Le Blender. On the UK market, it's available in steel, chromium, black and orange. Le Blender has the majority of functions and characteristics you'd expect: a stable design, pre-set programmes, a pulse function, a blender rod – and it's also easy to operate. One advantage of the blender rod is that it's designed like a spatula, which makes it easier to scrape out the jug, for example if you've been making pesto. The jug is made of thick glass, and the motor unit is well balanced, which means that the blender remains stable during operation. The jug is quite heavy, but the height of 24 cm makes it easy to store.
In tests, the Magimix performs extremely well. The only disappointment is the smoothie programme of 60 seconds, which runs on a relatively low speed and therefore leaves lots of pieces in the smoothie. The majority of people naturally want a completely smooth smoothie, so it's better to run it on full speed instead. Another weakness with Le Blender is that the noise level is somewhat higher than on the majority of other models. In our tests, it was measured at 90 dB at a distance of 20 cm. This is OK, but not great. One thing to remember with the Magimix Le Blender is that you can unscrew the bottom of the jug. This makes it easier to clean it properly. But occasionally during our tests the bottom wasn't screwed on sufficiently tightly after cleaning, with the consequence that we ended up with smoothie all over the kitchen worktop. The Magimix Le Blender is extremely well designed and is an effective kitchen appliance that the real gadget nerd will love.
Blendtec are extremely well-known among kitchen equipment firms and are also known for their YouTube series "Will it blend?", which has had millions of views. In this series, they test crushing everything from an iPad to golf balls. There's no doubt that Blendtec wants to market the fact that this is an exceptionally effective blender. And it is indeed good, provided you are willing to spend a little more. Blendtec blenders are used by the Juiceverket juice bar chain. The Classic 575 is low, with a jug 23 cm tall and a total height of 38 cm. The jug is light and easy to use. The buttons on the discreet and elegant panel are built in so that the motor unit can simply be wiped off. One great function is the digital display where the timer counts down how many seconds remain on the pre-set programme and count up when you run the blender without a programme. This makes food preparation easier and gives you a feel for how long it takes to prepare certain dishes. Blendtec also get a plus point for safety – there's a switch on the back which makes it more difficult for small children to start the machine themselves.
Despite its neat size, it has a motor power of 2200 W. And this is clearly one of the important reasons why the Blendtec machine performs so well in our tests – because it really does. For spreads, it's quite simply in a class by itself. You can't get smoother hummus in 60 seconds, and for sweetcorn dip and smoothies the results are also exemplary. Ice is crushed as small as you'd want it for a daiquiri, even if the light jug shakes rather a lot when the ice is crushed. So is the Blendtec an almost perfect blender? Well, it does have some weaknesses. The biggest of these is probably the noise level, which is 93 dB at a distance of 20 cm. The stated maximum volume of the jug is also only 1.0 litre. There is a little more space in the jug, but if you often want to make a big batch of smoothies for the entire family, the Blendtec is perhaps not the machine for you. The fact that there's no blender rod is also a negative aspect. It also feels more natural to control the speed with a knob, rather than the buttons that the Blendtec has. But overall this is a really good blender, with functionality and quality in focus.
The Vitamix is a real premium blender. It's a well known brand, and professional versions of the machine are used by many juice bars, such as Blueberry. The TNC 5200 model has been around for a number of years and you can find many comparative tests with Blendtec blenders online. We have used the Vitamix TNC 5200 for several years – and despite a great deal of use it shows no signs of deteriorated performance or wear. This is quite simply a solid, high quality piece of equipment. The jug is made of robust hard plastic. One important characteristic is that the TNC 5200 has a motor that can run for a long time, which means that you can heat the food as it is mixed. The TNC 5200 also produces consistently good test results. In terms of smoothies, it's fantastic – the results are really well mixed and smooth. Even when it's time to crush ice, it produces top-class results despite the fact that it lacks an ice programme.
The jug narrows at the bottom, which means that the ingredients get really well mixed. But sometimes this also causes problems as larger ingredients can easily get stuck above the cutting blades. However, the TNC 5200 does have a blender rod, which helps avoid this issue. The blender jug is relatively tall, which makes it difficult to store, difficult to scrape out and means that it sometimes feels wobbly. Oddly, it also lacks both pulse function and pre-set programmes, and it's difficult to understand why you need to controls to regulate the speed. Despite the fact that the TNC 5200 has few controls, this means that it is still quite difficult to use. And it's rather poor in terms of safety as the blender can start at maximum speed if the turbo button happens to be up. But despite this, the Vitamix is one of the very best blenders in the test. A Vitamix on the kitchen worktop indicates that you are a real foodie, and the high quality of the machine means that it will be your best friend in the kitchen for many years.
As everyone knows, Philips produces a wide range of household machines. Within blenders alone they have 10 models to choose between, with prices from less than £50 to several hundred. This Viva blender has a power of 700 W and falls into the lower mid-section of their range. The ProBlend 6 (HR3556) is easy to use, and has only one control with large symbols. This also means that it lacks pre-set programmes with timers, but it does have a pulse function. The jug is made from thick glass and is easily installed into locked position on the motor unit, which keeps it stable. The motor section is relatively light, which means that the blender can feel a little wobbly. However, this is counteracted by the base having suction cups to keep it firmly attached to the worktop. The blender also includes a neat portable mixer that means you can mix directly in a plastic smoothie mug.
The base of the jug on the ProBlend 6 Viva Collection can be unscrewed. This is useful for more thorough cleaning, even if it also means that there's a slight risk of it coming undone when the jug is full – so remember to keep it properly screwed on! In terms of results, it's clear that the ProBlend 6 Viva Collection is a slightly cheaper model. When we make smoothies, it does a reasonable job but no more. And during the preparation of a range of spreads, there are quite a lot of large pieces left. You can crush ice with it if it's in a smoothie, but if there's only ice in the blender it's a bit less satisfactory. However, this applies to the majority of blenders. One problem is that the cable is only 84 cm long. This makes it quite difficult to position it in many places in the kitchen. In purely practical terms, however, the blender is easy to store as the jug is short, and the entire jug is dishwasher safe, which is useful.
Kitchenaid is perhaps the world's best known brand within kitchen appliances. The first appliances were manufactured almost a hundred years ago and the most famous are probably the stand mixers. Many people appreciate the typical design which has been largely unchanged since the 1930s. A design advantage is that the Artisan blender is available in a full 13 colours. It's a robust machine, with a substantial motor section in cast metal that gives excellent stability. The jug is made of thick glass and is only 24 cm tall, which makes the blender easy to store. It also includes a useful 0.75 litre blender container. The fact that the control panel buttons are completely without edges and joints is useful as it makes them easy to clean.
Unfortunately, it feels like it's not just the design that has stood still for Kitchenaid, but also the functionality and performance. The majority of competitors have increased their motor power over recent years as a result of the increased demands from consumers. Kitchenaid have stuck to a power of only 550 W, which is less than half that of comparable models. The maximum speed is 12,000 rpm, which is also low and means that it can't mix and crush as well. Nor does it have pre-set programmes. The recommended speeds for various processes are significantly lower than for other appliances, which typically gives a less good result. But of course this is also a question of taste. The Kitchenaid Artisan is one of the few models that have buttons to regulate the speed instead of a knob. This makes it more difficult to use. In our tests, the Artisan performs less well than comparable models in terms of smoothies and spreads, with significantly more larger pieces remaining. However, it does extremely well when it comes to crushing ice. There's no cable winder underneath the machine, which means that despite the short length of the cable it can take up unnecessary space and collect dirt on the kitchen worktop. The Kitchenaid is primarily a nice feature in a well-designed kitchen, and is great for those who prioritise design.