William Grover Barnard, the founder of Vita-Mix, released his company's first blender in 1937, but it wasn't until television came around that Vita-Mix was able to introduce blenders into the American vernacular. Buying 30 minutes of airtime on WEWS-TV in Cleveland, in 1949, Vita-Mix ran what the company says was the first-ever infomercial -- before long, blenders were flying off of the shelves, and Vita-Mix was rerunning the ad in markets across the country.
Today, the Vitamix craze continues, with a small army of brand loyalists who swear by the things, insisting that they're worth every penny. That's quite a claim, given that a model like the Vitamix 7500 will cost you exactly 52,900 pennies ($529). We've already looked at some impressive blenders from competitors like Ninja, Breville, and KitchenAid, all of which will cost you around $300 less than the Vitamix. And don't forget about the ultrapowerful Blendtec Designer Series WildSide Blender, of "Will it Blend?" fame -- it's competing with Vitamix too, and at a price of $454.95, even it costs less. Is a Vitamix blender really a justifiable purchase?
For some, I think it will be, but for most, it's probably an unnecessary splurge. The Vitamix 7500 is an undeniably powerful machine, capable of blending just about anything you throw in it. If you're a foodie who plans on making smoothies, soups, and salsas day in and day out, it's a blender you'll be thrilled to own. Below that, however, I think most consumers would be more than satisfied with a more affordable machine like the Ninja Ultima, the Breville Hemisphere Control, or the KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender.
If you're a blender fanatic who's dead set on buying a super-high-powered machine, you'll want to look at what Blendtec has to offer alongside Vitamix, as both performed well in our tests, with mostly aesthetic differences between the two brands (Blendtec offers a touch-screen interface while Vitamix offers a physical dial, for instance). If you choose Vitamix, you'll also want to be sure and consider its other models. The Vitamix 5200, for example, offers the same general level of performance as the 7500, but costs about $80 less.
Performance that pulls you in
Confession time: I'm really not much of a blender guy. We never had one in our kitchen when I was growing up, and to this day, I've never owned one. I don't drink smoothies very often, and I'm happy to chop up salsa by hand. A blender just isn't an appliance that I've ever imagined I would use all that much.
But that began to change as I was testing the Vitamix 7500 out. This is a powerful blender, with a 1,440-watt, 2.2-horsepower motor capable of spinning its laser-cut, stainless-steel blades at up to 37,000rpm. That kind of raw power has a very strange, very un-kitchen-like appeal. Turning it on is like turning the ignition to a luxurious muscle car -- dialing the speed up from 1 to 10 is like stepping on the gas. It just feels good having that much power at your disposal. You find yourself wanting to blend everything. If I owned a Vitamix, I think that I'd find reasons to use it whenever possible, and that isn't something I would say about most blenders, or even most appliances.
Fortunately, I'd have a difficult time running out of things to make. The Vitamix comes with an elegant hardbound book filled with hundreds of recipes ranging from blueberry margaritas to homemade salad dressing to vegetarian chili. But does the 7500 make all of these things as well as Vitamix claims, and does it do a better-enough job than other blenders to justify the price?
A question of value
The answer to this first question is pretty simple: yes. The Vitamix is a surprisingly versatile machine, capable of handling a wide variety of ingredients with little, if any difficulty. Wet or dry, large or small, nothing seems to trip the Vitamix up. We tested out delicate foods like pancake batter and homemade whipped cream, along with more rugged recipes like spinach pesto and additive-free almond butter. We even subjected it to an entire block of cheese (although it would probably be more fair to say that we subjected the block of cheese to the Vitamix). Never once did the 7500 produce an unsatisfying result.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
That second question is a little more difficult. Just take a look at the results from our smoothie tests. Not surprisingly, the Vitamix sat at the top of the pack, tying for the best, most consistently blended smoothie. But none of the blenders we tested -- not even the $39 Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender -- produced a smoothie that was anything less than great. The $199.99 Breville blender even managed to tie the Vitamix and Blendtec results. For basic smoothie blending alone, a high-end, $500 machine probably isn't worth it.
The same can be said of other recipes that don't require a monstrous amount of horsepower. As said before, the Vitamix aced our pancake batter and whipped-cream tests -- but so did less expensive models. For simple recipes like these that don't demand a great deal from the machine, the Vitamix 7500 is pure overkill, both in terms of power and price.
That said, I don't expect anyone who buys a Vitamix to use it simply to mix batter and whip up quick smoothies. You'll need to try out more demanding recipes before you really start to see what you're paying for. Our spinach pesto test is a great example. Other blenders, even the Ninja and Breville models, needed the full 15 pulses our recipe called for in order to produce pesto of an acceptable consistency, and some, like the Cuisinart PowerEdge 1000 Watt Blender, took even longer than that. The Vitamix, on the other hand, got there within 4 pulses -- pulsing it 15 times gave us something more like a pesto smoothie.
Our almond butter test was another area where we saw some separation between the different models we tested. The Vitamix did an excellent job of grinding almonds into almond flour, getting us there within a few quick pulses. Then, it was able to whip that flour into a creamy, spreadable almond butter within about 7 minutes. This put it well ahead of what the Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach models were capable of. However, the Breville blender yielded equally creamy, satisfying nut butter, albeit with a little more stirring needed than with the Vitamix. And the strongest performer here was actually the Ninja Ultima, which produced our favorite almond butter, and did it faster and easier than even the Vitamix or the Blendtec.