Ankarsrum Original Review
Pros: Unique dough roller, cavernous bowl, powerful motor
Cons: Long learning process, primarily focused on baking applications
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Our Analysis and Test Results
What sets this machine apart from the other models in the class is that the bowl rotates on the stand while the attachments remain stationary. The primary attachment is a dough roller connected to an adjustable arm that can accommodate bulk batch recipes. As a result, the kneading action occurs without the motor having to bear much of the burden. If whipping is what is called for, this machine employs two whisks that circle the bowl in a triple whipping action. Unfortunately, this machine isn't easy to learn how to use, even if you've used other standing mixers in the past.
Our mixing evaluation made use of the mixing portions of a cowboy cookie recipe, frosting for cakes, and the incorporation of all the ingredients for pizza dough. Kneading was assessed separately (see below). Given the large size of the bowl and the untraditional mixing method it employs, the machine did not perform well in our standardized test. For example, our pizza dough recipe calls for mixing with the dough hook, and the unit's unique dough hook does not perform well in such applications.
This speaks to the main issues that we had with this machine, that the manufacturer does not provide suggested methods to bring about desired outcomes. Most of the other mixers in our review provide such information and it is invaluable. Proper use of the Ankarsrum is not intuitive, and the lack of guidance from the manufacturer requires experimentation to release the full capabilities of this unorthodox machine.
Ease of Use
As the name implies, the ease of use metric is an evaluation of the experience one has using the machine from taking it out of the cupboard to putting it back in. While the Ankarsrum shines in areas such as user interface and cleanliness, overall it performs about average for the class. To assess the machine we look at the dials controlling operation, the sturdiness (how does it behave at high RPMs?), and, perhaps most importantly, is it easy to keep clean. Finally, we rate the unit for the overall user experience which is largely influenced by factors such as gaps between the attachments and the bowl and the noise output.
The main appeal of the Ankarsrum Original is that it has a huge open-top bowl and the power to mix large quantities of dough. This ample space results in fewer spills and quicker clean-up. As far as sturdiness is concerned, the main unit and metal bowl are bombproof. However, the plastic mixing bowl is somewhat flimsy and distorts when mixing heavy ingredients, More concerning are the plastic gears on the whisk attachments that are prone to failure under heavy loads. One actually shredded and became unusable. The base is heavy enough to stay put, and at 85.5 dBA it is pretty loud by comparison to others in the class.
Two key findings in the overall user experience assessment focused on the bowl/ attachment gap and noise. First, the Original's attachments fit wonderfully and require little spatula work from the user. This outcome is in large part due to the unique and effective sidewall scraper fitted to the main bowl. Conversely, at 85.5 dBA, this is one of the loudest machines in the class.
Whipping is one of those kitchen tasks that are really hard to do by hand and at the same time is what often separates professional outcomes from the rest. The Ankarsrum's powerful motor and continuous speed setting dial promotes high-quality whipping. The mixing system uses two-wire whisks that rotate individually on their axes while orbiting the bowl. This action whips up egg whites and cream to great effect. However, as was discussed above, this action requires one to bring to bear the secondary bowl and the mixer attachments.
The whipping metric made use of cake and cookie recipes, as well as frosting. While we make all of our assessments as objective as possible, the whipping is the most quantifiable of the lot. The assessment measures the increase in volume produced from whipping a half cup of cream and the amount of rise observed in a cooled cake. This latter assessment is directly related to how well the eggs were aerated when whipped.
The main appeal of the Ankarsrum Original is that it has a huge bowl and the power to mix and knead large quantities of dough. The ample space leaves plenty of room for dough to rise in the bowl or to double recipes. Unlike other models in the class with smaller bowl capacities, the Original allows dough to rise in place and be kneaded periodically with the turn of a dial. The whole system is pretty sweet when one gets the hang of it.
The kneading metric relied solely on the machine's ability to work pizza dough. We also made sourdough and sandwich bread. The later two doughs were informal tests but they went a long way to show why this machine has been a standby for serious bakers for so long. The Original's unique roller arm simply allows more dough to be worked in a fashion similar to manual kneading.
The Ankarsrum Original is a costly mixing machine. If it fits your needs as a baker and you're willing to learn its nonstandard uses, then it may be worth the money. However, our testing suggests that most people will find this machine to be frustrating, difficult to use, and ultimately not worth the high cost. As such, we do not think of this machine as a value item.
In the world of stand mixers, the Ankarsrum is a bit of a black sheep. The mixing action is produced by rotating the bowl as opposed to the mixing attachment. The primary attachments are secured on an arm that swivels across the bowl opening so that the attachments can be positioned to accommodate a range of needs. In this configuration, the mixer shines. Unfortunately, many of the mixing needs of the home cook require the use of a second bowl and attachments. As such, we see this machine as a specialty item that will appeal to a narrow group of dedicated home bakers.
— Nick Miley and Michelle Powell