Bosch Universal Plus Kitchen Machine Review
Pros: Large open-top bowl, light weight, powerful
Cons: Limited speed settings, lots of plastic parts, secondary motor
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Our Analysis and Test Results
What sets the Bosch Universal Plus apart from the competition is that it is an open-top mixer with two motors. The primary motor is high-torque and drives the standard attachments. The secondary motor is high-speed and is specific to aftermarket accessories such as a blender. In some ways, this mixer is more like a food processor in that the wire whips are better at breaking-up foods than they are for mixing. Moreover, the standard secondary motor implies investment in accessories. However, the 800-watts of power it packs makes most standard tasks a breeze.
While the Bosch Universal Plus unusual design puts it on the periphery of the stand mixer market, it will nonetheless out-perform most of the models in the class. This is in large part due to its beefy 800-watt motor, but also the triple whipping action that will mix most ingredients with the best of the class. To test this we run three mixing tasks that focus on specific mixing actions and outcomes that can be objectively rated. Based on the breadth and importance of this metric, we weighted the results to account for 30% of the product's overall score.
The first of our three mixing tests consists of mixing chocolate chips, nuts, oats, and coconut flakes into dough in a delicious concoction called cowboy cookies. To receive a high rating in this evaluation, the mixer must be capable of evenly distributing the ingredients throughout the dough without masticating them in the process. The Bosch performs admirably in this undertaking. Interestingly, the user's manual calls for the dough hook to be used for this task, and it provides the firm, even action needed. However, some spatula work was required of the user.
While the cookie dough test focuses on integrating large, solid ingredients into a soft medium, the pizza dough recipe reveals how well the machine can incorporate wet and dry ingredients into an even dough. This recipe calls for everything to be mixed with the dough hook attachment, which can be problematic, but we held the mixers to this standard as it's nice to be able to run through a whole recipe without changing attachments. The Bosch Universal does not take to this task very well. Once the dough begins to form it globs onto the attachment and spins around with it requiring the user to scrape it off to get the right action.
The final evaluation in this metric is the mixing of a basic buttercream frosting. The Bosch's triple whip action brings butter, cream, and powdered sugar together quickly and thoroughly. The butter was well aerated, producing light, soft frosting.
Ease of Use
The ease of use metric is different from the other three metrics that we use to assess standing mixers. While the mixing, whipping and kneading metrics look at the different tasks that a mixer can perform, this metric is a broad analysis of how easy (or difficult) it is to interact with the machine. In the course of our testing we use the mixers in many different capacities and have to clean them repeatedly. As a result, all the little design flaws emerge. We categorize our critiques under the headings of interface, sturdiness, user experience, and cleanliness. The sum of these four submetrics contribute 30% to the product's overall score.
The Bosch Universal earns itself a slightly above average score in this metric. The user interface consists of a single knob with 4 speeds, plus a pulse option. It is intuitive and well placed. However, one of the problems that we ran into is that the lowest speed was too high for some of the more delicate items we worked with in our test recipes. This issue was multiplied by the super effective triple whip action and the powerful 800-watt motor.
Despite the far below average 12.3-pound weight of the Universal, the machine is quite sturdy. Where some of the competitors require a lot of weight to secure the vibrating machine to the surface it is standing on, Bosch uses suction cup feet to good effect. However, if you do not have a smooth countertop, this might not work to the fullest effect. The bowl, though made of plastic, is burly and left testers with little concerns about its long-term durability.
Moving on to the user experience submetric, one of our main concerns is how much the user has to bring the spatula to bare when the mixer fails to grab and incorporate the ingredients poured into its bowl. This issue is largely the product of a wide gap between the mixer attachment and the bowl. The Bosch doesn't suffer in this regard, but it does tend to fling ingredients when set to its higher speeds. It's a good thing that this mixer has a well-designed splash guard that, unlike many other competitors, fits snuggly and locks in place.
This brings us to the cleanliness of the Universal. As we've said, the splash guard helps keep the contents of the bowl where they belong. Additionally, the bowl is easy to hand wash and is dishwasher safe. The body is smooth plastic with rounded corners, making it easy to wipe down as well.
Accounting for 25% of the mixer's total score, the whipping metric assesses the quality of the whipping action for both egg whites and whipped cream. The Bosch delivered a below average performance in this metric as its triple whip action, powerful motor, and limited speed settings quickly overwork these delicate mediums.
The cream assessment is a direct measure of the increase in volume from an unwhipped half cup of cream to whipped cream with stiff peaks. The Bosch quickly over-whipped the cream, nearly turning it into butter. The egg whites suffered similarly. We used the whipped egg whites as a leavener in a cake sponge and measured how much the sponge rose and whether the center fell. While the rise was average for the class, the sponge fell significantly in the center.
Kneading is a very demanding task, and some machines are not cut out to do the work. Moreover, not all dough hook attachments are created equal. To assess the quality of the kneading action we used pizza dough. Due to the narrow scope of this metric, the outcome of the assessment contributes just 15% to the product's overall score.
The Bosch is a powerful machine capable of working the densest and heaviest of dough. However, it did not fare well in this assessment because the dough stuck to the dough hook and, as a result, was worked very little. In part, this is due to the bowl's smooth interior which limited the purchase needed for the hook to do its work. It's also the nature of the dough because this attachment worked great mixing the cookie dough. That said, with some human input you can get the machine to perform this task.
Establishing the value of the Bosch Universal Plus is difficult because it is a high-quality machine with a price tag that matches, yet it's not a traditional standing mixer. Given the assessment above, if this machine fits your needs, we have no reservations saying that it's definitely worth the money. However, if you will be kneading a lot of dough or whipping frequently there are less expensive machines that will render better results.
The Bosch Universal Plus Kitchen Machine delivered an average performance in our stand mixer assessment. Were it a traditional stand mixer in the vain of KitchenAid, this performance would not warrant recognition as a notable product. However, the Universal is not marketed as a stand mixer, but more as a swiss army knife for the kitchen. Despite this generalist leaning, it can hold its own in the class. More than just managing to perform standing mixer tasks, this machine has a convenient design and lots of interesting aftermarket attachments.
— Nick Miley and Michelle Powell