The Best Blenders of 2017 for Smoothies, Shakes and More
Looking for the best blender you can buy today? We spent over 200 hours researching and testing the 7 of the top blenders out there to find the greatest. With late night infomercials and in-store demos touting the virtues of their products, it can be hard to wade through the hype and select the right one for you, whether it's a high-performance model with the horsepower to rival a weed-whacker or a budget-friendly model that can crush ice without crushing your wallet. To help make this choice, we made smoothies, frozen drinks, hot soups, nut butter and more in each one, comparing the results and quality of the products in a direct side-by-side comparison. We're here to help you find the perfect blender for your needs and budget.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated March 2017
We've kept an eye on the blender market and we stand by our current recommendations. All of our award-winning blenders do an exceptional job and will more than suffice for all of your blending needs, though we will add any additional products to this review if they look like they are contenders to dethrone the award winners. Also, we also have added charts and graphs to make it easier to differentiate between models and help you pick the perfect product.
Best Overall Blender
Vitamix Professional 750
Read full review: Vitamix Professional 750
Best Bang for the Buck
KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond
Read full review: KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond
Analysis and Test Results
We put the best blenders currently available on the market today through a series of exhaustive, side-by-side tests to see which models were worth their salt and which ones couldn't cut it.
Our comprehensive testing process was split into six weighted rating metrics: Smoothies, Ease of Use, Frozen Drinks, Puree, Grind, and Noise We then scored each model in the above categories, using these subscores to determine the overall ranking. The following sections give more detail about how each product did in each test, allowing you to pick the best model for your blending needs. in order to determine which ones are really worth the hefty price tags, and which ones are more hype than high performance. However, we did have to complete one task before we started evaluating.
Contaminated Smoothie? Gross!
You may have heard contamination issues with Vitamix and other manufacturers in recent news. Before we began testing each model we wanted to make sure they were clean and didn't have the dreaded black flecks problem. (Small particles of Teflon were coming off the bottom O-ring during use, leaving black flecks in people's smoothies. Vitamix has supposedly corrected this issue.) Before using or even washing any of the containers, we filled them with two cups of warm water and ran them for 60 seconds. All of the models in this review except the Oster Versa left small black flecks in the water, and some needing two or three runs until the water was clear. After all our testing was finished and we had used each unit multiple times, we ran the test again, and each one was clear and fleck free. Whether these initial particles were Teflon, or dirt, or who knows what, we couldn't say, but it was a good reminder: It is crucial to thoroughly wash and clean any kitchen appliance before use!
Ease of Use
Ease of Use is one of the most important things to consider when making a new purchase. If it's too complicated or you have to break out the manual every time you go to use it, you're not likely to in the first place. On the other hand, the new touch-and-go presets really increase the convenience factor, and you don't even have to hang around for 60 seconds while your smoothie blends. Digital timers also make them easier to use, particularly when following a recipe that calls for precise blending time. You can see which products were the easiest to use in the chart below.
The Blendtec Designer 675 was the highest rated model in this category. The touchscreen display and presets are easy to understand (the smoothie cup is for smoothies, the ice cream cone is for frozen desserts, etc.), and the timer counts up for the variable speed slider and down for presets. If you're using a preset and not sure if your drink is done, you can also hit the "+10" button to add 10 more seconds to it. The whole thing is small and low profile, easily tucking into kitchen cabinets, and it's attractive enough to stay out on the countertop.
The Breville Boss was also easy to operate, and the presets are labeled with words as opposed to symbols, making it even more obvious which one to use. But the Vitamix Professional 750, not so much. You'd think that a $600 model would have a timer, but you'd be wrong. Even the next level up Vitamix Professional 780 (not reviewed here) which has a touchscreen display (and costs $720!) does not have a timer. We guess the people at Vitamix HQ don't believe in that sort of thing, but we certainly find it useful.
The model that was the most challenging to use was the Ninja Ultima. There's no timer or presets only three speeds, and we had to keep checking back in the manual to see if we needed the vertical insert blades or not depending on what we were making. But the biggest issue we had with this machine was the lid. It's designed as a safety mechanism, and the motor only engages once the lid is locked down, which engages a pin. This machine moves around so much during use, particularly when grinding and pulsing, that it causes the lid to pop up, shutting off the motor. We ended up having to hold it down while using it so as to get a longer-than-five-seconds run of the motor, and to make sure it didn't wiggle its way off the counter. Definitely not the kind that you can turn on and walk away from for a minute.
For most people, smoothies are the most popular and frequent way they use their blender. You might only make a soup or grind some nuts every couple of weeks, but morning smoothies are a regular routine for blender users and as such, we gave this category the most weight in determining our overall scores. Some smoothies aren't that difficult to process — if you can mash a ripe mango or banana with a fork then it's not going to pose much of a challenge for an electric motor — but tougher produce requires a strong motor, fast blades, and a good vortex (the way the liquid whirls around in the container). We put each model through two smoothie tests to gauge their performance with a variety of difficult fruits and vegetables. You can see how the products scored in the graphic below.
Green smoothies have been gaining in popularity as a way to get more greens and fiber into our diets. They also require a powerful motor that can break down the fiber in leafy greens and create a uniform mixture that is enjoyable to drink. Green smoothies take some getting used to, particularly for some kids (and adults!) who have an aversion to new things or green drinks in general, and a chunky or flaky green smoothie is probably not going to convince them that it'll taste good. We used a prepackaged frozen mix for this test in order to include the same amount of greens (kale and broccoli) and fruits (pineapple and green apple) in each one.
The differences in product output for this test was really striking. First, we looked as how well each model broke down the ingredients. The high-performance Blendtec Designer 675 and Vitamix Professional 750 made perfectly blended smoothies with no leftover chunks or flakes. Conventional models, like the Oster Versa and the main jar of the Nutri Ninja DUOwith Auto-iQ, couldn't process the greens as effectively, leaving small broccoli flowers and flakes of kale in the mix. The smoothies from those products were also very thick and drank more like a slushie than a smooth drink. The Breville Boss made a creamy and vibrant green smoothie, but there were a few chunks of unprocessed pineapple in the strainer afterward, which surprised us considering how well-blended the rest of the smoothie was. The KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond also surprised us in this category with how well it fared considering it has a significantly less powerful motor, as it made a drinkable smoothie with only some small unblended chunks.
Another thing we considered was the color of the end product. Just because you put greens in your smoothie doesn't mean that it'll actually end up green afterward, but it is a good indicator of whether the cell walls of the vegetables were crushed enough to release the chlorophyll. The Nutri Ninja cup made a more well-blended smoothie than the main Ninja jar, but it was much paler than the green color of the Vitamix smoothie.
Other smoothies turned a sickly shade of green, likely from oxidization during blending, which will break down the nutrients in the smoothie. In fact, in the great juicing vs blending debate, oxidization is one of the issues that tip the scales in juicing's favor, as the 60 seconds that it takes to blend your greens might damage the nutrients inside more than the 1 second it takes for them to pass through a juicer. You can read more about the juicing vs blending in our Buying Advice article.
Berry seeds are notoriously tough to break down (and annoying to drink), so we wanted to see how the different blenders handled the tiny seeds and also the skins, using a blackberry/raspberry/blueberry mix. Once again, the high-performance models, like the Vitamix Professional 750, really showed their worth, with almost no seeds in the strainer, and those that were left were very small.
The Blendtec Designer 675 and Ninja Ultima also did a great job with the berry smoothie, but here again is where The Breville Boss fell a little short of the competition, with bigger seeds and more of them overall. And the Oster Versa and Nutri Ninja cup had a lot of seeds and skins left over, which was not too pleasant to drink.
It's hot, it's summer, it's happy hour on the home patio, and nothing is more refreshing than a frozen cocktail, but these deceptively simple drinks can actually be quite difficult to make. We asked some professional bartenders for their tips on making a perfect frozen margarita, and they all agreed that this was one of the more challenging drinks to make. If you get one in a bar or restaurant that is perfectly slushy from top to bottom, it most likely came out of a specialty frozen drink mixer (like the slushie machines at a gas station). Making the same thing in a home blender is a bit of a challenge — the ratio of ice to liquids is difficult to perfect, if you don't blend it for long enough you'll have large ice chunks in your drink, and if you blend it for too long the ice can be completely pulverized and even melted by the heat that the machine generates. We made (and drank) a lot of frozen drinks for this review (tough job, but someone's gotta do it!), and came away thinking that the perfect homemade frozen drink depends on both the blender and the operator's skill level (unlike say, pureeing a soup, which doesn't require much expertise). You can see the ranking of each model at making frozen drinks in the chart below, something particularly noteworthy to all of you aspiring home bartenders out there!
Overall, though, this was the one category where the less powerful conventional models tended to outperform the high-performance ones. We used the same recipe and length of blending in all of the models and compared the results. The Nutri Ninja DUO with Auto-iQ made our favorite frozen marg, with a near perfect blend. The Ninja Ultima, on the other hand, heated up the contents so much that there was no ice left in the mix. We also liked the drink made in the KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond, which resulted in more slush than the Vitamix Professional 750 (see photo below).
This doesn't mean that you can't make a good frozen drink in a powerful model, but you do need to watch the running time (better to use the Pulse feature or a medium speed than a high-speed preset function). Also, whole fruit margaritas and daiquiris produce better results, with a more consistent slush, than using only a margarita mix and some tequila. So, the next time you have friends over ditch the mix and add a whole orange and lime to your tequila for a great cocktail. Finally, on the advice of our bartender friends, unless a bar has a slushie machine for their margaritas, you'll be a lot better off with one on the rocks.
Whether you're making soups, spreads, or baby food, blenders are a handy kitchen tool to have around for their ability to puree. If you are an enterprising home chef, this might be your primary use for one, and you can wow your dinner guests with your complex sauces and velvety bisques, if you buy the right one, of course. You can see which products were the best at pureeing in the following graphic.
We chose to test a carrot soup recipe, as carrots are full of fiber and difficult to process smooth even when fully cooked.
After processing each batch for three minutes, we poured the soup through a fine mesh sieve, noting how easily it passed through, and how much pulp was left over. Once again, the Vitamix Professional 750 stole the show; the carrot soup passed through the sieve almost without any stirring and was delicious and creamy (below, left). The Blendtec Designer 675 and the Breville Boss also made a great soup, but the Nutri Ninja DUO with Auto-iQ could not complete the task to the same level. This machine had a lot of thick pulp left in the sieve and was not nearly as smooth as the soup made in the high-performance models (below, right). The KitchenAid Diamond also had a lot of leftover pulp.
A cool feature that some of the models in this review have is the Soup preset. This is typically a six-minute long cycle that is designed to puree your ingredients and then bring them up to a hot serving temperature. This function is a convenient way to get a hot dinner on the table in minutes. For example, you can take some steamed asparagus, chicken or vegetable stock, and a splash of cream, and in six minutes you have a delicious, creamy and hot soup! This is a great way to use up vegetables in the fridge and to avoid the sodium and preservatives found in can soup.
Your soups will be tastier if you cook some components first, like onions, garlic, and spices, as that helps to develop different layers of flavor.
High-performance blenders try to justify their exorbitant prices by touting their ability to grind nuts and seeds into butter and mill whole grains into flour. We decided to assess each model's ability to turn almonds into almond butter. You can see which models were the best at grinding in the chart below.
First, we roasted a big bag of raw almonds and then ground two cups in each model with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of oil. While this was a big endeavor in each model, as the process requires a lot of scraping down the sides of the jar and getting chopped nuts that are stuck under the blades out of them, once again the Vitamix impressed us with both the ease of making the nut butter and the quality of the end product. Some models, like the Oster Versa and the KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond, made a creamy and smooth butter, but took so much time and scraping that we almost gave up. Others, like the Ninja Ultima, could not get the nuts to grind past a coarse blend.
We were also slightly disappointed with the Blendtec Designer 675's grinding ability. The nut mixture kept getting stuck underneath the blades, which was difficult to remove, and even once the nuts started "churning," the upturned sections of the blades seemed to push the chunkier bits to the corners. We'd try to scrape them out, but they'd go straight back in once we turned the machine on, and we eventually gave up and settled for a chunkier version.
We were curious to see if making our own almond butter was an economical choice. The price of pre-made almond butter has increased significantly since the drought in California worsened, and while that also increased the price of whole almonds, we assumed that it would be cheaper to make our own. Actually, we were wrong. A three-pound bag of unroasted almonds cost us $14.49 at Costco, while their 27-ounce jar of almond butter cost $10.99. After a bit of testing, and math, we figured that two cups of almonds made about one cup of butter and that it took us a whole three-pound bag to fill up one jar. Throw in your time and elbow grease (this is a labor intensive process), and it's hard to justify, unless you want to make some funky homemade creation that you can't buy in a store, like a chia/sunflower/cashew combo, or add in some fun extras like maple syrup or chocolate sauce.
Blenders are notorious for being loud and annoying, and we evaluated the different models in this review on their noise level for a couple of reasons. First, hearing loss is a serious issue, and second, if your blender is so loud that it wakes your whole household, you'll be hesitant to use it in the mornings or when little ones are napping. We took noise meter readings with every test that we did and then averaged the results. (See chart below).
We assumed that the more powerful motors would be the loudest, but the Vitamix Professional 750 with its 1440 Watt motor was actually the quietest one, with an average noise of 103.1 decibels. The KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond and the Ninja Ultima also ran on the quiet side at just under 104 decibels, though the Ultima emitted a high-pitched whine that maybe wasn't high in decibels but was high in annoyance factor. The Breville Boss mostly ran around 106-108 decibels, which was noticeably louder than the Vitamix, and it had a peak level of 123.8 during the grind testing, enough to make us want to put ear protection on. In fact, OSHA has very strict guidelines about noise exposure in the workplace, as hearing loss begins at 80 decibels and prolonged exposure beyond that can really damage your ears. While a loud 60-second smoothie every morning might not be enough to do too much damage, by the end of our testing period we really appreciated the quieter models.
We've all gone into a fancy cafe and seen tantalizingly delicious combinations of fresh fruits and veggies splayed across a chalkboard, and then launched into an internal debate about whether it's worth spending $8 on a smoothie. Modern blenders bring the power of making such concoctions into your own kitchen, along with a powerful tool for making flour and mixing up batter as well. However, with the huge range of options available and large disparities in price, it can be difficult to identify the model that will actually meet your needs. We hope this presentation of our testing results has provided you with a clear path to green smoothie nirvana. If you're still not positive, take a look at our buying advice article. It dives even deeper into the details and should clear up any lingering questions you may have.
— Cam McKenzie Ring
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