Thursday, December 25, 2014


Ok,  maybe it's not a very Christmas-y sort of thing to do, but today I spent experimenting with kitchen appliances. Perhaps a little background would help here. Two days ago I had to run into town, and stopped by the crappy Goodwill store. Why is it crappy you may ask? Well, besides having the mass quantities of clothing that is typical of many Goodwill stores, they have very little of anything else. And recently they've started selling "new" stuff. Think Walmart or dollar store made in China junk in beat-up, taped together boxes, with big warning signs saying DO NOT OPEN, AS IS, UNTESTED. The prices are very close to what these items sell for new based on the original price tags on many of them, at best 15% off of the new price but often not discounted at all. They also have a lot of new off-brand stuff like dish soap, aerosol air fresheners, soap, toothpaste and deodorant along with cheap made in China seasonal crap and plastic wares etc. I don't know if this is common everywhere or just here. I rarely go into a Goodwill, although I've often thought that I should start my own chain of stores where someone donates all your inventory and you pay your employees peanuts, plus the tax benefits of being a 501(c)(3)charitable organization. Seems like a great business plan to me.

Anyway, I decided to stop in, just to see what if they had anything laying around that I could list on eBay. They happened to be putting out new merchandise and there was an older couple poking through the mostly plastic items on the rolling cart the employee was pushing around. I glanced at the cart, and... be still my beating heart, what it that I see on the bottom shelf tucked behind a dozen coffee mugs?? It's stainless steel, tall and narrow, with a motor at the base... could it really be what I think it is? I practically ran over to the cart and grabbed it off the bottom before the old guy could spot it... YES!!!  It's a Vitamix blender! An early Vitamix 3600 to be exact, with the spigot on the side of the container! I tried not to show my enthusiasm as I asked the employee if it worked. She said she had no  idea, they don't test things. Um, yeah, it's soooo hard to plug in an appliance and flip the switch to see if it works. *eye roll*

I looked at the price tag, it read $3.99! I figured at that price even if it didn't work I could sell the blender container on eBay and make out fine. I hugged that thing all the way to the check-out and tucked it in the front seat for the drive home.

Once home I plugged it in and it ran like a champ through all it's speeds. The chrome base is a bit pitted after 30-40 years of use, and the rubber gasket around the lid needs to be replaced, but no leaks from the spigot. I spent 20 minutes giving it a good cleaning then spent some time looking it up online.

It blends, obviously, but it has surgical steel blades that are blunt edged and not designed to be sharpened, it's more of a hammermill than a straight blender. It has forward AND reverse speeds, which you can switch between instantly, so besides just blending and mixing it can grind grains and seeds, juice fruits and veggies, and knead bread dough. I have a Vitamix Professional 300 that I absolutely love and use at least once a day, and I bought the old one with the intention of reselling it, but I'm rather intrigued by it. I dislike plastic, which the blender containers (and base) of my new Vitamix are made of, and they don't make stainless steel containers for the newer models. Both models will make smoothies and ice cream, and produce hot soup through just the speed of the blades, but the old one dispenses them from the spigot. Both will grind grains and seeds, although the plastic container on my new one is already quite scratched from these activities, along with being a bit discolored from different food items that have been processed in it. There is a dry mix container for the new model that has a different blade that's said to be better for grinding flour and seeds, but so far the wet blade/container has been working fine for me, and the second container sells for $75-100 depending on source. 

So, how to decide what to do? I decided to do a side-by-side comparison.

I've never made bread dough in the new model, so that's what I tried. I used the multi-grain wheat bread recipe in the old model instruction manual. It calls for a lot of meals - flax seed meal, oatmeal flour, sunflower meal, but I just added the whole seeds to the flour. I don't mind if there's a bit of crunch in my bread, but both blenders ground it into a fine flour with no problem. If I want whole seeds I may have to knead them in by hand at the end. It called for rye flour which I don't have on hand, so I substituted almond meal.

Both blenders did a good job of kneading the dough, although the old straight-sided container was easier to scrape down than the new one with the ridges in it. The dough also seemed to stick to the plastic much more than the stainless, and there was a LOT more dough stuck under the blades when I dumped the dough out into the bread pans and it was hard to get it out from under them. There was a bit of dry flour in the bottom of the old one which came out on top of the dough in the pan. I should have pressed the dough down into the blades better when kneading it. I just pressed the loose flour into the top of the unbaked loaf, and you can see it in the photos.

The directions said to let it rise until double, which seemed a bit low to me. The yeast here has some age on it as I haven't made bread in a long time, and that may be part of the issue as well as the house being pretty cool. At any rate, after it had risen for 20 or 25 minutes and had doubled in height it seemed to be starting to collapse so I put it in the oven.

Both loaves came out about the same height, with the extra bit of flour still visible on the old model  loaf, and both were pretty flat by my standards.

When my kids were young I used to make 20 loaves of bread every week, that's a lot of hand kneading. I need to dig out my old bread recipe and try that along with some fresh yeast before I make a decision I think. Knowing now about pressing the dough into the container more firmly on the old model should eliminate the little bit of dry ingredients left over, but it smelled and tasted just fine! They both did!

The two loaves came out almost identical, which I had expected, the trial was more for user friendliness and ease.The old machine did get a bit of a hot smell, maybe due to my pulsing it too fast or not allowing enough time between pulses, the dough also got a bit warm. The new one has also smelled hot a time or two in the past when I've worked it long and hard. Clean up was easy with both models, just add water and a drop of dish soap and blend. I was concerned that maybe the inlet for the spigot would clog up with dough and be hard to clean, but it seems the contents are only pushed into the opening when the blades are in forward, and the dough is kneaded in reverse. The new machines only have forward speeds, and the wet blade that I have is designed to pull food down into the blades instead of up like the dry blade which would account for all the dough stuck underneath the blades.

I bought the old one with the intent of reselling it. I could sell the new one instead, and make more money but I also paid a LOT more for it brand new and would likely lose a couple hundred dollars selling it. The old one is taller but the height makes no difference to me. The old one is stainless, and I really hate plastic. The new one has a handy way to wrap the cord to the desired length and store the extra underneath it, the old one seriously has a power cord that measures 6' 9" in length with no obvious method of dealing with all the extra. I'm wondering if it was replaced at some point as I can't see a manufacturer putting a cord that long on a kitchen appliance, but it would be easy enough to replace it with a shorter cord. The old one did have a hot smell at the end of the kneading process, so it will need a few more workouts to see if it's an ongoing problem or just user error. I'm not sure how easy parts are to come by (like a new gasket for the lid), and the warranty on this 1970's model is obviously expired. The new one has a 7 year warranty, with about 6 years remaining. From what I've read it seems if you send Vitamix an old model they will discount a new model by $100, instead of repairing the old ones anymore.  I would hate to sell the new one and then have the old one go belly up with no repair options.

So... I still don't know what to do. Perhaps they'll both live on the counter for a while longer as I continue the side-by-side comparisons (and I've got soooo much counter space you know  lol). Out with the old and in with the new? Or keep the old-timer with it's stainless steel build? What would you do?


  1. I would keep em both myself. two is one and one is none ya know :)

    The Goodwill here is crap too, except sometimes I can find some good book deals. That's about it.

  2. I too would keep both. You can make a good case for selling either one, and the thing I would worry about if I kept the older one is that it could just conk out sooner rather than later.

  3. i have become a member of the need one, buy two school of thought. t has worked out way better in the long run