What is a high-speed blender? What's so special about them? Do you need one? A blender is a blender after all. You want to puree food, so you add it, turn the blender on, and that's that, right? Not really.
In this review, I look at the two most popular high-speed blender brands - Vitamix and Blendtec - and compare them with standard blenders.
Types of Blenders
Like most kitchen appliances, choosing a blender from the overwhelming number of options can feel downright daunting. You can spend as little as $50 on a new blender or well over $700. Although blenders all seem to perform the same task, there are a few different types, each with its own unique features. The four main categories of blenders include:
- High-speed/high-performance blenders are the most powerful and versatile blenders out there. They can do much more than standard blenders including making smoothies and purees, heating up soups, grinding grains into flour, processing nuts into nut butters, whipping up ice cream and sorbets, crushing ice, mixing sticky dough - all of it!
- Standard/conventional blenders are best for lower-intensity tasks, such as milkshakes and fresh fruit smoothies. Forget the hot soup or frozen-fruit ice cream.
- Personal/space-saving blenders are aimed at people who like to take their shakes and smoothies on the go because the blending container doubles as a travel jar. They are not intended for hard core blending.
- Immersion/hand blenders are more of a complement to a counter-top blender rather than a replacement. They are used to blend soups and sauces right in the pot without having to transfer everything into a counter-top blender.
So, clearly, high-speed blenders are the most versatile. But what are the main features that differentiate them from standard blenders?
High-Speed Blenders vs Standard Blenders
High speed blenders are typically professional blenders providing high wattage to produce high speed and better performance. Initially, they were found only in commercial kitchens, but now that manufacturers have been able to bring the cost down significantly, they’re a much more common item for home cooks. Of all the blenders on the market, currently, there are only two manufacturers of high-speed blenders that really stand out from the pack - Vitamix and Blendtec.
The main features that differentiate high-speed blenders from standard ones are motor speed, controls, and design.
High-speed blenders often boast 2 or 3 peak horsepower (1 horsepower equals 746 watts), which indicates the amount of power generated when the motor meets resistance. This initial boost in torque makes the start of the blending process easier, but soon thereafter (a split second), the power of the motor drops to the running horsepower. So, the benefit of a peak horsepower is minimal.
A better way to compare blenders is to convert watts to horsepower by multiplying the watts by a factor of 0.00134.
The A3500 is marketed as a 2.2-horsepower blender. However, it operates at 120 volts and 12 amps, or 1,440 watts. After multiplying the 1,440 watts by 0.00134, you get 1.93 horsepower. You get the same discrepancy with Blendtec blenders. The Blendtec Designer 725 is advertised as a staggering 3.8-horsepower blender, making it one of the most powerful blenders ever. However, it operates at 120 volts and 15 amps, or 1,800 watts, which means the motor is actually producing 2.41 horsepower.
Nonetheless, 2 horsepower is still twice as much as 1 horsepower, which is typical for standard household blenders (most standard blenders fall somewhere between 0.67 HP to 1.00 HP). The higher the wattage, the more powerful the blender should be. Foods that a high-speed blender can blend with ease are often hard on the motor of a traditional blender. Tough kale leaves, stringy parsley stems, fibrous celery - they all become ultra-creamy purees in a high-speed blender.
Blender controls are another differentiating factor. While experts say that a three-speed (low, medium, high) blender will do everything you need it to, a good number of blenders offer as many as 10 speeds plus pre-programmed functions, helping you choose whether you need to puree, liquefy, or crush.
The A3500 is equipped with a 10-speed dial and five program settings for the most common recipes, including smoothies, frozen desserts, soups, purees, and a cleaning cycle. The control panel has also two switches - on/off and pulse. The Blendtec Designer 725 offers 100 different speed settings and six program settings, including cycles optimized for smoothies, salsa, ice cream, whole juice, hot soups, and self-cleaning. The 100-speed touch slider can also be set to pulse for an added burst of power at any speed.
I have used several blenders with pre-programmed settings and didn't find them all that useful, to be honest. They do make certain tasks more hands-off, so you can start your blender and walk away, knowing it will stop when the cycle is done. However, a smoothie takes only about 40 seconds to blend and crushing ice takes just a few pulses, so the luxury of walking away while the blender works seems a bit overstated.
The variable speed settings, on the other hand, make up for the higher price tag. The ability to slowly adjust between speeds while blending means that you get the exact consistency and texture you're after. You’ll see how the texture of your ingredients change, by starting the blend on 2, then increasing gradually to 8 over 30 seconds. Or starting on 5 but giving it a 30-second blast on 10 to finish things off. The combination of power and functionality is what sets a high-speed blender apart.
Beyond wattage and controls, the feature that often distinguishes one blender model from another is the design, including the size and material of the blender container, blades, and even the tightness of the lid.
Blender containers come in three materials - poly-carbonate, glass, and stainless steel. High-speed blenders come almost exclusively with poly-carbonate or stainless steel containers because the friction and power of a high-speed blender can make glass shatter. I really wish came up with a glass container because glass is see-through, scratch-resistant, and less likely to retain odors. However, as of right now, you can only find glass containers in conventional blenders.
More important than the material is the shape.
The brand that stands out in this regard is the Vitamix with its tall and narrow container at 20.25 inches/51.44 cm tall and 4 inches/10.16 cm across. As the blender blade turns, it move the contents of the blender into a vortex. The tall, narrow design keeps food more contained and toward the bottom of the jar, producing silky smooth results. In short and wide containers, the vortex is much more chaotic, splashing food content all over the jar. The wide (chaotic) vortex leads to either poorly blended food (in standard blenders) or blends that are too aerated (in high-speed blenders). There is a drawback to the height of the Vitamix tall containers though: they won’t fit on a counter beneath a standard 18-inch-tall cabinet.
Personally, I prefer the tall and narrow Vitamix container. However, a lot of professional users have reported having more versatility with the Vitamix short and wide container (which is perhaps why the Vitamix A3500 comes with the low profile container). The landscape of Vitamix containers is rather vast and it's important to note that not all containers are compatible with all Vitamix models.
Finally, all Vitamix and Blendtec blenders use metal for the gear coupling on their blender jars and the drive socket on the blender base. This is one big reason these blenders last so long - the metal won't wear down like plastic does in cheaper standard blenders.
High-speed blenders come with full-hardened, high-grade stainless-steel blades. Both Vitamix and Blendtec blenders have fixed blades that are blunt (what mixes thing up is the powerful motor). The only difference between these two brands is the design - Vitamix uses four-tipped blades whereas Blendtec has two prong blades.
All standard blenders have removable blades that are sharp (which is a problem because they dull over time and become less and less effective). Those blades are designed in such a way that they don't create a vortex like Vitamix or Blendtec blenders. Therefore, the ingredients on top do not mix with those at the bottom and vice-versa.
When it comes to lids, the most important thing is how tightly they fit. Vitamix is leading the game here because all the lids either lock or snap in place to keep the lid securely blending. Blendtec as well as the majority of standard blenders come with a lid that presses in place. The flaw in this design is that it if you overfill the jar, it may not stay on as securely or even pop off.
Do You Need a High-Speed Blender
So, now that you have more information on high-speed blenders, the questions is - do you need one? Is it worth the extra cost? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you make the investment:
- Can your traditional blender keep up with you? Have you gone through a series of blenders that have quickly become busted, broken, or burned out? Many decent quality appliances can’t keep up with a truly dedicated blending enthusiast. If this sounds like you, then the answer should be getting clearer.
- How often will you use your blender? Are you looking to mix up the occasional margarita, or do you want to whip up soup for a family of six? If you plan to blend sparingly, a standard blender is a safe bet. But if you plan on making smoothies with a variety of tough or fibrous ingredients every day, you will probably benefit from a powerful blender.
- Are you interested in cooking with whole foods? High-speed blenders have the functionality to grind grains into flours, nuts into creamy butters, or seeds into plant milks. Sure, you can buy all these ingredients in the store, but if you would like to come up with your own blends (and save money in the process), it's time to pull the trigger.
High-Speed Blender Brands
As I already mentioned, currently there are only two manufacturers of high-speed blenders that really stand out from the pack - Vitamix and Blendtec. These brands are frequently the "go to" for commercial operations like restaurants and smoothie shops which stand as a testament to their superior performance and durability under the demands of high-volume usage.
In my testing, I have always preferred the Vitamix. The Blendtec might be great at pulverizing an iPhone (I am referring to the "Will It Blend" campaign), but it doesn't mean it's great at making smoothies. I have a written a comprehensive Vitamix vs Blendtec review, in which I explain all the similarities and differences between these two brands and compare their products based on features, design, price, and performance.
The best way to find the right blender for you is to do your homework, read reviews and shop around.
This post was created in partnership with Vitamix (a brand I’ve loved and used for years) and contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own.