What to say about the Blendtec TotalBlender? I purchased the blender, with the WildSide jar back in April. Since then it has become the second most frequently appliance in my home. I absolutely love this machine.
When it comes to purchasing a high-end home-use blender, there really are only two options: Blendtec or Vita-Mix. Both of these are very good blenders, but there are a few points about the Blendtec that made it my first choice.
Size: The Blendtec is a little bit smaller than the Vita-Mix. It is also lighter, which makes a big difference when you are shipping something to Japan. In researching before purchase I noted that some people had trouble with the amount of space the Vita-Mix took up in the kitchen. It stands quite a bit taller; too tall for some kitchen cupboards. As it turns out, my Blendtec lives on my kitchen counter, and had I purchased a Vita-Mix, it probably would have as well, so this is not really an issue.
Power: The Blendtec has a slightly more powerful motor than the Vita-Mix – but it is overkill, and I only find myself using the number 10 setting on very rare occasions.
Engineering: Both blenders take a slightly different approach to rendering fruits and vegetables to pulp. The Vita-Mix features four star-shaped blades, the Blendtec features one long one. With the Vita-Mix, you use the included tamper to push food down onto the blades; the Blendtec creates a vortex that, in a perfect world, sucks the food down onto the blade. Personally, I liked the idea of having one less thing to clean up and figured that a tamper, should I ever find myself in need of one, would not be too difficult to make.
What can it do?
I have made all kinds of things with my Blendtec: smoothies, dips, whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, tahini, juice, soup, sorbets, pancake batter, hot chocolate, the list goes on. The possibilities really are endless.
The advantage that it has over lesser blenders is its power output. It is 4-5 times more powerful than most standard kitchen blenders. In the kitchen, that translates into less work. Foods that go into the blender do not need as much preparation, but they do still need a little bit. I have found that apples work best in quarters and that carrots benefit from being chopped into a few pieces before blending. All of this helps to make a better vortex and ensure a better final result.
Flours: The vortex method means that the Blendtec is able to make flour using the regular jar (the Vita-Mix can make flour using a dry jar). I do quite a bit of baking, so I tried making my own flour. The results were pretty good – obviously not as good as what one would get from a grain mill, but perfectly acceptable. Thus far, I have made whole wheat flour, brown rice flour and corn flour – and have been satisfied with my results each time.
Cold stuff: The power and speed of the Blendtec mean that it is able to make sorbets. It really is as simple as sticking some fruit, sugar and a bunch of ice into the jar and pressing a button.
Hot stuff: When running at top speed, the Blendtec generates a lot of heat. It is engineered in such a way as to take advantage of this fact. The soups, syrups and fondues button can make hot food out of cold ingredients.
Thus far, I have used it to make tomato soup, sweet potato soup and hot chocolate. With the hot chocolate, I stuck 600 mL of milk and a handful of chunks of dark chocolate into the jar with a pinch of salt, a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon and a shot glass full of cream. The result was some of the best hot chocolate that I have ever drunk.
These days, I tend to heat up my ingredients first – unless I am feeling really lazy. The soups cycle takes 90 seconds to complete, and if you are using cold ingredients, you need to run through it three times. That is a long time, with a lot of noise that could be saved by simply heating up a pot of milk or water.
Drinks and smoothies: I originally bought my Blendtec to make smoothies. It was part of a lifestyle change that saw me drop around 8kg in a little over a month. The Blendtec does an outstanding job in this regard. The only vegetable that I found it to struggle with was carrot. It has no trouble tearing through a carrot, but throwing in whole carrots tends to yield one or two chunks in the finished product. Chopping up the carrots into smaller pieces (quarters or eighths) before blending and pressing the smoothie button a second time eliminates this issue.
If you are not sure about all the terminology when it comes to Blendtec jars, there are now three. For general use, the two that matter are the WildSide and the FourSide. The WildSide is a slightly wider jar (they added a fifth side behind the handle) with a slightly longer blade (4” as opposed to 3”). They will both get the job done. I picked the WildSide because it can hold a little more volume.
The third BlendTec jar is the Twister. It is a little more expensive and is designed for thicker recipes. It features a twistable lid with tines that help to push food back down onto the blades. This is useful for things like nut butters and hummus – which require a little more work with the regular jars.
The innards of the TotalBlender are beautifully laid out. I know, because a power surge triggered by a recent earthquake knocked out its main power switch. I was weighing up my repair options and ended up coming to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to try to fix it myself. I replaced the plastic rocker switch with a heavy-duty stainless steel toggle switch and it worked like nothing had happened. The toggle switch cost $3 and adds a bit of character.
The switch burning out was not a design fault, I didn’t have it earthed and the power surge was powerful enough to melt the switch, so it likely saved the electronics. At any rate, I consulted the iFixIt guide, found out how to pop the switch off and was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of room inside the case for minor modifications. The wiring inside the Blendtec uses spade connectors, so no soldering is required as long as you buy the right sort of switch.
The image below shows the newly installed toggle switch. I still need to get around to making a cover.
What I love about it
There is a lot to love about the Blendtec. For such a powerful machine, it is remarkably compact. The single-piece jars are easy to clean. I literally rinse out the jar, fill it half-full with warm water and detergent, hit pulse for 10 seconds and rinse again.
With a little practice it is possible to get the vortex working nearly every time, which means you can turn it on and do something else.
While I was nervous about changing the switch over, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to fix and how much spare room there was under the case.
What I don’t like about it
The noise! Running the Blendtec at top speed is like powering up a jet engine in your kitchen. It takes some getting used to. It is worth noting that Blendtec has redesigned the Total Blender, and they claim that they have been able to bring the noise level down.
The Blendtec is a near perfect appliance. Were it not for the volume-level, it would get a perfect 5-star rating – but a motor that powerful is going to be noisy, so we can live with that.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
What other people are saying
Amazon: 4.3 out of 5 stars
This is an awesome blender. It blends stuff like you’ve never seen before and I am really pleased with it. But holy cow is it LOUD!! The cat hates me. I got a pair of earmuffs from the shooting supply place to wear while using it.
Good Housekeeping rating: A
Although it purees foods to a very smooth texture, it did leave a chunk of ice in a test batch of smoothies.