Vitamix blenders are famous for being long-lasting smoothie-blending work-horses. They are the high-end benchmark that other blenders must compete with to win market-share. This is a review of my experience with the Vitamix 5200.
I purchased my Vitamix about 6 months ago. I got it as a refurbished unit on Amazon.com. I went for a refurbished blender because the savings were huge and the warranty coverage was still very strong. I am glad I did because I was able to afford more blender than I would have if I purchased it new from Amazon or Costco–the two places that seemed to have the best prices.
I urge you to also consider the Vitamix 5300 refurb (black)–it has a wider, shorter jar and uses somewhat better technology than the 5200. In fact, if I was in the market for a Vitamix right now, I would most certainly pay the extra money for this model over the 5200. More on other Vitamix models later.
The 5200 blender came in a less-fancy box than I would have gotten from purchasing it full-retail price, however I think this is where the discernible differences stopped. The box came with the blender base, a BPA-free blending jar, tamping rod, lid and a very nice color, spiral bound recipe book. The warranty is 5 years as opposed to 7 years on a new unit. I was willing to take the risk with the shorter warranty, especially because I have two friends who’ve had their blenders for years and have never had a problem.
Why I Chose a Vitamix
I have been through several blenders in the last fifteen years or so. For many years I had the difficult-to-clean, standard, wedding gift blender from Cuisinart. This blender struggled with frozen fruits and simply couldn’t handle other kinds of concoctions such as nut butters–but the worst thing about it was having to take it apart to clean it. This made it a bit of a pain to use and so it only saw action on special occasions. That unit was replaced by what I like to call “blender on a stick”–this type of blender was handheld, easy to clean but also rather limited. The one we have, the Cuisinart Smart Stick, cost about $40 so it wasn’t a huge investment, and all-in-all was a good until for what it could do.
I have only recently started to explore professional level blenders. My wife and I started to realize that we wanted to do much more with our blender and decided it was worth it to purchase a high-end blending machine. Alas, we did not initially select the Vitamix. We purchased a BlendTec Classic blender first. There was alot to be said for that blender, but it kept breaking on us, so eventually we returned it and went with the Vitamix. (Read more about that experience here.) I also have some experience with the Omni V line of professional blenders.
Using the Vitamix 5200
There is alot to love about the Vitamix blender. It is very capable and since it allows you to dial the appropriate speed for the job at hand, it gives you flexibility and control. The machine is very easy to clean. Simply add water and a drop or two of dishsoap and blend it clean. No need to take it apart and it only needs “extra” cleaning sometimes, for example if you used (or made!) peanut butter, it tends to stick to the sides.
My biggest complaint about the blender is that it can be difficult to get the mixture from the very bottom of the blender beneath the blades. The Omnimix (about $300) and Blendtec blenders both come standard with a wider jar which makes it easier–the above mentioned Vitamix 5300 also has a wider jar and is superior to the other brands, in my opinion. In the case of the Blendtec, there are only two blades, as opposed to four or six, which makes it even easier to scrape out the contents of the bottom of the blender jar as needed.
Note that there are other jars available for the Vitamix that appear to be easier to scrape clean, however as far as the default jar, this is an issue. Although the above-mentioned Vitamix 5300 does indeed have a wider jar, you cannot purchase that jar separately and use it on your Vitamix 6200 or other lower models. This is because the 5300 has a more powerful motor and is better able to spin the larger blade on the 5300.
What Can You Make With A Vitamix Blender?
We use our blender two or three times per day. We really couldn’t do without it. We use it to make smoothies, banana-based ice cream, sauces, hot soups, nut butters and more. At slow speeds it can double as a food processor. It is amazing how smooth it can make a mixture. Frozen fruits are no problem and neither are nuts, vegetables or whole fruits. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to make a hot, delicious tortilla soup with this machine. You can even use it to grind up chicken bones and meat to make a nice additive for food for your dog (look for recipes online to be sure you’re giving your pet the best, safest foods).
I would definitely recommend the Vitamix blenders to anyone–singles or families. Having a blender like this lead to some definite shifts in lifestyle in my family–we are eating (and drinking) incrementally better than we were before we had it. It makes you want to blend, and the results are very enjoyable.
Summary: This is a review of the Blendtec blender sold in Costco (TB621 USCOST) currently being sold for $319. Although we loved this machine when it was working, we managed to break ours 3 times in two months through just normal use. On the third time, it broke we just returned it.
Read on for information about alternatives to this blender and why we were so sad to see it go!
If you’re considering a Blendtec Blender, you may want to avoid this blender and instead go for a different Total Blender model instead (Available on Amazon new or refurbished – Refurbished units tend to be almost as good as new, and obviously cheaper!) or the 475 (refurbished).
As you’ll read below, there is alot to like about Blendtec:
It is a popular brand of professional and prosumer blender
It’s somewhat cheaper than its nearest competitor, Vitamix
The blade configuration is great — makes scraping the bottom of the container very easy
Customer service is very good
Long warranties on its containers and base
We Went With Blendtec
In spite of the problems I’ll describe below, we really loved having the blender. Most of the time it did its job–and did it stunningly well. You’ll want to check Amazon for deals on refurbished BlendTec blenders (subject to availability). (In case you opt for a Vitamix, there are also factory reconditioned Vitamixes to be had on Amazon as well). Although I wouldn’t recommend the model we got, I am mostly convinced that Blendtec is a venerable blender company. They seem to have some quality issues with these Blenders. I suspect if you go with a different model, you will have better luck.
There is alot to like about Blendtec, and they definitely are the blender of choice in professional settings, so I would say that instead, you may want to consider the similar Blendtec Total Blender instead.
Below is the whole of my family’s experience using the Blendtec including the times it failed.
Comparing Vitamix and Other Blenders to the Blendtec
Before the purchase we looked at the other options both from Blendtec and other blender makers. We also considered:
Having said that though, there were three factors that made us go for the Blendtec:
Price–in general the Vitamixes were between somewhat more expensive to way more expensive depending on the one you’re talking about–we were specifically comparing the Vitamix 5200 (Refurbished). This was an issue for us because we never had a high-end blender before and wanted to make sure we were really going to use it (spoiler alert–we use it constantly) before going for the best one made.
Size –the height of the VitaMix vs. the BlendTec blenders. You might not notice it as much in the store but the older VitaMix blenders are H-U-G-E. (There is a newer model which is shorter and wider…and highly recommended–here is a link to the refurbished 5300)Yes, you can purchase a smaller jar separately and that makes it more likely it will fit under your counter and in your sink/dishwasher, but once again, we were kind of interested in getting into the market on the cheaper side, so we weren’t really big on immediately spending money on a new jar after having made the investment in an expensive blender we weren’t sure we’d use that often. (Another spoiler alert–we liked the Blendtec so much and used it so often (2-3 times/day) that we did buy a second kind of blender container to do nut butters–the “twister jar”)
Technology–as far as creating awesome blenders that blend things as advertised, both companies do that well. On the other hand, if you want fancier settings, you’ll probably go with the Blendtec line. Vitamix is known for old fashioned knobs and dials. The Blendtec blenders have modern buttons and digital displays.
Power–the Blendtec has a three horsepower motor, while the Vitamix blenders have two horsepower motors. We thought this could make a difference, but really, now that I’ve had both, I would say it really doesn’t matter.
If you read reviews and discussions about Blentec vs. Vitamix you’ll find many similarities. One important similarity is that both have long warranties of seven or eight years. As I’ll explain later, I already tried out the warranty on the Blendtec and had pretty good results. The warranties cover the motor as well as the blending jars. Really you should expect your blender to last for many many years. Both have the ability to blend a variety of things and do so at very high speeds. Both have accessories available, especially in the form of different kinds of jars. One difference is that the Vitamix has sharp blades, while the Blendtec blades are dull and resemble the wings of a jet. Both work very well.
Another difference is that the Vitamix lid has a tamping rod–in fact I’d say that the tamping rod is one of the hallmarks of the Vitamix blenders The Blendtec doesn’t have this–the Blendtec salespeople would say that just don’t need it because their jars are shaped better to make it not necessary…I can tell you that sometimes it would have been nice to have one, but most of the time you don’t need it.
The times we did need something to push food into the blades were mainly related to frozen fruits–particularly strawberries that would get stuck and there was nothing you could do but open the blender and try to move the offending item away from the blade so that it could once again spin through the mix–something that isn’t easy to do when you have a blender full of smoothie.
BlendTec’s Blade. It’s one piece and it isn’t sharp. Very impressive.
As it turns out, the shape of the jars and blades is really important for several reasons. It clearly makes a different to the performance of the blender. This is why both Blendtec and Vitamix sell more than one type of blending container. But there is something else that you should know–now that I have used both blenders I can tell you that the WildSide jar from Blendtec is WAYYYYY easier to get stuff from the bottom of than the Vitamix.
The WildSide jar is wide, plus there are only two blades to get around. It can be very difficult to get thick mixtures from beneath the blades of the Vitamix–and this leads to waste. The problem is that the Vitamix blenders have four relatively sharp blades instead of two (see the illustration, it is really just a dull, but effective, one piece blade) and the Vitamix default jar is more narrow at the bottom. This allows for things to get “stuck” beneath the mixing blades. When this happens, I sometimes wish for a BlendTec again, but I have a very long rubber spatula that helps.
A couple of more things to compare: The manual that came with the Blendtec is not even close to what came with the Vitamix. Vitamix wins hands-down on this front. They give you a full color, spiral bound, thick recipe book that really makes you want to use that machine. Blendtec does give you a few recipes and you won’t wonder how to work the machine itself (it’s mostly self-explanatory anyway), but the Blendtec folks are skimping on the recipe-book compared to Vitamix.
Having said that, you can get great recipes from their website, and there are certainly plenty of recipes all over the internet meant specifically for Blendtec blenders. I still subscribe to the Blendtec email list–I find tempting recipes in my inbox every week.
One more point worth mentioning is the noise level. Let me put it this way: whether you purchase a Blendtec or a Vitamix, you will NOT be able to keep your blending a secret. Both blenders are loud, in fact, really l o u d in my opinion. Blending isn’t a delicate operation. There is going to be noise. The results are worth it.
Using the Blendtec Blender
When we got our blender home we immediately started making all sorts of great foods, especially healthy smoothies. We used it 50 times in a few days (there is a counter that tells you how much you use it). We were truly amazed out how smooth the smoothies were and how it could turn any fruit, grain, nut, meat or vegetable, frozen or fresh into something smooth. Our kids loved all the great smoothies we were turning out. We stocked up on plenty of organic frozen fruits and berries at Costco including: frozen cherries, frozen blueberries, antioxidant mix with various berries, pineapple (not organic), and strawberries (also not organic). We also got a container of baby spinach and other nutritious non-frozen vegetables and fruits.
Smoothies weren’t the only thing we made. We also tried other things such as hummus and soups. The soup setting on the blender relies on friction to heat the soup. This is a great way to make a delicious soup and will compete with our beloved Instant pot pressure cooker. We also made pancakes, dips, guacamole, and breads.
Uh, Oh, Something’s Not Right
We’re not sure what went wrong, but after a few weeks of use our blender started vibrating severely. We called Blendtec’s support line and they helped us determine that something had gone wrong with the jar’s bearings. They gave us some advice on how to care for the jar so this wouldn’t happen and then mailed us a brand new jar for free. We honestly aren’t sure if there was something we did wrong to break the first jar or if it was defective, but the kind woman who was helping me get the replacement gave me a few tips:
1) Don’t press down hard on the top of the jar while the blender is working–this will stress the seal and could lead to a breakdown like the one we had. This is harder than it sounds because for some reason, the natural thing to do is to put pressure on the top of the jar while it’s blending. (On the Vitamix this doesn’t seem to be an issue as just the act of using the tamping rod is going to push down on your blender).
2) Load liquids at the bottom of the jar (first), then put in veggies and finally put frozen things at the top. This reduces the possibility of the blades getting stuck on fruit that might have frozen together while you were loading the rest of things into the jar.
The replacement jar arrived and we were back in business. We happily blended away for the next few days when suddenly we realized that the small screen that counts blend time in seconds and tells you how many times the blender has been used, stopped working. So, I was back on the phone with BlendTec and they apologized and sent me a new base. It arrived in about a week and I just used the free shipping label to send back the original base. I was hopeful that I would not have any more problems. Unfortunately I was wrong.
I hate to keep you in suspense, so I’ll tell you now what went wrong, even though it’s a bit out of order: We were using the soup cycle one day and started smelling a strong burning smell. Something went wrong with the base again. I decided I wasn’t going to call Blendtec again, so instead I just returned the whole thing for a refund at Costco. They gave me no trouble about it and issued me a store credit. I will use that for groceries and plan to buy a refurbished Vitamix on Amazon instead.
Since I still want you to know about the rest of my experience with this blender, I urge you to read on anyway in case. Again, I think there was alot to like about the Blendtec blender, so perhaps if you’re considering one you’ll take your chances with the 570 or you may have better luck with another Blendtec model.
Some More Things We Loved About Our Blendtec
Cleaning the blender is a breeze–way easier than one of those lower priced models that you have to take apart to wash. With the BlendTec blenders, all you have to do is to wash out the jar. The quickest way to do that is to add water and a squirt of dish soap and do a quick blend. Then rinse that out and blend again with just some water.
Since we were so happy with our blender and used it so much we decided to purchase an additional jar that works better with dry ingredients. We already had the Wildside+ jar–the one that came with the blender, but it does have some limitations–the one in question here has to do with turning out nut butters such as homemade peanut butter, almond butter or cashew butter. The Wildside+ jar that comes with the blender definitely will have some trouble making nut butters. You may not have had any idea how taxing it is for a blender to make this kind of thing, but I can tell you it really is. You will find that the WildSide+ jar will stall trying to deal with the thick goo.
On the other hand, the Twister jar (and mini Twister jar) makes churning out peanut butter much easier. This jar is shaped a bit different and its lid basically has two scrapers attached to it that run the whole length of the jar. While you’re making nut butters you twist the lid by hand to keep everything moving in the jar. It works well. It is also great for making frozen yogurt and improves the process of making hummus, but that works pretty well in the WildSide+ jar anyway.
There are two versions of the Twister Jar–the regular size and the mini. We opted for the Mini because it was cheaper and we felt that it would be easier to store. Plus we didn’t think we’d ever want to make large quantities of nut butters that would be enabled by the full size jar.
As it turns out, we probably could find some use for the larger jar, but we were mostly happy with the small one. The only issue I noticed is that when you’re making frozen yogurt with it, you need to be careful not to overload it, because it can potentially make a mess if it overflows–has happened to us a couple of times now.
By the way, there are a couple of other jars that I am aware of–there is the Fourside jar, which is also a general purpose jar but smaller than the WildSide+ jar and then there are couple of jars that are compatible with the VitaMix line. Because of the reasons I stated above, I could imagine actually purchasing a BlendTec container for my Vitamix–remember the blades are part of the container with these blenders. It is worth noting that the blending jars that are sold separately come with a 3 year warranty.
This is Just Cool
For some fun, have a look at the BlendTec YouTube channel–particularly at the “Will It Blend” video series. The mini-show features a man and a blender that is used to blend anything from a garden rake or office supplies to an iPhone 6. You’ll be amazed.