Tag Archives: proctor silex

Immersion Blenders & Blenders

Immersion (Stick/Hand) Blenders
Kitchen Aid immersion blender and accessories
Immersion blenders are pretty handy little tools, great for someone who makes simple smoothies and soups. An immersion blender cannot crush ice at all, believe me, I tried it. 😉 Doesn’t even really chip at it. As long as you remember to submerge the base blending piece before turning it on, it should not splash at all. Immersion = immerse. Make sure the parts are completely covered in liquid and you’re all set!
I personally don’t believe you need speeds on an immersion blender. It’s either going to blend or it isn’t, going faster or slower isn’t changing anything. Kitchen Aid seems to have realized this and toned it down a little. They originally had a 9-speed, but now offer a variety of new models with less speeds: 5, 3, or 2. No singles.
Kitchen Aid is big on accessories, as well. Usually a wire whisk (which I got lots of complaints about them breaking and/or not working very well), and a mini chopper. The mini chopper is handy if you don’t already have one.
Cuisinart Smart Stick immersion blenders
My favorite recommendation is the Cuisinart Smart Stick. You should be able to find it for under $30 (a lot of times for $26 so shop around!) and it comes with their 3-year warranty. That’s nuts for under $30!! I’ve had one for at least four years, and I don’t use it daily, but I use it for smoothies, milkshakes, and especially in soups. It’s great not having to dump your soup in a blender and then back into the pot.
Cuisinart does also make a couple of models with speeds and accessories, as well as a cordless, rechargeable (plugs directly into the wall) model.And of course there are the usual suspects floating around, including Oster, Proctor-Silex, and Hamilton Beach. They all seem to call them “hand” blenders.

Blenders

Oster blender

Blenders can be a tricky subject. People buy them and abuse the heck out of them, so you get a lot of mixed reviews and it’s hard to say what’s the best blender for the individual. If you aren’t looking to invest a lot of money, the Oster blender is pretty standard and a lot of people have them (and sometimes refer to them as the “Osterizer”). Of course there are also the usual brand name competitors like Proctor Silex and Hamilton Beach.

If you are looking for something with a little more power and you’re wanting to invest a little bit more, you’re probably looking at the following brands.

Blender FYI: 48 ounces used to be standard size, but a lot of brands now have 56 ounce carafes.
Waring Pro – a lot of people had these for over a decade with no issues, but they did start outsourcing them and I was noticing a few more issues here and there, but no mass returns or anything like that. A solid brand name that makes commercial-style items for the residential home, a lot of people prefer the simplicity of two-speeds and love that it’s a glass carafe and has that classic blender look.
Waring Pro blenders
Cuisinart – If you’re looking for a glass blender with more options, the variety of blenders Cuisinart offers might be for you. It’s got a lot of speed settings and an unusually large carafe for being glass on their PowerEdge series of blenders. Of course Cuisinart offers its 3-year warranty which is great for a blender.
Cuisinart PowerEdge blender

 

Cuisinart PowerBlend Duet
Blender/Food Processor

Cuisinart also makes a food processor/blender 2-in-1. I am always leery of anything that is a 2-in-1 as it calls to mind those TVs that had the VHS player embedded in them, and the VHS player ALWAYS broke. I love Cuisinart, and I’m sure this is a solid machine, but I wouldn’t put my trust in the performance of either being as high caliber as a stand-alone. Personal opinion, only, of course!! 😛 Also, the food processor is only 3 cups so it can’t really do much beyond slicing and shredding. However, the tiny food choppers you can purchase (they are not processors, although a lot of people call them that) are usually 3 cups, too, so this 2-in-1 is actually a processor because it shreds and slices, as well as chop.

The carafes on the following brands are all made from BPA-free polycarbonate (not just plastic!), and that’s also what airplane windows are made out of, so you know these babies are tough! If the blender you’re looking at doesn’t specifically say “BPA free”  or “polycarbonate” you might want to figure out what kind of plastic they are using and consider either a glass carafe or one of these brands!

Kitchen Aid – The Kitchen Aid Diamond Blender boasts the same blade as their previous blender model, which they have always claimed is the sharpest and strongest on the market. I know they have a patent on it, and the blade is mentioned in a comparison video I link to below. The new carafe has a unique diamond-shape that helps to create the more powerful blending vortex. They are consistently rated the best ice chopping blender on the market, and I would strongly recommend either this new model or the one before it as being superb quality for purchasing.
Kitchen Aid Diamond Blender

Ninja – Ninja blenders are newer to the game than its competitors, but people seem to love them! They have quite a few models, from small food choppers to machines that rival the Vitamix. I know a lot of people who have different ones and all of them seem to love them and I’ve never really heard a complaint, but I have no personal experience with them. A video below shows a side-by-side comparison against the new Kitchen Aid blender and I am not convinced of the Ninja’s superiority! However, if you’re looking for a small food processor as well as a blender, some of their models are basically like the Cuisinart PowerDuet mentioned above, and Ninja’s seem to be pretty powerful food processors.

Ninja 1500 Mega Kitchen System
blendtec – This brand is highly regarded in the juicing world as being the best blender on the market for making smoothies. However, after watching a performance test video I have linked below, I am not sure I am convinced this is worth all the money! I don’t have any experience with this brand, so don’t take my word for it.

blendtec

 

Vitamix 5200

Vitamix – OK, so this is supposed to be the Cadillac of blenders, right? There are, however, a lot of models, and most reviews, etc. refer to the 5200 model. I’m not sure why this is the go-to model to review, but unfortunately, as with the other blenders, everyone has had a different experience. This is part of their C-Series blenders, which are their strongest motors, which also means they are very loud. Also, depending on which model you’re specifically looking at, the carafes might not fit under your kitchen cabinets.

This comparison chart on their website will help you to determine what “series” of their blenders you should at least start with, based on your preferences. The G-Series addresses some issues with the C-Series, still with the most powerful motors, but adding a sound dampening technology to make your blending experience a little quieter. They are low-profile machines, too, meaning they should fit under cabinets on countertops in most homes.
CIA Vitamix Professional Series

The only Vitamix I am certain doesn’t require using different carafes for wet or dry, and is backed by the Culinary Institute of America, is the Vitamix CIA Professional Series. The CIA is the only culinary school that can dub someone a “master chef” and so having their endorsement on something is a HUGE deal. These are the ones I used to sell, the only ones our company carried, because they have proven to never fail and work beautifully every time. So if you’re going to spend that kind of money, spend a little more and get the best of the best! The CIA Vitamix is part of the noisier C-Series, so I’m sure the new Professional Series models in the G-Series lineup works just as well but more quietly, it just doesn’t have that CIA endorsement.

Final Thoughts

OK, so I actually started putting together this blender post because I am finally getting serious about buying myself a blender. Knowing all I knew already, there are new machines on the market, and like I said, a LOT of people seem to be buying Ninjas right now, so I wasn’t sure I was still making the right choice for myself, as I had always drooled over the old Kitchen Aid model [in green apple! ;)]. And I haven’t sold blenders since Kitchen Aid came out with their new diamond model, so I had to check out the specs on that, of course! [And now I have to pick a new color because I don’t like the green apple as much on the new look! (First-world problems!)] Check out these test videos I found online:
Ninja 1100 Kitchen System

Ninja vs. KitchenAid video – This video show the NEW Kitchen Aid and proves how fast it works compared to the Ninja Professional NJ600. She chose that Ninja because it’s the same price range as the Kitchen Aid. The gal casually mentions the blendtec like “of course” everyone who juices knows how amazing that one already is. However, the video below paints an extremely different story about the blendtec, and it honestly looks like the worst model.

5 Blender Show-Down by Popular Mechanics – This is by Popular Mechanics, so I trust the source quite a bit. She’s using the old Kitchen Aid model, so I am over here picturing the new one doing an even better job!! And I’m sad about the Vitamix and wish she had used the CIA model since I have heard so many mixed reviews about the 5200 model. I have personally used the CIA model and it destroyed everything we put in it, however I obviously didn’t do this exact test.

However, the results of that side-by-side test really push me towards what I thought was the best choice for me all along, which is the Kitchen Aid. I’m not planning on making my own flours, sugars, nut butters, etc. I just want a strong, sturdy blender that will crush ALL the ice. If I did want to do all that other stuff, I might look a little more into the different Ninja models and see how they test out, but ultimately the CIA Vitamix would be my choice if I wanted to lay down a lot of money for a machine that can do a lot. They also offer a 30-day trail period so if you’re unhappy with your purchase, you can return it without a hassle, which is great since it’s such a big monetary investment.
*Also remember that if you are wanting to juice and extract more nutrients out of your produce, particularly using wheat grass or other leafy greens, make sure to compare notes about juicers. The Omega Nutrition Center can make nut butters and can end up being the right choice for a lot of folks who thought they only needed a blender!

Electric Hand and Stand Mixers

Electric Hand Mixers
I’m not really going to recommend one brand over another in this category, as I think most manufacturers make very similar product and since they aren’t built to last, I wouldn’t necessarily consider spending a ton of money on one, and a cheaper one like OsterBlack&Decker or Proctor Silex will probably do the trick. I will say that if you are spending more money on a more expensive brand name, that I don’t think it’s worth the extra money for anything over 7 speeds. I know a Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid both make 9-speed mixers these days, but most people don’t really use even the 7 speeds let alone 9, which gives you one lower and one higher speed to utilize.
Oster hand mixer
Accessories for these also seem to be somewhat of a joke. Most folks who have gotten accessory pieces with their Kitchen Aid told me that they didn’t work well if at all, and if they did work, broke within a year (specifically, the whisk!). The motor on these isn’t really strong enough to handle dough, so having dough hooks for this might end up burning out your hand mixer. Don’t base your purchase off of the accessories you’re receiving as part of the “deal”!
I had this model and loved the storage feature!
Electric Stand Mixers
When you do find you need a little more power, it might be time to step up into a stand mixer. There are quite a few brands on the market so this can be a tricky item to shop for if you don’t know what you’re after. I personally only recommend Kitchen Aid’s stand mixer, and with that I also say anything less than a 5 quart/325 watt machine is not worth your money!! (There is a 4.5 quart tilt head stand mixer that has the same body as the 5 quart but a smaller motor and mixing bowl. This is usually the one you see at Bed, Bath & Beyond or Target.)
My beautiful tangerine 5 quart tilt head Kitchen Aid mixer!
If you’re spending the money, you at least want the power, and there are some basic cookie doughs that will really work your machine. Why worry about overburdening the machine when you don’t have to? Get the 325 watt and don’t worry about it!
These machines will tell you how much “flour power” they have (or for people like me, how many batches of cookies you can churn out!), so that might help you to determine what size fits your needs best. I would say that if you regularly only make single or double batches of baked goods the 5 quart should be large enough for you. If you are constantly making several huge batches of baked goods for your kids’ school or are running a very small business that requires a bit of baking you are probably leaning towards a 6 quart. (NOT a small bakery!! Commercial-grade, people.) Kitchen Aid’s 7 quart is newer to the market so I am hesitant to recommend it yet, as I normally say anything stronger than that you need to be looking at commercial mixers, like Kitchen Aid’s 8 quart.
Kitchen Aid 6 quart bowl lift stand mixer
I prefer a tilt head, which you can only get on the 5 quart or smaller. The 6 quart comes with the “bowl lift” feature, which you can also find on different 5 quart models. I personally never feel like the bowl attaches properly with the bowl lift, so it doesn’t feel secure to me. I know it is secure, I just don’t like it! My recommendation is to go into a store and play around with the machines, practice taking the bowl and beaters off and on and see what feels most comfortable to you. Ask the salesperson if they are able to show you how to put attachments on the machine! I am serious! All of these things sound weird and trivial, but if you’ve never used one before, it can be kind of daunting!
Breville has a stand mixer, however I unfortunately have no experience with their products but know they are extremely reputable. The other thing is that nobody has had one for 40 years yet to say “these babies last 40 years!” like the Kitchen Aid, so until that happens, I am going to keep on keepin’ on! (I’d say once somebody has had one for a decade, we’ll call them solid – haha!)
Breville Scraper Mixer Pro
I do NOT recommend the Cuisinart stand mixer! Repeat this mantra – “Kitchen Aid stand mixer, Cuisinart food processor!” (We’ll discuss food processors in another blog, I promise!) They tried to overcome the very minor complaints with the Kitchen Aid, but I don’t think they succeeded. For one thing, when they were first introduced I got to attend a big demo event because they launched a lot of new items that year. The rep for Cuisinart kept saying the model she was demonstrating to us was not the “official” one for sale but a prototype – yeah right! She had a lot of issues getting it to even work at first, and once we started using one in the store I worked at we realized more of its shortcomings. It’s available in 5 and 7 quart models in various colors.
Cuisinart stand mixer
The pouring shield attaches to the tilt head so you don’t need to find somewhere to set it down like with the Kitchen Aid shield. However, anything you may have “spilled” in the pour spout of the pouring shield when dumping it in the mixer will drip down onto the machine when you lift the tilt head up to retrieve the bowl. Our example was vanilla…dripping all down the side of that beautiful white machine! Extra cleanup is never good in my book!
The one really cool feature of the Cuisinart is the digital countdown timer with auto-off, which Breville has incorporated into their Scraper Mixer Pro. I unfortunately think adding something digital to the mixer is going to reduce its lifespan, but would assume that the mixer itself would continue to work despite a digital timer feature “wearing out”. I think that’s another reason the Cuisinart doesn’t seem to have the power it should – they added an extra “outlet” for a variety of attachments, most appealing to consumers being the blender and food processor attachments. The food processor attachment is surprisingly different than a food chopper of the same size (3 cups) in freestanding form. Those choppers only do one thing – chop. This attachment actually has slicing and shredding discs like a real food processor. There is also a meat grinder attachment that is very similar to the Kitchen Aid one.
Electric Stand Mixers with Detachable Hand Mixer
Some people like the idea of the stand mixer with the hand mixer piece that detaches. I’m not sure that these will have the “reach” that standard stand mixers claim to have with their planetary mixing action. These have two separate motors, one that powers the hand mixer portion with the beaters and the other that spins the bowl, which should force the mixture to combine at least almost as well. Be careful – some inexpensive stand mixer models look like they have a detachable hand mixer but they don’t, it’s just a design illusion. I’d definitely recommend the stronger motor, at least 325 watts, because like I mentioned in the hand mixer section, the motors on those little guys aren’t going to be strong enough to actually handle dough on the dough hooks that come with them. Breville’s has 380 watts and seems like a good choice for this category.
Breville Handy Stand Mixer
Stand Mixer “Standard” Accessories
These are standard for the Kitchen Aid mixer but most mixers should have the three standard mixing pieces. Here’s a quick video to demonstrate how the accessories attach to the mixer:
**Note that some accessories for Kitchen Aid are “coated” and some are not. The coating can chip off if you are very hard on them. NEITHER can go in the dishwasher – all of the mixing pieces are hand wash only!**
***These links might not go to your exact model number! Please search for the correct piece if you are looking to replace something on an existing machine!***
Wire Whip – This is the piece that looks like a whisk. You’re going to use this to make icing, meringue, whipped cream, or anything that calls for a whisk that isn’t too tough to mix through.
Wire whip
Dough Hook – This is the piece that looks like a pirate hook on the smaller machines, and on the larger ones it’s a tad curlier-looking. You’ll use this for bread or pizza dough, and you’ll know you made your dough correctly when you see it “tornado” up the hook.
Coated dough hook
Flat Beater – This is the piece I use the most, it’s the flat triangular-looking piece. This is for cookies, cakes, etc. or anytime the recipe tells you to “beat” something.
Coated flat beater
Power Hub – For attachments, which are sold separately. [We can discuss these further in a future blog!] When you put an attachment on the power hub, you turn the machine on the same way as if you were mixing, and yes, the lower piece where you attach the whip/beater/hook will spin around while you are using the attachment piece. Don’t worry!
Kitchen Aid power hub
Pouring Shield – Older models may have come with a 2-piece pouring shield, but the newer ones are 1-piece on Kitchen Aid. Breville’s looks like it is 2 pieces. This is to prevent splatter coming out of the bowl but has a pour spout so you can add ingredients while the mixer is still running.
Kitchen Aid 1-piece pouring shield
Glass Bowl – Some of the new mixers have the option of a glass bowl, or you can purchase it separately for certain models to replace your stainless bowl with. It comes with a lid, which is helpful for refrigerator storage. It is extremely heavy, however, so think about when it’s full and having to maneuver it around! So far I know they make a 5 quart tilt head and a 6 quart bowl lift glass bowl. They are so popular I am sure they are working on them for the other models, be patient!
Kitchen Aid glass bowl w/ lid
Flex Edge Beater Blade – Kitchen Aid now makes a scraper blade attachment, but they were extremely reluctant to do so.
Beater Blade and Pourfect Scrape-A-Bowl – These two competitors came out with their silicone-edged flat beaters first, and technically using them violates your Kitchen Aid warranty, but people were buying them in handfuls anyway, so Kitchen Aid had to get on board and get some of that market!
Beater Blade
Scrape-a-Bowl
**I personally just use a regular silicone spatula – it will heel to the mixer if you use it while turned on and won’t break or chip.**

Electric Grills

George Foreman “original”
Electric grills are one of those appliances that all the manufacturers seem frequently produce new models so it’s hard to keep up, so just keep in mind what options you are after and stick with a trusted brand name. If you treat it well, it should last you more than a few years, but always remember that they do not build appliances to last anymore!!
A lot of manufacturers now offer a multitude of options on the countertop grills, so think about how much versatility you’re looking for. Any of these styles will have a nonstick coating on the grill plates (silicone, plastic, or wood utensils only!) and should come with some sort of a removable grease drip cup or pan, FYI! Keep in mind that that most household electrics don’t have the power to get really high temperatures that some people prefer for grilling meats, so if you’re one of those folks, one of these probably isn’t going to satisfy your wants.
Standard/Basic/“Classic” Grills
Cuisinart Grill & Panini Press
A standard countertop grill is something like the “classic” George Foreman grills. (I like the way they designate the categories on their site, so I am going to utilize those! Brilliant!) The grill plates do not come off, and on most of them the back hinge isn’t adjustable, so it seems to hinder what you can cook on some of the grills if they are not large enough. I actually knew a few people that had two or three different sizes of these so they could cook exactly what they needed on the right size grill. (The Breville Panini Grill has a floating hinge so you won’t have this issue – read more about floating hinges below!) Some offer the feature of opening up flat to increase your grilling surface, like the Cuisinart Grill & Panini Press.
Proctor Silex grill
A lot of brands that make smaller ones call them sandwich or panini grills but you can fit small cuts of meat on these. BE CAREFUL! There are also actual “sandwich makers” that make pocket sandwiches, a whole different ballpark! This size makes a great gift for a single person. I had a Proctor-Silex sandwich-sized grill for years (looks like it’s just an earlier version of what they are still selling today – mine was white!) that never let me down and I ended up gifting it to a friend when I finally upgraded to a multi-plate grill/griddle.
These can be a pain to clean up – be prepared to waste a LOT of paper towels!
Cuisinart Sandwich Maker – not a grill/panini/griddle!
Removable-Plate Grills
George Foreman removable plate
Removable-plate grills are basically the same as the standard/classic grill except that the grill plates are removable for easier cleanup. Usually they can go in the dishwasher, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. I put mine in the dishwasher once or twice and I’m pretty sure that helped the nonstick coating come completely off in a few spots where it was beginning to wear down, and it also looked very dull. The good thing is that reputable manufacturers will be able to sell you replacement grill plates, so your machine could end up lasting a lot longer since that’s usually why people end up getting rid of their classic models, not because they’re broken.
Multi-Plate Grills
Multi-plate grills are really cool, because they offer more versatility in helping you keep your kitchen clear of a few more appliances! Usually they are grill/griddle options, but a few manufacturers have now come out with waffle plate options, which is really cool.
George Foreman 6-Plate Grill
I own the original version of the Cuisinart Griddler (mine has a drip cups instead of a built-in drip tray like the one in the link) and I’ve had it for many years now. I mainly use the grill plates, but the griddle plates have definitely been handy when moving and the stove is covered in boxes!! I have decided to start making more pancakes and am going to start using the griddle plates on my Griddler instead of frying pans to see if I fare any better at making decent-looking pancakes! (They taste fine, but boy are they ugly!)

My Cuisinart Griddler cooking up some grilled cheese!

For this newer version of the Griddler, you can purchase waffle plates separately, which I find interesting since their “Deluxe” and “Elite” models don’t have waffle plates and cost more. Those models have an added “top melt” heating feature and can sear at 500 degrees for two minutes at a time, which is a huge benefit because most countertop appliances cannot attain that high temperature. One of these models would definitely be what the high-heat griller in your life is looking for!

Breville Smart Grill
Black & Decker makes a 3-in-1 machine that has reversible grill/waffle plates and separate griddle plates, although their website doesn’t show images of the grill plate sides at all.
There are larger electric reversible grill/griddle appliances that are an “open” grill, meaning there’s no lid to put pressure on what you’re grilling, so you’d have to actually flip your food over to cook it like a real grill. These can be good for large families or people who do a lot of entertaining because they are generally much larger. A few examples are Cuisinart, Wolfgang Puck, & Hamilton Beach.
Wolfgang Puck Reversible Electric Grill/Griddle
Floating Hinge
One thing I love about my Griddler is the “floating hinge” feature, and I strongly recommend finding a model with an option similar to that because I think it helps cook larger items more evenly by putting an even amount of pressure on the items. With my old Proctor-Silex I always felt the front of burgers weren’t getting cooked and was constantly turning them. Now I can make thick panini sandwiches and use a potholder to push on the top of the grill to make sure it is perfectly flat and cooking the sandwich evenly. It looks like Breville uses a floating hinge on both their Smart Grill and their Panini Grill.
Breville Panini Grill floating hinge
Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grills
You can now find a variety of freestanding electric grills to cater to the growing market of consumers who aren’t allowed to have propane or charcoal grills in their apartment complexes but still want to grill! The great thing about these is that they can be used inside or outside, the bad news is you might not have that much room in the house. Also, if you are using a larger grill at full capacity, it might produce too much smoke to use indoors.
George Foreman indoor/outdoor electric grill
There’s now actually a really cool George Foreman indoor/outdoor grill that comes apart so you can use it as a countertop model indoors – the others all need to remain on their stands if brought inside.
Outdoor Electric Grills
Generally you are not going to be using anything over 1500 watts inside of your home, so anything above that is going to be able to reach higher temperatures and need to be utilized outside. The majority of outdoor electric grills are tabletop design as the intended audience are folks living in small spaces like apartment complexes that don’t allow propane or charcoal grills. Some of the popular propane and charcoal grill companies make electric outdoor grills now, which I’m sure are as good of quality as their counterparts.
Cuisinart actually makes several propane and charcoal grills, but they specifically make a tabletop outdoor electric grill or you can get it with a three-position telescoping base for the option to make it taller like a real grill.
Char-Broil outdoor electric grill
HELPFUL LINKS:
My Griddler with original grill plates
– still going strong!

 

Electric Water Kettles

I entitled this blog post “Electric Water Kettles” for a very specific reason. I do not ever want any of you associating the word “tea” with an electric kettle because you CANNOT put tea in the kettle! It is only for water. This should make sense if you are used to making tea the old-fashioned way; boil water in a kettle on the stove, pour it into a teapot, and then steep your tea in it. A teapot is usually made of ceramic or porcelain, and I would hope that it goes without saying that a teapot cannot go on your stove top to boil water in.

Fine T Machine

There is, however, an electric device you can both brew and steep tea in if you really want to, but it’s a tad on the spendy side. It’s called the Fine T Machine and it has several settings for a variety of tea types and works extremely well (I used one heavily at one point, even producing multiple batches for a tea tasting), so worth every penny! I also just discovered that Breville has come out with a nifty looking machine they call the One-Touch Tea Maker. I’d love to hear your reviews if you’ve used this since they are usually a good brand name.

Bodum electric kettle is the best!!

As for your basic electric water kettle, hands-down the longest-lasting brand I’ve ever seen in action is the Bodum. These very rarely ever got returned (actually, we could hardly keep them on the shelves because we sold so many!), and the stores we worked in owned these and used them extremely heavily and they were all some of the original models, still perfectly functioning many years later. They’ve since improved the design a tad by making the power switch stronger and the connection to the base more durable and simpler to latch.

I know the thought of using plastic alarms a lot of folks, particularly with boiling water. First of all, Bodum products are BPA-free. Secondly, as I explain in my BPA blog, the temperature needs to be extremely hot or else whatever going in needs to be highly acidic for there to be any leaching. Boiling point is not nearly what sanitize mode is in your dishwasher! And lastly, all electric kettles have plastic on the lid, handle and base. If they are glass, there could also be “metal” handles or lids which are usually a thin metallic film painted over plastic that will eventually start peeling off.

Chef’s Choice glass kettle

If you prefer the glass (especially because they do look a little more elegant than Bodum’s modern design), my next pick will always be Chef’s Choice. Another solid brand name, the kettles always seem to last a lot longer than other selections. Now that I just wrote all of that, of course Bodum has come out with a model that is mostly glass, similar to other glass electric kettle models (I swear, click the link, it says “new” over the image! :P) I used to like the Capresso, but as I mentioned in the coffee maker blog, they’ve outsourced to China and the quality of the brand is diminishing a little. I’d say it’s hit or miss if you buy one.

Chef’s Choice stainless kettle

Chef’s Choice also makes a couple of stainless steel models that I would also highly recommend. The great thing about all of these kettles nowadays is that they are “cordless”– they detach from the base so you can walk around and pour without a cord getting in your way!  They also mostly all have auto shut-off, which is just fabulous.  You can find some electric kettles that have temperature settings, as well.

I’m sure Proctor-Silex and Delonghi are solid enough machines, and of course Breville has a good brand reputation. Share your thoughts with us if you’ve had experience with an electric kettle you love or dislike!

Breville One Touch tea machine

Coffee Maker Basics

I originally started this blog out saying that I don’t recommend any one brand over another because (this part didn’t change) they aren’t built to last so you’re going to have to plan on buying a new one every five years (give or take a few). I originally stated that you should spend around $30 on a Mr. Coffee, Sunbeam, Proctor-Silex, or Delonghi. These guys are really starting to step up their game (price-wise, at least!) and it’s kind of hard to find a cheaper coffee maker! I still don’t trust that any one of these is better than another, and it’s such an inexpensive item that manufacturers kind of realize at this point most people won’t bother to return them, so they just keep churning out new models telling you it’s better than the last one so you’ll buy a new not-so-great one.

I used to have several favorites back when I first started working in housewares, but drip coffee makers have really gone down in quality over the years and it’s become increasingly difficult to find one not made in China. I could be wrong, but the only manufacturer I can still find that is made in the USA is Bunn, which of course are the restaurant industry’s standard machine. They do make home models and I hear great things, so those are probably the only gourmet machines worth that kind of money.

Cuisinart Brew Central – Top Pick!

If you have a good old machine, keep it until it dies! There’s no reason to replace a machine that works with the poor quality of drip machines these days. The old Krups machines were great and always highly rated; they started outsourcing almost a decade ago and we got almost every single coffee maker and electric kettle we sold returned to us–to the point that we stopped selling all Krups products completely.

Cuisinart is generally a good price range and their appliances are usually good. Every now and then they’ll miss with something, but otherwise a solid brand name and if you fill out the warranty card (I recommend doing this with all of your appliances!!), they at least console with a three-year guarantee. In the world of small electrics, one year is standard. The one I specifically link to above, the Brew Central*, is their best-selling model and the only one they’ve kept manufacturing. (They continue to put out other new models, but this one is the tried-and-true!) You will actually see this model used as a prop in tons of TV shows and movies, interestingly enough!

My old Capresso  

Capresso used to be a really great gourmet brand, but they started outsourcing a few years back and the quality eventually started to decline*. I think they are better now, but not for the money they cost! Breville is generally a good appliance maker, but unfortunately I don’t have much experience with them. I’ve only really heard good things about their small electrics, however they haven’t been on the market long enough for folks to say they’ve had their machine for a number of years to prove their staying power as of yet.

The one thing that people have the biggest issues with is that their drip machine “leaks water”. The issue is in the name—drip machines drip! Obviously if it’s pouring water out of the water tank you have a concern, but for the most part your machine is going to leak a little.

Thermal carafes are always going to be a pain to pour out of because of the way they have to design the lids to seal the carafe. No matter how much money you spend, a thermal carafe is always going to be an annoyance. A great trick with these guys is to, even if you’re preparing the night before, rinse the carafe with hot/warm water then seal the lid. This will trap heat in the carafe, causing your coffee to stay warmer even longer!

You want to be extremely careful with grind and brew machines. In that respect I would lean towards spending a tad more on a Capresso like this one (or something similar) that has the grinder in a completely separate compartment than the water tank. (Capresso actually makes both so be careful!) You are always going to run the risk of your grounds getting moist from the steam the machine produces, but if they are in separate compartments, that risk is minimalized. We will discuss coffee grinders in a separate blog, don’t worry!

Now, on to some of the less simple ways to prepare your coffee…(that being said, I’m skipping over the really basic stuff, but let me know if you want to know more about those methods, too! These are just the more common ones requested.)

Moccamaster by Technivorm


The one drip machine that actually stands out and will produce a quality cup of coffee (so say the coffee connoisseurs of the world, anyway!) is the Moccamaster by Technivorm. This is because the Moccamaster makes coffee more like a French press, which is supposed to be the ideal method to brewing the perfect cup of java. This machine’s heating element actually gets the water up to 212°F, which is the ideal water temperature for brewing. It is guaranteed to be this hot because if it doesn’t reach this temperature, the mechanism will not force the water upward into the machine to brew. Science! The water drips out showerhead-style and you can actually “stop” the brewing and let it steep for a little bit in the filter cone area if you want to be more hands-on with your coffee.

The Moccamaster is not usually even rated against other drip machines because it’s not programmable and requires a lot more effort than regular coffee makers, something the majority of consumers don’t care to do! You can’t even put water in the machine overnight to be ready in the morning because it will slowly leak out of the bottom throughout the night. Technivorm actually didn’t want to make a thermal carafe, either (for the reasons I listed above), but since people demand them, the one they created is probably the best experience I’ve personally had utilizing a thermal carafe from a drip machine. It’s the reason why it’s shaped the way it is, but it pours pretty darn well! To me, that proves even further that they put a lot of care into their product.

These have actually been around forever (made in Sweden, all Swedish parts except the heating mechanism, which is German), just not as popular in the United States until recent years. I met a woman who told me a fabulous story about how her granddaughter once said, “Grandma, your no-name coffee maker makes the best coffee I’ve ever tasted!” and how she just laughed because little did she know the cost of her no-name machine! But amazingly enough, she’d already had it for over 20 years!

Toddy cold brew system

If you need to have less-acidic coffee, you would want to consider a cold brew system like the Toddy. This method requires you to prepare the coffee up to 24 hours in advance by letting the grounds sit and steep with cold water and a filter. What you get afterwards is a very strong coffee concentrate that needs to be diluted with water or milk in a 1-3 ratio (1 part coffee, 2 parts water or milk). This is also the ideal way to make iced coffee because what people often do is dump hot coffee on ice cubes, which affects the taste of the coffee in a negative way. You can actually utilize a French press the same way as the Toddy and just let it steep overnight versus a few minutes.

Bodum Chambord French Press

Ok, so I’ve mentioned French press a few times now. Like I said, true coffee aficionados say this is the best method to produce a superior cup. This is because you let the grounds steep for several minutes and you utilize boiling hot water, which is ideal. How does it work? You put coarse grounds in the carafe, pour the hot water over the grounds, and let it steep for 3-4 minutes. Most people have the lid on while it’s steeping to keep the heat in, but keep the plunger, which is attached, up with the lid. When ready, you press the plunger down, keeping the grounds in the carafe, but allowing you to pour the coffee out. You can steep the coffee as long as you like, and the longer you do the stronger it becomes. You can use a French press to make loose leaf tea, too, but you cannot use the same carafe for both as the coffee taste will remain in the mechanisms. You can now buy all sorts of varieties of French presses, but I would steer clear of the travel mugs unless you are a very fast drinker. The coffee just keep steeping until you finish drinking it, so it can start to get bitter! Bodum is probably the most well-known French press manufacturer.

A stovetop espresso maker would be another way to make a stronger cup of coffee than a drip machine. These originated in Italy, with Bialetti being the most famous brand name. These work like mini percolators. You put water in the base to just below the “fill line” which is a little screw and nut. You place the filter in this base piece and fill it with more finely ground coffee—do NOT pack it in like an electric espresso machine (tamping would be the proper term)!! With a stovetop espresso you want the grounds to be loose so the water can perk up through them. Put the stove burner on a low heat and let it perk for a few minutes. That’s it!

A family of sizes! Bialetti original stovetop espresso maker


As you can see you’ve got a lot of options to make yourself a cup of coffee. For now, electric espresso makers are a whole other ballpark that we will discuss in a separate blog. Let me know if there’s a brewing method you’re curious about!

Electric Espresso Machines
Coffee Grinders

*Jura Capresso, the heavy-duty electric espresso machines, are still proudly manufactured in Switzerland and are of the highest quality! As I mention in they Electric Espresso Machines blog, this is my top-rated dream machine!!

**Favorite story about selling one of these: An older couple is shopping for a new coffee maker and the wife already has this one written down as one that was rated highly in a magazine. I show it off, show them the other brands and choices, but repeatedly tell her that, “Yes, this is a really good one!” The wife keeps asking me, “What else does it do?” so I have gone over every single specific detail after a certain point. The husband finally steps in and saves me by saying, “What else do you want it to do? Make you toast, too?” and tells me they’ll take it.  🙂