KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender Review review: The KitchenAid 5-Speed is a diamond in the rough
The KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender is a reasonably-priced blender, especially when you consider all of the things it's capable of. With a generous, 60-ounce pitcher and elegant, vintage-looking design, the $149 KitchenAid offers high-quality performance with a wallet-friendly sticker-price. For all of its modest pricing and design, the KitchenAid would be a welcome addition to any small appliance lineup.
We reviewed seven blenders in what I've been calling the CNET Blender Bonanza. Some models cost upwards of $400 and feature higher-powered motors. I'd be lying if I told you that I began testing this product with high expectations. That's not a reflection on the KitchenAid brand. I have a KitchenAid stand mixer and love it. This lack of high expectations results from the fact that I have come to view the blender as little more than a smoothie machine and occasional frozen drink maker.
These are reasonable expectations, as frozen beverages comprise a primary category of a blender's repertoire, be they milkshakes, smoothies, or margaritas. I was worried, however, when we began to discuss our testing protocol for putting the blenders through their paces. Certainly, I expected the Vitamix (which costs more than my monthly student loan payment) to handle any food we threw at it. But the sweet looking KitchenAid? It seemed unfair to torture it with a block of cheese.
With the KitchenAid, my doubts were completely unwarranted. It performed on par with, and in some cases better than, blenders costing more than $199. It handled our tests with ease and earned our vote as an excellent blender, especially when you consider the price.
Because of its fairly rugged capabilities, the KitchenAid is an excellent option if you're looking for a multitasking blender that can do more than make frozen drinks. If, however, you're exclusively a frozen drink maker, don't spend this kind of money. The $39
Design and Features
The first thing you'll notice about the KitchenAid, at least next to other blenders, is its classic-looking design. It looks a lot like the blender my grandma had, though updated and sleeker, making it the perfect blend of vintage and modern. I really like its look. While the base is not smaller than other models, measuring seven inches wide and nine inches deep, it looks like it should leave a smaller footprint than bulkier ones. It is fairly average in terms of footprint, though it is anything but in regards to height. Measuring 17 inches at its highest point, the KitchenAid is only an inch shorter than the
As far as measurements go, however, the Ninja isn't dramatically larger. It's an inch taller, but it measures eight inches wide and nine-and-a-half inches deep, making it quite comparable in size to the KitchenAid. It goes to show that looks are deceiving sometimes, as the narrower, more rounded design of the KitchenAid blender, while not much smaller than the Ninja, gives the appliance a sleeker appearance.
The KitchenAid blender comes with a 60-ounce pitcher, which is generous and larger than the 48-ounce
The KitchenAid performed as well as, if not better, than the wider-pitchered models. I think this is due to the fact that, given how narrow the bottom of the pitcher is, the blades have more contact with food that may be stuck to the sides. In addition, because there is less room at the bottom, the blender forces food upwards. It then slides down the pitcher sides and comes in contact with the blades once more. With the cheese, for example, the blades tossed the block up to the top of the pitcher repeatedly. It fell directly onto the blades every time.
The KitchenAid's lid feels equally well-designed and, as is the standard, features both a primary lid and an inner lid that you can remove during blending to add ingredients. When the inner lid is removed, the space it leaves is large enough that you can add ingredients with ease but not so gaping that the contents of the blender will splatter easily.
I appreciate the control panel's simplicity, but I also appreciate that its simplicity is balanced with functionality. You won't find an LCD window or display, nor will you find a timer, but the KitchenAid offers an elegant interface that has every option you'd need in a blender, such as stir, chop, mix, puree, and liquefy buttons. The ice crush button is fairly standard for the category, but I like that the pulse option lets you choose the speed and power of the pulse, ranging from one to five. You may never use this option, but might, on the other hand, enjoy having that additional control without lots of superfluous buttons. This was particularly useful during a delicate test like making whipped cream.
For those who like to customize their lives or like color, you need look no further than this KitchenAid model, which is available in 15 colors, ranging from the traditional white, black, and stainless, to the less traditional apple green, watermelon pink, and tangerine orange. This option for customization is available to most countertop appliances in the KitchenAid brand and is a feature that definitely gives this blender an aesthetic edge.
True to the KitchenAid line, you'll find this blender easy to use. This is due largely to its easy-to-understand control panel. The pitcher locks onto the base with a clockwise twist. This gesture isn't tricky, nor does it detract from the blender's overall usability, but I sometimes forgot about it. In the midst of testing two other blenders, one which required a different sort of locking gesture and one that required none at all, I'll admit that I forgot to lock the pitcher in place once or twice. It was a silly mistake, but the KitchenAid pitcher doesn't look like it needs to be locked due to the design. Fortunately, this didn't result in the geyser of pancake batter that it could have and, instead, just made a lot of noise.
Perhaps the most important element of usability for blenders involves cleaning. You are talking about an appliance with blades sharp enough to crush ice and, in some cases, grind meat. Naturally, you're not going to be enthusiastic about needing to gingerly hand-wash every piece. Nor, however, will you want a blender with 3,000 moving parts that you will have to reassemble once they're dry. Fortunately, there are only three parts to wash as the blades are inseparable from the pitcher, leaving you to worry only about the pitcher itself, the main lid, and the inner lid or, as KitchenAid calls it, the "ingredient cup."
I love the fact that you have cleaning options. If you don't mind the undeniable terror that accompanies sticking your hand down into a new, sharp blender, you may hand-wash with abandon. If you prefer a more high-power, less sharp approach, you can fill the pitcher halfway with warm water and a few drops of dish soap, lock it onto the base, and press the Stir option, running the blender for about ten seconds. Rinse and let dry. Or, for those who appreciate a more hands-off approach, KitchenAid offers the option to use a dishwasher. You'll still need to hand-wash the lid components, but I appreciate that I can place the pitcher upside down on either the top or bottom rack without worry.
Features and design are important elements of any appliance, but if the performance is lacking, those bells and whistles don't matter. As I said, while I didn't expect that the KitchenAid would wow me, I didn't think it would be a bottom performer either. Compared to the $400 blenders, such as the
We devised a series of blending tests, some of which simulate real usage scenarios and some which assessed the functional limits of each blender. Preliminary tests included crushing ice as well as making smoothies, pesto, and pancake batter. More rigorous tests were, in many cases, more revealing and involved milling whole almonds into almond flour, turning that almond flour into almond butter, making whipped cream, and determining whether or not a blender could grate/shred/blend an entire eight-ounce block of sharp cheddar cheese.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The KitchenAid blender doesn't offer mutliple ice-crush options like the Breville and it won't make snow, but the ice crush preset works really well and quickly. It's not fancy but, then again, you're crushing ice. It doesn't need to be fancy, it just needs to work.
The KitchenAid powered through smoothies also. You have a lot of options and which preset you use will depend a lot on what's in your smoothies. If you blend kale, beets, or other fibrous, tough foods into smoothies, you will need to select puree or liquify, at least at first. For softer foods like bananas or fresh strawberries and yogurt, mix or puree will suffice. While you might miss the ease and convenience of a smoothie preset button, such as those on the Hamilton Beach and Breville, the KitchenAid offers you a lot of control over how your smoothie is made.
Blenders are assisted in tough tasks by the addition of liquid. This is why most manufacturers recommend adding a few tablespoons of water to the pitcher when you want to crush ice. We wanted to test each blender's ability to process leafy greens or foods with different shapes, sizes, and consistencies without the assistance of a lot of liquid. Pesto seemed a perfect solution as it fit all of the above criteria. Our recipe included spinach, garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, walnuts, and olive oil. The KitchenAid performed well, producing chunky, yet uniform, pesto in 15 pulses and I didn't scrape the pitcher once in between. Three more pulses resulted in pesto as smooth as the product of the Vitamix.
We wondered if the shape of the pitcher or location and height of the blades would leave dry ingredients wedged in corners, against the pitcher, or under the blades. We also wondered if the blenders could mix a powdered ingredient with a liquid into a smooth batter. Pancake mix felt like not only a good way to provide a practical answer to the second question, but also to provide a visual answer for the first. The KitchenAid performed above expectations. We decided to use the stir preset (or similar option for other models) for 20 seconds and then assess. I found pancake mix clinging to the sides of the pitcher. I scraped the pitcher and stirred for an additional five seconds. The batter was perfect. Because I had to scrape the pitcher, it wasn't a top performer in this test but given its price, I don't mind doing a little work.
We knew that many blenders, especially the 1,000-plus watt models, could handle rugged, high-power blending. How would they do with more delicate food items, however? Whipping cream seemed like a good finesse test, providing an elegant way to show whether or not a blender could perform tasks that don't require full strength. You can under-whip cream and you can over-whip cream. All of the blenders made acceptable whipped cream in less than a minute. Some were better than others, but the KitchenAid made excellent, fluffy whipped cream. This isn't a common blender use, but I appreciate knowing that I could make great whipped cream with an appliance that is always out on my counter, saving me from finding the hand-mixer and whisk attachments which are almost never in the same place.
From here, our tests got more rigorous, especially for smaller blenders. Because the Ninja and Blendtec both claimed to be able to make almond butter, we wanted to test the claim. This meant testing all of the blenders. We devised two tests out of one: first, to see if the blenders could process two cups of raw almonds into an even almond flour, and second, to process that almond mix (no oil added) into almond butter, as one of our recipes suggested.
I had no expectations that any of the lower-watt blenders would perform well, if at all, in either of these tests. The Breville and KitchenAid, however, flew through this test. In 20 pulses, the Kitchen Aid made perfect almond flour. The
Processing almond butter took longer, naturally, as the almond's oils need to release and emulsify. Our recipe suggested that in a food processor, this process can take ten minutes. That time frame became our benchmark: if the blender could make almond butter and it could do it in less than ten minutes, we'd call it a success. The KitchenAid, impressively, required only five minutes. I had to scrape the pitcher often to keep the mixture moving, so it's not a hands-off task, but the KitchenAid's almond butter rivaled the product made in the high-watt blenders.
Our final test was the torture test. We like to devise a test for each appliance category that pushes the machines to the limit to see how well they perform. For vacuums, we scatter nuts, washers, and bobby pins to see if the machine can pick them up or, at the very least, run over them without breaking. For blenders, we placed an eight-ounce block of cold, sharp cheddar cheese into the pitcher and turned the blender on high to see whether it could grate or pulverize the cheese.
The KitchenAid was the top performer. Within seconds, it shredded the cheese into fine pieces that, while not necessarily attractive, were uniform and usable. This distinguished the KitchenAid because even though it lacked the power of the larger blenders, it outperformed them. I attributed this success to the shape of the pitcher. Because there was nowhere for the cheese to get stuck due to the pitcher's narrow shapes, it was forced in constant contact with the blades, which made short work of it. Most of the blenders could handle the cheese, but they would either heat up and therefore melt the cheese, or overprocess, resulting in something we described as "cheese snow." It's as gross-looking as it is gross-sounding. There was, however, no melting or distortion with the KitchenAid.
Care and Maintenance
The KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender comes with a category-standard, one-year warranty. Replacement parts are harder to come by, which is disappointing, but not abnormal. The KitchenAid Web site offers a page for service scheduling, should the need arise.
If you only need a blender to make milkshakes, smoothies, or other frozen beverages, save your money and buy the Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart (Model 56206) for $39. It will perform all of those tasks without trouble and leave you with extra money in your wallet. If, however, you're looking for a blender that can break the block (of cheese that is) without breaking your bank, the $149 KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond blender is an excellent choice and will power through smoothies, mixes, and almonds alike.