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August 2001
By Jennifer Hicks
SPECIAL REPORT: Sorting Out The Stats On 20-qt. Mixers

How much horsepower? Gears or belt drives? And what about attachments? In a large field of 20-qt. mixer suppliers, you’ve got lots of options.

So you’re looking for a new food mixer. You aren’t alone; this year some 17,800 new and used mixers of all sizes will be sold to foodservice ops around the country. And since so many of you are in the market for a mixer so often, there’s plenty of U.S. suppliers out there—10 that we’re aware of—just waiting to take your order.

Since we covered 60-qt. mixers back in 1997, we decided to give 20-qt. models their turn in the spotlight. They are, after all, sold most often after 60-qt. machines, and they’re a great all-purpose tool. You can mix nearly anything with a 20-qt., from salad dressings and whipped toppings to mashed potatoes and pretzel dough. In fact, many food suppliers base their recipes on the 20-qt. size.

Most likely you’ve heard of The Big Guys in mixer sales—Hobart Corp., Varimixer/Enodis and Univex Corp.—but as we said, we’re aware of 10 American suppliers hitting the market with mixers you may want to check out. In addition to these three, those suppliers include Berkel Inc., Blakeslee, Dito Dean, Fleetwood Food Service, Globe Food Equipment Co., Intedge Industries and Thunderbird Food Machinery. This is more suppliers than we usually discuss in a cover story, but in this case you really should know about the entire market before you sally forth to buy a new 20-qt. mixer.

You can expect base models—which include a stainless steel bowl, bowl guard and a minimum of one batter beater and one wire whip—to run roughly $1,700 to $3,000, depending on model and markup and excluding optional attachments and additional bowls. Also, most 20-qt. mixers come as countertoppers, but a few here can also be configured as floor models.

Here’s How To Start
Generally speaking, suppliers promote the 20-qt. mixer for small- and medium-size operations needing a single machine, or for larger ops needing to augment the capabilities of a 60-qt. machine.

You’ll want to start your own spec’ing process at the beginning, considering first what food you’ll be mixing, how much and how often. For example, if mashed potatoes are your game, assess how many batches you’ll need a day and in what time frame. You might find you need those spuds all in a 30-minute window on a daily basis. Or you might be a high-volume location mixing 8-lb. batches of mashed potatoes as many 30 times a day. Your answers to these questions—what, how much, how often—will tell you and your supplier whether you should stick with a 20-qt. or size up.

Take care if you’re looking at spec’ing for pizza dough. Manufacturers can tell you about absorption ratios, the weight of water divided by the weight of flour, and the percentage that equation produces. From that percentage you can determine how much flour and water are needed for the thickness of your crust based on the capacity of the bowl. And what it all means is the more flour and less water you’ve got in your bowl, the greater stress your mixer’s motor will be under, which could have implications for your choice of horsepower.

Remember, too, that you can’t just load up what amounts to 20 qts. of product and go to town. Anytime you work with product that changes in volume—particularly anything with yeast—you must consider the space that product will need after mixing. So be sure you clue your suppliers into post-mix volume to be sure you’re not headed for an overloaded bowl.

And this brings up another point: Suppliers report the number one abuse of 20-qt. mixers in the field is overwork. Go past capacity on your machine and you’re putting excess wear and tear into the equipment, shortening its life and wasting your investment.

More importantly, suppliers say you should size your mixer for future volume. If you’re anticipating 10% growth during each of the next two years, at the end of that 24-month time a 20-qt. mixer will probably be too small for you. So consider whether you should be buying tomorrow’s mixer today.

Also consider whether your supplier offers a trade-in option so you can move up in size in future years while retaining some of the value of your original investment.

What Makes Mixers Hum
With all that aside, you’re ready to think about transmissions. Peel away a mixer’s outer skin and you’ll find, in simple terms, a gear-driven or belt-driven system. Best to understand the ins and outs of each transmission before you go shopping.

Gear-driven machines come with three or four fixed speeds preset at the factory. These machines must be stopped to change speeds—a key operating point. Generally speaking, the higher the horsepower rating on a gear-driven machine, the more likely the mixer will operate reliably while tackling heavy loads. In this story, the Berkel, Blakeslee, Fleetwood, Hobart, Intedge and Thunderbird machines operate as gear-based machines.

Belt-driven machines, also widely known as variable-speed mixers, generally use torque-sensing pulleys to drive a reinforced belt, which itself is connected to a variable-speed pulley. The pulley then transmits power to a gear box, which drives the agitator. With this style transmission you can ramp up speeds while shifting on the fly. The Dito Dean, Globe, Varimixer and Univex mixers fit this variable-speed niche.

Now, bear several things in mind. A gear-driven machine generally will cost you more upfront than a belt-driven unit, but over time its maintenance costs will be virtually nil, as most of the gear-based units here feature lifetime-lubricated transmissions. You’ll find a belt-driven mixer reliable in everyday operation, but suppliers do note that over time you may find some belt slipping that requires maintenance, especially if your staffers routinely overwork the machine.

Also, steer away from buying a mixer based solely on horsepower. Americans tend to think bigger means better when it comes to horsepower, but in this category that’s not necessarily true. Keep in mind mainly that the lighter your load, the less important hp rating will be. And truth be told, 1&Mac218;2 hp is probably plenty for most any job you’ll be doing in your 20-qt. mixer.

One other fine point: While all of these suppliers are domestic, some of their mixers are actually made overseas. There’s no quality question here, but there may be a spec question, we’ve been told. If you’re an institution funded with public dollars, for example, you may be bound to spec only American-made equipment.

That being the case, simple queries will tell you whose equipment fits this particular criteria.

Who Doesn’t Like Options?
Once you’re set on transmission issues, immediately turn your attention to accessories, which will help you take full advantage of the machine you’ve just purchased. Guard against the tunnel vision that says all you’ll need to do is mix in your 20-qt. machine. Chances are you’ll find a zillion things to do with that machine once you have a meat grinder or veggie slicer attachment on hand.

First, consider what mixing tools come with your mixer. Some of you will need one each of a batter beater, dough hook and wire whip, but only five of the 10 suppliers here—Dito Dean, Fleetwood, Globe, Thunderbird and Varimixer—offer all three standard. The others provide a beater and whip alone as standard.

Timers and ingredient chutes also come standard from some suppliers. You can find 15- or 30-min. timers at no charge on the Blakeslee, Dito Dean, Fleetwood, Globe, Hobart and Intedge machines. And ingredient chutes come free with the Globe and Intedge mixers.

Other standard accessories can also include pastry knives, bowl scrapers, splashguards and hubs for attaching other tools. Those other tools, usually veggie slicers, shredders and meat grinder/food choppers, fall under the options category with all suppliers.

For added versatility, some suppliers also offer optional 10- and 12-qt. bowls with the appropriate beaters, hooks and whips for those bowls. Those who provide a 10-qt. option include Dito Dean, Globe and Thunderbird, while Hobart, Intedge, Thunderbird, Univex and Varimixer provide an optional 12-qt bowl.

Also remember this key point: Never accept a mixer package without a standard bowl safety guard. Years ago the industry itself decided, without any outside regulatory pressure, to make bowl guards a standard feature in response to lawsuits from folks who foolishly took chances with an operating mixer.

And even when you’ve got a guard in place, remind staffers not to poke through the guard rings with fingers or objects when the mixer’s in action. Mixer use calls for common sense.

Finally, all makers except Thunderbird offer a one-year part and labor warranty. Thunderbird’s warranty is 18 months on parts and six months on labor. Plus, the company offers an optional extended four-year warranty.

How They Stack Up
So here’s the stats by supplier. First up, Berkel’s BX-20 gear-driven mixer features a 1&Mac218;2-hp motor paired with a high-torque sealed clutch and spring-loaded gear shift. Three fixed speeds offer planetary mixing speed of 117 rpm to 420 rpm. A batter beater and wire whip come standard; a dough hook, 15-min. timer, and slicer and grinder can be added as options.

Blakeslee comes to market with the gear-driven B-20, another 1&Mac218;2-hp unit offering three fixed planetary mixing speeds of 102 rpm to 354 rpm. Standard accessories include a batter beater, wire whip and 15-min. timer. A wide variety of optional accessories includes a dough hook, pastry knife, four-wing whip, slicer and grinder, and a combination pan bracket and overshelf.

Dito Dean’s offering, the EM20, is a belt-driven 1-hp machine. The EM20 offers variable speeds from 115 rpm to 523 rpm, and the unit’s equipped with standard features that include a batter beater, dough hook, wire whip and 15-min. timer. Options include a three-grid sieve for purées, soups and stews; slicer and grinder; and 10-qt. bowl with three attachments.

Fleetwood’s AE-20 provides a gear-driven transmission with horsepower of 1&Mac218;2. You’re looking at standard mixing speeds of 132 rpm to 448 rpm and standard accessories such as a batter beater, dough hook, wire whip and 15-min. timer. In the options column you’ll find a slicer and grinder.

Globe’s GCM20H utilizes a belt to drive mixing. You get a range of speeds from 105 rpm to 361 rpm for mixing, and because the GCM20H uses a belt, you can change speeds on the fly. Standard equipment includes a batter beater, dough hook, wire whip and 30-min. timer, plus an ingredient chute. Add-ons include slicer and grinder, shredder plates, a bowl scraper and a 10-qt. bowl with its own beater, hook and whip.
Hobart steps up with the A-200 mixer, a gear-driven 1&Mac218;2-hp unit with mixing speeds of 107 rpm to 361 rpm. A batter beater, wire whip and 15-min. timer come standard. Hobart’s list of optional accessories is one of the longest here and includes six other types of beaters, hooks and whips, a pastry knife, bowl scraper, ingredient chute, slicer, grinder, and 12-qt. bowl with accessories.

Back in 1998, Intedge bought the Titan mixer line formerly sold by Middleby. Within that line Intedge promotes its 3&Mac218;4-hp GP620B, a gear-driven machine with three fixed mixing speeds of 93 rpm to 326 rpm. You get a batter beater, wire whip, 15-min. timer and ingredient chute standard. Augment the basic package with a bowl scraper, bowl dolly, bowl splashguard, dough hook, spiral dough developer, pastry knife, sweet dough beater, slicer and grinder, and 12-qt. bowl with accessories.

Thunderbird’s 3&Mac218;4-hp ARM-02 boasts a gear-driven transmission and mixing speeds from 95 rpm to 320 rpm. Standard equipment includes a batter beater, dough hook and wire whip. Options include a slicer and grinder, 15- or 30-min. timers, and a 10-qt. bowl with accessories. Also featured is an optional, extended warranty of up to four years.

Next up is Univex and its SRM20 variable-speed mixer. Your standard package offers a batter beater and wire whip, while options include a dough hook, sweet dough beater, pastry knife, timer, and 12-qt. bowl with its accessories. Speeds on the 1&Mac218;2-hp SRM20 run 90 rpm to 365 rpm for mixing.

And we end with Varimixer’s W20J, a 1-hp variable-speed unit that boasts mixing speeds of 100 rpm to 450 rpm. Batter beater, dough hook and wire whip make the standard features list. Check out options that include a 15-min. timer, bowl scraper, pastry knife, slicer and grinder, shredder plates, and 12-qt. bowl with accessories.

A Few Final Words
Phew. Lots of details, but don’t be overwhelmed. With a bit of time and care, you should be able to sort out the best 20-qt. mixer for your stores. And you’ll want to really talk with suppliers, too, to be certain you’ll be getting the after-sales support you need.

In the end, the best advice suppliers offer is to be certain of your own requirements, and then rely on their many, many years of experience in selling mixers and training staffers to use them.

“We’ve been in business long enough to understand the people who use these mixers, and we know how the machines should work,” says one supplier. “If you follow our recommendations, you’ll certainly get longevity out of this equipment—perhaps as many as 30 years.”

Want to know more about mixers? Contact the companies below.

Berkel Inc.
Hobart Corp.
Intedge Industries
Thunderbird Food Machinery
Fleetwood Food Service
Globe Food Equipment Co. Univex Corp.

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