Foodservice Equipment Reports

SHORT REPORT: The Inside Scoop On Blenders

So you’re shopping for a beverage blender? A no-brainer thing, you might think. But you’d be wrong. The devil’s in the details, and getting the details right will make the difference between getting a blender that lasts and does what you want and one that frags and sends you back shopping again.

Beverage blenders tend to be rated by price, drinks-per-day, jar volume and motor size. Entry-level units start at about $60 and will have a suitable life expectancy if you’re doing roughly 20 or 25 drinks per day—maybe more or less depending on how thin or thick your ingredients and finished drinks are. These less expensive models will generally be rated at fractional horsepower, maybe 3/8 hp to a half or maybe a bit more, and they’ll offer one or two speeds plus a pulse function.

As you move up the scale, the blenders will gain more—more price, more capacity, more power and more speeds. And you’ll be looking at touch pads, programmability and sound enclosures. A top-of-the-line, ultra-super-deluxe blender can set you back by as much as $2,000, but most foodservice-friendly machines ring up in the $200 to $800 range. 

How many drinks per day will you make, and what are your ingredients? If your blender recipes are heavy on frozen fruit and ice (i.e. smoothies, margaritas), and especially if finer textures in these drinks are important, plan on looking for more horsepower and a price range of $200 on up minimum.

Getting The Power Right

“If you do more than 50 smoothies per day, you should get a unit with at least a 1½-hp to 2-hp motor,” one of our manufacturer friends says.

“The biggest mistake people make is in buying undersized, throw-away blenders,” says one blender maker. “If you’re spending $100, five or six times a year, on new blenders, why not just make a one-time investment in a $400 unit?”

If you’re doing truly big volumes, 100 drinks a day or more, you need to spring for as much as 3 hp and up. “3.5 hp is more than plenty for most applications,” one of our sources says.

Weakest Links

What parts need to be strong? Think about where the wear happens: the motor coupling, the jar coupling and the jar blade assembly. Make sure the blender you’re buying features replaceable couplings. Better to replace components than the entire unit.

As for environmental factors, moisture and heat both take their toll on blenders. Moisture sneaking in through the motor shaft or the air intake area can short-circuit connections or corrode motor parts over the long term.

Too much heat, meanwhile, will compromise insulation on the motor’s internal parts. At least one supplier offers a high-performance unit with an additional motor fan that continues to cool between blending cycles. 

Bells And Whistles

Bells and whistles you’ll find useful will depend on menu and volume. Even basic models typically have toggle switches and high, low and pulse-speed settings. Pulse is handy for refreshing drinks or chopping ice, and toggle switches are easier to use in dark, busy environments such as bars, where you don’t have time to be fumbling and staring.

If your menu includes a bunch of different drinks, requiring different settings, you’ll want to consider programmable touch-pad controls. Some come with buttons pre-set by the manufacturer. Others allow you to program according to your needs. Of this second group, there are two choices: some blenders come with USB devices in which you configure speed and time settings on your computer, then insert the device into the blender(s) to enact the change. Others let you sidestep the computer and make the changes directly into your blender.

Smoothie concepts, which have recipes that blend differently according to ingredients or volume, are key candidates for programmable blenders.

Material, Size, Noise, Warranties

Commercial blender jars come in sturdy plastic, stainless steel or glass—and for obvious reasons glass isn’t good in foodservice applications. Hard plastic jars make up about 90% of the market, while stainless steel remains a favorite especially in healthcare.

When you’re comparing plastic jars, options include polycarbonate, which is most commonly used in foodservice, and a relative newcomer called co-polyester, which is free of bisphenol-A. Polycarbonate has a slightly higher impact strength (important if your employees tend to drop things), while co-polyester, being slightly denser, helps dampen noise levels.

Higher-end blenders come with sound enclosures that reduce noise by up to 30%, manufacturers say. These are mainly purchased by chains and coffee shops, who keep blenders out front where excessive noise can be a problem.

Finally, a word on warranties. “Make sure you get at least a one-year warranty for low-end blenders,” our experts say. “And high-end blenders--$500 or more—should have at least a three-year warranty.” And know what’s covered.

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