Traditional blenders and those meant for smoothies have a similar appearance, but have a few different design features. These differences make smoothie blenders more capable of crushing ice and other ingredients. Consumers interested in purchasing a smoothie maker have a number of sizes, speeds and styles to choose from. Familiarizing yourself with the different functions and uses will aid in proper product selection.
A smoothie is a blended drink usually made from fresh fruit, yogurt, juice and ice. These ingredients can be mixed or pureed in a blender or smoothie maker and come out as a cold drink similar to the consistency of a milkshake. Smoothie makers are similar in style to traditional blenders and usually have similar components, but they serve a more limited purpose than a traditional blender. Instead of chopping or cutting foods, a smoothie maker works best on liquid or semi-liquid products and may come with a dispensing spout, which will fill cups without removing the pitcher from the base.
Both traditional blenders and smoothie makers come with four primary parts: the pitcher, lid, blade and base. The pitcher is the main portion, which holds ingredients. It is primarily made of glass or plastic and comes with a fitted lid to prevent spills and overflow. The blade, pitcher and lid will fit into the base, which controls the speed and length of blending. Most traditional blender units will be able to stir, mix or puree container contents, while smoothie maker functions will be more limited. Most modern blenders and smoothie makers will have dishwasher safe components, with the exception of the base. Both will come in a number of sizes, colors and styles, and come in a wide range of prices.
A smoothie maker is essentially a specialized traditional blender. It offers a different shape and designs that permit easier ice crushing, as well as a spout to fill cups. Traditional blender designs are created to hold large items, and the blade is designed to chop, cut and mix large or dense pieces of food. The traditional varieties will perform more tasks and have as many as 16 speeds; a smoothie maker has three to five speeds, since it normally does not provide mixing or chopping. A traditional blender will most often have a pitcher that is shaped like a cylinder. This is functional, as it will often be used for larger, thicker products than the smoothie blender. Smoothie machines are designed more like a narrow cone, which permits ice to lay on top of the blade rather than around it for better crushing.
A little bit of research before heading to the store to purchase a smoothie maker will go a long way. Potential buyers should keep in mind a few positive and negative factors before investing their money. Consider wattage, as a more powerful motor will prevent unwanted ice chunks and will require less blending time. Seek out models that have a glass container over one with plastic. Glass tends to be more scratch resistant and won't stain as easily as plastic. The same idea goes for models with a plastic base. These are more likely to crack, stain and smell than their metal counterparts, which are usually more durable and easier to clean. Even if it doesn't seem necessary, consumers should buy a size larger than they think they'll need. This will prevent problems with an overcrowded pitcher, which may not blend as well. The cost of a basic smoothie maker, as of 2011, will start at about $30 and may go up to several hundred dollars. The more expensive models will offer a number of add-ons and features that may not be necessary. A good model with a metal base will run between $40 and $100, as of 2011.
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