on April 11, 2008
Currently all the reviews on Amazon are for the Artisan series mixers, probably because of the extra 25 watts of power over the Ultra series. I got my beloved Empire Red Ultra from my sister, in brand new condition, because she got tired of my constant admiration (actually, covetousness)of it every time I came to visit her. She happens to be a very busy working mom who doesn't cook and bake as much as I do, so she sold it to me at her cost, and I think she now regrets it! At any rate, on to my review...
First off, let me say this baby is HEAVY...at nearly 25 lbs. I don't move it around very much. It stays in its designated space on my counter, and I don't even TRY to store it. I'm disabled, and just don't have the physical strength to tackle that. However, its weight is one of the many advantages of the machine, when mixing heavier items such as bread and cookie doughs. It obviously saves me a lot of hand and arm fatigue; a hand-held mixer is out of the question for me. It has plenty of power, and easily mixes 2 loaves' worth of bread dough with minimal bogging. The only thing that I would improve upon is I would add a way to store the cord neatly; but that is a small thing compared to how much I rely on it to help me cook.
From whipped potatoes to buttercream icing, this mixer does all that I require of it, and probably much, much more...I hope to be able to buy some of the attachments for it soon. At about $50 less than the Artisan series, don't pass it up thinking that the extra 25 watts of power is the only way to go.
This is a lovely mixer almost identical to the Classic Plus, except red and slightly more powerful. I bought the latter to make cookies after my hand mixer started to smoke during a particularly intense doughing session. I used it primarily for that and pizza crusts. Things that could be mixed with a handheld whisk, I opt for that instead.
Do you need a stand mixer? No, probably not, but it sure takes the grunt work out of stirring and kneading. It also mixes more consistently than I could by hand and classes up the counter.
If you're set on a stand mixer, should you buy this one? Maybe. It's not designed for huge amounts of heavy dough or constant use. It's built well, but it's not an industrial machine. It audibly strains and thumps with a double helping of cookie dough (around 25 oz of flour) and while kneading wet, thick pizza dough. With that sort of load, there's no speed difference between setting 6 and 10, though of course you'd only knead at setting 2 anyway.
KitchenAid has some mixers that are ostensibly a bit stronger. They're all lift-style: instead of tilting the head back, the head sits higher and you raise and lower the bowl. I prefer the tilt-head style. The paddles never get out of the way with the bowl-lift, getting the bowl to lock in place is a jerky movement, and it takes up a lot of vertical counter space. What you do get for the extra cost of the Pro series is a better dough hook, a metal gearbox, more power, and a slightly larger bowl. Even these higher-power mixers will fall short of alternatives from Bosch and Electrolux for serious breadmaking, however.
If you opt for the Artisan, you gain 1/2 QT of bowl capacity, a handle on the bowl, the splash guard, and color choices besides white. Otherwise, it's functionally identical to this model and about the same power. The splash guard in particular is a fiddly thing, you spill less just tilting the mixer up and dumping your ingredients in. I do think the larger bowl and the handle are worth something though (especially for double recipes), so the Artisan may be preferable for more than just the color.
There's a lot of talk about Hobart units. Prior to about 1985, these mixers were made by Hobart, a supplier of industrial kitchen equipment. Later models are made by Whirlpool. There's some debate whether the new models are as good as the old ones, particularly in regard to the gearbox. My take is that if you can find an old Hobart (e.g., K4SS, K5-A, K5SS with a metal 'Hobart' placard) and it runs well, it's likely to keep running well no matter what you throw at it. But it won't be as clean and may not fit certain new bowls, paddles, or attachments.
New or old, these KitchenAid mixers are dead-simple to repair. The motor brushes are replaceable without dismantling the unit ($10 or so and hidden beneath the black circular covers), the speed governor is mechanically adjustable, and the gearbox is straightforward and easily accessible. This means that they're intriguing on the used market. People receive them as gifts and put them in the local classifieds with minimal use or minor flaws you can fix. Typical transaction prices are $125-$150, and I've seen this mixer as low as $75. For new units, Kohls has them on sale quite often.
Here's the full list of KA mixers:
K45SS - Classic
* Tilt-head, 250W, 4.5QT metal
KSM75 - Classic Plus
* Tilt-head, 275W, 4.5QT metal
KSM95 - Ultra Power
* Tilt-head, 300W, 4.5QT metal
KSM100 - Ultra Power Plus
* Tilt-head, 300W, 4.5QT metal handle, pouring shield
KSM150 - Artistan
* Tilt-head, 325W, 5QT metal handle, pouring shield
KSM152 - Custom Metallic
* Tilt-head, 325W, 5QT glass handle, pouring shield
KSM155 - Premium Metallic
* Tilt-head, 325W, 5QT glass handle, pouring shield
KSM160 - Ultra Power
* Tilt-head, 325W, 5QT glass handle, 3QT metal, pouring shield
KSM160APS - Architect
* Tilt-head, 325W, 5QT metal handle, 3QT metal, pouring shield
KSM500 - Pro 500
* Bowl-lift, 325W, 5QT metal handle, pouring shield, metal gears, soft-start/auto shutoff
RKG25H0X - Heavy Duty
* Bowl-lift, 450W, 5QT metal handle, pouring shield, spiral hook, metal gears, soft-start/auto shutoff
KV25G0X - Pro 5
* Bowl-life, 450W, 5QT metal handle, pouring shield, spiral hook, metal gears, soft-start/auto shutoff
KP26M1X - Pro 600
* Bowl-lift, 575W, 6QT metal handle, pouring shield, spiral hook, metal gears, soft-start/auto shutoff
KSM7586P - Pro Line
* Bowl-lift, 1.3HP, 7QT metal handle, pouring shield, spiral hook, metal gears, soft-start/auto-shutoff
If you'd rather have a more powerful bowl lift mixer, KitchenAid's refurbished store often has the Heavy Duty Series for as little as $175 (if you Google a coupon code). It's a doppelganger for the Pro 5 and includes the superior spiral dough hook. Whatever you buy, try to have it on (even with an empty bowl) for a few minutes at least once a week or two. The oil-leak problem occurs when the oil breaks down from disuse. If the mixer runs with any frequency, you'll never encounter it.