Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker with Gluten Free Menu setting
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on February 3, 2012
Our trusty, 18-year-old Zo was still going strong when the non-stick coating began to peel. When no replacement parts could be found, we faced the inevitable and began to look for a worthy successor. After much research, other brands seemed to have serious issues we hadn't had with our old workhorse, despite its age (it was a hard act to follow!). Plunking down mega-bucks for the Virtuoso took much soul-searching, especially after so many negative reviews of its predecessor, but we checked Amazon's price daily and took the plunge when it went on sale, since it could be returned if it was a dud.

Surprisingly, this machine actually has exceeded our expectations; even 100% whole wheat bread, which in the ancestor Zo could be iffy, is perfect. In both 2 lb. and 1.5 lb. loaves, the crust is just right - not tough or hard; the top is golden and even; every loaf/cake, complex or simple, has been almost freakishly flawless (true, you are paying for those double paddles and top heater, but do they ever make a difference!). In true Zo form, it's simple to use, very quiet and stable, and finished goodies slip right out with minimal holes and cleanup. Paddles remain in the pan, not the bread, and separate easily after briefly soaking the cooled pan in warm water. A "Shape" stage can be used to remove the dough to specially form it or remove the paddles before baking (the splines will remain, but the resulting holes will be much smaller without the paddles), and raising the lid will stop the machine temporarily without interfering with the program. Like older models, the initial "Rest" period warms ingredients as needed before mixing so no need to bring them to room temp first, but a cool new feature is the ability to bypass this stage if you don't need it, which shortens the overall time considerably. The "Add" signal also beeps for a longer period so you have less chance of missing it, which is easy to do if you're not nearby since it isn't very loud. Although the DVD manual provided is unintentionally comical and prim, and mind-numbingly redundant, it does have some useful info not included in the written manual.

One consideration before buying would be your available space: since it bakes a horizontal loaf, this is a hefty machine with a footprint 18"w, 11"d, and with the lid raised, 20"h, plus space needed behind and at sides for vents. An extension cord will probably be needed unless parked directly in front of an outlet.

Although we've only begun to tap its many talents, after over a month of frequent use (2 - 3 times/wk. for whole-grain breads w/nuts/fruit/seeds, banana bread, cakes, and pizza dough so far, and hopefully noodles soon), we're delighted with our new Zo and recommend it without reservation; we also appreciate Amazon's free shipping and right-on-time arrival before Christmas.

Just an added note if you're new to bread makers (and to set straight some previous detractors' comments) - for best results with any machine, take the time to measure ingredients by weight rather than volume and add them in the order recommended in your machine's manual, since order can vary by manufacturer and doesn't necessarily match that listed in cookbook recipes. And if you need more reasons to think Zo, check out the King Arthur Flour website blog where they used one to cook almost every dish last Thanksgiving (except the turkey)!
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on December 16, 2011
I have owned bread machines ever since about 1987 at a cost then of close to $600! Since then I have had just about every brand at one time or another. My favorites have been made by Panasonic and Zojirushi. In short you really do get what you pay for in quality and durability. This new "Zo" is heavy duty and makes a truly excellent and normal shaped loaf. I say normal as most make slightly odd shapes that are a little too wide or too tall. The added top heater solves the small flaw the previous Zo had and that was the top would have less color than the rest of the crust. I have had this machine about 2 weeks and have already made 10 loaves. All have come out perfectly including 100% whole wheat.
Our favorite is a rich egg bread also know as Challah and here is my personal recipe:

2 Beaten Eggs with water to equal 10 oz
- or 10 oz water and 0.90 oz of powered whole eggs
14.85 oz BY WEIGHT bread flour (I highly suggest King Arthur!)
1.5 t Salt
2 T Sugar
1/3 stick of butter (2.66 T or just cut a stick in 3 parts)
1.5 t Yeast (buy it in bulk here or at Costco as grocery store prices are insane)
Optional: 2 drops of egg yellow food color (I suggest AmeriColor available here)

Set the machine to the quick or normal cycle, light crust, and hit start. DO NOT use the timer as eggs are perishable.

Enjoy :-)

UPDATE: 04-10-2012
The machine is still going strong and has now produced well over 100 loaves of delicious bread. The pan has held up nicely and shows virtually no wear. In short this is a winner.

Update 03-24-15
Can you believe the machine is still working well!?!!
A few observations after many hundreds of loafs and years of use: The pan has aged as expected and should probably be replaced and the motor is making a little tiny squeak not. I may replace the machine but will just buy the same once again. I have more than gotten my money's worth on this Zo! You get what you pay for :-)
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on January 29, 2012
I LOVE my new Zojirushi VIRTUOSO Bread Maker! It has my 'GLUTEN FREE' setting and is so quiet I have to get up close to it to make sure its mixing or kneading! (I read posts on bread makers in general that said they are extremely loud! Not so with the Zojirushi!) I've had it less than 48 hours and have made 2 perfect loaves of bread! The texture, flavor, crust, etc. has been perfect, so perfect in fact that you can't tell its GLUTEN FREE! Zojirushi has definitely brought 'breads & pastries" BACK into this Gluten Free household! I heartily recommend the 'Virtuoso' model to everyone - but especially those of us that must be GF! I am totally new to bread machines - and reading all the 'How-To's' about programming bread machines that didn't have a GF Cycle really turned me off as too complicated, too much hassel, why bother. I knew I wouldn't fool with all that; or, get so exasperated that I wouldn't bother to use it if it didn't have a pre-programmed GF cycle. The first loaf of bread I made was out of a GF recipe book and it was Cinnamon, Raisin, Walnut bread. I followed the recipe to a 'T' - placed the ingredients in the baking unit in the proper order as directed - and out came the most beautifully smelling, tasting and formed bread I have had since I became GF! Next, I grabbed one of those pre-packaged bread mixes with all the stuff in the bag; mixed up the wet ingredients, slapped everything in the banking pan in the prescribed order - and wondered if this would be as great as the first....OMG! It was! Now my husband has rushed out to get cheese and tomatoes so we can use it to make Grilled Cheese and Tomatoe sandwiches for dinner! Thank you Ziojirushi for
bringing breads back into my house! (My husband thanks you the most, because he doesn't have to be GF but has been forced into it since I banned any & all gluten from this house!) He has many, many GF bread recipes marked in several GF Bread Recipe books I have! I recommend this bread machine for the novice as well as the pro!
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on February 21, 2012
This is a bread maker bread done right. I began making and baking bread at the tender age of 12 some 40 years ago so it is close to my heart. This is my fourth machine and unlike all the others which are vertical loaf style, produces a loaf with a more traditional internal structure and crumb. I am not sure if it is the more thorough kneading afforded by two paddles or some other dynamic programmed into the courses. I did notice that the dough ball appears to be pulled from one side of the pan to the other during kneading. Very vigorous kneading more closely resembling what I would do manually.

Rest assured the loaf produced by this unit is perfection. Even my Zojirushi BBCC-S15 does not produce so good a loaf. It may also have to do with the greater exposed surface of a horizontal loaf and some sort of cooking thing going on.

The price point of this unit appears to be high but if you are planning on putting it to work several times weekly and its life cycle proves to be a decade or more, then this may be the machine to own bar none. I was fortunate to find this machine for $240.00 shipped from a motivated seller but still found it hard to justify such money since I'd never paid more than $25.00 for any of my prior units: A Black & Decker and an Oster for $10.00 each and the prior Zo for $25.00. So the decision was not an easy one and entailed several weeks of research and contemplation.

The verdict? Absolutely incredible that such bread can come from a machine. A well kneaded, proofed and bake loaf has many benefits. Less yeast, better texture and better slicing. The loafs from this machine can be cut thinner without the aid of an electric knife or guide and produce a lot less crumbs compared to my other machines. The bread also appears to stay fresher.

All in all, I have no regrets and am very happy with my decision to buy it.
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on November 16, 2014
This is a great quality overall except that it is designed to sell more parts after the warranty expires. Usually after about 100 cycles everyone will hit the same issue of wearing out the blades' notches and they will need to buy replacement. Read other negative reviews to confirm the issue. It is also filed here:
http://www.saferproducts.gov/ViewIncident/1339046

If you are handy enough you can fix it yourself drilling the blade and put a screw. It will last forever:
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on May 15, 2013
UPDATE: I dropped my initial rating of 3-star down to 1-star, because of attitude of Zojirushi USA.
They've been informed with my below detailed experience. Their response was nothing short of humiliating / chastising. To them (in summary) they never heard such problem - so it's got to be me not knowing what I'm doing. Yeah, right. Take your attitude together with your ill-designed machine.

Now for last 6-months I'm a happy user of Breville BBM800XL Bread Maker.
Breville BBM800XL Custom Loaf Bread Maker
Guess what; Breville's paddle notch is machined all the way thru it's full thickness (not a ridiculous 1/8" as Zojirushi preferred to make it). It's also made out of denser metal. One can see that Breville's paddle is certainly not designed to fail quickly (as Zojirushi's is). It also nicely folds / gets out of the way during baking.

If you're a typical bread machine user (seldomly making light textured breads from white flour) you are not likely to face the problem described below. But if you are in to "real whole-wheat" bread and use your bread machine couple times a week; then simply don't waste your money on Zojurishi. Go with Breville. You need a company who appreciates and listen to their customers (instead of humiliating them).

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I thought that this was the best bread machine out there.
Here is the reason why I only gave 3 stars :
We completely ceased using "modern wheat" 15 months ago.
We did not buy any bread or wheat product from store since then.
We buy einkorn wheat berries only. We grind them and make our wonderful simplistic einkorn bread using our Zojirushi Virtuoso. So it's been in use (at least once every 3-4 days)during last 15 months. We liked our bread machine a lot. It has two blades and a strong motor / mechanism. It's very flexible with all available programs and user memories.

Last week one of the paddles (or "kneading blade" - in Zojirushi terms) stopped rotating while kneading. I removed the paddle and noticed that it's notch completely worn out. So the rotation of shaft was not transferring to paddle any longer. The other paddle was also just about to loose the connection as well. If you look at my attached picture; you'll see that 15 months old paddle next to a brand new one. You'll see the notch on the new paddle. Thickness of it is about 1/8". That tiny notch is the only contact point where the strong torque of powerful 100W motor is transferred to paddle. While the rotating shaft is made out of machined stainless steel, paddles feels like cast from some aluminum compound (it's very light and soft). So within time and under heavy pounding of rotating shaft; that paddle notch wears out by means of aluminum shavings.
So what happens to that metal shavings? It's simple : you eat them in your bread!
Your healthy bread - fortified with minute amount of aluminum dust...
A huge shame for Zojirushi - for that poor design.

So in essence; those paddles are consumable parts which have a limited life time.
If you rarely use your bread machine (like most users) chances are you might never come to see that worn-out paddle phase. But if you use it regularly; it won't last you even 2 years. So (leave aside the negative health concern) does Zojirushi ever mention that their paddle has a limited life time? Absolutely not.

Let's take a closer look at that poor design :

1- While rotating shaft is made of machined stainless steel, why not the paddles? (at least coated steel)
In theory there can only be two reasons:
a) It's intentionally made out of soft metal. So you have to replace them every once in a while. Therefore extra revenue stream for Zojirushi from spare parts.
b) It's certainly much cheaper to manufacture a compound cast metal part (versus precisely machined steel). There would be huge difference on both material and manufacturing cost.
Zojirushi BB-PAC20 is the most expensive bread machine out there. If your customer is willing to shell out $300 for best available bread machine - how clever is it to use such cheap paddles in your product? (not to mention forcing your customers to eat metal shavings). Isn't this like selling a premium car with cheapest tires on it?

Zojirushi sells replacement paddles (part no: 8-BBP-P070) for $7.25 each.
So about $15 replacement cost in a $300 machine is not something major. Selling those extra few paddles certainly won't make Zojirushi rich (specially considering the attracted negative publicity due to health concerns).
Personally I rather pay upfront $40 each for a coated steel paddle (versus that poor $7.25 soft metal one). Then you'd have both healthy and indefinite service life from those paddles.

2) Rotating shafts are about 1" long. Why Zojirushi keep that paddle notch at only 1/8" thickness and not the full length of that shaft? Then the pounding impact would have much larger surface to transfer - hence much less (even totally eliminated) abrasion on the paddle. That point also makes you wonder if the current design of that tiny notch is intentional to limit paddle's lifetime.

Bottom line is; I'm not happy with that poor design.
I might contact CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) about this.
If Zojirushi ever comments on that point; I'll update my review.
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on September 6, 2012
This is the third machine in my quest for a good bread machine and the one I'm sticking with. I also tried the Breville Custom Loaf and the West Bend Hi-Rise. I will compare the three and tell you why I kept with the Virtuoso.

The Breville had the best user interface (by far) and the worst paddle (also by far). As much as I like an awesome UI, dealing with the large chunks taken out of my loaf by the collapsible paddle that is supposed to be designed to do the opposite was not acceptable. It also had the easiest pan to insert and remove. Were it not for the horrible paddle (I can't stress that enough) I would have kept it.

The West Bend had the best price and was actually better than expected for the money ($85 vs $250 for the Breville or $275 for the Virtuoso). It lacked much-needed custom programming. Folks who always use the "canned" modes would likely be fine with it. Construction was a bit flimsy (expected for the price) but livable. The paddles always fell out of the machine - either staying in the loaf or falling to the floor. That and the lack of programming made me return it.

And now on to the Virtuoso. The Virtuoso and the Breville are both well-constructed machines. The biggest difference is the Breville has a gimmicky failure for a paddle and the Virtuoso has the best paddle design of any machine I have ever seen. The two-paddle low profile design mixes well. The clever overhang design (hard to describe) holds the paddles in the machine while the blade-like paddle bottoms allow the bread to slide out easily. The whole reason I went looking for a new machine in the first place is because I accidentally sliced through a paddle that had remained in the bread on my old machine, so this is a big deal to me. I also like the handle design a lot. Much easier to deal with for both using and cleaning. The user interface is just like most bread and rice makers - nothing fancy - but I do like that it tells you the time your bread will be ready. Most machines tell you how long it will take and you can look at a clock and do the math, but I prefer seeing the actual time the bread will be ready. The Virtuoso has three completely user-configurable modes, which is very nice, though I wish they had included more. The Virtuoso was the noisiest mixer of the three machines. Perhaps that's because it's more powerful than the others, but it's as loud as my washing machine when it's mixing, yet the volume of the nut buzzer is too low. Of the three machines, the Virtuoso was the best compromise. At three times the price of the West Bend was it three times better? No - more like twice. But that's the price you pay for the best. The perfect machine would be a slightly quieter Virtuoso with the user interface of the Breville, but that doesn't exist.
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on December 4, 2011
We had the Cuisinart CBK-100 bread machine, which died after 2 years. The first loaf of bread we made was Honey White and it was out of this world. Tastes as good as fresh baked bread from a restaurant. Amazing DVD video and thorough instructions. Gives tips that are reinforced by reviewing both. Was suppose to save it for xmas for my wife, but the kids and I couldn't resist an early present to enjoy holiday fresh baked breads and scents every day. Thought about other Zojirushi models like the Supreme, but really liked the selling points on the added lid heater. Glad I upgraded as the crust was perfect!!! Fun to bake with children and they love the fruits of their labor. Look forward to trying all the recipes and then begin experimenting. Hands down, would never second guess this choice. Definitely professional quality after the first loaf. No need to warm up water, melt butter, etc so very USER FRIENDLY!!!
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on December 9, 2012
I received the virtuoso bread machine and was expecting the first loaves to be not that great. However, much to my surprise, as i have never made a loaf of bread in my life and so these are the first ever, the first loaf (organic whole wheat) came out good, not great. Why? I used olive oil and did not put it with the other liquids, i put it last with the dry ingredients. The bread tasted great, but the shape was a little off because of my mistake. Now, on to the next loaf (organic whole wheat banana) and i made a few changes to the recipe and made sure i put all liquids first. The loaf came out almost perfect! It was shaped really nice with a smooth top and we sliced it into a regular loaf of bread. This loaf tasted better than the first but the only reason it was not perfect, i only put one banana and thus, the banana flavor was weak. Although the banana was weak, the taste was great and my kids love it. The reason we bought this machine is because our children go through a loaf a day and we were buying organic whole wheat from Whole Foods and so you can imagine the costs. With the virtuoso, we cut the price in half per loaf, it taste just as good if not better and we control the ingredients.

Ease of use? We found the machine to be very easy to use and the instructions are easy to follow. As long as you measure correctly and put the ingredients in the proper order, this machine is very easy to use. Basically you put the liquids first, then the dry ingredients, set the program for the bread you want to bake, close the lid and then press start. It is really that simple. Because the bread pan is made of non-stick material, the bread comes right out without a problem. I cannot stress how easy this machine is to bake a loaf bread. Remember, we have never baked a loaf of bread in our lives. For clean up, it is a breeze. The non stick coating on the bread pan makes it very easy. With warm water and light soap, any residue comes right off.

We understand that there are less expensive bread machines available and so we cannot compare this machine to the others. However, we are very pleased with this machine because it is very easy to use, has many options for various baking items and in our household, it will pay for itself in a few months. Although some may find the unit expensive, it all comes down to what you are looking for in a bread machine. Because we are health conscious and use a loaf a day, we wanted something that was easy to use and would produce a quality product. What we really like, we control the ingredients that will eventually be eaten by us and our children.
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on September 18, 2015
Regarding the 'Paddle Waddle' wear issue of the Zojirushi.
The letter from Zojirushi (manufacturer or some rep) responding to the complainants posted on http://www.saferproducts.gov/ViewIncident/1339046 about eating.aluminum and the engineered failure points of their bread machine.

This bread machine has generated NUMEROUS complaints about the Eating Aluminum question and the Paddle Waddle wear failures common to this device. Such a well engineered product EXCEPT for the paddles and the torque delivery system. There is, in my opinion, an engineered failure point in this part of the mechanism. The flats on the shafts, that take the brunt of the beating during the kneading process, are minimally adequate. The play (looseness) between the shaft and the paddle tube body promotes the "stripping" or wearing down of the 'bridge' material that is meant to drive the blades through the bread dough. I am looking at a 'brand new out of the box' device and see that this will fail in the near future. The play creates a brief acceleration of the harder shaft impacting the softer aluminum type material of the paddle body (sorry) each time the paddles change direction, resulting in an impact into the paddle's minimal bridge (locking notch) material. There are a number of simple solutions to this problem but Sojirushi states that it will not fix this problem.

There is a letter from the Zojirushi manufacturer (or some rep) responding to the complainants posted on http://www.saferproducts.gov/ViewIncident/1339046.

What I got out of their statement is the following (in a nutshell):
1. It is not a problem to *eat aluminum every day.
2. Their machine is destined to fail regularly due to the wear and tear of the paddle design.
3. It is your fault if it does because you used too heavy a mixture in the bread dough.
4. We will not fix this.
Opinions of family and friends to Sojirushi:
. . . 1. Ingesting aluminum: Your statement that adults eat 7-9 mg of aluminum DAILY is misleading and a bad excuse for your irresponsibility, in my opinion. Most producers of the antiperspirants, antacids, cosmetics, have eliminated and/or found safer substitutions to aluminum in their products. People who are taking control of their health and the food their families eat DO NOT WANT TO BE EATING ALUMINUM. It has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer's as well as other issues. You site statistics for 'adults' but not children, known to be more sensitive to toxins during their development. Fix the paddle waddle Soji and you will essentially fix the aluminum eating issue!
. . . 2. This is not rocket science. Making a paddle that will last is something that many of the lower priced bread machine market has mastered a long time ago. My current machine is 5 years in use three times a week and still works perfectly (we are tired of the tall breads). There are numerous ways to avoid the sticking issues other than your paddle waddle solution. Just do it!
. . . 3. Are you saying that your machine has limitations to making healthier whole grain or nutrient dense breads because it will quicken the failure points of your mechanism? So your machines are only good for making light white bread or we will pay the constant price of repairs? I can buy white bread in my local local markets for less than what it costs me to make my own. Where is your logic?
. . . 4. Bleeding your brand is not smart. Fix the problem. Don't be a Kodak in a changing world. I will return my machine till these issues are addressed. I do like your machine but what good is a luxury car that is unsafe and breaks down all the time? I will not feed my family, friends or myself a daily dose of aluminum to accumulate in my tissues and trust that these oxides and toxins will not be a problem. I also have a issue with your company's decision to extract an additional 'usage tax' with your engineered device failures. There are many other bread machines at a fraction of the cost (I can buy 4 or 5 others to your 1) or go to your direct competitor, Breville, if I want to spend this kind of money.

*Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and also state that the average adult American eats 7-9 mg of aluminum per day.
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