Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to Make a Thick, Fluffy Protein Smoothie: Breville vs. Vitamix

Chocolate Protein Smoothie
I'm not a big eater and I don't consume a lot of meat.  Without supplements I probably wouldn't get enough protein, so I have a smoothie with whey protein powder every day.  This is no great hardship because today's blenders make it easy to whirl up a concoction with the taste and consistency of a milk shake.  The basic recipe takes protein powder (chocolate or vanilla), milk, and ice.  With vanilla smoothies I add frozen fruit (so less ice) and half a banana; with chocolate I add a couple of small peppermint patties, crushed.

I've had a series of Breville blenders, which are quite good.  They're well made, quiet, and have a special smoothie setting that produces an ideal thick, creamy result.  The downside is dealing with Breville.  Their customer support is uneven, to say the least, and ordering parts can be difficult.  (When I wanted to get a new rubber ring, I was told I'd have to buy a whole new container, $50 please.)  So, when the most recent Breville died, I decided to get a Vitamix.  Vitamix blenders are well known for their outstanding quality, but that comes at a price, about $500 in my case.  On the other hand, the machine I bought has a seven-year warranty; $500/7=$71, the annual cost of owning a Vitamix.  A $200 Breville that lasted 2.5 years would have an annual cost of $80.  Buying fewer machines is easier for me and better for the environment, so I went for it.

So far I'm impressed with the Vitamix.  It came with good instructions and a very nice cookbook demonstrating the full range of its capabilities.  The only distinct negative was that the smoothies weren't as good.  They tend to be watery and to have a grainy, icy texture.  I called Vitamix Customer Support and the representative advised me to turn the machine to the highest speed and leave it there for a couple of minutes.  I tried that and the results were no better.

At that point I started to analyze the problem: what was the Breville doing that the Vitamix wasn't?  The Breville's smoothie cycle automatically alternates between pulsing and blending for a few seconds for a total of one full minute.  Sometimes I had to do a second one-minute cycle but not always.  The advantage of this method is that it gets a lot of air into the mixture but, because the blades aren't continuously running and getting hot, it doesn't melt the ice.

With the Vitamix (and probably other blenders as well) you can simulate this process by pulsing a few times and then processing 10 seconds or more.  When I'm making two drinks I pulse 15 times and process for a count of 25. I repeat these steps until the surface of the mixture looks shiny rather than grainy.  I tend to get better results if I add the ice in two stages. When I'm using frozen fruit, I do everything but the ice first and mix then add the ice and repeat. If the ingredients stop rotating, I stop the machine, pick up the container and shake it from side to side to get rid of air bubbles.  It takes a little longer and you can't just push a button and walk away but it does produce a thick, fluffy, delicious smoothie.

Update: Two new smoothie recipes with anti-cancer ingredients appear here and here. Healthy drinks without the terrible taste.

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