Friday, April 27, 2007

Road Test: Sunbeam Mixmaster v Kenwood Patissier

Back in 2003 when I began my most recent baking odyssey, I acquired a Sunbeam Mixmaster – the remake of the classic retro mixer from the fifties. My mother had a Mixmaster which she bought in the seventies, and which I did most of my cake baking with as a teenager (when the obsession truly took hold). She still has that Mixmaster today, although it is significantly worse for wear – the plastic cover over the light is broken and they haven’t made the bulbs for years, so there’s a “live” cavity where the light bulb should be. I can vouch for that because I stuck my finger in there accidentally last year and got a nice shock from it.

I paid quite a lot of money for my Mixmaster and it held pride of place on my kitchen bench for three years. That is until I had it running one Sunday and one of the motors blew up! I discovered that the twin motor “600 watt” power it claimed worked in two ways: 1. to run the beaters; 2. to turn the turntable the bowl sits on. After seeing flames shooting from its rear I carted my not so trusty steed off to the repair shop and was shocked to discover that it would cost half of the original price to get the blasted thing fixed.

So I resorted to using my Sanyo hand mixer for whipping up butter cakes, and made no commitments to greater creations for one or two months.

But my cupcake business stepped up a notch and I found I needed to do a lot of mixing in one day and I didn’t want to be chained to the bench by a machine that needed to be held. I had seen a Red enamel Kitchen Aid rip off at Kmart for $179. I thought I could justify spending that amount of money to stop the gap, so I went trotting up to Kmart only to find that the mixer in question was entirely sold out. I wrestled with the idea of buying a Kitchen Aid, which is what I should have bought instead of the Mixmaster three years ago anyway. But I’m a cheapskate and I find it really hard to fork over $700 for a kitchen appliance.

Finally I decided to buy another Mixmaster, this time in Cobalt Blue, which I would have bought in the first place had I known the choice existed (my original Mixmaster is metallic silver). Staring at the variety of bench top mixers in David Jones I was immediately attracted to the Artic White Kenwood Patissier – also an attempt to copy the classic Kitchen Aid bench top mixer. Priced at $269, I thought it was a steal. At the check out to price came down to $256, and then with a $30 cash back offer, I decided I’d gotten myself a serious deal.

So... I now own two bench top mixers: a Sunbeam Mixmaster (silver) and a Kenwood Patissier (artic white), and as such I’m in a position to extol the virtues of each, and I will do so with the hope of giving you some genuine insight, should you ever be in the market for a bench top mixer too.

Sunbeam Mixmaster - $399 (or thereabouts)

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As I stated earlier, this mixer has twin motors, totalling 600 watts of power. But that’s nothing when you know that one motor runs the beaters and the other runs the turntable. The unit comes with rotary beaters, a set of whisk beaters and a set of dough hooks (I have used these to turn cake batter through kilos of dried fruit for a Christmas cake). It also comes with two stainless steel bowls – a 4L bowl and a 2L bowl. The beauty of this is that you can cream butter and sugar or whisk egg whites in the small bowl and then transfer them to the large bowl (if you need to). The smaller bowl means the ingredients are aerated faster and more effectively. I also like the fact that the bowl turns – the beaters sit to the left in the bowl which allows room on the right for adding ingredients while the motor is running. You can scrape down the sides of the bowl while the motor is running, which I think is very handy.

The flaw in the Sunbeam Mixmaster is the location of the motor vent. It’s right on the face of the machine over the top of the bowl. Quite often when mixing dry ingredients, flour or icing sugar is kicked up from the bowl and it invariably gets caught around the motor vent. Many’s a time I have found myself cleaning dust out of the vent with a cotton ear bud, just for the sake of seeing the machine properly cleaned.

The other drawback is the grooves in the turntable, and the fact that the turntable is attached to the bottom of the stand. If you spill any liquid on the stand, it’s very hard to get the turntable clean. You quite often have to remove it altogether to cleanup anything caught underneath.

Finally, I’ve found that the quality of the spring on the mixer tilt release isn’t consistent. Mine is very hard to push in to tilt the mixer up. My mother’s (she bought a sunshine yellow new model 18months ago) is easy to push, but the spring is short so the beaters don’t actually touch the bottom of the bowl in the down position (whereas mine do) so you quite often get a reservoir of unmixed cake batter which won’t cook properly if you put it in the cake pan and bake it.

Overall, I do love my Mixmaster. But I’m incredibly cheesed off that the motor blew up after three years.

UPDATE: Having put the Mixmaster in for repairs four weeks ago I am sad to report that it is still in the workshop. The parts have been particularly hard to find, with some having to be ordered from overseas. I'm told it will be a further two to three weeks before the repairs can be completed. This is very disappointing.

Kenwood 270W Patissier - $269 (or thereabouts)

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The Kenwood has a motor with 300 watts power, which is quite acceptable since the Mixmaster basically has the same. The body of the machine is quite sleek and without grooves so it’s very easy to clean. It has a speed control lever on the side instead of the twist speed control at the back (which the Mixmaster has). I asked the salesman if he’d heard of the lever breaking off and he said no. But I don’t think he’d admit to that even if they did, right?

The key difference with the Patissier is that the bowl is stationary. The beater – which is paddle shaped – works with “planetary” action (I prefer the term orbital myself, but the manufacturer calls it planetary so lets stick to that). It works by moving around and across the bowl – at no great speed I might add – combining ingredients and gently whipping the mixture.

The motor vent on the Kenwood is on the top of the machine, so there’s absolutely no chance of getting flour or anything stuck in it. The face of the machine is round and featureless, which makes cleaning a real breeze. There is no handle on the top of the unit (the Sunbeam has a rubber coated high handle) so when you tilt it up or down, you just push on its bulk head.

The Patissier comes with the paddle beater, a balloon whisk and a dough hook (which I haven’t used yet). It also has a 4L stainless steel bowl, which fits into a crevice in the base, and has a handle, which makes pouring cake mix into pan extra easy. The bowl crevice is lined with stainless steel, so if you do happen to spill something in it, it’s easy to wipe out.

The drawback with the Patissier is that it can’t whisk a single egg white (whereas this is a no brainer for the Mixmaster). It can’t do it with the paddle beater and it can’t do it with the balloon whisk either (so what’s the point in having one). I began mixing butter cake batter with the paddle beater, and was getting a relatively good result. But it wasn’t as light and fluffy as what I produced on the Mixmaster. So I switched to the balloon whisk, and the result was so gelatinous and fluffy, I really have nothing to compare it with. I can’t help wonder if this was exacerbated by the poor quality butter I used, but I can’t be certain – I will have to try it with different butter to see what happens.

The Patissier DOES excel at whipping icing. I use a lot of butter cream frosting, and I prefer the quick mix approach (everything in the bowl at once, then fire the machine up). The Patissier does a great job at this with the paddle beater. I like this machine a lot, and I’m glad I have it.

UPDATE: I've been using the Patissier consistently for the past four weeks and I'm alarmed to report one of the wires on the whisk attachement has snapped. While it should be easily fixed, the fact that it has broken after only a month of use is a major issue. I'm only mixing cake batter and icing with this attachment - so it's very disappointing so see just how poor a quality the parts are.

Further Update: Kenwood (DeLonghi) sent me a replacement whisk attachment, which was very nice, since it's under warranty. Unfortunately it broke within four days of receiving it!

Final Update: I took the Kenwood Patissier back to David Jones last night, and after some negotiation, they gave me a refund. So that is the end of the Patissier.

But which is best? My final verdict is avoid the Patissier if you are a high-end user of benchtop mixers. It simply can't handle the workload. The Mixmaster is still at the repair shop, but it did a mighty three years of work for me before breaking down, and that says a lot for Sunbeam. I will use the Sunbeam for lighter work when I get it back. I'm going to return the Kenwood Patissier and ask for a refund on the grounds that the attachments are poorly made. The authorised repair dealer (a very unhappy individual, I might say) has advised that the whisk beater costs $55 to replace. And quite frankly, I could go through one of these a week at the rate they keep breaking. If I had to choose between the two, I’d say just get a Kitchen Aid. Every salesperson has told me a Kitchenaid will last for 30 years. So my expectation is high. I'll let you know what happens when I make the purchase!

17 comments:

Brant said...

Thanks Petrina!

Great Review!
I love the look of the MixMaster Professional (Heritage Series, Legacy Edition here in the states) myself, I was a little disappointed with it like you as far as performance. I ended up finding a refurb'd Mixmaster Model 12 from the 60's and Absolutely ADORE IT! I use it for everything from baking muffins, cakes, and anything else I can think of. So much so I bought a couple more of them for parts and have started restoring one myself! Wish me luck!

Amanda said...

I've found this post so helpful - I'm in the middle of deciding which mixer to buy after years of makeing do with electric hand beaters. While I love the KitchenAid, I'm not sure I can justify the price tag so perhaps the Sunbeam is the way to go...

Annie said...

Hi Petrina, would you mind telling me what model is your old Sunbeam Mixmaster? I plan on getting a Sunbeam for the time being before I can afford KitchenAid. Since you said you had yours for 3 yrs, I'd assume that it's MX8800 which has been discontinued. The new series are MX8900. However both models receive terrible ratings on Product Review. I don't know which to get. Please advise. Cheers!

Petrina said...

Hi Annie,

Re the Sunbeam Mixmaster, I thought perhaps I had just caned mine to death hence it's early expiration However, my mum bought one around the same time as I did and hers has now subsequently died too. That and the beaters never touched the bottom of the bowl on mum's Mixmaster - something to do with the hinge on the motorhead.

My honest to goodness opinion is save your money and get the Kitchenaid. The Mixmaster is not a good interim option. I managed to buy my Kitchenaid second hand. It was only a year old and had only been used twice. I've had it for three years now and I've made thousands of cupcakes with it. I am told I can expect it to last for 25 years, and I believe that!

Cheers,
Petrina.

Anonymous said...

i just acquired an vintage mixmaster from the 1940-50s era....via my boyfriend...getting ready to try it out for some cookie dough...i was wondering if they ever made dough hooks for them?....

Petrina said...

WoW! I bet it's a really beauty. I'm not sure if they even did dough on machines back then. You'd be surprised how recent much of our food processing technology it. A freidn just told me she blew the motor on her mixer using the dough hooks for a prolonged period, so be careful. I can say the Kitchenaid handles dough very well. But I am biased.

Debra said...

Hi Petrina, Thanks for your reviews as I have decided to go for one at Crazy Sales - 1200w with a 5.5L bowl & three attachment. This unit costs $145 but it has some good reviews. I have not had any trouble with this site & on the few occasions that an item is faulty they always send out a replacement free of charge & don't want the original item sent back. I only need mine for the occasional use so it won't be getting as much of a workout as your one does.

lisa gizariotis said...

Petrina,,,, great review. I think i will drop the idea ofsunbeam and save up for kithen aid.
Are you still singing

Petrina said...

Hi Lisa!

I think you're making a good choice there! The Kitchenaid should last for 25 years. Can't say the same for the Mixmaster. I used my mum's again on the weekend - the hinge on the motorhead is wonky and the beaters don't touch the bottom of the bowl. I had to lean on it to make sure everything was being mixed properly. I see Sunbeam have brought out a new planetary Mixmaster. I will attempt to get hold of one and road test that too. P.

Anonymous said...

Iv been reading reviews for a few weeks now and general consensus is that kenwood patisserie doesn't work well, however the kenwood chef range is a very strong model with a powerful 800w motor for the $359 model and goes up to 1500w for the premium chef model (trust me u don't want to know the price for the premium model). my mum has had her chef version for 30 yrs and used it for wedding cakes, and competitions.
the cheap breville version breaks often
the kitchen aid has some mixed reviews and devoted followers. but I wouldn't be able to make a wedding cake with such a small 400w motor (which is the only one available in Australia)
good luck everyone :)

Anonymous said...

hi, I'm in England and just bought a Kenwood Patissier its red and looks beautiful. I had high expectations of it after reading reviews. I tried making buttercream and found a large ball of buttercream was stuch around the paddle and wasnt getting mixed. I had to clear the paddle several times. this is my first mixer, so is this just a mixer thing? do all? mixers have this issue?

Anonymous said...

I purchased sunbeam mix master ($400 odd dollars 11 months ago. and have had to have it replaced twice in that time. and tomorrow back to replace it again. and then the 12 mth free replacement runs out. Both bottom and top motors have come a cruncher rending the units dead in the water. they were much better when made in australia ( my old sunbeam of 30 years had to finish the job)

Petrina said...

I was just thinking the other night that I've had my Kitchenaid for five year now. It's still doing an absolutely stirling job for me. Another 20 years to go for it to meet all my expectations though. I hope to make my son's 21st birthday cake on it. Re Sunbeam Mixmaster - my mum's modern one finally packed it in. The old one she bought in the 70s is still going, albeit with the light cover broken. Yes they used to have lights! I accidentally stuck my finger in that while I was cleaning the machine once and electrocuted myself. Ouch!

Rose at home said...

I just made another cake with the Kenwood Chef and I am still not happy. I have used a Sunbeam for 30 years and loved it. I asked my husband for a new one 5 years ago and he bought me a Kenwood . I used it once and decided to wait until the Sunbeam drew it's last breath before getting it out again, which has only been this year. I have tried the balloon whisk and the paddle....I either get too light a mix or too heavy. I have never had so many flops in the kitchen since using the Kenwood.!I went looking for a comparison between the two mixers to see if anyone else had the same problem and came across your blog. This may not help me or anyone else but thank you for even broaching the issue! I will not give up yet as it sounds like the new Sunbeams may not fare as well as the old ones....but if anyone has some tips for an old hand in the kitchen I would appreciate it.

Benjamin Sweetnam said...

I have a Kenwood patissier I hate it it is just too weak there is no way that's a 300w motor. I love baking, though I only really get to once a year at Christmas even then it's a struggle and have found myself staring at the Kenwood chef classic I so want one. I only paid $130 for the patissier but for a similar price I could have bought something better. My suggestion is stay away from it with a ten foot pole. But for the little amount of baking I'm doing it is working just

Anonymous said...

Great review Petrina. Unfortunately I had already just purchased the Mixmaster when the bowl got stuck and I saw your review. I had to replace the whole unit and 3 months later (& now out of warranty) its happened again. I am taking your advice and saving for the Kitchen aid.

Anonymous said...

I bought a Sunbeam Mixmaster 7B manufactured immediately after WWII. It did a fantastic job of a pound cake. But the thing couldn't whip egg whites. The problem was the eggs were too old and yolk contaminated the whites. Then it wouldn't shut off but the speed was still variable. Then it just stopped. So I looked up the schmatic for it. Simple ingenious and durable. problem is either a blown condenser or a blown resistor, both available for purchase. I could fix it myself. But I bought a replacement motor head (the 7B less stand (base)for next to nothing. Now I'm trying to find a balloon whisk that fits into it. If I can't locate a bolloon whisk I might must manufacture one by hand.

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