It used to be that the only people who would flip over juice drinks, such as carrot-wheatgrass-apple spritzers, were new-agers. But juicing has gone mainstream as juice bars pop up everywhere, even in grocery stores. According to market researcher NPD Group, unit sales for juicers skyrocketed 30.3 percent in 2009 (the latest year for which data are available).
As more consumers seek to incorporate vitamin-and-nutrient-rich fruit and vegetable juices into their lives, they’ll discover that today’s juice extractors are better and easier to use than ever before.
TIME AND MOTION. The biggest developments in juicers are happening among juice extractors, which produce juice from more foods than just citrus fruits. A new design has turned masticating juice extractors literally on their head. (A masticating juice extractor grinds and crushes food with an auger and then slowly squeezes the pulp to extract the juice.)
Omega introduced the Vert in 2008, and Hurom, which is a South Korean company, brought its Slow Juicer to the U.S. market in 2009. These models move the feed tube from the side of the masticating auger base to the top, so all you do is drop the food into it. Masticating juice extractors typically require that you push fruits and vegetables into the auger with an included plunger, which takes more time and effort.
The benefits are obvious. First, these models take up less countertop space—7 inches by 10 inches—than do conventional masticating juice extractors, which are as large as 12 inches by 15 inches. Second, vertical models weigh less than do their traditional counterparts—roughly 11 pounds, compared with 14 to 26 pounds. Finally, vertical juice extractors use only 150 watts of energy, compared with at least 200 watts for other masticating juicers, and we found no apparent difference in the performance.
The biggest trade-off of these new models is in the price. Hurom and Omega’s models cost $360 and $350, respectively. That’s at least $60 more than the cost of most other single-auger juice extractors that are on the market. (Dual-auger models start at around $400.)
Oransi says it will debut a vertical juice extractor under its NativeJuicer brand in the spring or summer. It will cost around $340. It remains to be seen whether other manufacturers will follow suit, however.
Meanwhile, manufacturers of centrifugal juice extractors are tweaking their products. (Centrifugal juice extractors use centrifugal force—spinning as fast as 13,000 revolutions per minute—to shred and then pull juice from the pulp.)
Although models that have low- and high-speed settings are old news, now four models that are offered by Breville and Cuisinart have five speed settings. The purpose, the companies say, is to allow you to more productively juice a range of foods—slower speeds for soft fruits, such as tomatoes; faster speeds for hard vegetables, such as beets. We found that the adjustable speeds make a difference both in the increased amount of juice and the reduction of froth (bubbles) that are produced. You’ll pay at least $200 for a model that has five speed settings.
Five settings won’t be the most for long. NativeJuicer is launching a centrifugal juice extractor in early 2011 that will have nine speeds that range from 11,000 to an industry-high 21,000 rpm. The price: $200.
CLEANUP TIME. As any aficionado knows, cleaning up afterward can be more time consuming than can the juicing process itself. Unfortunately, this will always be a problem to a certain extent, because juice extractors have parts that must be scrubbed with a special brush (typically included). And the cleaning must be done as soon as possible after each juicing session, before the pulp dries to cement-like hardness.
Still, manufacturers continue to try to make this task less of a pain. One way is to make their juice extractor’s filter and blade one piece—an increasingly used design—so there simply are fewer pieces that you have to clean.
Another way is to use stainless steel parts, which we found are easier to clean than are plastic parts. Stainless steel parts are becoming more common, particularly among centrifugal juice extractors. You can expect to pay a little more for a juice extractor that uses stainless steel parts—from $10 to $30 more.
Any improvement is appreciated, because it would be a shame to waste the energy boost that you get from drinking freshly extracted juice on cleaning your juicer.
Jessica Goldbogen Harlan has been writing about kitchen appliances for 17 years for HFN and Consumers Digest, among other publications.