Blendtec and buying a Vitamix? What was wrong with Blendtec? Not much. It wouldn't blend blackberries or fish bones to silky smoothness, other than that it worked like a charm. How often do I need to blend blackberries and fish bones? Almost never. But doubt started creeping into my mind. Could Vitamix do better? After all, all upscale restaurants use Vitamix, not Blendtec. There must be a reason. Wouldn't 4 sharp blades be better than 2 dull ones?
After a few sleepless nights, I took my beloved Blendtec back to Costco and got myself a Vitamix 5200.
Before I give you a comparison of the two blenders, let me tell you what I did in my previous life. I was a usability engineer. In case you are not familiar with this profession, let me try to sum it up for you. Usability engineers are the people responsible for making sure someone else makes a usable product. The someone else is most often software developers who view usability people as annoying little pests who are reducing their productivity. Usability people fight back with videos of users cursing the interface during usability tests hoping that enough user frustration would finally get developers to listen to their suggestions. Sometimes developers actually listen.
Imagine the horror of every usability engineer on this planet when a study came out showing that when an interface was given to several usability teams for evaluation, their findings were completely different. That's like saying that if you went to 3 doctors for a check up, one would diagnose you with a cold, another with heart disease, and the third one with cancer. Not good. Managers of every usability department, feverishly got to work explaining the results of this study to their bosses. There were charts, there were graphs, there were sample sizes. But the truth is it all boiled down to a very simple thing -- what tasks the users were asked to do. If the tasks were different, the problems were also different. This is a very long way of explaining that there is no way to answer a question of which blender is better. It all depends on what the user wants to do. Instead of finding some weird tasks like pureeing fish bones or golf balls, I'd like to compare these two blenders based on the tasks that actually happen in my kitchen.
Both blenders do equally well in producing a perfectly smooth vegetable soup. The advantage of Vitamix is its larger size, so there are fewer batches to pour in and out. Vitamix can do about 6 cups at a time. Blendtec can do 4. The advantage of Blendtec is that you don't need to baby-sit it. Press the "soup" button and let it do its thing. With Vitamix you have to ramp up slowly and eventually flip it to "high" speed.
For really thick purees with no liquid involved (for example, pureeing braised root vegetables), Vitamix does better because it has a tamper. Blendtec gets stuck on something that thick. Of course, those tasks are better suited to a food processor anyway. But if there is any liquid going into a puree at all, Blendtec is way less hassle. It works great without a tamper, so there is less to do and less to wash. Examples of thick purees with a bit of liquid are hummus, bean spread, or soft-serve ice-cream. With Blendtec, all you have to do is press a button (just make sure the liquid goes in first and that you have at least 1/2 cup of it). With Vitamix you have to stand there for a few minute pushing stuff down with the tamper and then you have more dishes to do.
Neither Blendtec nor Vitamix purees blackberries to my satisfaction. Vitamix broke them down more, but I can't say the result was better. The seeds got broken down so much that it was impossible to strain them out, and the mixture had a dusty quality to it. For a blackberry puree, I'd use low speed and short blending time to keep the seeds as whole as possible and then strain them out. Of course, a blackberry smoothie is a different story. It might not be necessary to strain it once blackberries are not the only ingredient. And who are we kidding -- would any sane person be straining their smoothie? Unfortunately, I haven't tried a blackberry smoothie in Blendtec, so I can't compare the two blenders.
Blendtec rocks for small amounts. The blade sits so low in the carafe, it blends as little as 1/2 cup. Vitamix needs at least a cup.
Both blenders wash up well by putting some warm soapy water into them and giving it a spin. I did overfill Blendtec once and the soap foam started coming out of the top. The cover on Blendtec is not as sturdy as on Vitamix. Once you learn how much soapy water to put into it, it's not a problem.
Blendtec is more compact, has a flat cover that barely takes up any space, and requires no tamper, so it takes up about half the space of Vitamix in my drying rack. Drying rack space is at a premium in my house, so this is a big deal to me.
Getting stuff out of the blender
Blendtec has straight sides, to it's possible to get every last bit of food out quickly and easily. The indents in the sides of Vitamix are extremely annoying when dealing with thick purees. A soup pours right out, but getting a bean spread out of a Vitamix is a pain in the neck.
Blendtec fits under the counter. Vitamix doesn't.
Now it makes perfect sense to me why restaurants prefer Vitamix. They want the larger capacity, they never make 1/2 cup of anything, they don't have cabinets hanging above their counters, and they hire dishwashers. In case you are wondering, I doubt the dishwasher is the one making decisions about $500 pieces of equipment.
Vitamix is great, but I do miss Blendtec. So remember -- grass is always greener on the other side and blackberries are always smoother in another blender.