This new thread is about gear and venting. First of all, my three-month old Kitchen Aid Professional Series 600 mixer blew up. Serious piece of junk; not recommended. Plastic parts at major stress points. Professional it ain't.
Ordered a (gulp) Esmach SP5 spiral mixer from TMB Baking in San Francisco. It has the capactiy I need, and it's a dedicated dough machine, no wire whips or cookie making attachments. From what I've read, for small operations like mine it's the artisan bread mixer of choice in N Am and in Europe (the company is French, but I think this one is made in Switzerland). TMB has a special price on until the end of the month, but it's not cheap. More than the Viking, but it has a much larger capacity.
I've uploaded a pic of it here. Also have a PDF of specs, but it's too large to upload. I'll send it to anybody interested.
The decision is the result of a lot of research and a lot of time spent at a recent baking trade show. I'm really excited about getting my hands on this thing, especially after hand kneading 16 boule yesterday. Ouch.
I'll keep you posted. Where's that FedEx truck?
I have heard that the newer kitchen aid mixers have plastic gears. Mine is 10 years old, so maybe it will hold up to the added stress a new oven is sure you demand of it.
How much did this spiral mixer set you back?
I am going to pile on. My KitchenAid Pro Series 600 is starting to burn out.
I'm not sure when they went plastic, but the "new" Pro Series 600 is said to have a better, metal, motor. But it doesn't help.
I've had mine for about 6 months. It has started putting out a burning smell from the motor when I mix whole wheat bread. I just use it too much and put too large of batches in it.
Let me know how much you paid for your monster mixer. I have a friend with the Viking, and it seems to work well.
I'm looking forward to the followup reviews of the mixer!
Have you looked at the Electrolux Assistent (Magic Mill)? Any others with opinions? It's on my short list. BakersCateloge
The local restaurant store sells Hobarts, but they're crazy expensive. I did get a couple of authentic professional pizza dough proofing trays from them, though.
The electrolux is also made in Sweden. Is the SP5 perhaps a commercial version of the home mixer? They both have 8 pound dough capacity.
I emailed Richard at TMB baking in SF. They are running a special on the SP5 Micro Spiral Mixer. It is $1,150. The list price is $1,350. I think this is a lot for a mixer used at home. My KitchenAid is not that great but it cost a third of what this mixer cost. The specs do look good. The bowl prevent the dough from heating. The phone number for this mixer is (650) 589-5729. Ask for Richard Abit.
Drake, James and everybody,
Bear with me. I'm pumped on this subject, because I think I've been led down the proverbial garden path where packs of stray dogs have been very busy, very clever laying mines before I arrived; under supervision as you'll see later. What follows is good, calming therapy for me, kind of like a zen koan. How did that goose get into the bottle? Ommmm.
I did a lot more research on mixers after getting burned by KitchenAid; bonehead; hindsight is a pain in the rear. My operation is very small, but commercial nonetheless, and I wanted a mixer to replace the KA that was not an adaptation of a home machine, but a professional, dedicated dough mixer with a good track record, at a size I could house and at a price I could stretch to live with. I settled on the SP5 for all these reasons. It's a spiral mixer and the bowl turns; handles 8 pounds, which is perfect for me, and will not overheat the dough like the KitchenAid did (just try kneading dough to an internal temp of 77 to 81 F with that baby; I dare you; can't be done; you end up with high temp dough that isn't kneaded enough). The KA manual says, "To prevent overworking the dough, you should finish kneading by hand." "Finish? Oh, now I see, so sorry to be obtuse. You really mean combine the ingredients in the mixer, then do all the kneading by hand. Sure, okay, fine, that's why I bought the stupid thing."
On the pro side, I've heard from many people with older KA's that work just fine and last and last. Good; a ten year old one should last another thirty.
I own a bronze Lee Neilson low angle skew plane for gnarly grained woods that fits in the palm of one hand and costs $275, to give you an idea of how I regard tools. Like it and all my tools, I was very careful with the KA. Never exceeded flour limits. Always reduced kneading times to under four minutes, then autolyse for twenty, then another four minutes. The reset button was beginning to shine from overuse, and the motor housing got hot enough to fry eggs. The KA is not sold as a commercial unit, but bear in mind that I was using it exactly once a week for three months. After about a month, I did most of my other kneading by hand because the KA was not up to snuff. Where's the advantage here? Do I really look that dumb? Don't answer that.
I've used KA appliances for many years because of their previously well-earned rep for overbuilding, longevity and performance. I didn't mind paying the price, because I only wanted to do it once. My time is too valuable to stall at making do, patching up, dealing with voice mail, waiting. Recently, maybe because they were bought out by Whirlpool, don't know, KA mixer quality has fallen through the floor and tumbled down the elevator shaft (I'd like to know where they're actually made; suspect offshore). Just check review sites on the net, as, dummy, I should have. Their slogan is "For the Way It's Made." Huh? For the record, my boat anchor is a Professional 600 Series; I bought it in January. Oh, yeah, originally thought I'd buy the overpriced grain mill attachment for it. Searched the web on that one; belated lesson learned. Holy cow. Some really, really hot people out there who did and destroyed their machines almost immediately; one guy had the gears replaced THREE times before he put it outside as a flower pot. Very good, dedicated grain mills are available for as much or less coin. If I really needed a PTO, I'd buy a John Deere tractor and drill fence post holes for a living.
I should have known. Buying anything that boasts multiple uses (dough hook, wire whip, paddle, shredder, meat grinder, nail puller, etc.) means that each application doesn't work as well as if you had a dedicated piece of equipment for each job. Kind of like buying a torque wrench that's also a handy can opener and pry bar. The so-called plastic splash guard is an idiotic piece of crap that wouldn't do for scraping paint. It doesn't fall off, it falls INTO the bowl while it's running. Try grabbing that sucker before the dough hook crushes it and maybe you. I'm a tad peeved. Does it show?
Just as James is experiencing, my KA started to smell like burning wire (see comments on the Prince of Darkness below), then whine, then stop. Took off the motor cover (don't tell the warranty police). The motor itself seemed fine, but you could tell from the smell that the armature was overworked (tell tale black brush dust nearby). Incredibly, the gearbox transfer case is made from plastic with four wimpy screws holding it in place; the other parts appear heavy enough. That case was split right down the middle, so the planetary gears were not engaging properly and beginning to shed teeth. Never ran it again. I've taken apart about a zillion transmissions in my time, motorcycles to tractors, and I've never seen such a stupid, BS design in my life. It's as if the manufacturer wanted the thing to fail by putting the weakest part at the point of highest stress. I'd appreciate an engineering point of view from JE on this one.
Haven't had time to actually talk to a human at KitchenAid yet, but if I get any resistance at all to a full refund, there will be considerable doo doo hitting the web fan. I DO NOT want this thing repaired and returned to me. I want the bucks back. The promotion, advertising, instructions, limits are all deliberately false, far as I'm concerned. Class action anyone?
Tried contacting them on their main US web site. The immediate response was that they don't handle Canadian complaints. "Um, could you tell me why, please? Something wrong with Canadians, eh? Ehh?" Instead, I was given a land line phone number here, no contact name, no extension, no email address. The Canadian site has no "Contact Us" button. It's getting very smelly now. You can well imagine how many times I've hung up after hearing "All our lines are busy, but your call is VERY important to us," followed by elevator music. Going postal is a real possibility here. Justifiable, too. I suspect they're going to try and fob me off to the store where I bought the thing, BUT I DON'T KEEP original boxes. If I did, I'd have to move to a warehouse. Can anybody fill in the rest of this story? What about my lost TIME in all this? Fifty bucks in gas is just the beginning. Captain Yosarian and I are brothers in arms. Catch 22 time. I'm wondering how close I have to get to a plate glass window so I can heave-deliver this egregious piece of under-designed junk directly to the manufacturer, if that's the correct term.
Right now and until the end of the month, TMB has a special price of $1150 for the SP5, normally $1350. It's high, yes, but I think worth it. I detest cheap tools, because they cost far more than they're worth in down time, aggravation, machine-induced failure, running around, hair pulling, swearing. That's why I originally went for the KA. WRONG. You'd think I'd learn by this late date. Can I afford the SP5? Wince. No. Do I have to do it? Yes.
I'm also a part-time professional mason with arms to match, but kneading dough by hand for sixteen 1 kilo boule is a real workout for anybody short of King Kong. You gotta let the dough rest, sure, but then you gotta let the baker fall down and rest.
I've looked at the Electrolux, ditto the Viking. The Electrolux seems like a good machine, Swedish built, and the price is similar, but it's a home mixer. Same for the Viking, but I've worked on far too much British machinery not to shy away from that one. Here's a joke from a friend who collects and restores vintage Brit cars and motorcycles: "How come there aren't any English-made computers? Because it's very difficult to make them leak oil." In the recent past, Jaguar and most other marques in Britain used electrics made by another Brit company, Lucas by name. When I was working on everything from Triumph to Lotus, we called Lucas "The Prince of Darkness" for very good reason. (I'll never shake that burning wire smell, see above.) They've since gone to Japanese and US electrics after about a century of looking for the light switch. It's a prejudice, I admit it freely. Then, of course, there are primo Salter electronic scales; Thermopik instant read thermometers; and many other things British that work very well indeed. It's worth pointing out that my heritage is very, very Green Irish on the revolutionary side, so it's painful, probably sinful, for me to say anything positive about the English Sassenach.
The parent company for the SP5 (can't remember the name) is French, but I think the SP5 is made in Switzerland or Germany. Bingo. The proper name is the Esmach SP5 Micro Spiral Mixer. Took some doing, but I searched out Esmach on the web. These guys have made huge commercial equipment for the EU baking industry for a very long time, and the SP5 is the smallest mixer they manufacture. Seems right to me. I'd rather go with equipment that's been scaled down for artisan bakers like me, than something that's been scaled up (KA) for people who bake bread occasionally. The really maddening thing is that the KitchenAid literature is very boastful about the power and capacity of the 600 series. Do I smell something a bit off here? Wire? Nope, maybe it's on my shoe.
This reply in its original form was too long for this formum. Part Two, maybe three, on its way shortly.
PS: James, I'll be sending you the SP5 PDF by email. It's not real helpful, but it does have a schematic of the gear drive.
I, too, looked at smaller Hobarts; Hobart, by the way, at one time was connected with KitchenAid. There's also a slew of far eastern knock-offs that are quite good. Hobarts are dough hook mixers that are standard in just about every bakery in N Am. But, for the kind of artisan breads I make, a planetary hook style mixer with a fixed bowl risks overworking the dough. The light bulb came on at 500 watts for me when I visited a very successful artisan bakery near the Hudson River, about 100 miles north of NYC. They had several Hobarts gathering dust since the large Lavioillette (sp?) spiral mixer arrived from France. The head baker gave me his reasons for the change (not cheap, somewhere in the 15K range); they're the same as mine now are. His Hobarts are now used exclusively for cookies, muffins and such. Seems to me, too, that France is the mecca for bread, just as Italy is the mecca for pizza, so a mixer from a French company seemed somehow appropriate :D .
I've looked into the Hamilton Beach, but it doesn't have the power, capacity or torque I need (pun), and it's a home machine made for occasional use. Their rep is in fine shape, far as I know, but I'm after something that is completely designed for dough and nothing else. Look at it this way: we all have or are building rather pricey ovens; the cost of this mixer is no higher than a pinch of coon in comparative terms. No matter what mixer you choose, listen to the bonehead that got burned and research the hell out of it and pay close attention to the praises or complaints of owners before pulling the trigger. Was that a mixed (pun) metaphor? Marcel will answer that one. We all spend a lot of energy selecting oven materials, building properly to the right size, researching, insulating, head scratching, etc., etc. A great oven needs great pizza or bread or whatnot. Great dough requires an equally fine mixer. QED.
I feel very stupid through all of this. I guess part of the lesson is the same as choosing an oven size. I know myself, or should have. If I'm satisfied with a certain size or weight or capacity at one point, I'm darned sure I'll grow out of it right smartly. That's why I built a 4 x 3 foot oven, but I'm beginning to sweat on that one. Anyhow, hence the SP5 decision. If my business grows exponentially, which it might, I'll just have to go bigger once more to the mixer I saw in New York State (about five times the size of the SP5). For now, though, the SP5 will handle my immediate and short-term future needs. Man, am I realistic, or what :rolleyes: ? I could kick myself for buying the KA in the first place.
James, I went to the KitchenAid site and several others and downloaded additional instructions for the 600 series. Still have the print out somewhere if you want further specifics. They say in the manual you get with the mixer that it will handle up to, I think, 14 cups of flour. Not. I never got the thing to handle more than 10, and it did a lousy job at that level. But the additional info you get if you look for it says something like, "Of course, this limit does not apply to whole wheat flour." Yikes. Forgotten the limit they specify for WW, but it's something like six or eight cups. Now that's just plain useless, not to say false advertising. "Oh, by the way, your car won't go faster than fifty miles an hour UP hill; our specs are for down hill only. Sorry for the inconvenience. Sir, sir, what are you doing with that piece of pipe?" GRRR.
I'd like to say right away that I'm not a trusting soul by nature and I have no commercial connection whatever to TMB Baking, so I have no vested interest in promoting them. I had a friend look for the SP5 in NYC to compare prices. It simply doesn't exist there; not available, period. Last year, I was searching for banneton at a reasonable price. A correspondent on another forum guided me to TMB. Their prices are the best I've found for the kind of specialized, European-style gear I want. Example: coiled willow banneton at Williams Sonoma, Toronto, $32.00 each; coiled willow banneton at TMB, San Francisco, $16.25 each. Exactly the same thing; I checked. Am I missing something? Even with shipping, duty and brokerage, I'm still way ahead. In the US, you'll be miles ahead. Need lame, couche cloth, kaiser stamps? Go there. Their list of products is short, but very concentrated, and many of the things they carry simply can't be found without a lot of stumbling around on the web. Believe me. I've done a lot of stumbling. There's no conflict at all with Forno Bravo.
Part of the reason for the pricing level is that TMB was founded originally to prevent students at the San Francisco Baking Institute from going into yet more debt for the materials they needed. Both the Institure and TMB genuinely want to encourage artisan baking across N America; I'm completely convinced of that, but my eyes remain open. TMB has a mark-up, no doubt, but it must be pretty low. My contact at TMB is Richard Abit (email@example.com); he's extremely obliging, knowledgeable and helpful. Their service is exceptional. If he can't get the info I'm after, he'll talk to one of the instructors at the Institute and get back to me. This guy is a great resource for all of us. He's working on a contact for me to lower the learning curve on the SP5. It's worth pointing out that SFBI uses the this mixer in all their baking classes. Pretty good testimonial, I'd say. It's also used in flour mills for testing purposes.
All of this, naturally, is my opinion only, but I think it's pretty informed by this point. I sprint in the other direction when Absolutes raise their ugly heads (they run the gang of dogs in the first paragraph, nasty bunch). I've done a lot of looking and reading and comparing. My personal conclusion is that there might be bigger spiral mixers out there, but none any better than the SP5, no matter the price. I don't know everything, hardly, and some days I don't know anything at all, but....
Time to change hobby horses: pan to this evening: Friday night, bottle of red from Tuscany, pizza in the oven covered with Marzano toms, coal black Sicilian olives, century old parmegiano, Swedish girlfriend attending....
Whew, thanks for listening to this therapeutic tirade. Was it good for you? It was certainly good for me.
As I know you have an appreciation for fine tools, I'm sure you have a commercial grade keyboard for your computer! Wow! :p
Thanks for the detailed analysis of the various brands of mixers, one thing, could you tell us what you really think of KA? :D
Not ready for the SP5 yet, can you tell me which Electrolux you are referring to? The one Chris linked at Bakerscatalogue.com was priced at $495, over half the price of the SP5. Is this the one you are referring to? As I'm not planning on baking nearly as frequently as you so perhaps this lesser make will suffice for a 1-2 day a week user?
What about the Viking
Where does the Viking fit in here? More than KA, less than SP5?
I think I am going to run my KA until it dies, or I can't stand the smell. I'll do an analysis and buy one of the larger ones. Until then, if you listen closely, you can hear my KA whining in the background.
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