Summary: The stainless interior and NSF rating sold us, and we continue to be sold by its flawless performance.
Recommend this product?
The Whys of Dishwasher Buying
After moving into our used house in 1998, we discovered that most of the appliances were in need of updating into the 20th century. This included the dishwasher, which was underpowered, crowded, and had a buildup of crud in the washer arms, which rendered it impotent to clean most cups in the upper deck.
We searched around our local appliance retailer (The Brick), and discovered that Kitchen Aid, the company that made our refrigerator, also made a dishwasher. The refrigerator had impressed us so much that we were predisposed to liking the dishwasher, even before seeing its NSF rating (National Sanitation Foundation, an organization devoted to making sure we don't all die of botulism), the stainless steel interior and the lack of a pole channelling water to the upper wash arm.
The Brick had other dishwashers there, some by Maytag, a minimalist Roper, and lower priced Kitchen Aids, but no other model in the store had a stainless steel tub. A stainless steel tub and a water heating element that heats wash water to 180 degrees fahrenheit are necessary to achieve the NSF rating, ergo, no other model had an NSF rating. That sold us on the Kitchen Aid.
Besides, it would be nice to have our refrigerator and dishwasher match.
Specific features, intermingled with what I love and hate about this dishwasher
The oft-mentioned NSF rating
Did I mention that this was important to us? Not only is stainless steel easy on the eyes, but it is less likely to scratch and harbour illness causing organisms. The stainless steel, combined with the water heater, gives the unit an NSF rating. Technically, you could use this in restaurants. In reality, if you were a restaurant owner, you'd want to use one of those Hobart units, with racks that completely pull out, and big water heaters.
Almost infinitely adjustable racks
The bottom rack has a row of vertical placeholders that can be laid flat. The upper rack has a drop down section on the left (with wine glass holders), and a variable drop down section on the right (for holding coffee mugs at an angle so they don't collect water). Both upper and lower sections have fold up sections that can be dropped down to hold large utensils (like knives, or serving spoons).
Large casserole dishes (like the 3.5 quart Le Creuset) can fit in the upper deck, leaving the lower deck to hold lots and lots of plates, bowls and utensils. The possibilities seem endless for holding more and more dishes.
The utensil basket can be separated, with both halves sitting side by side in front, or together straddling a vertical place holder. This gives you more freedom to fit large, awkward baking pans along the right hand side. The upper deck slopes down to the right, to allow larger glasses or bigger pots to be put on that side.
There's actually enough vertical room in the upper deck to put bowls from front to back. This frees up space in the lower deck, again, for large mixing bowls, or pots and pans. We put as much as humanly possible in our dishwasher, because we hate doing dishes.
On several levels, the dishwasher is energy efficient. First, most dishwashers use less water, and therefore power to heat that water, than hand-washing. Secondly, incorporating a water heater (which also dries your dishes in the dry cycle) for the sani-rinse cycle means that your household water heater doesn't need to be set as high.
Plus, your dishes get cleaner with less of your effort, so you're conserving your energy. A little appliance humour, there.
Solid feel of detergent door
It's a small thing, but my confidence in this dishwasher is inspired by the solidity of the door for the detergent. The rinse aid stopper also appears to have been carved from a solid piece of plastic.
Delay, Delay more, Delay even more
The Kitchen Aid Superba control panel allows you to start your dishwashing now, of course, but it also allows you to delay starting the washer for 2, 4 or 6 hours. The Superba is very quiet, but a romantic evening won't be moved along by hearing the hiss of water being slapped around the interior of the dishwasher. It might be best, in these circumstances, to delay the beginning of the wash cycle. As well, some people are lucky enough to have time-of-day electrical metering. Using your dishwasher at night, when the power rates are low, will save you money.
More cycles than I could ever hope to use
There's a Soak and Scrub cycle, for really dirty dishes. This cycle uses an extra wash cycle (and requires you to fill the supplementary detergent container). There's a Normal cycle, a short wash cycle, a light china cycle, and a rinse only cycle (for those times when you don't have a full load, and just want it to sit until you do). For options, you have High Temp Wash which heats your water to 180 degrees F. Energy Saver Dry turns off the heating element and lets your dishes air dry. Sani Rinse heats up the water to 180 degrees F in the rinse cycle. And the Delay feature has already been dealt with.
The Superba has a child lock feature. One of these days, before my son can reach the settings, I'll have to dig out the manual and figure out how to set it up again. I think this is a good feature.
Rinse Aid Empty
There's a light on the front of the unit that tells you when your rinse aid needs refilling. I think I have clogged my rinse aid dispenser because the light has not come on for months, and I haven't been filling it.
We really haven't seen any spots on the glasses, so we haven't missed the rinse aid if it is clogged.
"Whisper Quiet" operation
The unit is billed as being Whisper quiet. I don't see it as being any quieter than our old unit. There is insulation wrapping around the bare unit, including behind the plumbing cover beneath the tub. A friend of ours stuffed more insulation in between cupboards and his dishwasher, and his dishwasher seems really quiet, so you can do the same, if you're so inclined. Make sure you avoid anything electrical, though.
Problem we've had/performance over time
Notice that I said problem we've had, rather than problems. The sole problem we've had so far relates to the lower wash arm. It was getting stiff. I unscrewed the retainer, took off the arm, put a plastic retainer cup more firmly into the washer arm, and it's as good as new. I have no idea how the retainer cup became loose. The lower wash arm is of stainless steel too, by the way.
Other than that, the washer has performed like a jewelled watch.
Out of the box
The dishwasher did not come pre-wired. I looked upon that as a pain, but other people might appreciate that they have the choice to hard wire the unit into a circuit or build their own plug. We built our own plug (with wiring that we had to buy ourselves. Kitchen Aid doesn't know what kind of circuit you're going to put the dishwasher into, so they don't want to supply wiring needs. A smart move on their part.) and plugged it in, and it worked.
1) Cleans dishes really clean.
2) Holds a lot of dishes to clean really clean.
3) Saves you time, effort, water and electricity.
I can't think of any. The Superba is more expensive than other units, but I believe the features are worth the money.
Who should buy this product
Seriously consider this product if you're replacing an old washer, or putting a new washer into a new house. You never have to make excuses for quality.
If your washer is not getting your dishes clean, maybe it's time to replace it.
Who should not?
If you're happy with your washer right now and it's doing the job, why change things?
I am rating the Kitchen Aid Superba dishwasher 5 stars. After installation, we've had one very minor problem, and many many successful loads of clean dishes.
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Amount Paid (US$): 550 or thereabouts, depending on US/Cdn exchange