Pros: Modern styling. Best mixer in its discounted price range. Prices continue to fall.
Cons: Maytag/Whirlpool has discontinued the Attrezzi line. Future parts availability may be an issue.
INTO THE MIX
I've been in the market for a stand mixer since my 1980's vintage Sunbeam drew its last floury breath. The engineers at Sunbeam designed the motor cooling intake directly above the bowl. 20 years of flour build-up in the motor finally finished it off.
I looked at the Viking 5 quart mixer with its utilitarian styling, and quality brand name. It seemed a good choice until further research revealed alleged difficulties locking the attachments in place. It is heavy enough to need wheels to move it, and at $399.00, is more mixer than I would ever need.
There was always the dowdy and ubiquitous Kitchen Aid line, but I've never been one to run with the pack.
While surfing around, I landed at the Jenn Air website. They have a nice presentation, focusing more on style than substance, but a price of $429.00 for their mixer was more than the Viking. A trip to Epinions.com showed a large variation in price, with Overstock.com having the lowest, at $159.99.
AFTER FURTHER RESEARCH
I've never been an impulse buyer, so now for the legwork. One of the lesser-known cooking magazines tested stand mixers in a recent issue. The Jenn Air was one of six mixers that failed the bread dough test. The fact is that many of the medium-priced mixers struggled while attempting to knead dough. Providing dough hooks with a mixer can sometimes be a marketing gimmick. My old Sunbeam came with hooks, but common sense dictates the likelihood of a short life if I were to use them. As a bread baker, I feel the only way to make bread properly is to use your hands. Through experience (and instinct) comes the knowledge as to when the dough is ready for the first rise.
I was looking for a machine to do the light to medium mixing that the Sunbeam was capable of: cake batter, cookie dough, whipped cream, mashed potatoes and winter squash for holiday feasts. $159.99 is only $30.00 more than I paid for the low-tech rotary beater Sunbeam in 1986.
As it turns out, the Attrezzi (Italian for tool) represented Maytag's entry into the crowded mixer market. I found a press release issued at the time of introduction. The Whiz-Kids at Maytag designed the mixer to be stylish, as well as an attempt to meet the needs of cooks that other mixers had not. The truth is, they were half right. If they had put an indestructible motor in it, and slapped the Maytag name on it, they may have had success in cracking the fifty percent market share held by Kitchen Aid.
MY KINGDOM FOR A BOWL
One problem with most mixers is that they come with only one bowl; you need two bowls to operate efficiently. Some cakes call for beaten egg whites set aside, and folded into the batter at the end of the recipe. My lowly Sunbeam, with all its faults, had a small stainless bowl for the egg whites that could be put in the refrigerator while the rest of the batter is prepared in the larger bowl. The Jenn Air comes with one of several substantial (5 pound) designer glass bowls that coordinate to the color of the mixer base. There was mention of an available stainless steel bowl, but none of the mixers come standard with it. If I were to buy the Jenn Air, I would need to locate that optional second bowl.
A trip to the Maytag parts store website gave the part number, but the steel bowl was unavailable. After nearly 90 minutes of dead-end links, I ended up at the J.C. Penny website - one of the many vendors where the mixer is available. A side bar on the page had a picture of the bowl I sought, with a price of $39.99 - approximately $24.00 cheaper than Maytag, and it was in stock. Three days later, it was at my door.
A WORD ABOUT OVERSTOCK.COM
Shipping cost $2.95 for this item when I ordered. Two days later, shipping was free, and the next day, $1.00. Most vendors charged an average of $15.00 for shipping this item. At a weight of 39 pounds, the trip from Utah to Massachusetts is a bargain for $2.95, even though it took 11 days to arrive. A great deal if you don't mind the wait. If the price is to drop further, this is the site to keep an eye on.
THE TRUE TEST
When it arrived, the first thing I noticed was that nowhere on the nicely printed box does the word Attrezzi appear. My guess is that the name didn't test well (people couldn't remember it) - and it was replaced with the words stand mixer early on. Unpacking this item is almost a two man job. Once extracted from the box within a box, it's clear that nothing is missing. The fit and finish is of excellent quality; more apparent than the photographs suggest. The unit is easy to set up. The attachments slide on and turn to lock in place. The bowls have tabs that lock into the base with a clock-wise twist. This procedure was more difficult with the glass bowl - the stainless bowl installed easily.
The 10 speed motor is controlled by a wheel on top of the mixer head. In the center of the wheel is a pause/stop button. Once a speed is selected, one touch of the pause button stops the mixer to add ingredients, or scrape the bowl. This is my first experience with a planetary mixer. With a conventional stand mixer, you learn to do everything with the mixer running. The attachments on a planetary mixer run too close to the edge of the bowl to safely use a spatula while in operation. When you touch the pause button again, the motor slowly and quietly comes up to the selected speed to prevent spattering.
The planetary action of this mixer is very efficient. With the wire whisk attachment, egg whites and whipped cream are done in half the time. The beater attachment does a great job with cake batter - cakes rise higher, and have a finer texture. The motor seems to run cooler than my old Sunbeam. The cooling air intake for the motor is on the back of the mixer head, so it's not likely to draw in flour to impede the operation of the motor over time.
I went to the Jenn Air website to fill out the product registration form. They wouldn't accept the serial/model numbers, saying they were an invalid combination. When I e-mailed the company, they apologized for the problem, and said to just send in the card. If I have a warranty claim, I hope it goes more smoothly. Maytag (parent company of Jenn Air) was recently purchased by Whirlpool, so I anticipate they would completely support any outstanding warranties.
Reviewer Update: 12/18/06
After almost six months of continuous use, my Jenn-Air Attrezzi stand mixer continues to perform flawlessly. Once I got used to pausing the mixer to add ingredients or scrape the bowl, I found this new technology superior to my old rotating-bowl and beater style Mixmaster. The one drawback continues to be the weight of the unit, though this ultimately adds to its solid construction; an acceptable trade-off. As previously stated, go for a more substantial (and more expensive) machine such as the Viking if you plan to make bread dough on a regular basis.
The discontinued status of this mixer has seen prices fall as low as the $100 mark in a few locations, as of this update. This puts the Attrezzi smack-dab in the range of the lowly Mixmaster. The Whirlpool take-over of Maytag, Jenn-Air’s parent company, will be complete in January, 2007. Both Whirlpool and Maytag have above-average warranty coverage and response, in my experience.
I will post further updates, as they become necessary.