KitchenAid Pro 5 Plus a well-built product with a fundamental design flaw
Dec 15, 2005
Review by masri
Rated a Very Helpful Review
I am so disappointed.
Recommend this product?
This is a terrible way to start a review, especially of a product I was so excited to purchase. I believe KitchenAid has a hard-earned reputation for quality, that they are squandering today due to the use of a poor quality component in their mixers.
In my family, one of my sisters-in-law has a lime-green "Citron" KitchenAid Artisan (she loves lime green!). Another sister-in-law has another KitchenAid mixer; she used to be a chef at a very fancy restaurant, so I figured she a) knows her stuff, and b) uses the heck out of her mixer. My brother bought a bowl-lift style Professional 600 Series for his wife a few years ago, and also owned a portable KitchenAid dishwasher (yes, on wheels!). My sister tells me she loves her KitchenAid mixer she's had for 7-8 years; she figures it'll outlast her, and she uses it for cookie dough all the time. Everyone in my family loves their KitchenAid mixers. So, normally I research things I spend a lot of money on to a ridiculous level. But this time I figured, why bother? Everyone uses these things, I see them on Food TV all the time, they must be the best. The design doesn't look like it's changed in 50 years, so they must stand the test of time.
I wanted my Mom to have the best mixer available. My Mom cooks & bakes all the time. The grandkids love to bake cookies, cakes & breads with Grandma. But even without them around, she enjoys baking her delicious bread. My Mom also makes a variety of Mediterranean dishes for my Dad. I see my Mom & Dad mixing bread dough by hand, or crushing & blending ingredients they use in their cooking. I figured a great mixer would help them be more productive.
So, I checked a few reviews online, including here at epinions. Everyone talks so highly of this mixer, I figured there couldn't be a problem with it.
First, let me talk about what attracted me to this mixer. KitchenAid is a brand name I recognize. They've made washing machines and a variety of other home appliances for decades, and I've had access to some of those over time. Part of me figures that if they've been around this long, and everyone has their stuff, it must be well made. I like that this is an American company. I like that when you put your hand on this mixer, you don't feel cheap plastic; instead, it feels like you're touching the metal surface of a car or Harley motorcycle, nicely painted, shiny, smooth, cold, sturdy, unmoving. Heavy. Built to last. Their stuff feels like it's built like a tank.
KitchenAid also understands that people like to accessorize, and what better way to do that than have a choice of colors. The Artisan Series mixer has the most color choices, but the Professional 5 Plus has a decent selection. Color choices are Cobalt Blue, Empire Red, White, Grey (a dark gray), & Onyx Black. My mom chose white. I probably would have chosen red or blue because they look cool, but oh well.
At the unboxing event, I can understand why people are attracted to KitchenAid. It looks like they came up with a winning design 50 years ago, and never touched it since -- not out of neglect, but rather because it needed no further refinement. The design looks very retro, like a "future" product made in the 1950s; even the font used to write KitchenAid across the front looks retro. It's sleek. I've heard the term "heirloom quality" used to describe KitchenAid; the design looks & feels like something you would buy for yourself, hand down to your children, and they would hand it down to theirs.
The mixer has a large metal base to keep it sturdy on your counter. The base measures approx. 14-1/2" x 9-3/4" at its longest points. The base is tapered, wider at the end with a depression to hold the bowl, thinner at the end that holds the vertical support that holds up the actual motorized mixer. Attached to the vertical support is the bowl-lift mechanism. The bowl-lift mechanism consists of a U shaped holder with pins at the ends of the U, and a handle you raise or lower which raises or lowers the U shaped holder.
The 5 quart metal bowl that comes with the mixer has supports on either side, with holes in them. You place the bowl's supports over the pins on the U shaped holder. Then, push down on the rear end of the bowl (closest to the vertical support); this engages a locking mechanism that locks the bowl to the mixer, so heavy mixes like bread dough don't send the bowl flying across your kitchen. Removing the bowl is easy: simply grab the bowl's handle, pull up, and the locking mechanism releases and the bowl lifts away.
The mixer comes with three beaters. The flat beater is used for light batters, such as cakes, cookies, frostings, meat loaf, or mashed potatoes. The wire whip is used for eggs, cream (making whip cream), sponge & angel food cakes. The PowerKnead Spiral Dough Hook looks like a weapon in a Freddy Krueger movie and is used for bread, rolls, pizza dough, and other heavy doughs. To use one of these beaters, you'll find a hole in the top of each beater. You'll find a matching sized shaft on the mixer. Push the beater up against the shaft on the mixer as far as it will go, then turn left, hooking the beater to a pin on the shaft that locks it to the mixer. Removing the beater from the mixer is also simple: simply push the beater up, turn the beater right to disengage the locking pin, then allow the beater to drop. Try to hold the beater, don't let it drop into the bowl or you could dent the bowl. The bowl feels like heavy metal, but so do the beaters, especially the PowerKnead Spiral Dough Hook. You have to put the beater of your choice on before raising the bowl lift handle. When you do raise the bowl lift handle and turn the mixer on for the first time, you'll be impressed and amazed at the tolerances here -- the beater of your choice whips around pretty close to the edges of the bowl. It doesn't physically make contact with the bowl (that would hurt the motor, the beater, and the bowl, and make a lot of noise), but the beater comes in very close to the sides & bottom of the bowl. KitchenAid refers to their mixing design as "67 point planetary mixing action." I won't explain why for sake of brevity, but the first time you see it spinning, you'll understand why. Beater height is adjusted at the factory, but if for some reason your mixer arrives and the beater is too far from the bowl, or hitting the bowl, there is an adjustment screw you turn to raise or lower the beater shaft.
So, in practice, here's the procedure to use the mixer. Move the bowl lift handle down. Place the bowl's supports over the mixer's locating pins. Push the rear of the bowl down to lock it into place. Lock whichever beater you will use to the mixer. Raise the bowl lift handle. Put your ingredients in the bowl and you're ready to go. When you're done, lower the bowl lift handle, remove the beater, pull up on the bowl's handle to release & remove it from the mixer. It sounds complicated when you're explaining it, but in reality it takes moments & is easy.
The mixer has a 10 speed slide control to adjust motor speed. The mixer can slowly come up to full speed, so if you have flour in your recipe it won't spray all over the kitchen the second you turn on your mixer. Unlike most mixers, the KitchenAid Professional 5 Plus has a speed controller, an electronic system which measures how fast the motor is turning. With normal mixers, as your batter or dough thickens, the motor runs slower. Not with the KitchenAid; the speed controller keeps the beaters turning at a consistent speed. As the batter thickens, more electricity is applied to keep the motor turning at the same speed. A motor protector will automatically turn off the motor if the batter becomes so thick that the motor could become damaged. This KitchenAid also claims to have an "all-steel gear transmission," which implies great strength. Reading over this list of features, it seems as if KitchenAid's mixer would be purchased once, and never again; it would be reliable for 50, 100 years. Built to last, right? Looking at the list of "checkmark" features on the box or Website, anyone would be impressed.
On the top front of the mixer, you'll find a KitchenAid circle logo. Raise this metal circle, and you'll find the attachment hub. This hub is square shaped, and is connected to the transmission; it spins. Here you connect a variety of KitchenAid attachments for your mixer -- everything from a pasta maker to a meat or nut grinder to a grain mill. Once again, the idea & implication here is that the motor & transmission of your new mixer is so powerful, may as well use it to power all these other attachments & not pay for individual single-use appliances, saving money in the long run.
The manual states that because this mixer is so much more powerful & faster than a handheld mixer, many of your recipes will need a little modification -- shorter beating times. Fortunately, the manual comes with a variety of recipes to get you started using it, and these also give you an idea of how to adjust the mixing time on your own recipes so you don't over mix. The manual also mentions various mixing speeds & how they equate to typical recipe instructions. Some of the recipes sound delicious.
The bowl, white flat beater, and white spiral dough hook can all be put in the dishwasher. The wire whip should be washed by hand and dried immediately. I don't think it's "crossing the streams" bad if it goes in the dishwasher, but maybe the wire whip could spot, or maybe even rust, not sure about that; the manual doesn't say what the problem is. To clean the mixer itself, unplug the unit, and wipe with a soft, damp cloth. Don't use household or commercial cleaners, although I doubt a little sudsy water from some dishwashing liquid would hurt too bad. Don't immerse the blender in water. Wipe any food off the beater shaft to keep it clean.
This all sounds great so far, doesn't it? Ok, let's actually try it out.
I help my Mom setup the mixer. We plug it in, I show her how she puts the bowl on and off, how she puts the beaters on & off, how the speed control works. She gets it, she likes it, my Mom & Dad are both very impressed with how durable this blender seems. My Dad isn't the type to spend so much money on a blender, and at first thought the whole idea was ridiculous, but now that he sees the blender he's thinking how much easier it will be to make his bread.
This night, Mom is baking cookies. She needs to make a frosting. A perfect first test for this blender, to see how it deals with small batches. We dump the ingredients in the bowl, and turn it on. My mom is impressed with how fast the single flat beater whips her frosting into shape. Because the beater moves in the same locations every time, we also notice that even though we're making a small quantity of frosting, you don't see ingredients scattered over the surface of the bowl -- instead, all the frosting, all the mixed ingredients, are at the bottom of the bowl, well mixed. I remove the single flat beater from the mixer, and proceed to lick the frosting. Eating frosting from the single flat beater does not take the effort or tongue dexterity required to negotiate the sharp slalom course of eating frosting from metal beaters, and there's something sad about knowing you won't get two. But as a cook, you revel in the knowledge that less frosting is on the beater blade (and then in the sink or your ungrateful son's stomach), and more is on your cakes & cookies. I also note that the odd geometric design of the flat blade seems as if it would be at home in an MC Escher painting. Frosting is delicious! We're done for the night.
The next day, my brother & I are at my Mom's house. I show him the blender. I turn it on. I hear a repetitive clunking noise that wasn't there previously. It goes away. Repetitive clunking comes back. What is going on? My heavy, beastly, all metal transmission marvel is failing prematurely. How could this even be?
I'm not one to overreact. I know that with all products, there's a small DOA failure rate. I see it with computers & electronics all the time. My question is, is there anything fundamentally wrong with my purchase? I hadn't deeply reviewed KitchenAid reliability, but then I didn't think I had to considering my family's ownership of their products. I am VERY disappointed that while the reviews of this blender are great, the reviews of another recent KitchenAid, the Pro 6, are terrible. Anyone mixing anything heavy, such as bread dough, is complaining bitterly about premature failure. KitchenAid's response is that they're mixing too fast, or too long. Too long? I thought the auto motor shutoff was supposed to keep the mixer from killing itself.
There is one particular review that catches my eye.
So, KitchenAid proudly claims their mixer has a metal transmission, but surrounds those metal gears with a plastic gearbox? Are you kidding me? How is that not deceptive advertising, and frankly, possible false advertising and fraud? I think back to the note in the manual, that when mixing at high speed it is normal for the top of the mixer to get so hot that it is too hot to touch. I grimace at the idea that I've made a mistake. Plastic certainly isn't heat proof. I immediately wonder if my mixer could have a similar problem, as you can see from the comments.
I decide since I'm sending this thing back anyway, I'll pop the top on it and have a look inside. I snap some digital pics, and email them to this author. Sure enough, he tells me it's the same plastic gearbox he found in the Pro 6. He was so angry with what he found, he made a Website about the problem.
There is a fundamental problem I have with the comments I'm reading about KitchenAid. They are relying on good customer service to counteract a bad engineering problem. What happens if a customer service rep is having an off day, and doesn't want to help you? What happens when your 1 year warranty expires? What happens if a customer service rep decides that your mixer failed and it's your fault? What happens if KitchenAid's profits fall, due to all these mixers that have to get fixed, and management puts the squeeze on that "darn customer service" that's costing the company so much money, telling them not to fix so many units under warranty? Then you have to pay when your seemingly virtually unbreakable mixer fails.
Do I believe KitchenAid historically has excellent products, and a well deserved reputation? Absolutely. But I think somewhere along the line, KitchenAid has decided to sacrifice product quality and workmanship in a key component that would lead to premature product failure in order to make more money on service. This is a very negative accusation, but IMO KitchenAid needs to fix this design flaw before they start losing a large enough percentage of their customers to matter to their bottom line. Right now this problem is a murmur on the Internet, but if this story is picked up before they have time to rectify this problem, I'm afraid their sales will suffer for years. It's too bad, because I probably will not purchase another KitchenAid product, and I would recommend to people who ask me that they not buy KitchenAid either. If they want me back as a customer, they'll have to give me one, take it apart in front of my (and Joel's) face, and show me that there are no weak critical components that will prematurely fail. I'm probably not important enough for all that.
You might be wondering, why did I spend all this time writing this review for something I'm returning? Quite frankly, KitchenAid wasted my time. In my opinion, claiming an all metal transmission when there's a plastic gearbox is an untruth; if I'd known that going in, I would have looked elsewhere. I spent quite a bit of time reading reviews, & reading their marketing literature. I also had to special order this mixer, wait in line to buy it, and wait for it to arrive via UPS. If someone had told me the good & bad points of this product, I wouldn't have wasted my time buying it. Now I have to waste my time packing & returning it. If everyone who had their time wasted posted a review on epinions, think of how much more efficient we'd all be. So, I had my time wasted, but now you won't have to. Check out the Electrolux DLX 2000 Assistent instead, that seems to be what some (including Joel) are moving to. This sounds like a mixer that was designed 50 years ago, but they decided to make improvements while keeping their quality up.
I'm also eyeing the DeLonghi DSM5, with its substantial 780 watt motor & 10 year motor warranty. Due to the odd design of the Electrolux, I'll probably try the DeLonghi first.
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Amount Paid (US$): 300
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