(updated September 14, 2014)
Despite the introduction of a number of new models in recent years, for 2014 the flagship model in Vitamix’s world-famous line of high-performance blenders designed for home use continues to be the 5200. Debuting in the United States in 2007 as a new-and-improved version of the company’s wildly popular 5000 – still to this day the world’s best-selling Vitamix – the 5200 boasts improved design features over its predecessor, including an upgraded motor. The following review is a comprehensive look at the Vitamix 5200 blender. The information and opinions expressed in it are derived and formed from data gathered directly from the company, my ownership of both the 5000 and 5200 models and uses of each in blending operations numbering in the thousands, and my sales experience in the high-performance blender industry dating back to 2009. It is intended solely as reference material for anyone considering the purchase of a high-performance blender.
Package and Specifications
Every Vitamix through the 5000 model was built on-site at the company’s Cleveland, Ohio, world headquarters. Though still completely assembled in America, the 5200 includes a Swedish-designed and manufactured motor, which will be examined in greater detail below. The entire Vitamix 5200 package consists of a motor base in the customer’s choice of color, a blending container with attached blade assembly and two-part lid, tamper, first-time user guide, usage tips card, cooking class-themed DVD, warranty certificate, registration card, and recipe book.
The motor base of the 5200 is square in shape, 7 ½” wide and 9” deep, and weighs roughly 11 lbs. With the jar and lid in place, the entire unit stands 20 1/8” tall. A standard 120 volt, 3-pronged grounded power cord extends to a length of up to 6 feet from the underside of the base. Any or all of the cord can be stored underneath the machine – a particularly handy feature when traveling with the unit or when operating it at short distances from electrical outlets. The base rests on four round, rubber feet, ¾” in diameter. The interface of the machine is on the front side of the base and consists of a panel with two levers on either side of a dial in its center. The switches are durable, “soft-touch” rubber for improved ease of operation (one of several improvements over the 5000 model). One is a speed control and one is for powering the machine on and off. The “soft touch” center dial controls the variable speed feature of the machine.
The exterior of the base is made of wear-resistant plastic in the customer’s choice of white, black, red, platinum or brushed-stainless finishes. Inside is a new Swedish-designed motor designed and manufactured specifically for the 5200. The 11.5 amp, 1380 watt motor is advertised as 2-peak horsepower (2HP). Though technically no stronger than that in the Vitamix 5000, the new motor is more efficient due to engineering improvements in its ability to sustainedly cool itself during operation, which translates to both energy savings and improved motor performance. Top-end blade speed on the 5200 has been measured at 37,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). Significant discussion and debate continues in the blender industry on what role horsepower plays with these machines as well as guidelines for calculating it. I’ve offered a layman’s overview in this article on high-performance blenders. Vita-Mix has also issued its own statement on motor horsepower.
The majority of the improvements to the 5200 are featured on its jar and lid. In early 2007, Vita-Mix announced a partnership with the Eastman Chemical Co. for constructing new containers for this model. The traditional (and already strong) polycarbonate containers have now been replaced with an even more durable copolyester called Eastman Tritan™. The new jar is not only stronger, but is also significantly more chemical and heat-resistant, is quieter during operation, and contains no Bisphenol-A (BPA) commonly found in polycarbonate.
Tapering from wide and round at its top to narrow and square-shaped at the bottom, the jar easily holds contents totaling 2+ quarts in volume. It is marked in ounces up to 68 and cups up to 8 ½ on one side, milliliters up to 200 and liters up to 2 on the other. Marked with a “Max” fill line at 68 oz. (8 ½ cups), the jar actually holds 80 oz. (10 cups). A single spout at the top of the container, opposite the handle, has been redesigned for more effective pouring and is advertised as “no-drip.” The handle, too, has been updated and now features an ergonomic design including an indented thumb-rest on its rubber “soft-grip” for more effective control over the jar. From the bottom of the container, a 1 ½” lip fits securely in each corner of its squared design around four rubber posts that extend upward from the motor base. Combined with the slotted blade assembly and correspondingly-fitted drive socket, the jar is exceptionally stable on the base during operation. The drive socket, itself, is formed, hardened plastic and the 5200’s four-sided (crisscrossed), stainless steel hammermill-shaped “wet” blades spin in a single, counterclockwise direction. Each of the blade’s four extensions are approximately 1 ¼” long. If needed, the blade assembly is removable from the jar using a specially-designed wrench (not included) from Vita-Mix.
The 5200’s redesigned two-part lid consists of a molded-rubber cover edged with a lip which secures inside the opening of the container by resting on yet another lip formed inside the jar itself. The newly-designed cover also features two tabs which “grab” a second lip on the outside of the jar, insuring the lid remains in place during operation. These “easy off” tabs are loosened with a single finger when removing the lid. A 2” by 2” hole in the center of the lid is the egress point for a tamper which is included with the 5200. This hole also houses the second part of the lid – a removable, copolyester plug with multiple functions. It can be removed entirely from the main lid with a simple twist, creating an opening for the addition of ingredients during operation. When inserted, the plug also serves as the jar’s vent, allowing pressure to escape when making hot contents such as soups and syrups. Finally, when inverted, the center of the plug is also a perfect jigger for liquid ingredients, and is actually marked at 1 and 2 oz. on one side, and 30 and 60 ml. on the other.
For grinding of whole grains and beans into flours, powdering sugar, and making bread crumbs, Vita-Mix makes a “Dry Blade” container which features a different blade design and configuration. It is sold separately from the 5200 package. The Vitamix Super 5200 and Vitamix Deluxe 5200 are packages which include this container, however.
Its superior performance notwithstanding, the feature that generates perhaps the greatest amount of discussion surrounding the machine is its tamper. This is a tool designed for use during blending to direct larger or denser ingredients into the cutting path of the blade, as well as to alleviate air pockets that develop during cavitation. Just under 13” in length, the tube-shaped, molded plastic tamper is formed with a handle and lip at its upper end which, when inserted into the container through the opening in the main lid, will prevent the bottom of the tamper from making contact with the blades. When not in use, the tamper can store in the container. The total height of the machine including the jar and tamper is 22 ¼”.
Getting Started is a 40-page owner’s guide containing overviews of the machine and its components, care and cleaning recommendations, tips on using the machine in several capacities as well as 20 individual recipes utilizing most of them. Let’s Get Started! is a cooking class-themed DVD demonstrating the actual preparations of juice, soup, ice cream, and bread dough. Emphasis is placed on order of ingredients loaded into the jar, safety when using the tamper, and operation of the machine’s control dial and levers. Instruction is also given on chopping and grinding of both wet and dry ingredients and, finally, on how to clean the machine. The format gives the user options to skip to specific demonstrations or watch the DVD uninterrupted from its beginning.
The recipe book included with the 5200 is entitled Whole Food Recipes and is designed as a loose-leaf binder with a creased cover. When folded at its crease, the cover functions as an easel allowing for easy countertop page-turning and viewing of individual recipes. Color-coded and labeled dividers separate the book’s 250 recipes into categories including Beverages, Soups, Dips & Spreads, Sauces, Breads, Breakfast, Deserts, Dressings & Marinades, and Recipes for Kids. There are also several blank pages for entries of personal recipes. Each recipe includes ingredient content, yield, nutritional data, preparation and processing time, and numbered, step-by-step user instructions.
A 14-page owner’s manual covers machine safeguards, registration information, a breakdown of the machine’s individual parts, usage tips, special features, and care and cleaning instructions. Completing the Vitamix 5200 package is a Quick Tips card, registration card, warranty certificate, and bonus offers. Like the recipes themselves, the owner’s manual and Getting Started guide are punched with loose-leaf openings and can be kept in the Whole Food Recipes binder for safekeeping.
To operate a Vitamix 5200, the user must become familiar with the functions of just two levers and one dial, all located on the center interface panel of the motor base. The lever to the right of the dial is used solely for powering the machine on and off. In the up (On) position the machine will run. In the down (Off) position it will not. To the left of the dial is a lever that initiates either of the two speed settings for the machine. If the machine is powered on and this lever is in the up position (High) it will run at its highest speed (240 miles per hour at the blade’s tips), uninterrupted, until the user either toggles the switch to the down position or uses the power lever to turn the machine off. In the lower position (Variable), this same switch allows the machine to run at any individual speed other than its highest. The exact speed is then selected using a rotating dial in the center of the interface. The interface panel is numbered 1 through 10 along the dial’s circumference, with 1 representing the lowest speed.
The majority of blending operations with the 5200 will involve the use of both levers as well as the dial. The High setting performs the majority of the blending, but it is recommended that the user “work” his way to that setting rather than by simply starting there. Generally, the machine should always start in the Variable speed setting with the dial on speed 1. Once the machine starts, the user should move the dial to its highest variable setting, speed 10, just prior to switching to High with the speed lever. From this point the user only need concern himself with how long the machine runs on High. This is the preferred procedure required to make most whole juices, smoothies, soups, syrups and ice creams, and, with very little practice, is a simple process to master.
Loading ingredients into the jar with the softest, most liquid ingredients first, and solid and/or frozen ingredients last will also significantly improve results and shorten blending times. The design of the 5200’s container and blades create a vortex using liquids to draw ingredients loaded higher into the jar downward into the cutting path of the blades. Each recipe in the Whole Food Recipes book suggests the “liquids low/solids high” method of loading the container, and lists the ingredients on the page in the order in which they should be loaded. It is a simple concept that will become easily ingrained into the user’s blending routine, whether using the recipe book or not, with minimal practice.
The more diligently this loading procedure is followed, the less often the use of the tamper that comes with the 5200 will be required. In my personal experience with the Vitamix, I have used the tamper in fewer than half of the recipes I’ve created with it, and I have also spoken to hundreds of 5200 owners who claim to never use it. That said, when the use of the tamper is required, it is imperative that it be used only with the lid on the jar and only through the hole created in the lid via the removal of the plug. This insures that the tamper never reaches the blade. It is only a question of when, not if, the user will need to replace the tamper (not to mention ruin his smoothie) if a practice of using it without the lid in place is made.
Cavitation is a common occurrence in all blenders – the Vitamix 5200 included – by which an air pocket develops around its blades during blending. A combination of high blade speeds and thick, fibrous ingredients can create such an occurrence as can extremely cold temperatures resulting from frozen foods or ice. The greatest benefit of the tamper is in its effectiveness against cavitation. By constantly alleviating air pockets as necessary during a blending procedure, the tamper perpetually assists the machine in its performance. In general, the user will find the greatest need for the tamper when using large quantities of frozen ingredients in smoothies and ice creams, or when performing wet grinding procedures such as making peanut butter out of roasted peanuts.
Different, yet equally simple, blending techniques also allow the 5200 to be used for everything from a food processor to a churn. For example, starting the machine with an empty jar on one of the lower variable speed settings and then dropping solid, fibrous ingredients like carrots, nuts, or cheese through the opening in the lid allows the user to create finely diced results to specific coarseness levels without becoming thoroughly pulverized.
After most blending operations, cleaning the container of the 5200 is a simple procedure. Simply filling the container approximately halfway (4 cups), adding a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent, and running the machine on the High setting for 30 seconds to 1 minute is all that’s required. It is possible to hand wash the jar as well, but attention must be paid to the blades as they are relatively sharp. It is recommended that the container not be cleaned in dishwashers.
The power and versatility of the Vitamix 5200 is nothing short of remarkable, and is apparent in several unique practical applications. As one would expect, dense, fibrous fruits and vegetables are easily transformed into perfectly smooth juices and smoothies. Equally if not more important than the created textures of these beverages, though, are the added health benefits derived from making them in this machine. The 5200 is one of a select few blenders on the market today designed for home use that is strong enough to micronize raw, whole fruits and vegetables during the blending process. This results in a maximum nutritional value of whole foods being made readily available to the user in the form of whole juices and smoothies. In short, phytonutrients contained in the pulp, fiber, skins, seeds, and cores of fruits and vegetables that would otherwise remain trapped (and digested unutilized) within the food’s cellular structure if simply eaten or processed in less powerful blenders are “unlocked” via the 5200’s power and blade design. This feature is of huge importance to most buyers of high-performance blenders like the 5200, and is explained in further detail in this article.
The 5200’s power and design also makes it significantly more diverse than any standard blender. Extended blending times on the High setting generate exceptional blade speeds which, along with a given set of ingredients, creates enough friction within the jar, itself, to cook ingredients into soups, syrups, fondues, etc. Temperatures are determined solely by the length of the blending process. There is no heating element in the machine. Raw, fresh vegetables and room-temperature water become hot soup in as little as three minutes.
Using frozen ingredients and much shorter blending times, ice creams and sorbets can also be created with the 5200. Textures and temperatures for recipes of all kinds are determined simply by how much friction the user allows to be introduced to ingredient contents. The recipe book is a great source with which to become familiar with these blending times, as it provides detailed, step-by-step instructions on all the machine’s functions. Experience is perhaps the best teacher, though, and intimate knowledge of the 5200’s “secrets” to great results is easily attained with a little practice. The user will become familiar with the way particular ingredient combinations look during blending as indications of recipe completion. Also easily learned will be various motor pitches and sounds during blending, signifying various stages of the blending process.
Users will quickly discover there is very little in terms of ingredient content that the 5200 is not capable of processing. Should its limits be tested, however, the machine is equipped with automatic overload protection which will engage when the motor has reached an internal temperature at which continued blending might damage its components. The motor will simply shut itself down if it is being tested beyond its safe operating capabilities. In thousands of blending operations with my Vitamix machines, only once have I ever personally witnessed this function at work. During the making of peanut butter, prolonged blending thickened my mixture to the point where excessive strain was created upon the motor, and the machine halted. Resetting was as simple as unplugging the blender and allowing the motor to cool itself for about an hour. It is worth noting that had I stopped blending once the peanut butter initially reached a smooth texture, this would not have been an issue, and I’ve made peanut and almond butters successfully in my Vitamix machines several times since. I have personally never once damaged the container, blades, nor blade assembly in the lifetimes of my machines. I have purchased numerous tampers, however. Each time this has been necessitated because of user error – i.e. using the tamper without the lid in place. As mentioned above, proper use of the machine should eliminate the risk of this ever happening.
No blender is without its limitations, though, and my single experience with the Vitamix’s overload protection is not unique. I have spoken to numerous owners of the machine who have reported similar experiences with the machine stopping itself under excessive load. I’m of the opinion that this in and of itself should not be considered a wholly negative phenomenon. The power of the machine is undeniable and is readily apparent during use. If the motor finds itself under such duress that it needs to halt rather than burn itself out, I deem it a small inconvenience in relation to purchasing a new machine – an ordeal most owners of lesser blenders have all experienced at one time or another. Though I have no personal experience with Vitamix customer service in terms of utilizing warranty coverage (a testament to the machines’ quality), I have been informed on multiple occasions of their superior service in regards to repair and replacement of motors rendered inoperable due to normal use. A little online due diligence on the warranty on the Vitamix 5200 reveals an unparalleled customer service experience, and, based on my actual conversations with owners of the machine, I have no doubts whatsoever that theirs is amongst the best in the business.
Standard installation height of upper kitchen cabinets is customarily 17” to 18” above countertop surfaces. At just over 20” tall with the container on the motor base, the 5200 is too tall to store underneath most cabinets. This is a definite drawback given my kitchen’s layout. I store my machine after each use.
The tamper is invaluable in manipulating larger ingredients into the cutting path of the blades as well as eliminating air pockets created during blending due to cavitation. Users will quickly discover it is not necessary for the majority of the 5200’s functions. When it is needed, however, it is the only tool that will assist in the proper incorporation of certain ingredient combinations. In other words, it must be used for certain recipes to be made properly. Personally, with the exceptions of those brief periods when I’ve been without my tamper due to user-negligence (referenced above), I’ve never considered the necessity of the tamper to be a negative. Customer feedback indicates to me, though, that the requirement of a tamper will be a less than desirable feature of the model to some.
Finally, users of the 5200 will have to resign themselves to the fact that the machine is loud when in use. Acoustics of individual kitchens and ingredient content and volume in the jar will of course affect the particular noise levels during any given blending operation, but, in general, the machine is louder than a much lesser-quality blender. Given the superior power of the 5200 to other blenders, this should not come as a complete surprise. Also worth noting is that the improved jar design of the 5200 over the previous model results in a noticeable reduction in noise in my personal experience.
As mentioned above, Vitamix has been the de facto name in the high-performance blender market for approaching 80 years. You will find their machines with the same (or inferior) motors as the 5200 in bars, restaurants, and culinary schools across the country. Competition does exist, however. There are other blenders with comparable motor strengths, functionality, and ease of use on the market today. All of them, though, use the Vitamix standard as their benchmark. In fact, during my tenure in this business I’ve yet to meet a wholly unsatisfied customer of one of their products. I have, however, met several second and third-generation owners of the very same Vitamix machine – it having been passed down from one family member to the next. They are built to last. The quality of this American-made brand is unsurpassed. And, as the 5200 model represents not only the best of Vitamix craftsmanship found in earlier models, but also incorporates several newly-discovered technological advances, there is no reason to believe that many, many 5200s, too, will not be found in the kitchens of multiple generations to come.
Please use the comments section of this page to provide your own input on or experiences with the Vitamix 5200, to ask questions about it, or for clarification on anything you read in this review. It is my goal to assist you in any way I can in selecting the best high-performance blender for your personal needs.