The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why do people still love their KA?

krob's picture
krob

Why do people still love their KA?

So I'm curious...I read a lot about people ruining their Kitchenaid's and how cheaply built they are, but on the other hand it seems like a lot of people still keep their KA's around for light duty mixing even after they buy a more heavy duty mixer. What is it about the KA that makes it so preferable for light duty mixing as opposed to a Bosch or other mixer? Is it that the bowl is easier to clean than the doughnut shaped Bosch bowl? Does it actually mix light duty things better? Is there something easier about the overhead stand mixer design? Or is it just the fact that it looks better on the counter?

Bosch owners do you disagree? Maybe some KA owners can explain why they like them for simple mixing...

Thanks!

NahikuRay's picture
NahikuRay

...I don't own one.  I have thought about it, but, it is a big expense for something that I can do with my own two hands.  My hands will fail to do the job the day I die, so, a mixer is just not something on my playlist.

 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I have an older Hobart made KA and I use it for bread dough as well as other kitchen duties.  It is a truly great machine when bread dough is taken out of the equation.  For example, I can take cold butter directly out of the refrigerator and put it in the KA bowl and use the paddle attachment to cream the butter.  A big task even if it sounds trivial.  The whisk is perfect for just about anything that needs whisking and, with mine, I can mix and knead up to about 1700 grams with the dough hook.  Not a huge quantity but the Hobart made KA does it well.  I know many people who use their newer KA's for everything but dough,  and absolutely love them.  It is a wonderful all around kitchen tool even if (in the case of the newer mixers) far short of being good for bread.

Jeff

 

Added on 4/24/12---I had an encounter with a brand new KA 600 Pro.  What a total piece of junk!

asicign's picture
asicign

I've owned three KA mixers.  

All 3 have been heavily used, and are still in operation; the first two now in the hands of my kids.  I've never had any problem with any of them, so maybe I'm just lucky, or maybe it's just the folks who have had problems have been the vocal 1%.  The new machines have a metal housing on the transmission, so hopefully reliability issues are in the past.  KA markets a variety of models, and I'm not familiar with the low-end versions.  I use my Pro600 for very dense 5 pound doughs without any struggle.  I also use it for a variety of cooking and baking tasks (including flour milling) that other brands do not handle as well.  

If I were in the market for a new machine today, I'd stick with KA.

Andy

 

 

jaywillie's picture
jaywillie

I think the vocal 1% give the KA a bad name. But that's always the case -- those with mixer problems are more apt to speak up, while those without problems have no need to mention it.

I have a very old, non-Hobart, KA that just keeps going and going. It's the only mixer I own, and I love using it whenever it's necessary in my baking. These days I knead my bread mostly by hand, but that's just because I like it that way. If there's a need, I don't hesitate to use the KA for kneading anything from very slack to very stiff doughs. It's a workhorse for me. (I hope I haven't jinxed myself! Knock on wood!)

jaywillie

Autolyse's picture
Autolyse

I have just recently purchased a Hobart 1975 k5-A from eBay. It works great. I bake bread daily and usually knead it by hand but of course I had to give my new purchase a run and I was definitely impressed. The motor was quiet didnt struggle at all. I intend to use it mainly for cakes etc. I have been wanting a kitchenaid for a very long time so of course I was terribly excited when I saw it on eBay. I used to own a Hobart 20 liter mixer 15years ago and know that they have and do manufacture quality products. If you are lucky enough to have one of these mixers handed down from a family member you are indeed very blessed.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

34 yrs old.(The K5A). Built just fine. Reliable-easy to use-always there when you need it.

sharon.anders's picture
sharon.anders

I use it 3-4 times per week to mix bread dough, cakes, cookies, etc. Breads are usually about 700 g of flour per batch of sandwich loaves, artisan baguettes, foccaccia, whole wheat breads,  and have never had a problem. I generally knead on speed 5 for 5-7 minutes without any motor overheating. Batters, creams, meringues, even biscotti dough  - whatever I throw at my KA it handles it just fine.  I did have some anxious moments making bialys once - very, very stiff dough - but otherwise, no problem.

suave's picture
suave

Yes, it might appear after reading TFL that KA mixer are an utter crap, however, what you realize after a while is that although the crowd of KA detractor is certainly vociferous, it is not particularly numerous.  For the most part people upset with KA have the same problem it seems - they accepted advertised mixer capacity as a fact (manual for 6-quart mixer says up 14 cup of flour, which translates to 6-7 pounds of dough), and they decided that word "Professional" in its name is a license for using it the way commercial mixers are used.  Note how most of them graduated to mixer that are at their best when dealing with 6-8-10 or lb of dough. 

In fact, bowl-lift KA's are perfectly fine and reliable machines, but only as long as they are used within their limits, - proper speed, relatively low loads, relatively soft doughs.  So while some of the criticism is very well deserved - KA should not advertise abilities these mixer simply don't have, they still do a great job for people like me, who need to bake a single loaf, 2-3 times a week.

Mike

dhass's picture
dhass

My Mom used her KA with the can opener attachment to open cans of cat food twice a day. As soon as the machine started all 5 cats would come running into the kitchen.

bnom's picture
bnom

Lots of good points made here about how well KA's operate (mine is a Hobart from the 70s). I would add that there's also the quality of quintessence.  To quote from a book called Quintessence:  "....there are objects that transcend their form and function, that offer more to us than we ask of them - that rise above themselves to assume iconic stature. These are the simple, ageless, yet mythic things that possess Quintessence."   (think zippo lighters, slinkys, a classic martini . . . )

 

merlie's picture
merlie

I can't justify buying something else when my basic 300watt KA just keeps on going ! I've had it about nine or ten years and use it at least twice a week. If making more than one loaf at a time I use the mixer to the point when the dough starts to climb then finish it by hand. It doesn't walk across the counter and doesn't over heat even when making Jason's Ciabatta ! Does a very good job with pastry, cakes and cookies too.

Merlie.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

a I keep the dough weight to 1 kilo - my 325 W KA has no problems.  It makes great bread without any problems at all.  But it is only 2 years old.

Susan Kline's picture
Susan Kline

I am very happy with my Kitchen Aid, but I don't bake a lot of bread.  I bake more cakes and non-yeast breads.  That said, I do use the mixer frequently including the meat grinder.  It saves worrying about what is in my ground meat.  I enjoy this forum and will have a lot of recipes when I am ready to attempt yeast breads.

The controversy reminds me of when a new employee would start at a company I used to work for.  Some of the workers who had been with the company for a while would bad mouth the company and warn the new person to watch out for unfair practices.  The Human Resource manager finally said to ask some of the naysayers how long they had worked for the company and I guess more to the point, why were they still working there?  Of course, it's not quite the same since some of the bakers who don't care for Kitchen Aid have switched to other mixers.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

In many ways, the KitchenAide mixer is a wonderful tool.  It also represents a substantial step up in capability and durability when compared to some other stand mixers, like Sunbeam.  It isn't, and probably won't be, the best tool for bread bakers; especially those who want to use it for low-hydration breads or breads made with substantial percentages of whole grains.  For something like a ciabatta, it does pretty well.

If I want to make a meringue, or cookies, or cake, or frosting, or cheesecake, or coffee cake, or anything else that lands in the liquid-to-batter-to-very-soft-dough range, it performs very well.  I've even used it to mix meatloaf.  Yes, it could be easier to add ingredients.  Yes, it does require periodic stops to scrape down the bowl (like every other mixer I've used).  I'm sure that the lift-head models are easier to access than a bowl-lift model like I have.  However, day in and day out, it's hard to gripe very much about the mixer when it is employed for non-bread products.

I have not used a Bosch or dlx mixer, so I cannot draw any comparisons with those machines.

Paul

shastaflour's picture
shastaflour

Yes, it does seem like bread is the continental divide when it comes to the KA (although you will hear that those with typically older KAs have used them regularly and successfully for 1-2 loaves' worth of bread dough.)

I was so disappointed in our big KA Pro 600 because the advertising implied that it could do bread well, and that's what we hoped to use it for one day (though help in all the lighter tasks Paul mentioned was desired as well). It was truly the black sheep of the newer KA family, having been one of the earlier 600 Pros made with a plastic gear box. I know things have improved, but I don't know how much, and I doubt that even the metal gearbox KAs can handle dough like a Bosch or an Assistent. 

Paul hit the nail on the head, and most graciously. The KitchenAid is a substantial step up from stand mixers like the Sunbeam, but whole wheat bread is the newer KA's Achilles heel. Disappointed, we moved on to a Bosch and won't look back -- but if we weren't primarily interested in baking bread, the KA would be terrific (...with earplugs). We'll sell it if we can, so won't be keeping it for lighter jobs. It takes up too much room, and with the Bosch and a good hand mixer it's redundant.

Editing to add:
A month or so after this thread started, I purchased a Hobart-built KitchenAid K45 with the intent of reselling it, and now I see a bit more clearly on the subject. There is definitely a nostalgia factor. The very presence of the mixer on the countertop brought back such memories of my grandmother! She was not a yeast bread baker that I can remember, but whipped up countless cakes, muffins and other creations in that model. Suddenly I questioned selling it. Also, it's a lot easier to clean than the Bosch. One paddle and a stainless steel bowl without a center column makes quicker cleaning work than two whisks or paddles and the Bosch Universal bowl. The Bosch does a fine job on cookies, but the KA is just simpler, and does an excellent job. If I keep the KA I will likely not use it for bread dough, but it does beat holding a hand mixer for small/light jobs, and I like the cleanup. The big KA will still go as the Bosch replaced it in the bread category, it's awfully big for a second mixer, and it's terribly noisy. Wish it had been the workhorse it was advertised to be.

 

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

I've had this mixer for 3 years without issues (other than the noise level).  The manual warns about whole wheat doughs and limits quantities and speed to use.  Following those limits, I make a couple of 100% whole wheat loaves weekly.  I have noticed recently a tendency for the dough to ride the hook around the bowl without kneading but that doesn't last more than a few revolutions.

I like the ease of use and cleaning and the appearance.

FF

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

I kneaded 6.5 lbs of dough for quite a while this weekend and the unit stopped.  It likely tripped out on motor heat.  It was up and running later and I've pushed it since without further issues.

Red

hanseata's picture
hanseata

in older KA models, real work horses, made by Hobart, and newer, flimsier ones, made by Whirlpool.

I use my new KA 600 Pro mostly for pastry or other soft doughs - after I purchased a lid, and a paddle with rubber edges that made scraping down the sides of the bowl unnecessary. And after my daughter's boyfriend finally managed to tighten the small metal piece that the bowl snaps in - it jumped out whenever I used the KA, and had to be held manually down during the mixing process.

I wonder, though, about the denigrating assumption that everybody who had issues with KA belongs to a vocal, ever dissatisfied, whining, 1% minority.

Karin

 

HeidiH's picture
HeidiH

If I were wanting to buy a new KA mixer, I would contact directly the ladies in the KA store on South Broadway in Greenville, OH.  The phone number is on the .pdf of the brochure for the store.   They could probably tell you what model numbers no longer have plastic parts and other useful information.  If you are ever in that part of Western OH, I'd recommend going to the store.   Also, the basement of the place is full of factory refurbished bargains and a museum of older mixers that includes a gold-plated commemorative mixer -- quite the sight to see.  Luckily, if we take the back roads, Greenville is between our house in SC and the inlaws in MI.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I am the happy owner of both a KitchenAid Accolade and a Bosch Universal Plus mixer.

The KA Accolade was a short-lived model. I believe it was only sold through Williams-Sonoma. It is the same as the Artisan except 1) It has metal gears, and 2) It has a slightly more powerful motor. I've been very happy with it. It sits on the kitchen counter, while the Bosch lives in the pantry. It has a smaller footprint. It is easier to clean. My wife uses the KA for cookie dough, muffins, coffee cake batter. I use it for bread. I pull out the Bosch when I'm mixing a batch of dough weighing over about 3.5 lbs and for very stiff doughs, like bagels. I would estimate my use ratio is about 7:10, KA: Bosch.

Each mixer has its advantages. I am happy to have both available.

What if I could only have one of them? I would definitely choose the KitchenAid. I think it is more versatile. For large batches of dough, I would make two smaller batches and combine them. I used to do that before getting the Bosch. I would do the same with stiff doughs in larger batches. 

I have no real data to speak to the issue of breakage of the newer KA's other than to point out that KA wouldn't have made the changes they did in the gear box unless they were getting lots of justified complaints.

I will also say Williams-Sonoma while having a reputation for high prices does have the very best policies on returns and exchanges of any store I know. And they are really nice about it - truly no hassles. For present purposes, this encourages buyers to take a chance on items with mixed reviews. If they are unsatifactory, W-S takes them back.

David

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Glad to read your post, David.  I am also now the lucky owner of both a K/A (only mine is a 11-year-old Pro 6) and a newly purchased Bosch Universal.  The Bosch was terrific when I mixed a double batch of bagel dough, a 55% hydration dough, stiff, high gluten flour and no "enrichments."  When I tried mixing a rather small (6 cups flour, sorry I don't have the stats before my eyes) batch of challah dough with a lot of enrichment--plenty of oil and honey--the Bosch wasn't very cooperative, and that sticky dough just whirled round and round, not doing much of anything in terms of gluten development.  So I scooped--and scooped--and scooped that sticky dough out of the Bosch with sticky hands and dough scraper and put it into the K/Aid (which was standing close by), and, with the new spiral hook, it mixed up like a dream. 

I'm also glad to hear your praise of Williams-Sonoma, David.  Our son has been working there for nearly 8 years.  We love that company!  

Joyful

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

I've had mine for 8-11 years or so, a reconditioned KA (a gift from a KA employee who told me the like-new reconditioned ones are desirable because they've been given a more thorough inspection and care than a new, line model). I've used it heavily  and never had a problem, except that the pin tends to slowly slide out and has to be pushed back in regularly. I could not have afforded to buy it, initially, but now that I've used it so much, I consider it indispensable.