Was all set to purchase a KitchenAid mixer until I discovered there are 426 different models. Any recommendations?
I've had the basic 5-quart for 12 years. The new 5.5 quart are nice (we use them at work), but for home use, I'm not sure I'd spend the money. Also, I wouldn't go any smaller than the 5 quart. I actually have 3 at home (long story), and got my latest one on kitchenaid.com, where you can often find screaming deals. Do it! You won't be sorry.
I agree with boulangere. I have a 5 qt. that I bought in 1985 when I was starting to bake in a big way. It's still going strong. Definitely makes life easier.
I have a 6 qt 575 warr Pro model with a HUGE bowl. I can make 3 batches of cookies and 2 batches of bagels. It's great for kneading bread. But I need to buy a normal sized bowl for smaller tasks. My friends standard size labors on breads and double batch of bagels, plus the dough climbs up the paddle stem into the top of the head. I like to make multiple batches of things because it is often just as much time as one batch.
I'm seeing 18 models at the KitchenAid, website, all in an assortment of colors & metallics. I have an Artisan model, which has a 5-qt. bowl and 10 speeds and doesn't take a huge amount of space. I'm happy with that because it's more than adequate for my family. There are commercial & professional models with larger bowls and more power. Can you narrow down your budget, needs, and space requirements? Are you baking for a family or for a crowd? Do you need the wide variety of attachments (check and see if they work for all models). Williams-Sonoma seems to stock 3 models at their website, the Artisan, the 610 and the 620. Maybe looking over those models will help you.
I have the 4.5qt classic KitchenAid and feel that it is a smidge too small...definitely go for the 5 qt! You will love it!
Make sure you get one where the bowl raises!
Consider a CostCo membership. The models they sell there are specially made for CostCo and Sam's Club. They use metal gear construction--even tho externally they are the same as others which use plastic worm gears.
The Metal worm gear is a slightly more nosier, but more reliable.
That's a great tip Sam1148, I haven't heard about that, but I will surely pass it on. Got source?
I like the bowl lift model, but a thread on my regular cooking discussion board showed that most prefer the tilt head because it is easier to add ingredients.
It was mostly from the review sections on multiple sites comparing comments on Amazon and CostCo for the same base model.
However, in my research a few years ago..the model number on the CostCo models of the same qt sizes and series are slightly different...and the specs on the CostCo ones had a more powerful motor. So, you'd have to compare the wattage on the base model with the wattage of the CostCo/Sam's ones and plow through the reviews on Amazon..etc. Too much noise to signal for a definitive source tho.
Splurge, but don't worry about extras such as the splash guard, which merely narrows down the splash to a smaller area, or attachments just yet--concentrate on the basics. As much as I see you on this site, I have no doubt that you will appreciate a bigger bowl (make sure the bowl has a handle), a tilt head and a little more horsepower.
Get a white one--the colored models need to practically be polished after each use in order to look spiffy on your counter; the white one is wash-and-go.
Of course you can always buy decal kits for them. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ZMBICM/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B000LTM1XE&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=06Q089KHD1C3WT0VWAQX
My model is about 10 years old and it is "300-Watt Ultra Power 4-1/2-Quart." It is a tilt-back and although I am not familiar with the lift bowl it sounds like a good idea: when I mix thick doughs (oatmeal) the resistance makes the head bob a little even in the locked position, and I tend to hold it down tight so that the lock doesn't get looser over time. I'd be curious as to how the lift mechanism holds up for thick dough? Maybe better but I don't know. I think if I were to buy another I would go for the Artisan (slightly higher watts and slightly larger bowl) and I would find out more about the bowl lift... and I would also follow sam1148's advice when comparing all model specs, because all-metal probably trumps wattage . . . good luck!
Oh, thank you all so much! It is good to have clarification (with so many options) ...
A quick look at the current amazon KA 6qt model shows a comment updated with a response from KA Customer Service that they replaced the gear box with metal.
The tilt head models have less power, so don't get one!
I forgot to mention one thing about my Artisan: when hand-folding whipped egg whites into a beaten-yolk-and-sugar batter, I find the bowl is a bit high and narrow to incorporate them evenly. Also the very bottom of the bowl pops up a little w/ a convex "bubble". So I usually scrape the batter into a regular large mixing bowl before folding in the egg whites. I'm not sure if this is an issue with the larger models.
It's amazing how much difference there seems to be in the sizes of the 4.5 quart and the 5 quart. (I've used both sizes often in cooking classes).
I've had a 5-quart with the lift bowl since 1988, and it's still running like a top. But I understand there are noticeable differences between the models made now and the ones from the 80's -- the newer ones are not as sturdy.
Do plan to store it on your counter top. It's much too heavy to lift up and down, and you will end up not really using it.
Based on what I am reading here, I am really happy to have held on to my 5 Qt. real live Hobart KA my r.i.p.mother-in-law go us in the late 70's. And yes, non-polarized plug and all, still going strong.
The decal kit is on my list!