Why you should trust us
I've been cooking professionally for almost 20 years, and I've been testing blenders and hand blenders at Wirecutter for three years. For this guide, we brought Matt Shook, founder of Juiceland, into our test kitchen to get his hands-on opinion, and we interviewed superfood chef Julie Morris, who uses both a full-size and personal blender for home and work. We also scoured editorial reviews from sources like America's Test Kitchen and Consumer Reports and read many customer reviews.
Who should buy a personal blender
A personal blender is a convenience item for the dedicated smoothie lover who's short on time in the morning. If you want to quickly make a morning smoothie and run out the door without having to wash a blender pitcher and lid, a personal blender is for you.
Even if you're not drinking smoothies daily, or you're happy with your full-sized blender, a personal blender can do small batches of sauces and dressings with less cleanup. Think of a personal blender as a complement to your regular blender, the way a mini chopper is to a food processor.
Personal blenders are good for small jobs like smoothies, but their motors aren't as powerful as the ones found in our picks for full-size blender. This means you'll need to use more liquid and cut fruit smaller. Personal blenders also aren't made for crushing large chunks of ice or blending hot liquids. If you want an all-around kitchen workhorse that can puree soups, sauces, and make multiple rounds of frozen margaritas, you should consider getting a full-size blender.
How we picked
The perfect personal blender is powerful, hands-free, and simple to use. We looked for blenders with a small footprint to accommodate small apartments and dorms or people who don't want a lot of countertop clutter. A sturdy cup with secure travel lid is a major plus, especially for commuters. Finally, we scoured user reviews to get a read on durability and long-term reliability.
Most importantly, a personal blender needs to make relatively smooth purees in about a minute. In our testing, we found more powerful blenders could puree thick mixtures and blend faster. Smaller machines got hot and smelled of burning after making thick smoothies. Smaller blenders needed up to ¾ cup more liquid than the more powerful models to make a continuous vortex, which resulted in thin, watery smoothies.
All the models we brought in to test except for one were hands-free: once the cup was locked into place, you could take your hands off the machine. This is a superior design to cups that need to be held in place, as a minute can seem like a long time when you can't step away. While you shouldn't leave the blender running unattended, you can still multitask while making your smoothie.
We found personal blenders that had only one speed and powered on by engaging the cup with the base were the easiest to use. High-priced personal blenders offer speed controls and pre-programmed settings, but we appreciate a no-frills user interface. Variable speed dials didn't improve the user experience. In fact, having to choose a speed or program added an unnecessary step to what should be simple.
Since these are single-serving blenders, we wanted them to be small enough to leave on the counter because you're more likely to use an appliance if it's in sight and accessible. If you already have a regular blender and you're looking for a second appliance to handle smaller jobs with less cleanup, a small footprint is even more important.
Cups that are comfortable to hold with secure travel lids that snap shut are an added bonus for commuters. Two of our picks have lids that seal tight and can be tossed into a backpack or tote. Although the openings in these travel lids are pretty small across the board, our smoothie drinkers in the test kitchen all agreed they would use a straw with extra thick smoothies. All of our picks should fit in most car cup holders.
To get an accurate read on the longevity of these machines, we sifted through the glut of online reviews to find patterns of wear and malfunction. We're confident that our picks, when used responsibly and within their abilities, will last a long time.
How we tested
To see how these blenders could handle a thick smoothie, we blended frozen bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and juice for the recommended running time of each specific model. If any blender couldn't make a puree in that amount of time (usually one minute) or the base began to get noticeably hot, it was disqualified.
For round two, we blended curly kale and water, then strained the mixture through a fine sieve. We evaluated the amount of solids and fibers as well as particle size. To see if these blenders could tackle tough fiber, we made a smoothies with ½-inch-thick pieces of ginger and frozen peaches (all the smoothies from this test had noticeable fibers). We also made a hearty shake from dates, banana, peanut butter, ice, and almond milk. Dates are difficult to puree into a smoothie, and we found that each of our picks could handle the task.
After each smoothie was blended, we attached the travel lid (where applicable) and gave each tumbler a vigorous shake over the sink to check for leaks. We also tried to drink thick smoothies from the opening in the lids.
We took decibel readings while the blenders were full and running since we read some complaints about the motors being too loud. All the blenders ran around the same noise level, between 92 and 98 decibels 5 inches away from the machine. (This is about the noise level of a garbage disposal.) There was only one exception: the Jamba Juice Quiet Blend, which has a large plastic muffler that decreased the noise by 10 decibels. Noise level didn't account for pitch, though. One of our dismissals was so high-pitched, we winced every time we ran it.
Out of the models we tested, the NutriBullet Pro 900 has the best balance of power, ease of use, and price. It blended everything we threw at it without straining. The Pro comes with a secure-fitting travel lid, and the large cup has a blending capacity of 24 ounces. With a 5½-inch-diameter footprint, it'll tuck away neatly on most kitchen counters, and its 15-inch height clears standard upper cabinets. NutriBullet Pro comes with a limited one-year warranty, but a four-year extended warranty is available.
The NutriBullet Pro had no problem blending thick, spoonable smoothies. Our banana-berry smoothie came out lump-free. The kale puree wasn't the finest blend we saw, but it wasn't as fibrous as the kale from the Nutri Ninja. The NutriBullet blended dates well, leaving only a few small, pleasantly chewy pearls in the bottom of the cup that didn't clog the straw. None of the personal blenders did an exceptional job on fresh ginger fiber, but that's an extremely tough thing to break down. Matt Shook of Juiceland was impressed with the force and smooth results of the NutriBullet.
The travel lid on the NutriBullet screws on tight and a hinged plastic cap snaps over the opening to make it easy for commuters to travel without the risk of spilling all over themselves. We shook the sealed cup over the sink and saw no leakage. We will be testing the effectiveness of the travel lid long-term to see how it fares in a backpack or a tote on hectic commutes.
The "colossal" 32-ounce NutriBullet blending cup has 24 ounces (three cups) of blending capacity, which is plenty of room for a satisfying smoothie. Our runner-up pick, the Tribest PB-150, only allows for 300 ml, or just over 10 ounces (or 1¼ cups).
The NutriBullet Pro is intuitive and simple to use straight out of the box. There aren't any dials or buttons to navigate. The motor is engaged when the blending cup is twisted onto the base, and it has one speed. Unlike some other models we tested, the same blade assembly works on all the different cup sizes included (depending on where you get it, there's a variety of 32-ounce, 24-ounce, and "short" cups), so there's no guesswork about what goes where.
At around $80, the NutriBullet Pro isn't cheap, but it's in the midrange of what you can pay for a personal blender. We tested models four times the price and found they don't offer much more than speed variation and a die cast metal drive shaft (the part that turns the blade). The drive shaft on the NutriBullet is rubber and plastic. We also looked at blenders as inexpensive as $25, but these offered weak motors and leaky gaskets.
We think the Pro is worth the price increase over the original NutriBullet 600-watt model. The original NutriBullet strained a bit with thicker mixtures, and it produced smoothies with a couple of small lumps. That said, the NutriBullet Pro won't blend berry seeds, which is something an upgrade, full-size blender like Vitamix 5200 can do. But most of the personal blenders we tested left whole seeds intact.
NutriBullet Pro is offered in a couple of different packages. The package offered on Amazon has 13 pieces, which includes two colossal cups; the company's website offers a seven-piece package with one colossal cup and one 24-ounce tall cup; and Bed Bath & Beyond offers a 10-piece package with two blades. They all cost around the same price, although you have to pay shipping on the NutriBullet website.
Extra cups, lids, handles, and blade assemblies are widely available for purchase through NutriBullet or Amazon. NutriBullet offers a limited one-year warranty that protects against manufacturer defects. The warranty is only honored if the product is bought through an authorized dealer, which includes Amazon. For around $12, you can buy a four-year extended warranty that protects your purchase for a total of five years. Misuse and abuse aren't covered.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Even though we like the tight-fitting travel lid, the spout for drinking is very small, measuring 1 inch by ¾ inch. It's very difficult to drink a thick smoothie without using a straw. But we prefer straws to smoothie sipping, so this doesn't bother us one bit.
The NutriBullet Pro isn't the sleekest machine we tested. The branding is splashed all over the front, and if you're logo averse, this can be troubling. If aesthetics are that important to you, consider getting the Breville Boss To Go.
In 2014, Consumer Reports declared the NutriBullet Pro a "safety hazard" after a piece of the blade broke off due to a stress test where they blended 7 large ice cubes 45 times. Later that year, after an initial investigation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that there was no reason for a recall. In September of 2016, Consumer Reports restored the NutriBullet Pro to their product rankings, giving it an overall score of "good." We think a stress test of that magnitude is unrealistic. Personal blenders aren't meant to crush large cubes of ice over and over again. CNETconducted stress tests on the NutriBullet Pro and found no problems of breakage or malfunction.
A small, durable blender
The Tribest PB-150 is a durable, no-frills personal blender. We like the Tribest for its tiny footprint and minimal clutter. At 16 ounces, the blending cups are smaller than those on both the NutriBullet and Breville blenders, and the travel lid doesn't have a seal, so you can't throw it in a bag. The Tribest made thinner smoothies than our top or upgrade picks because more liquid was required to get a consistent puree.
Julie Morris, California-based chef and author of Superfood Soups and Superfood Smoothies, has been using the Tribest personal blender for almost 11 years and is currently on her second one (her first lasted seven years). Julie uses her Tribest for little jobs like dressings and sauces, as well as small pureeing and grinding tasks with fruits and nuts. For her, it's like how a mini chopper serves a full-size food processor.
The Tribest is the smallest blender of our picks with a 4½-inch base and 12¼ inches of height. It also includes the smallest cup of all our picks, which has a maximum blending capacity of 10 ounces (a 24-ounce cup is available to purchase on the Tribest website). This little blender can be easily stashed in a corner or on a shelf, and the two 16-ounce blending cups won't add too much clutter to your kitchen.
The PB-150 is the most streamlined package available from Tribest. The more expensive PB-250and PB-350 have the same motor base, but with more attachments. Extra accessories like additional cups, blades, and even a plastic ring that makes the motor base Mason jar compatible are available for purchase through the Tribest website. All Tribest personal blenders come with a one-year warranty.
A sleek and powerful blender
In our tests, the Breville Boss To Go delivered the thickest, silkiest smoothies. It's super powerful and easy to use out of the box. The Breville is the only one of our top picks that has a metal base and driveshaft. Since the Boss To Go is brand new on the American market—it debuted in the US in 2016—there aren't a ton of user or editorial reviews at this time. However, we feel confident about this recommendation because of Breville's reputation for making quality appliances and from our own testing experience. At around $160 at the time of writing, it's a splurge, but if you want sleeker design and velvety smoothies, it's the one to buy.
The Breville Boss To Go blended smoothies in the same amount of time as the NutriBullet Pro, but produced smaller berry seeds and the finest kale puree of all our picks. The Boss To Go could handle super thick blends, and the motor never showed any sign of straining. Unlike the NutriBullet, the Breville pureed dates until only tiny brown flecks of skin were detectable.
Like our other the NutriBullet Pro and Tribest, the Breville has hands-free operation, and the single-speed motor engages when the blender cup is twisted onto the base. This straightforward interface gave the Boss To Go a leg up over other high-priced blenders we tested that had variable speed dials.
We liked the build quality of the Breville's blade assembly and driveshaft. The blades spin on a metal plate embedded in the base, and the texture of the matte plastic was easy to grip when screwing and unscrewing the blade assembly from the cup. The driveshaft is die-cast metal, as opposed to the rubber and plastic on the NutriBullet Pro and Tribest PB-150.
Since the Boss To Go is relatively new, we will be using it vigorously in our test kitchen along with our top pick to gauge long-term performance. We will use them as they should be used in a home setting, and we'll report back in six months.
Care and maintenance + tips for success
Personal blenders are meant for small jobs like single servings of smoothies and small batches of sauces like vinaigrettes. Be reasonable about what you can put in these blenders. They are convenience machines, not kitchen workhorses. Here's a list of tips for success to ensure a long life from your blender base and accessories:
- Respect the fill line on the blending cup. Overfilling leads to seal leakage, which is the number one complaint about personal blenders on Amazon.
- Don't blend hot liquids or anything carbonated.
- If blending ice, cubes should be on the small side. We used bag ice in our tests.
- Frozen fruit is good to use out of the bag. If using frozen bananas, cut into one-inch sections before blending.
- Read the instruction manual and corresponding recipe book to get an idea for liquid-to-solid ratios.
- Most personal blenders have a maximum amount of time they can be run continuously, usually one minute. Be conscious of this to avoid motor burnout.
The Jamba Juice Quiet Blend (made by Hamilton Beach) performs well. The single-serve blending cup is sturdy and comfortable to hold, and the travel lid is one of the best we tested. The cup and blender pitcher have a die-cast metal driveshaft, and the quiet shield reduces the noise by 10 decibels (yes, we tested that too). But we didn't like the variable speed dial, bulkiness of the whole unit, or lack of power. When you turn on the blender, there's a lull before the blades get to full speed. When removing the blade assembly, the blade disk can get stuck by vacuum, and releasing it causes some smoothie to spray out. Matt Shook said, "Well, your blouse is ruined right before you're about to walk out the door!"
Matt Shook was impressed by the performance of the Bella Rocket Extract Pro, especially after he learned of the very economical price. America's Test Kitchen recommends this model, too. But we dismissed this blender after reading 32 Amazon reviews regarding leakage and broken blades, 25 claims of motor burnout and smoking, 15 instances of a black substance coming from the blade assembly or motor, and 2 complaints sparks shooting from the motor base (even though we didn't observe any this in our testing).
The Nutri Ninja, the best personal blender according to America's Test Kitchen, made noises that were very high-pitched, which made it seem louder than the others in our tests. It also had the poorest performance blending kale, leaving the largest fibrous pieces.
The original 600-watt NutriBullet, America's Test Kitchen's runner-up pick, wasn't as efficient at blending frozen fruit or kale as its 900-watt sibling, our main pick. Spend the extra $20 or so for the Pro.
The Cuisinart CPB-300 is okay, but in our tests it couldn't blend thick smoothies without the motor getting hot. The cups are small and the travel lids don't seal.
At a cost of around $400 at the time of writing, we thought the powerful and well-built Vitamix S-55 would've been a formidable competitor. While the S-55 blended thick ingredients into a super-smooth puree, the strong motor also caused the blender to turn and move across the counter in repeated tests using one small frozen banana, 4 ounces of frozen berries, and and 6 ounces of orange juice. We reached out to Vitamix for comment about this and their chef recommended using the less convenient 40-ounce container with tamper and using pre-sliced frozen items. Vitamix also suggested, "The movement could also have something to do with the surface you are blending on. If it is more of a granite top or a slicker surface, the machine may be more inclined to move." However, this is still problematic as many people have smooth, granite countertops. We also had a difficult time figuring out the controls. Matt uses Vitamix blenders in his juice shops, and he couldn't figure out the fussy, complicated interface in which you need to turn the dial and push it in. We disqualified the S-55 after the first round.
The Bella Rocket leaked from the first test and was disqualified before the second round.
What to look forward to
The NutriBullet Balance, available as of November 2017, is a Bluetooth-enabled personal blender that connects to an app for smartphones and tablets. The app uses the Balance's built-in scale to walk you through recipes and tally nutritional information such as calories, protein, and sugar. We'll report on this personal blender as soon as we've put it through some rigorous testing.
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