Great for smoothies and shakes on the go. The idea behind the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender is simple. Toss your shake ingredients into the lidded travel cup; stick it on the blender base, whirl and go.
Most owners say it works great, and they love it.
"So you're a poor college student, living/cooking alone, and want to make smoothies? This is what you want," writes one Amazon.com reviewer. Another says, "I love this blender. It only cost me twelve dollars and I use it every single morning. AND IT'S A CUP. Does it get any better than that?"
Good Housekeeping testers say it makes "excellent" smoothies and frozen cocktails, but most owners use it for smoothies. Some do use it for small jobs like hummus and say it works fine. Most have no problems blending normal smoothie ingredients -- ice cubes, frozen strawberries and banana chunks, apple pieces with skin, spinach, even sticky prunes -- as long as they include plenty of liquid. Fruit skins and flaxseeds tend to leave tiny bits in the smoothie, but most owners say they don't mind.
One Amazon.com customer owns both a heavy-duty Vitamix blender and a Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender. "I use this little dynamo all the time for a quick smoothie that I can take with me so easily," the owner says. "It blends in about 30-45 seconds; just stop once or twice so you don't stress out the motor."
Still, several owners complain that this little blender doesn't pack enough power, even for smoothie ingredients like yogurt and frozen fruit. "It just wasn't powerful enough.... I had to stir it three or four times to get it to move the fruit around and chop it up," one Buzzillions.com review says.
The owner's manual prohibits processing hot foods or liquids, or "hard foods such as cheese, crackers or meat," although it says you can grind coffee beans.
Simple to use -- but not foolproof. Owners find the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender pretty straightforward, but they say you'll get the best results if you take a little care. Don't overfill the 14-ounce cup, put hard items (like ice) in last -- and yes, you may have to stir or shake to get everything blended.
"You do have to remember that this is a tiny little thing with a tiny little motor, so go easy on that pulse button," one Amazon.com reviewer says. "Treat it nicely and it'll give you lovely, completely chunk-free smoothies."
Users love that the blending jar doubles as a travel cup -- only one small thing to wash. But the owner's manual says to hand-wash it, although some model numbers (including the 51103) are dishwasher-safe. When washing immediately after use, most find it cleans easily: Just shake soapy water in it, or blast it with the sink sprayer.
But others say these methods don't result in a thoroughly clean jar. With several grooves and difficult-to-reach parts, some users find it difficult to ensure the lid and cup are completely clean.
You also have to hold your finger on the pulse button the whole time you're blending, so you can't turn it on and walk away. Good Housekeeping considers this a con, but a few owners complain about it.
Little and lightweight. The design of the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender is simple: A clear plastic cup (sized to fit in a car cup holder) on a blender base. Both parts are similar in size and shape, which makes for a sleek look.
The whole thing stands less than a foot tall and weighs about 2 pounds, so users say it's perfect for small kitchens and dorm rooms. "It's also compact and light enough for my husband to pack it in his suitcase," one Amazon.com customer writes.
Cheap enough to replace, if you must. At this price, most owners don't expect it to last forever and if it does conk out, they'd buy a new one in a heartbeat.
We saw repeated complaints that the motor smells hot -- like burning oil or plastic -- and that it dies quickly. Others report no smell, and some say the blender has lasted for more than a year so far. Some owners suggest pulsing is easier on the motor than holding down the blend button.
"There is no need to hold the button down and wear the motor out in order to get a perfectly blended drink," an Amazon.com user writes. "I just pulse the button, maybe 10 times (10 seconds at most), and always come out with a smooth and well blended beverage."
"This blender is amazing," another Amazon.com user says. "If you don't put ice in it, you can make amazing smoothies and milkshakes without ever running down the motor. I use frozen fruit, yogurt, or ice cream to thicken the drinks without putting stress on the motor."
Several owners also complain that the travel lid (also the blending lid) cracked after a few months and would leak while blending or drinking. Hamilton Beach covers the blender with a one-year warranty.
Blends quietly. The Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender's small motor makes less noise than a big blender -- a plus when you don't want to disturb others, owners say.
"Very convenient for my workout shakes ... I don't wake the whole house up with the blender noise," one reviewer writes at Amazon.com. Another finds it perfect to blend weight-loss shakes at work: "It surprised me at how quiet the little motor is. No one was bothered."
Good Housekeeping testers agree that it's "fairly quiet during operation." One Amazon.com customer describes the sound as "more of a whir than a whine."
As the best-selling blender at Amazon.com, most owners agree that for quick beverages on the go, the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender 51101B is a steal -- just don't expect this cheapie to last a lifetime. If you need to blend for a crowd, consider the more powerful Cuisinart CPB-300 (*Est. $70), which includes four travel cups for single-serve blending, plus a small chopping cup and a big quart-size blending jar.
1. Good Housekeeping
Good The Hamilton Beach 51102 single-serve blender (similar to the 51101B, but with two cups and lids instead of one) earns an A- in Good Housekeeping's tests. It makes great smoothies and frozen cocktails, editors say, but this tiny blender is no good for a crowd.
Review: Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender 51102, Editors of Good Housekeeping, July 2010
Good About 600 owners review the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender 51101B here, and most of them like it. In fact, some are crazy about it, saying it blends great frozen-fruit smoothies with just a few seconds of pulsing. Others note drawbacks -- some find it hard to clean, for example -- but they say it's still pretty good for the price. But several say it leaks or breaks, and they don't recommend it.
Review: Hamilton Beach 51101B Personal Blender with Travel Lid, Black, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Oct. 2012
Fair More than 450 owners review the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender 51101B here, but the reviews tend to be shorter and less critical than at Amazon.com. Almost 90 percent give it 4 or 5 stars (out of 5), although some do post complaints that it doesn't blend well or that the motor burns out.
Review: Hamilton Beach Single Serve Blender with Travel Lid, Contributors to Walmart.com, As of Oct. 2012
Fair Buzzillions.com has collected more than 50 owner reviews for the Hamilton Beach 51101B from retail sites like Target.com, Kmart.com and Sears.com. It is a top-rated model here with a 4.2-star overall score (out of 5). Most say it works well -- especially for the price -- but a few say it's just not powerful enough.
Review: Hamilton Beach Single Serve Blender with Travel Lid, Contributors to Buzzillions.com, As of September 2012