Juicers are becoming an indispensable kitchen appliance
Some people do a lot of juicing, others just need the occasional few tablespoons of juice for a recipe, marinade or quick glass of OJ. A juicer's primary purpose is to separate the juice in fruits and vegetables from the peel and pulp. The best extract the maximum amount of juice, then make it easy to discard the pulp, leaving only the pure, healthy juice.
Juice fasts and fruit- and vegetable-based meal-replacement drinks are hot nutritional trends right now, but there is some controversy as to whether or not juicing is necessary or even healthy. There's no doubt that drinking your vegetables and fruits should not replace eating them. You need the fiber from produce as well, and you're straining that out when you juice. In addition, drinking too much fruit juice is just as bad as eating too much sugar, experts note, so most juice-based drinks for juice fasts or used as meal replacements should focus on juice from vegetables.
However, many nutritionists point out that juicing can be an efficient way to increase your nutrient intake since you can get the benefits of, say, an entire bunch of kale without having to eat that much of it. You can even add some of the pulp back in to the juice for added fiber, or use the leftover fiber for cooking. Also, if you hate veggies and absolutely won't eat them, drinking the juice is definitely a great alternative.
It's important to note that these machines are not smoothie makers and aren't suitable for super soft fruits like bananas. If you have a yen for a smoothie, see our separate report on blenders. For a versatile appliance that can chop, dice, mix, blend and shred, see our report on food processors.
The main types of juicers
Centrifugal juicers are by far the most popular type of juicer. They can handle a variety of fruits and vegetables quickly and efficiently. Most tend to get poorer reviews for handling tough, leafy greens, but some do better than other in reviews. The best centrifugal juicers are easy to use and clean, and extract the maximum amount of juice from your produce, leaving little waste. They can be noisy, however, so look for one that gets good reviews for its quiet performance.
Electric citrus juicers are a step up, and are best for medium-sized jobs. This type of juicer has a small electric motor and does a good job of scouring the juice out of any type of citrus fruit. The best can handle multiple batches without burning up, and even the less-expensive models can easily keep a family in fresh orange juice or lemonade. They're not appropriate for heavy use and they won't juice vegetables or non-citrus fruits. Citrus juicers are sometimes incorrectly referred to as citrus reamers. A citrus reamer is actually a simple, one-piece tool that juices a single orange, lemon or lime, but does not strain the juice, that needs to be done as a separate step. Electric citrus juicers have a built-in strainer.
Masticating juicers are best for tough greens. Masticating juicers can grind the juice out of even the toughest vegetables. Some can even act almost as a food processor, making nut butters, grinding spices, making baby food and even extruding pasta. The big selling point of the masticating juicer is its slow crushing process that wrings every bit of juice from the produce without heating it up. Some nutritionists believe this helps to maintain the enzymes and nutrients in the greens, so you get a bigger nutritional bang for your buck. The jury is still out -- there are plenty of dissenters who say there's no proof of that -- but these juicers are growing in popularity as vegetable juice and juice cleanses become a part of the mainstream American way of eating.
Manual juicers are as basic as they come. This is the go-to tool for those who may just need an occasional few tablespoons of lemon, lime or orange juice, but don't want to keep the bottled stuff around. Some are handheld -- you just place the fruit into the mechanism and squeeze it. Others sit on a counter and juice into a small, included bowl; you just have to press down. Some juice presses can be pricey, but they get great reviews for efficiency and durability. Those are particularly popular with folks who may have an at-home bar set-up, because they are ideal for creating individual drink mixers.
Finding the best juicers
ConsumerSearch editors evaluated expert roundups, professional tests and hundreds of owner reviews to find the best centrifugal, electric, masticating and manual juicers. We looked at the results of test performed by ConsumerReports.org, Cook's Illustrated and Good Housekeeping, as well as comprehensive roundups done by TheSweetHome.com and BonAppetit.com. Consumer reviews at sites such as Amazon.com and Walmart.com speak to issues such as long term durability and reliability. In addition to performance, which is the most important factor, we looked at ease of assembly, use and cleaning because if any of those are a hassle, your juicer will probably just sit in a cupboard somewhere. Noise is also factored in because a loud appliance can be annoying. The products we chose rise to the top in every category and the range of sizes and prices means we found a juicer that will fit into most people's lifestyle, budget and kitchen.
The best centrifugal juicers
While we normally like to avoid single-product love fests, this is one of the few times that simply isn't possible because the Breville Juice Fountain juicers hit all the high notes: Easy to assemble, use, disassemble and, according to most reports, clean; with great performance that is quiet, versatile and durable.
Although we could have picked almost any model in the series, the Breville Juice Fountain Plus JE98XL (Est. $140) rises to the top because of its reasonable price along with its generous, 1.1-quart-cup juice capacity. Some juicers in the series are larger, some smaller, but reviewers say the JE98XL is a great appliance for the casual to serious juicer, as well as for any size family. It's clearly a better value than the Breville Juice Fountain Elite 800JEXL (Est. $290), which has nearly identical features at twice the price. The 800JEXL does get better reviews, overall, for pulverizing leafy greens with less liquid left in the pulp.
Users and professional testers say the JE98XL handles fruits and vegetables with equal ease. Its two speeds means it can wrangle tough items like leafy greens, or smooth softer fruits without turning them in a mushy mess. Reviewers love the wide, 3-inch food chute that cuts down on food prep. The only quibbles we saw were in the area of ease of cleaning. While experts, and some owners, say its smooth, crevice-free surfaces make it easy to clean, others say it's time-consuming and they wish that all parts were dishwasher safe. The bowl and blades are, the filter basket, disc and food pusher are not. The JE98Xl gets the highest marks of any juicer we've seen for durability and owners say it's stable and sturdy even at top speed.
The other standout choice in the Juice Fountain Plus series is the Breville Juice Fountain Compact BJE200XL (Est. $100). The BJE200XL is a powerful performer in a smaller package than the JE98XL. It has only one speed and a slightly smaller juice-cup capacity (25 ounces), but it performs just as well as its bigger brothers and costs less than some smaller, citrus-only juicers. It's an excellent choice for a small kitchen or for servicing just one or two people.
If, for whatever reason, you don't want a Breville, the Hamilton Beach 67650A Big Mouth Pro (Est. $55) gets Very Good ratings for performance, ease of use and convenience features from a well-respected professional testing organization. Users like it too, saying it's very easy to use and they like how efficiently it pulverizes even larger pieces of fruit, then funnels it into a waiting glass or jar. Like the Breville, the Big Mouth gets mixed reviews for ease-of-cleaning, but many note that using a soft-bristled brush makes getting the pulp out a breeze. This juicer is not the best choice for leafy or tough vegetables, however, and some users note that it produces a lot of foam over time, possibly due to dulling of the blades. However, for the price, and if you're not going to use it for challenging items, the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Pro is a great buy.