A mixer is one of the most important pieces of foodservice equipment for restaurants, bakeries, commissaries, and other foodservice establishments. This complete guide will help you get a better understanding of what features to look for, and what details to specify, when purchasing a mixer. It is intended for businesses that are looking to purchase a commercial mixer.
The most prominent specification for commercial mixers is the size of the mixing bowl, which is usually listed in quarts (abbreviation: Qt.). Generally, 5 - 20 Qt. mixers are considered to be a standard size range for small restaurants. For comparison, a common mixer size used in household kitchens is 5 Qt. For bakeries, pizzerias, and other establishments for which dough mixing is a primary function, 40 Qt. - 60 Qt. is generally recommended, although this depends on the size of your establishment and expected production needs.
The traditional agitator-bowl style mixers can range up to 550 Quarts in size, although for most foodservice establishments any mixer larger than 140 Quarts would be excessive. For making larger, industrial-size dough batches (upwards of 400 lbs. of dough), other types of mixers, including barrel mixers, double-arm mixers, tilt bowl roller bar mixers, sigma mixers and fork mixers, can also be used.
Mixers used for commercial purposes are also known as stand mixers, so called to differentiate them from handheld mixers. You may also hear a commercial mixer referred to as a flour mixer, bakery mixer, dough mixer, or pizza mixer.
The two major types of mixers are spiral mixers and planetary (vertical) mixers.
Spiral mixers are specialized for mixing dough, and are not ideal for functions like whipping or mixing other ingredients. They consist of a spiral-shaped agitator that remains stationary, while the bowl itself rotates. This leads to a more effective method of mixing dough, and often enables spiral mixers to mix the same size dough batch much quicker and with less undermixed dough than a similarly powered planetary counterpart. Because spiral mixers are able to mix dough with less agitator friction than planetary mixers, the dough is mixed without raising its temperature as much, which is desirable for making sure the dough can rise properly.
Spiral mixers are also more flexible in terms of mixing varying amounts of dough – if you want to mix smaller batches of dough, you do not need to change bowls or agitators. It is common for larger bakeries, pizzerias, and commissaries to use spiral mixers for mixing their larger dough batches.
A spiral mixer
Planetary mixers consist of a bowl which remains static, while an agitator is rapidly moved around the bowl to mix its contents. Planetary mixers are considered to be more versatile than their spiral counterparts, and can be used to mix a wide variety of ingredients. In addition, you can use a planetary mixer to whip and blend, which cannot be done with a spiral mixer. The downside is that planetary mixers are not as good at mixing stiff, larger batches of dough, and changing the size of your dough batch would require you to switch your agitator and mixing bowl.
A planetary mixer
Mixers are generally available in either countertop or floor (also called bench) models. Whether a mixer is a 'countertop' or 'floor' model usually depends on its size. Mixers that are 20 Quarts in size or smaller tend to be countertop mixers, while larger mixers tend to be floor models due to their size/weight.
The power rating of mixers is generally specified in horsepower (HP), and sometimes Watts (W) [Note: 1 HP = 746 Watts]. As a rule of thumb, a ½ HP motor is often considered powerful enough to handle stiff dough batches for a 20 Quart mixer. As the size of the mixing bowl increases, the horsepower rating of the motor tends to increase to compensate for the increased amount of dough that will need to be mixed.
Hobart is the most popular brand in the industry, and is one of the oldest manufacturers of commercial-scale mixers. However, there are other brands available including Doyon, Globe, Univex, Electrolux, Varimixer, Vollrath, Waring and Berkel. Some things to consider when deciding on a brand include the reliability of the mixers, as well as the availability and cost of replacement parts.
As with most foodservice equipment, there is a large secondary market for commercial mixers. Many suppliers offer used as well as new mixers, and there are even some foodservice equipment suppliers that specialize in used equipment. While purchasing used equipment can save you a lot of money, it is also important, as with any used equipment purchase, to evaluate the remaining useful lifetime of the product based on its past usage, quality of refurbishment, and your expected usage. Something to be aware of is that some foodservice equipment vendors also offer leasing programs, so it could possible to lease a mixer for your business on a monthly basis.
When purchasing a mixer, you may also want to think about auxiliary features including how many speeds the motor should have, whether or not you would like a built-in digital timer, and what accessories are included with the mixer. In general most commercial mixers have 3-speed or 5-speed motors, and many mixers now come with a digital timer built-in. Most mixers should come with a safety guard as standard, and planetary mixers usually come included with hook, whip, and flat beater fixtures.