Last fall, I spied a box that read “FREE JUICER” on the stoop of a neighbor’s house. Inside, I found a decades-old Champion Juicer—an industrial-looking thing that pronounced itself the “World’s Finest Juicer” right there on its aged decal. I’d seen these $265 beauties in restaurant kitchens where I’ve worked, like Washington State’s Willows Inn where hot-shot chef (and James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award-winner) Blaine Wetzel uses a Champion to make a juice pairing option to accompany the prix fixe meal. I tucked the Champion under my arm and went home, where I had a tree’s worth of apples that needed attention.
I gave the apples a bath, chopped them into wedges, loaded them in the hopper, and pushed them down into the Champion’s spinning blade and auger combination, which instantly reduced them to juice and compost. The machine was beefy enough that I considered hauling it out to the backyard and using it as a wood chipper.
Now an avid juicer, I was eager to test a new high-end Korean model called the Hurom HH Elite Series Slow Juicer. When it arrived at my door, the first thing I noticed was the Champion-like weight, thanks to a motor that could probably crank my Subaru on a cold day.
Hurom and a few other brands like Breville are riding a wave of juicing popularity, and leading the charge of home models that use cold juicing, aka “slow” or “masticating” juicing. These machines add a near-invisible step to the process, crushing then squeezing fruit instead of just obliterating it with a spinning blade. This happens at lower, and potentially cooler, speeds. Slow juicing can cut down on oxidization and up the amount of juice squished out of every fruit. It may also increase the nutritional value of the juice and preserve the food’s enzymes. (The Champion does classify itself as a masticating juicer, though among today’s competition, it might be called “fast masticating.”)
“The percentage of juice extraction is huge by comparison,” said Andrea Dershin of Good Life Cleanse juices in Nanaimo, British Colombia, where they use a $2,500 industrial beauty by Norwalk. “Our new press gives us a cup of juice where our old one gave us a shot glass.”
In my kitchen, I thumbed through the Hurom’s user manual, noticing the odd tidbits of Korean kitchen wisdom like “Children and husbands remove beans in the rice, spinaches in gimbab and carrots in curry. They do not like vegetables![sic]”
Inspired, I fired it up, turning a Golden Delicious apple into one even cup of juice, noting the solids being nudged out of a spout like a Magic Snake firework while wondering why the power switch is on the back of the machine. Then I pulled out the Champion for some head-to-head testing.
The Hurom squeezed kale into something completely liquid, with a pleasing, creamy texture.
Along with apples, I stripped a couple of kale plants bare, as the trendy green superfood is notoriously difficult to juice.
Both machines made short work of the ingredients, but the results were surprising. The Hurom squeezed kale into something completely liquid, with a pleasing, creamy texture, while the Champion needs a separate, optional “greens attachment” for similar results.
Apples were another story. The Champion created a rustic juice that was full of flavor, as if spiked with a bit of apple cider, where the Hurom was like a near-perfect transformation of the original fruit into a different state.
The big difference between the machines was in the yields. Fed the same amount of produce, the Hurom HH Elite tended to render about a quarter to a third more juice than the Champion. While I realize I’m comparing a pair of top-of-the-line juicers and ignoring the decades of technological advances that separates them, the big difference in that yield is slow juicing’s advantage, something that will save trips down the produce aisle and cash at the checkout.
The other slow juicing miracle became evident as soon as I put the two apple juices next to each other. The juice from the Hurom was a golden, buttery yellow, while the Champion’s was café au lait brown and getting darker by the minute. Oxidization had taken hold and wasn’t letting go. If you drink your juice right away, this isn’t a big deal, but you’ll think twice if you’re drinking it in an hour or two.
Cleaning juicers tends to be a drag, and while the HH Elite allows you to fill it with water and turn it on to help the cleaning process along, it’s still a drag. After juicing the kale, and washing out the parts, it looked like I’d run Oscar the Grouch through the blender and tried to pour the evidence down the drain. The person who figures out how to simplify the whole juicing process and makes sure everything but the motor can go in the dishwasher is going to be rich.
In fact, Dershin at Good Life Cleanse says that the people who own the fancy juicers tend to be her best customers. “Between the buying, washing, cutting, juicing and cleaning, it’s a ton of work to make juice,” she says.
The Hurom HH Elite Series Slow Juicer is fantastic, pushing a technology that will likely leave “fast” juicing obsolete. The catch is the price tag. At $400, it’s a given that this is a well-built machine that will last for a long time, but the time and cost benefit involved in making juice as opposed to just buying a bottle are going to be pretty low for all but the most avid juice fanatics. If I were starting from scratch and planning on doing a lot of juicing, I’d get a Hurom HH Elite. But for now, I’m putting the Champion’s greens attachment on my Christmas list.