As you will discover on our site, we review many bread makers, but sometimes our readers are not sure what to look for in the reviews. We are going to take a few moments today to break down some of the key elements you need to watch for in the reviews and as you shop for a bread machine. Instead of talking about it, let us start the discussion of the key factors to watch.
Bread Maker Pricing
You will notice in our reviews that we rarely provide you with exact prices for a bread maker. This is on purpose. Prices fluctuate quickly on bread machines, but there is another reason we do not post exact prices. Prices are a poor indicator of features and quality. We do suggest looking at bread makers by pricing categories, or price ranges. The machines usually fall into the following categories:
- $50 to $100 – The Budget Bread Makers
- $100 to $200 – High-Quality Bread Machines
- $200+ – Specialty and Gourmet Machines
The bread machines we recommend highly usually fall into the $100 to $200 category. This is the area where you get the highest quality machines from top brand names. Lower cost machines can work fantastic, but usually are a little lighter construction with lower powered motors. They will work, but may not have the long-term quality you want. We recommend setting your budget to buy a machine in the $100 to $200 range if possible.
Important Features on Bread Makers
We need to take a moment to discuss important features. Some of the features we are about to list are not critical, but they are ones that enhance your enjoyment. Here are the features you should watch for:
- Loaf Size – Does the bread maker produce 1 pound, 1 ½ pounds, or 2-pound loaves?
- Size Variations – Some bread makers restrict you to a single size loaf. Better machines allow you to choose between all three sizes.
- Bread Loaf Type – Do you want a traditional loaf of bread or a round vertical loaf?
- Mixing and Kneading Power – This is one of the most important items to watch for in the reviews. Make sure the bread maker can handle the types of bread you like to bake.
- Speed of Baking – There is some variables in baking time. Some bread makers cut over an hour off the entire kneading, raising, and baking time.
- Flexibility of Use – Does the bread maker allow you to make fruit bread and nut bread?
- Included Accessories – This may not be a critical issue, but getting measuring cups, spoons, and accessories is a nice touch.
- Cookbooks and Instruction Manuals – A high-quality instruction manual with included recipes is essential. You do not want to guess on how to use your bread maker.
We need to discuss one of the items above a little further. The initial reaction by most people is they want a traditional loaf of bread. There is one compelling reason for some of you to choose a vertical loaf. Bread makers that bake vertical loaves use less counter space. Make sure you review how much room you have on your counter for baking and storage before making your final decision.
Mixing power is another item that causes a little confusion. Power is not equal to the motor power of the bread maker. That is a good indicator of power but does not guarantee true mixing power. Mixing power is based on the combination of motor strength, kneading blade size and efficiency, and gearing. This one area is very hard to determine by just reading technical specifications. That is why we always include feedback from buyers of the bread makers as part of our reviews. Their real world experiences are the best gauge of real mixing power available. Check the motor power but listen to user feedback, too.
Ease of Use and Cleaning
It is time for a little honesty. Are you going to most frustrated by an extra 30 minutes of baking time or an extra 15 minutes of clean-up time? The best bread makers on the market include features that make cleaning easy. A few key elements to watch for include:
- Easy to remove kneading blades
- Non-stick backing pan
- Removable covers
- Wide openings for adding ingredients
Make sure your choice of bread machine makes it very easy to add ingredients. Wide openings with easy access help reduce spills in the bottom of the bread machine that lead to longer clean-up times.
Owner feedback is critical to understand this area. All of the manufacturers claim easy clean-up but there are usually a few catches. An example is the reports you find on many machines about leaking around the kneading blades. A few machines are notorious for too fast of mixing starts that spray flour out of the pan. These small items can lead to extra clean-up time that is 100% unnecessary.
Ease of clean up is often overlooked, but once you start using your bread maker frequently, you will understand how important it is.
Brand Recognition Does Not Equal Quality
What brand of small appliances do you love? Why do you like them? Almost every company that makes bread machines has multiple models. They have units that are cheap and machines that are higher-priced. The quality level of these machines can be dramatic. We never recommend buying based on brand name, but instead, recommend buying based on reviews of a particular model.
Many times, it is better to ignore the brand name and compare the features we have already discussed and then add these additional elements:
- Warranty – How long is the warranty period? Does the warranty offer a cross-ship replacement or just send in repair?
- Company Reputation – Does the company have a reputation for standing behind their products? Do they replace products quickly and with few questions? Remember, we are not talking about brand recognition. We are talking about their reputation for support.
- Customer Support – What kind of customer support does the company offer? Will they let you call in with questions on how to use your bread machine? What hours is support available?
You may discover that some less known brands provide better warranties and higher customer satisfaction. This is one additional area to watch carefully.
Aesthetics – Choosing a Bread Maker That Looks Great
You probably noticed we put this towards the end of our article. We did that for good reason. Appearance is the last thing you should consider. You are buying your bread machine to make bread first and look great second. At least we hope that is what you are thinking.
Once you have narrowed down the features you want and the companies you are interested in, then it is time to look at physical characteristics. The first item to look at is size. If you have a place in your kitchen that you intend to use for the bread maker, get out your tape measure and measure the area. Keep those measurements beside you while you read our reviews. That will help you quickly eliminate bread machines that are too large in height, width, or depth. This should help you get down to a few bread machines that fit your needs.
Now is the time to start evaluating appearance. Take your few remaining bread makers, compare looks and color options. Look carefully at the placement of the controls and verify it will work with the space you are planning. You want the control to be facing out from the counter when you are using the machine. You will need to decide if you want a plastic exterior or a stainless steel exterior. Stainless steel usually retains its high-quality appearance longer but adds to your cost.
Product Family Reputation
We want to mention an additional item you should watch. Product family reputation is another important factor when looking at new models. New bread machines are going to have very low numbers of owner reviews and little history. The best way to evaluate new models is to look at the brand’s product family, especially the unit this new bread maker replaces. What do owners of the other products say? How long was the previous model on the market?
You can expect a new machine to be at the same quality level and receive the same level of support as older models. This helps you compare new models with models that have been on the market for several years.
You will notice as you browse our bread maker reviews that most of them are long. We try to cover most of the details we just discussed. Take a little time and compare a few models. We recommend comparing models from different price levels and different companies to help you make the best choice.
As our final suggestion, always check the area of our reviews where we discuss owner feedback. That is the area where we point out problems reported by existing owners or their overwhelming satisfaction. The Pros and Cons areas of our reviews are another important section to make sure you buy the right bread maker for your family. We hope this short article helps you understand what to look for when shopping for a bread maker.
Bread Machine Reviews
- Zojirushi BB-CEC20
- Panasonic SD-YD250
- Zojirushi BB-HAC10
- Cuisinart CBK-100
- West Bend 2 LB Bread Maker