Choosing a Juicer
Juices have gone way beyond the standard supermarket jugs of orange and apple to combine all manner of fruits and vegetables, from carrots and cucumber to leafy greens and grapefruit. Fresh-made and bottled juices sell at a premium in virtually every coffee bar and convenience store. By making your own juices at home, you can save money and control the ingredients (store-bought juices are notorious for their high sugar content). As juicing has grown in popularity, the options for cheap juicers have also proliferated. While they may not be as powerful as their more expensive counterparts, low-priced models from manufacturers such as Hamilton Beach, Black & Decker, and Lexen make juicing at home a smart, healthful, and easy choice for many consumers.
The first step toward finding the best cheap juicer for your needs is to think about what kind of juice you want to make and how much effort you want to expend. Fruits, vegetables, and greens have vastly different properties that require distinct juicing methods and, in many cases, different equipment.
Citrus Juicers.A citrus juicer specializes in lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit, and there's certainly no shortage of reasonably priced models. If you prepare only a small amount of juice every once in a while, a manual citrus press or reamer may be all you need -- assuming you don't mind using a little elbow grease. Squeezing a pitcher of OJ for the family every morning this way isn't feasible, however. For that you'll need an electric juicer.
Based on our research, your best bet for a cheap electric citrus juicer is the Cuisinart CCJ-500 (starting at $25), followed by the Proctor Silex 66331, the "Alex's Lemonade Stand" model (starting at $14). The Brentwood J-15 (starting at $13) is similarly cheap but too small to accommodate grapefruit, and reviewers question the quality of the construction. Even the best cheap juicer probably isn't going to keep up if you have citrus trees in the backyard or need to supply a lemonade stand. For larger quantities of fruit, consider a commercial-grade manual citrus juicer such as the Jupiter Commercial Juice Press (starting at $88).
Masticating Juicers.A masticating juicer works best on wheatgrass and other fibrous vegetables (such as spinach and lettuce) and roots (like beets and carrots). These low-speed juicers push produce through a barrel or chute, where a rotating, screw-like auger slowly kneads and "chews" the greens to extract the juice, sieving the liquid and leaving the pulp. Most electric masticating juicers are priced way beyond the Cheapism range. The top-selling (and best-reviewed) brands, which include Breville, Omega, and Champion, typically start at $200. One frugal solution is to opt for a manual wheatgrass juicer, such as the Lexen Healthy Juicer GP27 (starting at $53), which is recommended specifically for juicing greens.
Centrifugal Juice Extractors.For any other vegetable or fruit combination, a centrifugal juicer or juice extractor does the trick. This type of machine uses spinning blades to shred the produce and centrifugal force to push the juice out from the center of rotation and separate it from the pulp. The juice drains into a small pitcher or a drinking glass, and the pulp collects in a separate receptacle. These juicers are fast and easy to use, particularly for beginners. They tend to be less expensive than masticating juicers but are not as effective at extracting juice from leafy greens.
Many centrifugal juicers from top brands start at the $100 mark; the cheapest Breville juicer, for example, is the compact BJE200XL (starting at $99.95). Still, good options do exist for $50 or less. The best cheap juice extractors we found are the Hamilton Beach 67602 (starting at $50) and the Gourmia GJ750 (starting at $48). Also on our list of top picks are the Brentwood Appliances JC-500 (starting at $41) and the Black & Decker JE2400BD (starting at $30), which we recommend over the Black & Decker JE2200B (starting at $30).
Ninja and Bullet 'Juicers.'Many people use Ninjas, Nutribullets, and Magic Bullets to make juice, but these high-speed blenders are not juicers. Although they liquefy produce, they don't extract just the juice. The output is thicker, more like a puree, because the pulp is left in. Blenders work well with bananas and avocados, which can't be used in juice extractors. Some people prefer the thick output from a blender, because the fiber in the pulp is nutritious. For those who prefer the smoother output from a true juicer, one option is to incorporate the leftover pulp into other foods, such as pancakes.
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Juicer Reviews: What We Considered
To make our picks, we scoured user reviews of juicers on the manufacturers' own websites and on retail websites including Amazon, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Chefs Catalog, as well as expert advice from outlets such as Good Housekeeping. Juicer reviews focus mainly on the following criteria: how well and how quickly a juicer extracts juice; how durable the juicer is; and how easy the machine is to use and clean. They also comment on the design of the reamer or chute and the container and note crucial safety features.
Effectiveness and Efficiency.The better a juicer is at extracting the goods, the more juice you get -- and the fewer fruits and vegetables you have to buy. Generally speaking, the drier the residual pulp, the higher the quantity of juice extracted. Users don't like seeing pulp that is too damp with juice afterward. They chastise cheap juicers that yield only small quantities of juice and gum up with pulp very quickly, calling them wasteful. Reviewers call special attention to the "final spin" feature on the Cuisinart CCJ-500 Pulp Control Citrus Juicer, which is designed to squeeze every last bit of juice from the fruit. Consumers also want juicers that can do the job quickly, without requiring the user to stop and scoop out accumulated pulp too often. The Hamilton Beach 67602 Big Mouth Juice Extractor fills the bill with a big pulp bin and powerful, fast performance. Reviewers repeatedly mention how dry the pulp is -- an indication of a highly efficient juicer.
Reamer/Chute Size.Squeezing small limes and lemons with a cheap citrus juicer is not the same as squeezing large oranges and grapefruit. Some models come with two different size cones to fit the reamer. As for juice extractors, feed-chute sizes vary, so figure on doing some slicing and dicing beforehand to ensure fruits and vegetables will fit. The Hamilton Beach 67602 boasts an extra-wide 3-inch feed chute, but most cheap juicers have smaller chutes that require smaller pieces and more pre-juicing prep time. Many users mention this in reviews of the Black & Decker JE2200B, for example.
Containers.Some juicers are sold without a juice container; a glass or bowl is meant to fit under the spout to collect the juice. Others save you from having to make a separate glass of juice for each person by offering relatively large pitchers. A clear container with measurements on the side lets you see how much juice you've squeezed, which is especially useful if you need it for a recipe. Centrifugal juicers often come with two separate containers -- one for the juice and one for the pulp. These either fit right into the juicer or sit underneath the ejection points. A too-small pulp container adds time to the juicing process, as users must pause to dump the pulp and start again.
Ease of Use.If a juicer isn't easy to use, it won't be used at all -- a waste of money at any price. Many juicers require assembly and disassembly of multiple interlocking parts between uses. These parts should fit together tightly, without any gaps or wobbly bits, and be durable enough to withstand the repeated process of taking the juicer apart, washing the pieces, and putting them back together again.
Users and experts warn against electric juicers that vibrate so much that they "walk" across countertops while in use, which makes juicing difficult and much messier -- not to mention potentially hazardous. Our picks are not immune to this. User reviews on a couple of retail sites lament that the Cuisinart CCJ-500 "dances" too much on the counter. Still, reviewers praise its ability to extract juice and award it positive ratings overall.