Every home baker wants a stand mixer, and they often go on sale just in time for holiday gift-giving. If you’re committed to buying one for yourself or someone you love this year, don’t default to the cheapest Kitchenaid on Amazon. Depending on your needs, a vintage mixer might actually be a better choice.
Anyone who’s lucky enough to own a mixer from the 1960s or 1970s will tell you how great it is. I’m one of them. My mixer is a Kitchenaid K45 passed down from my great-grandma to my mum, and then to me. It’s churned out countless batches of cakes, cookies, meringues and bread in the last 50 years. I even used it to develop a bagel recipe—a notoriously big ask, even for commercial mixers—and it still hums right along.
Let’s get one thing straight, though: No matter what the grumpy posters on baking forums say, newer-model Kitchenaids aren’t cheap plastic crap just because they’re no longer manufactured in the U.S. by legendary commercial equipment maker Hobart. (We all know what that’s code for.) They’re fantastic appliances that will last for decades with proper use. Choosing a mixer that does everything you need it to is the tricky part.
The downside to newer-generation stand mixers isn’t their construction—it’s how goddamn many of them there are to choose from. Each Kitchenaid line is designed to accommodate different needs, and more importantly, different batch sizes.
It’s very much not a one-size-fits-all situation, and you get what you pay for. An entry-level 5-quart Kitchenaid (which is $300 on sale, but closer to $600 at full-price) handles light duty tasks like a champ.
Ask it to mix a whole lot of cake batter or knead bread dough, though, and you’ll have a bad time. Larger-capacity, heavy-duty mixers are designed to handle heavier loads, but at $700 - $1000, they’re also way more expensive.
By contrast, you can find a vintage Hobart-manufactured Kitchenaid on eBay for $220 - $300, including shipping. If you manage to score one on Craigslist or at an estate sale, they cost even less. Price aside, the biggest advantage to vintage mixers is that they’re literally commercial-grade machinery shrunk down to fit on a counter, because that’s what Hobart manufactures. You don’t need to worry much about what they can and cannot handle; if everything stays in the bowl while the motor’s running, you’re set.
In the end, remember that there’s no such thing as a “good” stand mixer or a “bad” one—only the right one for the job. If your baking output is chiefly cakes, frostings, and other fluffy confections, you might prefer the convenience of a brand-new mixer. But for the aspiring bread and pizza wizards out there, trust me: They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Hunting down a vintage mixer in good condition can take some time, but it’s definitely worth the effort.