Here’s my review of the Froothie Optimum VAC2 vacuum blender. Froothie sent one to me to test, and they are also offering a $50-off coupon code: JoB-OptimumVAC2-50. If you use the code it also helps support my work on this site.
Froothie is an Australian company that has been selling copycat Vitamix blenders for at least 5 years. They recently expanded their operations internationally, and they are one of the first companies to bring a vacuum blender to the US market. The VAC2 promises Vitamix-style blending (the box advertises it as a 15-in-1 appliance), plus the advantages of vacuum blending.
Vacuum blending may yield more nutritious blends, and it can improve taste. It makes the biggest difference if you do not drink your blends right away, so a vacuum blender is most worthwhile if you want to be able to blend the night before or early in the morning to take a smoothie to work. For more information, see my first vacuum blending investigation.
The VAC2 has an effective vacuum system, and it worked perfectly in my tests. I didn’t detect any leaks, except for one time when I didn’t have the lid all the way on. I think the engineers did a great job of designing the lid and vacuum arm. It’s also nice to have the vacuum pump integrated so that it doesn’t take up extra space, and you can’t misplace it.
The vacuum button defaults to running the vacuum pump for 70 seconds. You can change the pumping time to anything between 5 and 120 seconds. One nice feature is that you can have the smoothie or fruit/veg preset run automatically after the vacuum completes.
I measured the pump’s vacuum capability using this gauge and a custom-built adapter. The maximum vacuum is 24 inHg below ambient, which corresponds to removing 80% of the air. The larger the volume of air the pump is working on, the longer it takes to reach that maximum vacuum. The default 70-second vacuum time brings an empty container down to 22.5 inHg. 120 seconds of vacuum time gets the empty container vacuum down to the maximum 24 inHg. As you add more ingredients, the pump lowers the vacuum faster.
In principle it would be nice if the blender had a vacuum sensor that would adjust the vacuum pumping time according to the volume of ingredients. But in practice, the default 70 seconds works well enough. 22.5 inHg is enough vacuum to notice the benefits of vacuum blending, and I think it would be difficult to tell the difference between 22.5 and 24 inHg in terms of blending results.
The VAC2 has a similar form-factor to a classic Vitamix. The height with container is nearly identical: 20¼”. The difference is that the VAC2 has a rigid back piece that runs the entire height of the container for the vacuum line. That means that you can’t make it shorter for storage by removing the container. The container is essentially the same size as the classic 64-oz Vitamix container. It’s similarly heavy duty, and weighs just about the same as the Vitamix container (without lid the VAC2 container is 925g vs 900g for the Vitamix 64-oz).
It also comes with a Vitamix-style tamper. I think the tamper is a great addition, because it lets you blend thick things like nut butter and frozen desserts. However, note that you cannot use the tamper while the container is under vacuum. This means that for vacuum smoothies you have to cut ingredients into slightly smaller pieces than when you can use a tamper.
The finish is slightly sparkly and shiny, similar to the finish on a car, and I find it quite attractive. The touch panel is sleek and the buttons light up when you touch them.
One strange thing is that the pictures on their website and on the box are computer renderings that make the container look like it might be metal or a dark smokey plastic. It’s not; it’s a clear BPA-free plastic.
The VAC2 comes with four preset program modes: Smoothie (50 sec), Fruit&Veg (60 sec), Nuts (30 sec), and Soup (6 min). These are accessed with easy touchpanel buttons. The machine beeps loudly with each button press (I have other kitchen appliances that beep, but none are as loud as the VAC2.) The beeping is not a big deal for the presets, but it gets more annoying if you try to control the blender manually.
The pulse button lets you quickly start the blender, and it runs as long as you hold the button. However, the pulse button always ramps up to maximum speed. It is not possible to change the pulse speed with the variable speed knob.
Starting the blender manually can be awkward. It will only start if you first set the countdown timer. And the countdown timer does not increase if you press and hold. So if you want a 60 second blend, you have to tap the plus button 12 times (each of which makes a loud beep.) There is a shortcut you can use if you first tap one of the programs. For example, you can select the Smoothie program, then if you press a timer button or adjust the speed knob, it will switch to a 60 second manual blend. Alternatively, you can start by pressing the minus timer button, which immediately sets the timer to the maximum value of 8 minutes. You can then start the blender, control the speed manually, and then stop it when you think it’s done. With this work around, it’s not too inconvenient, but figuring this out is relatively unintuitive. The machine also beeps every time you change the variable speed knob. The controls are my least favorite part of the VAC2, and I believe a few minor firmware changes could greatly improve them.
How well does the VAC2 blend? It is marketed as being comparable to the top blenders, so I tested it head-to-head with a Vitamix. I pitted it against a non-vacuum classic 64-oz Vitamix. This is both to see how the smoothness compares, and to see the practical effects of vacuum blending.
For the first head-to-head test, I made a green smoothie with kale:
I blended on maximum speed for 60 seconds once it started circulating. Here’s what they look like right away:
The blend quality was similar, but there was a noticeable difference in texture because the non-vacuum Vitamix blend was frothier. The froth adds a little texture, and makes the Vitamix blend seem less smooth. In terms of flavor, the Vitamix blend may have a slightly sharper kale taste, though the difference is so subtle that I may have imagined it.
I should have cut the ingredients into smaller pieces because both blenders required a bit of coaxing to start circulating. This was super easy in the Vitamix, because it just took a a few pokes of the tamper. But in the VAC2 I didn’t want to have to re-vacuum it, so I took the container off of the base and shook it. I was able to get it to start circulating without breaking the seal after two rounds of shaking and pulsing.
If you don’t drink them right away, vacuum blends separate less than non-vacuum blends. Here are these two smoothies after 5 hours in the fridge:
As expected, the Vitamix has more separation. Separation isn’t a big deal because you can just stir or shake up the smoothie, but it does help visualize the difference. The flavor is still very similar. I think the strong flavor of the kale, ginger, and lime may be masking other flavor changes.
For a second comparison test I made an orange-mango-raspberry smoothie:
1/2 cup water
1 orange (peeled, leaving some of the pith; 190 g)
100 g frozen mango
70 g frozen raspberries
Again, I blended on max speed for 60 seconds once it started circulating. Here they are right away:
The mango prevents foam from forming, so this one does not have the the foaminess difference. If you focus on the fine texture, the Vitamix does a better job on the raspberry seeds. The VAC2 is satisfactory, but it leaves some grittiness of the seeds.
Even though this is a non-foamy smoothie, the Vitamix does mix in tiny air bubbles. This is noticeable immediately by comparing the color of the smoothies. The Vitamix one is a lighter color, while the VAC2 is more saturated. The mango prevents this one from separating; here they are after 3 hours in the fridge:
In terms of flavor, both taste delicious, but there is a subtle difference. I think it comes from oxidation of the orange. After 3 hours, the difference is a bit more pronounced.
Is vacuum blending worthwhile? It makes the biggest difference if a blend will sit for a while. The taste differences are most noticeable for more delicate flavors like apple, orange, or blueberry. Strong flavors like kale or ginger mask changes in flavor from oxidation.
I was curious to see how the power of the Optimum motor compares to a Vitamix. On their website, Froothie makes a claim that the VAC2 motor is significantly more powerful than a Vitamix. They list the “Max Motor Power” as 2238W for the VAC2 vs. 1492W for a Vitamix Pro 500. I’m not sure where they got the 1492W, but from my past experience measuring motor power, I strongly suspected that this was not an apples-to-apples comparison. (The motor power depends on load, and there’s also a significant difference between input and output power. There isn’t an accepted standard for blenders, so almost all claims of a certain horsepower or wattage are essentially meaningless.)
If you can use the same container on two blenders, it is straightforward to make a direct power comparison. The VAC2 container and Vitamix containers are not interchangeable, but they do use the same 12-spline drive shaft. By removing the rubber centering pad on the Vitamix I was able to run the VAC2 container on the Vitamix. (Generally you should never blend without the centering pad, but by being extremely careful I was able to do test blends.) I used a Vitamix 7500, but I’ve previously found that all full-size Vitamix machines have essentially the same power. I filled the VAC2 container with 2.00 L water, and measured input power, output power, and speed:
|input power (W)||output power (HP)||RPM|
Important reminder: the power depends on load, so this is not an absolute power measurement (thicker ingredients would draw more power). These measurements indicate that at this moderately high load, the VAC2 is 10-20% less powerful than a Vitamix. I don’t think this power difference is that big of a deal, but it confirms that the power numbers on Froothie’s website are misleading.
The instruction manual is minimal, though most of the operation is easy to figure out. They warn against using the vacuum with hot soups and powdery ingredients, because steam and food particles can mess up the vacuum system. I thought they should have further warnings about making sure the vacuum port is dry and completely clear of food. Food can splash up onto the inside of the lid, or it can be wet from washing it, and if you turn on the vacuum at that point, the pump could be ruined.
It also says to release the vacuum by pressing the valves, but I found that it works much better to gently lift them.
Compared to my DIY Vitamix vacuum blender
The dual pumps on my DIY setup can achieve a slightly higher vacuum of 27inHg vs. the VAC2’s 24inHg (that’s 90% vs. 80% of air removed). I have not done the detailed testing to determine how much of an effect this has. My guess is that a vacuum blender should pull at least 15 inHg (~50% of air), and ideally at least 22 inHg (~75% of air removed).
The biggest downside to my DIY Vitamix vacuum lid is that it requires oil lubrication to slide into place. That means that either it’s always coated in oil, which can be messy to store while the container is drying, or it needs to be re-oiled each use. The VAC2 lid slides on without requiring oil lubrication. It’s also more convenient to have the vacuum pump integrated in the blender base.
For preset blending, it’s great to have the VAC2 start a blending program automatically after the vacuum pump finishes, and my DIY setup cannot do that. However, for manual blending, I much prefer the Vitamix controls. Also, for certain tough ingredients, the Vitamix does a better job of blending them to maximum smoothness.
The VAC2 is a capable vacuum blender. It blends well, and the integrated vacuum system works great. The user interface works best with its preset program modes. Manually-controlled blending is possible, but the controls are awkward. This blender is a bit large, though manageable for most kitchens. The blend quality is close to Vitamix. For many things, it’s indistinguishable, but there is a noticeable difference with tough ingredients like raspberry seeds.
I recommend finding a way to leave it out on a counter for maximum convenience, so it helps that the finish looks great. If you order one, remember to use code JoB-OptimumVAC2-50 for $50 off. Also note that Froothie offers a 30-day guarantee, so you can get a full refund if you decide it’s not for you.