Gadget Lust: Smooth Operator

Juicer Jens Mortensen

I've become one of them: not the pod people but their smoother cousins, the juice heads, the ones whose idea of breakfast or even lunch is some concoction the color of the Incredible Hulk.

My name is Marissa, and I'm a juicer.

"Oh, yeah," I can hear you say, like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinnie: "You blend." I resisted for a long time. I watched as friends devoted their Januaries to a diet of liquefied produce. I quietly mocked acquaintances who told me how they lost weight drinking odd combinations of supposed metabolism-boosting ingredients ("A Turmeric-ginger smoothie, please and supersize it!"). I watched helplessly as friends bought $11 juice drinks that promised them the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

But I was curious. The juicers I know went on as if they were starring in their own infomercial. They felt clear-headed and energized, they said. Their middle-aged skin glowed like Jean Grey in X-Men. Medical conditions that the finest minds in lab coats couldn't diagnose suddenly disappeared.

I got my hands on the Hurom HH Elite Series Slow Juicer, the newest in a long and popular line of juicers and extractors from the South Korean company. I waited a few days before I plugged it in—maybe I was still afraid. And then I let my kids have a go at it first. They did not lunge for the spinach, you'll be shocked to hear, but instead created tropical marvels of pineapple, strawberry and mango. I shooed them away, buzzed on fructose, out of the kitchen so I could finally face my destiny.

No sweet drink for me, though. I went for green goodness and all its attendant antioxidant powers. I chopped up lacinato kale (because everything must contain kale; it is the unwritten law of our food land), fennel, cucumber, some lime, a nugget of ginger and half an apple to add the kindest hint of sweetness. I set the juicer's motor running, and began jamming vegetables into the chute. Juice started flowing into the collecting bowl, morphing from watery, pale cucumber juice to a bright grassy green as the kale was added. I poured the juice into my glass and took a whiff, then a tentative sip. Dammit. It was delicious, a poem to spring and summer and happier times. I chugged that thing down in three minutes. I felt amazing and began hunting through the crisper drawer for my next concoction.

The Hurom, which is known as a masticating juicer, quietly went to work chewing up fruits and vegetables and spitting out the juice, rather like a motorized mortar and pestle. The Hurom does this with a two-step process, first crushing with an auger, then extracting the juice. The juice goes one way and the seeds, pulp, skin and fiber another. Masticating juicers work at much lower speeds than centrifugal or triturating juicers. Lower speeds means less heat (friction) and as the juicing mavens all tout, this means less oxidation and more nutrient retention. With only 40 rpm (compared with 70 to 80 rpms of other juicers), the Hurom HH is one of the slowest on the market. The lack of speed is not noticeable in the time it takes the machine to create a drink, but in the depth of flavor of the juice it produces.

This newest model claims to be their quietest to date and at $399 it should be as quiet as heaven on a Saturday night. Occasionally, as I added a thick leafy green such as kale, there would be a hamster-like squeak from the machine, but otherwise, the motor noise was barely noticeable. It made quick work of all fruits, turning out happy-colored drinks in little time and with little clean up.

I experimented with vegetable combinations. I tried to clog it with fiber-rich, stringy vegetables, but the Hurom soldiered on. Its auger extracted what seemed like a tremendous amount of juice no matter how rough the produce. I was able to vary the amount of pulp I wanted in my drinks, which is a helpful feature, especially as fiber is what helps make you feel full. Pulp-phobics need not worry, though. Opt for pulp free and you get a smooth, thick juice.

Its small footprint means you juicing maniacs out there can keep it on your counter without it getting in the way. Just make sure you have a countertop area that is large enough to hold the juicer and a chopping board. The one downside to this type of juicer is the need to chop your food into two-inch pieces. I found it tedious at first, but then I got in a rhythm that made chopping almost meditative. Is this how Dexter felt?

With its mighty double-winged auger the Hurom can also make almond milk (delicious) and you can even mash up soybeans for homemade tofu (you can: I don't have the time or patience). The leftover fibers can be used in muffins (not bad), and I'm pleased the Hurom people have a recipe to turn your juicer into a cocktail-making machine (watermelon and vodka, anyone?). Clean up is reasonably easy. Pull it apart, rinse, use a brush to dislodge pieces stuck in the juicing basket and the extruder. You may need to buy another refrigerator to ensure you're properly stocked with produce (and buy some stock in Whole Foods while you're at it), but this is all part of the (high) price you pay for juicing glory.

While I may have leaped Superman-like with a single bound into juicing, I (and most rational nutritionists) believe juicing should be a supplement to a healthy diet, not a substitute. As long as you have teeth, you should do some of your own masticating of produce, so you don't miss out on good things like fiber and other nutrients that otherwise end up in the compost when you're just drinking the contents of your produce bin. And I still believe the natural high claimed by people who do juice cleanses comes from a combination of sanctimony and hunger, along with a sincere pride in being able to maintain a cleanse for a week without causing bodily harm to others. That said, after a week spent drinking a good portion of my nutrients, I also think I have a little more fizz in my step and pink in my cheeks. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go make myself another super green juice. I keep drinking them and rushing to the mirror to see if I look like Gwyneth Paltrow. Wish me luck.