By the Mana Mixers Blog
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ME:
I’ve been involved in the kitchen equipment business for over fifteen years and have been using Zojirushi products for just about as long. My uncle lived in Japan for a few years and told me that while he was there he discovered that Zojirushi was the number one kitchen product – the “best” in fact.
I’ve used Zojirushi products such as the Zojirushi NHS-18 ten cup rice cooker/steamer, the Zojirushi Gourmet Sizzler (electric multipurpose skillet), and the Zojirushi bread machine. A few years back, I inherited my Grandma’s BBCC-S15 Zojirushi bread machine. Although it produced a non-traditional upright loaf, it was a real rugged and heavy-duty work horse, which I loved. My family eats 100% whole wheat bread on a daily basis and that machine could handle the whole wheat. After learning about the traditional horizontal shaped loaf that the new Zojirushi BB-CEC20 produces, and how it handles 100% whole wheat with ease, I decided it was time to purchase the new machine. I also wanted to try some new features that Grandma’s machine didn’t have.
One of my biggest concerns was whether the new machine had the mixing power of my old BBCC-S15. One of the things I liked about it was that I could throw in the ingredients and mix enough dough for 2 loaves of 100% whole wheat bread. Even though I couldn’t cook it all right then in the machine, I could use the dough for other baking needs (i.e. pizza dough, dough for hand formed bread, rolls, etc.). Some of the other machines I’ve researched say specifically to NOT use 100% whole wheat, let alone knead two batches of dough, because their machines just can’t handle it. So I bit the bullet and here is my review!
As I started researching this new machine, all of the reviews I read stated that this new machine is not much different than its predecessor, the BBCC-X20. Although I do not own a BBCC-X20, the one thing I did like about it was that the BBCC-X20′s price is cheaper than the new machine. However, Zojirushi has discontinued that model. Even though I found a couple of dealers that still sold that model, I didn’t want to buy an outdated model.
After getting my machine, the first thing I did was do a quick inspection of the packaging. It was packaged in a sturdy box and upon opening it I found the actual machine inside a plastic bag, protecting it from scratches, and secured by Styrofoam packaging pieces. It was secure and didn’t shake around in the box. I was content.
Not only was the machine packaged and secure on the outside of the machine, but upon opening the bread machine, I found more support packaging inside, holding the bread pan securely inside the machine.
The instructional DVD that came with my Zojirushi BB-CEC20 was very helpful. It gave me a quick overview of the machine and control panel and then proceeded to walk through the steps of making bread (including what order to add the ingredients for a better batch of bread), sourdough starter, cake, jam and meatloaf. It was very thorough and even helped me learn how to take care of the machine after use.
Inside the box I also found an operating and instructions manual (with recipes), a bread maker instruction DVD with the 1-800 toll-free number right on the front, and a measuring cup and spoon. Because I inherited my Grandma’s old Zojirushi, I am not sure if her machine came with additional pieces, but I am confident that her instruction manual was not as detailed as this new one. Or better yet, I’m confident it did not come with a detailed instructional DVD with a toll-free number to call. I decided to test the toll-free number out. I called and asked what the non-stick surface on the pan and the kneading blades is made out of. A friendly customer service representative gave me an informative answer, stating that it is made of PFTE, a type of flouropolymer. I asked her if it would ever wear-out with use and she stated that it could start peeling with extended use, but that it doesn’t have any toxicological effects. She said that if I had any other questions or concerns, I could call back and they would be happy to assist me in anyway. As I get going with some of these recipes and bread cycles, I will not hesitate to call for any reason!
LOOK AND FEEL:
I thought that the machine was a good looking machine. I chose to purchase the white machine, but there is also a black and stainless steel style that I had the option of purchasing. I liked the look of the lid and found that it opened a little bit easier than Grandma’s lid. However, one function that the old machine had that my new one doesn’t is the ability for the lid to completely detach.
The only reason I enjoyed this feature is because it allowed me more ease in removing my food (be it a large loaf of bread, cake, or jelly) from the machine. Again, it’s not a huge deal, but something that would be nice to have on my new machine.
Another thing I noticed was the difference in viewing windows. Although the viewing window on the new machine allows you to see the length of the loaf of bread you are cooking, you have to move your head around to see the width of the loaf. This doesn’t seem to pose a huge problem, but Grandma’s viewing window seemed to capture more of the loaf, while just looking straight on, as it baked in the machine.
The new machine is not as tall as my old one, which is a benefit for me because it actually fits under the lower cabinets in my kitchen. The weight of the newer machine is just about 4 pounds lighter than the older model (15.6 pounds versus 19.8 pounds). But, even with the lighter feel of the new machine, it still feels like a sturdy product that isn’t going to fall apart. My grandma’s machine was dropped at one point, but handled the fall like a champ (see picture below). Although I don’t plan on dropping my new machine to test its durability, from the look and feel of it, it seems like it would handle a fall like Grandma’s old machine.
The aftermath from the fall of Grandma’s machine:
I enjoyed the look of the control panel on the new machine compared to the old machine. The slanted view and raised buttons make it easier to access the different features, and add to the overall sleek look of the machine. Additionally, the buttons/selections on the control panel that the new machine has that Grandma’s machine doesn’t are the sourdough setting and the crust control (for light, medium, or dark). According to Zojirushi, the biggest change on this machine over all the other machines is that some of the cycles have been fine-tuned to give more precise baking. I will keep you informed on what I discover.
I noticed that this machine had two kneading blades in the bottom that kneaded the dough (as opposed to Grandma’s one kneading blade). In addition to the two pins, it did not mix in just one direction. Rather, the two pins rotate in a fashion that seems to knead the bread dough and develop the gluten better than your standard machine. Additionally, the pan is a traditional horizontal bread pan that comes out looking like bread you would bake in your oven.
New Zojirushi BB-CEC20: Old Zojirushi BBCC-S15:
While inspecting the kneading blades, I noticed that they were metal and coated with a non-stick material, just as Grandma’s was.
One thing that the new machine does not have that Grandma’s old machine does have is a tray in the bottom of the machine to catch crumbs. Having a tray like this would aid in cleanup, but it’s not the end of the world.
THE ULTIMATE TEST:
I decided to get started with the most difficult thing I could think of. As I mentioned before one of the things I was most anxious about testing was the new Zojirushi BB-CEC20′s capacity to adequately handle whole wheat dough (mixing and developing the gluten adequately) and also its ability to mix two batches of whole wheat dough. The reason I call this the ultimate test is because most bread machines discourage you from using 100% whole wheat. Because of the excellent 1 year warranty that comes with the machine, I decided to try this first just in case I somehow damaged the machine!
As I was beginning to start the ultimate test, my husband declared that if I was going to do a fair and honest review, I should purchase a basic bread maker from a department store and do a true comparison. I decided why not?! He ran out to Bed Bath & Beyond for me and purchased the cheapest bread maker he could find – an Oster EXPRESSBAKE model 5838 it was not on sale but was still only $69.95. We decided that we could give it to my younger sister since she’s always wanted one (that is, if the motor didn’t burn out after my ultimate test!).
The Oster brand was packaged fairly decent, although I liked the way Zojirushi BB-CEC20′s packaging protected the sides so the machine wouldn’t shift from side to side. Notice in the picture how the Oster packaging just had a top and bottom Styrofoam piece:
When I pulled the manual out of the box, this is what we were given:
If I’m going to pay $69.95 for a product, I would expect ALL parts of what I pay for to come in decent condition. The state of this instruction manual was discouraging.
As for the inside of the machine, it did have some cardboard packaging supporting the inside of the bread pan, but the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 packaging on the inside still seemed to be more sturdy and supportive (Oster on the left, Zojirushi BB-CEC20 on the right):
Before performing the ultimate test, we decided to take a few other comparison pictures just for kicks. (Oster brand pictures are on the left while the comparison Zojirushi BB-CEC20 pictures are on the right):
The bread pans with blades: Both pans’ blades remove from the pan, as seen in the picture. I was more impressed with the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 blades as they seemed more heavy duty. I also liked the fact that Zojirushi BB-CEC20 has two blades to knead the dough:
The display/control panel:
The pan and drive bearing: The Oster brand on the left has a space between the pan and the drive bearing. However, notice in the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 picture on the right, it shows a sealed rubber gasket to keep crumbs from getting down into the bearing. I’ve been told that this helps extend the life of the bearing.
In the following picture, you’ll notice the Oster bread pan next to the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 pan. As I was taking the Oster pan out of the bread machine it bent significantly. I was able to bend it back, but this was one more reason I was happy I bought the Zojirushi BB-CEC20. Also, the Oster is a squarer pan while the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 is more of a traditionally shaped loaf.
THE ULTIMATE TEST FOR REALS THIS TIME!
Here is my tried and true 100% whole wheat recipe I have used for years in my Grandma’s Zojirushi bread maker. For the ultimate test, I simply doubled the ingredients:
Whole Wheat Bread for the Automatic Bread maker
|2 tsp. SAF instant yeast||2 Tbl. Grandma Eloise vital wheat gluten|
|2 tsp. Grandma Eloise dough enhancer||2 Tbl. canola oil|
|2 Tbl. Grandma Eloise Tofu milk or powdered milk||1 ½ c. cold water|
|2 Tbl. sugar or honey||3 heaping c. freshly milled whole wheat flour|
|1 tsp. salt|
Measure all ingredients exactly. All the measurements except for the heaping cups of flour are to be level. Add each of the ingredients into the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Machine. Select the white bread setting and push start. The bread will be ready to eat in just 4 hours. From this basic and simple wheat recipe you can create an assortment of delicious breads and rolls by adding nuts, raisins, fruits, etc. Experiment and have fun!
I doubled the ingredients and placed them into both bread pans of the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 and the Oster. I pushed the button for whole wheat and let the machines begin to knead (Oster on the left, Zojirushi on the right):
I noticed as it began to knead, the Oster had a harder time mixing together. Keep in mind, this was a double batch of ingredients, testing how well the machines handled mixing a double batch of dough. I had to help it along with a spatula during the mixing process. The Zojirushi BB-CEC20 needed a little bit of help from the spatula, but not as much as the Oster:
As the kneading process continued, this was what I noticed – the Oster was not nearly as progressed and mixed as the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 was during the same point in the kneading process:
Not only was the Oster brand not as kneaded together, it only mixes the dough in one direction. The Zojirushi on the other hand kneads and pulls the dough from one side and then it switches directions and kneads and pulls in the other direction. Notice in the following picture how the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 is pulling the dough from the left to the right, like a taffy machine. This is definitely what I wanted in a bread maker so that the gluten in my bread would develop appropriately and give me a great texture.
Further along in the kneading process, I noticed that the Zojirushi pan was really clean. The blades had pulled and kneaded the dough so that everything was completely mixed and kneaded together. Compare that to the Oster and you notice that the pan still had chunks of flour stuck to the sides of the pan:
After both machines finished their kneading cycles, I took a picture of the dough in the pans. The Zojirushi BB-CEC20 kneaded the dough so well that there was nothing left on the sides of the pans. It was all in one ball. The Oster left pieces on the sides of the pans:
Next, I took a piece of dough out to test the gluten development. My mother taught me that to test the gluten, you oil your hands and take a golf sized ball and slowly begin to stretch it from side to side until it is just about paper-thin. Dough that has good gluten development will stretch without breaking apart too early. Baked bread that has good gluten development doesn’t contain air pockets and is not doughy. In the picture on the left, you’ll see the Oster whole wheat dough. In the picture on the right, you’ll see the Zojirushi dough. The Zojirushi gluten was definitely more developed. As you’ll notice, the Oster dough’s gluten was definitely not as developed because it would not stretch and it would break apart as you stretched it.
PART 1 RESULTS OF THE ULTIMATE TEST:
Part one of the ultimate test involved mixing and kneading 2 batches of 100% whole wheat bread dough. Both machines mixed and kneaded but the results were varied. As you can notice in the above “gluten test” pictures, you see that the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 obviously kneaded the dough quite a bit better than the Oster. Also, during the kneading process the Zojirushi didn’t seem to labor or get bogged down while the Oster seemed to really work. I took a video of the Oster machine during the kneading process to give you an idea of how hard the machine was working. I started to worry that the motor would burn out. There was an obvious chemical smell coming from the Oster machine. The Zojirushi BB-CEC20, on the other hand did not make any strange noises or smells. This was what I was hoping for.
Because I made a double batch of dough in each machine, I cut the dough in half and put half of it back in the respective machines to finish the rising/baking process (please note that a bread machine is only made to bake one loaf of bread at a time!). With the other half of dough, I made two baguette loaves – one with the Oster dough and one with the Zojirushi dough. These both turned out quite nicely in my baguette pan (Oster loaf on the left, Zojirushi loaf on the right):
PART 2 RESULTS OF THE ULTIMATE TEST:
The second part of my ultimate test involved finding out how well the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 bread maker baked a loaf of whole wheat bread, and then compare that to how well an inexpensive bread maker baked a loaf. What I discovered was that in the end, both machines produced a decent loaf of whole wheat bread. I used the same whole wheat recipe in both machines and both tasted pretty good. If anything, the Oster produced a slightly more doughy taste, but really, you have to be a fairly picky taste-tester to notice that. Here are some pictures of the final results (Oster loaf on the left, Zojirushi loaf on the right):
BASIC WHITE BREAD CYCLE:
I decided after the whole wheat test, I should see how both machines did at a basic white bread, express-bake cycle. The following pictures show the final Oster white bread loaf (still in the pan). You’ll notice in the pictures some flour remnants that did not get kneaded into the rest of the loaf:
When I took the loaf out of the pan, I noticed that there were chunks of flour all around the loaf itself. The chunks scraped off really easily, and did not affect the taste of the bread necessarily, but it wasn’t a loaf I would want to give away to my neighbor! You’ll also notice that the loaf didn’t form very evenly – one side being taller than the other. Obviously, these are only aesthetic issues, but important items to note!
The following pictures are of the final Zojirushi white bread loaf. You’ll notice that it cooked uniformly and there is no flour remains stuck to the sides of the loaf. I would not hesitate to give this loaf away to my neighbor!
The following pictures show the Oster loaf on the left and the Zojirushi loaf on the right. Although both tasted pretty much the same as the same recipe was used in both, the Oster loaf was slightly doughier than the Zojirushi loaf. You can tell by just looking at the pictures below that the Zojirushi loaf (right), when cut in half, has a nicer bread texture, is lighter in color and is not doughy. This is one difference I like because I tend to share my bread and I want it to look nice for my friends!
The Oster machine weighed in at 9.2 pounds while the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 weighed 15.6 pounds. The Zojirushi BB-CEC20 definitely felt and appeared more durable in comparison. My husband, being the mechanically-inclined man that he is, suggested we unscrew the bottom of the Oster to see if we could check out the belt and motor. He unscrewed the casing and we discovered that it was motorized by a single-pulley motor. I had to hand it to Oster for putting a geared belt in their machine:
Now, I didn’t want to take apart my nice Zojirushi BB-CEC20 machine to check out the internal mechanisms, so I called Kodiak Health, where I bought my Zojirushi from and asked them about the motor. I told them I was doing a review on the machine and was interested to know. They were very helpful and told me that it was run by a dual-pulley system and even offered to email me some images they had of the transmission, motor and dual-pulley system. They also gave me permission to post them here:
Although the Oster was a 560 watt motor, powered by a geared belt, it was a much thinner belt and not nearly as wide. I was impressed by the durability the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 transmission, the 700 watt motor and belts offered.
CONCLUSION: “You Definitely Get What You Pay For!”
I will be returning the Oster EXPRESSBAKE model 5838 for a refund because whenever it is running there is a strong electrical smell that comes from the vent holes. It is cheaply built and despite the two loaves of bread that it made it was noisy, flimsy and continually stopped and started during the kneading process. I don’t want to risk giving this to my sister. On the other hand I am very pleased with my Zojirushi BB-CEC20. From durability to quietness to bread output, it looks like Zojirushi has done it again with the BB-CEC20. I will be recommending this one to my friends and customers and I look forward to years of good service from it.
FUTURE FOLLOW UP:
I have really enjoyed conducting this review. I have really enjoyed my Zojirushi BB-CEC20 bread maker and I am excited to know how the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 measures up when it comes to the other cycles it offers such as the sourdough, jam, cake and meatloaf settings. I will keep you posted on how the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 stacks up with these other recipes.
You can also purchase a Zojirushi Bread Machine BB-CEC20 from Kodiak Health.