Tried & Tested: Let The Juice Loose

An essential kitchen gadget or a waste of cupboard space? Our panellists extract the answer
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The Independent Culture
IF YOU HAVE ever shied away from whisking up a delicious little lime sorbet because the recipe called for "the juice of eight limes" - which means 16 halves to squeeze by hand - then you will appreciate the usefulness of a really good citrus juicer.

THE PANEL

Claudia Ramsden, Namita Smith, Alice and David Heath, Charles Morton and myself ranged in prejudice from utter cynicism ("Not another gadget to store in the cupboard - what's wrong with a fork?" - David Heath) to active interest ("I've always meant to buy a cirtus juicer; last time I went out to get one I ended up with a vegetable juicer by mistake because I thought it would do citrus fruits as well, but the juice was undrinkable - full of pith" - Namita Smith).

THE TEST

Often quite inexpensive and simple to use and clean, citrus juicers vary from low-tech designer classics to state of the art labour-saving gadgets. We looked for the best of all worlds: something which extracts the maximum amount of juice from all types of citrus fruit, looks cool and doesn't cost the earth.

*MOULINEX CITROPLUS 600

pounds 15

The Moulinex electric juicer looks much like its peers and works on the same principles, with a two-way spin for efficient juice extraction, automatic start, removable jug with a pouring lip and a visible gauge to see how much juice is being extracted. It cannot, however, modify the levels of pith in the juice and it certainly doesn't seem to have as good a motor as the Braun. "This is flimsy, but serviceable," said Claudia Ramsden. "It sounds scratchy and if you press too hard it goes into spasm," complained David Heath. "There's a lot of pith left behind in the sieve," said Charles Morton, but added righteously, "I believe the substance is better for you than the juice - it contains more bioflavenoids."

***GRUNWERG PRO JUICER

pounds 60 approx

This tall, chrome, lever-operated citrus press split the panel with its idiosyncratic shape and lack of motor. Chief admirer was Charles Morton, who declared: "This is fine. It may not be as good as the electric ones, but I don't especially like motorised devices - they're noisy and the cord always gets sticky. It isn't hard to press the fruit manually and it's quite elegant." He added, "Besides, it works well with my granite worktop and the other chrome things - the toaster and kettle." He is clearly the sort of discerning kitchen-owner Grunwerg is looking for. Alice Heath was more critical: "Despite the non-slip base, it does slip a bit on the counter - it ought to be clamped down like an old-fashioned mincer. Also, it's a bit fiddly positioning the fruit on the steel cone under the press as it's obscured from sight. And it doesn't cope too well with limes." Despite the general opinion that this machine is a triumph of aesthetics over efficiency, you can at least immerse the whole thing in water to wash it, and it will never go wrong.

****BRAUN CITROMATIC 7

pounds 17.99

Of the three motorised juicers included in our survey, the Braun struck us as the best by a narrow margin, and was also voted the winner overall, since the effortlessness of an electric juicer beats the stylish manual ones hands down when it comes to making large quantities of juice. Its new "reluctance" motor starts as you press a halved fruit onto the cone, causing it to spin first one way and then - as you down the fruit a second time - the other. "Not a shred of edible fruit remains," declared Namita Smith, admiringly.

The Braun has a transparent, 600ml capacity jug complete with measuring levels ("I do like to see how much I'm getting out of each orange" - Claudia Ramsden) to collect the juice.

The Braun's most distinctive feature though is the "adjustable pulp control", a shaded bar diagram on the base (no really!) encourages you to turn it so the holes in the sieve are covered, allowing less pulp to get through. The panel was divided over the usefulness of this: "If you don't want bits in it, you may as well buy pasteurised juice," said Alice Heath, but others said their children preferred it that way.

**KENWOOD JE250

pounds 17.99

Another pod-like electric juice extractor of the white plastic variety, the Kenwood claims to incorporate a reverse-action motor for maximum juice extraction, but you have to wait a long time for this to manifest itself. "Surely the direction of the cone should change when you lift the fruit off?" asked Alice Heath, who said she spent some time "watching the machine like a hawk to see when it would change. In the event, it's quite arbitrary - you have to catch it unawares."

The Kenwood does offer an anti-drip spout which tips up and down, so you can either place your glass below it or collect the juice in the (rather shallow) reservoir on the machine. Namita Smith said the cord storage facility in the base was an improvement on most, but Charles Morton summed up the product: "It has a better motor than the Moulinex, but it is just as noisy."

**WARING PROFESSIONAL CITRUS JUICER

pounds 109

The most expensive of all the juicers tested, the Waring is a proper professional model - "a nice, stable machine which obviously has a direct geared motor. It cleans out the skins totally!" an approving Charles Morton said. "What a pity it isn't lemon yellow instead of this custardy colour," Claudia Ramsden commented; an opinion to which she is probably entitled, considering the price (though it does come in bright green as well).

This is clearly an appliance designed to live on the worktop, so we were dismayed to notice that one sample had suffered a cut in the rubber covering of the on/off switch - a defect which could presumably occur at any time if you're careless with a knife. You don't get a collecting jug, but you can choose which way you want the spout to face.

"I liked the recipe ideas in the leaflet," reported Namita Smith, "but I didn't like the way the cone spins when you've lost your grip on a slippery lime, instead of stopping when you release the pressure, like the other electric juicers."

*ALESSI JUICY SALIF

pounds 34

The iconic lemon squeezer to end all lemon squeezers, Philippe Starck's sleek aluminium tripod appealed to all the design-conscious members of the panel. "The rocket one!" exclaimed Namita Smith on sight. "I love this. I've seen it at the Pompidou Centre. Bet it doesn't work, though." This cynicism was only partly justified, for the Alessi is simplicity itself. There is no collecting reservoir. Instead, you place your glass under the tripod, press the fruit down gently and turn, so that the juice runs down the fluted sides of the cone in rivulets and off the point at the base. With care, you can even squeeze large grapefruits. Although press at an angle and you risk toppling the tripod over and colliding with your collection vessel.

"This is a device for people who take their juice in bed in the mornings," declared David Heath. Why? "Because there are lots of splashes, so you wouldn't want to do it once you'd put your suit on." Well, you could get used to that. You also have to like lots of pulp (and pips), because there is no strainer. But nor is there anything fiddly about it; you just rinse the whole thing after use and wipe down your counter.

STOCKISTS

Kenwood, Moulinex, Waring, Braun from John Lewis stores, or call Braun on 0800 783 7010; Kenwood on 01705 476 000; Moulinex on 0121 380 0590, Waring on 0181 232 8171. Alessi from Conran Shops, 0171 589 7401, or call 01920 444272; Grunwerg from David Mellor, 0171 730 4259, or call 0114 275 6700.

COMING SOON: CHILDREN'S DRAWING TOYS

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