This new Vitamix product makes composting a cinch
Recycle your food with the push of a button.
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When one of the biggest names in household appliances introduces a product that promises to turn food scraps into compost in as little as three hours, you know we had to test it. We recycled a week’s worth of food waste to find out if the FoodCycler lives up to Vitamix’s reputation for producing high quality machines that deliver superior results.
What really makes the FoodCycler compelling is that food waste is a major contributor to climate change. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that most wasted food ends up in landfills where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas that warms the atmosphere. According to Our World in Data, food waste is responsible for around 6% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. One of the NRDC’s top tips for reducing food waste is to compost food scraps.
What is the Vitamix FoodCycler?
The Vitamix FoodCycler (available for on Amazon for $399.99) is a large countertop electric appliance about the size of a bread machine that aerates, heats, and grinds food waste—including fruit and vegetable peels and cores, egg shells, cheese rinds, coffee grinds, and fish and chicken bones—and turns it into compost somewhere between three and eight hours. And as a bonus, the machine contains two filters that eliminate odors produced during operation.
It comes with a bucket about the size of a typical kitchen compost pail that has a lid with a carbon filter to further prevent typical compost smells. You use the bucket to collect food scraps, then insert it into the machine, replacing the bucket lid with the processing lid. When you’re ready to recycle, you press a single button and the machine does the rest automatically. After you empty out the recycled compost, you can handwash the pail or pop it in the dishwasher.
What to know before buying
The FoodCycler is big and boxy, measuring 12.6” (L) x 11” (W) x 14.2” (H) with a gray hard plastic exterior. The bucket is made of porcelain-coated aluminum. While the product is well-made, it’s utilitarian in appearance and certainly won’t add any pizazz to your kitchen or mud room. Just like a Vitamix blender, its charm is in how well it does what it’s supposed to, not in what it looks like.
Before you buy the Vitamix FoodCycler, give some thought as to where you’ll keep it. This is a large appliance and needs to be plugged into an electric outlet. Unless you have a very big kitchen, you may not want to lose valuable counter space, and since it’s heavy you also won’t want to move it after every use.
According to independent research provided by Vitamix, using the FoodCycler reduces greenhouse gases by cutting back on the amount of food waste added to landfills. Data from VitaMix shows that it costs about 10 cents per cycle, so if you were to run the FoodCycler daily it would add about $2.88 to your monthly electric bills. If your state does not use renewable energy, the product’s energy use could detract very slightly from some of the environmental benefits of using the FoodCycler.
What we like
- Aids in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Food scraps don’t smell in the bucket.
- It’s very easy to use.
- It works quickly.
- It produces compost for your garden.
What we don’t like
- It’s expensive.
- The manual doesn’t give detailed information about what to recycle.
- It’s bulky and needs to live near an electrical outlet.
- Noisy while operating.
- Filters are sold separately ($25 per pack) and need to be replaced periodically.
Is the Vitamix FoodCycler easy to use?
Using this appliance couldn’t be easier. You literally plug it in and press a button, then the machine automatically cycles from drying to grinding to cooling.
The pail holds about two quarts of loosely packed food refuse when it’s full. For the most part, odors were effectively kept at bay by the carbon filter in the lid. On one occasion, when we added raw fish scraps, we noticed the pail started to smell after 24 hours. It’s worth noting that if you cook every day, you’re probably going to fill the bucket daily, and thus empty it frequently (which reduces the chance of a smelly pail).
Vitamix says the device takes anywhere from three to eight hours, but in our tests it always took about four hours to turn scraps into compost. With every trial run, the FoodCycler transformed all manners of food waste—everything from melon rinds to chicken bones to stale croissants—into a dirt-like material smelling faintly of the ingredients that went into it.
As it works, the machine makes varying amounts of noise. Most of the time, it makes faint noises that sounded like a telephone ringing in the distance. On two occasions, it was loud enough to interfere with conversation. Some of the noises were a bit disconcerting, but Vitamix assured us that something was probably stuck inside the bucket. To avoid this in the future, they advised cutting things like apple cores and lemon rinds into smaller pieces.
The Vitamix FoodCycler oven comes with a full three-year warranty including parts, labor, and two-way shipping.
What owners say
As it was just released in August, there are only a few reviews to date. On the Vitamix website, the FoodCycler has a 5.0 rating out of 12 reviews. On Amazon there’s just four reviews with an average score of 4.4. The only negative callout is the relatively small size of the bucket.
Is the Vitamix FoodCycler worth it?
Anyone who’s interested in composting will love the FoodCycler. (This is especially true of anyone who has a garden and can use a regular supply of compost.) However, at about $400, this is an expensive item and certainly not a necessity. If you are intent on composting and you’re on a budget, buy a plastic collection pail and haul your scraps to a municipal composting center. But we can say with confidence that the FoodCycler does what it’s supposed to do: quickly and easily turn your kitchen refuse into compost.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.