Driving across the border into Canada late this summer, the CBC anchor on the radio announced that a glut of blueberries had pushed their prices down to historic lows. Having brought a fancy new juicer with me, I sensed an opportunity.
The juicer in the back of the car was a Hurom H-AI, a sort of Maserati of juice machines, with a powerful motor that gives it a near-unflappable ability to liquefy whatever you throw in the hopper.
It is a very effective machine, but it had a lot of convincing to do if I was going to like it, as the damn thing costs $700—a number that created a hurdle I was worried I couldn’t clear.
I dropped off my wife Elisabeth and the juicer at my mother-in-law’s house and headed to the produce store, returning with a mammoth flat of blueberries and 50 loonies worth of other fruits and vegetables to throw in there.
A few years back, I reviewed one of the H-AI’s predecessors, the Hurom HH Elite, and was curious to see what changes were in store. The major differences turned out to be the streamlining of the machine, and an extra hopper, this one a basket-like “self-feeding” number, allowing you to dump food in there en masse. I also wondered if the “AI” in its name stood for “artificial intelligence,” but instead, a company rep told me that the letters have “no meaning.”
As I unpacked these parts and accessories—13 to 15 of them, depending on how you count them—they spread out far enough to cover an entire dishcloth, with enough bits and bobs that I started to wish the juicer came with its own pegboard.
Still, that new hopper was nice. I could chop up some fruit and dump it in there with abandon thanks, in part, to a multi-armed spindle that twirls around and keeps things moving toward the auger. For most foods, it’s a marked improvement over the traditional chute hopper.
This convenience does not mean less prep is involved. Unless it’s something like those blueberries which just need a quick rinse, most of what you juice will require prep—washing, scrubbing, removing pits from stone fruits, and sometimes peeling. You’ll also need to reduce your juice-ables down to what could be called “just bigger than bite size.” This all takes a while.
I set up the Hurom and got crushing, watching those blueberries wobble around in the hopper, then emerge as liquid through the strainer below, a lovely shade of violet. I was, however, surprised at the output—just a little more than half of the berries turned to juice while the rest became pulp. Isn’t pulp good for you? Curious, I tasted that pulp and imagined how it could be spread on toast and sprinkled with a little sugar, or—gasp!—thrown in a blender with the juice. Almost all of the juices I made were downright delicious, but the quantities it took to make each glass reminded me why juice is so expensive.
I, uh, pressed on, learning that I couldn’t cheat and put melon spears in the new hopper: cubes go down much faster. The juice was fantastic. I tossed in some figs, and perhaps due to their not-terribly-juicy nature, they were mostly squished out as pulp. I peeled and pitted a mango, juiced that and—apologies for cheating here—but I threw the juice and the pulp in the blender with some yogurt and called it a damn fine lassi. Later, I chopped up some tomatoes, threw them in and, while I hoped it would make something that I could turn into tomato sauce (alas, too thin!), it did make some lovely juice. Carrots went in next, and I combined their juice with the tomato, adding salt, pepper, and some of my mother-in-law’s Mrs. Dash seasoning, turning it all into a lovely blend that could be used as a base for a gazpacho, a Bloody Mary or, this being Canada, a Caesar.
Next, I switched gears and tried kale, watching the leaves get nudged around in the hopper, then slowly spun into juice with the auger, giving me the weird feeling like I had a front-row view of two stomachs of a cow.
One sip revealed an intensely bitter flavor reminiscent of grass clippings. Elisabeth demurred when I offered her a taste, saying, “Not after that face you made. You eat everything.”
I know people don’t drink kale juice straight, even if it is good for you, but stirring it into some other juice can only be a destructive process.
So, it was nagging at me … is juice good for you? And more importantly, am I ready for the flak that’ll come my way if I say anything bad about it? The answer to those questions has me putting on running shoes.
I started with a 2017 study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
“…while the fruits and vegetables contained in juices are heart-healthy, the process of juicing concentrates calories, which makes it much easier to ingest too many. Eating whole fruits and vegetables is preferred, with juicing primarily reserved for situations when daily intake of vegetables and fruits is inadequate,” it reads. “Until comparative data become available, whole food consumption is preferred…Guidance should be provided to maintain optimal overall caloric intake and to avoid the addition of sugars (e.g., honey) to minimize caloric overconsumption.”
The study features an illustration with three columns: “Evidence of Harm,” “Inconclusive Evidence,” and “Evidence of Benefit.” Juicing only appears in the first two.
“We don’t have the evidence that says juice does something wonderful,” says Kevin Klatt, a PhD in molecular nutrition and a clinical trainee at the National Institutes of Health. “Across the board, juice is better than soda, but 16 to 20 ounces [an amount adults and kids often consume] is way too many calories and too much sugar.”
Comparing juice to soda is a pretty low bar, but even if it’s not a juice that runs on the sweeter side, you tend to run into trouble on most truth-seeking missions.
“There are very common claims that juices have magical properties,” says Klatt, “but outside of a few examples, there aren’t randomized control analyses comparing juice and most health outcomes.”
For fun, I picked a juice from Hurom’s recipe book at random to read it to Klatt, falling on the “Secret Woman” drink in a section called “Ladies Juice.” (Yes, really.) The Secret Woman headnote talks about “vegetable estrogen,” “essential fruits,” and the pomegranate’s apparent ability to delay menopause and maintain youthful skin.
“That just sounds made up,” Klatt said, “They’re using bad logic to make a triangulation that this could be good for you. It’s extremely indirect.”
The takeaway here seems to be: drink juice if you like juice, but there’s scant evidence that it’ll do you any good.
Add It Up
So here’s the part where the math and the practicalities of the Hurom get tricky. When I was talking earlier about all of those (mostly) yummy juices made in the Hurom, I didn’t mention all of the cleaning. If you’re making a mixed juice, you can fudge it a little and not do a full cleaning between different ingredients, but every time you use the juicer, plan on spending a good hunk of time afterward cleaning.
Once disassembled after a juicing, it took a solid five minutes to hand wash all of the parts, and hand wash you shall, as none of the parts except the auger can go in the dishwasher. Between setup, food prep, actual juicing, and cleanup, you’re in it for a good long while.
Also, let’s say it again because holy moly this is a lot to pay for a juicer, the H-AI costs $700. Hurom even offers a monthly installment payment plan, which sounds pretty nuts; if $700 isn’t chump change to you, maybe just don’t buy it. There are lots of capable juicers out there, including highly-praised offerings for less than half the price of the H-AI. You should give those a look if you’re still interested in making juice at home.
I also took a little tour of my neighborhood while writing this review, stopping by the Taproot Cafe, where their juices run between five and nine bucks. Nearby, at the grocery store, I could get an apple-shaped bottle of Martinelli’s apple juice for less than two bucks, a selection of Odwalla juices for three, and some really fancy brands for eight.
I get that it’s not exactly the same thing, but bear with me: you could go the cafe- or store-bought route and buy anywhere from about 100 to a few hundred juices for $700, and that’s ignoring the price of fruit and the time you invest in making your own juice.
That said, the Hurom is a well-built machine, a sort of luxury car in the world of juicers. If you do a lot of juicing, are unfazed by the price tag, and have room for a very capable belle objet on your countertop, knock yourself out. For me, though, I’m OK without one. If I get a craving for a nice, fresh juice, I’ll head down to the Taproot, or back up to Canada for a Caesar, enjoy my drink and let someone else deal with the cleanup.