Over the past year, well not even that long, there have been many different sous vide machines hit the market. It really shows how cooking sous vide is not just new, but it is also catching on in popularity. Personally, I believe that sous vide cooking is going to become a standard in most kitchens, just like how slow cookers, toaster ovens and microwaves did.
Shopping for a sous vide machine can seem overwhelming. Considering that, for many people, this is the first time purchasing a sous vide appliance, some may not know what to look for. I cook sous vide multiple times a week and have used most of the machines out on the market.
So, how do they perform compared to each other?
How are they built compared to the others?
This post is going to look at all these sous vide appliances in a number of different categories. There are five different models we will look at: four of them are immersion circulators and one is a sous vide water bath.
Immersion circulators are clamped onto a pot or other large basin that holds the water. The machine heats and circulates the water at the same time. Sous vide water baths are a self contained unit that is both the basin and the heater in one. The heating elements are at the bottom, under the basin, and the water is heated through convection and not circulated.
The five machines being compared are the Sous Vide Supreme, Nomiku, PolyScience Professional Creative, PolyScience Discovery, and Anova.
With this category, I looked at the design from a functionality, look and durability standpoint. While all five of the machines are very different, each has its own charm in how they look.
Obviously, the Sous Vide Supreme is the most different compared to the others. Since it is a water bath, it is large and takes up counter space. But, the outside of the machine is all stainless steel and it looks sharp on any counter-top. This unit has no moving parts and will likely find a home on the kitchen counter like a coffee maker or toaster. Therefore, this machine should last a long time. The Sous Vide Supreme comes with a lid that prevents water from being evaporated (something that immersion circulators struggle with during a long cook cycle and no lid). There are also two handles on side of the water bath, allowing easy pouring for removing the water.
The PolyScience Professional Creative, PolyScience Discovery are essentially the same unit on the outside with different internal parts. These machines are a tank and easily the most well built of all the immersion circulators, from a durability standpoint. The plastic is thick, strong and the unit is much heavier than its competitors. There is a hole near the bottom of each unit for water circulation. Both units have an over-temperature safety that removes power from the heater if the liquid temperature exceeds a factory set temporature. There is a reset button hidden behind a cover plate on the front of the unit that allows the machine to reset. The PolyScience Discovery is bright yellow and the Professional Creative unit is black.
The Anova is the one machine whose design did not impress me. The bottom half of the unit has a removeable steel sleeve. This is fine for cleaning purposes, but I do not like it when the machine is running. The steel sleeve does not attach firmly and its looseness can impact the motion of the internal impeller. I have used two Anova units and have experienced this problem with each one. The sleeve has to fit just perfectly and if it doesn’t, the impeller brushes against an internal part causing a loud noise and extremely reduced circulation. Personally, I think this is a significant design flaw in the unit.
The Nomiku is small and sleek, but do not let that fool you – it works really well. The unit seems very well built and quite durable. It does not have any way to open up for cleaning, so that can be an issue. If food gets lodged in it would be difficult to clean. Also, the temperature dial seems a little loose, although, I am sure that it was built this way and it does make for quick and easy temperature adjustments. There is a a power block that is attached to the unit by a cord. This is different from all the other immersion circulators that have the power hardware in the actual casing of the unit. Having it as a separate power block enables the Nomiku to be smaller and much lighter, but it does make the placement of the block a little awkward at times, since it hangs over the lip of a pot and is usually just able to reach and rest on the countertop.
Category winner: Sous Vide Supreme
I must admit, I am biased and prefer the design of a water bath setup since I use sous vide all the time and it has a permanent place on my kitchen counter. Of the immersion circulators, the PolyScience Professional Creative, PolyScience Discovery would be in a tie for the winner.
The immersion circulators need to be attached to the side of the pot or basin holding the water. While the water is circulating it is possible for the sous vide unit to move around, therefore, it is important that the clamp is strong and keeps the machine in place. Since the Sous Vide Supreme is the water basin as well, a clamp is not necessary.
The Anova, PolyScience Professional Creative and PolyScience Discovery all have a screw clamp system that allows the machine to be attached to a pot or basin quite firmly. With each of these machines, they did not budge at all. All three had plenty of space in the clamp to allow pots with a fairly large lip to still be able to be clamped with ease.
The Nomiku uses a clip to attach itself to a pot/basin. The nice thing about the clip is that it is fast. It can be attached or removed in no time, but really, speed of clamping is not very important. How well does it hold? The clip has a nice thick rubber part that sticks to the pot nice. But, it still does not hold on to a pot near as firmly as the machines with a screw clamp system.
Winner: Tie with Anova, PolyScience Professional Creative and PolyScience Discovery
Control Panel and Display
The Anova has a really sharp display. A mini LCD that is both color and a touch screen make controlling the Anova both easy and intuitive. It is possible to control the temperature (Celsius or Fahrenheit) and set the timer. The on/off switch is on the back of the unit. For anyone used to using a smart phone or tablet, controlling the Anova is a snap.
The Nomiku is all about simplicity. The LCD screen shows the set and actual temperatures. It is a touch screen but that is only for turning the machine on or off. There is also a dial that increases or decreases the set temperature when turned. There is no timer setting on the control panel. The Nomiku just continues heating and circulating until it is turned off.
Controls on the Discovery are made through the 5 buttons on the panel, just below the display. There is also an on/off switch at the back of the unit. The digital display shows the readout of both set and actual temperatures. It is possible to set the timer, which is also shown on the screen. The display highlights if the heater and circulators are functioning by displaying little icons.
The PolyScience Professional Creative has the same control panel and display as the Discovery. Controls on the Professional Creative are made through the 5 buttons on the panel just below the display. There is also an on/off switch at the back of the unit. The digital display shows the readout of both set and actual temperature. It is possible to set the timer, which is also shown on the screen. The display highlights if the heater and circulators are functioning by displaying little icons.
The controls and display on the Sous Vide Supreme look more old school than the others, but they are very functional. The digital display shows the actual temperature and the timer. There are also indicator lights on the side of the display, showing whether the unit is heating, the timer and the setting of the temperature. The buttons are both easy to understand and also simple to use.
Category Winner: Anova
The water level range on the immersion circulators is important for the protection of the unit itself. The minimum level ensures that there is enough water for the actual circulation to work and for the cooling down of the heating element. The maximum level protects the control panel and display from getting wet.
The Sous Vide Supreme has a water level range of 2 1/2 inches.
The PolyScience Professional Creative and Discovery both have a water level range of 3 3/4 inches
The Anova has a water level range of 3 5/8 inches
The Nomiku has a water level range of 1 1/2 inches
Category Winner: Tie with PolyScience Professional Creative and PolyScience Discovery
The amount of water that can be heated by each sous vide machine dictates how much food can be cooked sous vide. I was surprised that all the immersion circulators could heat almost twice the amount of water that the Sous Vide Supreme can.
The Sous Vide Supreme has a capacity of about 3 gallons / 12 litres
The PolyScience Professional Creative has a capacity of 5.3 gallons / 20 litres
The PolyScience Discovery has a capacity of 5.3 gallons / 20 litres
The Anova has a capacity of 6 gallons / 22 litres
The Nomiku has a capacity of 5 gallons / 19-20 litres
Category Winner: Anova with the other immersion circulators a close second
The heating of the sous vide machines is one of the key features, regarding their performance. With all the units, once the water had reached the set temperature, it stayed there. There was little to no variation with any of the units. But, what did vary, was how long each unit took to bring the water up to temperature.
I ran a test with each unit and I wanted to make sure that all the factors were equal to level the playing field and show exactly how each machine performed. The test was to heat 12 litres of water and this was perfect because it fit in all the units Min and Max water levels. I used the exact same pot for each of the immersion circulators, so that there would be no question regarding a variation in pot shape and circulation. For the Sous Vide Supreme, I debated whether or not to place the lid on the water bath, since the immersion circulators do not have them (unless you create one by cutting a immersion circulator shaped hole in a lid). In the end, I decided to put the lid on the Sous Vide Supreme, because that is how the machine came in the box. You get the lid when you buy it, so I figured it was fair to use it.
It was also necessary to have the same starting temperature, so with each test, I brought the water up to 86F. Then I set the temperature for a target of 140F and started the machine and the timer.
Here are the results:
Test – heating 12 litres of water.
Starting temperature – 86F
Target temperature – 140F
The Sous Vide Supreme took 41 minutes
The PolyScience Professional Creative took 23 minutes
The PolyScience Discovery took 39 minutes
The Anova took 31 minutes
The Nomiku took 24 minutes
In the end, I was not surprised that the PolyScience Professional Creative was the fastest, as it is the most expensive immersion circulator. I was surprised that the Sous Vide Supreme took so long, even with the lid on. The Nomiku also impressed as it was only 1 minute off the fastest time.
Category Winner: PolyScience Professional Creative with the Nomiku a very close second
The circulation of the water is important with the sous vide cooking process to ensure that there are no cold water pockets and that the food is heated evenly on all sides. The Sous Vide Supreme uses a convection method of heating the water. The water is heated through elements under the water basin. The hot water rises and the bath is heated evenly through convection. This can work fine, as long as the bagged food is placed in the bath properly and not laid flat, which can cause the water below to be hotter than the water above.
The immersion circulators all have the same type of circulation system with an impeller at the base of the unit to get the water flowing.
Here are the flow rates according to the website for each product:
The Sous Vide Supreme does not circulate the water
The PolyScience Professional Creative has a circulation rate of 5 litres per minute
The PolyScience Discovery has a circulation rate of 5 litres per minute
The Anova has a circulation rate of 12 litres per minute
The Nomiku has a circulation rate of 5 litres per minute
I wanted to put this to a test but it is hard to test the rate of water flow. Just looking at the water, with the machine running, it was clear to see the movement of water. The Nomiku produced the most rough water – it was not like a cyclone, but it did move around like crazy. Both PolyScience machines have rapid moving water and it looked more like a cyclonic effect in the water bath. The Anova seemed to have the lowest water flow rate (which really countered their claim of a water flow rate twice their competitors). The surface of the water had very little movement with the Anova, compared to the other models.
To examine this further, I tried a few different tests.
First I added 15 drops of red food coloring to the water. I wanted to see how quickly the immersion circulator blended the food colouring into the water. It was hard to gauge the speed of dilution, but I would say that the Nomiku and PolyScience models were the quickest.
Next, I threw some dry macaroni noodles in the water. I was looking to see how fast they moved throughout the water. Both PolyScience machines were by far the best and they kept all the noodles moving around. The Nomiku performed this effectively as well. The Anova did not perform this task very well. A bunch of the noodles fell to the bottom of the water bath and just barely moved around down there.
Category Winner: Tie with PolyScience Professional Creative and PolyScience Discovery
So, how loud are these machines? The noise comes from the water pump impeller. Therefore, the Sous Vide Supreme is the quietest of all of them, virtually silent sitting on the countertop.
The immersion circulators all make a little noise, although in none of the cases would I call it loud. It is more like a quiet hum.
The only unit that I experienced any loud noise was with the Anova. I mentioned earlier that there seems to be a design flaw with the steel sleeve. If not properly attached, or if it starts to dislodge, the impeller seems to scrape against some metal inside the sleeve. When this happens, it is very loud. Like I said earlier, I have used 2 different Anova units and experienced the same situation with both. When the sleeve is on properly, the Anova is as quiet as the other immersion circulators.
Category Winner: Sous Vide Supreme
There is a significant range in price for each unit with the Anova as the cheapest ($199) and the Sous Vide Supreme as the most expensive ($429). One thing to consider about the expensive cost of the Sous Vide Supreme, is that it comes with more: stainless steel water bath canister, lid and slotted rack. The immersion circulators do not come with any of those additional products/accessories.
The Sous Vide Supreme is $429US (They also sell a smaller Demi unit that is $329US)
The PolyScience Professional Creative is $399US
The PolyScience Discovery is $299US
The Anova is $199US
The Nomiku is $299US
The warranties are the same for all units
The Sous Vide Supreme has a warranty of 12 months parts and labor
The PolyScience Professional Creative has a warranty of 12 months parts and labor
The PolyScience Discovery has a warranty of 12 months parts and labor
The Anova has a warranty of 12 months parts and labor
The Nomiku has a warranty of 12 months parts and labor
So, after going through all those tests and comparisons, how do they stack up? Which one is better?
That is very difficult to answer, because each product has pros and cons. In many ways, it depends on what kind of machine you are looking for and how much you want to spend.
If you are going to cook sous vide regularly and have space on the countertop for a unit, the Sous Vide Supreme is a great choice. It is more money than the others, but it is self contained and has everything you need. Also, it looks sharp in the kitchen. I like the lid, which both keeps the water in and acts as an insulator requiring less energy to heat the water and maintain the temperature.
If you are on a budget and not sure how frequently you will cook sous vide, the Anova is a decent choice. At $199 it is a great price and the cheapest investment. The control panel/display is great and it is very easy to use. The problem is, I am not a fan of the design and the heating time and circulation is not as good as the other machines.
At the mid-range price point, $299, the Nomiku is a better option over the equal priced PolyScience Discovery. For the most part, they perform equally, but the heating time is drastically different with the Nomiku winning that test. The Nomiku is easy to use and has very simple controls. The PolyScience Discovery is also a solid product and if it was able to heat the water more quickly, I would likely be a bigger fan of the product.
My favorite of the immersion circulators is the PolyScience Professional Creative. Yes, it is the most expensive of all of them, but everything about this machine is quality. It performed very well in every task, and the quality of the machine is very high. I can understand that the price tag may limit some people, but it is worth the investment.
For more information on each sous vide machine, I have written separate reviews of each sous vide machine and they can be read here: