The last post about making lemon curd shows my two immersion circulators, an original, no-longer available at US voltage, Classic Nomiku and an Anova Precision Cooker (bluetooth only). I’ve had the Nomiku a since Thanksgiving 2013, while I got the Anova about a year later as part of their Kickstarter release (I went in with a colleague on the discount for 2 deal).
Since then the market for circulators has moved on. With two units that are both doing fine (knock wood), I’m not in that market for us these days, but I like to see what’s new. Even though I’m not looking for myself, these are nice potential gifts. Sweethome.com has a recently updated roundup of several of the units that are currently available. The newer wifi version of the Anova (their pick) continues to be one of the most popular, but the model that seems to be very trendy right now is the ChefSteps Joule (which I have not seen in person yet). If I was shopping for a new setup or looking to give one as a present, I think I would seriously look at the Joule.
Kenji Alt-Lopez at Serious Eats reviewed the Joule in October, and came up with a conclusion that is similar to what I’m hearing elsewhere. The Joule is awesome except… It’s smaller and more powerful than the Anova, is waterproof, and has a cool magnetic base in addition to a clip. If I had a Joule and was looking to use it in a nonmagnetic container, I’d probably just put something like our enameled cast iron heat diffuser in the bottom.
The “except” is that part of what allows it to be awesome is that it can only be controlled via wifi or bluetooth. This means an iOS or Android phone or tablet via an app, or an Amazon Alexa (Echo or Dot) voice recognition system.
The Joule has a lower minimum water depth than other circulators at 1.5″. By contrast, it’s 2.5″ on the Anova and 3.5″ on my Nomiku classic. The new Nomiku wifi is also 1.5″. But that number is more meaningful with the Joule, because it can actually sit on the bottom of the container, while the others are really the distance from the bottom of the circulator to the minimum line.
Why would you want to use less water? The obvious reason would be if you’re in a drought area like California, and it seems silly to heat 6 quarts of water to cook a couple of sous vide eggs. But it’s also sometimes nice to be able to have a precisely controlled double boiler, and for that application it helps if the mixing bowl you’re using can actually sit on the bottom so it doesn’t float or capsize. I’ve also done sous vide cooking in Mason jars that are not fully submerged.
The photo above point out a couple of interesting differences between my Anova and my Nomiku. One of the things people didn’t like about the Nom is the external power brick. It’s one of my least favorite parts about it too. But what you can see from the photo part of why the Anova and Nom aren’t waterproof: there are cooling vents on both of them. On the Nom they’re on the power brick, but on the Anova they’re right above the clamp and on the top.
I find myself wondering if some of the complaints about failing units from Anova are related to users getting water in those vents. I’d also note that since the Anova is available on Amazon and is the most popular circulator, it’s going to have more complaints just by mass action.
The setup you use can affect minor issues with how you use your circulator. I like to put my setup next to the sink to simplify filling the box and dumping the water afterward. In our kitchen the distance from the countertop is about 17″, which is a bit less than the current standard of 18″. From what I can tell from looking at various websites, there is a lot of variation from this distance, especially in older kitchens. There’s an under-counter light fixture to the left of the sink that makes the clearance even shorter. The extra bit of space when mounting in the 12 quart Cambro means that the top of the cooker runs into the light fixture. This will be worse with any pot taller than the 8.25″ height of the Cambro. Depending on your countertop material, it’s recommended to put a trivet under the container, so that will add some additional height. The Joule is much smaller than the other circulators out there.
Sweethome loves the clamp on the Anova, because it allows you to do things like this. The Nomiku is too long to clamp to most of our pots, except for the larger stock pots. But I find that the Anova’s screw based clamp makes it harder to move between containers, and to detach when filling or dumping water. I find that I leave the clamp attached and remove the Anova body instead of unclamping the whole thing.
Although I’d seriously consider the Joule if I was just starting with Sous Vide, I’m still very happy with my two circulators. Because the Cambro is my main container, I’m going to keep using the Nomiku as my main machine even though it does have some drawbacks compared to the Anova, such as humming when not running (I can leave the Anova plugged in, but the Nomiku is kind of annoying in standby mode due to the hum; I just unplug it). In addition to the clearance advantage, the Nomiku is a bit more powerful.
Last night I finally got around to stealing an idea from this hack to make the external power brick less annoying. A $3 package of adhesive backed Velcro had 2X what I needed to give the brick a removable mounting point on the Cambro. I also got a folding silicon trivet that matches the Nomiku’s color scheme.