I'm constantly getting asked what type of sous vide circulator someone should buy. This used to be an easy question to answer because there were only one or two reliable machines but now there are several options, all of which are generally comparable and can get the job done.
I decided to put together this article to help people quickly get an overview of the top circulators. I've focused on the major deciding factors I think are important such as heating power, how loud it is, and the price.
To help with this, I reference a few of our sous vide benchmark tests such as Heating Power (how fast the circulator can heat the water), Sound Level (how much noise does the machine make), and Power Consumption (how much power does the machine use).
I mention if a machine supports WiFi or Bluetooth, which you can learn more about do you need WiFi on your sous vide machine.
All of the following circulators did very good in our Temperature Variability tests, which is the most important criteria for a sous vide machine. They were also all very close in the amount of power they used.
If you are just getting started with sous vide and don't have any specific desires, just buy the recommended circulator below that is currently on sale for the least amount of money, or the one you think looks "coolest". If you want WiFi, just choose from the WiFi-only machines.
Whatever circulator you pick should work great for you, and once you've used it for a few years you'll know more about what you are looking for in the long term.
Here's my top four circulators listed in alphabetical order, any of which I would highly recommend, followed by a few more reputable brands.
Anova was one of the first low-cost immersion circulators and they are now on their 4th machine. They are known for having decent machines that are inexpensive.
The Anova performed poorly in our Heating Power tests but once it got up to temperature it had almost no variability in the temperature and cooks just fine. They also finished tied for last in our Sound Level tests, which may or may not matter to you. Their latest update does increase the cooking power, but we have not been able to test it yet.
While Anova machines seem to break occasionally, their customer service is generally very good at replacing them. They also are one of a handful of companies that currently produce a WiFi version as well as their less expensive bluetooth version though their app is generally considered as confusing to use. After testing a dozen machines, the original Anova is the one my Dad still uses at home.
Gourmia is another provider of circulators that are designed to be inexpensive and just get the job done. It is consistently the least-expensive circulator unless the others are on sale. I also provided the recipes for the accompanying recipe book and smartphone app.
The Gourmia was the winner of the Heating Power test, heating the water in only 16 minutes, beating the 2nd place machine's 20 minutes. The trade-off in heating power was that it finished near the bottom of the Sound Level test.
There is no WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity but the manual controls work well once you get used to them.
The Joule is a new entrant into the sous vide space by the popular website ChefSteps. They took a relatively novel approach to designing a circulator and made a very small one that is only controlled by a smartphone app.
The Joule did very well in our tests, coming in the top 3 in both the Heating Power, Power Consumption and Sound Level tests. It also can easily fit into kitchen drawers because it is so small, so if you have limited counter-space it can help alleviate that problem when it's not in use.
The Joule is WiFi enabled, but the lack of a physical interface can be a hindrance to some people. The associated app is currently the best sous vide machine app available and is pretty intuitive to use.
Sansaire is currently working on an updated model, which is scheduled to come out in 2017, but their original model still works very well and it is one of two machines I currently use at home.
It finished 3rd in our Heating Power test, within 30 seconds of the 2nd place Joule. It also finished 1st in our Sound Level tests, which is nice for small kitchens.
The Sansaire takes up more space in the water bath than other machines and it has no WiFi or Bluetooth capabilities, which might be important to you.
The above circulators are the ones we have tested and use ourselves. However, there are several we have heard good things about that we either haven't been able to test, or we've decided not to personally use. I wanted to share them with you since if you are interested in one, it will probably work just fine for you.
PolyScience makes fantastic circulators which are designed mainly for professional kitchens. If you're the type of person that likes using well-made professional equipment, it might be worth the extra cost to pick up one of their circulators.
Instapot makes many different kitchen appliances and they've just started to make a circulator. I have heard good things about them but have not used one myself.
Nomiku has two circulators, the Classic, which we tested and thought was a pretty good mid-line circulator, though overpriced compared to the competition, and the new WiFi version, which in in the middle of shipping delays.
There are many, many other circulators out there, but those are the ones we feel comfortable recommending. To see all the machines we've testing and reviewed, you can view our Sous Vide Machines article.
What sous vide machine do you use? Let me know in the comments!