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This is a detailed review of the Nomiku, an inexpensive immersion circulator initially funded by an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. This circulator, attached to a suitable container, will provide an excellent water bath for sous vide cooking. If you are interested in getting involved with sous vide cooking, this review will give you all of the information you need to determine if the Nomiku is the right immersion circulator for your needs.
Since reviewing the leading Inexpensive Immersion Circulators several years ago, I have recently been able to do some additional hands-on testing with the Nomiku. At the time of this writing there were 187 customer reviews on Amazon for the Nomiku with a rating of 3.6. This compares to a rating of 4.5 (381 reviews) for the Anova Precision Cooker, 4.7 (549 reviews) for the Anova One and 4.6 (95 reviews) for the Sansaire Immersion Circulator.
If you're not into details you can go directly to my Nomiku Summary and catch all the highlights of my analysis.
Long before top chefs in the United States started using sous vide cooking in their high-end restaurants, it was a mainstay of the culinary scene abroad. Today sous vide methods are also employed by many casual eating establishments, such as Chipotle and Panera Bread. One of the biggest advantages of sous vide is the ability to hold perfectly cooked food for a longer period before serving, without drying out or over-cooking.
With today's easy to use and readily available low cost machines, sous vide cooking is quickly becoming entrenched as a basic home cooking technique option. It only takes a little bit of knowledge to demystify and understand the differences between sous vide and traditional cooking equipment and concepts. If you are new to this method, get a jump start by first reading through the Beginners' Guide to Sous Vide for a comprehensive overview.
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The chart below lists the basic specifications for the Nomiku. Please refer to this as necessary as I highlight some of the specifications.
Nomiku marketing literature often refers to the small size of the unit making it easier to use and store. This is true that the heating unit itself is relatively small and easy to manipulate.
Unfortunately, you have a power box which is 4.25" x 4.25" x 1.63" (10.80 x 10.80 x 4.13 cm) and weighs approximately 9 ounces (255 g) tethered to this unit with a thick power cord. Since this also needs to be manipulated and stored I find that the Nomiku doesn't have any real advantage over most other immersion circulators from a size standpoint.
Similar to all immersion circulators the Nomiku has a minimum level indicator which requires the water in the bath to be above it and a maximum level indicator which requires the water to be below it. Each of these levels has an associated sensor which will shut the unit down if the water level is not between the two sensors. Although most people don't pay much attention to the location of these indicators, they may have a significant impact on the usability of the circulator. Moreover, the distance between the two indicators is perhaps the most important parameter.
Typically the spacing between these two levels on most circulators is around 3.5" (8.89 cm). Unfortunately, the spacing between these indicators on the Nomiku is only 1.25" (3.18 cm). This requires that the user be much more attentive to carefully watching the water level during the cooking time.
For example, on a long sous vide cook in a moderate size water bath the level could easily drop below the minimum level several times. This would require the user to regularly monitor the water level and add water when necessary. Another possible problem could arise at the beginning of a cook when you have filled the water bath so the level is above the minimum marking and heated the water to the target temperature. Then if you were to add numerous items to the bath to be cooked it's possible that the water level could rise above the maximum level.
Clearly this is not a showstopper, but it does require the user to more closely monitor the water level since there is much less of a margin for error than with other circulators.
The Nomiku uses a sturdy spring-loaded clip with a silicon grip. The biggest advantage to the clamp is that it's very easy and quick to attach the unit to the side of the water bath. It is also possible to use it on a wide variety of water bath containers.
The clamp does not open quite as wide as most other circulators which might eliminate using the device on a container with a thick side such as an ice chest. I've also seen occasional complaints from users that the clamp slides down the side of the container during the cook which can obviously cause problems.
Over the last few years the popularity of sous vide cooking has increased significantly. This is due in large part to the availability of low cost, high quality, immersion circulators. Fortunately for sous vide enthusiasts like us, the competition in this market has really heated up. In addition to the Nomiku circulator, Anova and Sansaire have also brought inexpensive immersion circulators to market. Taking a different approach Sous Vide Supreme and Caso provide a dedicated water bath. All of these companies are competing to obtain market share in this growing movement.
Initially Nomiku priced the immersion circulator at $300 which was $100 more than the competition. They have recently dropped the price to $200 which makes them more competitive from a pricing standpoint. However, the newly released Anova Precision Cooker is now priced at $20 below them at $180. You can expect to see the pricing of all of the immersion circulators being lowered over time as they fight for market share and fine-tune their manufacturing costs.
There is one factor that does not show up in the Basic Specifications table but may be very important to some buyers - safety. This is one area where the Nomiku has differentiated itself from its competitors. The Nomiku has several safety-related features described below.
The Nomiku immersion circulator has earned the ETL Mark and conforms to UL STD 1026. This indicates that the device has been tested and certified by two different independent testing organizations to be in compliance with published industry safety standards. This is a time-consuming and expensive process which has not been done by other immersion circulator manufacturers. These certifications are not legally required but if you are safety conscious you may want to weigh this factor heavily in your purchasing decision.
If during a sous vide cook the power is lost the Nomiku will resume at the same temperature that was set before the shut off. In addition the "Power Loss" icon, a lightning bolt with a line through it (see image below), will notify you that the food may have been below the target temperature during that period.
This could be very important information especially if the temperature of the bath dropped into the "danger zone" for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, if you have been away from the water bath for an extended period of time there's no way to know what may have happened in your absence. Therefore the only option would be to assume the worst and abort the dish.
When you adjust the temperature on the Nomiku to get to your target temperature, a warning icon will appear and the readout turns orange (see image above) to let you know that you are in the FDA danger zone between 40 - 126°F (4.44 - 52.22°C). This is an excellent visual reminder to set the temperature above this critical zone.
The Nomiku immersion circulator is the only one that uses a separate "Power Box" rather than putting those electronics in the immersion unit itself. The designers claim they have done this in order to keep the high-voltage components away from the water bath itself. Consequently, they would argue that this makes the Nomiku a safer circulator to work with.
However, personally I don't know that the power box approach is any safer. Consider that the heavy power cord from the immersion unit to the power box is 20" (50.8 cm) long and where it comes out of the immersion unit is typically around 12" (30.48 cm) above the countertop. That means that the "Power Brick" is typically located on the counter approximately 6" (15.24 cm) from the water bath container. In my experience water often spills onto this area. This normally happens when: filling the water container, removing a Ziploc bag from the water bath, and taking the lid off the water bath. So there is certainly a chance that water could spill onto the power box.
The Nomiku designers have taken a fairly unique approach to the Nomiku's heating element. It is a powerful 1150 w element that purportedly "will never burn out".
If safety is an important purchasing factor for you then you should carefully consider these features that are available on the Nomiku immersion circulator.
The primary function of a sous vide water bath is to maintain a precise low temperature during the entire duration of the cooking cycle, which could be minutes or days. There are numerous factors that go into determining how well the Nomiku Immersion Circulator performs this function. Please refer to the chart below as needed as you read through this section.
The Nomiku has performance characteristics similar to other immersion circulators. It will work well in water bath containers up to about 5 gallons (20 L). The pump is slightly less powerful than the competition but the Nomiku's heating element at 1150 watts leads the field of inexpensive circulators.
I have found that the Nomiku is a bit noisier than other immersion circulators I've tested. One little annoying thing is that as soon as you plug in the unit the fan in the power box turns on creating a low hum. This noise is present even if the circulator itself is not switched on. Once you do turn on the circulator the sound of the impeller pumping the water adds to the noise level of the device.
Since the immersion circulators are all sold on Amazon it is a valuable resource to determine what other users think of the unit they purchased. Unfortunately the Nomiku is rated approximately one star lower than the other immersion circulators. I read through the reviews and there were two problems that were mentioned numerous times.
The issue listed most often was a lack of reliability. Frequently the unit would break in some form relatively soon after it was put in use. To a lesser extent other reviewers complained about receiving product that was clearly not new. It's unfortunate that these two issues occurred more often than you would expect of a quality product. When the unit did work reviewers almost always rated it as five stars.
The Nomiku is very intuitive and easy to use. The user interface is comprised of a touchscreen and a rotating knob. One of the reasons the Nomiku interface is simplified is that it does not have a timer and therefore does not require the additional capability to set it.
In order to start a sous vide cook you plug in the unit to a three-pronged plug and the Nomiku "o" will appear dimly in the display. In order to start the unit you press on the screen and it will then begin to circulate. Initially the screen will display the current water temperature as the large number and the set temperature as the smaller number below it. If you want to switch the display from Celsius to Fahrenheit or vice versa just lightly tap the screen.
Simply turn the green knob to set the target temperature. Turn right (clockwise) to increase the temperature and left to decrease it. One thing I like about the Nomiku is that the faster you turned the knob the quicker the temperature increments. This allows you to get to your target temperature quickly and accurately. As mentioned above those temperatures that fall in the bacterial growth zone or FDA "Danger Zone" will appear in orange so proper precautions can be taken.
The temperature unit and set temperature will disappear when the target temperature is reached. Simply tap the screen or turn the knob to show them again. Once the sous vide cook is completed you can turn the Nomiku off by pressing on the screen and hold it for three seconds.
The factors I have discussed thus far have been primarily objective in nature. However, there are a few factors that are more subjective. I will present my view of them in this section. Since they are subjective by nature you may totally disagree with my assessment - which is fine. But these are at least factors that you may want to consider as part of your purchasing decision.
The Nomiku is a bit more stylish than some immersion circulators who looked more like laboratory equipment. The smaller size, smoothly curved neck and simple green knob give the Nomiku a friendly appearance.
The Nomiku's most unique design feature is the power box. They are the only manufacturer that has taken that approach to handling the electronics of the immersion circulator. The marketing folks at Nomiku present this as a safety feature of their product.
Personally, I believe it was probably the worst design decision they made. It is another piece that you need to worry about positioning when both using and storing the device. It is also another source of noise created by the Nomiku. Fortunately the designers have rethought this design decision and went with a more conventional one piece unit for their follow-on product.
Unlike some of the immersion circulators you cannot access the submerged portions of the device for easy cleaning. If you have experienced a sous vide pouch leaking during a long cook you can appreciate the importance of this issue.
Like many "high-tech" products it is sometimes prudent to wait until the next version comes out before making your purchase since it may contain additional features. I will share with you what I know regarding future products in this section.
As you would suspect Anova Culinary announced a new version of the Precision Cooker at CES 2015. The new unit will be called the "Anova Touch" because it is going to feature a full color capacitive touchscreen which will provide a look and feel similar to their smartphone app interface.
It also sounds like the head of the device will pivot making it easier to view from a variety of angles. Arguably the most important new feature may be the inclusion of a Wi-Fi connection replacing the current Bluetooth one. Obviously, this will allow the remote connection to be much more useful since you be able to communicate with the device from just about anywhere. Pricing and the delivery schedule is yet to be determined.
Nomiku launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring their next circulator to market. It is referred to as "WiFi Nomiku" and boasts a WiFi connection as one of its important new features. Using their "Tender" app, anyone can create, share, and send sous vide recipes with the time and temperature directly to the WiFi Nomiku.
It appears the design has been simplified some and that they plan on providing 1200 W of power, 8 L/minute pump speed, and a much lower minimum immersion depth (1.5") in the new unit.
I have not heard of a redesigned version of the Sansaire circulator coming to market in 2015. However, if you know that they are working towards a new device I would appreciate it if you added some information in the comments.
Nomiku is perhaps best known for its wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. However, when they brought their product to market with a price $100 more than the competition their sales suffered. Their biggest differentiators are safety and power but these were viewed by most purchasers as not important enough to justify the additional cost. The Nomiku is now priced more competitively but is competing against the second-generation of the Anova which is still less expensive and has wireless conductivity to a smartphone app.
I am really looking forward to getting my hands on the WiFi Nomiku because from what I have read it should be a very competitive new entrant to the market. It has the possibility of surpassing the competition in both features and pricing. And it is the only immersion circulator that mounts on the "near" side of the water bath container.
I believe it's awesome that the popularity of sous vide cooking continues to increase at a rapid rate. This growth has encouraged numerous companies to develop products for this emerging market. This competition has led to sous vide solutions with higher quality and lower cost, which greatly benefits sous vide cooking enthusiasts.
Most of the sous vide solutions available in the market will provide the capability, capacity, and accuracy most of us need to successfully cook sous vide. We are all in that enviable position that it would be hard to make a "poor" purchasing decision. If you are purchasing a unit right now I still recommend the Anova Precision Cooker as my immersion circulator of choice. However, if you can wait a little while it will be interesting to see how the WiFi Nomiku and the WiFi Anova Precision Cooker compare.
Happy sous viding!