Nothing brings out the human being's poignant lack of qualifications for existence faster than a banal job like getting the juice out of citrus fruit. Present the human being with an orange, for example, and you'll see her or him rolling, cutting, reaming, pressing, squeezing, straining and pouring.
The human being might use simple, unevolved tools for this process -- a cutting implement, a hand -- or the human may bring forth the whole technological arsenal -- whirring, menacing electrical tools that would juice your hand too if they had a chance. Monkeys know how to get into coconuts because they need coconuts to survive; why then, given the human's need for grapefruit sorbet and fresh-squeezed orange juice, were humans not given reamers for hands? Or at least reamer attachments?
To begin at the very beginning, if all you need to do is get a few drops of lemon juice out of a lemon, you just roll the citrus around between your hand and the counter first (this goes for all smallish fruit; it seems to soften the pulp and make it give up its juice more easily),then squeeze.
There are even small metal devices that will penetrate the fruit and let you squeeze out the juice drop by drop. This way you don't have to cut the fruit in half and let it dry out when all you wanted was a drop. You can leave the device -- usually called simply a juicer in kitchenware and hardware stores -- in the fruit until you need juice again.
For reasons having to do with the mass appeal of television and the Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, an old-fashioned wooden reamer has recently become wildly popular. It does work, but then it's worked practically forever. It's shaped like a cone with a bulbous handle. You cut the fruit in half, push the cone into the fruit and rotate. The juice pours out.
Although it's prettier, in a homey sort of way, than the plastic reamer that everybody knows about, I can't see that it works any better. Both kinds produce juice including pulp and seeds and both kinds require an equal amount of human energy.
The plastic kind -- onto which you fit the upside down citrus half and then rotate -- may even be more efficient, especially if you get the kind that fits over the top of a small bowl or measuring cup. The self-contained kind, which includes its own little bowl, usually has measuring marks around the sides but they are always practically impossible to see.
There are also a couple of hand juicers on the market, but very difficult to find, that require a squeeze of one hand to juice half a lemon or lime. The fruit simply fits between the two halves of a press, which you close. They are the perfect mechanical tool for getting a few tablespoons of juice -- if you can find them.
But suppose you need the big guns. You like fresh citrus juice, whether it's for sorbet or juice, and squeezing three dozen oranges by hand on a Sunday morning does not fit your image of yourself.
The first thing to consider is a citrus-juicer attachment for your food processor. Cuisinart makes a very simple, workable juicer that has a distinct advantage over other electrical juicing devices: it comes with two plastic inserts that fit both large and smaller citrus. Most electrical juicers choose the middle road and include cones sized to fit oranges. Larger fruit are less of a problem in this case than lemons and limes, which tend to split apart and fly all over the place if they're on a whirring cone that is too large.
The Cuisinart juicer attachment, like all electrical juicers, turns the reaming device for you; instead of your twisting the fruit on the reamer, the reamer itself turns. All you do is press lightly. It is easy to attach to the machine and easy to use. It's as easy to clean as any electrical juicer and, at a retail price of about $45, costs the same as or slightly less than comparable, independently operated electrical juicers.
The one problem that all electrical juicers share is a certain over-eagerness, an aggressive quality that makes them want to gobble up the bitter membrane as well as the sweet juice and pulp. This is not too big a deal; it's just something to pay attention to when you're using the machine.
Other electrical juicers are made by Krups and Braun, among others, and they are well made machines but unremarkable. Pay attention to the size container you need -- if you regularly make orange juice for eight, some of these machines will be frustratingly small.
For those juice-makers who appreciate a certain clunky esthetic, consider the outrageously expensive ($200) but mechanically beautiful Hamilton Beach citrus press. This machine has an old-fashioned chic similar to that of the KitchenAid mixer. It's round, unsleek and distinctly authoritative-looking.
The Hamilton Beach acts authoritative too. As with the KitchenAid mixer, if you buy one you can confidently put it in your will. In the case of this mechanical citrus press, a lever does the work for you. You lay the fruit down over the reamer, rotate the handle which lowers the press and with very little effort you have juice.
In terms of human energy output, there's slightly more required here than with electrical juicers. This machine will never, however, mistake membrane for pulp as electrical juicers sometimes can.
The Hamilton Beach appeals only to a certain narrow, electricity-shy segment of the market, but that segment is very loyal.
There are many cheaper (though still expensive; some cost as much as $100) versions of this machine on the market, but they will likely be disappointing. The effort required to operate these cheaper machines is much greater, they are harder to clean and they tend to wobble.
It's better to buy a less pure but more efficient electrical juicer than to compromise on quality here