By Tessa Cunningham for the Daily Mail
Published: 17:11 EST, 29 April 2015 | Updated: 09:12 EST, 30 April 2015
Bill Russell and Peter Hobbs invented the automatic electric kettle 60 years ago. But now a phone-controlled one has been launched.
How good is it? And how does it match up to other kettles? Tessa Cunningham finds out...
BEST FOR SAVING A RELATIONSHIP
Smarter wifi-kettle, £99.99, firebox.com
I couldn’t wait to try this kettle, which you programme from the comfort of your bed. At last, no more squabbles with my partner over whose turn it is to get out of bed and put the kettle on.
It takes fewer than five minutes to download the app on my phone (the kettle works on Android 4+ and Apple iOS7+.) Next morning my partner is agog as I sweetly ask if he’d like a cuppa, then press the button on my screen.
The phone beeps to tell me the kettle has boiled, then asks if I’d like to snooze for a bit longer — the kettle will keep the water warm for up to 20 minutes. Sure enough, when I finally stroll downstairs the water’s still piping hot. My partner is desperate to try the kettle for himself. Result!
I try the same trick during Poldark, programming the kettle from the sofa so I don’t miss a second. Hooray.
Yes, it’s pricey but this sleek model has all you’d expect from a kettle and more: huge 1.8-litre jug, limescale filter, four temperature settings and a keep-warm mode. The only thing missing is a window so you can see how much water is inside.
BOILS 4 CUPS: 2 MIN 10 SEC
BEST FOR TEA WITH THE VICAR
Swan Vintage, £29, amazon.co.uk
This offers no mod cons but if you drink your tea from a dainty bone china cup and saucer, then it’s definitely the kettle for you.
With its pretty cream-coloured dome, it doesn’t just look as though the vicar is about to pop round any second, it’s so quaintly old- fashioned that even the markings on the window — all in cups — are a step back in time. But the maximum, four cups, turns out to mean a meagre 800ml. In my house that’s barely enough for two mugs.
I decide to ignore the markings — just as well, as they are so hard to read I have to shine a torch on the window just to see how full it is. It is also one of the noisiest kettles we tried — akin to a jet engine during take-off.
BOILS 4 CUPS: 2 MIN 50 SEC
BEST FOR SAVING ELECTRICITY
Vektra 1.7 litre kettle £69.99, lakeland.co.uk
The makers of the world’s first thermal-insulated electric kettle boast that their cunning combo of kettle and Thermos flask will slash your electricity bills.
Once it has boiled, the inner skin is supposed to keep water piping hot for up to four hours, so you are not constantly re-boiling cold water from scratch. However, I reckon you get the worst of both worlds.
When I tried the water three hours after boiling, it was little more than tepid. The last time I had tea this grim was on an EasyJet flight.
It takes an age to boil — it’s the slowest kettle we tried. It also has none of the things that are standard in most kettles: a limescale filter and a window on the outside to tell you how much water is inside.
It’s even difficult to pour — you need to press down on a lever and the water dribbles out. What a disappointment.
BOILS 4 CUPS: 3 MIN 48 SEC
Asda George at Home, £12, asda.co.uk
This no-nonsense, 1.7-litre kettle has none of the flash gizmos of some of its rivals. But if all you want is to boil water speedily and efficiently, it’s hard to beat.
You get a removable limescale filter and clever dual water windows so you can see how full your kettle is from any angle. It’s energy efficient — the markings start at one cup (310ml) — so you don’t waste time and money boiling more water than you need.
It’s attractive to look at, too, and the wipe-clean plastic won’t show watermarks.
On the downside, it’s the noisiest we tried — but at barely a tenth of the price of some of its posh rivals, I’m not complaining.
BOILS 4 CUPS: 2 MIN 38 SEC
BEST FOR FILTERING WATER
Breville Brita Filter Kettle VKJ594, £30, johnlewis.com
If, like me, you live in a hard-water area, you’ve probably tried a Brita filter jug to make your drinking water taste better. So a kettle with a built-in Brita filter — promising to get rid of limescale and chlorine for a nicer-tasting cuppa and a cleaner kettle — sounds ingenious.
However, my doubts set in as the tap water drips agonisingly slowly through the filter. Worse, the filter takes up so much room, I can boil only one litre at a time, compared with 1.7 litres in rival kettles. That’s not even enough water for four mugs of tea — hopeless for the average family. If you are entertaining, forget it.
Although the kettle is one of the cheapest to buy that we tried, the running costs are high, as Brita recommends you replace the filter every month at about £5 a time. A window on the lid counts down the length of time you have left from first use. Personally, I’d rather have a separate water filter.
BOILS 4 CUPS: 2 MIN 24 SEC
BEST FOR TEA CONNOISSEURS
Sage by Heston Blumenthal Smart Kettle, £89.99, lakeland.co.uk
For those like Gwyneth Paltrow who simply can’t live without a cup of speciality tea (in her case Oolong, a Chinese brew), this is the kettle for you.
Apparently different tea leaves need to be steeped at different temperatures, so this kettle has five settings — marked Oolong, Green Tea, White Tea, Coffee and Black Tea — so you can select which type of drink you are making. After heating to the appropriate temperature for the individual beverage, the kettle then turns itself off and will keep the water at this temperature for 20 minutes.
If, like me, you prefer good old-fashioned builder’s tea, then you may object to paying a shade under £100 just to get the perfect brew.
‘Coffee and tea release lots of bitter compounds if they are put into water that’s too hot,’ warns Heston fiercely. Well, that’s me told.
Typical of science-mad Heston, the measures are all mathematically accurate (rather than in cup numbers), going from 500ml to the maximum 1.7 litres.
Designed and made in Australia, the kettle has been superbly engineered, from the lid that glides open at the press of a button to the crystal-clear viewing window which lets you watch your water boil to the perfect temperature.
However, it’s not particularly fast, my PG Tips tasted no better and the stonking price left a nasty taste in my mouth.
BOILS 4 CUPS: 2 MIN 52 SEC
Russell Hobbs Legacy, £49.99, homebase.co.uk
To mark the birthday of the first automatic electric kettle (which turned itself off rather than boiling dry) in 1955, Russell Hobbs have brought out this stunning cream Retro model. It looks fantastic on my worktop but it’s the gadget equivalent of Downton Abbey’s Lady Rose — gorgeous to look at but useless in the kitchen.
You need a magnifying glass to read the water levels. There are only three markings — 4 cups, 6 cups and full (1.7 litres). So although the makers boast that it will boil one cup in just 55 seconds, it’s impossible to test this.
Just like Rose it’s temperamental, too. On the third boil it didn’t cut out and carried on boiling madly until I switched it off manually. On the plus side, the huge spout pours beautifully and it’s pretty quiet.
BOILS 4 CUPS: 2 MIN 3 SEC
BEST FOR INSTANT BOILING
InSinkErator 3N1Tap, £799, insinkerator.co.uk
If you are honestly so pushed for time that you can’t be bothered to wait for the kettle to boil, this gizmo is perfect.
As well as normal hot and cold taps, you get a third tap which gives instant filtered hot water up to 98C.
A tank that fits under your sink stores 2.5 litres of water, plumbed in from the mains and kept heated constantly by an electric element. So justs grab a mug, pop in a teabag, turn on the tap and, hey presto, it dispenses water at 98 degrees — perfect for a cuppa.
Common in America, these taps claim to use less energy than a 40 watt bulb. But you’ll have to drink an awful lot of tea to make the investment worth while.
BOILS 4 CUPS: 5 SEC
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