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Adjustable Electric Kettles
You could boil water, let it cool, and check with an instant-read thermometer for the perfect cup of tea—or let technology do it for you.
Published Mar. 1, 2010. Appears in Cook's Illustrated March/April 2010, America's Test Kitchen TV Season 11: Coffee Break Sweets
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What You Need To Know
Tea connoisseurs know that lower water temperatures (from 165 to 195 degrees, rather than 212 degrees, or boiling) mean a better brew; similarly, water between 195 and 205 degrees will produce a fuller-bodied, less bitter coffee. While you could boil water, let it cool, and check with an instant-read thermometer, a new breed of electric kettles designed to bring water quickly to a range of different temperatures (and, in some cases, to hold it there) promise to save time and effort, with precise results.
We found five models; all but one boasted automatic shutoff, a separate base for cordless pouring, and a visible water level, features we like in an electric kettle. Four of the five brought water to a boil in less than five minutes, about the same as our favorite standard electric kettle. Our winner wowed us with its ability to hold water at the desired temperature for up to 10 hours, but we balked at its price and its ungainly size. For tea or coffee connoisseurs who don’t mind spending $100, our second place finisher is fast, accurate, and holds water at temperature for up to 40 minutes.
Everything We Tested
Though this “water boiler” took the longest to boil water (even longer than a pot on the stove), it had the highest capacity and held water at a designated temperature for up to 10 hours. Thanks to its cylindrical shape and removable lid, it was a breeze to fill and clean. The dispense button made it easy to get hot water without having to lift a full kettle. This model was the only one with an insulated body that remained only warm to the touch. The easy-to-read digital temperature display, auto shut-off safety, and clear level meter on this model were all pluses, but the high price, counter-hogging size, and clunky appearance gave us pause.
User-friendly, this model boiled water faster than our winning standard electric kettle, the Capresso Silver H20 Electric Kettle ($60). The display is clear and the temperature easy to set. It will hold the water at a set temperature for only 40 minutes before shutting off, but restarting is easy. One drawback: The kettle reached an external temperature of 185 degrees, a burn hazard.
Recommended with reservations
The modest price tag and speedy heating time make this a good option if you don’t mind a few distinct disadvantages. The temperature dial has no numbers, instead offering drawings of squiggly lines over a cup, a design that makes judging temperatures a guessing game. (We finally determined that one squiggly line meant the perfect temperature for delicate teas, while three was a full boil.) This kettle does not hold water at temperature; you must restart the kettle to bring the temperature back up, though this doesn’t take long.
This kettle is easy to set and boils water quickly. It holds water at the set temperature accurately. However, the level meter is inside the unit, forcing you to look inside, over the steamy hot water, to check the water level. Because this level meter runs right into the center of the kettle, leaving little space to maneuver, it made the model difficult to clean.
This kettle boiled water quickly. However, trying to set the right temperature was a challenge, because there are no numbers on the display; you must choose from different-colored bars on a dial. The small opening made cleaning difficult, and the spring-loaded lid sprayed droplets of boiling water on our hands.
Reviews you can trust
Reviews you can trust
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