Coffee lovers love to argue techniques til the cows come home, but there's one incontrovertible fact. You can't make hot coffee (or tea!) without hot water. We checked out some of the newest electric kettles on the market and let me tell you...things got pretty hot around here.
Bonavita Digital Variable Temperature Electric Gooseneck Kettle
If it seems like we're big fans of the Bonavita line of coffee gear around here: we are. This variable temperature water kettle (and what a mouthful the name is!) has been on the market since last year, but it's the first time we've had a chance to spend some quality time with it. Offering the option of pre-set temperatures ideal for brewing different kinds of tea, or, your own to-the-degree custom temperature, this all-metal kettle wins on nearly every count except speed.
We loved the temperature customization and versatility, but this kettle took a surprisingly long amount of time to reach boiling—nearly 6 minutes—compared to the others. Other drawbacks? The temperature adjustments are unintuitive, and the protective plastic shield (suggested for use in commercial settings) made me wonder how fragile the controls really are. That said, with its gooseneck spout, there's really no better choice for an electric kettle for making pourover coffee (Hario V60, Chemex, Kalita) at this price-point—especially if you want to boil water for a cup of green tea from time to time, too. Works in Fahrenheit and Celsius.
Capacity: 1.0L Time to boil: about 6 minutes Variable temperature settings: Yes
Available for $79 from Amazon and other retailers.
If your water-heating needs don't require a special pouring spout (for instance, if you mostly make tea, or brew coffee in a method like French press, Aeropress or Clever), the Capresso teaC100 is a really nice variable temperature, glass kettle that performs well. Dial the cute blue LED to one of the five pre-sets—212°F for black tea, 195°F for oolong, 175°F for white tea, 160°F for green tea and a 100°F "Warm" setting—and wait for your water to heat in a quick 4 minutes and change. The footprint's a bit big, but it's made up for by the charmingly '80s graphic treatment (I feel sort of like I saw this in a Service Merchandise catalog) on the controls. Works well, works fast, holds a lot of water, and is reasonably attractive on the counter.
Capacity: 1.4L Time to boil: ~4.5 minutes Variable temperature settings: Yes
Available for $89 from Amazon and other retailers
Krups Personal Tea Maker
And then...there's this. Krups' "personal" tea kettle is a specialty entry into the electric kettle market, with a 1-liter capacity and a built in tea infuser that doesn't make sense when you first look at it. This orb-shaped oddity is made to steep your tea while it heats your water, drawing the hot water up to the infuser chamber (which recommends you fill it with an amount of either loose or bagged tea) to create a personal-sized pot of tea. There's no choosing which temperature to set it at, but then again, it also doesn't really appear to get up to a boil. We found the water to be around only 160°F after a good six minutes. Confusing! Spherical! Perhaps the instruction manual could have come in handy here with brewing suggestions, but it didn't.
Capacity: 1 L Time to boil: Doesn't really seem to boil Variable temperature settings: No Also: Infuses tea
Available for $63 from Amazon and other retailers.
Bodum Bistro 1.1L Double-Walled Glass Kettle
We've used the ubiquitous smaller, all-plastic versions of these colorful kettles before, but were excited at the opportunity to try this large, double-walled glass model. Strangely, this kettle took up more physical space than other kettles with the same or more capacity, with the added complication of having such a wide handle it was hard to get my tiny grip around it. The double-walled glass and choice of kettle colors make this appealing, but don't be fooled by the apparent size, or theoretical ease of use. It's clunky—and expensive, too.
Capacity: 1.1L Time to boil: ~4.5 minutes Variable temperature settings: No
Available for $100 from Amazon and other retailers.
(Just for the record, all of these kettles came with counter-space cord-control saving wraparound storage in the bases, and none of them had good instruction manuals.)
Product samples were provided for review consideration.