UPDATED January 15th 2017!

In this guide buying guide we’ll run over the most important features to look for in a kettle.

We’ll cover the three main types of kettle available, then show you what the must have features to look out for are. We’ll also list the other more premium features you might find on a kettle today.

Lastly we have a Frequently Asked Question section, to answer some of the questions we hear often about kettles.

Types of kettle

Electric Kettles

The most popular type of kettle sold today is the electric kettle. They are usually cordless, with a separate base plate the kettle rests on when boiling (and not in use). The base plate comes with a cable and plug for connection to a power socket. The heating element is hidden inside, and most kettles are rated at around 2000 to 3000 watts. They usually have a tank with a capacity of between 1 and 2 litres.

Stovetop kettles

Stovetop kettles are cheaper than their electric counterparts, but take longer to boil. They do use electricity to operate, and instead must be placed directly on a heat source. Stovetop kettles are produced in a range of different materials, including stainless steel, copper, cast iron and ceramic. Stovetop kettles are more traditional than electric models, and many will whistle when reaching the boil.

Travel kettles

Travel kettles are the third type of kettle, and are smaller electric kettles. They usually come in plastic and are lightweight, and are commonly packed in hand luggage or used in a caravan or motor home.

Some travel kettles support both 110 volt and 220 volt electrical systems, meaning they can be used worldwide.

Important points to consider

Speed

At the top of most people’s list of desirable features when choosing a kettle is the time needed to boil. The faster the better. Most modern electric kettles come equipped with a 2000 to 3000 watt-powered heating element. A 3000 watt kettle will rapidly boil water, and it’s worth getting one of these models if you don’t want to wait around for your hot water.

Capacity

The size of a kettle’s tank determines how much you can water you can boil at the same time. Most kettles nowadays come with a capacity of at least a litre, with a few models ranging up to two litres. Travel kettles typically have a capacity of around half a litre.

You may not need a large capacity when using a kettle to boil water for tea, but it comes in useful when boiling water for cooking. If that’s something you often use your kettle for, or if you regularly find yourself entertaining, a kettle with a large capacity should be considered.

Noise

With the rise of open-plan living the noise a kettle makes when boiling has become more important. The best quiet kettles are much quieter than other models, although the reduced volume often comes with a higher price tag.

Also worth considering when it comes to noise is that some kettles come with automatic beeps to signal the end of the boiling process. Depending on your need, this can be seen as a useful feature or irritating annoyance.

Style

Another key point for many will be what a kettle looks like. Nowadays kettle come in many different materials and colours, from white or black plastic, to brushed aluminium, to shiny red metal. Shapes range from traditional conical to modern rectangular designs.

Other features

Water level indicator

Often overlooked, a water level indicator is an important time saving feature, allowing you to see how much water is in the kettle without opening it.

Cup level indicators

Cup level indicators will show you exactly how much water to put in your kettle to fill the required number of cups. Only boiling the water you need means the kettle can boil the water faster, reducing time and saving you money.

Boil dry protection

Kettles with boil dry protection will automatically cut out if there is not enough water in the device. Running a kettle without water can damage it, sometimes beyond repair.

Lid type

Stovetop kettles tend to come with removable lids, while electric and electric travel kettles usually come with hinged lids, but there are exceptions in both cases. Most people tend to find hinged lids more practical. Some kettles can be filled from the tap via the spout, removing the need to remove or open the lid.

Corded vs cordless

With a corded kettle the power lead connects directly from the wall socket into the kettle. Cordless kettles have a base unit into which the power lead connects to, the kettle itself having no cord. It’s extremely uncommon now to find a corded electric kettle, the exception being travel kettles which are predominantly corded.

Limescale filter

It’s common now for most kettles to include a washable filter, situated at the base of the spout or near to it. Limescale is collected by the filter and stops it from passing into your tea.

Built-in water filter

Not so common is a built-in water filter. These use a replaceable cartridge to filter your water, which can improve the taste. Cartridges usually need to be replaced fairly often, around once every few months.

Keep warm

A keep warm feature will keep the water in your kettle hot after the kettle has boiled. This is handy if you want to start your kettle boiling but won’t be ready to use the kettle for a while, useful perhaps you’ve put the kettle on before getting ready for work. After a pre-set period of time the kettle should automatically stop keeping the water warm – useful if you forget to turn it off manually.

Temperature control

Premium electric kettles now include temperature control features, letting you specify the temperature of the water you want before you start to boil it. This is particularly useful when brewing green or white teas.

Cool-touch walls

Metal kettles can get very hot – hot enough to burn if touched directly. Look out for kettles with cool-touch walls if this is a concern. These kettles insulate their outside (their walls) by separating the inside and outside, helping to keep the exterior cool. It’s also worth pointing out that some kettles are plastic inside and metal on the outside, which can keep a kettle cool too.

Soft grip

A cushioned grip will stay cool even as the kettle gets hot, and will help you pick up and put down your kettle. Soft grips are often made from rubber or silicone, and can also be beneficial for those with special needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What temperature should I boil water at for different types of tea?

There are many factors to brewing the perfect cup of tea, but the most important are the temperature of the water and the steeping time (how long the tea is submerged within the water). Here’s a list of the most common tea types and recommended temperatures and time:

Type of tea
Temperature
Time (loose)
Time (bags)
White tea
70
3
1.5
Green tea
75
1.5
1.5
Oolong tea
80
2.5
1.5

A kettle with a temperature control allows you to specify how hot the water you heat up will be, and is very handy when preparing specialist teas.

How often should I descale my kettle?

It depends on the water hardness in your area. If you live a soft water area you do not need to descale your kettle very often (once a year would be sufficient), but if you live in a hard water area you would want to do this every few months. Take a look at our water hardness table to see if you live in a soft or hard water area.

How do I descale a kettle?

Descaling a kettle is easy, and can be done without specialised or expensive cleaning equipment. All you need is water, vinegar, and, optionally, a lemon or two.

  1. Fill the kettle to the half way point with equal parts water and vinegar.
  2. Boil the kettle.
  3. Leave the water in the kettle to soak for forty five minutes to one hour.
  4. Pour the water away and rinse the kettle.
  5. Fill the kettle with water.
  6. Boil the kettle.
  7. Pour the water away.

Steps 5 to 7 are optional, but we recommend them or your may be left with a slight vinegary after taste.

Another option is to fill your kettle with water and squeeze a lemon into it. Boil, then leave the water in there for half an hour to soak. The kettle should now be completely clean of limescale, and no longer smell of vinegar.

How do I clean a kettle?

Cleaning the exterior of a kettle is simple. Dishwashing liquid can be applied to the kettle and then wiped off with a damp cloth. Alternatively an antibacterial wipe can be used. Care should be taken to not scratch the finish.

If you’ve got a stainless steel kettle, you can put a little olive oil on a cloth and rub it into the outside of the kettle to restore some of the shine.