One of the most used appliances in the Australian home has to be the kettle, thanks to our obsession with tea, but has this trusted appliance really changed over the past few years, and when should you be worried about replacing it?
Just like in many homes across this great nation of ours, the kettle is a staple in the GadgetGuy kitchen. When we’re not making a cup of coffee, we’re boiling water for a lovely cuppa, with tea on the agenda alongside bikkies (cookies for our American friends) solving the headache at just the right time.
And really, there’s never a wrong time for tea, whether you’re struggling to pay attention at work, having a break from driving, or taking an intergalactic trip across to the restaurant at the end of the universe (paging the late great Douglas Adams).
But while tea is lovely and brilliant and should never be avoided, has that very thing we use to make tea changed over the years? And do we ever need to replace it?
According to the experts, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes.
“In the last 10 years there have been a number of significant changes in kettle design,” said Richard Hoare, Breville’s Design and Innovation Director, pointing to changes in design and appearance, with colour and glass kettles achieving new popularity over simple looks, with water windows also a big deal.
“It’s important to have water windows on both sides [for left or right handed use], and not under the handle,” said Hoare.
Engineering advances have also played a part, with many of the brands and models offering temperature control, thanks to the temperature variations playing a part in making tea.
“Temperature control has become mainstream,” said Hoare, adding that “now you can buy kettles that will heat to a variety of temperatures. This reflects the growing understanding that different beverages are best brewed at different temperatures: 80°C for green tea, 90°C for oolong, 95°C for coffee.”
“This allows for personal preference and an amazing improvement in flavour – especially in specialty teas. Reaching lower temperatures also uses less energy,” he said.
Temperature changes are but one part of the equation, however, as Monika Kamienowska, Product Manager for Home Appliances at Russell Hobbs points out.
“The classic designs out in the market have also had some advancements to make them more efficient in boiling, along with technologies such as Quiet Boil and also perfect pouring spouts for drip free pouring,” she said.
Good to know is that most electric kettles in Australia are created equal, and that’s because 2400 watts is the maximum amount of power they can use. Stove-top kettles might heat at a different speed, and these are more popular overseas, especially in America, but Breville’s Richard Hoare tells us that all electric kettles in Australia “are all about the same” from that speed perspective.
But one question we don’t think about is replacement.
When is the right time to replace the old kettle? Is it the obvious one of when it starts to leak, or when the bottom electric element just decides to pack it in?
We’d say the death or demise of the kettle is an obvious one, especially if it’s beginning to rust or succumb to limescale, with the latter of these able to be dealt with by leaving vinegar inside for an hour or so.
That said, if you’re planning a new kitchen, that might be the ideal time to go with a new tea maker.
“The best time to replace a kettle is when you are looking to restyle your kitchen,” said Russell Hobbs’ Kamienowska. “With appliances being more and more of a fashion accessory in the kitchen, replacing your kettle allows you to bring a new look to your kitchen. They can offer sophisticated looks, flare, colour and even retro styling to warm up your kitchen.”
Another option is if you’re upgrading, or you’re becoming more serious about your tea. If tea selection is more about flavour and scent than just whatever’s on special that week, a specific tea maker could be the go, steeping the tea for a specific time and temperature, more than just boiling water for that time.
Beyond this, we’re told it’s more or less about the quality of the kettle, with the length of time it will last often determined by the materials used, the design, and even how much you pay.
“There is a large variation in the quality of materials, construction and durability of kettles,” said Breville’s Richard Hoare.
“Price is one way for the consumer to assess this,” he said, adding “going with an established brand is also a good idea. Stainless [steel] and glass will last longer than plastic, assuming you don’t break the glass.”
That said, you might get lucky. Some el-cheapo kettles (and other appliances) can last much longer than you might otherwise expect.
Ultimately, it comes down to luck, amount of use, and then, of course, construction and quality, with measures from each column, so if you’re in the market for a kettle, evaluate what you’re looking for — just a water boiler or a proper tea maker — and work out which kettle matches both budget and where it will be, and then decide from there.