Electric tea kettles are made of stainless steel, plastic or glass. Most use a 1,500-watt heating element located on a base that is detachable from the kettle -- you're not tethered to a cord when serving. Overall, these kettles are fast, many preparing the water in fewer than five minutes. Many are also equipped with water gauges and, in some cases, marks that indicate the minimum amount of water needed for a safe boil. Another common feature is an automatic shut-off; this type of tea kettle won't turn on when there isn't enough water in the chamber to be safely heated.
Other qualities to look for in electric tea kettles include wide spouts that make it easier to pour hot water and refill the kettle, insulated walls that keep the kettle cool to the touch, filters that catch minerals and prevent clogs, and (although not very common) variable-temperature settings. Variable-temperature kettles may also be used to make instant coffee or hot chocolate that require hot -- though not boiling -- water. This type of electric tea kettle commonly has a keep-warm setting that allows water to come to a boil more quickly when the kettle is refilled.
The Chef's Choice Cordless 677 (*Est. $50) gets higher ratings than others in user reviews. It has a brushed stainless-steel finish with a kettle that lifts off its base for a cordless pour. The heating unit is concealed to prevent the buildup of mineral deposits. The Chef's Choice Cordless 677 is named the top pick in a 2008 review on Reactual.com. The author uses this tea kettle to heat tea for a French press, and he says it heats water fully in just under 5 minutes. On the downside, the kettle's exterior becomes slightly warm to the touch, but never hot. The Chef's Choice 677 has a 7-cup capacity.
The Chef's Choice cordless kettle is one of the top-rated tea kettles on several consumer review sites, earning average ratings of 4.5 stars out of 5 on Cooking.com in 40 or more owner-written reviews. Users posting to Amazon.com are also mainly positive; the Chef's Choice Cordless Electric Kettle 677 averages 4 stars out of 5 in more than 225 owner-written reviews. Users like the ease of use, automatic shut-off and concealed heating unit. Negatives cited in user reviews include a hot exterior and a metallic or plastic odor and taste, although there are fewer complaints compared to other electric tea kettles. Two other models in this series -- the Chef's Choice 688 Electric Smart Kettle (*Est. $95) and Chef's Choice Cordless Electric Kettle 678 (*Est. $60) -- are also well received by users. However, the Chef's Choice 677 garners significantly more positive reviews than both of its line-mates.
The Chef's Choice 688 Electric Smart Kettle is one of two adjustable electric kettles earning a recommendation in a recent roundup conducted by one foodie magazine. Editors say it's user-friendly, with an easy-to-read display and intuitive temperature control. It also boils water faster than the magazine's top-rated standard kettle, the Capresso H20 Plus (*Est. $80) . The Chef's Choice 688 has a stainless-steel finish and a 1.75-quart capacity. Features include automatic shut-off and keep-warm mode, as well as a concealed heating element to avoid mineral buildup and a 360-degree swiveling base.
Less than 50 owners posting reviews to Amazon.com contribute to an average rating of 4 stars out of 5; owners say its exterior can become hot to the touch, but most say it boils water efficiently. There are some complaints about the location of the see-through window, which is difficult to read as it's positioned below the handle. Both the Chef's Choice Cordless 677 and Chef's Choice 688 are backed by a one-year manufacturer's warranty.
The Capresso H2O Plus (*Est. $80) has all of the important features in an electric tea kettle and a striking design, and it's a speedy boiler, reviewers say. Since the pitcher itself is made of glass, owners can watch their water boil, and they never have to wonder whether it's boiling or if they have enough water. Users especially like the stainless-steel lid, saying it remains cool to the touch. The Capresso H2O Plus has a 6-cup capacity, about average for electric tea kettles, and it boiled a quart of water in four minutes and 39 seconds in testing -- a comparable boiling time to other electric kettles, but half the time of stovetop kettles. The Capresso H2O Plus kettle has a 39-inch cord that retracts into the unit's detachable base. It shuts off automatically and features an anti-slip handle, as well as ounce and cup measurements on the pitcher. The silver dome lid is available in either a shiny or matte finish. It comes with a one-year limited warranty that does not cover glass breakage.
On the whole, the Capresso H2O Plus receives an average rating of 3.5 stars out of 5 in nearly 430 reviews on Amazon.com. The most common complaint is a plastic taste in the water; a few owners say the silicone/rubber washer that is used to seal the kettle to the heating element gets hot when in contact with boiling water, resulting in an unpleasant taste and smell. A significant number of users say the kettle emitted a foul chemical smell when first turned on; the machine's manual suggests boiling water with vinegar when the machine is new, but one user said this didn't help. Some users who have hard water say that calcium has a tendency to build up on the heating element.
The Zojirushi Micom Water Boiler & Warmer (*Est. $115) earns props from editors at one foodie magazine for its large, 3-liter capacity and ability to maintain hot water temperatures for up to 10 hours. Editors also appreciate its easy dispensing (simply push a button, rather than lift a full kettle) and ease of cleaning, thanks to its removable lid and wide cylindrical shape. However, it takes longer to boil water than stovetop tea kettles, it's large and bulky and comes with a high price tag. Reactual.com praises this model for its pre-programming features; it can be set up to 10 hours in advance to heat water to a designated temperature. It also has a reboil button, which reheats the water at any time to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Owners are also pleased with the Zojirushi Micom Water Boiler & Warmer. More than 70 owners posting reviews to Amazon.com contribute to an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Owners like the four temperature options (208, 195, 175 or 140 degrees Fahrenheit) and LCD temperature readout. Owners agree that it's easy to use and clean, although a few complain that there's no on and off switch.
The Breville Ikon Electric Kettle (*Est. $80) holds slightly more than the Capresso H2O Plus -- 7 cups rather than 6. Other features include an automatic shut-off to prevent dry boiling, a stainless-steel exterior and a plastic handle to allow for a cool pour. User reviews on Amazon.com and Buzillions.com do list some drawbacks. Most complaints involve the outside of the kettle, which tends to get very hot when in use. Several users say the kettle stopped working after a year or seven months. Like many tea kettles, the Breville Ikon Electric Kettle comes with a limited one-year warranty. Overall, more than 335 owners contribute to an average rating of 4 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com; reviews at Buzzillions.com contribute to a comparable average rating in about 35 owner-written reviews.
Although not as stylish as the Capresso H2O Plus electric tea kettle or the Breville Ikon Electric Kettle, the Bodum Ibis Electric Tea Kettle (*Est. $50) is cheaper than other electric kettles. It is made of plastic, is available in four different colors, and has a 7-cup capacity and an automatic shut-off feature. It's also a fast heater. When filled to capacity, the Bodum Ibis Electric Tea Kettle boils in four minutes and 25 seconds, about average for an electric kettle. Reviewers like the larger-than-average capacity, but the plastic material is a big drawback for some. Not only do users dislike the appearance, several owners report the plastic melting around the base or becoming flimsy. Some consumers also express concerns about bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to health issues that is found in some kinds of plastic. However, the manufacturer says the Bodum Ibis Electric Tea Kettle is BPA-free. The Bodum Ibis Electric Tea Kettle comes with a one-year limited warranty.
If you like to make specialty teas -- particularly green tea, which requires a lower water temperature than other teas -- you might consider going with a kettle that has an adjustable temperature feature. The Adagio UtiliTea Variable Temperature Electric Kettle (*Est. $60) has a temperature-control feature that other kettles don't. For that reason, it's getting high praise from users and reviewers. The temperature-control feature allows users to stop the heating process just before boiling.
Reviewers at the foodie site Chow.com and review-driven Reactual.com not only like the temperature control, but also praise the Adagio UtiliTea Variable Temperature Electric Kettle for its stainless-steel carafe, sleek design, plastic stay-cool handle and automatic shut-off. Users from Amazon.com rate the Adagio UtiliTea kettle highly, and it earns an average rating of 4.5 stars (out of 5) in about 120 reviews. Negative comments are few, but some say the power switch is flimsy, and we read a few reports of leaks. In addition, the kettle has a smaller capacity than other kettles, only brewing four cups at a time. The Adagio UtiliTea kettle earns some criticism from one foodie magazine for its small opening, which editors say makes it difficult to clean. Editors also note that it has confusing temperature controls: Instead of numbers, it uses color coding to differentiate temperature settings.
Owners are mostly positive about the Adagio UtiliTea Variable Temperature Electric Kettle, however. Most don't seem to mind the color-coded temperature settings, although a handful of users say the lack of numerical readings makes it less precise. Others contend that they've tested the temperature adjustment and found it to be highly accurate. A few say its exterior gets hot to the touch, but the vast majority of owners say they love its sleek, stainless-steel finish, which looks attractive sitting on a countertop. The Adagio UtiliTea kettle may be hard to find at stores; it is available at Amazon.com, Cooking.com, FoodNetworkStore.com and through the manufacturer's website.
Overall, no electric kettle gets perfect reviews. They all receive some complaints about durability, difficulty pouring or other issues such as a hot exterior. Ultimately, we chose to include the Chef's Choice Cordless Electric Kettle 677 and the Adagio Teas UtiliTea Variable Temperature Electric Kettle for our Best Reviewed section.
Automatic tea brewers boil tea as they heat water and are a relatively new alternative. These electric machines operate much like coffee makers, with a basket where bagged or loose-leaf tea resides while water filters through. Unlike coffee makers, these aren't drip machines; rather, the basket allows the tea to steep until the set temperature is reached. With some models, that temperature can be adjusted according to the type of tea used.
The Adagio Teas IngenuiTea (*Est. $20) is a single-cup loose-tea brewer. You add hot water to it or put it in the microwave. In a comparison of three auto tea brewers by a well-known food magazine, the IngenuiTea was the only brewer recommended in the study because, editors say, it brews a strong cup of tea and does catch loose tea leaves with a very fine strainer. The Adagio Teas IngenuiTea earns top ratings from owners posting to consumer review sites, including RachaelRayStore.com, Cooking.com and Amazon.com. Owners say it's easy to clean and works well with loose tea or tea bags. Many users say they like the Adagio Teas IngenuiTea so much that they have purchased several: one for the home, one for the office, and as gifts.
Nearly 240 user reviews on Amazon.com rate the kettle highly at 4.5 stars out of 5. Many users like the detachable lid that aids in rinsing and the machine's overall ease of cleanup. Some users are unhappy with the size of the brewer, which only makes two cups, and the durability of the filter -- some say it broke when in the dishwasher. Overall, many owners say they're hard pressed to find anything negative to say about the Adagio Teas IngenuiTea.
On the whole, these tea-brewing machines seem fine for users who aren't too demanding. But for others, they don't allow enough control over steeping time or temperature. Steeping tea involves bringing water to a boil, then adding the leaves for a specific amount of time depending on the type of tea and tea drinker's preference. Tea brewers often lack the control to vary steeping time.