Kettle reviews: Features explained
Features which can help make tea breaks a pleasure, not a chore. They'll either save you time when using or cleaning your kettle, or make it more comfortable to lift and pour.
Cordless versus Corded
Most kettles are now 'cordless'. The power cord attaches to a separate power base so you're not restricted by the length of the cord when filling and pouring. Cord lengths for most kettles on test range from 65cm to 80cm, but they can be up to 1m – useful if your power socket is in an inconvenient location.
Most kettles can hold between 1.5 and 1.7 litres of water. On average, a large cup or mug is about 250ml, so you can boil up to 6-7 cupfuls at a time.
If your household is small, or your worktop has limited space, consider one of the smaller kettles.
The power of a kettle ranges from about 2.2kW to 3kW – higher wattage kettles are more powerful and so boil faster. As a general rule, kettles with a wattage of 3kW are classed as rapid boil, although within this category we found the performance varies.
Each of our kettle reviews tells you how long it took to boil a litre of water.
360 degree base
A 360 degree base means you can replace the kettle on the base to face in any direction, and most have space for cable storage underneath. Most manufacturers say kettles should be removed from the power base before filling - obvious if you fill your kettle with water from the tap, but not if you use filtered water from a jug.
Most of the kettles on test have concealed elements making them easier to clean, but there are still some exposed element kettles available.
Boil dry protection
This automatically turns the kettle off if it doesn't contain enough water.
Some kettles claim this feature, but don't actually explain how quiet they need to be to have this description. Look for our noise ratings for each kettle, as we've tested noise levels in our labs.
Comfort and safety
Soft touch handle
A soft rubberised area on the handle can make it more comfortable to grip and lift.
Weight and balance
Metal kettles are generally heavier than those with plastic bodies – in our tests one metal kettle was double the weight of a similar-sized plastic one. The position and shape of the handle can affect the balance when pouring and filling.
Opening the lid of your kettle isn’t exactly hard labour, but it takes even less effort to fill the kettle through a generously-proportioned spout.
Cool touch walls
Some kettles have an insulated body so that the outside remains cool enough to touch even when the water inside is boiling.
Water level gauge
All models have a recommended minimum amount of water for boiling, but not every model on test had the minimum level clearly marked.
For right- and left-handed households, look for water level windows on both sides of the kettle. If there is a window under the handle make sure the graduations are still visible when you’re holding the handle during filling.
Some models have a built-in water filter to save having a separate water filter jug which you use to fill your kettle. Water is poured into a top container and then filters through into the main body of the kettle. They use replaceable cartridges which generally last one to two months between changes.
This refers to the mesh filter in the spout. It should be easy to remove for cleaning purposes and the mesh should be fine enough and well-fitting to stop any limescale getting into your cup.
Most kettles have some sort of illumination to show when they're switched on.
The most basic types are a simple red light, but recently illuminating blue switches have been all the rage. Glowing water gauges or bases are common.
To persuade you to part with even more cash some kettles now include dazzling light shows - top of the range kettles now often illuminate the entire transparent body of the kettle. The colour changes from blue to red as the water boils, or even cycles through the rainbow.
None of these things adds any benefit to your kettle apart from aesthetic appeal.
Some kettles let you alter the temperature the water is heated to. Some hot drinks, such as coffee or speciality teas, are best made with water of around 90 to 95 degrees.
This facility keeps the water in the kettle warm after you've boiled it so the kettle can re-boil more quickly.
But they use more energy keeping a litre of water warm for 30 minutes and then re-boiling it than would be used to simply re-boil it after a 30-minute wait. So unless you really can't wait a few moments longer for your Bovril, it's best to boil only the amount of water you need each time.