Hot water dispensers: how to buy the best
By Matt Clear
Thinking of buying a hot water dispenser instead of a kettle? Our buying guide tells you what you need to know.
Hot water dispensers give you a cupful of hot water at the push of a button, and are an alternative to using a kettle. Find out here whether a hot water dispenser is the best option for you, and which ones are worth buying.
If you find kettles bothersome to lift, fill, carry or pour, or just like the idea of dispensing a speedy cup of hot water without waiting around, a hot water dispenser could be a practical solution.
But while some will consistently give you the right amount of water at the right temperature, others spit water everywhere and dispense a less predictable amount.
In this guide, we explain the pros and cons of hot water dispensers compared to kettles, and how much you should expect to spend if you're looking to buy one.
You can also see our reviews of popular hot water dispensers in the table below. Not a Which? member? Sign up today for a £1 trial to access all of our expert reviews.
Hot water dispensers - how much to spend
Hot water dispensers range from £35 up to around £80, and most have similar features. More-expensive models allow more control over how much water is dispensed each time, rather than having one or two standard cup measurements. They may also have extra features, such as a water filter.
We've found that price isn't necessarily an indicator of quality in our tests of hot water dispensers, so you don't need to splash out to get a decent model.
Hot water dispensers vs kettles - pros and cons
A hot water dispenser can boil and dispense a single mugful of water at a time. The best kettles allow you to boil just one cup too, but many don't - and even those that do still require you to measure it out individually each time you boil.
Some hot water dispensers also have a variable water setting, which means you can alter the amount of water that’s dispensed, but generally they dispense between 150ml (equivalent to a cup or small mug) and 350ml (a large mug).
Pros: Can dispense one cup at a time, quick to provide hot water, good if you have problems lifting and pouring kettles.
Cons: Limited to smaller amounts, water is hot but not boiling.
Buy a hot water dispenser if you only want to boil a small amount of water at a time or have difficulty using a kettle. They’re not suitable for boiling large quantities of water, or for making lots of cups of tea in a row. If those are things you do often, take a look at our Best Buy kettles instead.
Which hot water dispenser should I buy?
The table below shows results from our independent tests of hot water dispensers. We have now stopped testing them, but these models are still widely available, so be sure to use this table to find the best one for you.
|Hot water dispensers|
|Our verdict||Speed||Variability in amount dispensed||Score|
Pros: Fast, doesn't spit much when dispensing, simple controls, easy to use
Cons: You can't change how much it dispenses, cancel button isn't very responsive, hard to empty the water tank
How much water will it dispense? A fixed amount - 250ml
Water tank capacity: 1.5 litres
Pros: Quick, doesn't drip, Brita water filter included
Cons: Water filter makes it heavier to hold when filling at tap, hard to empty the water tank
How much water will it dispense? Choose from nine different settings ranging from 170ml to 325ml
Water tank capacity: 1.8 litres
Pros: Speedy, doesn't spit much when dispensing, easy to use
Cons: Not always consistent in how much it dispenses, difficult to empty the water tank
How much water will it dispense? Any amount between 150ml and 300ml
Water tank capacity: 1.8 litres
Pros: Fast, doesn't spit much when dispensing, simple to operate
Cons: Not consistent in how much it dispenses, not suitable for small cups
How much water will it dispense? Choose from nine different settings, ranging from 150ml to 300ml
Water tank capacity: 2 litres
Which? hot water dispenser reviews
The models rated in the table above were all tested in the Which? test lab in 2012, and have remained on sale since then. The Which? total test score for hot water dispensers ignores price and is based on:
- 40% overall ease of use
- 25% consistency of volume dispensed
- 25% speed
- 5% water temperature
- 5% build quality
Hot water dispensers needed to score 75% or more in our tests to qualify as a Best Buy.
Is a hot water dispenser quicker than a kettle, and does it use more electricity?
An average mug holds 250ml of water and to heat this amount of water in a kettle or a hot water dispenser takes the same amount of time - around a minute - and the same amount of electricity.
Hot water dispensers are only cheaper and more efficient if you want to boil a single mug of water, and you have a kettle with a minimum fill volume of more than 250ml. In those cases, the kettle will take longer to boil and will cost you more money.
If you'd prefer to get a kettle, check out our tips on buying the best electric kettle.
Does a hot water dispenser actually boil the water?
A hot water dispenser does actually boil water, but we have found that by the time it's dispensed into the cup it's no longer at boiling point.
Water dispensed into a room-temperature mug from a hot water dispenser is 91°C. We repeated the same scenario with a freshly boiled kettle and the temperature of the water was 96°C once it was poured into the mug.
In a hot water dispenser, pipes connect the heating chamber to the dispensing nozzle. Heat can be lost between boiling and travelling through these pipes, so by the time the water has dispensed it has cooled by a few degrees.
Can I descale my hot water dispenser?
Yes, hot water dispensers - like kettles and coffee machines - should be descaled regularly to keep them working properly.
How regularly you descale will depend on how often you use them and how hard the water supply is where you live. Many manufacturers recommend descaling around once every three months, but we’d advise referring to the instruction manual for your product, where detailed information will be given.
Standard hot water dispenser features
All the hot water dispensers we tested have fixed water tanks and need to be filled in the same way that you would with a kettle – either at the tap, or by filling up the tank with a jug.
The water tank can't be removed separately from the dispenser, like on a coffee machine, but the water tank and dispenser can be removed from the base of the appliance (like a kettle).
We’ve tested hot water dispensers by filling them up at the sink, as this is the worst-case scenario, and most of them are quite tricky to manoeuvre under the tap properly. For a much easier experience, we’d recommend filling them up with a jug instead.
All of the hot water dispensers we tested come with a drip tray, similar to one you’d find on a coffee machine. This is where your cup sits while it’s being filled, and the drip tray will also catch any spills
Boil dry protection
This is a safety feature that stops the hot water dispenser from working, and turns it off, if the water tank doesn’t contain enough water.
All of the hot water dispensers we tested had this feature.
Useful hot water dispenser features
This allows you to change the amount of water which is dispensed - handy if you want to use several different sizes of mug.
Some hot water dispensers can only dispense a fixed volume of water, so if you choose a model with this feature, then you need to make sure the amount of hot water will be enough to fill up your favourite mug.
This is a handy feature to have in case you change your mind halfway through dispensing, or you realise your mug is going to overflow.
An effective stop or cancel button should work immediately. Most hot water dispensers fill a cup in a matter of seconds, so if it takes a while to stop the hot water flow, this function won’t be effective.
A limescale filter reduces the amount of limescale which finds its way into your hot drink.
Some hot water dispensers are supplied with a filter. While this may help to stop scale build up, it does mean an additional ongoing cost to buy the filters, and sometime they can be tricky and fiddly to change – especially if you have grip or dexterity issues.
What are the Wake Cup and Teasmade?
The Breville Wake Cup and the Swan Teasmade are similar to hot water dispensers, but are designed to brew a cup of tea by your bedside while you are sleeping, and when the alarm goes off your cup of tea is ready for you.
A hot water dispenser is more like a kettle than a Wake Cup or a Teasmade, and would be a better choice if you want to make cups of tea throughout the day.
What are Insinkerator and Quooker?
Insinkerator and Quooker are brands of hot water taps, which provide instant hot water.
These taps need to be permanently installed, and as such are are different from the hot water dispensers we've tested, which are much cheaper and simply need to be plugged in.
Hot water taps usually cost around £1,000, so are a much pricier and more permanent option.
You can find out more about these products and how Quooker and Insinkerator compare in our guide to instant hot water taps.