One of the most common questions I hear from readers is which water kettles I would recommend. Therefore, it's high time I wrote a complete guide about this topic.
One of the most common questions I hear from readers is which water kettles I would recommend. Therefore, it’s high time I wrote a complete guide about this topic.
To clear one thing up from the get-go: In this article, I’m not talking about electric water kettles, which use a heating coil or an integrated hot plate to heat up the water. (Although I admit, they are convenient and simple, and I do have one.)
Instead, I will talk about those lovely, graceful kettles, made from metal or glass, that go right on your stove.
Why, though, would we go to the trouble of using a stovetop kettle when we have the convenient electric kettle?
Why do I go to the trouble of using a long-necked kettle, especially considering it adds an extra step when I make my pour-over coffee? In this guide, I’ll answer both of these questions and many more.
We will also take a thorough look at different materials used for kettles. I will also let you in on the secret of why you will almost always find a Hario Buono water kettle at all the hip coffee bars.
Latest Update: January 22, 2017
Table of Contents
Why Do I Need a Water Kettle?
Here’s a nice, cozy mental picture: Try to recall the familiar whistle of a tea kettle boiling water on a cold winter’s day. Comfy, eh? Before the electric water kettle made our lives easier, you could look in any kitchen and find a water kettle.
For most tea and coffee drinkers, eventually convenience won out over coziness, and electric water kettles replaced many of the stovetop ones. Even tea purists and coffee snobs don’t have any major objections to using electric kettles.
Many people called both kinds of water kettles (and still do call them) “tea kettles,” so I will use those two terms interchangeably throughout this article.
The Recent Demand for Water Kettles
These days, modern coffee culture is more about super-automatic espresso machines and traditional espresso machines, both of which have made kettles superfluous in many kitchens.
However, there’s been a kind of awakening in recent years, and many people – not just hipsters! – have become more interested in manual coffee brewing methods, like the French press, AeroPress, Chemex and pour-over coffee. All of those methods require hot water, which means that water kettles are once again making their way back into kitchens.
The reason is quite simple: When using a manual brewing method, the way to extract the best taste is for the ground coffee to come into contact with water multiple times, in precise and distinct steps. In my user’s guide to pour-over coffee, I described it as so:
“Slowly pour the water over the coffee to evenly moisten the grounds. Let the water drip for a few moments to prevent the grounds from floating.”
Electric kettles are generally too bulky and imprecise for this action that shouldn’t submerge the coffee grounds. When you pour the water, you need to be able to:
- Sprinkle or pour the water slowly
- Pour the water evenly and steadily
- Then continue the process by pouring in a circular motion
That’s really tough to do with an electric kettle, but it’s a cinch if you have the right traditional kettle. However, you will need a kettle that has a spout that is as thin and as long as possible.
That also explains why the now-famous Hario Buono water kettle looks so similar to the tea kettle your grandma probably had sitting in her kitchen. However, it doesn’t explain why it’s worth getting a traditional kettle INSTEAD of an electric one.
Traditional Water Kettles Vs. Electric Kettles
There are a couple of pretty solid arguments in favor of a traditional kettle:
- If you have the right kind of stove, and the kettle is made of the right material, it’s significantly quicker than an electric kettle.
- In some cases, the kettle also more energy-efficient.
- Kettles don’t take up counter space.
- They also don’t take up a power outlet.
- It is easier to monitor the water temperature with a kettle.
- Traditional kettles just look much classier than electric ones.
I admit that I’m often too lazy to stand right by my kettle so that I can take it off the stove at just the right time. In times like those, I tend to take the path of least resistance and use my electric kettle instead of my traditional Hario kettle.
However, with tea, it is generally a different story. Most tea lovers will probably agree with me that using a true, old-fashioned tea kettle simply adds something special to the tea drinking ritual. Many tea-loving Englanders would sooner chop off a limb before they resort to using an electric kettle to heat their tea water.
In fact, the reason they use kettles isn’t just because of tradition or elitist affectation (though there may be some of that mixed in). If you need to heat up large quantities of water more than once a day, it’s actually easier if you use a traditional kettle. They also work better when it comes to brewing or extracting the tea leaves or coffee.
In addition to giving you more precision, as long as your kettle is made of the right material, it can also help keep the water at a constant temperature throughout the whole brewing process.
A Summary: Why Do You Need a Water Kettle?
- You have more precise control of the water when you pour (if it has the right kind of spout).
- They maintain a more constant temperature, thanks to insulating materials.
- You can heat up water in a kettle right on your stove.
- Kettles will save you money, time and space.
What Material Should My Water Kettle Be Made From?
Don’t worry, I’m not about to get into some long-winded discourse on materials science. However, it is important to take a closer look at different water kettles and the materials they are made from because the materials make a huge difference in how the kettles work.
First of all: There’s no “bad” material for water kettles. Still, there’s an optimal material for each stove type or drink (i.e. coffee or tea). Did you know, for example, that the Japanese use iron because it makes the tea taste better?
You will also need to take the kind of stove you have into account while you’re on the search for your kettle soulmate. I can’t get into every possible combination here, but I do want to give you a quick overview of the best water kettles and tea kettles that are currently available in 2018.
Which Water Kettle Works Best on an Induction Stove?
If you happen to have an induction stove, there’s a good chance you swear by it. They’re not very common, but they’re very energy-efficient, they work quickly and they lower your long-term costs.
Kettles and induction stoves are a perfect match, at least when it comes to fulfilling the promise of heating up water quickly and cheaply. However, you also need to be careful about what kinds of pots, pans and kettles you use with induction stoves.
Induction stoves work by using a magnetic alternating field, so any cookware you use on them must also be magnetic. You can quickly learn more and see potential options by searching for “induction water kettle” or “induction tea kettle” on www.amazon.com.
Once you find something that looks like it might work, you should take a closer look by reading the information on the product page. It should say something like “suitable for induction stoves.”
As you know, I’m a huge tea lover, but still, nothing beats coffee for me. That’s why I always pay close attention to a kettle’s spout. Some of my favorite kettles that meet my needs and also work with induction stoves include:
The ultra-chic 'Tradition' tea kettle from Le Creuset is another one that’s a real treat for the eyes. However, its retro styling means that it takes a bit of practice to learn how to pour it smoothly.
There’s a pretty big range of prices. Kettles start around $15 dollars and can get up to more than $100. The Le Creuset kettle is doubtless one of the most expensive options, but it’s also very high quality. However, you should realize that you can also get the job done with a kettle that costs less than half as much.
What About Copper Water Kettles?
Even if somebody somewhere declared that the craze for copper cookware is over, most of us still can’t get enough of that warm, orangey copper glow. Plus, professional cooks throughout the world still prefer copper to almost every other kind of cookware.
Copper is an excellent heat conductor that also ensures very even heat distribution. There’s always a catch, though. With copper, the catch is that if you use an uncoated or damaged kettle, the copper can leach into the water. Copper is a heavy metal, and it’s not something you generally want in your body.
The German Copper Institute (yes, of course there’s a German Copper Institute) has downplayed the danger, claiming that, in most cases, poisoning is highly unlikely. However, for our purposes, copper particles suspended in the water could also be a problem because they can affect your coffee’s taste.
Therefore, a copper water kettle should be coated on the inside, which is unfortunately not the case with most (still quite expensive) copper kettles. However, copper just looks cool, and that alone is likely a convincing enough argument for many people. Additionally, when you factor in copper’s great heat conductivity, it looks even better.
Does It Make Sense to Use a Cast-Iron Tea Kettle?
If you think that copper is just too cutesy, then cast iron might be the material for you. This material also does an excellent job conducting heat. In Japan, cast-iron tea kettles called “tetsubin” are part of the essential equipment needed for tea ceremonies.
Interestingly, the Japanese insist on using uncoated tetsubin because the metal releases iron particles into the water, which then make their way into the tea. In contrast to copper, having extra iron in your body is good.
The iron also supposedly makes the tea taste better. Japanese teapots (called “tetsubin kyushu”) are actually coated on the inside with enamel so that the tea can mingle freely with the iron water. If you’d like to learn more, check out this article about tetsubin.
Cast iron is also extremely robust and durable, although it often comes with a higher price tag. That’s just part of the equation for true tea lovers. However, what about coffee lovers? They should probably stick to cast-iron kettles that have an inner coating.
It’s not a huge problem to have additional particles floating around in coffee water. That’s why I use an electric kettle with a built-in filter: it strains out that kind of stuff. On the other hand, though, cast-iron kettles are often heavy and have wider spouts, making pouring more difficult.
So, should you use a cast-iron kettle for coffee? Yes and no. It’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons. Should you use one for tea? Absolutely.
Enamel Water Kettles: Old-Fashioned Charm or Modern Efficiency?
The third-place award for Most-Hyped Kettle Material definitely goes to enamel. These days, porcelain enamel is used as a coating on many water kettles, such as the previously-mentioned Le Creuset tea kettle. The Cilio Classico is another kettle in this category.
This enamel coating prevents the metal from releasing particles into the water, and also makes it easier to clean the kettle thoroughly. What’s more, porcelain also does an acceptable job of conducting heat, and many people really dig the retro, antique look that you get with porcelain.
A water kettle made with enamel is also very light and robust, and can distribute heat very well. It does take a bit longer to distribute the heat, but the water stays hot for longer.
Did somebody say “camping gear”? Exactly! Enamel kettles are great for camping. An enamel coating can be a good feature on any water kettle.
Aluminum Water Kettle: Cheap Junk or Inexpensive Steal?
I won’t spend too much time talking about aluminum tea kettles because they are similar in many ways to enamel kettles. The light material is robust and ideal for camping gear. Aluminum also has high heat conductivity so it heats up water quickly. However, it loses heat more quickly than enamel.
By the way, those classic “espresso” makers, such as the Bialetti Moka Pot, are always made from aluminum because the metal heats water quickly. However, pure aluminum kettles are NOT suitable for induction stoves. Additionally, you will need to search high and low to find one with a precise, accurate spout.
Therefore, I say that aluminum water kettles are great (and cheap!) for camping, but I would choose a different material for my home kitchen. Also, poorer-quality aluminum alloys tend to release more metal particles into the water.
Glass Water Kettles: Yes, No, Maybe?
As many of you know, I’m of two minds when it comes to using glass gear to make coffee. On the one hand, there’s nothing better than a glass French press, but using glass for coffee mugs or coffee grinder catch trays just seems stupid in most cases.
A glass kettle is also a double-edged sword. On the plus side, it’s completely taste-neutral and easy to clean, and you can easily see how much water is inside. It can also maintain a constant temperature for a relatively long time.
Nevertheless, I don’t completely trust glass. Most of the high-quality glass kettles use borosilicate glass or laboratory-grade glass. Both kinds of glass are theoretically fully fireproof, as long as the surface remains completely intact.
However, I’m just too scared that one day my kettle will explode into my face for some reason, whether it’s because it could no longer withstand the heat or because I accidentally dropped it.
Contrary to many claims, pure glass water kettles are NOT suitable for induction stoves. I learned this in my test and review of the Bodum Latteo milk frother, which otherwise was excellent.
Glass hybrid tea kettles, such as the Amazon bestseller from Rosenstein & Sons, solve the induction problem by using a ferromagnetic metal bottom. I’ve actually warmed up (pun intended) to that particular model. The spout is pretty precise, it looks good, and a price of $35 to $40 is quite acceptable.
Stainless-Steel Water Kettles
If you search Amazon for stainless-steel water or tea kettles, you will come across a long, long list of candidates. Practically all of the big names are represented because stainless steel is the ultimate kettle material (at least for making coffee!) when it comes to stability, conductivity and heat retention.
Classic models, such as the elegant KitchenAid water kettle (ugh, the price!) or the Alessi kettle (again, ugh!) do a fine job at heating up water on the stove. However, their chubby shape and protruding sides aren’t ideal for the precise art of making coffee.
The beloved kettle from WMF is also pretty compact, but the price is also higher. Funnily enough, WMF makes a watering can that’s the exact embodiment of what I think a perfect water kettle should be. Shame that it’s for plants, not coffee.
Actually, “watering can” could be a perfect description of the the design of the Hario Buono V60 stainless steel kettle. It’s the kettle that you will find in nearly any modern coffee bar worth a damn. You will also find one sitting in my own kitchen.
Everyone Loves the Hario Buono V60
Even if Hario tends to phone it in a bit when it comes to coffee grinders (as you can see in my review of the Hario Small), there’s currently no true alternative to the Buono V60 water kettle.
The shape of the spout and the entire kettle is simply perfect. It’s ideal for carefully pouring the water to moisten the coffee grounds, and then transitioning to a smooth, circular movement to finish the process.
The only possible contenders at this moment are the Ecooe kettle (a real steal for around $30!) or the Cilio kettle (which costs around $45 and loses points in the design and spout categories).
Stainless steel works on all kinds of stoves. Interestingly enough, Hario itself says on its British website that, “Most importantly, it’s the feel of it, and you will know what I mean when you try pouring…”
In other words, it doesn’t matter how the kettle performs on the stove. The most important thing is how well the Buono V60 pours water.
I (along with half the coffee world) absolutely agree with that idea. That’s also the reason that, when I make coffee, I actually add an extra step. I first heat up the water in an electric kettle, and then pour it into the Buono before using it with my coffee preparation method of choice.
For around $40 (the current Amazon price for the larger model of Buono V60), you will be hard-pressed to find a better device that can help you make perfect pour-over coffee. I should also mention that it keeps the water temperature consistent long enough that it won’t mess up your pouring ritual.
A note for tea aficionados: Stainless steel is as neutral as Switzerland. That means stainless steel works as well with many types of tea as it does with coffee. However, if you want more nuance and that special iron flavor, your best choice will always be cast iron.
A Review of the Different Materials for Water Kettles
If you’re too busy to sort through everything I wrote above, here’s a quick review of the different materials that are used for tea kettles, along with each material’s pros and cons:
|Excellent heat conductivity||Parts can come loose|
|Excellent heat transfer||Pure copper is NOT suitable for induction stoves
|Who's it for?||Connoisseurs|
|Cast Iron||Excellent heat conductivity||Price (often high)
|Extremely high quality||Weight|
|Extremely durable||Parts can come loose|
|Suitable for ALL stove types||Iron affecting the flavor (Con only for coffee lovers)
|Who's it for?||Tea lovers|
|Enamel||Good heat conductivity ||Somewhat slower to heat up|
|Robust||Robust Enamel layer must always remain intact|
|Easy to clean||Price for just enamel is relatively high
|Suitable for ALL stove types|
|Who's it for?||Outdoor types with a sense of style|
|Aluminum||Light||Doesn't maintain temperature for as long|
|Very good conductivity||Dents easily|
|Robust||Some issues with functionality
|Inexpensive||NOT for induction stoves
|Who's it for?||Minimalists with a steady hand
|Glass||Neutral taste||Never 100 percent unbreakable
|Easy to clean||NOT suitable for induction stoves
|Good heat conductivity|
|Designed for purists|
|Who's it for?||Minimalists with a steady hand
|Stainless steel||Taste neutral||Depends on the model!|
|Easy to clean|
|Good heat conductivity|
|Good holding capacity|
|Suitable for ALL stove types|
|Who's it for?||People who are serious about manual brewing methods|
The Best All-Round Kettles for Every Purpose
As promised, your favorite coffee blog will leave you with a few tips about finding the best all-around kettle. We will also see how good the most-beloved kettles on Amazon work for us coffee nerds. Don’t worry, I’ve also got some tips for you tea lovers.
The Best Water Kettle for Camping
Many of you may think I’m crazy because I often bring my Comandante manual grinder on my outdoor adventures. However, you can surely still get on board with the idea that you definitely need some kind of kettle to make coffee while camping!
A good camping kettle should be:
- Small enough that it takes up little space, yet still holds lots of water
- Robust and indestructible
- Easy to clean
- Suitable for small gas camping stoves
Because of these factors, I would choose an aluminum kettle. They have a good balance between price and performance, are lightweight, and conduct heat well. For example, the 10T 950 Kettle from 10T Outdoor Equipment meets all the above requirements. You don’t need to spend much more than about $15 for a decent aluminum kettle, but you won’t find one for much cheaper than that, either.
Water Kettles for Wood-Fired Ovens: Back to the Roots!
Since we’ve been talking about getting back to nature through camping, it’s a good time to talk about the ideal kettle to use with a wood-fired stove. #Hyggelig! Is there anything cozier than leaving dark, cold weather outside and curling up next to a stove or fireplace with a nice steaming cup of coffee or tea? I think not.
Wood fires are great at heating things, but they also give you very little control, especially in terms of temperature. It can roar or flare up out of nowhere. That’s why if you have a wood stove, I would always recommend using a kettle that your ancestors would have recognized.
Cast iron is a perfect material here because it’s stable, and enamel also works excellently with an open flame. The only conditions are that the material must be very high quality, both in terms of strength and craftsmanship.
I therefore recommend that you invest a bit more and buy something like the kettle from Le Creuset, which is a great combination of both materials. It also just looks perfect on a wood stove.
Stainless steel, especially cheap steel, often gets singed on wood stoves, and the same goes for aluminum. I simply don’t trust glass, however the same goes for using glass on a regular stove.
Antique Kettles – Use 'Em If You Got 'Em, But You Don't Need To
If you happen to come across an ancient kettle in your attic, then that’s probably at least a good sign that it has withstood the ravages of time. Back in the day, kettles were often made with very dense iron and really good enamel.
If you can get the old kettle thoroughly clean again, then there’s nothing wrong with trying it out on your stove.
New kettles are often made to resemble older designs. However, true coffee or tea lovers should be more concerned about what’s inside than what’s outside. In other words, your kettle might look nice, but the main consideration is that it should be able to do what you need it to do.
I say this just to clarify that if a kettle’s main selling point is its supposedly antique styling, and it’s also super cheap, then you would be better off putting some flowers inside it and using it as a nice kitchen decoration.
The Most-Beloved Water Kettles on Amazon: Which Ones Do I Recommend?
The Amazon bestseller list for tea and water kettles leans heavily toward electric kettles. One of the top models in Germany is the aforementioned Rosenstein & Sons kettle, but it is difficult to find in other countries.
Lots of models are more tea-centric, but a bit further down the list there are some interesting options for us coffee lovers. You will find the Cilio Classico kettle, a solid contender with a comfortable spout, which also works on induction ranges. For around $50, it’s quite good.
Then we get into the Asian models, which are often made from cast iron, such as the Bredemeijer Tea Pot. It’s a good model for a good price, but it’s not a true Japanese water kettle because of the inner coating. Getting a model like the Beka Tea Kettle can remedy that “problem,” though.
At prices between $35 and $50, cast iron can be quite inexpensive, but I’ve also read several reviews that complain about coatings that crumble off, or otherwise have generally poor quality. If you want to be on the safe side (and if you drink lots of tea), it’s worth it to invest a bit more.
If you’re wondering why in the world the Hario V60 kettle isn’t listed here, don’t worry: It’s one of the most-wished-for coffee makers on Amazon. That lets you see how highly that kettle is ranked among its competitors.
Do you have any questions, suggestions or comments about the state of water kettles in 2018? If so, please leave a comment below!