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Have kettles gone off the boil?

Kettle floating in space

New research this week revealed that kettle sales are in decline, while coffee machines are becoming ever more popular. Are you ready to call time on your kettle?

Tea has long been Britain’s national drink, so you’d expect a kettle would always be an essential kitchen item.

But that may no longer be the case. The latest figures by Mintel show that demand for kettles has dropped by more than 7% in the last five years, and more than one in five UK homes now don’t own a kettle.

One reason that’s been put forward for this is the increasing popularity of coffee – and coffee machines in particular. A good 22% of British households now own a coffee machine, and sales have gone up by nearly a third since 2008.

Can you really do without a kettle?

Personally I can’t imagine joining those kettle-free households, and I struggle to see how they do without one. Most of the meals I make at home involve rice, noodles or pasta, so even though I don’t drink tea, my kettle gets plenty of usage.

It’s not like kettles are an unaffordable luxury. At Which? we’ve found Best Buy kettles for around the £20 mark, and there are serviceable models for less than that.

So I’m puzzled by the decline in kettle ownership – they’re so versatile and useful that I don’t think a coffee machine is an adequate substitute. But maybe there’s something I’m missing. Hot water dispensers and microwaves have also been credited with declining the demand for kettles, but I still wouldn’t live without mine.

Have you found yourself using your kettle less? Has it been superseded by a coffee machine?

Could you live without your kettle?

No (76%, 758 Votes)

Yes (19%, 186 Votes)

I don't know (5%, 52 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,006

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BTW I also find the Mintel figures seem to have a dubious logic. I would not be the slightest bit surprised that new kettles sales fitted in with number of new kitchens/house moves per year.

If we are to discuss these things is it possible to flesh out the original research?

john mccolgan says:
21 January 2013

I have my Tassimo (one of the few kitchen gadgets that i use daily) which I’ve used for the past 4 years. The machine is now siuated beside us in the living room like a “coffee bar” we even have paper cups and plastic stirrers, coffee whitener and cubed sugar (I can hear eco-warriors diving for their keyboards). In the kitchen we have a Tefal instant hot water machine. It’s rarely used, pot noodles and topping up sauces.

garry says:
3 March 2013

great comments all round but where is the hard evidence that these boiling water taps are as economical as a standard kettle? taking out the capital expenditure,what are the day to day running costs of these puppies and can you close them down overnight or use a timer plug.we have a busy household of 5 with lots of coming and going and are fitting a new kitchen and i would like some facts please?

I would be very surprised if a plug-in timer would be reliable if used near its maximum capacity. You would be better to use a hard-wired professional grade timer, or have an isolation switch on the circuit.

I cannot provide you with any facts, but think about the consequences of a leak or failure of a boiling water tap and a kettle. Which would be easier and less expensive to deal with?

garry – I think you miss the point of the Quooker if you intend to turn it off at night. They are basically giant extremely efficient thermos flasks with an element. So leaving them on at night means a very slight amount of electricity is used to keep them at boiling point.

Overall I suspect that with two of us at home and drinking tea and coffee morning noon and night whatever the cost is for the overnight electric we wil have more than made up by the amount of exact amounts of water we put in our cups. Boiling excess water in a kettle is very easily done. For five people I would strongly suspect that the Quooker would actually be more efficient than a kettle – capital costs aside.

I think where the Quooker really scores heavily is obviously convenience, but, more importantly to me is the freeing of worksurface. I have mine so that it is by the main tap – a position that no kettle could occupy.

When I recall electric cables and filling the kettle it seems really quite laughably inefficient. I was going to say I would always have one though on reflection if struck for cash I could go for an induction hob and a suitable kettle. Induction hobs boil water very very quickly and you are losing no space. The downside of course being if someone wants a coffee during Sunday lunch preparations!

Incidentally on the space front I bought some Christel pots and pans used with detachable handles which makes for some very efficient space storage. Space in kitchens is finite so paying for efficient space use is not daft.

dieseltaylor wrote: Induction hobs boil water very very quickly…

Earlier you wrote that it took under two and a half minutes to boil half a pint of water. My kettle cost under £30 and will boil this amount of water in under 50 seconds. A gas hob and a good kettle might be even faster, but there must be a reason why electric kettles are so popular.

A good reason to argue against electric kettles is safety. Having a powerful electric heater in a plastic container is a fire hazard. Fortunately, they boil so fast that they are unlikely to be left unattended.

True wavechange. The original test was quickly done. I have now done the test both with the original 14cm pot and a 22cm pot being the smallest and largest diameters I can use. I also used the boost function and the 14 cm is still over 2 minutes for a fierce boil and the 22cm just under 1 minute. I think the 14cm simply does not garner enough power. Now it is not possible for me to gauge what triggers an electric kettle to quit heating so I may be boiling beyond what is required.

According to one poster in this thread an induction with kettle is very good – though the basic premise was a cup of water when the thread started. Unfortunately being US their measure is different but looking at the graph it seems they require over 1 minute for 0.416337 of a pint.

Just for laughs I tried 1pt /20fl ozs in a 20 cm pan and that was 2 minutes for 203F and climbing a a degree a second. It was difficult to be accurate with my hot sugar thermometer as if I touched the base it flipped off. Judging by the amount of steam generated I would think a kettle switches off earlier – though you can imagine the benefits in time if you only warmed to 98C as how many people check the heated water from the kettle.?

Does you kettle double its time for a pint?

This is interesting and at the bottom a film regarding kettle design

Richard says:
19 November 2014

Hi, I live with 2 big coffee drinkers and I usually have 1 – 2 cups of Tea per day, in order not to have the coffee machine and a kettle permanently on the side I use the hot water / steam function on the machine with no problems. Shame that wasn’t looked into in the coffee machine tests.

Good point. I do think Which? has a tendency to silo products to a particular set of tests.

Going to basics like what is the best/easiest/most efficient/ cheapest way to boil water for tea/coffee/ scalding vegetables etc would mean a more discursive article but one that might even mean coffee machines came out on top!

oh! and a bit about if you have gas or solid fuel how it alters the case.

Shannen says:
2 March 2015

Hi I am final year design student who is currently designing a new sustainable kettle for a project that I hope will address many of the issues spoken about here.

I would greatly appreciate it if anyone interested could take these two short surveys regarding their kettle usage and whether they prefer electric or hob kettles:



Thanks in advance