/ Home & Energy

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 Has it been superseded by a coffee machine?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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Phil says:
18 January 2013

Couldn’t survive without my kettle, I’ve just sat down with a cup of tea having been outside to re-fill the bird feeders and recover the bins from the snow covered pavement. That said I’ve had the current kettle, a Kenwood, for over 20 years and have a spare ready when it does finally expire so I’m guilty of not buying kettles.

The introduction of water level gauges has resulted in more kettles failing due to leakage, so I am surprised that kettles sales are falling.

It never fails to amaze me that plastic-bodied kettles and fan-heaters are permitted, since putting a powerful electric heater in a plastic container is not very clever, and safety cut-outs can fail. I suppose it helps to keep the fire service busy.

Panda says:
18 January 2013

Lost without it as I use our kettle several times a day, including using it to heat water for washing-up our dinner equipment (glasses, plates, pots, etc.) as I hate running about 5lt cold water from the boiler before any hot water arrives. A very necessary item in our kitchen, would be very unhappy not to have one – in nearly 50 years we’ve had four kettles – good value!

Even if you don’t need a kettle for making tea or coffee, boiling water is useful for cleaning and keeping dishcloths/brushes fit for use. Many seem to have resorted to anti-bacterial products, but I will not be surprised if we are told that these are unnecessary and best avoided on grounds of safety. With some notable exceptions (e.g. antibiotics), what is bad for bacteria will not be good for humans or pets.

I will continue to use my electric kettle for the foreseeable future.

Pat M says:
18 January 2013

We have a boiling water tap which is amazing as we drink loads of tea and cook lots of pasta, rice and veg, all of which involved much boiling of the kettle. It’s a luxury though, I could never justify it on grounds of cost.
Most kettles are rubbish, I had just bought a good one (Bodum plastic, now no longer sold) before getting the Qooker. I usually check Amazon reviews for kettles and toasters, the kettle reviews are particularly depressing, as one after another are said to leak, come apart at the seams or continue boiling for several seconds, I had to look at tens of kettles before I found a satisfactory one.

barrie says:
18 January 2013

just had a new kitchen and my wiffe insisted on instant boiling water via a Quooker. They make noisy messy kettles redundant and save money because you only pay for the boiling water you poor!

I know I sound like an advert but it has made my wiffe so very happy and nearly as quiet as the Quooker…..honest

I’m told that gold-plated taps stay shiny and are not affected much by limescale. There are plenty of good solutions to problems if you are prepared to spend a lot.

I have never worried about the noise made by a kettle and the only time it has been messy was when one sprung a leak.

Phil says:
18 January 2013

The Qooker delivers boiling water but for a really good cup of tea (or coffee) the rule is don’t boil the water. It should be very hot but not boiling. OK if you’re one of the snobby “milk in first” brigade but then how do you get the strength right?

Why “snobby”?

Firstly, there is no need for pejorative comments – people can make tea any way they please.

Secondly, it was the poor who put their milk in first. They could not afford high-quality bone china. Starting with cold milk causes less of a shock to the cup and it is less likely to crack!

And thirdly, in this household, the butler serves the tea how I like it. It’s not my problem.

…and fourthly, if you suddenly drop cold milk into a mug full of boiling hot tea, the milk scolds. If you poor hot tea onto cold milk, the milk heats more progressively so doesn’t scold.

Although I know that you shouldn’t use boiling water to make the best coffee, I don’t believe that is true for tea. As the wartime government information film demonstrated (yes, governments played trivia even during the war), you should preheat the pot for a minute, add the tea and pour BOILING water onto the tea to make the best cuppa. Also, you should use freshly drawn cold water to fill the kettle and only boil it once (boiling water drives out the dissolved air/oxygen from the water making an inferior cuppa).

There’s nothing snobby about whether milk goes first or last, but I can taste the difference and so can my wife.

The 1941 video is on YouTube if you want a laugh: http://youtu.be/vnvYymrCn4g

I quite like the idea of scolding milk: “What are you thinking of, adding me to boiling hot tea! Don’t do it again!!!” Where can I buy some?

Maybe that’s what people mean when the milk is bad.

Well the Quooker may seem a good idea until you look at the cost. The basic Quooker is £630 before fitting. That’s over 30 kettles which would last 60+ years. How long before the Quooker fails or you replace the kitchen.

The Quooker looks an environmental and financial disaster to me.

@ Em

I feel like a scolded schoolboy again! I meant “scald” of course. You must be an English teacher?

@terfar – No, it just made me smile.

Environmentally, the Quooker draws 10W on standby.

If my maths is correct, that is the same amount of energy as filling up a 2 litre kettle once a day, boiling it, and then leaving it to go completely cold again. And that would be in addition to any energy used to heat the water you draw off.

On the other hand, I suppose you would only use exactly the amount of water you need. An over-filled kettle also wastes energy, but unless you live at home and have a large family to cater for, a Quooker probably uses more energy than a conventional kettle and saucepan arrangement.

I don’t like the idea of having electrical equipment under a sink. No doubt the unit itself is adequately protected but I imagine that most kitchen fitters would put the plug and socket under the sink, at risk of getting wet if there is a plumbing problem.

With the Qooker, the water is heated to 110C, according to the manufacturer’s information. That is less than a pressure cooker (up to 121C) but having a powerful electric heater in a closed container could be fun if the heater did not cut out for any reason.


Wow, 10W on standby! That’s incredible.

According to the Which? tests, the average 3kW kettle boils a litre of water in 2m20s (140 seconds). That’s approximately 330Wh.

The Quooker is using 240W/day doing nothing. It is certainly wasting the equivalent of 3 mugs of tea per day.

We couldn’t envisage a kitchen without a kettle – we brew real tea (leaves in a pot), ground coffee (cafetiere) as well as instant routinely and can’t see a better gadget. Tea sales grew 8% between 2008-2010 and herbal tea sales grew 11% in 2010. All made more easily, I suggest, with a kettle. Is it possible kettle sales have declined because they have become more durable? Do you, Which?, have any statistics.

I have just Googled “Quooker”.It looks potentialy dangerous and ridiculously expensive.First thoughts are: will it come to outperform the traditional kettle in contributing to work on burns at our NHS Casualty Departments? Second thoughts are: I bet the traders are recommending annual servicing. Plan:stick with our Morphy Richards aluminium/stainless steel kettle for the moment!

Here’s a video showing how to descale a Qooker.
All you need is a service kit, familiarity with plumbing and electrical systems and to be happy to poke around under the sink. Easily done within hours.

Couldn’t live without several mugs of tea a day! How do you make tea without one? I suppose you could boil water in a saucepan using your hob, but how inefficient would that be! Electric kettles are 100% efficient; the cheapest and fastest way to boil water.

Boiling water in a saucepan provides a useful reminder of how quick and convenient an electric kettle is.

I’m not sure about 100% efficient, if you take into account the rate of cooling due to lack of insulation. I am surprised that insulated kettles have not become standard.

I’ve been experimenting with boiling a single cup of water at a time in a microwave oven recently. I compared the amount of electricity used doing that, against boiling a kettle at the minimum fill of 2 cups and throwing away the other cupful of boiling water. I found that it’s possible to make a saving under certain circumstances. Using cold tap water, it uses about the same amount of energy (the microwave takes twice as long but uses half the power). But if you already have a cupful of tepid water in the kettle, it’s more economical to bring it back to the boil in the microwave than to add a cupful of cold water and boil it in the kettle. (I know you’re not supposed to boil water twice, and I generally don’t, but on some occasions I’m not too bothered about a slight reduction in taste quality.) The main drawback is I can never tell exactly when the water reaches boiling point in the microwave. Sometimes it’s too cold, and other times it’s superheated and starts bubbling furiously as soon as I drop a teabag in it.


Microwave ovens are inefficient, though they are a convenience.

Many new kettles are designed so that you can boil just a single mug of water. We had to wait a long time for that monumental breakthrough in kettle design!


Are you measuring the power consumption of the microwave oven or using the power output (the figure generally quoted). A kettle is very efficient but a microwave is certainly not. This will depend on model and what is being heated, but as a guide, Wikipedia mentions an efficiency of 64%.

Take care because superheated water can virtually explode if it is heated in a smooth walled container.

That’s a good point. I was looking at the power shown on the front door, which I guess it’s the power output. The power input would then be written on the back of the oven where the mains cable goes in, but I won’t bother as it’s a bit of a hassle moving it. But with a typical efficiency as you quote, it wouldn’t be as economical as a kettle, even though I am boiling only a cup. So I’ll go back to just using the kettle. I know I can buy a kettle with a one-cup minimum fill, but I’ll only do that when the current one breaks, as the expense of a new kettle would outweigh the savings in electricity from only boiling one cup.


I would not want anyone put off using a microwave oven for its normal purpose since it is more efficient than a conventional oven.

The main power loss in a microwave oven are in the magnetron, which produces microwaves. That gets hot and has to be cooled by a fan.

As you say, the power consumption of a microwave oven will be shown at the back. That will be an estimate of the power used at the highest setting.

Despite my comment, I use my microwave oven for reheating filter coffee – which would spoil if kept hot. Two minutes and twenty two seconds is spot on for a mug of cold coffee.


Agreed. Microwaves do have a role to play in the kitchen. For starters, warming a baby’s bottle is so simple – a boon in the middle of the night. They are great for defrosting in a hurry. And reheating many small portions of foods such as left-over rice or a bowl of soup. We would do without ours, but we are very selective what we use it for as often the gas hob is cheaper (if not just as efficient)!


Yes, and I am surprised that no-one is promoting old-fashioned kettles on gas hobs. I wouldn’t have one because I don’t like the idea of unflued gas appliances, but (mains) gas is certainly a cheaper way of producing heat.

I suppose if you are an occasional tea drinker and have a coffee machine, you could use Tassimo disks at 40p a cup. Wouldn’t take long to save up for a kettle and use a decent teabag at 4p a cup though.

Em, try real tea (leaves) in an infuser instead of a tea bag if you just want a single cup. Otherwise a tea pot – you can’t beat leaf tea.
Kettles are pretty safe at pouring boiling water – much more risky to use a saucepan or any other open-topped container.
I still find the statistics hard to believe.

I’ve just added a poll – could you live without your kettle? Make sure to vote!

Sue B says:
18 January 2013

I don’t have a kettle as I have a hot water tap which is excellent. Not a quooker but has filter water as well. Best gadget I have had for the kitchen. Great when doing rice etc as can have exactly what I need for the pan with no waste of electricity. I can make one cup of tea or a pot. Only thing is that now there is not a spare minute to do an odd job in the kitchen while you wait for the kettle. However I don’t miss the kettle cluttering up the surface. Less dangerous than a kettle. no danger of topple, and you have to hold the tap for the water to come out for hot water so no excess flow. So you get just a cup for your tea or a couple of pints for a pan. It stands over the sink and can swivel to be over the surface if you want to place a cup under without holding the cup/pan. I have just a small 3m kitchen so surface space is at a premium. May cost more but that is up to you to choose. I also have a coffee machine which does take up the space that a kettle would have taken but I spend a lot less on coffee as we come home to have coffee after a meal/shopping. I’m sure kettles will be around for a long time but in many countries they seem to manage without a kettle in the home.

I just can’t get a handle on this discussion….

Can you not see the (boiling) point? 🙂

I got rid of my kettle 12 months ago when I bought a Breville One-Cup. I’ve never regretted the decision. Because of arthritis, I had a problem lifting a kettle – dangerous when it contained boiling water. I fill the One-Cup with a filter jug, and use the water for tea, coffee, and cooking. I also like the fact that I can push the button and walk away, letting it do its own thing if I need to.

The downside is that it isn’t always reliable in terms of the amount of hot water dispensed, so the air in the kitchen does occasionally turn blue.

I think the question of ‘milk in first’ should be a whole other discussion. Not all of us take milk in tea…

Just because Kettle sales are in decline does not mean that people are not using them or don’t have one. And I find it hard to believe that more than one in five households don’t have one. I would like to see more information about the 20% of UK who don’t have a kettle and why they don’t have one. What sort of people are they, apart from the Quooker owners? I

I am not going to draw conclusions from this article. It is not an either and or situation.

We all need boiling hot water for something and it is not just used for tea! Can we have some more information and a breakdown of the figures. Coffee drinkers need their kettles! Are instant coffee sales declining as well? I have a Cafetière Classic Espresso Coffee Maker because I absolutely love my coffee after a lovely meal, but I also love my bog standard PG tips tea for breakfast and during the day!

I have an electric Philips kettle which is over 30 years old and works perfectly. I have no plans to change it although I have changed my kitchen 3 times. My mother had a stainless steel kettle which was over 40 years old which she put on her gas cooker.

Like Woodgreener [are you from N22?] I also think the statistic that around a fifth of UK households don’t have a kettle is incredible. Even allowing for households that share a kitchen [e.g. where the butler and servants count as a separate household and have the only kettle], and for the small percentage that only have some other form of water boiling appliance, that is still an astonishing figure.

One of the most dangerous things still done in many households is to fill a hot water bottle with boiling water from a kettle.

Panda [near the top] pointed out the energy and water waste caused by the need to run off lots of water before the hot water reaches the kitchen tap. This puts the waste from incandescent light bulbs clearly in the shade. Using an electric kettle to heat the water for washing-up is not particularly economical if your hot water is heated by gas. I am surprised there has been very little about this wastage in Which? Conversations and among the energy community. Even brand new houses suffer from this problem partly because the builders do not site the hot water tank in the most sensible position and partly because they do not insulate the hot water supply pipes.

You raise some interesting and complex points regarding energy efficiency. Gas boilers are far from 100% efficient whereas the humble electric kettle is almost that. Even if you have a combi boiler, depending on its distance from the kitchen sink tap (the time it takes to bring the water up to temperature and flush the cold from the pipes) using that source for a bowl of hot water is unlikely to scrape 50% efficiency. It is only because gas is so much cheaper per kW than electricity that it becomes cheaper than boiling the kettle. Environmentally, it would be better if we stopped using gas central heating boilers as a source for hot water.

I note that most dishwashers and washing machines are usually cold fill only devices these days. Perhaps if we all used instant electric showers and kettles and stopped using gas to heat water it would benefit the environment (but not the pocket).

Electricity can be converted into heat very efficiently, but what about the efficiency of electricity generation and transmission? The merits of hot/cold fill washing machines have been debated at length in another Conversation. Depending on the plumbing of a house, they could be more or less economical (financially that is).

John is right to highlight the importance of house design for supplying hot water efficiently. I don’t know what regulations apply for new buildings. However good the pipe insulation is, the water in pipes will cool fairly quickly, so a short pipe to the kitchen tap is vital. I’m planning to move home soon and this is one thing I will look at when viewing houses.

I have friends with a large and very expensive kitchen in a huge house. The hot tap is not even connected because the pipe run from the hot water tank would be far too long. Anything that does not go into the dishwasher is washed using water heated in an electric kettle and/or a kettle on the Rayburn.

That sounds right, Terfar. Economy and evironmental performance are frequently at odds. Apart from anything else, having twenty million little boilers [and a few million really big ones for schools, hospitals, office blocks and stores] is not the most efficient way to heat our water or our indoor space. I don’t suppose the grid could cope with the demand if we all converted to electricity at once but a managed change could be devised and new power sources [including gas] brought on stream in harmony with the rise in demand.

On the washing up question, and the waste of water that precedes the arrival of the hot, we don’t really want it at the full heat so letting some cold into the bowl before the hot arrives can usually produce the ideal working temperature and one soon gets to judge how much to use. With the best will in the world, and using the water fill gauge, it is impossible not to boil too much water to make two cups of tea but I usually have a ready use for the excess to wash up a mug or clean out a sauce bottle or something.

It illustrates that we have a very long way to go before we can say we are truly green. All the governments efforts at ‘greening’ and planning for our future energy needs seem pretty futile to me when there is just so much we haven’t done to reduce our existing demands.

Subsidising electric cars to the value of £5000 seems crazy when the same money could be used to make a few homes more energy efficient and make a REAL saving to the environment! Making a home more efficient makes it more comfortable and cheaper for the occupants whilst making a real contribution to reducing energy consumption, reducing environmental pollution and reducing the demand on our limited natural resources. Subsidising electric cars using our current technology will save nothing at best and possibly causes more long-term harm.

The electric kettle will be with us for many more decades yet.

I totally agree with these points, Terfar. The electric car is only green if you choose to ignore some of the most important considerations. Buying an electric car on environmental grounds is about as flawed as spending £1000 on a boiling water tap to save money.

It’s about time that kettles were sold with a 10 year guarantee – both on environmental grounds and to save consumers’ money.

Re terfar’s post above, if you look at the conflict between dead-tree trash, i.e. junk mail and its proliferation, and recycling paper for instance, it’s clear that any government effort is a nonsense. They have to be ‘seen’ to be doing, but the whole green thing is full of contradiction.

This year, I’ve converted part of my house to use air-to-air heat pumps. I’m heating two large rooms, each 20 square metres, to 19-20 degrees. Snow outside and I’ve been watching the “Owl” energy monitor carefully to see how they cope in the cold. Each room is now using only 400W. Previously about 1kW each.

Capital cost was a killer and it might break even over the lifetime of the system. However, I feel I’m doing my bit to help reduce CO2 emissions whilst staying comfortable. A £5,000 subsidy would have been very welcome and would persuade me to do more.

Hmm, there seems to be a problem with “Reply”. Several times now, I’ve noticed my posts are detached from the sub-thread in question.

I am surprised that we hear so much about solar power, both PV and water heating, but little about heat pumps. Perhaps rising fuel prices will make heat pumps a more attractive option, particularly to those using LPG or oil for heating.

Sylvia says:
20 January 2013

I have just given up reading all the comments – well, I didn’t get to the last, I gave up! Anyway, I have an Eco kettle which has a reservoir of water from which one puts all one needs into the part which heats the water and, hey presto, I have enough for my Capuccino or enough to put in a pan when needed to help the hob produce boiling water for the pasta etc.

We have a Quooker and it is very good. Out of curiosity I boiled a halfpint on the hob and that was under two and a half minutes. So perhaps I could exist quite happily with a kettle and induction hob if I become Quookerless.