Stove Top vs. Electric Kettles

Are you in hot water? By that, I mean, “How do you heat your water for making tea?” Tea experts have told us that boiling water is the best way to get the richest, most flavourful tea, and that piping hot water is the way to rapidly infuse the tea leaves with moisture so as to coax them to release their hidden flavours.

We’re all familiar with the ubiquitous stove-top water kettle; these devices can be an inexpensive aluminum vessel with or without a whistle that activates when the steam pours forth from the spout where the whistle lives, or they can be expensive, stainless-steel and copper kettles that look beautiful on the stove in between times of boiling water. The one down-side to using a stovetop kettle is that you’re limited by the heat your stove burner produces and how rapidly your burner heats up. I recently boiled a tea kettle at a friend’s home on the stovetop and was amazed at how LONG it took to make my cuppa – and according to her husband, I chose the burner that was “super-quick.”

Another option is the electric kettle. I had a small, inexpensive electric kettle for several years and although it lacked any bells and whistles, it sufficed to boil water. I didn’t realize exactly how Stone Age it was until my parents visited and declared our kettle to be “substandard and worthy of being replaced.” They promptly purchased us an electric kettle that is now the standard by how we judge other means of boiling water.

One feature to look for is an auto-shut-off. Our kettle has this feature and it prevents several things – over-boiling the water, potentially forgetting about the kettle and allowing it to run dry (and thus destroying the kettle or starting a fire), or causing it to bubble over, spill water on the counter by the electrical outlet where the kettle is plugged in. I consider the auto-shut-off to be a non-negotiable in electric kettles at this point.

Another aspect we like is that our kettle pops off its heating-base to pour – we don’t drag the cord with us and battle it as we attempt to pour the hot water.

Some electric kettles also have water-filtration devices inside of them; this is useful for us because we have a well. And our area is notorious for having iron-and-mineral-rich water (i.e., very hard water), so filtering out more of those compounds is useful.

You might think that an electric kettle uses much more electricity than boiling a kettle of water on the stove; we have an electric range, and it takes much longer to boil water that way than via the electric kettle. My friend, whom I mentioned earlier, has a gas stove and my kettle is faster, as well. I’m convinced our kettle saves money by how rapidly it boils water and by virtue of its auto-shut-off.

We truly enjoy the convenience of our electric kettle, and although much of what I do in the kitchen is a bit “old school,” I don’t want to go back to stovetop-kettles. I love that I can hit a button on my electric kettle and go about my business, knowing it will shut off when the water has boiled, and my tea will be delicious from the proper water-temperature infusion.

Check out Sue’s blog, A Mother’s Heart, to read more of her great writing!

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

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6 thoughts on “Stove Top vs. Electric Kettles

  1. Pingback: Getting into Hot Water — Tea Kettles Galore « Tea Blog

  2. Pingback: Traveling Light « Tea Blog

  3. What an interesting article, Sue. I’m very fortunate to have a temperature controlled kettle that goes up and down in 5 degree intervals which is perfect for loose leaf teas that require a temperature less than 212F/100C

    However for my customers, they may not have this luxury so during my tea-tasting classes, I educate fellow tea-drinkers to watch the water level on their kettle and watch for the varying degrees of boiling.

    Quoting from Lu Yu’s Cha Ching (The Classic of Tea) [780AD]

    When the water boils for the first time,
    something akin to the eyes of a fish appear on the surface
    and a faint hissing sound can be heard.

    Then a gurgling brook develops
    with a string of pearls round the edge.
    This is the second boiling.

    Then the turbulent waves appear.
    This is the third boiling.
    ———————————————————————————–
    The fish eyes is akin to 70-80C (158-176F), ideal for green and white teas
    The gurgling brook equates to 80-90C (176-194F), ideal for oolongs
    The turbulent waves roughly amounts to 90C+ (194F), ideal for Pu’erh, black (or chinese red) teas and herbal infusions.

    1. Hi May,

      thank you for posting that quotation – it’s fantastic! I’m going to print it out and tape it inside my tea cupboard! 🙂

      Hope you’re staying toasty warm where you are – we’re watching the snow come down as I type & dinner bakes. 🙂

      –Sue

  4. Leah Wise

    I’ve been using electric kettles for nine years, since I went to Ireland and they were in all the rooms of my bed and breakfasts! Wouldn’t use a plain old stovetop kettle unless forced to! Electric kettles are so fast and they heat the water so well!

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