There are several reasons why you don’t see many of the best kettles on countertops in American kitchens like you do in the UK. For one, most Americans rely on alternatives like microwaves and coffee makers for hot water, reducing the need for traditional stovetop kettles. Secondly, it boils down (sorry, couldn’t resist) to cultural differences. They’re just not big tea drinkers over in the States: coffee is the usual cuppa of choice across the pond.
That’s probably why you won’t find Swan’s Alexa Smart Kettle on sale in the US, which is a shame because any hot drink that’s been crafted with the help of a virtual assistant is worthy of a slurp or two if you ask me. Nevertheless, if you’re a tea-supping Brit, you’re about to find out if “the world’s first 'out the box' kettle with Alexa” is worthy of a place in your kitchen or, instead, the good old flick of a switch is actually just as easy.
Swan Alexa Smart Kettle review: price and availability
The Swan Alexa Smart Kettle is available now but only in the UK. It has an RRP of £99.99, however, at the time of writing this article, it could be picked up on sale directly from the Swan website for £79.99. It’s also available on Amazon for the same reduced price, saving you £20.
Since kettle prices in the UK start at around the £12 mark, with better quality, top-name brands offering options at around £30-40, the Swan Alexa Smart Kettle is clearly way above average in terms of cost.
Still, Swan’s smart water boiler is by no means the most expensive out there. A quick Google search will easily reveal many lesser intelligent offerings that are priced upwards of £100. Take high-end appliance manufacturers such as Ninja, Sage and Smeg, who are flogging bog-standard but sleek-looking kettles that cost £99.99, £119.95 and £189.95, respectively. Ouch.
SWAN ALEXA SMART KETTLE review: DESIGN
When pulling the Swan Alexa Smart Kettle out from the packaging and having a good first inspection, I can't say I was all that impressed by what I found. While the all-black glossy design looks sleek at first glance, it isn’t until you touch it that it feels a little cheap, mostly because its outer is made entirely of plastic.
There is good reason for this though. This plastic casing is what gives the Swan Alexa Smart Kettle its cool-touch body feature, a design detail that means it doesn’t feel hot to touch, even right after it’s boiled, nor does it create condensation up the sides like its glass- or metal-bodied rivals often do. Still, the black plastic housing does attract fingerprints like nobody’s business and overall has a rather cheap feel, something you really wouldn’t expect from a £100 appliance.
The kettle’s lid works well, however, and opens easily via a responsive push button on the top, meaning it can be filled up quickly from the tap. I also enjoyed its generous 57oz / 1.5-litre capacity, which is enough to make about 8 cups of tea. It would have been nice to see a window on the side to show the water level, but this might have cheapened the kettle’s aesthetic even further. Another positive about having a plastic casing is that the kettle is quite light and thus easy to lift, weighing just 1.6kg (when empty).
When it comes to onboard controls, the Swan Alexa kettle boasts a minimal white LED display with an on/off button beneath it. The "SET" function below the on/off button enables you to toggle through temperatures from 40ºC, 60ºC, 80ºC, 85ºC, 90ºC and 100ºC. But why would you need anything less than 100ºC? Well, this is useful for those who drink speciality teas like green tea or Earl Grey, which have lower recommended optimum water temperatures of around 80º than breakfast tea, for example. This means you can make the perfect cuppa whatever the type of tea you drink - without burning the leaves or having to wait for it to cool.
Inside the kettle, you’ll find a fully stainless steel inner touting markings for the MIN and MAX water levels. The MIN level is about two cups-worth by the way, which Swan advises users not to go below. Oh, and before I move onto performance, I should probably mention that the kettle is cordless and sitting on a round base that houses any unneeded length of the 1-metre cord.
SWAN ALEXA SMART KETTLE review: SPECS
Capacity: 57oz / 1.5 liters
No. of cups: 8 - 10
Control: Touchscreen or Alexa app
Finish: Stainless Steel inner, cool-touch body
Dimensions: 27.3 x 20.4 x 15.7cm (h x w x l)
SWAN ALEXA SMART KETTLE review: PERFORMANCE
The kettle is super easy to set up on the Alexa side of things. You plug it in, switch it on and the Alexa app recognises it immediately, letting you add it to your Alexa devices list and set personalised commands for its operation such as “Alexa: boil the kettle” or, if you’re northern like me, “Alexa: do us a brew, luv!”
When boiling, I was surprised at how quiet the kettle was. You can barely hear it boiling apart from when it hits higher temperatures at the end. Although, when it’s done, it will make you aware with a somewhat uncomfortable sounding “BEEP!”.
I found the digital display to be a bit confusing to use at first. When the kettle is on standby, you have to press the SET button to pick the temperature and then press it again if you want to change it before it starts heating up. But this isn't immediately obvious, so it will take some playing around and getting used to. Guests, as I found, will appear endlessly confused by it at first, which (admittedly) is rather humorous.
Boiling a full kettle takes about six minutes for the top 100ºC temperature while heating it to 60ºC takes about three minutes. When it's about 10 degrees away from the chosen temperature, it might seem like it turned off, but it's just slowing down to get it right.
Unlike most kettles I’ve ever owned, I was impressed that Swan’s Alexa offering is able to pour water smoothly from the spout, so you won't have any drips making a mess.
SWAN ALEXA SMART KETTLE review: VERDICT
So, the big question: is Swan’s Alexa-powered kettle worth the dosh? It’s hard to say. While it works well at boiling water upon the bark of a simple voice command, it doesn’t, obviously, make you an entire cup of tea. The annoying part of tea making – the tea bag dropping, the pouring, the brewing, the adding of milk and sugar (if that's how you take it) – is still something you have to do for yourself. It's not like an automatic coffee machine that makes you a latte at the touch of a button. What you're paying for here is the speeding up of just one smart part of the tea-making process.
Still, it's nice to be able to tell Alexa to put the kettle on from the comfort of your bed so that it's ready and waiting to be poured by the time you make it to the kitchen, but is the saving of a few minutes wait really worth the near-£100 price point? For me, it's not a feature that's going to make my life easier. It is, however, a great gimmick that I love to show off when friends are over, which - in my opinion - is worth every penny.