Owning the best kettle possible is an essential for tea-loving Brits, but they come in handy even in countries that don't worship leaf-and-boiling-water-based beverages. Kettles used to be simple things that boiled water, so you could make tea or, I dunno, Bovril or something. Now, thanks to all of us getting richer, at least statistically speaking, they've joined the premium kitchen tech consumer revolution. Though of course you can also still get cheaper ones. All told, there are a LOT of kettles available.
Many long hours were spent researching this buying guide, boiling water whilst clutching a decibel meter and stopwatch, testing the pleasingness of the pouring spout, and as far as possible, living with each kettle for a while.
At the end of that original process we picked out the Sage Smart Kettle. And since we usually pick Sage stuff to win these tests, that made us wonder why we'd even bothered. Having subsequently lived with the Sage Smart Kettle for a number of years, we can further confirm that its longevity was acceptable – it died after 5 years – and it was reasonably easy to descale.
However, new arrival KitchenAid 1.7 Litre Kettle – a less sexy name than Smart Kettle, admittedly – has now overtaken it in our affections and won the inaugural T3 Award for Best Kettle!
Incidentally, if you are off to college or university soon, and are not in shared accommodation – or are just worried that the kettle in said accommodation will be gross. a new kettle is a must. Which brings me neatly on to…
• The best back to school deals – everything you need in one place
And now, back to the T3 best kettle rundown.
- Best toaster. You know, for toast
- The best juicers
- The best water filter jugs – essential in hard water areas
How to buy the best kettle for you
How does a kettle stand out in such a crazily busy field? Two ways: they can be made of premium materials and look like an industrial work of art. And they can use digital tech so as to have different temperature settings.
The latter allow you to make the most of different beverages - coffee requires about 90 to 95 degrees, green tea, which can be literally nauseating when made with boiling water, requires about 80 degrees. Oolong tea requires 90 degrees and white tea about 85. Do you drink oolong tea? Then there you go. Sorted.
Now an interesting thing, in our experience, is that a really expensive kettle will not necessarily last any longer than a cheap one.
Probably if you tallied up all users around the world, a £100 one lasts longer, but T3.com has had several pricey kettles drop dead after a few months, and we've all owned cheap plastic kettles that lasted for all our student years and well beyond. If you're going high-end, buy from someone who's reputable in terms of accepting returns, like John Lewis or Amazon.
At the end of the day, these things are kettles, for heating up water. We know which ones we like, and we'll tell you here. You can judge for yourself whether you like the look, we'll fill you in as best we can how good they are at boiling and dispensing water without scalding you or exploding. It's hot work, but someone's gotta do it.
Once you're done, come back and check out the rest of our kitchen tech verdicts, links are above. They're way less boring than kettles, we guarantee.
Before you read on, let's answer a few questions.
Do these kettles all have removable scale filters? Yes.
Do they all have variable temperature control? No, though most do. We've mentioned when they don't.
Hey, my variable-temp kettle stops boiling for a while, then restarts when it's heating to a temperature other than 100 degrees! Yes, they all do that. We don't know why. Don't worry about it, guy.
Are these kettles ranked in order? Yes, but based on our taste. And let's face it, kettles are not the most difficult things to get at least somewhat right. Pro tip: browse till you find one you like the look of and can afford.
Our pick of the best kettles available to buy today
After approximately 1,000 years atop this particular list, the Sage Smart Kettle has been ousted by this smart number from KitchenAid. Also known as KitchenAid 5KEK1722, this doesn't do anything very different to the Smeg and Sage kettles below. However, it is very stylish and can heat water to any temperature between 50ºC and boiling point – the others have preset increments of 10ºC. Okay, I know that is not a big deal.
The KitchenAid will also hold water at your favoured temperature for up to half an hour. Why you would want to do that I have no idea but, again, all these more expensive kettles offer that option.
A handy display on the top of the handle, next to the temperature controls, tells you how heating is going. The pour is pleasingly smooth, and the lid pops open like there's no time to lose. This may not feel as premium as the action on the Smeg or Sage but personally when I want a brew, I don't really want to have to wait for a soft open mechanism to delay my moment to pour in water.
Overall I prefer the KitchenAid over its equally impressive rivals because I happen to prefer the look, and because it has a slightly smaller footprint. As with goal-line video technology, tiny differences make the difference between glory and failure, in the premium kettle world…
For those of a certain age, this kettle will induce feelings of wistful nostalgia. I'd imagine it's also appealing to young people, with their bizarre love of retro things. It's the 65th anniversary reboot of the Kettle That Everyone in Britain Had Back In the Day™. All that's been noticeably updated is that there's now a see-through panel so you can view your water level, and it's cordless of course, with a nice slim base.
Unlike most of the kettles at the top end of this guide to the best kettles, this one only heats to good, old-fashioned, 100ºC. That's perhaps because, when it was designed, tea was tea. Not this fancy-pants 'green tea' or 'oolong' nonsense. It also lacks a keep-warm function but seriously, who really needs that? Just reboil the kettle.
As a result, Russell Hobbs' claimed feature set is a bit feeble – 'embossed logo' is an actual selling point, according to the website. It can also 'boil one cup of water in 40 seconds', saving energy wastage but, uh, any kettle can do that. The spout is obviously very much more 'directional' than that found on most modern kettle designs, and you probably will completely miss the cup with it the first few times you use it. However, once you master it, you'll be pouring water like a boss, and wondering why modern kettles have such feeble little, so-called spouts.
However, if you have no need for multiple temperature settings, this is an excellent vessel for making water hot in, and a genuine design icon. Colour choices are classic brushed silver and a new-fangled copper tone.
We keep giving the Sage range top spot in our kitchen tech lists for several reasons: we like the steeled look, the products feel high-end and offer genuine innovation. Although the pricing is not cheap, it's actually pitched below more established names in the premium small appliances market.
So it's almost boring to say it but the Sage Smart kettle is yet another strong, steely and premium-priced product that tops one of our charts. It boils quietly and reliably, has a large, 1.7-litre capacity, looks great for a kettle and has a lid that opens with a pleasingly slow – but not so slow as to be irritating – action. Textbook. The buttons, as on the Sage Smart Toaster, are amusingly quirky. Has there ever been a UK kettle with a dedicated "oolong" button before?
This was our #1 kettle for YEARS, and it is still very good. Please note that it is now marketed as simply Sage Smart Kettle; they dropped the 'By Heston Blumenthal' bit a few years back.
The cool Smeg KLF03 kettle smoulders in black, looks sexy in red, or is also available in a selection of other shades. The retro looks work to great effect while the design is practical.
The 360° swivel base is handy if you have an open-plan kitchen and frequently approach your kettle from different directions. However since the kettle has a squared off shape rather than a round one, you do need to position it with a little care, to get the optimum visual effect.
As with the kettles at number one and two you have various temperature options, a removable and washable limescale filter and a 1.7 litre capacity. It seems to have occasional issues when at the end of its heating programme, needing a couple of goes to decide it's reached the correct temperature. Also, the lid takes what feels like an age to open – the effect is very elegant, admittedly – and the various beeps it makes are a little bit too jaunty for my tastes. Although the fact that the 'turning on' jingle sounds a bit like the first 4 notes of Cars by Gary Numan could be called a plus.
Nevertheless, the Smeg feels like a properly premium appliance – arguably even more so than the Sage or KitchenAid – and boils water like the best of them. What more could you ask for?
Alternatively, you could go for this, which costs significantly less.
Admittedly, this lacks multi-temperature settings for your oolong tea, and the stainless steel heft of the Sage by Heston Blumenthal Smart Kettle. Clearly, no slap-headed gastro-scientist in big specs is going to put their name to it (though Russell Hobbs, whoever he is, already has).
However, what's undeniable is that it definitely boils water, quickly, has a very smooth-flowing spout, and looks perfectly pleasing from a distance.
I'm not quite sure why it's called 'Colours Plus' when it only comes in black or grey, but there we go.
From the reliably efficient purveyors of high-end, large kitchen appliances comes this attractive kettle, which looks a bit like a very attentive metal rooster head.
It's quick and quiet,though the pointy spout is rather unforgiving and the lid has a tendency to stick.
Very solid generally, though. Also about the most affordable AEG appliance there is,if you're feeling aspirational.
This is the multi-temp version, which we think it great and easy to use, but they've also got a cheaper, non-variable model.
We’re smitten by the Bosch TWK7203GB Sky Kettle chiefly because of it’s very precise spout, which can get boiling water to your cup, pot or pan beautifully.
At the same time, the Bosch has a great look with a natty base that is home to a touch control panel. It’s a neat variation on the traditional kettle approach we think and works well too.
Elsewhere, there’s an audible alert when boiling point has been reached, but perhaps best of all is the capacity for deciding an optimal temperature for your chosen drink. This is done using the slider on the 360° swivel base.
Better still the ‘Keep warm’ function means that the kettle will keep your water at the right temperature until you’ve used it.
Best known for its toasters, Dualit also tries its hand at other appliances, making really excellent hand blenders, and not-bad milk frothers, for instance.
Dualit also makes a wide and growing range of kettles, and this is our favourite. It best captures the classic Dualit look of being retro without looking old - timeless, really - and boils quick and fast.
The handle allows easy lifting and pouring and the water level gauge is very easy to read. The scale filter is unusually easy to access and clean, too.
Sometimes, the simplest tech, done best, is the most pleasing. Shame it doesn't have multi-temperature settings, though.
A more affordable Sage kettle, this dispenses with the multiple temperature control and only holds a litre. That's why it's called The Compact Kettle.
However, it keeps the same benefits as the pricier Sage devices, being very handsome indeed, quick and quiet to boil, and having an excellent spout and reliable, sproingy lid.
If you live in a hard water area, don't even THINK about buying it, unless you want to be cleaning regularly. You know just limescale and glass don't mix…
If you fall in love with the look of this one, perhaps its price tag won't put you off. We find it rather squat and unappetising, and overly self-conscious in its analogue affectations, from the temperature dial on the side to the soft "ping" it emits once the desired, adjustable temperature is reached.
On the other hand, the temperature slider is hugely satisfying and covers the widest range of any of these kettles, from 50 to 100 degrees. On the other other hand, our one's lid kept popping up when boiling, and then the pinger stopped working, and it was also kind of loud.
Doubtless that isn't what usually happens, and probably most of these work fine, but it does go show that not only will money not buy you happiness, it also won't even buy you a kettle that always works.
Yes, that Bugatti. Now, this looks absolutely magnificent, and has a particularly fetching digital display for its variable temperature settings. It can also hold the water at your chosen hotness, has a clock and, if you please, a timer, so you can have it boil at set times.
Why don't more kettles do that?
It's not the best kettle, being particularly tricky to pour from. However, this does undeniably make a very strong statement. Even if that statement is, 'I am a rich car nut who hasn't got a clue.'