It’s been a long while since I posted a blog specifically related to tea equipage. As i seem to have somehow managed to misplace my tea kettle during my latest apartment move, it seemed like an appropriate time to review a new one (or more). This time, rather than high-end, I decided it might be useful if my readers had an idea of what a decent low-priced water kettle might consist of. There are several benefits to having a high-end setup I’ll probably miss in the coming weeks, but i’m perfectly comfortable with that. Historically, tea was hasn’t been considered a luxury item in well over two hundred years; everyone ought to be able to enjoy tea, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Thus, today I’m reviewing Hamilton Beach’s Programmable 1.7 Liter Electric Kettle, which I purchased on clearance at Meijer grocery for $20 USD. The current Amazon price for the Hamilton Beach Programmable is $37.92.
Almost immediately after setup, I discovered Hamilton Beach’s Programmable’s best feature: a counting temperature gauge that displays the current water temperature inside the kettle. Strangely enough, despite my many years of boiling water for tea in various devices, the Hamilton Beach Programmable is the first kettle I’ve ever owned with this feature, and it’s kind of wonderful. Usually water kettles will alert you when the water reaches the desired temp, requiring the tea master to always have her laser thermometer ready to check actual infusing temperatures. With an external gauge, the guesswork is eliminated.
However, the second thing one will notice about the Hamilton Beach’s Programmable is its lack of a chime. When it reaches boiling, or other programmed temperature, the kettle makes a very quiet click and switches to an alternating temperature gauge and “keep warm” hour count-down. Additionally there is a very small light that comes on when the kettle has reached the desired temp, but it’s more or less superfluous. In a way, the silent boil harkens back to a bygone era when tea kettles would alert you they were boiled with a whistle (though obviously, finishing the boil silently doesn’t feel quite as nostalgic). It’s quite rare to see a water kettle designed for tea omit the chime “feature”, but in this case it’s likely owing moreso to the Hamilton Beach Programmable’s small form factor and to up-selling their higher-end models than to any actual oversight. If you dislike having multiple kitchen appliances that yell at you with very similar sounding beeps and boops, you may appreciate the silent boil. I… didn’t.
Apart from a good thermometer, Hamilton Beach’s Programmable’s also boasts preset and programmable temperature settings. Designed for boiling water for loose leaf tea, the Programmable has presets for 175, 180, 190, 200 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Those five tend to be the most common, and Hamilton Beach explains via a chart on the side of the kettle which temperature is best for which style of tea. Occasionally with delicate Greens, some vendors will recommend steeping at 160 and the same can be said for many Blacks that steep around 207/208. Fortunately, for those cases, the eponymous “programmable” setting is available and the water temperature can be set to boil at five degree increments anywhere from 150 to 212 (though I haven’t bothered to test this feature as i have my own methods for reaching specific temps like that).
As part of its “Keep Warm” functionality, the Hamilton Beach Programmable will continue to reheat water to the set temperature if it drops below that point during the hour countdown. I’ve listened for the tell-tale boiling sound from the other room, and whenever I’ve checked it the temperature has still been near the initial boil point when i struck the off button.
Other features: the temperature display can be switched to the Celsius scale (for anyone whose country of origin is somewhere else on this planet other than the United States…) to compare with the temp guide printed in Fahrenheit on the side of the kettle. The Programmable also has a clock, but its LCD is so small and poorly lit that i wouldn’t bother with it.
Additionally, I’m not sure how much of a feature it really is, but the Hamilton Beach Programmable is designed to take up a very small counter-top footprint. In my case, I’d be willing to give it all the space it needs on my island, but it wasn’t necessary. If space is at a premium in your kitchen, you’ll appreciate the Programmable’s size relative to the amount of water the kettle can hold. It’s not quite as small as the surface area taken up by the previously reviewed Cuisinart PerfecTemp, but it’s quite small.
One other thing i particularly like about the Programmable’s design is its all stainless-steel basin and removable mesh filter at the spout (though that has become more or less a standard design for smaller water kettles at this point). One other thing i dislike about the Programmable is a low-gauge electrical plug and cord.
I’ll be honest, the best water kettle I ever owned was a standing multi-cup stainless steel Chinese-designed off-brand I picked up from our local Asian Grocery for $75. It lasted me for years and only required a citrus clean about once a year. Probably the most recognizable brand of water kettle I have used is the Zoujirushi. Zoujirushi is a Japanese company that makes a series of fully-featured kettles (as well as rice cookers (pictured below) and other kitchen appliances), but the ones I’ve owned have all suffered an early demise from rubber gasket failure. Most Zoujirushi kettles are overly priced and aren’t all stainless steel (many Western standing “handle kettle” designs are all stainless steel–one of the reasons I’ve switched), so I tend to not recommend them anyway. If you happen to spot one at a Japanese garage sale though, as I have on occasion, they do make for a nice backup.