The electric kettle is the most often ignored component of a pour-over coffee set up. I’ve met people who spend hundreds of dollars on a perfect burr grinder, dozens of hours researching different drippers, and a few days scavenging for the beautiful glass carafes and enamel mugs, only to discover that they’re boiling their water with a $20 plastic kettle they bought from Amazon five years ago.
It’s not that it’s impossible to get a good cup of coffee with one of those (as long as you’re cleaning it regularly), but they do present an obstacle to truly excellent flavor. Making an above average cup of coffee, leagues beyond anything you can get with most coffee makers or a Keurig, with a pour-over is pretty simple. But it’s possible to do even better, to get a cup that’s so perfectly clean, balanced, and flavorful that it’ll have you floating through the rest of your morning like a cartoon character sniffing a just-baked pie.
Achieving this is about controlling for variables. A great electric kettle will allow you to get the water to the exact temperature you want quickly and keep it there. It’ll also be well-balanced and comfortable to hold. That way, when you’re trying to pour perfect spirals into your small dripper, you won’t accidentally dump a ton of extra water and splash your coffee onto the counter.
An electric kettle with an adjustable temperature is also a great option for tea drinkers, since different kinds of teas are meant to be brewed at different temperatures. After a few weeks of research and testing, we’ve found three excellent kettles that’ll be automatic upgrades to your coffee game.
The Best Electric Kettle
OXO is known for making people-friendly products for use across the home, including our favorite cold brew coffee makers. It’s no surprise then that their relatively new Adjustable Temperature Kettle is basically the perfect electric kettle for pour-over. It’s extremely intuitive to set up and dial in to the exact temperature that you want your water. All you have to do is push a button, turn a knob, and push the button again to confirm. After about two minutes (if you’re heating about 500 grams of water to 195 degrees), you’re ready to go.
The best thing about the OXO Adjustable Pour-Over Kettle though is what happens right after this, when you return the kettle to its stand. Rather than to go to sleep or simply tell you how fast your water is cooling, the OXO automatically heats the water back to the temperature you previously selected. This works almost instantaneously, which means you don’t need to worry about whether your water will be the same temperature during your second pour as it was in your first.
That might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re trying to get super nerdy about coffee, you have to eliminate as many brewing variables as possible. And even if you have no interest in going deep on optimal brew times, drip techniques, grind sizes, something that automatically gets water back to the temperature you read about online is going to allow you to make a better tasting daily cup without any extra effort.
The automatic heating function is not the only thing that makes the OXO a great electric kettle—it also has an extremely comfortable handle. The handle is basically just a rod enveloped in a squishy rubber, but it has slight grooves for your fingers and a natural place for your thumb to rest on top. This means you can get a really secure grip as you pick up the kettle, which allows you to feel more in control of your pours through the OXO’s gooseneck spout. Thanks to this balanced design, I never found myself accidentally flooding my Chemex with too much water too quickly, and potentially messing up my brew.
If you ever want to change the temperature reading from Fahrenheit to Celsius, or vice-versa, all you have to do is hold the OXO button, twist the dial to make your selection, and push the button to confirm. It works well, but when I was first learning to use the kettle I occasionally opened that menu accidentally, when starting up the machine. My morning coffee-deprived brain quickly adjusted. I think yours will, too.
An Elegant Upgrade That Makes a Great Gift
The first time I saw a Fellow Stagg Electric Kettle was on the shelves of my favorite fancy coffee shop. I was struck by its unique shape, which kind of resembles an Erlyermyer flask from Chemistry class, and matte black finish. Of course, there are many products, especially in the home kitchen space, that might look more interesting than a classic cast-iron skillet or a sheet pan, but don’t do their job nearly as well. The Fellow Electric Kettle is no such product.
Like the OXO, the Fellow is simple to actually operate. To turn it on, you press the circular dial on the front. The kettle immediately begins heating whatever water is inside, which’ll save you a few seconds or so as you adjust the dial to your exact temperature. Once your water is heated, you can hold the dial down for two seconds to start a stopwatch, which’ll help you keep track of how your brew is going. To turn everything off, you push the dial again.
The kettle also features two switches on the back of it’s base. The first allows you to change between Farenheit and Celcius. (Toggling this switch back and forth triggers a not-so-secret- sort-of-cute- worm game—yes, an actual game you can play on the digital readout—with imprecise controls). The second allows you to put the kettle in hold mode, so that once you’ve set a temperature, the kettle keeps water at that temperature. As with the OXO, this is an important step that helps eliminate variables in your brew process and makes the Fellow kettle better for pour-over than something cheap from a no-name brand on Amazon.
The Fellow Kettle’s handle isn’t as comfortable to hold as the OXO’s, since it doesn’t have squishy grips. Beauty doesn’t come without a little pain, I suppose. Still, its design features a spot that makes a perfect thumb rest, which’ll make the kettle feel a bit more stable and give you more control on your pours. And, unlike the other kettles we recommend, the Fellow comes in a few different colors. The matte black and white stainless steel are $150, but the gleaming polished copper and steel are $180.
One caveat, the Fellow Kettle has a small .9 L capacity. That’s enough water for a pour-over, but not enough for the 1-liter french press my roommate makes every morning. If you need a larger kettle, for a big french press or to batch brew tea, the OXO or the Bonavita are better options.
The Best Budget Electric Kettle
If you had asked anyone two years ago what the best electric kettle was, there’s an extremely high change they would have said this one from Bonavita. Until the OXO was released in late 2017, the Bonavita Digital Temperature Gooseneck Kettle was the one most often recommended by coffee professionals and editorial publications. It’s still an excellent kettle. It heats water quickly, is comfortable to hold and use, and has a large enough capacity for most coffee related tasks. But its interface is a little bit clunky compared to that of the OXO and Fellow.
The Bonavita kettle separates all the functionality of the OXO’s single button into a six button control panel. To get your kettle to a specific temperature, you turn on the kettle with one button, use the “Temp Set” button to select an approximate temperature, and then use the “+” and “-” buttons to get the kettle to the exact temperature you want. If you actually want the kettle to stay at that temperature, you have to remember to hit the “Hold” button. Unfortunately, once you take off the kettle, the hold function turns off. That means when you set the kettle back down, you have to set the temperature to the point at which you wanted it again, and then hit the “hold” button again.
Once you’ve done this enough times, it starts to become second nature, but once you’ve experienced the seamless experience of the OXO and the Fellow, it’s hard to go back to. Still, at this price point, it’s difficult to find anything that is as effective at heating water and has a track record of good performance. Plus, the Bonavita has a decent handle, with grooves that should accommodate (or at the very least, not hinder) most fingers. If you’re looking for a kettle but can’t bear the price of the other two options, the Bonavita is unassailable.
Originally Appeared on GQ