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5 Things You (Likely) Didn’t Know About Electric Kettles

Article December 19, 2017  |  Text by Petra Baumruková Text by Petra Baumruková

The second part of neverending series presenting things that you can find in every office. Check what you know about an electric kettle! What is the iconic K2? What is iKettle? And what is the fastest kettle in the world?

1/ No Tea, No Kettle

In the beginning there was the non-electric kettle, dating back over 5,000 years. But the electric kettle had to wait for electricity, and thus the late 19th century. (For any bewildered North American readers: while these kettles—which, as you’ll soon see, used to exist in the US—died out long ago in North America with the move to 120-volt power, they are still widespread in “high-voltage” regions such as Britain and continental Europe.) The tea-loving Brits longed to speed up the preparation of their favo(u)rite drink even more than they feared joining electricity and water. In 1891 the British Crompton and Company presented the first electric kettle. The Chicago-based Carpenter Electric Company presented a similar invention in the same period. 

The first electric kettles had a whole series of problems. If you were lucky when using these contraptions, you merely scalded yourself in front of your visitors before 5 o’clock tea. If you were unlucky (as was more common), you received an electric shock, or your tea table burst into flames.

2/ The Iconic K2

But within a few decades this invention had taken great strides ahead. A company named Russell Hobbs presented the first fully automatic electric kettle as we know them today (i.e. with a built-in heating element and thermostat that turns the kettle off when the water starts boiling) in 1955. Named the K1, it was followed by the K2, which became an iconic part of British households in the 60s and 70s. And in light of its price of just roughly 7 pounds (about half a week’s wages at the time), it was a frequent item on wedding-gift wishlists.

Photo by santahul/Reddit

3/ iKettles

The arrival of the internet brought new advancements in the field of electric kettles. The Japanese, for example, developed the iPot to help care for their aging relatives. With its built-in wireless technology, worried offspring can monitor the frequency of this kettle’s use—and thus their grandparents’ liquid intake. But smarter yet in our smart age is the iKettle (photo below). You can turn it on remotely over your smartphone, and then when you finally roll out of bed, you have the foundation for your critical morning dose of caffeine (or theine).

Photo by Smarter

4/ Faster than ASAP

And how is it with the speed on these kettles? The most powerful of them can heat a liter of water from 0° Celsius up to a literally boiling-hot 100° in less than 3 minutes. And meanwhile the kettle from the Japanese firm Tiger is likely so fast as to make itself unwelcome in office kitchens. After all, the 45 seconds that it needs to heat up a cup of water will never give you enough time to hear about your office mate’s weekend. Incidentally, in this website’s home city of Prague, you’ll find yourself spending about half a Czech crown—a couple of cents—to kettle-heat a liter of water.

5/ The British Kettlemania, One More Time

Britishers’ relationship with tea, and thus with electric kettles, is truly something charming. Because, to quote Tim Hayward’s “The Modern Kitchen,” on the Isles, “Put the kettle on, love” is as valid a greeting to one’s partner on arriving home as “Good evening, darling.” And can you guess what the British call their super-modern and super-fast steam-powered car?  Yes—it’s “the fastest kettle in the world”.

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