Breville variable-temperature kettle

After I converted my parents from drinking filter coffee to making their morning brew with an Aeropress (something I do with missionary zeal wherever I go), the next step was to replace their antiquated electric kettle with something smarter. Living in the UK has accustomed me to the wonder of electric kettles (240V AC FTW!) but even in Canada, where my folks live, the weedy 110V mains can still produce a decent boil in reasonable time.

I shopped around a lot, and hit on the Breville BKE820XL Variable-Temperature 1.8-Liter Kettle, based both the online reviews and the feature-set, which allows you to set a specific temperature and tell the kettle to keep it there, much like the ubiquitous water-heaters you find in Asian hotels.

It's been more than a year, and the Breville is a winner. The lowest setting ("Green tea") heats water to perfect Aeropress temperature, and the thermostat makes the kettle perfect for making multiple cups (when I stay at my folks' place, my nickname is "coffee slave" and I often make three or four cups in a row). The additional temperatures are great for oatmeal, hot water bottles, black tea, etc.

I'm presently on a family holiday at a winter resort in Ontario with my folks and my brother and his family, and we brought the Breville, Aeropress, a small grinder, and some very nice beans (thank you, Sam James Coffee!) along, and as I marvelled anew at the kettle's usefulness and quiet design flourishes (in addition to being rather handsome, it has lots of grace-notes, like a pull-ring integrated into the AC plug to make it easy to unplug without stressing the cord), my mom said, "Why don't you blog it?"

So there you are. Happy, Mom?

Breville BKE820XL Variable-Temperature 1.8-Liter Kettle



  1. Thanks for the info. I have an Aeropress but since my husband is a coffee addict, the process of making it that way is too time consuming for our consumption. Still, I’ve been interested in learning how to perfect my Aeropress technique so we can use it during camping trips. I’m not sure the automated pot is the best camping use, but maybe it would help me get my home technique down. I’m still not crazy about how it makes an expresso that you water down rather than a real cup of joe.

    We got really sick of our coffee makers breaking down after a year or so of use and decided this year I’d ask my mother in law to get us something more likely to last. I did a lot of research online and was surprised how few options there were in true high end coffee making. Even a lot of the more expensive coffee machines from brands like Kitchenaid, Cuisinart, etc., that usually put out good quality products were reported to break down within two years in most online reviews.

    We were left with three options (shockingly few options): the Bonavita Pourover, the Technivorm, and a new contender, the Brazen. We ended up going with the Brazen even though it is the newest because it’s the only one with an auto timer feature on it. It also has a two year warranty, which we hope is an indication that the thing won’t crap out on us. So far so good with the Brazen, although we are on a learning curve with the water temperature settings and grinds. I’m mixed on the insulated pot. It’s true that the coffee doesn’t get scorched but it does cool a lot quicker even with the insulation.

    1. Aeropress does not make espresso but what it produces certainly is a real cup of joe. If you are trying to fill a bucket of a mug, I would recommend buying two Aeropresses and working them in parallel.

      1. My husband drinks coffee the way most people drink water, and since he is often up way early in the morning due to an insane work schedule, he is just not going to mess with an Aeropress when his eyelids are barely functioning. Something automated seems like the better option for us day to day. However, I’d still like to play around with an Aeropress when I have time, and use it camping too. 

        I think the term of art for what you make with the Aeropress is an “Americano.” To me, it’s not quite the same as just straight up coffee.

        1. I hate to be a coffee pedant, but an Americano is espresso and hot water. An Aeropress does not make espresso. It does make less acidic, less bitter coffee and that may be what seems different to you.

          Sounds to me like a drip machine is exactly right for your family but a large french press might be interesting as well. If early morning convenience is most important, check out the pod machines. The best that I’ve tried are the Nespresso machines. 

          Aeropress is still my favorite “easy” way to make coffee though.

          1. From the Aeropress instruction manual, step 8: You’ve just made a double espresso.

            For American coffee, top-off the mug with hot water. For a latte, top-off the mug with hot milk.

            I’m still interested in learning to use it better and it sounds like you have a feel for it, so I’d love to learn how to make it work better for me. 

          2. That’s really just marketing. It really isn’t an espresso at all.
            I love my aeropress and my wife and I use it daily (I’m actually on my third — the earlier models had a different plastic that used to really get scratched up). However, it basically produces a coffee that’s about twice as strong as a drip coffee. That doesn’t mean it’s espresso, however.

            FYI, I find it at least as quick as any other method (except I guess instant), and definitely faster than drip. Water goes in the electric kettle. The press assembled and two scoops of coffee in the tube while the water is heating. Before the water boils (my kettle is transparent so this is easy to judge) I pour the water into the press. Stir. Rinse my spoon. Press. Done.

  2. If it’s keeping the water at a constant temperature all day, isn’t that going to use a lot of electricity?

    1. Keeping the kettle plugged in is only a concern on days you wouldn’t have to heat your house.

      My method to get the right temperature was to bring the water to a boil, unplug the kettle, then wait until it cooled down to the perfect temperature (get a suitable thermometer and find out how long yours takes).  You need to be obsessive and measure and record water temps until you find the temp that makes your coffee sing.

      Luckily, for me it was about the same time it took to grind the coffee and scald the Bodum.  So it was boil, unplug, prepare the coffee pot.

      Nowadays, I just press a button, and my espresso machine grinds, measures, tamps, and brews my demi-tasse automatically.  I’m always surprised how good it is.

      I do roast, however, the beans myself.  Yes: organic, shade-grown, fair-traded, green beans selected from various farm-communes around the world – via Just Us Coffee in Wolfville NS.  It’s astounding how much better my coffee is these days.

        1.  Not in Québec (which isn’t the case for me these days) which comes in at about five and half cents per KWH.

          (I forgot to add: the reason I got a fully automatic coffee maker was so my guests woudn’t need a coffee slave to handle the complicated coffee-making process.)

      1. I’m sure SJCB is fine but when back in Toronto you might also want to try Moonbean Coffee and / or i deal coffee both with locations in Kensington Market.  I’ve tried them and they’re both great.

        1.  Ideal’s very nice. I keep trying to get to Moonbeam, but they’re always shut when I’m around.

  3. I have been using a Chef’s Choice Smart Kettle for years and love it! As a tea-geek, I appreciate the large temp display and how easy it is to change temps. 

  4. One of these might put an end to a small but constant fear that I’ve been having. Every morning when I hang the thermometer on the side of the pot, I have visions of Jesse Pinkman knocking on my door.

    1.  that was my first thought as well.  The one Cory pointed to has 5 preset temperatures instead of user programmable, but an amazon similar search finds quite a few with user programmable temperatures, wide mouths and 1.7 litre capacity that should be workable at prices WAY below sous vides systems I’m aware of.

      Given that I’ve had really outstanding sous vides results with ziplock bags and a styrofoam box, manually mixing boiling water and tap water with a grill thermometer, I think it’s well worth a shot.

  5. I have a question about the water heater:  Is the interior of the kettle where the water is heated metal or plastic?  I’m trying to phase out plastic containers that contact food or drink in my kitchen, particularly when the food is going to be heated or frozen in them.  Uncertainty about plastic surfaces contacting and heating the water is why I haven’t jumped on one of these yet.

    1.  There’s a little plastic window up one side for displaying the water level. The remainder is stainless steel.

    2. It seems someone has been uploading images to Amazon of the insides of these kettles, presumably to answer questions like this. You can see one on the Breville link above and here:

      The short answer is that the Breville and the Cuisinart both seem to be mostly stainless inside (though they both look like they have plastic “windows” for seeing the water level.)

      BTW, A old friend of mine and I always used to call each other swell foops…

      1. Thanks for doing the footwork on that!  This is good to know.

        It’s always good to meet another swell foop.  We’re a dying breed these days I think. (what that means I’m unsure, but feel free to take it as a compliment!)

    3. this was going to be my question.  as well as a comment on the same “problem” with the aero press.  i believe the aero-press is BPA-free, but i’m sure it’s only a few years until some other chemical leaching into our food from plastic is deemed unsafe.

      1. Surely the duration of exposure of heated food or drink product to the plastic and chemicals contained therein has something to do with the amount of, ermm, stuff, that leeches in, if any, though I suppose that would likely depend on a number of factors like the particular compound and the characteristics plastic it was in.

        If you consider the potential pitfalls and product liability inherent in making a glass areopress (think the outer cylinder shattering and going into your hand as you exert downward pressure), the plastic is likely the best option unless you go for stainless steel, which would be inconvenient for the purpose of easily making sure of the level of water you pour in and would increase the price by a substantial margin.

  6. I love electric kettles on 240V AC. My UK friends give me funny looks when I get excited about boiling water. I also think about disassembling their kettle and setting up a welding shop in their kitchen, MacGyver style.

    1. It’s just a no-name blade grinder that my Mom got for about $15. One of the beauties of Aeropress is that it’s very forgiving of uneven grinds.

      1. I’d recommend a Hario Mini Mill for travelling. It’s a portable hand grinder with ceramic burrs. 

        Unfortunately an uneven grind always leads to uneven extraction.
        Edit: Also, from memory I think that kettle gives you 80c water for brewing green tea? you normally want it much hotter for coffee extraction. The standard brew temp is the 92-96 range and you’ll need a slightly higher kettle temp to achieve that.
        In the end results are all that matters but I reckon you might get more coffee character and less unpleasant (underextracted) flavours by using hotter water.

  7. What about the viewing window and lid being made of polycarbonate containing cancer-causing BPA? I’ve been searching for a great electric kettle that’s completely stainless steel, but haven’t found one yet. All of the ones I’ve found have some plastic containing BPA in them, and heating that plastic is the best way to put the BPA into your water.

  8. Oh, you’re not so special.  We can have 240 if we really want.  Just requires using both incoming phases.

    1. Yeah, the previous owner of my house had an electric range, so there’s still a two-phase 240v outlet behind the current gas unit.  I could use 240v kettles (with an adapter for the plug, since UK/US 240v plugs are different) if I wanted to.

      I don’t, since boiling a kettle on the gas range is just as fast, and is not only way cheaper but also environmentally cleaner here in Southern California.  

      But I could if I wanted to. :-)

  9. That looks like a very nice thing, but for serial tea-drinkers, who cannot abide a moment when water at the proper temperature is not available, this is the ticket:

    Also super handy for making sauces, etc. It boils the water first, before bringing it to the desired temp., which is a plus. It’s got a timer, so the water’s right in the morning, and pretty well insulated so that keeping that water hot all the time doesn’t feel too wasteful. The high volume is really nice as well when there are multiple beverage hounds about, throughout the day, as in a workplace.

    1. It was funny, but after looking at the original kettle and some others this morning, while out I stopped at Teavana to see if they had restocked their black teas (they hadn’t…). On the discount shelf I spotted a Zojirushi CD-WBC40 on sale for half off.

      So if you want a 4L variable temp water source, check the local Teavana (or other tea store that carries Zojirushi), you might get lucky…

    2. How long does a kettle take to boil in the US?  A 3kW rapid boil kettle, which costs only a little more than a cheap one in the UK, takes less than a minute to boil water (one brand advertises 15-20 seconds).

      Compared to that, keeping water heated for any longer than necessary seems very wasteful.

      1. If I fill a 1.5 L electric kettle here in Canada, and switch it on, I have time to go shave before it boils and I put the tea on to brew while I shower. I’d kill for 240 V mains. Your 3 kW kettle would need an adapter, and would have to plug into the special outlet behind the stove. :-(

        Here’s why. The maximum power you can get out of a North American outlet is 1.8 kW, more or less. Mains voltage is about 120 volts, though appliances and such are usually specified as running on 110–120 V, so I think there’s a bit of variation. The ordinary outlet around the house is on a 15 amp circuit breaker, so: 

        15 A × 120 V = 1800 W

        Kitchen ranges and electric dryers are usually on a heftier circuit breaker, but I think they still top out around 4–6 kW. If memory serves, those are actually at double the normal voltage and on a 30 A breaker, which would come out to 7.2 kW tops. You’d actually keep the normal draw of the appliance below that, to avoid tripping the breaker. 

        Bottom line: two of your fast-boil kettles actually have the heating power of an entire North American range.

      2. Just timed my U.S. electric kettle with a stopwatch. 1.8 liters of cold tap water boiled in 7 minutes 52 seconds. That makes sense — I generally have time to unload and partially re-load the dishwasher in the morning while I wait for the electric kettle to boil.

        One minute? Dang. National Health and instant kettles. I think I need to move.

  10. My wife gave me another brand of thermostatically-controlled electric kettle a year or two ago.  My initial reaction was meh, but wow these things are really convenient, and they work just fine with 110v.  I normally use a French press rather than the Aeropress, but there are temperature choices that work well for each (as well as full boil for black tea.) (BTW, for making green tea without a thermostatic kettle, which wants 75-80C water, that’s 4 parts boiling and one part room-temperature.)

  11. Edit: my previous comment about the accuracy of this kettle is totally out to lunch, since my kettle is not even the same brand. Pretty sharp, here.

    Still, it’s worth checking the water temps with some other device.

    1. Was just looking myself (in the UK) there’s a couple, the Bosch Styline Collection Kettle TWK8631GB & TWK8633GB look similar.

  12. As someone who brews more in a chemex than an aeropress, This one looks nicer to me (though I dont have it) as you can dial it in to a tempature, and it has  a thin neck for controlled pouring

  13. I will second anything from Breville. Years ago, we bought a Breville toaster and loved it straight-away. In the interim, we also purchased a blender and a kettle (the ‘dumb’ kind with no temp. control).  We eagerly await broken appliances in order to replace them with a Breville!

  14. Cory, I finally bought an Aeropress for my family for Christmas and we all LOVE the coffee that we make with it.  Thanks very much for the excellent suggestion.

    DANG that is good coffee.  My only complaint is that it uses a lot more coffee grounds than I’m used to with the drip maker.  But it does taste a whole lot better.

  15. I have been using this boiler for a while and love it

    The inside is 18/10 stainless and maintains 208°, 194° or 175° after boiling. Amazon’s got it right now for $65(!) which is half of what I paid, I may get another for work. I prefer it to the Zojirushi, but it’s the same concept.

    And at 4qt, I can easily fill my Hario or ceramic slim kettles for a cup or 4 of pour over.

    1. Welcome. Also, you might want to look at the Sebastian Conran Kettle for John Lewis. I kinda like its retro look (No reviews as of yet).

  16. Taking coffee nerdery further, I too researched variable temp water kettles. I settled on this, the Aquagrad. (Could only find on the German Amazon, at the moment.)
    What is great about it is the 5 deg C variable temp knob. You can dial in from 35 deg C to 100 deg C boil. At 40 deg C the water becomes spot on for preparing baby formula, and having those 5 deg C intervals have actually unlocked new nuances in my daily brews. (I am currently experimenting with the simple and marvelously clean Swissgold method.)
    And if you need 2L of boiling water for your pasta, the Aquagrad has you covered. Over one year in, i am still excited about just how great this thing is.

  17. Ha! My mum must have taste. She  bought me exactly this kettle for xistlistnessmess.

    Edit: it has lots of grace-notes (like an extremely pleasing noise to let you know it’s done)

  18. Perfect timing on this Article.  I am in the market for a new kettle and have been reading up on a few.  The Bonavita variable temp models with the digital dial in temp and the Adagio kettle have been at the top of my list.  I will look into this one as well. 
    Hey Corey, have you checked out the MyPressi for mobile espresso.  If you are already set for mobile coffee, you can do mobile shots as well.  It took me a few tries to pull a great shot, but the early ones were decent and well worth the time. Thank you mom for me :) – An American that wants his Tea done right.

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