Following a stint of staying in Edinburgh for a couple of nights my mum complained to me on the phone that although the hotel proved satisfactory to where she was staying, the hotel had supplied two kettles which on each occasion failed to boil. In the months that have followed me finishing off contracts for teaching and with generous pupils and staff buying me gifts and vouchers, I decided to put a £15 John Lewis voucher I had received to good use. My last purchase of a mini-Breville kettle however is perfect for just one person and it goes with me whenever I have to rent out properties if I'm given short teaching contracts. Given that most hotel kettles have a capacity of 0.6 litres, (unless they supply full size standard kettles) I knew that my mother would become irate if she didn't have her usual quota of coffee. John Lewis in Edinburgh didn't have the same Breville Solo kettle I wanted and in the end plumped for their cheaper plastic bodied kettle in the form of the VKJ111 Solo. In the box aside from the kettle were two non-insulated plastic cups and two spoons provided; evidently Breville have noted this in the market that consumers aren't prepared to put up with non-functioning and slower kettles whilst on holiday, thus a bonus to the buying experience.
In terms of size and design, the VKJ111 model is pretty similar to the stainless steel bodied Breville (VKJ127) I bought last year; it has a universal voltage of 120v to 240v. A sloping edge to its general design, it features the same single handle with a lid release button at the top and the power switch at the bottom. Despite my last complaint about my own Solo kettle, the VKJ111 has a similar plasticky on lever that shines in orange the moment is it switched on and like my own, the switch here is lightweight and feels flimsy detracting the quality feel and bonding that this kettle has been made to. Unlike my own Solo, this Breville's lever is mounted just below the handle making it easier to locate for my mother who initially had problems finding the on button on my own Solo kettle. The difference here is that for the cheaper asking price of £16-50, the Breville VKJ111 sports a very similar design to my Solo kettle in the sense that it feels like a quality item, not that flimsy and feels substantial in my hand whenever I'm pouring or filling. Even though it is coloured in white (thus over time having to clean it down with a damp cloth to ensure its whiteness stays white), the front half of the kettle is frosted blue with a large easy to read water gauge that shows cup gradients to its 1 litre maximum fill. It also sports a 1500 watt element and a short 0.5 power cord that can be locked and wound in its cordless base section.
Unlike larger kettles on the market, the Breville VKJ111 has a small spout and therefore it can accept a low flowing tap into its spout if you live in soft water areas like Scotland and wholly accept that a water filter has been put in place just behind the spout inside the jug. Whilst the spout is small however I find it's easier to activate the lid and fill water as normal; its squat shape and design fits under most hotel sinks (or you can use bottled water) and thanks to its sloping edge water can be filled at almost any angle - if you're anything like my mother, water has to be installed as quickly as possible to get water boiled.
At 1500 watts though the VKJ111 is less powerful than my own Solo kettle and although not much of an issue being 300 watts down, I was impressed with the speed of which the VKJ111 boils. Having now owned it for a matter of months, this Breville is slightly slower on a full tank of water, taking over a minute to boil but it is not that obvious judged by its lower element of power compared to my own Solo kettle. Shorter amounts of water for example get a quicker boiling time so if you only need one cup full of water (took 30 seconds to boil!), you only need to fill the kettle on the right fill amount and the large gauge at the front is easier to read from a distance than the one on my stainless steel kettle that has the gauge at the back behind the handle. One aspect of its design which is markedly different to my own Solo kettle is that although the steam rises at an angle before it switches off, it can attach evaporated steam bubbles just at the lip of the lid and you need to be careful here not to open the lid as it will fly back. In theory the sloping design attests to water rolling back into the spout from the lid but as with most kettles a slow and gentle progress should be applied with this kettle as you are dealing with hot, boiling water. It is slightly noisier too, maybe due to its single non-insulated body but for all intents and purposes it does what it says on the box; the bonus here is that your room may well light up in blue when the kettle is switched on as it transmits the colour through the frosted section when it's on. This has been very handy in some hotel rooms that have poor light, for example.
If there is one visible downside to this kettle it is the fact that unlike my own Breville Solo, the VKJ111 has a bare element which means in hard water areas you'll spend more time de-scaling the kettle. What a pity because for £5 more if you buy the stainless steel jug you'll find a concealed bottom making it easier to clean long term. As far as I'm concerned, the Breville VKJ111 is an ideal hotel kettle to have or one that can be taken away with you. Measuring approximately 13cm by 21cm in width and height, I find it easy to put into bags or suitcases without having to be crushed. Over the travel sized kettles that hotels or B&B's supply, the Breville VKJ111 has a larger capacity and a willingness to work; the bonus is that cosmetically and personally it doesn't feel too cheap and it has a lot more power than the 800 watt kettles that some residential places stock that take an age to heat up. If not for use in a hotel, for its low power it is also cost efficient even though it has a small capacity. Somehow with its travel cups and spoons supplied however I rather think Breville have hit the goal well here for travelling; what a pity it doesn't come with a travel adaptor though. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2009
Short name: Breville VKJ111