My track record when it comes to kettles is not good. Living in a hard water area doesn't help. I sang the praises of a cheap Tesco kettle only to find that I had to alter my opinion when the kettle started leaking from the fill gauge. The quest continues....
I have few criteria when selecting a kettle but those I have are important. I require a 360 degree base so that I don't have to think which way round I need to place the kettle and I like a wide opening for filling the kettle. A concealed element is desirable as this aids cleaning (important in a hard water area) and I like to be able to see at a glance how much water I have in the kettle.
When shopping for the kettle I found that many kettles fell down on what I thought were fairly basic criteria. In particular, so many kettles had very narrow or awkward openings which can make it difficult to fill them.
Then the Phillips caught my eye. Part of their "Eco" range this kettle is a little more "all-singing-all-dancing" than I might perhaps have liked but I've grown to love it!
This kettle is finished in a brushed chrome with a black spout and handle. Its 1.6l capacity is slightly smaller than the majority of kettles (at 1.7l) but it certainly doesn't look any smaller. In fact, it probably looks larger although I've found this to be quite an illusion as it takes up about the same size on the work surface as any other kettle I've had.
The handle is a half-handle in that it is only joined to the kettle at the top. I find the kettle to be incredibly well-balanced when full or empty and the handle reasonably comfortable. I've always felt in control of the kettle such that it does not constitute a safety hazard.
The kettle sits on a round base with a connector for the kettle in the centre. It truly is a 360 degree swivel base and it is incredibly easy to locate the kettle on the base from a multitude of angles. The base cord is long enough for most sites and is considerably longer than the outgoing Tesco model. It is, however, fairly inflexible and this might prove an issue if you site your kettle very close to a power socket. There is a cord store (of sorts) in the base but it's not that effective at actually being able to give you precisely the length of flex that you want.
Filling the kettle one has a choice: fill through the spout (which has a filter) or through the lid which lifts via a pop-up button. I find that it's easy enough to fill through the spout which is fairly wide. The alternative of the lid fill is incredibly easy with the lid lifting to an angle of around 90 degrees. This opening compares well to the market standard and allows the kettle to be filled easily from a variety if tap styles. The lid snaps shut with a gentle push and clicks into place.
There's a viewing window on one side of the kettle (with the handle to the right) so that you can see how much water you have. This clearly marks the kettle out for right-handers (or at least for those who like their handle to the right) as those who like it to the left will have difficulty. The viewing window is wide and I find it very easy to see how much water there is. The window is also marked with "cup" marks and I've found these to be very accurate, 1 cup's worth on the gauge being exactly the right amount for one mug of coffee! This is the first kettle where I have found the markings to be so accurate and this fact really encourages me to boil only what I need. In addition to the cup markings there is also a litre mark which is useful when boiling larger quantities.
The on/off switch is a lever type situated at the base of the kettle. This is easy to operate with the end illuminating orange when the kettle is on.
The kettle has a concealed element which, in theory at least, means that it's easier to clean and arrest any limescale build-up. Whilst I'd agree with the theory I've found that a concealed element will fur as quickly as a traditional element after a while. As an experiment I've been using filtered water in this kettle and I've noticed a marked difference in the amount of limescale experienced.
A full 1.6l of water will take 3 mins 09 seconds to boil (almost a minute faster than the Tesco kettle). The kettle is also remarkably quiet and if I've a complaint it is in the fact that when it switches off there is not a really loud click as heard with many kettles. Often I'll be doing something else while the kettle is boiling and just not notice that it has boiled! A full kettle (or anything less) pours very well with a clean action and no spill; a godsend after issues with a Russell Hobbs.
Unlike the Tesco kettle the aluminium exterior, whist it gets hot, does not get as hot as its predecessor. The handle (and safety plate behind it) does not get hot at all.
The key selling point of this kettle though is the fact that it comes with a temperature dial. For many of the uses we put boiling water to we're actually heating the water above the temperature that is really necessary. It's long been said that tea, for example, should be made with water that's just off boiling (and certainly water that's n'er twice boiled). The Philips kettle has a rather simple dial just under the water gauge marked from "MIN" through 3 cups to "MAX". Turning the dial alters the temperature at which the auto-cut-off kicks in meaning that you can heat the water to just the right temperature saving energy and giving you better results.
I must confess that I doubted that I would taste the difference between tea made with boiling water and tea made with water at around 70 degrees C but I was surprised. The tea flavour was far more developed when using less hot water and for delicate teas, in particular, there was more interest to the flavour - it was as though the boiling water actually destroyed some of the flavour.
So far I've been a little vague as to the temperatures but this is not without reason. The markings on the kettle do not indicate the temperature settings and neither does the user manual enlighten me. Philips have a great interactive website with online help function and so I contacted them and, guess what, they couldn't tell me either. The best I could get was that tea was best made with the dial set about half-way between the "MIN" and "MAX" markings! With a bit of research I'd hazard a guess that this is around 80 degrees C but I couldn't be sure! In my opinion this is a bit of information that really should be available!
The biggest downside of this kettle is the price. Retailing at around £50 (when purchased and still correct as of June 10) this kettle comes in as one of the most expensive regular kettles. At this price it's rather surprising that it doesn't offer the gadgets and gizmos that some have such as inbuilt filters (over and above the simple mesh) or a stay warm facility (although I guess that would be against the eco credentials) but it does its job and it does it very well. The kettle really makes it easy to be a bit more environmentally conscious and heat up just the amount of water that you require to the approximate temperature that you require. Being somewhat of a cheapskate when it comes to functional items I did at first begrudge the money but, having worked with the kettle for several months now I can honestly say that I love it and that it was worth every penny!
Short name: Philips HD4632