Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Experimenting On The Road With A Krups Electric Kettle (So You Don't Have To!)

The Good: Stainless steel looks good, Seems durable, Automatic shutoff actually works
The Bad: Initial expense, Time it takes to boil water, spillage from spout, Awkward control placement
The Basics: I give the Krups FLF31W electric kettle a chance while on my grand trip and find myself waiting for a lot of boiled water

For those who might not follow my reviews regularly, there are two things in the arena of both food and drink and home and garden readers usually pick up ridiculously quickly about me: I drink a lot of tea and when I find a product I like, I tend to stick with it and use it until it kicks out on me. I'm not one who goes in for the latest, trendiest devices and I usually do not select teas or cooking devices based upon what is popular, but rather by what is functional and (if it is a factor) environmental responsibility. So, most of the teas I drink and review are from Celestial Seasonings (delicious, produced in environmentally and labor beneficial ways, little waste from tea bags and no superfluous garbage) and when it comes to boiling water for making tea, I tend to use my Chef's Choice Stainless Steel Electric Kettle (reviewed here!). I use the kettle because I have to, but odds are if my next apartment charges for gas, but not electric, I'll continue to use it. I like it.

So, why then am I reviewing the Krups FLF31W Stainless Steel Cordless electric kettle? I was on the road, had access to one and decided I'd give it a shot. The bottomline for those who want such things up front is simple: the FLF31W has less capacity and takes longer to boil water than my Chef's Choice electric kettle, so it's not getting anything near a "recommend" from me!

I used the FLF31W to boil water primarily for making tea and twice to make hot cocoa and oatmeal. As I remain unwilling to microwave tea (very bad for the tea leaves!) and loathe doing more dishes than I have to, I came around to the possible necessity of an electric kettle back when I got my Chef's Choice kettle. Now, I'm just seeing if I can find one that works better. The FLF31W is not it.

The Krups FLF31W comes with the pretty standard online price over $50 and in stores, I see it for a bit more than that. The FLF31W is a "cordless" electric kettle and for those wondering what kind of magic one must do to make water boil with such a product, it is worth noting that the kettle is cordless, but the base which it must be connected to does have a cord. Thus, for those considering taking this device into the outback for camping need to think again!

Let's start with the basics. The Cordless Electric Kettle from Krups is a two-piece electric gizmo that is designed to boil water away from a stove. The Cordless Electric Kettle is comprised of a black plastic base and the actual kettle, which is stainless steel. The whole assembly is pretty light and it is easy to use, which follows the preferred engineering philosophy of "if it is not intuitive to use then it is poorly designed."

The base is a simple seven and a half inch in diameter plastic disc with a cord that plugs into a three-prong wall socket. The cord is only three feet long, but for those who do not need a cord that has to stretch even that far, below the disc are tabs that allow the user to wind the cord up and contain it under the unit. This is handy and there are no issues (I've had) with keeping the base level after winding the cord under it. There are soft-rubber feet on the underside which both protect finer surfaces from any sort of scratching from the plastic bass. Moreover, the rubber feet provide friction so the unit is remarkably stable and does not move from any flat surface I've set it upon. Considering the whole point of this gadget is to boil water, this is probably a great idea and I have found that it works quite well.

Atop the disc is a knob that comes from a slightly raised, contoured inner disc. This is where the kettle itself attaches to the base. The base simply plugs into the wall and sits where one leaves it. The electric kettle that plugs into the base is fairly squat, so the unit is very difficult to tip over when on the base, making it very safe for use around children . . . or it would, were it not for the fact that it is made of stainless steel and gets hot around the spout.

The actual electric kettle portion is a seven-inch tall stainless steel pot that is accented with dull black plastic for the handle and flip top. The kettle sets on the base and when together, they are very stable. The kettle has an advertised 1.6 Liter capacity, though I am not sure how exactly that works. The display shows eight cups and that is a little below the top of the carafe. My Chef's Choice has a display that shows when the water is filled up to 1.7 Liters with extra room on top and it seemed to have quite a bit more practical capacity (two of my steeping pots were filled as opposed to 1 1/2 with the FLF31W). Moreover, the 1.6 Liter capacity on the FLF31W seems like it ought to mean the unit would boil the water quicker, but with this it took seven minutes as opposed to four and a half to five with my Chef's Choice electric kettle.

Operating this is so simple it almost defies explanation: fill with water, place the kettle on the base (assuming it's plugged in), depress the "on" button on the back of the kettle's handle (it lights up blue when active) and wait. How will you know your water is boiled and ready? The unit turns itself off when it is done. Can you burn your house/office down with it? No, for it shuts itself off.

And then all you need to do is pour your boiling water out and that's . . . well, as easy as pouring water. Refilling the unit is a snap; simply pull off the top which plugs into the top of the kettle. The only real problem is with the activation button, which is on the back of the handle. I discovered that while pouring water from the FLF31W kettle, my fingers often slipped along the handle, which had the effect of turning the kettle to the "off" position, which required me to press the button back down when I plugged it back into the base if I needed to reheat the water. This extra step is hardly convenient.

Still, it is idiot-proof water boiling and while some of us might have cynically suggested in the past that only an idiot would need this product, it is ridiculously helpful in situations where one needs boiled water but does not have access to a stove.

Cleanup is also incredibly easy. First, I recommend only using filtered water in the unit. This forever eliminates the need to clean inside because nothing ever builds up inside. The stylish stainless steel outside easily is cleaned with a cloth, though if you're just boiling water in it, I can't imagine what you'd get on the outside that it would need cleaning. Don't let children with jam-covered hands touch it and it might never need to be cleaned inside or out!

As for the base, a damp cloth cleans that up (unplug it first).

This is one of those devices that does exactly what it promises and I have to say, I like that it is made of metal. Having broken far too many coffee pots, having a metal kettle both boils the water fast and assures me that I won't have to shell out for another one of these . . . hopefully ever. The kettle gets hot, but so does anything one boils water in so, the rules of common sense do apply. I have noticed, though, that the spout to this unit seems to get hotter than other electric kettles I have used, making it problematic for using around children, especially those who are generally independent. Such children are likely to try to support the kettle as they pour with it and stick their hand right where the hot portion is.

For those who might need to boil water outside a kitchen stove, there are better units for doing it with than the Krups FLF31W that are safer, faster and have greater capacity. Unfortunately, because I used this unit on the road (well, hotels, actually) I do not have records of what it does to one's electric bills, but considering it took longer to boil water, I cannot imagine it is more efficient electrically than my preferred Chef's Choice unit.

In the week I used the FLF31W, it did not break down, so I do not know how good Krups is at honoring its one-year warranty on the unit. My experience with electric kettles thus far is that they - including this Krups unit - are virtually indestructible unless one melts the cord on the base.

For other kitchen appliance reviews, please check out:
Westinghouse WSTBW2 Waffle Maker
Cuisinart ICE-20/ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker
Osterizer 60242 Blender


For other home and garden appliance reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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