After obsessing over beans and grinders, research kettles
My at-home coffee habits have grown progressively — and perhaps a tad embarrassingly — obsessive. There’s the scale, to weigh coffee beans down to the one-tenth of a gram. There’s the hand-grinder, to get the beans done just so. There’s the 9-ounce porcelain notNeutral mug I pour it into, $18 a pop from Intelligentsia, the Chicago-based coffee company, because I love the sleek handle and the red trim on the base.
Eventually, for every coffee fanatic, you’ll need a good kettle. And be forewarned: These start at about $35, and run to at least $120.
(If you make your coffee using an automatic machine, you can stop reading here and enjoy your ability to make often inferior coffee with the push of a button. If you’re trying to step up your game at home, proceed . . .)
For me, when I was looking for a kettle, the decision became obvious. At least after hours of research.
For years I used a basic Bodum Electric Water Kettle. These small kettles, which you’ll see in many offices, now come in a variety of bright colors (prices start at $40).
Eventually, I decided it was time for an upgrade. The Bodum was good at getting water hot, but not so good at pouring it carefully. And as I moved away from making coffee with a French press, and more toward doing pour-overs at home, I needed something new. Pour-overs, a method for brewing coffee favored by the top baristas, involves hand pouring the water through a filter using various devices such as a Chemex, a Hario v60, or a Kalita Wave.
So here’s the first thing, and I realize this sounds ridiculous: You want a gooseneck kettle (so named because the spout is shaped like the neck of a goose). Its narrow spout makes precise pouring a whole lot easier, and gives you a lot more control over how much water you’re pouring and where it will go.
My next preference was to have a kettle that heated electrically. This is mostly for convenience. I’m so inadept with a stove that even heating water with it is a little intimidating. I also didn’t want to have to turn on a burner every time I needed to heat water for coffee.
All of the kettles I was hunting for hold about 1 liter of water. This is more than I need when I’m pouring for just myself, but it gives me the option of making more. A full kettle takes about six minutes to heat.
There are several kettles that have both a gooseneck (first priority) and can heat electrically (second priority).
Hario makes some kettles that are lovely looking, and give a nice pour. Baristas will swear by them. You’ve probably seen these in elite coffee shops. The kettle part looks like a stainless steel beehive with a very thin curved spout. The Japanese-based company makes two different kinds of kettles, one that is a basic pot and another that has an electric heater ($55 for the basic, and $75 for the electric).
Kalita and Takahiro also make great pouring kettles that are beautiful and elegant and wouldn’t be out of place sitting on the same shelf as your fine china. The Kalita Wave Pot ($108) has a wooden handle and a stainless steel body with ridges.
The Takahiro is like the Mercedes of coffee kettles, with a spout that is a little longer than the others and gives you even more control over the flow of the pour ($120). The downside for me, for both the Kalita and the Takahiro, was that neither heated electrically.
But this brings me to my last priority.
If you’re obsessed with the scale and the grind — as I now am — you might as well also make sure your water temperature is correct (recommended between 195 degrees and 205 degrees). So why not have a kettle that heats water to a specific degree?
There is only one that I was able to find that does that. So I settled on the Bonavita Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle, which costs about $95. It’s a plump-looking kettle that is not as elegant as some of the other kettles. But it does have the thin-pouring spout, a black plastic handle that’s easy to grip, and the convenience of electric and built-in temperature gauge that some others lacked.
So far I have two of them — one for home and one for the office — and haven’t looked back.
In fact, I also got a basic, nonelectric Bonavita kettle for camping trips. Because, really, who wants to be out in the woods, away from civilization, without access to a good gooseneck kettle?