Done to a tea

Can the humble electric kettle be improved upon?

Walk into any British kitchen and one piece of equipment you can guarantee will be there is the electric kettle. It is, for most Britons, a vital component of everyday life.

This, of course, is because of the country’s profound and long-standing love affair with tea. Putting the kettle on is an almost reflex action for many and one that is unlikely to change any time soon. After all, we consider a kettle to be a must even in hotel rooms – and sometimes can be taken by surprise when we go abroad to discover that this practice is far from universal.

For all its convenience and ubiquity, however, the electric kettle comes at an environmental cost. This is because the electric kettle is extremely wasteful. Not only are the heating elements extremely energy-hungry, but almost everyone who uses a kettle overfills it. This means not only that more energy is used than is needed, but that water that has already been boiled once is later getting boiled again the next time the kettle is used.

This problem is so severe that one estimate claims that just one day’s worth of the excess energy use caused by overfilling electric kettles would light all the streetlights in England.

The challenge

This month’s challenge, then, is to develop a quick and convenient method of boiling as much water as you need – and no more. Ideally, it should be not require any compromises in terms of speed and certainly none in terms of safety.