After more than 45 hours of research, and one month of in-house testing, we determined that the Hamilton Beach 1.7 liter electric kettle is the best choice under $40. In addition to having features normally found on significantly more expensive kettles, the Hamilton Beach is an ergonomic and reliable appliance that works well in any kitchen. Our continued use of the Hamilton Beach in the months since the initial test has solidified our original conclusion that the kettle is well-deserving of the counter space it sits on.
If you are a coffee or tea drinker, chances are you own, or have considered buying, an electric kettle. Electric models offer several significant benefits over traditional stovetop kettles, including portability and faster heating.
We wanted to find the best electric kettle on the market for people who want to heat up water for teas, coffees, and anything else in a safe, reliable way.
In addition to offering programmable temperatures, a one hour auto-off function, and the ability to schedule a time in the morning to automatically turn on, the Hamilton Beach electric kettle is made from stainless steel and has a handle that feels sturdy even when the 1.7 liter capacity is full of boiling water.
The programmable base, while having a slight learning curve, packs a ton of functionality into just four buttons and a small screen, and the kettle itself can boil a liter of cool water in just four minutes.
Unless you are specifically looking for an electric kettle to use for pour-over coffee, the Hamilton Beach gives you all the functionality you need in an electric model for less than $40.
Our Pick: Hamilton Beach Programmable Kettle
With great product features, functionality and quick heating, the Hamilton Beach Programmable Kettle is our choice for best kettle under $40. The beautiful design doesn't hurt, either.
Table of Contents
- Why we are qualified to rate electric kettles
- How we chose kettles to test
- What features should you look for in an electric kettle?
- How we tested
- Electric or stovetop?
- Best electric kettle overall
- The fastest heating kettle
- Other kettles we tested
- Long-term testing notes
- The bottom line
Why we are qualified to rate electric kettles
We spent more than 45 hours researching and testing electric kettles. This testing included one month of daily use for each of our six finalists in order to determine which one really is the best pick for typical, day-to-day use.
We read through more than 80 articles, forum and Reddit threads, and expert opinions from coffee and tea enthusiasts to determine which brands were most respected and offered the most value. While there wasn’t an overwhelming consensus, we were able to find that certain brands and products seem to have the most consistently-positive feedback.
Once our finalists were selected, we ran them through a number of metrics-driven tests which helped us determine which were the best at the sole function — heating water quickly and safely. We also took into account factors such as the ergonomics of each kettle and extra features offered by each product, along with several other factors to ultimately select our best pick.
The six best electric kettles
- Hamilton Beach Programmable Kettle
- T-fal Balanced Living 4-Cup Kettle
- VonShef 1500W Illuminating Clear Glass Kettle
- Ovente KS88S Temperature Control Stainless Steel Kettle
- Aroma Hot H20 X-Press Stainless Steel Kettle
- Sunbeam SEK17 Water Kettle
How we chose kettles to test
Since there are literally thousands of electric kettles on the market, our first step was to narrow down the field. During our research, we found that there are a few features that consistently ranked as the most important to users, including:
- No harmful materials
- Easy to clean
- No potential rust issues
- Automatic shut-off
- Sufficient water capacity (at least 1 liter)
- Ability to quickly heat water
- A safe and comfortable handle
- A large and easily accessible opening for water
These metrics made it possible for us to significantly narrow the field. From there, we researched dozens of brand names and models to determine which were most likely to perform the best during our in-house testing.
Why we chose only products under $40
One of our core principles at Your Best Digs is to be price conscious during our selection of the best product in a given category. While there are electric kettles available in the $100+ range, we found that there was little to no difference in the features they offered. Often, the differences were cosmetic, or there was a premium paid for a brand name.
While there might be a marginal difference with some of the kettles in the $100+ range, our focus for this article is on choosing an electric kettle for individuals for whom functionality is the main concern.
Our hypothesis was proven correct during the in-house testing of our finalists, all of which were able to consistently and reliably heat water up reasonably quickly to a 212° boil. In addition, our top two picks, from Hamilton Beach and T-fal respectively, are able to be programmed to lower settings — the most important “secondary” feature typically desired in an electric kettle.
There is, however, one exception to our “under $40” rule: For those who specifically want an electric kettle for the purposes of brewing pour over coffee, a gooseneck kettle can make a significant difference.
For those who are specifically searching for a product for this purpose, we recommend the Bonavita 1-liter Electric Kettle. If you also want variable temperature functionality, check out the Bonavita 1-liter variable temperature digital electric gooseneck kettle.
What should you look for in an electric kettle?
There is more to choosing an electric kettle than simply picking one that heats up water. These are a few of the metric we recommend you use whenever you are shopping for a product that best fits your usage:
When looking for an electric kettle, the first thing you should consider is the build quality of the kettle itself. While these gadgets are fairly simple from a technical standpoint, it does incorporate several elements that, if unreliable, will render the kettle essentially useless.
For example, an unreliable heating element will cause the kettle to heat to unpredictable temperatures, if it heats at all. Similarly, if the interior of a kettle is prone to lime build up or “scaling”, the effectiveness of the kettle can be negatively impacted.
Other than overall build quality, the next feature to consider when choosing an electric kettle is the efficiency with which the kettle can heat water. For each of our six finalists, we measured the “degrees per minute” each one was capable of, to give consumers a better picture of exactly what heating capacity our finalists produced.
Whether you ultimately choose one of our picks or a different kettle altogether, these numbers can provide a useful benchmark.
The ideal kettle will be easy to pick up, carry, and pour. This is particularly important, given that the kettle will be holding boiling-hot water. Ergonomics are difficult to quantify numerically, however a little common sense can go a long way in determining whether a particular kettle is ergonomic or not.
The handle of a kettle should be easy to hold in one hand, and there will ideally be guard material between the hot container and where your hand would normally be when holding the handle.
Minimum and maximum water capacity
Most people realize that the maximum water capacity will determine the number of hot drinks an electric water kettle can facilitate at one time. In general, the larger the maximum water capacity, the more versatile the kettle.
However, one metric that is considered less often is the minimum water capacity the kettle can support. With some of the higher capacity kettles, as much as one liter of water at minimum is needed to safely run the kettle. For individuals who don’t frequently need that much water, a kettle with a high minimum capacity can lead to unnecessary water waste.
Nice but not essential: Programmable temperature
Programmable water temperature isn’t a necessary feature for everyone. For those who only want to boil water to 212° for their coffee or tea, a simple kettle without programmable temperatures is likely sufficient.
However, programmable kettles do add value in certain situations. Most commonly, the ability to heat water to temperatures other than 212° is useful for certain types of teas, which are optimally steeped below that temperature.
Some examples include:
- Black and herbal teas should be brewed at the full 212° boil
- Oolong teas are best steeped in water ranging between 180° and 190°
- Both white and green teas should be steeped in water no hotter than 185° (or as low as 170°), in order to maintain the flavors and prevent bitterness
For tea drinkers, a programmable electric kettle can provide real benefits. The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to find a high-quality programmable kettle that does exactly that.
When choosing six finalists, we made a point of selecting three kettles with programmable temperatures and three kettles which can only be set to “boil” at 212°. We did this so that we could determine whether one of the non-programmable kettles offered any advantages (such as simplicity) that the programmable kettles did not.
Bonus: Temperature readout
While a temperature readout is by no means an essential feature on an electric kettle, it is nice to be able to glance at the readout and see just how close the water is from being fully heated. It also can be useful when going back for a second cup of tea.
How we tested
Once we selected our six finalists, we needed a way to differentiate them in order to come up with our best pick.
The first thing we looked at was the general build quality — which kettles were built to last? During our research we found that many of the complaints about electric water kettles online had to do with them rusting, chipping, or otherwise deteriorating with regular use. We tested all of our finalists over the course of a month to ensure that they did not show any early signs of deterioration.
Since the rapid heating of water is one of the primary draws of an electric water kettle, we also took the speed at which each kettle could heat water as a major factor in ranking each finalist. To do this, we measured how long it took each kettle to heat 1 liter of room temperature water to 212 degrees.
We also tested the temperature accuracy of the kettles. For the non-programmable kettles, this simply meant measuring how close to 212° the kettles got before shutting off. For the programmable kettles, we tested each of the settings to see how close to the stated temperature the water actually was.
We strongly took into account the ergonomics of the kettle as well. Since both the kettle itself and the liquid inside are boiling hot (or close to it) it’s important that the kettle be comfortable in your hand, both when moving it around and also when pouring.
Some of the kettles we tested have a feature which keeps the water at a specific temperature for as long as one hour. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to keep reheating water each time you go back for more.
Of course, it’s imperative that kettles with this feature also turn off automatically if and when all of the water inside has been dispensed or has boiled off. We tested each kettle for a reliable “auto-off” feature.
Finally, we tested for early signs of scaling and rust over the course of our one month testing period. While this was enough time to identify early signs, we will continue to test each kettle over the next 6 months and update this post if we notice any long-term issues.
Preventing rust and scaling in your kettle
During our research, we found that one of the best ways to prevent rust and scaling issues is to perform basic maintenance. This can be as simple as emptying out unused water, and for some kettles an equal combination of white vinegar and water can be boiled in the kettle to prevent and eliminate early stages of rust and scaling.
Electric or stovetop?
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using a stovetop kettle, there are several advantages to using an electric kettle that are worth considering — particularly if you’ve never owned one before.
First off, electric kettles can be used in more places since they don’t require a stovetop to heat water. This is particularly valuable in situations such as a college student living in a dorm room or for a traveller staying in a hotel, but it’s useful even in a full-sized kitchen as well.
They’re also able to heat water faster than a stovetop kettle would. During testing, our best pick, the Hamilton Beach Programmable Kettle, was able to heat up one liter of water in about four minutes.
Some of the models we tested also have the ability to maintain the heated water temperature for up to one hour. This is better than having the water quickly boil off in a stovetop kettle, and far better than needing to jump up from the couch when the piercing whistle on a stovetop kettle demands attention.
Best electric kettle overall
The Hamilton Beach electric kettle is the best overall pick from the finalists we tested. In addition to having the most features and most elegant appearance, the Hamilton Beach kettle was able to heat water faster than all but one of our finalists (the T-fal kettle, our #2 pick).
The appearance of the Hamilton Beach kettle is classy yet simple. It is primarily made from stainless steel, with solid black plastic on the base, handle, and opening for water. The inside of the kettle is solid stainless steel as well, and the heating element is located entirely on the base pad.
If there is one downside to the appearance of the kettle, it’s that the base pad does look a bit “cheap”, and is made from light plastic and four simple buttons. However, the base functions perfectly well, and the buttons functioned without any problems — however keep that instruction manual handy, as programming the kettle does have a bit of a learning curve.
Programmable heat settings
The Hamilton Beach kettle allows water to be heated to one of five different settings: 175°, 180°, 190°, 200°, and a full boil at 212°. These variable settings are perfect for avid tea drinkers, who don’t want to scorch their green or white teas.
Programming the kettle is simple: All you need to do is hit the button on the top left of the base until it displays the desired temperature, followed by the on/off button on the top right. The base will start heating the kettle, and will provide real-time temperature changes on the base display.
Quickly heats water
Based on our testing, The Hamilton Beach kettle was able to heat one liter of water notably faster than our other finalists, with the exception of our #2 best pick: the T-fal kettle.
The Hamilton Beach kettle heated one liter of water from 67.3° to 212.2° in 4 minutes and 2 seconds, for a rate of 35.93 degrees per minute. By comparison, the T-fal heated one liter of water from 67.5° to 211.5° in 3 minutes and 57 seconds, for a rate of 36.46 degrees per minute.
While the T-fal kettle is slightly faster, it’s important to also take into consideration that it is limited to heating no more than one liter at a time. The Hamilton Beach kettle can heat nearly twice as much — 1.7 liters.
Auto shut-off when water has boiled off
One of the stated features of the Hamilton Beach kettle is that it automatically turns off when the water inside has boiled off (or after one hour, whichever comes first). During our testing, we found that it did reliably turn off when the water level got very low.
Great product features, high-end aesthetics, functionality and quick heating make this our choice for best kettle under $40.
While all three of the programmable kettles have this feature, the Hamilton Beach turned off when there was still a little water left, which is much safer than waiting for the water to boil off completely so that the metal bottom is completely bare.
Realistically, however, the water will almost never boil off in under one hour, unless there was only a little left to begin with. Nevertheless, this feature makes it possible to keep heated water in the kettle safely for up to one hour.
Stays hot for one hour
This feature directly relates to the one hour auto-off feature. After the water has reached the programmed temperature, a one hour clock starts counting down on the base display. Once the clock runs down, the kettle will automatically turn off, ensuring that a kettle that is accidentally left on doesn’t become a problem.
One feature that really stood out among the finalists was the Hamilton Beach’s ability to use it’s internal clock to automatically turn on at a specific time of day. This means that you can pour water the night before and schedule the kettle to heat water right when you wake up.
This convenient feature saves time and, in conjunction with the one-hour “stay hot” functionality, means you don’t have to wake up at precisely the same time every morning to have your hot water ready and waiting for you.
The one stay-hot feature, in conjunction with the auto-on clock, is unique to the Hamilton Beach among the kettles we tested, and adds significant value to justify the (still quite reasonable) $40 price point.
In terms of overall ergonomics, the Hamilton Beach kettle tops all of our finalists. Where it stands out most is when it is completely filled with 1.7 liters of hot water. In addition to being easy to hold and easy to pour, the plastic guard separating your hand from the hot metal of the kettle itself makes it nearly impossible to accidentally burn yourself while holding the kettle with one hand.
What we didn’t like about the Hamilton Beach electric kettle
While the Hamilton Beach is our top pick, the learning curve was a bit steeper than some of the other finalists. Using the four buttons on the base is not particularly intuitive, and you’ll want to hold onto the instruction manual for the initial setup, as well as for any future changes you want to make.
That being said, the base does work well, and programming different heat settings (arguably the most important feature) only requires the use of one button. On top of that, the included instruction manual does help with the kettle’s functionality, and anyone comfortable with a smartphone shouldn’t have a problem figuring out how to operate this kettle.
One other potential issue we took into account was the fact that there are a notable number of user complaints that the kettle breaks after 3 to 6 months. Although those reviews are a small minority of reviews, we will continue to test the Hamilton Beach kettle, and update this post if we notice any issues.
All that said, after one month the Hamilton Beach electric kettle is the clear leader, and our best pick for under $40.
The fastest heating kettle
For those who would prefer something other than a stainless steel kettle, and can work with a one liter max capacity, the T-fal is our second best pick out of our finalists.
The T-fal has a slightly-quirky design that is tailored for college students and young adults, however the black and green color scheme can also work in most kitchens, while the functionality of the kettle makes it an option worth considering. The $10 savings over the Hamilton Beach makes it even more compelling for those on a budget.
The T-fal offered the fastest heating of all the finalists we tested. It took the kettle just under four minutes to heat one liter of water (the T-fal’s max capacity) from 67.5° to 211.5°, for a rate of 36.46 degrees per minute.
For those interested in heating up to one liter of water as quickly as possible, the T-fal offers the most compelling choice from among our finalists.
Programmable, but requires some memory
The T-fal does allow users to choose from three different heat settings. These settings include a low of 160°, a mid-range of 190°, and a high of 212° in our testing.
For those who want tea on the go, the speedy heating time of the T-fal is an attractive attribute.
One of the biggest standouts of the T-fal are the ergonomics of the kettle. It’s short stature and small footprint make it ideal for situations where space is limited, such as a dorm room or small kitchen.
In addition, the T-fal makes it nearly impossible to accidentally burn your hand while using the kettle. The sturdy handle helps make pouring into mugs easy and controllable, while the outside of the kettle remains fairly cool to the touch. That means that you won’t burn your hand, even if you accidentally touch the side of the kettle when pouring your cup of tea.
Heating element not exposed
During our research, we found that many of the plastic electric kettles had a heating element that was inside the water reservoir itself. This means that the heating element is directly exposed to the water itself, often ultimately leading to lime buildups or other less-than-ideal residue.
The T-fal, despite being made primarily of plastic, has a heating element that is located entirely separate from the water itself. This is possible because the inner bottom of the kettle is metallic, allowing for the safe and efficient transfer of heat to the water.
Things we didn’t like
The biggest issue we had with the T-fal kettle was the fact that there is no auto on or auto off options. This means that, unlike the Hamilton Beach, the T-fal shuts off once the water is full heated, and won’t keep the water hot for an hour. You also won’t be able to schedule a time in the morning for the kettle to turn on automatically.
If these features are important to you, you are much better off with the Hamilton Beach kettle.
We also would have preferred T-fal to include the specific temperatures for each of the three programmable settings. While this isn’t a deal breaker by any means, it is slightly inconvenient, especially if you forget which setting is which, or if your guest wants to boil a cup of water.
Finally, the one liter maximum capacity is a bit limiting, especially if you’re trying to serve multiple people at the same time. However, for one or two people the T-fal is just fine, and it’s ability to quickly heat up water means that any extra people won’t have to wait that long to get their tea.
Ultimately, the T-fal is a great kettle that performs well, is ergonomic, and can fit into the smallest of living spaces.
Other kettles we tested
The VonShef 1500W kettle came the closest of the remaining four electric kettles to be listed as one of our picks. It is a good-looking kettle that heats water comparably to the rest of our finalists. That, in conjunction with its glass siding and blue lighting makes it a classy addition to any kitchen.
However, for the price point of $39.99, the Hamilton Beach simply outshines this kettle. In exchange for all of the features of the Hamilton Beach, you instead get to see your water boil in blue lighting.
If all you need is an electric kettle that boils to 212° and don’t mind paying a little extra for an admittedly cool effect, the VonShef is a solid choice.
The Ovente KS88S Kettle is a solid choice as well — especially for those who want an electric kettle for brewing different types of tea. It has five programmable heat settings (140°, 158°, 176°, 194°, and 212°), and can keep a maximum 1.7 liters of water warm for as long as two hours before automatically shutting off.
The Ovente kettle also has an LED light that changes depending on the temperature setting, ranging from red at 212° to green at 140°.
The only real downside to the Ovente was the ergonomics. The handle is a little bit small and awkward to use, and the water comes out of a spout slightly erratically. Ultimately, these are far from dealbreakers, and the $27.99 price point makes this a compelling option.
That being said, we still think the T-fal kettle is a better option for about the same price, unless you need to heat more than 1 liter at a time, or need to heat water to 140°.
The Aroma Hot H20 is another basic kettle, which doesn’t have any programming settings. If you prefer an aluminum look over the VonShef’s glass sides, it is a viable option. However, for the money you’re better off spending a few dollars less for the T-fal, or a few dollars more for the Hamilton Beach.
The Sunbeam SEK17 kettle work perfectly as well. If you need a kettle that simply boils to 212°, then there is little wrong with this choice, so long as you are willing to regularly clean the exposed heating element with white vinegar and water.
However, we didn’t find that there was any compelling reason to choose this option over the T-fal or the Hamilton Beach, particularly because it is the same price as the T-fal. That being said, the Sunbeam does have the largest water capacity, able to boil 1.8 liters at a time.
If all you’re looking for is to reliably boil the most water at the lowest price, the Sunbeam kettle is worth taking a look at.
Long-term testing notes
In the nine months following our initial testing, we have continue to use both the Hamilton Beach and the T-fal kettles to make various types of tea. Both have continued to work as well as they did when we initially tested them, and we have had none of the electronic issues that are occasionally referenced in online reviews of the Hamilton Beach kettle.
We’ve had to descale each of the kettles a couple times, and found the process very easy to do. To descale, we filled each kettle halfway with water and filled the other half with simple vinegar. After letting the kettle sit with the solution for an hour, we brought each of them to a boil, then rinsed them out thoroughly. In all instances, the kettles looked (and worked) just like new.
The bottom line
All six of the finalists we tested will get the job done. If you’re looking to boil water quickly and without the use of a stovetop, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. That being said, three products stood out, and provide better value for your dollar.
The Hamilton Beach kettle offers the best value for your dollar. For less than $40, you can get a premium-looking stainless steel electric kettle with programmable heat settings. You also can set the kettle to turn on at a specific time in the morning, so you can wake up with boiling water ready for your morning tea.
The Hamilton Beach kettle does the same job that kettles two to three times the price perform, with essentially the same feature set.
If you’re looking for something a little different, but still want programmable heat settings, the T-fal kettle is an excellent choice as well. Although it doesn’t have a programmable clock, you can still choose between three different heat settings — more than enough for most users.
The T-fal also has a smaller footprint than the Hamilton Beach, however the trade-off is a maximum of 1 liter boiled at a time. For college students and travellers, however, the T-fal electric kettle is certainly worth consideration — and you can save about $11 off the price of the Hamilton Beach as well.
Finally, if you’re simply looking for a way to boil water, and want something that looks a little different than the Hamilton Beach and T-fal, the VonShef 1500W is a viable option as well. The glass sides and blue lighting are different than any of the other electric kettles we tested, and the VonShef was able to heat water reasonably fast.
That being said, the VonShef has no programmability, and took about a minute longer than the Hamilton Beach and T-fal kettles to heat one liter of water to a boil (the glass sides are likely to blame for this).
This isn’t the biggest deal for most, but considering that the VonShef is priced about the same as the Hamilton Beach (and about $11 more than the T-Fal), you’ll need to be ok with paying a premium for the visual appearance of the VonShef.
Ultimately, what we found was that you don’t need to spend $100 on an electric kettle to get the functionality you want. You can rest assured that any additional benefits that a $100 kettle provides (if there are any at all) aren’t worth doubling the price.