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Jan 16, 2008 11:30 AM

Glass kettle vs. Zojirushi for tea?

I make a lot of tea daily, most by the gongfu method (many short steeps, lots of leaf). I was seriously considering a hot water dispensing pot like Zojirushi makes, where you can set multiple temperatures.

But the owner of my local tea shop discouraged me, because he said they take awhile to come to a boil, and then they need to cool to your programmed temp, and he also said they're kind of sloppy in use.

He suggested a Capresso glass kettle because: they boil faster, and you can train yourself to stop the heating when the bubbles are the right size for different temps, and you can pour neatly from them.

What do you folks think? Anyone own a Capresso? I still need some answers: Do they boil as fast as most other electric kettles? Do they have a "keep warm" or "keep hot" setting, so they don't cool all the way down between steeps? Any other comments?


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  1. I have a Zojirushi CD-LCC50. You're tea guy is wrong on a few points, and exaggerating on others.

    1) Yes, a large-capacity electric water dispenser is good for someone who drinks a LOT of tea. Good on you.

    2) They take a while to come to a boil if you're boiling 5 liters. But, you don't have to fill it all the way, and when you don't it boils just as fast as any electric kettle on the market. (And, most models now come with a built-in timer -- fresh water in the morning!)

    3) You always want your water to come to a complete boil. The reason why tea is the most popular beverage on the planet is because it's a tasty way to consume boiled water. Water that is free from pathogens. Not a worry in most of the world, but better safe than sorry.

    4) Yes, after coming to a boil, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the water to cool down to the programmed temperature.

    5) Water kettles (e.g. your Capresso) do not have a stay warm feature. If you're drinking a LOT of tea in a day, wouldn't it be nice to come back to the appliance and have perfect temp water?

    6) My Zoji is not sloppy. You put your cup up to the dispenser and dispense. Sloppy?! Sounds like a sales pitch...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Joe Blowe

      Spot on. I have a similar unit (CV-DSC40) and I wouldn't give it up for anything. Sure, it's relatively specialized, but for tea and coffee made in a French Press, it's indispensable. For some reason, that doesn't seem like the right word to use, for something that dispenses... Ah, well.

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    2. I too prefer the electric hot water pots. There's a re-boil button on the Z's and it's quick to reboil if you need water that hot again. Sloppy? No way. Get your Z! You'll love it!

      1. Um, who "trains" themselves to know water temp by bubble size? That has to be the lamest sales pitch I've ever heard. From what I can tell about the Capresso glass kettle, you'd be paying for the aesthetic look more than anything else.

        There are endless debates on hot water pots vs. electric kettles. People are usually adamantly on one side or the other.

        If you drink a lot of tea throughout the day (or night), I think you will enjoy a water pot like Zojirushi (or something similar, like Sanyo). I use mine all the time, but I am not picky about exact water temperatures. As long as it's hot, I'm pretty happy. To me, the difference between 190, 202, and 212 is negligible once I add tea leaves. If it's more important to you, then you will want to spend the extra money to get a heater than keeps your water at a specific temperature.

        I fill up my water heater when it gets half empty. Some people like to argue that reboiling water makes it taste flat or something. Again, I'm not picky. If you can tell the difference between tea made from "fresh" water and reboiled water, then perhaps you want to only fill it with enough water to last throughout the day and then refill before you go to bed or something.

        If you place your tea cup on the counter and press the dispense button, you may get hot water splashing on the counter. Sloppy, yes; preventable, totally. By lifting the cup a couple of inches, you can keep all your hot water in the cup. I don't know what the salesman is doing to make a hot water pot "sloppy", but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't let him in my kitchen.

        My mom has a cheap electric kettle for when she wants just a mug of tea. I haven't timed it, but it boils pretty quickly. It's totally not pretty, but it works just fine. It doesn't have a keep warm setting, but it doesn't look like the Capresso does, either.

        With an electric kettle, you're only using electricity when you boil the water. I haven't measure the electric use of my water heater, but convenience of always hot water trumps the few cents extra I'm probably spending.

        How do you make your hot water now? If it's by heating water in a typical kettle, then an electric kettle will only be slightly more convenient. It sounds like you want something easier, which I think a water pot is.

        5 Replies
        1. re: leanneabe

          leanneabe: I "train" myself to recongize water temperature by bubble size, and that is the standard way to judge temp (other than using a thermometer) - you look for "fish eyes", "crab eyes", or "old man water", and from that, you can get a good idea of temperature.

          To the OP:
          If you're brewing tea gong-fu style, you don't want to use an air pot type heater. You can get the water temperature about right, and the lack of oxygen shouldn't be as big a problem as with a regular kettle, since it's sealed, but you can't pour that well from it. True, you could fill a regular kettle with water from the air pot, but you'd have to pre-heat that kettle to keep it from reducing the water temperature too much, and you won't learn as much or have as great a degree of control.

          Yes, I've seen people use the Capresso kettles - the main one is "Michael" Wong at Tea Gallery in NY (which, from your posts, and from the city you post in most often on here, I'm guessing is who recommended the Capresso), who uses one like the one I have as his main kettle to pour from, but pre-heats water in the Capresso because it's much faster. Personally, I didn't like the little plastic thing in the bottom. I have a glass electric kettle that works and pours really well - it's a Taiwanese knock off of the Kamjove glass kettle:

          * It has variable heat control, which *sort of* works, but is sort of sensitive to the amount of water in the pot. Older models just have an on / off / auto, which is actually closer to how I use mine, since the thermostat doesn't really work that well.
          * Also, the heating element stays hot when it switches off, which keeps the water in the kettle warm longer
          * Looks nice (at least I think so
          * Because the heating element stays hot longer, the water can end up staying at a full boil for longer than you'd like. I usually end up having to put my kettle down on a towel or prop it halfway on the rim of the heating element so it doesn't keep boiling
          * Really slow compared to a regular electric metal kettle.
          * Variable heat control doesn't work that well
          * Not made super well considering how expensive it is

          That said, it's expensive, and a metal one will work about as well for a much lower cost, and you can still see inside - you just have to look down from the top. I say worry most about a kettle that you like the pour of. I really like the expensive Kamjove style kettles (usually around $60-80) that have a bakelite bottom disk and look kind of "army surplus" style - they seem to hold up better than the newer electric Kamjove ones, which can be found for much less money. The electric ones do seem to often have some sort of black gunk in the spout, presumably from the manufacturing process; this can be gotten rid of by running the pot at a full boil, all the way full with water.

          The one I'd recommend looks like this:

          but I also have a Kamjove TP-680 (I think discontinued now) at work, which works fine so far. Some might argue that glass will adversely affect the taste of the water more than glass (though most of the glass ones available have either metal or plastic in there somewhere unless you're using it on an alcohol burner), so I would say that a metal kettle might be a good balance.

          1. re: will47

            Will47, thanks for all your suggestions. Yes, you are right -- my tea hangout is indeed Tea Gallery, and Michael Wong suggested the Capresso. I wonder if we've even met there at one of our tea gatherings?

            But I'm also intrigued by your metal Kamjove kettle from Holy Mtn. ...I've been to a tea room in Berkeley that uses these and I actually like their sturdy no-nonsense look. I wonder how fast it boils water though; I can't remember from my tearoom experience.

            I recall staying in hotels in Japan; all the rooms have electric kettles so you can make your own tea. Those were pretty fast, but simple: on/off.

            I'll be mulling over all of this before I buy something. Thanks! All suggestions welcome.

            1. re: comestible

              I haven't been to Tea Gallery in a while - I'm from LA, so I've only gone there when I'm back east visiting my folks (and done some mail order from them).

              Mine isn't a Kamjove, and I am not sure if theirs is either (mine is a slightly different brand - actually the same Taiwanese company that makes the electric glass kettle). I got one at an Asian market here, couldn't figure out how to get rid of the black stuff, so returned it, and got another one from a Ten Ren here in LA (I had to bargain with them a little to get the price down). There are a few people who make knock-offs of this design wired for the US.

              I'm guessing you saw it at ITC in Berkeley or SF? Anyway, they are usually 600W & boil faster than the TWese glass kettle, but slower than newer Kamjoves (my other, cheaper one is 800W and boils really quickly). Anyway, it's plenty fast IMO - I haven't timed it, but maybe a few minutes to bring room temperature water to a boil at like 3/4 full or so? I will say that the old ones are not UL listed, and seem pretty "low tech". But in my experience, they are built better too.

              The metal ones are pretty simple - generally "auto / manu / off". In auto, it will bring it to a full boil and shut off; in manu it lets you shut it off when you want to.

              Imperial Tea Court
              1411 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133

              The Tea Gallery
              21 Howard St, New York, NY 10013

            2. re: will47

              I have the glass kettle from houseasianart that you linked. It's expensive and quirky and makes a lot of noise when the water boils, but I like the way it looks in the office kitchen and I like how light the pot is and how easy it is to pour.

            3. re: leanneabe

              acessing water temp by bubble size and frequencies is a classic technique that all chinese cooks of earlier generations need to master. even in classic text cookbooks, many preparations are addressed as such when boiling water is used. a good example would the book "tiao ding lu", the written version of a cookbook that's been passed down orally from ching dynasty cooks.

            4. It's interesting to have so many cynical remarks about your local teashop owner's suggestions. I get the sense that for those who are not familiar with the gongfu tea method, the bulky and staleness of the Zojirushi type of water heater, not to mention the lack of proper pouring feature are not considered minuses in the tea making process.

              To me, it's more important to have a freshly and quickly boiled good filtered water at the very moment of tea making and drinking. I'll take a giant Zoijurishi for my bath water anyday, but not for drinking. Hot water that's been kept at a constant temperature has a negative taste and will greatly hamper your gongfu tea enjoyment.

              The Capresso glass kettle looked quite beautiful from the website. I haven't seen one in person, so I don't know the details of it all. My reservation is that glass doesn't hold heat well. Ideally you'd heat just enough water for one round of the gongfu tea, and have it boiled in something that holds the temperature well naturally, (without continuously heating), because with each steeping of the tea leaves, it is in the nature of gongfu tea making to be using slightly cooler temperature each time, with increased steeping time. To try to manipulate the temperature for each subsequent steeping would be defeating the purpose of the whole "liveness" and unfolding of the gongfu tea enjoyment.

              So, for the above reason I would only half agree with the plus of being able to see the water bubble, as that can be a good indication of the initial water temperature, but not at the expense of loosing water temperature too quickly, or having to reboil it.

              1. Thank you for replies. I appreciate them all.

                I wanted to elaborate a bit about the teashop owner because I was a little vague in my first post. To allay the fears of some of you, no, he was not trying to sell me any particular heating unit. In fact, he doesn't sell any at all; he sells only tea, gaiwans and teapots.

                He is a young Chinese fellow and is passing along to his customers the details of classical Chinese teamaking technique and appreciation. He himself uses a Zojirushi in the shop only as a backup pre-heater for large groups; his "active" kettle is a glass one on an electtric burner. And the technique of watching the rising bubbles to determine temperature is a little arcane, but it is the classical Chinese method of measuring temperature going back centuries. Of course, it is not essential. And I think his choice of glass is partly aesthetic.

                HLing hit on an important point, and probably the same one my tea dealer was stressing. Gongfu tea preparation involves a lot of manipulation of the hot water. You use it to heat the cups, warm the pot, infuse the tea, and pout over the top of the filled and lidded pot. Those functions are hard to do with a Zojirushi unless you first decant hot water into a pitcher. Possibly this was why he pronounced it sloppy in use (for gongfu). Also, like HLing, he is fussy about water quality and freshness.

                HLing, as you say, glass does lose heat quickly. That's why I was hoping to find a unit that doesn't cool all the way down between steeps. I am perhaps a little less fussy than my dealer, who is happy to reheat and add water constantly to his little kettle. His process is a little zenlike, requiring attention...which I enjoy sometimes, but I wouldn't mind streamlining the process just a little. I sure want it to be faster than reheating my stovetop kettle 5-6 or more times in an afternoon.

                Whether I use a Zoji or a kettle, I don't think I'd need a capacity of more than 2-3 liters. I do a round of puer in the morning and a round of oolong in the afternoon, and I'm the only tea drinker in the household. Although now and then I might have a few guests over.

                21 Replies
                1. re: comestible


                  When I'm in my own room I use the Ten Ren electric tea kettle which was a splurge when I bought it in 1994, but turned out to be quite sturdy! when i'm in the kitchen i tend to use the gas stove with a regular stainless steel teapot. Sometimes, especially in the winter when things cool faster, I cheat and put the boiled water in a Nissan thermus to keep warm, but then it doesn't pour as well.

                  The Kamjove I'll have to use some more to really know it. Right now I get the impression that the water boils quite quickly but somehow gets cold rather quickly, too. The smell from the loud fan is a bit distracting. I'm not sure if the smell will go away after more use, but the noisy is quite loud, and may or may not affect a person's tea experience....

                  In general I don't always agree with Ten Ren's offerings of tea leaves, but I thought I saw somewhere online that they do now offer one of those tea kettle is 110-220 DC, (mine isn't) which would make it quite convenient. (Can anyone confirm that?


                  Since your'e in NYC you might have fun browsing in Zabar's 2nd floor. IN the last two years, a lot more electric tea kettles have sprung on the market. If there's one that's stainless steel, has no plastic parts, has no heating coil inside the pot, and has a good spout for're set. Please let us know of your findings!

                  1. re: HLing

                    Is there someone who can tell me the difference between the kettle Ten Ren is currently offering and the Kamjoves (if there is a difference?). Our local Ten Ren here in NYC doesn't have one on display, although there's a working unit in the shop. The problem is that you can't really examine it, although an enquiry disclosed the fact that they offer them for sale and that they're in excess of $100 (maybe $140?--clearly, if you haven't bought it at Ten Ren, you haven't paid enough). And while I'm all for learning the difference between the sizes of bubbles and how they correspond to various temperatures, I have several crazed cats (and a glass candy thermometer I've had for 20+years that's quite accurate)--if I can replace glass with stainless steel, you can bet I will. Besides, I have a vintage Chemex kettle if I want to use glass.
                    I must say, though, that I'm intrigued by the clay kettle and stove. The problem is, how do you turn it off after one short round of gong fu tea? And can you reuse the pits if you extinguish the heat before they're spent?

                    1. re: MacGuffin

                      The one I got from Ten Ren is a different one (not Kamjove or the Ten Ren branded one with the photo attached, but rather another Taiwanese kettle that's a similar style)... I think they asked for $80, and I managed to talk them down to $60 or $70 - still a lot, but about the same as I paid at a local Asian supermarket. They sell the Ten Ren kettle ("Lu Yu" brand) too, but there also, it's quite expensive. However, I think all the Ten Ren / Ten Fus in the US are independently owned - even the 3-4 ones in the LA area all have different inventory -- so I don't know if your local Ten Ren would necessarily have it.

                      In terms of why it's so much, it's anyone's guess - their stuff is always kind of ridiculously priced. There's probably a little wiggle room there, but you probably won't get it under $100 or $120. I am personally not a fan of the black coated ones.

                      You don't use a lot of olive pits at one time. I believe you can re-use them; I can't remember if you can put it out easily or not - you can email Imen and ask her if you want. Keep in mind that the olive pit charcoal is expensive and hard to find. But I would say it's best suited to when you want to spend some time drinking tea, not when you're in a hurry.

                      1. re: will47

                        Thanks for the reply and photo (like you, I'm not fond of the black finish either). I'm not one to enjoy tea in a hurry--I have my routine down pretty smooth--but I think I can be forgiven for wanting the option of being able to easily and completely turn off the heating unit (I think pretty much everyone will grant that this is a reasonable criterion). I think the olive pits would be less expensive if they were available locally, but I don't see that happening. Still, I must say, I'm tempted (and fortunately, in this case, fairly insolvent).
                        I like the $70 sold-out Tanjove that's on the Holy Mountain site because it's not coated, plus I like the long, narrow spout. It would be nice if it came with the bells and whistles that the $80 unit has--I'm pretty big on advanced safety features (which explains, I guess, I why I'm salivating over a clay heating oven that's fueled by olive pits).

                        1. re: MacGuffin

                          Here's the one I have... it's not a Kamjove, but is the same style as the older model Kamjoves. This Ten Ren outlet appears to have some in stock still (via mail order), but they're $80:

                          1. re: will47

                            I like the style (if not the price tag)! I'm going to check around in Chinatown to see what's available. The Kamjove that I like is also available in a somewhat smaller size (0.8L), but no one seems to carry it. Even my most ambitious gong fu doesn't involve 1.2L of water, so I'm eager to save a bit of space (and a few bucks, if possible) where I can.

                            1. re: MacGuffin

                              Just keep in mind that some of the newer Kamjoves aren't built as well as the lower tech old style ones. On the other hand, they're way cheaper, and most of the times I've seen them broken are when they're used in a busy shop environment.

                              1. re: will47

                                Well, THAT'S reassuring. :( (But thanks for the heads-up.)

                      2. re: MacGuffin

                        Yes, I bought mine, the Lu Yu brand from Ten Ren in the early 90's when i was still in Houston, TX...It was then already $90.

                        Just now, though, literally as we speak, I have added another possibility as I successfully tested out using my new replacement Demeyere stainless steel tea kettle (which I just found out is good for gas, electric, vitroceramic, and halogen hobs, even the oven) with the Kamjove ceramic plate.


                        I actually have had this tea kettle for about 10 years but always for stove top. I wasn't thinking of much then except for it's good looks in design and good material. It's sturdy and simple. If my sister hadn't left it forever on last year in one of her absent minded mode, I wouldn't have thought to replace it. In fact, we've continued to use it, but just a bit weary about the stain inside from the burn. So, yesterday I went and got another from Zabars, for $69.

                        Using it with the plate, I now have the best of both world. The water heats up well, the kettle has no heating element inside, but is sturdy and keeps heat longer than the light weight pot that came with the Kamjove KJ-08A .

                        I'm so glad this thread had gotten me thinking about this! I now have the option of electric or stove top with the same stainless steel kettle.

                        Edit: just to clarify, the Kamjove KJ-08A I'm using is not the same type as the Ten Ren Lu Yu electric tea kettle. I got this particular Kamjove in San Gabriel Valley, California on sale for about $40. There was another that was 1600 watts (mine is 800 w) for maybe $10 more, also on sale.

                        1. re: HLing

                          not sure if the photo will come out right. Having problem with picassa :(

                          1. re: HLing

                            Isn't it funny how reading other people's comments will trigger a useful thought? These boards are great.
                            I'm not too concerned about heat loss because there's not a whole lot of distance/time transferring water from kettle to brewing device, plus I doubt it will take all that much time to reheat the water between infusions. I'd like to think, though, that the quality of the Taiwanese pots is good. I would also, at some point, like to acquire a smallish tetsubin for water for Japanese tea.
                            BTW, it doesn't look like the Kamjove KJ-08A is available anymore, nor is anything with a 1600 watt output. There's one (KJ-1200) rated at 1000 watts, though.

                            1. re: MacGuffin

                              I have a TP-680 (1.2L) (not sure if that one is available anymore) that's 800W, and it brings water to a boil very quickly - so for this quantity of water, I don't think you'll need more power. I don't usually fill it all the way - just maybe between 1/2 and 3/4. With this style of kettle (non-induction), the shape of a kettle definitely does affect how much water is required to meet the minimum weight requirement., so the other one I have lets me use a little less water.

                              I've used some of the other Kamjove (non-induction) kettles that are lower power (like 400 W or something), and they are quite slow, even if they're smaller.

                              The one that Hling uses is cool because it's induction instead of using an internal heating element like most of the other kettles of this kind. I believe that a tetsubin will work with an induction cooker, though you'd probably need a bigger one if it's a big tetsubin.

                              When you're looking at the Kamjove site, keep in mind that most of their kettles are designed for 220V, so there may not be a US version of all of them.

                              1. re: will47

                                Yes, I figured that there'd be a limited number of units produced for 120 V countries, although I don't think it's too much of a hassle at their end to wire for here (it's not like dealing with Japanese requirements, which are a real pain, I understand). I actually saw a model on their site that I sort of liked because it has a long spout, a 0.8 L capacity, and is rated at 800 W with UL certification (despite being wired for 220 V). On the minus side, it's black and I'm not crazy about the style. Maybe they'll offer it for sale here at some point.
                                I agree that 400 W is probably slow.

                              2. re: MacGuffin

                                well, now you got me wondering about whether a tetsubin would work with the induction plate....I don't have a tetsubin but have always it a cast iron pot lined with ceramic? Or is it metal inside, also? If it's lined then maybe it would be another solution for keeping the termperature for one around of gong fu tea drinking. (I prefer not to reheat the already boiled water between infusions) I think though, there might be something about the size of the surface area of the pot that comes in contact with the plate, besides being made from the right material.

                                Maybe the reason they were having a sale on those Kamjove model was because they are no longer making them. Also I could be wrong about 1600 Watt, as that does seem high. When I was in China, the induction plates were mostly made for cooking. There was one that was small enough for travel and dedicated to tea making that I found, but I left it in China as I figure the current conversion would be a pain. Even then, it was an item that's being discontinued. I forget the brand name, but it wasn't Kamjove.

                                1. re: HLing

                                  My friend used a large induction plate with a large iron tetsubin she had, and it worked fine. Hers was not lined / enameled. I believe ones sold in the US are supposed to be enameled on the inside. Her plate was direct from Taiwan (though worked Ok with 110V power), and had different temperature settings. I think it did break, eventually, though.

                                  I've heard different schools of thought about reboiling water - some teachers will say to use all the water before reboiling or adding more (which seems difficult to achieve with most setups I've seen), or adding additional water before re-boiling (to re-oxygenate the water).

                                  1. re: will47

                                    Good to know about your friend's tetsubin working with the induction plate. Yes, it's great that Taiwan is also on 110 v, which means you could buy electric appliances over there and use it in the US, whereas Mainland China uses 220v.
                                    I do wonder about the induction plate heating for boiling water. My plate also has the different temperature settings and the option to have it maintain warm. Since I'm using the same kettle for stove top and induction, I've observed that on the induciton plate the kettle itself doesn't get piping hot when the water inside is boiling(whistles) , while on the gas stove, the whole kettle gets pretty hot when it whistles.

                                    I wonder what, if any, the difference in taste will be of the water boiled by induction and by coventional stove top method...

                                    1. re: HLing

                                      Wow, great to read all this discussion. Unfortunately, I won't have time to do any kettle-shopping for at least a week or two, but I'm mentally filing all of this away! (And anyone who posted pics, etc., please leave them up for a while.)

                                      Thanks to all.

                                      1. re: HLing

                                        Aren't we on 120 V rather than 110? Would this make a difference?

                                        1. re: MacGuffin

                                          I believe it's a range in the US - typically somewhere in the range of 110 - 120V @60Hz or so. If TW is 110/60 (which it looks like it is), I think the same things should work here as there, as long as the connectors are the same. Even most 240V kettles will work here (assuming the electrical stuff is relatively simple), it would just be at half the wattage.

                                          However, not all Chinese or Taiwanese kettles that will work in the US are UL listed; the newer Kamjove ones (like the TP-680 I have at work) are, though.

                                          1. re: will47

                                            Thanks for the reply. The UL listing is nice to have; maybe Kamjove will expand it to other models.

                                            1. re: will47

                                              I don't suppose anyone is familiar with a brand called "Boni...?" I happened upon this brand in Chinatown and even though I'm not wild about the black coating, the price is right (I think it was $40). They also had smaller models that were cheaper.