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Aug 15, 2012 08:25 AM

Hot water urn recommendation

My latest Shabbat water urn is dying. They don't seem to last long. I've tried expensive ones, cheap ones, pump tops, spigots on the side, just about all of them. They seem to last between 2-5 years.

My mother in law thinks I'm silly. She says to get a cheap one each year at Pesach, throw the old one away and use the new one all year until next Pesach.

The cheap ones don't get the water hot enough, the push pumps get pooped out after a short while and the expensive pretty one from either Revere or Farber (can't remember) was always being repaired for $35 per fix.

There was a Jewish company in Massachusetts someplace that made a pot that they insisted was as hot as permissible. That was wonderful and lasted over 5 years before the pump thing kept getting stuck. They don't seem to be in business any more.

Anyone have a suggestion? Please don't suggest the Japanese pots with the electric mechanisms that Costco has. They are wonderful but cannot be used on Shabbat.


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  1. I have a very basic one from Home Depot (who knew they sold tea urns??!!!). It functions well but has some weird mineral deposit type issue on the inside. No idea how to fix it. It doesn't affect the water after it comes out. The urn cost maybe $25 dollars.

    Also could you specify if you are looking for one with visible water level markings on the outside? In my searches for an urn I've discovered that some communities frown upon this as it as it might appear that you are measuring the water level on Shabbos, even if you don't remove an exact amount. Most places I've been to do not seem to care, but we got one without water level markings since we don't really need them.

    9 Replies
    1. re: PotatoPuff

      The issue with the water level column on the outside isn't measuring; it's that the water in that column is cooler than the water inside the urn, and when you draw water from the urn some of that water immediately falls back into the urn and gets heated.

      1. re: zsero

        wow...I never would have thought of that. My current dying pot has that.

        1. re: zsero

          wow. that never in a million years would have occurred to me. i'm fascinated. how did you figure this out?

          1. re: PotatoPuff

            My shul has an urn like that, and the rabbi stuck a thin stick down the measuring rod, which stops the column from instantly synchronising with the contents.

            1. re: zsero

              I can't figure out where the opening would be to put a stick in.

              1. re: SoCal Mother

                At the very top of the rod there's a tiny opening.

                1. re: zsero

                  The rod is inside a completely sealed section of the urn. The gauge is flush with the outside of the urn.

        2. re: PotatoPuff

          Home Depot????? Who knew???
          What brand is it? How long have you had it?

          1. re: SoCal Mother

            eeek, I don't know the brand sorry. It's maybe a year old.

        3. I'm starting to agree with your mother. I have a Perko pot with a Shabbat switch. It has worked pretty well for 2 years, but I'm starting to see some rust on the underside of the lid. Curious to see if anyone has any other ideas. It is difficult to find electric urns without the automatic shut-off.
          As far as the mineral deposit problem goes, try boiling two lemons in the pot for 5 minutes (cut them in half, and throw them in with their peel), and leave it to sit overnight. Scrub lightly with a kitchen brush in the AM. If it is still really bad, try a product used for cleaning kettles and coffee makers.

          13 Replies
          1. re: mamaleh

            Does anyone out there use an electric Samovar instead of a regular hot water urn?
            I've seen these in some Persian homes in my neighborhood, and I'm willing to try this. Any particular brands that you can recommend?

            1. re: mamaleh

              The best shabbos urn that I have seen is the pump pot sold by Classic Kitchen. The water is always extremely hot and it meets the halachic standards. It may be the same company that you referred to above from Massachusetts. I know that they are sold here in many judaic bookstores and kosher supermarkets.

              1. re: LA Hungry

                Well believe it or not, I am trying to buy one in Houston. I need to change my screen name...

                1. re: LA Hungry

                  I just looked at this online. This is the one I have.

                  1. re: SoCal Mother

                    Did you try to contact the manufacturer? They have been responsive to issues in the past I had with an older version.

              2. re: mamaleh

                Thanks mamaleh! I've been looking everywhere for a coffee/kettle cleaning product and can't find. Do you happen to know what brand would make them or where to buy?

                1. re: PotatoPuff

                  We have very hard water at our house, so I bought one called Dezcal at Bed Bath and Beyond. Some of the electric kettle and coffee maker manufacturing companies also carry their own brands like Russell Hobbs and Capresso. You may be able to use Lime Away or CLR from a regular hardware store, but I would be concerned about damaging some of the plastic features that are usually on these urns, like the spigot. Perhaps some of the other readers here have used these successfully.

                  1. re: PotatoPuff

                    Equal parts water and white vinegar also work. Pour it in, turn on the pot, let heat for a few hours, scrub if needed and rinse. You don't have to pour in the water all the way. Just covering the buildup should be fine or about 2/3 of the pot if the build up is all the way up. I do it at least twice a year to keep the build up at bay.

                  2. re: mamaleh

                    How does the "shabbos switch" work? I plugged it in, waited for it to boil, hit the shabbos switch, its accompanied red led lit up, shabbos morning - cold water. Next week, shabbos switch off, shabbos morning - toasty hot water.

                    1. re: MartyB

                      It basically stops the water from reboiling. Up to you, or your rabbi, whether that's likely to be an issue.

                      1. re: masteraleph

                        ... reboiling is one thing, but is the water supposed to be cold? Maybe the shabbos logic of my urn is defective, I should use Google to dig up some technical specs as to just what the shabbos mode is actually supposed to do as opposed to what it does not do.

                        1. re: MartyB

                          You have a defective unit. The only thing the switch is supposed to do is prevent the "heating" light from turning on.

                          A caveat on Yom Tov: while marketed on some models as a "Yom Tov" switch to allow adding cold water on Yom Tov, the switch only prevents the lights from changing, but the urn still switches to reboil mode to quickly heat the new water (instead of taking hours to slowly heat it at the "keep warm" heating level). Check with your Rov if he permits refilling under this circumstance.

                  3. I am so glad you posted. I feel that all the urns I have purchased in the last ten years (and there have been at least 3) did not keep the water hot enough and did "have issues" at some point. I can't wait to see the posts. I like a very hot coffee on Shabbos morning and I haven't had one in years. Invariably some of my coffee grinds kind of lay there trying to dissolve.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cappucino

                      I was told once by a coffee-loving rav -

                      There are two permissible ways to make instant coffee on Shabbat:
                      1. Water heats in kli rishon (the urn.) Pour it into a dry kli sheni (first cup) and THEN coffee into the water
                      2. Water heats in kli rishon. Put instant coffee and sweetener into an empty kli slishi (second cup.) Pour water from urn into kli sheni and then pour from kli sheni into the cup with the instant coffee in it.

                      He told me that method 2 is preferable because the coffee tastes better.

                      Of course milk goes in last.

                      This is NOT a valid method for making tea on Shabbat.

                      To the moderators: This may look like a discussion of Jewish law but it's really an explanation on how to improve on instant coffee while respecting the Sabbath. Please let this one stay.

                      1. re: SoCal Mother

                        The problem with option 2 is that when you are dealing with "very warm" water as opposed to scalding hot water, the second cup is just not hot enough. I just want to see steam, for goodness sakes. Steam!!! And it is because I remember the urns of the past and that water was hot. It stinks being middle aged sometimes.

                    2. I have had issues with rust and deposits on the inside of my urn. After many attempts at solutions, the only thing that worked was to use only spring water, which is free from additives. It keeps the inside of the urn clean.
                      As far as keeping the water hot, my rabbi told me that I could put a cloth over the pot, as long as it doesnt cover the entire pot. A folded towel works perfectly. The water was hot and perfect. This has worked no matter which brand I have owned.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: robocop

                        But eventually they all die.

                        My Classic Kitchen pot has a pooped out pumper.
                        My previous pump pot from the Jewish company in Massachusetts had plastic fatigue and the pumper kept getting stuck on the crumbling plastic.
                        The ones with spouts all leak eventually.

                        Ah to Target (or Home Depot!) next week to buy my next hot pot.

                        1. re: SoCal Mother

                          Years ago when my pumper pooped out, I was able to buy just the lid. It fixed the pot--I think the diaphragm gives out. I don't know if they still do this. The lid snaps off and the new one clicks into place.

                          1. re: TerreeCloth

                            You shouldn't need to buy a whole new lid. They sell the plastic seal which is the part that wears out for just a few dollars (make sure you get the right one for your model - they come in different sizes).

                      2. LeChef makes a really good one. Its very hot and has a yom tov mode where you can add water on y"t.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Prozack

                          Any one in particular?

                          PS I just turned my Classic Kitchen urn over and it was also made by the company in Massachusetts, Innovative Consumer Goods.

                          1. re: SoCal Mother

                            This is a pic of it. I've recommended to a few ppl and e/o very happy with it

                            1. re: Prozack

                              Alright then! Sounds like the next contestant!!

                              Is it available in regular stores or do I need to get it online or in Brenco's?

                              1. re: SoCal Mother

                                I got it at a housewares store in brooklyn, but I saw it on amazon

                                1. re: Prozack

                                  I looked it up on Amazon and there was one review of it which was horrible. Gave it one star, and clearly written by someone "in the life" (frum) with many, many complaints. totally put me off getting it. I know that those reviews are often written by chronic malcontents with unrealistically high expectations for everything, but I'm wondering if you read that review and what you think.


                                  1. re: helou

                                    Read the review..seems awfully harsh...its true that you do have to use one switch to boil and then switch it off and switch on the other to keep warm, but that's prob so it can be used for yom tov without triggering any change in a light or electricity. I'm in the kitchen a lot of friday so its not a big deal to hear it boiling and "switch" the switch. I don't know what the problem the reviewer has with the plastic lid but it works fine. Never had any issues with it or with emptying the pot. Never ran out of water and we always have guests.

                                    1. re: helou

                                      I read the review and his two big complaints were both based on misunderstandings. I.e., most coffee appliances (french press, espresso machines) use a 4 oz "cup" as their measurement, not an 8 oz measuring cup. In this case cup = serving (for those satisfied with tiny servings!).

                                      The other complaint was having both a "Boil" and "Keep Warm" switch and the need to manually change once the water boils (or you can start it on keep warm and wait a longer time for the water to heat). The reason for not having an automatic thermostat is to follow the stricter psak on adding water to an urn on Yom Tov (it isn't enough that no lights change, but the urn shouldn't switch to high heat reboil mode either).