Electric tea kettles are rather simple devices. They evolved from the even simpler stove-top kettle. Like the stove-top kettle, there is a container which holds water. Where it differs is that the electric kettle has a heating element which plugs into an electric socket to boil the water. There is practically nothing to go wrong mechanically and one would expect an electric tea kettle to last many, many years. And many old electric kettles made a decade or more ago are still loyally serving their owners well even today.

Unfortunately, as the simple electric tea kettle evolved into the modern cordless kettle, designs became more complicated. More mechanical and electronic parts were introduced - water level checkers, automatic cut-offs when water comes to a boil, 360-degree rotating bases, hidden heating elements, special filters, etc. With more sophistication, more points of failure came into being. Instead of the 10 to 15 year lifespan of the old electric kettles, many cordless kettles started breaking down after a mere 3 to 6 years of service. Nevertheless, famous brands like Braun, Cuisinart, Krups and Dualit still managed to make kettles which could be expected to survive up to 5 years or more of service. Many customers who bought the old made in Germany Braun WK200B in 2003, 2004 or 2005 still sing its praises today. The same was true of loyal Cuisinart customers who bought their KUA-17 5 or 6 years ago.

Sadly, good things do not last forever. Together with many other companies, these good old European and American brands fell prey to the increasing push towards cost cutting and outsourcing. They moved their factories to Eastern Europe and China to cut costs and make more profits, and now even their traditionally excellent models have suffered. Many of their cordless kettles now last only a year, on average. More than a few customers reported problems right out of the box, or after just a few months of service.

We now hear of cordless kettles leaking, of switches breaking or the automatic boiling cut-offs failing. We hear of the electrical connection between the base and the heating element of the cordless kettle failing and the kettle unable to boil water. These are things we would expect from a nameless brand of electric tea kettle made in China that we paid $10 to $20 to buy, but when these same flaws appear in a famous brand like Braun or Cuisinart for which we paid $100 to $300, it is a very bitter pill to swallow.

The following is a list of 5 cordless kettles which used to be very good but have now turned into lemons:
  • Braun WK200B AquaExpress Electric Water Kettle; $299.99; Plastic
  • Braun WK600 Impressions 7-Cup Electric Kettle; $299.99; Stainless steel
  • Cuisinart KUA-17 1-3/4-Quart Cordless Automatic Electric Kettle; $130.00; Stainless steel
  • Krups 54-Ounce Electric Kettles; $90.00; Stainless steel
  • Dualit 72460 Cordless 12-Cup Jug Kettle; $200.00; Stainless steel

While perfection is unattainable, it is still sad to see how far some of these previously excellent models of cordless kettle have fallen. Paying $300 for a Braun electric tea kettle which could last a decade used to be money well spent, but now that the expected service life has dropped to a year, it no longer makes sense to spend so much money. Nowadays, it makes more sense to buy a cheap disposable Chinese electric tea kettle for under $30 and then toss it away when it dies after a year.