By March 30, 2011

T-Fal Vitesses 1.7L Variable Temperature Electric Kettle Review

If you like making coffee or tea, I highly recommend buying an electric kettle. A kettle can be used for many things, including pre-heating mugs and airpots. It also serves the obvious function of heating the water to make coffee or tea.

I’m a big fan of kettles that heat water to different temperatures. This is very important for different kinds of tea, and is also important depending on how you brew your coffee. Fans of the Aerobie AeroPress think that 175°F is the optimal temperature for that brewing system. French Press users often like their water to be nearly 200°F. It’s a matter of personal taste, and it’s nice to have options.

The problem with variable temperature electric kettles is that they’re expensive. Our kettle at Fort Gibberish was made by Upton Tea and was only $40USD; unfortunately Upton discontinued it in 2010. The next best choice of form and function is the UtiliTEA kettle made by Adagio (I wrote a comparison against the Upton in 2009).

Sadly, the Adagio kettle is often out of stock at Adagio.com. It is very very popular, attractive, and a decent performer. At $59, it isn’t as inexpensive as the Upton, but is much less expensive than the other variable electric kettles out there.

Except for the T-Fal Vitesses variable temperature electric kettle, which is available for $40 from Amazon.com and other retailers. Here’s my review.

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Appearance and dimensions

The first thing I thought when I opened the T-Fal Vitesses was, “holy shit this thing in big.” It towers over the Upton kettle and stands over 11″ tall.

The second thing I thought was, “holy shit this thing is ugly.”

I am not going to lie to you. The Vitesses is not attractive and feels cheap compared to the Upton and especially the Adagio UtiliTEA. The Vitesses is made entirely of plastic except for the metal heating element inside the kettle. It is larger than the other two kettles, but due to its plastic construction it feels lighter and more flimsy.

T-Fal made some interesting choices with the controls. We’ll talk about them a little bit later from a usability perspective, but compared to the nice LED-illuminated control on the UtiliTEA and the industrial-look of the Upton I think the oddly placed and plastic controls of the Vitesses adds to its ugliness.

The top of the Vitesses is very large and you can add water easily. The instructions recommend the spout (it has a removable plastic mesh filter) but I find it easier to just open the lit and pour in filtered water.

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There is a smoked plastic water level indicator on both sides of the T-Fal electric kettle. This is pretty handy. The Adagio UtiliTEA’s water indicator was at the rear of the kettle, and obscured by the handle.

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The cord on the Vitesses measures 35″ long when fully extended. You can wrap the cord around the kettle’s base plate. This is a nice feature, but I prefer to extend the cord as long as possible. One of my big knocks on the Upton was how short the cord was, and it’s nice to see that T-Fal was generous in this regard.

Capacity

The Vitesses can heat 1.7L of water, or over 57 ounces. The Upton and Adagio kettles heat up 32 ounces. I don’t need to heat more than 32 ounces, but one of my co-workers drinks a lot of hot tea and makes a lot of presses and says that they routinely heat up a full Vitesses.

If you make large French Presses or make many hot drinks at once, the additional capacity of the Vitesses may be a strong motivator in your decision to buy it.

Usage and Usability

I am going to bitch about the Vitesses controls. There are three basic controls on the kettle: the temperature adjustment knob, the lid release button, and the power button.

The temperature adjustment knob is the best control on the kettle, but also the one you’ll use the least. The icons on the kettle are easy to read, but the variance between the three major settings (low, medium and high) are hard to read. I am concerned that it would be too hard for people with vision issues to see the demarcations easily.

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Good luck seeing the finer temperature adjustment icons.

It’s all downhill from here.

The on/off switch is on top of the handle. I did a quick usability study with six people, and all six thought it was to release the lid latch. Not a single person said “power.”

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It’s a really dumb design.

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I am not a big fan of the way the lid opens, either. I find it easiest to open the lid by approaching it from the front. This is an obvious issue if the kettle is still hot and steam is coming out (or may come out once you add water). You can “clutch” it from the back, but I find this less comfortable.

It is worth noting that the Adagio has a release button where the Vitesses has the power button. My Upton kettle’s lid release is in the same place as the Vitesses, but it is protrudes from the lid, whereas the Vitesses’s button is recessed and requires more effort to manipulate.

Again, something to consider if a user may have accessibility or strength concerns.

Performance

Okay, so the T-Fal Vitesses feels cheap, has a nice long cord, and has shitty controls.

How well does it heat up water?

Pretty damn well, and much faster than the Adagio UtiliTEA.

Even though the T-Fal Vitesses can heat up to 57 ounces of water, I only tested it with 32 ounces, since that is the capacity of the other two kettles I’ve reviewed.

The T-Fal brought 32 ounces of room-temperature filtered water to 200°F in 3:37. That’s three seconds faster than the Upton kettle, and a almost a minute faster than the Adagio UtiliTEA, which took 4:30 when I tested it in 2009.

That’s fast!

The temperature ranges on my kettle were a little odd, though. The lowest setting heated water to 150°F. The halfway point between low and medium was 165°F. Medium was 190°F. Halfway between medium and high was also 190°F … which seemed very odd but I checked it twice. The highest setting was 200°F. That isn’t as hot as Adagio (202°F) but is on par with the Upton. I don’t think the two degrees makes much of a difference.

Lastly, the Vitesses is loud. I am sure it’s due to the all-plastic body, but it is so loud I had to move the kettle from my work environment into the kitchen. It distracted people in their cubes; I felt especially guilty when I started the kettle while a gentleman was on a conference call and I stopped the kettle.

Conclusion

At about $40, the high capacity T-Fal Vitesses is a strong performer. Out of the three variable temperature kettles I’ve tested, it was the fastest to heat 32 ounces to 200°F. Its poor control layout and wonky temperature range adjustment are major detractors. People who are aesthetically minded may dislike the styling and plastic construction to the point where they look elsewhere.

Unless you have the need to heat large amounts of water at once, I’d suggest the Adagio UtiliTEA instead. If you’re on a budget or need a “beater” kettle for a secondary location (I use mine at work), the T-Fal may be for you.

Recommended.

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1 Comment on "T-Fal Vitesses 1.7L Variable Temperature Electric Kettle Review"

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  1. Brice says:

    I continue to not understand why these kettles don’t come with an actual temperature readout. The parts and controls are so cheap these days it just doesn’t make cents.

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