I'm not normally a huge fan of eco gadgets. If anyone asked me "What should I buy to save the planet?" my answer would be "Less. Just buy less."
But my sister, Lindsey, turned up at my house this afternoon with her new green purchase - a Tefal Quick Cup. It's a sort of space age kettle that pumps the water out of a reservoir and heats it up as you need it - like a combi boiler for your hot drinks. If you just want a single cup of coffee you can have it in a few seconds rather than the few minutes it takes to boil an electric kettle.
Lindsey bought it because her husband, Andrew, has an incurable habit of boiling an entire kettle for a single cup of tea. Lindsey has tried everything to cure him of this, and the Quick Cup is her latest approach. This is it's main selling point - it's an eco kettle because you only heat the water you use. About 1/4 of your household electricity usage is for heating water, and filling up the kettle to make a single cup of tea is a terrible eco-crime.
Tefal claims that the Quick Cup uses up to 65% less energy than a standard kettle, and that this is about £30 per year for a typical household. The gadget costs around £60, so the payback time is around 2 years if Tefal's figures are correct. It can also operate as a water filter using Claris cartridges, but if you don't care about filtering your water, or if you object to the waste of disposable plastic cartridges, you can just do without these - they're optional.
There are some drawbacks to the Quick Cup. It make a really unpleasant buzzing noise (it's probably the pump) when in operation. Of course, it's only in operation for a few seconds so that's not the end of the world. It is quite quick for a single cup, but if you had to make drinks for five or six people I'd prefer to switch on a kettle and then busy myself with putting the tea bags and sugars in the cups and so on whilst it comes to the boil, rather than have to stand pressing a button all that time. And I think the noise would really be driving me mad after five or six cups.
Another problem is that the Quick Cup doesn't actually boil the water. That's one way it saves energy I suppose. But a lot of commenters on HippyShopper's review complained that their tea didn't taste right because the water wasn't hot enough, although most of them thought it made coffee well enough. The tea tastes OK to me, although I like my tea on the weak side so perhaps that's the reason. I took the temperature of a fresh cupful of water from the Quick Cup and it was about 75°, compared to about 85° for a cup freshly poured from a kettle. Why wasn't it 100° fresh from the kettle? I guess it cools down a lot when poured into a cold cup. Because water comes out cooler from the Quick Cup you can drink it faster. You might find that a bonus. On the other hand, it goes cold sooner too. So I can see that some people might love it and some might hate it, depending on their individual preferences and habits.
Finally, the Quick Cup draws energy when on standby. Most electric kettles don't draw any energy when they're not actually boiling, so I wonder if the energy savings of the Quick Cup are wiped out by the standby costs? Lindsey says she'll switch hers off at the mains when it's not in use. That's a good plan, but why not just build it so when it's off, it's off?
Lindsey likes her tea much weaker even than I drink it, so she' ll probably be happy with her new purchase if she can get used to the noise. And if it cures Andrew of his eco-crime then it's a good choice for them. But I won't be rushing out to buy one myself.