Zojirushi CV-DSC40 Electric Kettle – Initial Impressions

January 28, 2010

A few days ago I received the Zojirushi CV-DSC40 I briefly wrote about following the initial purchase. I have had it in my home and functioning for a couple days and wanted to go through some of my experiences and usage so far. There is very little information, especially in English, on this product so I wanted to get info out in stages to help anyone else who is looking.

Pulling the unit out from the box, one is struck with just how nice it looks in person compared to the photo’s online. The exterior is a very nice stainless steel and the top is a mid-gray plastic which is a bit darker than most photo’s capture. You can tell that it is hard to fit the English words on the buttons meant for Kanji, and honestly if I would have been more familiar with the unit (or if I ever buy a replacement) I would have gone for the Japanese version. You can tell it is put together and designed with a lot of attention to detail and care. I liken it to a finely crafted automobile, sure the majority is just luxury but quality components and engineering do make a difference in the long run. Plus, since it is a well known and established company individual parts like lids or gaskets can be ordered extending the life far beyond a cheaper alternative.

The instructions state to fill the unit and boil the water, dispense 1L and then let the rest cool and discard to help eliminate any off flavors from manufacturing or packaging. I filled the unit with about 4L of water from a tap-mounted filter which registered as being 60 degrees F. To check the initial boil time I watched the clock, and when the happy little musical alarm played it had only been about 25 minutes to reach 212F! That is far faster than their very conservative estimate of 37 minutes and helped allay one of my initial concerns. The ambient room temperature was probably about 65F since it is winter here. I pressed the Unlock button and then the Dispense button to expel 1L and discarded. I quickly realized though, that I’d have to leave the lid open if I wanted to discard the rest and have it cool since it is so well insulated that the temperature drop is just 1-2 degrees every half-hour or so. Even with the top open it retained heat extremely well and I finally just poured it out at 190F. You do have to detatch the plastic lid and pour from a designated notch to protect the electronics, which is a bit of a pain, but nothing major. This seems like it could have been better accounted for in design.

I refilled 4L and again boiled in about the same timeframe. I made some Song Zhong Dan Cong so that if some off flavoring was still present the more robust flavor would mask it over a delicate green. I could certainly still taste the unit’s off flavor int he tea. I let it cool some and dispensed another liter or two and then decided to try some green tea near the end of that fill and it was completely overpowered by the taste if the unit still.

I discarded the remaining water and refilled it before going to bed. This was my chance to try out the timer function. The translation is very sketchy in the manual and it is not very clear how this actually works. Does it heat for the set number of hours and then shut off? or does it heat the water over the set number of hours to attain the desired temperature at that point? My guess was the latter, and it turned out to be correct. I chose 8H for 8 hours of slumber and awoke to 195F water as promised! Perfect for my morning commute tea in my Bodum travel press. Even though a bit low I selected some loose Puerh from 2008 I had a craving for. A quick rinse and then about 12oz. of water and I was off. Obviously this tea would hide more water taste than my other selections, but after paying close attention, I don’t really notice any. Hopefully we’re past that stage.

I have been leaving it on the 195F “Keep Warm” setting which maintains the selected water temperature from the selections of 205F, 195F, or 175F. The second night I had selected the “Vacuum Insulation” mode which is essentially an off mode where the water just slowly loses heat naturally but as much heat is kept in as possible like a thermos. Before I went to bed it had been around 195F and when I woke, it was at 130F which is pretty good. I hit the reboil button before taking a morning shower and it was back to 212F when I returned past it maybe 10 minutes later. Very fast for an 800W device.

So far, so good! No real limiting factors and it outperforms my estimates. The single flush recommended in the manual is optimistic at best, I’d imagine it needs 3-4 boils and flushes before it is not tainting the water noticeably. I’m also very sensitive to flavors so 2-3 may be enough for most, but no matter what, it is more than one. I’ll be following up at least once more after about a month of use to get a better long-term perspective. Too often review are written days after arrival and never updated, which is never enough time to properly evaluate a product and for flaws to appear.

GSI Backpacking Kettle Field Report

January 24, 2010

A little while back I wrote a short piece on a new GSI backpacking tea kettle I had received (Original Post) and while I had done a couple tests in the comforts of my home, today I got to use it for real. I love rainy days so a rare ~50F degree winter day promising steady rains might not spark much excitement in the normal person, but to me this meant a great day for hiking! I never claimed to be normal. Rain normally spoils most hikes, but for me I would rather hike in the rain than the sunniest of days. Good rain gear is essential, but it’s not that hard to do. A Marmot Precip lightweight rain jacket over a fleece and synthetic long-sleeved t-shirt and some polypropylene long-underwear under a pair of nylon zip-off pants, and my North Face Surge daypack and I’m off. I brought along the GSI kettle and my Coleman F1 Ultralight stove with a small canister of Jetboil fuel… and most importantly some Song Zhong Dan Cong. The darker flavor with hints of peach would be perfect after a few hours of cold and wet hiking.

After about 5 miles I found a small wooden bench along the trail which would be the perfect spot to test out the kettle and down some tuna salad and crackers. I set up the stove and poured 16oz. of cool water into the kettle which rested perfectly stable on the diminutive backpacking stove. From the initial flame to boil was about 2 minutes, maybe 2.5 at most! That’s pretty fast! I brewed up some tea in my stainless steel mug as the rain poured down and the warmth of the mug was sublime on cold hands. The tea was exactly what I needed, and with about 8oz. of water left in the kettle I made a quick packet of Lipton chicken noodle soup. Belly warm and full I began to repack the gear for the journey homeward. The kettle was completely cool in just the short time it took me to drink the soup! A big bonus. The stove took a bit longer to cool down for packing. The only drawback was that when pouring the last of the water for the soup I had to tilt the kettle almost vertical and my initial concerns about the loose-fitting lid were correct, it would flop out if not held in place during pouring. They do have a nice rubberized handle on the lid to make this easy even with bare hands, but it just seems so unnecessary. I’ll probably make a small modification to have the lid fit snugly, but it really isn’t a major deal. When I repacked the small fuel canister, it felt barely used! Since the rain was picking up and the stove was still hot I decided to just heat another 10oz. of water for a second cup for the last 2 miles. Less than 2 minutes to the start of a boil, even with cold rain and wind! packed it all away and enjoyed the last leg while sipping some hot Song Zhong which made the miles seem like feet.

Completely happy with the performance and utility of this kettle in about as poor conditions as possible. Even after the second boil I would mistake the small canister for a fresh one! Almost no major fuel use which is a massive plus for this kettle. A great addition to the pack.

Zojirushi CV-DSC40 Electric Kettle

January 22, 2010

I’ve made due with my very basic electric kettle for years to heat my water, it has precisely one button which is “On” and I know it so well that I simply time shutting it off before or during the boil to get my desired temperature. It only holds a max of 1L and I generally refill it numerous times a day and reboil constantly. The cord is finally beginning to break, which started my hunt for a replacement. I’ve been wanting a Zojirushi boiler for a long time, but the expense and slower boil time has always pushed it back again. After hunting through all of my options the vacuum insulation of the Zojirushi CV-DSC40 kept haunting me. The fact that instead of wastefully refilling and reboiling I can fill in 4L and use it throughout the day with little to no energy use was just too much to ignore and I eventually caved.

Zojirushi CV-DSC40 VE

Zojirushi CV-DSC40 VE

Once I’ve received it and had some time to live with it I will post a more detailed review, but my only real concern is the initial boil time. Since this unit is rated at 800 Watts, and most electric kettles are in the 1200-1500 Watt range, it seems it will take about twice as long as an actual kettle. This means it will have to function like a hot water tank more-so than a kettle and some routine will have to be created to make it fit my needs. Hopefully not too big of an adjustment either. I’ll always have a regular kettle just in case. I wish it had an actual clock/timer instead of limited preset hour choices and I don’t see why a variable temperature control would be any harder than the included three settings of 175, 195, and 208 degrees Fahrenheit… but those are minor quibbles. I’ll probably keep it set on 195 and then just let it cool a minute or so before using any delicate greens. I’m not a big black tea drinker so this should suffice even for the occasional cup.

We shall see how it fits into life and tea as I know it. I’m looking forward to it!

Arya Pearls Photo Update – Thunderbolt Tea

January 13, 2010

I apologize for the delay, but a missing camera cable has kept me handcuffed. A few days ago I posted a quick impression of the Arya Pearls sample from Thunderbolt Tea and my complete amazement at the beauty of the leaf and the almost imperceptibly light-yellow colored liquor it produces. I had taken a few photos of the dry leaf that I wanted to share to really give a solid impression of just how full and pretty these leaves are. I’ll have to wait until I order more beyond this small sample for more photos and in-depth notes, but as promised, here are the shots (you can click on the photo’s for the full-sized images):

Arya Pearls in gaiwan

Arya Pearls in gaiwan

Arya Pearls dry leaf

Arya Pearls dry leaf

GSI Backpacking Tea Kettle

January 4, 2010

I’m an avid outdoorsman and I love to hike, camp, and backpack. I’m pretty strict when it comes to my gear and weights/space as I like to keep as close to ultralight as possible and to bare essentials. I won’t sacrifice safety or thousands of dollars for the newest space-age material that will shave 1-2oz. off of an item I already own, but I do think long and hard before adding an item and try to have it serve two or more uses.

Tea is something that is a part of me. To enjoy a beautiful cup of tea surrounded by nature’s beauty at sunrise, or during a miserably wet and cold day, or on a break from the trail is sublime. Thus far I’ve always settled for simply boiling water in my stainless steel Olicamp Space Saver cup over one of my ultralight stoves (a Snowpeak Ti or Coleman F1) and adding in the leaves. But when I have a companion or a couple of people along, I’ve always struggled… having to waste fuel and time boiling a cup at a time not to mention having to use my cup as the vessel the entire time if they don’t have a suitable cup for the stove. To combat this my lovely wife got me a GSI Tea Kettle for the holidays.

GSI Tea Kettle

The kettle is made from a super-hard alloy called Halulite, and weighs in at only about 6oz. while holding 1 quart/32 ounces. The material is said to transfer heat very rapidly, which saves fuel and time, and it is shaped in a flatter profile to allow more surface area as well as to make for easier packing. While it is essentially a single-purpose item, boiling water is generally the heart of every meal when hiking for dehydrated items or pasta dishes and soups so the utility is worth the 6 ounces and when packed with things the space addition is negligible in all but the lightest packs.

In practice there are, as always, some pros and cons. The lid doesn’t fit tightly so it just sits in place rather than being held firmly by friction or a mechanism which seems like it could have been an easy addition. However, that is really about the only con. In basic indoor testing so far it does indeed boil faster when compared to the stainless steel Olicamp cup with the same volume of water, about 20-30 seconds faster which isn’t hugely significant, but every bit helps… and I could never do more than 12 ounces or so in my cup at once. It’ll also be great over a small campfire for a quick cup during day hikes, with the wider base being easier to deal with and position.

Any old metal tea kettle would do perfectly fine, and I’m never one to perpetuate this notion that enjoying the outdoors requires expensive labels and fancy gadgets, so this is more of a convenience and splurge type item. At only about $16 the utility and tailor made design is well worth it.

For those interested, here are the other items in my pack that I mentioned:

Olicamp Space Saver Cup/Pot

Coleman F1 Ultralight Stove

Snow Peak Titanium Gigapower Stove

Arya Pearl white tea – Thunderbolt Tea

January 2, 2010

In a recent shipment of tea from Thunderbolt tea a tiny packet tucked in amongst the Darjeelings stuck out: Arya Pearls. It was a very small and light packet and the fact that I had never heard of it intrigued me.

When I opened it I was floored! This was tea so delicate and pristine words fail it! Not rolled or processed and certainly not silver needles, this is leaf plucked and allowed to dry as-is by the sun only. Nothing more. Just huge full brittle leaves and leaves with bud in all their glory and a wonderful light green color. Photo’s will be coming because it is just necessary.

It has a briney scent almost like crab. Delicate and sweet. Upon brewing it there is almost no discernable change in water color or aroma. Really good water is a must! A slight briney and vegetal note, but very slight. The taste, however, is without a doubt, the most exquisite white tea I have ever enjoyed! I’m not a silver needle fan, and most whites don’t interest me as I’d rather have a yellow. This is like the perfect fusion of the two styles and it is magical.

Delicateness and subtlety are the names of this one, and it really shouldn’t be missed for any tea lover out of sheer uniqueness and rarity. White tea fans shouldn’t have even wasted this much time reading before ordering! 2010 is starting out to be a great year!