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.

Brewing Tea – Water, Temperature, and Time

October 15, 2009

I realize that to many tea brewing begins and ends with dunking a teabag into a mug of variably tepid/boiling water for an indeterminate amount of time and then adding in sugar and/or milk to mask the acrid brew that was just unleashed. I cringe when I see folks at cafes get handed a cup full of improperly heated water with a single-use tea strainer/bag in it and that is where it remains for the duration of the drink. No wonder people don’t get tea or think it needs to be doctored up in myriad ways to become palatable. There are other extremes of thermometers and timers and digital scales too, but as with anything, there is a balance. This post is meant to be a primer, not the final master class, and I plan to continue to cover this in increasing depth to help everyone realize that there is so much more to the world of tea and that it isn’t hard.

Water, Temperature, and Time

Water is one of the most important parts of the whole equation. You want to make sure the water is absent of any flavors or chemicals. Water that is poured from the little orange/red spout from coffee machines might be filtered but it also may have some hints of the coffee present. Water straight from a tap might have chlorine or sulphur. There are many options but two inexpensive options are to buy a simple faucet-mounted filter (Pur, Dupont, Brita, etc.)  or buy the 1, 3, or 5-gallon jugs or containers of spring water. Starting with a solid foundation is the only way to get a great final result.

Temperature can make the same tea brewed the same way taste completely different. Sometimes this range is a good thing and can allow for a range of flavors from the same leaf, sometimes too much heat can destroy a delicate tea. This is a topic that entire books could be written about, so what we are aiming for here is just a good reference point and we will dig into it in more detail in the future. There are also debates on how the water is heated: microwave, gas stove, electric kettle, etc. And while there is some merit to some of these arguments, for right now the method will be ignored and we will just focus on the final water temperature no matter how it got that way.

The basic rule goes like this:

Black tea – full boiling water or just off boil at the least

Oolong tea – small bubbles/almost boiling or boiling water that has been allowed to cool for a minute or so

Green tea – hot but not boiling, allow boiled water to cool for a few minutes before using. You should be able to touch the water without suffering a burn, not literally but as an illustration of the temp we are going for here.

Tisanes/Herbal tea – full boiling water, the hotter the better. This is not tea and as such you are trying to extract everything you can from the herb/flower.

As you can see, the one-size-fits-all orange/red coffee machine lever is not useful for almost anything but green tea and some oolongs. So if you are at a cafe or situation (like an office) where this is the only option, your best bet is to select a green tea or oolong and just make do.

Time is the other important piece in this equation. Again some teas allow for some variation here and will offer up different flavors and complexities depending on how short or long it is steeped, some will become undrinkable (bitter or astringent) if left for too long. Each particular tea within a larger category (green, black, etc.) will have an optimal time and temperature but again we are setting up the basics here.

I start from 30-45 seconds to about 1-2 minutes and an occasional tea will work well with 3-5 minutes, herbal/tisanes always go 3-5 minutes. Start shorter and then try longer brews and find your particular sweet spot for the specific tea. Some do well with even longer 3-5 minute brewings, some become bitter and too strong.  It is all about what tastes good to YOU, not what a package or “expert” states is correct. With the right water and temperature, you can experiment on time to find what works for you… but leaving the tea in the cup for 5+ minutes until you finish it is not really the proper solution for ANY tea.

Quality tea makes a huge difference as well as does the amount used. Start with a solid teaspoon’s worth of leaf if in doubt and adjust from there to your taste.