I haz new Spoonie toys…

Among the mixed bag of crapulosity that’s pissing all over my life, losing the use of my right hand is a biggie.

No-one seems to know why with any degree of certainty. My guess is nerve damage from the thick end of 30 years leaning on a crutch, possibly compounded by reduced circulation caused by my calcified and stenotic aortic valve (lots of cramp in hands and feet seem to support this view**), and probably RSI from 20-odd years pounding on a computer keyboard.

**There are two tests which will show how advanced this condition is, one is dangerous (24% risk of stroke, which I’ve already refused), one safe. Guess which one APH insist on!

Whatever the cause, it’s making me clumsy and some tasks, especially in the kitchen, are getting dangerous. I’ve lost count, for example, of how many times I’ve almost impaled my foot on a dropped knife (and sometimes actually have, though with a small knife, not one of the big ones).

Moving heavy things, like full pans and kettles, has been problematic for a while, and though I’ve got around the pan problem by using lightweight stainless steel casseroles with heavy bases (vital for cooking), and a pair of stubby handles, which make using both hands easier, and also increase safety by being harder to snag than normal handles – we spoonies can be awkward sods – the kettle remained a hazard, especially when full and hot.

Solutions have been available, in the form of hot water dispensers, for some time, but they’re not cheap and while I was happy to point a fellow spoonie, who is mostly confined to bed, in their direction(she bought one and is very happy with it), I’ve resisted their blandishments – until now. Yesterday I took delivery of one of these:-


A Breville VKJ367 Hot Cup with Variable Dispense and a Brita Filter. List price £89.99, Amazon have it for £67.50. I suspect this is a mistake, as they also have it at £88.95 (they also display the list price of mine as £79.99, which is wrong).

Apparently, according to some reviews, the variable dispense feature is a tad erratic in terms of quantity, but for anyone who takes a few minutes to read the manual (available for download if you want an advance copy, always a good idea if you’re planning on buying something that actually needs a manual – and no, I don’t subscribe to the “real men don’t read manuals” crap), this matters not at all. As far as I’m concerned it’ll be set permanently on maximum (about 300ml), and control will be manual, which I prefer anyway.

And how is this better than a kettle?

Well, for a start it holds more and, once filled, it doesn’t have to be picked up to pour. I just put a mug – or a casserole – under the spout and press the button.

It’s cheaper to use, too, as it only boils the amount of water I need for immediate use.

Anyway, I’ve been playing with it all afternoon, struck by the thought that I should send it back (I grew up in poverty – spending money on luxuries always has that effect, even now), and I thought I had a reason.

The maximum quantity dispensed measured out at 200ml and the minimum at half that – both should have been 50% higher, so I dug out my scales and weighed the water to check the calibration of the jug I was using – it was miles out.

As you’ll know, especially if you’re a regular reader, 1ml of water weighs 1 gram, ergo, a litre weighs a kilo. 200ml (measured), fluctuated somewhat, as expected, but averaged out at a whisker over 300g when weighed – pretty much spot on what it was supposed to me. Likewise, the minimum measure weighed in at 150g-ish. All was well.

I followed the instructions, running a full tank of water through the boiler. And then another. The second wasn’t specified, but what the hell?

The result is that there is absolutely no chemical taint at all** (nor was there even before that but it doesn’t hurt to make sure). I did discover that filtered, boiled, and cooled water is quite vile. Not because it tastes horrible, but because it tastes of nothing at all.

**I filled the tank yesterday evening, and left it, overnight, for about 12 hours to see if it picked up any taint – it didn’t.

As ever, I’ve read as many reviews as possible, while bearing in mind that all too often much of the bitching and whining is caused by user error or failing to RTFM!

One woman, in a blood-vessel-busting fury (on the John Lewis website), says she sent hers back as, after a few days (huh? a few days – was she asleep?), she figured out it only boiled one cup at a time. I posted my own review, pointing out, among much else, that it was performing exactly as it should, but all she had to do to get multiple cups was keep pressing the button – hardly a massive challenge.

And I do find myself wondering how many people reporting a horrible taste (not all, as Breville admit there’s a problem – so why not fix it, guys?), are repeating my experience with the vile filtered, boiled and cooled water, but their brain is interpreting it differently? Not impossible.

I think the TCP-like smell and taste that most complaints seem to be about are either down to over-use of adhesive and/or – probably – the wrong adhesive altogether. There must surely be non-tainting, food-grade, adhesives that should be used? And Breville really should take back and replace every contaminated machine. It is, after all, their fault.

One justified moan is that the Brita filter makes filling it a slow process. The problem isn’t insurmountable, though. One solution is to top it up each time it’s used. Another, if you have one, is to fill it using a Brita filter jug, as long as it uses the same Maxtra filters (different filters work differently).

And one last gripe – no cold dispense. A good point – some do have this feature (in which case why not buy one that does?), most seem not to but, unless you’re confined to bed, say, it really doesn’t matter much. At best you’d get lukewarm water out of it, and as the Breville spits back any overdrawn hot water into the tank (with a sound very like a sneeze!), that could be very warm, so you’re better off using the tap, or do what I do and keep a small filter jug in the fridge door.

I think this gizmo will, for me, come into its own when cooking. As you’ve probably spotted, I get by mostly on casseroles and soups, with the occasional salad (though mine tend to the robust – no rabbit food), and being veggie, the casseroles, in particular, are made in stages, and need water adding at each of them. Previously, this meant reboiling the kettle each time. From now on I can remove the drip tray from the Breville, and dispense boiling water directly into the pot.


My second toy is the Bodum Stainless Steel Travel Vacuum Mug I mentioned on Sunday.


This is proving to be an excellent buy and, yes, I do appreciate the irony of a travel mug for someone who can’t travel. Apart from that, it does what I want it to do, and does it very well.

I bought it so I could take my early morning meds with cold milk, in the hope it would keep it cold enough for it not to go off overnight, which I’ve explained in detail. Briefly, the drugs were upsetting my stomach and I hoped the milk would work as a buffer to prevent that.

That didn’t work (so, from tomorrow, I’m adding a few biscuits). However, once washed out and refilled with ginger tea (which it keeps hot, or acceptably warm, for about 4 hours), it’s good for the ensuing nausea, filled, of course, using the Breville, plus a splash of cold water to bring the temp down to a safe level.

It’s also safe to use in the bedroom, close to my Kindle, and Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and Tab 3, and during the day next to my computer as, even if it’s knocked over, it’s absolutely spill-proof as long as I remember to screw down the top – which I do, religiously, as failure to do so could cost me a hell of a lot of money.

So, I’m more than happy with both of those, especially the Breville. Instead of having to empty the kettle of the old water, replenish it, and boil it, this morning I just stuck the travel mug, plus two ginger teabags and sugar, under the Breville’s spout and pushed the button. Couldn’t be easier.

And I can just hear some of you muttering “Huh – first world problem!” but, hey, it’s my first world problem – and now I no longer have it.


Finally, and due for delivery today, is another spoonie-friendly stainless steel casserole. It has a glass lid, sadly (they’re high on my list of pet hates), but it would have cost me £50 more for one with a metal lid. clip_image003







It cost me £17.06 from Amazon on Sunday (via Prime, stocked and sold by Amazon). Today – are you sitting down? – it will cost you a staggering £54.94, still via Prime, and still stocked and sold by Amazon (and, I’m certain, still the same stock they had three days ago). I’d love to see the justification for that price hike. Here’s a copy of my order, for verification.


Lately, when revisiting an Amazon page to get a link for a blog post (which I do by clicking through from my order, so I know it’s exactly the same item), I often find the price has changed, and rarely for the better. An increase of this magnitude, though, really is unacceptable.

What would happen, I wonder, if mine turns up damaged? Would they try to charge me the new price for a replacement? Good luck with that!

Anyway, as you might know, I mostly use my 3-litre one, but increasingly I’m finding it gets over-filled so there are two choices – scale down the recipes or get a bigger casserole. Oh damn – you guessed…

It’s not that I’ll actually be making greater quantities, but the extra space – it’s 4.5litres – will ensure that the contents don’t slop out when being stirred, because cleaning the cooker is not high on my list of spoonie priorities, as I’ve said before. Hygiene in the kitchen really matters, but I don’t eat off, or prepare food on, the cooker!

Before I wind this up, I’ve just checked my last dozen Amazon orders against the current prices. Most are still the same, a few have come down in price slightly (by under a pound), one or two have gone up by similarly small amounts (or have gone down but then had postage added, keeping them the same). There is nothing, though, to compare with that casserole’s ludicrous price increase.

3 thoughts on “I haz new Spoonie toys…

  1. Have had a Breville one cup for around 2 years now, and i would not be without it. RRP at the time of buying was (if i remember correctly) £79.99. i got it in a sale for £49.99. only problem i can see is, im in a hard water area and signs of limescale have appeared on joins.whether that is just from drips or not i dont know, but suspect it is as no signs of actually leakage. do not remember any taste of any kind in my drinks from the first one. but then, like you, i boiled a full lot of water twice before making drinks with it.
    I also bought one of the egg boilers too at that time. perfect eggs whether you want them hard,soft or medium boiled. and no messing with pans of hot water. just a small plastic container with marks on the side for from 1-7 eggs and for however you like them.you fill with cold water to the mark/ tip it into the dish. add your egg/s ,put the dome on top and press the button.when done,all water has evaporated into steam and gone. a quick wipe and the boiler is ready for next time. so much easier. cost me £19 at the time through Amazon, just found same one 4quid cheaper Argos…
    other makes/models from £7.99 upwards.

    • Water here isn’t very hard, but enough to be a nuisance. And whatever chemicals are in it, the scale is a very pale blue, not the usual grey. I’ve had a filter jug for drinking water for a couple of years, so I thought I might as well go for the filter version as I already use that type of filter.

      Just checked the water again – been in there for 20 hours now, more or less – still tastes and smells fine.

      If you want to descale yours, according to my manual any citric-acid based descaler will do (don’t use lemon juice – you might not get the taste out and it’s probably not strong enough). Sainsbury’s list one http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/scale-away-appliance-descaler-75g (it doesn’t say it’s citric acid, but I’ve checked, it is).

      Forget that – No longer available!

      The new casserole is excellent quality, which means it’s heavier than I’m happy with, but I suspect the new price might be legit. Looks like I got a bargain.

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