Kettles - great, but irritatingly loud sometimes. Kettle manufacturers seem to have cottoned onto that fact, and are now advertising more and more quiet electric kettles, with “quiet boil” features and more. But what actually affects the quietness of an electric kettle thing to check is actually not the kettle, but its surroundings. If it’s very loud, it’s probably because the vibrations from the kettle boiling are causing a larger area to vibrate too. Is its base touching any other household items, which might be vibrating in turn? A good trick to quickly quieten it down is to place something soft to damp vibrations from the kettle - try putting it on a dishcloth or teatowel, then boiling your water and seeing how the noise is affected.
If it’s a cordless kettle on a base, a little bit of kitchen towel between the kettle and the base might also damp vibrations nicely.
If you want to go the whole hog and buy a quieter kettle, there are a number of ways manufacturers can make their kettles cheaper. Double-walled kettles, which have a double wall in the same way as a thermos flask or some of the more expensive (and useful) cafetieres, will insulate noise in exactly the same way it insulates heat - in both cases, the design gives a buffer of lower-density air or vaduum between the higher-density metals or plastics, and both air and heat are transmitted by vibrations. In general, a kettle that’s cooler to the touch should also be quieter.
Many kettle reviews complain that so-called quiet kettles aren’t, or that unquiet kettles are. If they’re trying to make the kettle quieter by design of the shape of the element or even the kettle, they’ll be running into very, very complex fluid dynamics problems, which frankly British Aerospace have enough trouble solving. Any solutions at a home applicance level, unless they’re from a very impressive manufacturer (if Dyson makes a quiet kettle, listen up), are likely to be a bit unreliable. Having said that, if you buy a hot water heater-style kettle (read our warnings on those, but they do have some advantages), the totally different way they heat water from a kettle should make them close to silent.
(We do have another piece on how to choose a silent kettle if you’re still determined, though.)
Finally, a lower-powered kettle won’t necessarily be a quieter kettle. No matter how slowly you push energy into the kettle, the molecules still have to reach the same temperature to boil, and that’s still going to involve the same state changes and gas bubbles, which in turn mean vibration. You might be better to buy a more powerful kettle and just make noise for less time!