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I'd like to have hot water available for making tea and the like on Shabbat. What is your preferred method for this, and why?

Do you use an electric urn? If so, what brand and features? Is it durable? Is it easy to keep clean? What Halachic issues do I need to worry about?

Do you use a kettle on a hot plate?

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2 Answers

There is a possible issue with using a pot or kettle on a blech, although not all are concerned about this issue:

Mishna Berura siman 318 quotes the Yerushalmi that a pot on a heat source is prohibited to use because if it becomes emptied the heat source will damage the pot and the person may add water to save the pot. This does not apply to urns with spigots or pumps, as they are set up in such a way that you cannot take out the water that covers the heating element in the normal way of emptying it.

As an aside, if you will be using it on Yom Tov and want to be able to refill it, most urns have a light that turns on to indicate that it is reboiling when cold water is added. Pots do not have this issue, and the above issue is not an issue on Yom Tov. However, they make "kosher" urns with a Yom Tov switch that disables the light.

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"For making tea and the like" -- I'm assuming you rely on R' Moshe Feinstein's opinion that you can transfer from primary cup to secondary cup to tertiary cup, then add teabag to the latter. The other nice use of a kettle/urn is adding boiling water directly to your cholent pot (taken off its element) if it looks like it will dry out. Any other uses you had in mind?

We've had a few "pump pots", and none of them seem to last more than 2--3 years at best. (The "Magic Mill" brand was made partly by Jews, and thus obviates the potential need for dunking in the mikvah [at your own electrocution risk].)

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Tea in a tertiary cup is definitely the primary intended use, with the cholent refresh option a very distant second. I'm looking to retire our pump pot and do not intend to buy another one unless I learn that there's some Halachic reason I need one. –  Isaac Moses Feb 15 '10 at 13:13
    
I do not believe there is any halachik reason for a pump pot, you could as easily have a kettle and remove and replace it as needed so long as (1) it is on a blech (or other acceptable hot plate), (2) you keep your hand on it, (3) you indend to put it back when you remove it. The advantages of a pump pot are: (1) no open flames (2) less likely to burn out a pot out of water (3) is larger than most ordinary kettles The advantages of kettle: (1) you do not need to replace pump pot or tranport one when moving –  Bas613 Feb 16 '10 at 0:51
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The other alternative is an urn with a spigot at the bottom. –  Isaac Moses Feb 16 '10 at 15:17
    
Incidentally, I have the type with the tap at the bottom. It is Hamilton Beach brand and I don't know of any halacha issues with it, but it rapidly accumulates a large amount of white growth inside with normal use. –  WAF Feb 17 '10 at 17:43
    
the white growth should just be mineral deposits from the water, left behind when the water boils. I've never done this myself, but you should be able to remove the buildup with something like this: jelmar.com/CLRbasic.htm –  Menachem Jun 3 '11 at 5:34
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