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Thread: Bellman Stove top steamer

  1. #1
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    Bellman Stove top steamer

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Welcome to struggle town..... :-[
    I have had one of these units for about a week now, its been a long week....

    We have a Presso and have managed well enough frothing milk via the microwave and the bodum, but I got adventurous...

    I endeavoured to attach a couple of documents detailing comprehensive instructions on frothing milk and guidelines on went wrong, when it didnt work, but the "machine" wouldnt let me..... *
    I have been going over these repeatedly here, in order to familiarise myself with their contents, as I have yet to consistently produce anything I would be happy to put in my coffee...

    With the comment made in the notes about the reduced fat content of lite milks being favourable to the beginner, I bought 2L of milk to practice on. Initially my milk didnt increase in volume, so I upped the anty on the initial "slurping" mentioned in the notes, from this point I found the volume increasing, but was producing froth and milk... Back to the notes: over cooked... Okay, after several more attempts I find that as you get into the process of having a swirl happening, with the jug angled and the tip just below the surface, the milk can be seen to rise and once you see the appearance of larger bubbles on the surface, its all *over: youve killed it...

    I am using a temperature gauge in my pot and have found that this tends to occur around forty degrees... Im finding that the business of moving the wand in and out at all is perilous and that perhaps my future lies in just establishing a swirl and holding this, but like I say, the only thing I can consistently produce is froth and milk...

    I have considered the point in the notes that once you are happy with the froth, you can plunge the wand *into the centre, to increase the temperature. But like I say, the only thing I can consistently produce is froth and milk...

    Can you imagine the disappointment and frustration at tipping the milk jug forward and repeatedly seeing warm milk issue forth from under the cap of foam...? My girlfriend has rejected it out of hand and returned to the bodum, I am persisting because I paid for the thing...

  2. #2
    Senior Member trentski's Avatar
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    I have a Giotto but the principles should be the same.

    With mine I place the wand just under the surface and get a "ch ch" sound. I usually leave it there and the milk stretches and the tip ends up deeper in the milk. I have my jug resting on the giottos tray so it is not tilted at all. The steam wand does enter the milk at an angle though and the milk swirls around the jug. Sounds lazy but it works for me.

    I can hear the sound the milk makes as it gets to temperature and pretty much steam by ear now.

  3. #3
    Senior Member SniffCoffee's Avatar
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Hi Studoc, welcome to CoffeeSnobs!

    I too have a Presso and each morning steam enough milk with my Bellman to make two lattes.

    Let me warn you: it takes a LONG time...ie just over 3 minutes - you cant compare this to a HX machine or similar - they can pump out enough steam to heat milk up in seconds, not minutes.

    I have the Bellman with the gauge so can tell when theres plenty of steam.

    My advice would be:

    1. Check out KKs guide to frothing milk on this site.

    2. How big is your milk jug? Are you filling it to the bottom of the spout (ie roughly half full)?

    3. Spend the money (roughly $20 from a sponsor) and buy an Espresso Gear LCD sticker thermometer and stick it on the side of your jug. They are very accurate and get the thermometer out of the way. Just be sure to stick it on a spot where you can see it easily while steaming / holding the jug.

    4. Keep the heat/flame on high throughout the steaming. As KK says, relax.

    5. The Bellman only has a one-hole-tip - dont worry too much if your froth is too bubbly at first, just bury the tip deep into the milk and wait - by the time the milk is up to temp you should have some nice microfoam.

    6. Your microfoam may be pretty stiff after the 3 minutes, so give the jug a lot of swirling to make it soft again.

    7. Steam the milk, then make the shots with your Presso. The milks temperature wont drop that much in the meantime, and if you heat your glasses with some hot water too youll find the temp pretty good.

    Good luck!

    Sniff

  4. #4
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Before you give up on the Bellman there are a few tricks that can make it work faster/better.

    The included instructions are not brilliant and I have my own recommended method:

    Start with hot water from the kettle. Only fill the Bellman around one quarter full. Open the steam valve on the Bellman. Place it on the stove on a moderate to high heat (not so high that the bakelite handle becomes hot or is burnt). Leave it for a minute or two or until steam starts to splutter out of the nozzle tip. Close the valve and allow the pressure to build for a minute. Now start steaming. Use the method where you keep the tip below the surface and try to let the milk swirl around the nozzle tip.

    One thing that many people miss with the Bellman is the false pressure: if you begin the process with the steam valve closed the pressure will build up, but drop very quickly when you start to froth. This is the false pressure bleeding off. After this it will rebound and from there on will remain constant. You can avoid this altogether by using the meth0od above and starting with the valve open.

    Let me know if this helps you milk steaming... :)




  5. #5
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Ok.... have put considerably more milk through this thing, with mixed results..... As advised, I went and had a look at KKs method for this process; massively simple when you see it in the video clip, but not for the Bellman... I think it works in his application because of the four tip nozzle... Which begs the question; why is the Bellman only a single tip....??

    The milk jug Im using is a 500ml stainless and following the advice of the wonderfully supportive people above, I began filling it to just below the spout and leaving the valve on the Bellman open slightly, to bleed off the false pressure, as the unit heats up.

    I wonder now, that perhaps by only sticking a little bit of milk in the bottom of the jug, as i did initially, meant that it all came to temperature too quickly; before the process was complete..

    I decided against the LCD sticker thermometer to the side of the jug, as at no point in the process am I looking at the side of the jug, but always straight down the barrel, so the standard unit with the clip to the side is just fine...

    At the moment I have a regime that gives me consistency and I think produces better microfoam than the bodum: After shutting down the valve, I will leave the Bellman until the safety valve in the handle blows, at this point I have the maximum amount of pressure the unit can produce. I will then offer it to the milk, opening the valve slightly to "slurp" the milk by randomly dancing in and out across the surface; keeping the tip shallow. Can be a little messy if youre not careful.... Then, for my money, Sniffs idea of plunging the tip and waiting, gives the best result. I will tilt the jug into the tip and watch the temperature, very quickly the large bubbles produced by the slurping disappear. As foam is produced and the milk increases in volume, you can no longer see any movement in the milk, as the tip is buried deep. By the time we get to 65 degrees celsius you will hear change in the "note" to a deeper rumble, which is encouraging, because you dont want to get any hotter....

    Sniff is right, you can put the milk aside at this point and turn your attention to the coffee, the milk doesnt drop appreciably in temperature. Once the coffee is done, looking at the milk, I find I have a stiff foam that I will stir with a spoon prior to pouring.

    Pretty happy..... ;)

  6. #6
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    It all sounds good except for one thing: I am not sure if you need to heat the machine until steam escapes from the safety release. There shouldnt be any problem doing that but I have never found I needed that much pressure.

    I have to ask: what type of stove are you using: gas, electric or induction?

  7. #7
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Quote Originally Posted by 5C5B5A4B404C2F0 link=1288579409/4#4 date=1289254412
    very quickly the large bubbles produced by the slurping disappear
    You shouldnt be getting any large bubbles if youre doing it right.

  8. #8
    Senior Member SniffCoffee's Avatar
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    studoc

    Keep at it!

    I agree with Jack from Sorrentina, you probably dont need to wait till the safety valve goes off before starting to steam. *

    Tomorrow morning Ill time how long it takes for my Bellman to get to 2 bar pressure (which is when I start steaming) after the spitting has stopped and Ive closed the valve (as per Jacks advice above), then youll have a rough idea of how long to wait before steaming.

    The Bellman probably couldnt cope with a three hole tip as then all your precious pressure would shoot out too quickly.

    As discussed above KKs technique as shown in the video works really well for HX machines, but because of the slower heating rate of the Bellman, things need to be proportionally stretched timewise ie if you slow it down (ie keep the tip in the centre for the first minute or so before burying it to one side) you should get a decent start.

    The other thing I do when starting is open the valve fully and give a short blast, close it to a small hiss then put the tip into the jug and under the surface of the milk and then open the valve up to full pelt again. *

    I have a theory that this ensures that the full blast goes into the milk and reduces the splatter because the pipe has been heated and expanded before the steaming job starts.

    Cheers

    Sniff ;)

  9. #9
    Senior Member SniffCoffee's Avatar
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer


    and the result:

    Starting from the point where the water is boiling in the Bellman and producing a steady hiss (after the spitting has stopped and the false pressure is gone), and then closing the valve until the gauge hit 2 bar, took 2 minutes and 50 seconds.

    Keeping the gas burner on full whilst steaming kept the pressure at a steady 2.0 bar for the entire 3 minutes it took to steam enough milk for 2 lattes.

    cheers

    Sniff

  10. #10
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Ok..!

    After a few more litres of milk (some people say it doesnt grow on trees... theyre right....) I agree, that I can reproduce the results I have been getting by not waiting until the safety has blown..

    Following on from that; considering Sniffs point about 250" to get to 2 bar of pressure, I guess it depends on how much water I have in my Bellman also... Currently I am tipping about 20mm into the bottom and at 250" I could be getting close to blowing the safety... Could I ask Sniff, how much water you use....? I will do the same, to test the water, so to speak (ha ha, I clack me up!!! mmm....).

    I also found that if I didnt bother with the slurping up front I mentioned earlier (taken from a guide I found on the net...) I got similar results anyway, so, in the interests of avoiding large bubbles, as Thundergod says, I have dispensed with this practice also..

    Ill have a look at the business of holding the nozzle in the centre for a minute and then moving to the side to finish. I do think that, as the nozzle only has a single hole, that I get a benefit from moving the jug *gently from side to side, while things are underway, in order to maximise my tumbling, getting as much steam around the jug as possible. This may be redundant of course in a four nozzle tip, where you have the advantage of spraying steam in several directions at once, a facility you dont have with the Bellman (I take your point about more holes equalling a quicker loss of pressure, I just think it must be possible to make one with fine enough orifices that release at the same rate, with the advantage of increasing the spread....)

    Thanks guys...!

    Stuart

  11. #11
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Hmmm, all sounds good- but now I am thinking Sniff: 2 Bar of pressure seems almost too high for me for frothing as well. That is quite close to where the pressure release will open (around 2.2 from memory).

    try starting to froth between 1.2 and 1.5 BAR. If the heat is kept on medium/high the unit should be able to produce a constant flow of steam at those pressures.

    also I am wondering what the average quantity of milk you guys are steaming? I actually use very small metal jugs for steaming smaller amounts of milk and find that it takes a bit of getting used to but works well for me. I prefer to use a small jug half full than a 400ml jug with just a little milk at the bottom. I think it is the depth of the milk that makes it easier to froth well... I have an array of small jugs from just 100MLL to 250ML (op shops are a a great place to find these). I use the really small ones for making a single coffee. They are probably no good with commercial machines which may blast the contents up, out and onto the ceiling but for smaller machines- like the Bellman, the Lusso or la Pavoni levers- small jugs work nice.

    I will have to get out a CX-25S and do some tests- I admit it has been a while since used one.

  12. #12
    Senior Member SniffCoffee's Avatar
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Jack

    I found that 2 bar was the best level because when I started at 1.2 bar as recommended in the manual it dropped too quickly. *I also recall either seeing on the box or in the manual a contrary instruction which recommended steaming when the gauge got to the top of the green section, which is about 2 bar. *

    One absent-minded morning the safety valve went off but I noticed that wasnt until over 4 bar, well into the red zone on the gauge.

    I also tried steaming at the top of the yellow bar for a while (roughly 3 bar) but found the pressure dropped, whereas at 2 bar I can keep it steady on a full gas flame.

    Now as to the amount of milk, I use a 600ml jug and it takes 300ml to the bottom of the spout.

    As to technique, this morning I tried something a little different - I did the spout in the middle thing for the first minute or so, then moved the side, but this time didnt bury the tip deep in the jug but kept it just below the surface. *Whilst I didnt get a whirlpool, the milk was still circling nicely.

    The milk continued to stretch till about 3 quarters level and then when the milk was at temp (and after sitting for the time it took to make the shots) I found the microfoam still very fine and less stiff, although it still took a lot of swirling to make the centre lump dissappear. *The resulting microfoam was nice and smooth.

    Finally - Stuart - I roughly fill the Bellman a third full of water, and then top it up every third day or so, and I have noticed that it does get to 2 bar faster as the water level drops.

    Cheers *;)

    James
    SniffCoffee

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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Ok, thanks for all the assistance guys, I have incorporated much of what you have suggested into my "technique". Much milk and to-ing and fro-ing later I can say that the Bellman is in the cupboard and the Bodum is back on the bench...

    I got to a point where I could produce a better product, than initial attempts, with the Bellman, but generally still with foam concealing warm milk beneath... All after knocking down the jug and giving it a bit of a stir...

    With correct application of the Bodum I can produce a foam that is consistent throughout the cup.

    After watching a friend, with more sophisticated equipment, I wonder that the Bellman may be a bit more useful with a 3 or 4 nozzle tip, but there are none available, so we may never know...

    I hope all of this is useful to people considering a Bellman purchase, my money is gone, but for a low level coffee setup, you can get a Bodum from St Vinnies....

  14. #14
    Senior Member SniffCoffee's Avatar
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer


    Sorry to hear that - you could always offer the Bellman up for sale on this site, and recoup some of your costs.

    Regards

    James
    SniffCoffee

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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Yes.... good point, I hadnt thought of that.... but now youve mentioned it... Id feel a bit awkward asking money from someone for something I dont rate... I might have a look at the "pay it forward" part of the site and see if anyone is interested in having a crack at it....

    cheers James...

    Stuart..

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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Hello again- sorry I missed this thread. Before you give up on the steamer Stuart (if it isnt already gone)- perhaps you should check to ensure that there isnt a blockage somewhere in the steam arm? It seems you are not getting the pressure you should. It could be the seal- or a bit of grit right where the valve is. Can you remove the steam wand and check by blowing through- poking with pins etc? I have had one instance where a seal was deformed and blocking part of the inlet- a simple tweak and it worked great again...

  17. #17
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Definitely worth a look and while its still here, I pulled it apart to inspect, clean as a whistle....
    Im wondering that at the bottom of the market perhaps not too many people have managed a comparison between a Bellman stovetop steamer and a bodum, but Im, sticking up my hand to say the bodum takes the chequered flag...
    But, as I said before, if a stovetop was released with a three hole tip it might have a chance, Id probably try someone elses first though....

    cheers,

    Stu

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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Hi Stu,
    Im not sure if you are still following this thread- its been a while...
    Anyway I wanted to talk to you about your Bellman Milk Steamer...

    I have sent a PM.

    Cheers
    Andrew

  19. #19
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    I bought a Bellman stove top recently and it works great only it does take time to heat up and a few minutes to heat the milk... Other than that it works as expected.

  20. #20
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    Re: Bellman Stove top steamer

    Just bought one (not a Bellman, but a Benjamin and Medwin).
    The B&M version I have doesnt have the pressure guage, but the steam wand has 4 small holes. Pretty much the same and parts are interchangeable.

    I found that about a minute or 2 after extracting the espresso there was more than enough steam to get a great whirlpool going in the milk. The steam was better than my Sunbeam cappuccino machine at home and almost as good as a commercial machine.
    It would have taken less than a minute to froth milk for 2 cappuccinos to a nice hot temp with microfoam.



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