For those of you who already own a Bellman Stove-top milk steamer, or those thinking about getting one – we’ve jotted down some tips that will help you & your Bellman get along just fine.
Bellman Milk-Steaming Tips:
With coffee, timing is everything. If you are preparing a coffee with the ROK or Handpresso it will help to put the Bellman on the stove first. This way, while it’s boiling you can get busy grinding your coffee, pre-heating your ROK, and preparing your shot.
Fill the Bellman with cold water (or to speed up the process significantly, fill with boiling water) to just under the handle-bolt. Set on the stove on medium heat as to prevent flames curling up the side of the steamer. Have the steam valve turned ON until it starts spitting out some remaining liquid residue, then gently turn it off. This is called ‘purging’, and prevents the hidden water from blasting your milk with the first steam.
The official instructions say to start with cold water and place on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. We’ve found it takes longer than that to build up enough steam. It is very important that if the valve on the handle starts to release steam, making a hissing noise, you must immediately take the Bellman off the heat. Leaving it on heat for longer is dangerous for obvious reasons. After taking the bellman off the stove, we like to sit it on tea-towel, chopping board or cork mat so as to prevent any bench burning. Turn the steam valve on and off briefly (a couple of seconds should do) to test the pressure and bleed some water inside the steam tube.
With a 600ml milk jug filled about a third of the way, insert the tip just under the surface of the milk and turn the steam knob all the way on so you receive full pressure.
If you’re going for smooth and silky milk, give the spout a couple of short spurts of air just above the surface, then submerse the wand to the side of the jug so the milk gathers a circular motion.
When the milk is hot enough, turn off the knob then take out the wand. Wipe the wand with a cloth to prevent milk drying and sticking as well as blocking the hole. A quick extra spurt of steam after wiping also helps to clear any milk that might be still in the wand tip.
If there are any bubbles on the surface of the milk, tap (and by tap, I mean bang) it on the bench to lose them. Giving it a swirl after every couple of bangs also helps to stop the microfoam and runnier milk from separating and keeps your milk smooth & velvety, (my general rule is: ‘bang, bang, swirl, bang, bang, swirl etc) There’s only a few seconds window though, so like I mentioned – timing is everything, and if your shot is ready, you’re ready to pour.
It’s important to note, that different kinds of milk heat and froth differently. For example, you will find losing the bubbles difficult, and get a quicker heat up time with Soy milk as opposed to Full-cream Dairy milk. Also, generally dairy milk with a higher fat content gets hotter, a little bit quicker.
Another variable, is the size of the milk jug you’re using. Obviously, if you’re using a 1 Litre jug, It’ll take longer to heat up – but the methods are the same. With a smaller jug (e.g 300/350ml), the milk may stretch too much and overflow, so be careful with how much you use. You may also run out of milk for regular mug or cup, so when we started out, we generally only used smaller jugs for piccolos or macchiatos – Once you’ve perfected some control over the milk however, you will be able to fill an 8oz cup with a smaller jug.
Like anything, practice makes perfect. But we don’t think you’ll have any trouble producing cafe-quality milk coffees in no time – wherever your kitchen is.
Further down the track, we’ll post some pro-tips on impressing your guests by getting some latte-art going on in your coffees using the Bellman Steamer and the rest of our kit.
BUY A BELLMAN STEAMER
New Zealand: http://presso.co.nz/bellman-stovetop-milk-steamers
USA / International: http://espressounplugged.com/bellman-stovetop-steamers