Will this Bellman steam milk as good as Quickmill Alexia?

Postby AUSTINrob on Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:27 pm

I love my Alexia for espresso, but don't love making cappuccinos for more than two people with it.

I don't have the bank to buy a double boiler unit at the moment, so I was wondering if anybody could tell me how this stove top unit might work for me. Will it be similar to steaming with the Alexia?

Image

I'm hoping you folks will chime in and tell me that it is GREAT, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it will be a "lemon"...
Thanks!
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Postby GB on Sat Nov 15, 2008 7:27 pm

I have not used an Alexia so I cannot make a comparison. However, I have used a similar stovetop device called a Vesubio both for making espresso and steaming milk for cappuccinos. It was a long time ago and I used it mainly on a sailboat. I have fond memories of everyone being quite happy with the results - but they were sailors so this may not be a good recommendation! If I remember correctly, after I made the espresso it needed additional heat for foaming the milk . Typically it would foam enough milk for two to four cappuccinos.

I remember, being impressed with the build quality and I never had any problems. Also that it has only one hole in the steam nozzle, and if it does overheat there is a pressure safety valve in the base of the handle.

There is a newer version from another manufacturer that has a pressure gauge which if you could find and retrofit may take some of the guesswork out of steaming. However, I would try it first. Also Check sorrentinacoffee posts on HB I think sells these but is in Australia.

Good luck
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Postby GB on Sat Nov 15, 2008 9:56 pm

AUSTINrob

I was not certain if I still had my old Vesubio and was pleasantly surprised when I found it. I dusted it off, rinsed it out and filled it half full of water. Then put it on a medium gas flame on our smallest burner. After a while it produced a good jet of steam. So I put 150 ml of 2% milk into a 350 ml stainless steel steaming pitcher and tried steaming. I normally steam with a three hole tip and was not used the force from a single hole tip so got some big bubbles at first. Then I changed my technique and the milk/foam quickly doubled in size and looked nice and creamy. But, during the stretching phase I got large bubbles again even with the tip deep into the milk. After tapping down the bubbles, the end result was not perfectly steamed milk, but it did have some microfoam. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give it a 6.

With more practice I think it could do a lot better, and even better with a three hole tip. But am puzzled by the large bubbles during the stretching phase. In retrospect maybe the machine became too hot and had too high a pressure?

I hope this helps
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Postby AUSTINrob on Sun Nov 16, 2008 3:42 pm

Geoffrey:

Thanks for your responses - and your tests!!

Well, I think you had a more favorable experience then I did with stove top steamers. I purchased it last night, brought it home, set it up to steam, poured my milk, and asked the wife and baby to step back - it looked like a potential hand grenade sitting on my stove top!

Well my concern for my family's safety turned out to be pretty comical - This steamer is a real POS!! I heated it up to temperature and put the stem into a pitcher to test the pressure, wow, it was maybe 10% of the pressure from my Alexia - so I let it heat up for quite a bit more time - same results. I didn't even bother trying to steam the milk, this thing is a JOKE.

Oh well, I guess the reality is I need a dual boiler if I ever want to manage multiple Cappas. Good thing I prefer straight espresso, unfortunately not all our guests have the same "passion".

-Rob
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Postby Endo on Sun Nov 16, 2008 4:25 pm

I was curious about the same thing:

http://www.home-barista.com/espresso-machines/dedicated-steamer-t8124.html

At the bottom of the post someone gives a link to what appears to be an electric version of the same device. Too bad it doesn't seem to work effectively. I could use one as well.
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Postby GB on Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:28 pm

Rob and Endo,

Sorry. My experiences were somewhat encouraging and quite different from yours. Mine had lots of steam similar in force to my Ponte Vecchio Export which is a good steamer. My difficulties were I think due to the one hole steam tip and not being able to determine the right amount of heat.

Did you fill it between a 1/3 to 1/2 full? Any more than 1/2 full and I think there would not be enough volume for steam and the greater volume of water will require more heat. How was it heated? The device has a convoluted bottom with only a small flat area, so a flat hot plate will heat it slowly and poorly. However, it should work well on small gas burner.

Now I am really curious so I will try and test it again later in the week and will let you know.

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Postby AUSTINrob on Mon Nov 17, 2008 4:47 pm

Interesting...1/3 to 1/2 you say.

The directions said to fill it to the bolt below the handle which means it was close to about 3/4 full! I was definitely considering this to be an issue. Well, I still haven't returned it yet, so maybe I'll go home and try it once more...But, with that said, I remain SERIOUSLY skeptical.

Using flame burner.
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Postby GB on Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:25 pm

Rob,

1/3 full could be too low especially if you do a lot of steaming, 3/4 full is probably too much, and I do not understand what you mean by filling it to the bolt below the handle? I was curious so I checked my Vesubio. Not bolt but it does have fill lines for espresso on the inside. The maximum fill level for 9 cups of espresso is just below the center of the handle. And the the minimum fill level is for 3 cups which is 3/8" above the weld seam at the center of the boiler.

When using the espresso making machines the espresso is made first. This obviously reduces the water level. Then the milk is steamed at this reduced water level. I estimated this as the middle of the boiler. To prove it to myself I filled my machine to the center weld seam and then added 3 cups of water from a standard sized espresso cup. The water reached the 3 cup fill line. :)

3/4 full may also be too close to the safety valve which is located in the center of the handle. It is important not to fill above the safety valve opening because in the event of an over pressure condition hot water will spray out through the holes in the chrome base of the handle :shock: In addition the steam valve opening is at the same level as the safety valve so you would get water instead of steam :(

Here is a link to a website that sells the Bellman (a rebadged Vesubio) and has very detailed instructions on how to use it etc:

http://www.fantes.com/bellman-parts.html

Interesting, I just re read the website's instructions and under the CAUTIONS it states "never cover the hole of the safety valve when filling the machine with water"

It sure looks like the answer is fill the machine to the middle when steaming.

Good luck
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Postby AUSTINrob on Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:58 am

The unit that I am using is the one in the picture Posted above. It is a steamer only, not the espresso/machine steamer combo.

http://www.fantes.com/manuals/bel...-steamer-instr.pdf

See #3 in the instructions.

I still haven't had a chance to try it out again, but when i do, i'll try filling it 1/2 way up...
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Postby sorrentinacoffee on Wed Nov 19, 2008 10:33 am

I have used these Bellman/Vesuviana/Benjamin and Medwin machines before and had good results with the steamer. It is true one frother hole is not as good as 3 or 4 but I have found that as long as the pressure is quite high the unit can produce good steam.

If I was using the steam only version I would definitely not bother filling it to 3/4. That's just going to be a waste of heat. That would be the approx. the correct amount to make coffee- but in the steam only init there is no need at all- I would say it is an error in the manual. I do not stock the steam only unit currently but will mention to Bellman the issue.

I would say around 1/3 should be about right. Really let the machine heat up before you start. If you start frothing too early the pressure will drop too low (if your stove has insufficient heat you will never get a good result.... but that would only be a very weak stove...). This would explain the large bubbles. One tends to get big bubbles when the pressure is low- I just noticed this on my La Pavoni today when I tried to steam before the pressure was really up. Great big bubbly bubbles.

So: fire it up, 1/3 full of pre-boiled water (time saver). Leave it for a few minutes- let it get to a good amount of pressure. Release a little steam- if the flow is constant and doesn't begin to wane- the pressure should be OK. Keep the heat at medium/high throughout the frothing.

The unit is quite safe- it has a reliable pressure release valve built into the stem of the handle.

Let me know how you go- I have sold over 300 of these units and can't any complaints about a lack of steam...
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