Major Bellman stovetop steamer breakthrough!

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.

#1: Post by DaveB »

A recent thread entitled How to clean a Bellman steamer? in the Repairs, Restorations & Mods sub-forum branched off into a discussion of idiosyncrasies and woes relating to the unit. IMHO, the news I am about to share is fully worthy of its own thread, and it's more appropriate to be in the Tips and Techniques section. It's worth noting that I post this in the context of my having read everything I could find on the Bellman going back at least 10 years, on HB and beyond. So without further ado, strap on your seatbelts an prepare to be amazed! 8)

I made this stop-the-press post™ yesterday in that thread, and to follow up, this morning I boiled approx 1 cup of water in my PID kettle and added it to the Bellman, striving for a level about an inch deep. With the unit on the stove, I turned up the gas as high as possible without the flames coming up the sides. I positioned it to be slightly off-center so the handle and the steam knob wouldn't get hit with direct heat. I set my stopwatch and the pressure valve starting hissing in 5 minutes flat! I then submerged the wand fully into a vessel of cold water (as depicted in the linked post above) and opened the valve all the way. Interestingly, I didn't get any large bubbles but kept in open for appox. 10 seconds anyway. I waited till the pressure built up again to hissing, turned the heat down to low, did a quick purge, and prepared to steam. With exactly 4 oz milk in my small Cafelat pitcher, I got an immediate whirlpool going with good control, and I ended up with most excellent microfoam rivaling that of the BDB! I repeated the process for a 2nd latte with 4 oz milk, and again was met with success. When it cooled I measured the remaining water and there was 140mL left.

My takeaway is that it might be a combination of purging air from the device as well as cooling the wand, which is super-heated as it's in direct uninsulated contact with the boiler. Additionally, I confirmed that you can get away with very small amounts of water and still make at least a couple of drinks back-to-back. I have to say, a 5 minute heat up time (using pre-boiled water) is pretty awesome! During last summer's preventive power outages (one lasting 4 days), I had lots of practice time with the Bellman, but could never got results as good as I did this morning, and many times it was much worse. I hope this helps!
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#2: Post by spressomon »

I think this explains why all subsequent milk steaming, after the first, on my Bellman is so perfect. Will try the cold water trick on our next camp out.

I do wish Bellman or ? would make a stove top steamer with about 2" wider bottom. The burners on most/all stoves today, household or portable, are wider and super heat the outer vertical walls of a Bellman including steam wand, handle, burning hair on my arms, etc. LOL.

Seems to be a market for one...
No Espresso = Depresso


#3: Post by cidadao »

thanks for the tips - as a prospective buyer of the bellman stovetop unit, i thought i'd ask here: have any you found a way to overcome potential safety hazards with this steamer? i've read on other threads to leave the main valve open a wee tad, which would provide two potential pathways for the escape of excess pressure, but still i'd like to know what, practically, one might do to minimize the risk of accident. i don't plan to leave the thing unattended, of course, but feel a bit reluctant to bring any pressurized vessel into my small home kitchen. also: any secret retailers of the bellman i might not know about? prima coffee is out till June.

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#4: Post by spressomon »

Just Googled "stove top steamer" and this came up: ... 31EALw_wcB
No Espresso = Depresso


#5: Post by cidadao »

I was wondering about these - made in Taiwan, like the Bellman. Who is OEM? Because this is a pressurized vessel, I'd prefer to go with a known entity...

DaveB (original poster)

#6: Post by DaveB (original poster) »

Day 2 report:

Measured 8 oz of boiling water and put into the Bellman. This amount appears to be slightly over an inch deep. Today I tried something different; when the Bellman came up to temp I submerged the wand up to the hilt in cold water and let it rip. This time I went much longer, probably 30-40 seconds with the gas on medium-high. Then without allowing time to rebound I immediately went to steam the 4 oz of milk. It took longer than normal (more than the BDB on its lowest steam setting), but the control was the best I've had to date with the Bellman. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words...

(8oz latte using 4 oz milk - Northbound Ethiopian light roast)

I will experiment with different rebound times and different amounts of milk. I'm thinking it will work well for the 2 oz milk I use for cortados, as the BDB works quite well for these amounts, using my tiny 5 oz pitcher and with the boiler set at 265º.
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#7: Post by monkeygrinder »

cidadao wrote:I was wondering about these - made in Taiwan, like the Bellman. Who is OEM? Because this is a pressurized vessel, I'd prefer to go with a known entity...
I just bought this item from "kitchenclique" (through eBay), received today. (I also asked about it in this recent post, but no one seemed to know about La Pavoni). It looks exactly like the Bellman, but no markings on it whatsoever except "made in Taiwan" (where Bellman is located.)

I plan on trying it tomorrow morning. I may try to post my experience, although I've never steamed milk, so my results may be suspect. :)


#8: Post by cidadao »

I went ahead and purchased a used Bellman CXE-25 in good condition. Any tips on use with an eye towards safety? If there are threads you know about pertaining to the topic, I'd be grateful for the redirect. Abraço

DaveB (original poster)

#9: Post by DaveB (original poster) »

cidadao wrote:Any tips on use with an eye towards safety?
Sure. To save time, add an inch or two of boiling water. With a medium sized flame (or high setting on an electric or inductive stove), the relief valve should start hissing in 5 to 10 minutes. If it doesn't start hissing after say, 20 minutes...RUN!!!

All joking aside, the only safety concern I can think of would be if the relief valve somehow got blocked; it could concievably build pressure until it exploded violently. However these units have been on the market for many years, and if anything like that ever happened it would have been all over the internet. I'm not sure if it's even possible to build up enough scale to cause the relief valve to fail.
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#10: Post by JimH »

In the interest of safety, don't place an electric appliance on your stove top. :mrgreen:

You can give a rough check of the safety valve by probing it. Find something narrow but stiff (I used a very small allen wrench) and insert it into the safety valve from inside the boiler. It is just a plunger on a spring, so you should be able to open the valve slightly by applying pressure. If it doesn't move, it isn't safe and needs to be replaced. I had one that never held pressure again after I did this, so I'm guessing that one needed to be replaced anyway.

The electric steamers operate on a klixon thermostat, so you would need both the thermostat and the safety valve to fail before it became dangerous.

In terms of use, the CXE-25s are a little bit anemic in steaming power. It will work best if you purge steam until the thermostat clicks on, wait until it has almost recovered, and then begin steaming your milk while the heating element is still on.