An Ode to the Bellman Steamer

Ever had a really great latte at a coffee shop and wondered how you could replicate it at home? A superb latte is a balancing act of complex espresso, and rich and creamy steamed milk, which certainly benefits from the high-quality and expensive equipment enlisted by your favorite cafe. But here’s a little secret for you - you don’t need a pricey espresso machine to make great quality steamed milk at home. There are a handful of ways to make your own in your own kitchen; our favorite by far is the Bellman stovetop steamer.

 

The Bellman steamer is a compact, affordable, and easy to use steaming device that works just like the steam wand on an espresso machine. When combined with something like a stovetop moka pot, you can make some seriously delicious coffee drinks complete with fancy latte art.

Like an espresso machine’s steam boiler, the Bellman steamer is filled with a portion of water, sealed up, then heated up to boil. As the water boils and vaporizes, it pressurizes the steamer until the safety valve begins to release at about 20 psi. That buildup of pressure, combined with the two-hole steam tip on the steam wand, allow you to steam milk at home just like the pros do. And the Bellman is so good at steaming, even if you do have a home espresso machine you may find yourself preferring the speed and great results on the Bellman.

Using the steamer is quite simple: just unscrew the knob at the top of the unit, and take off the lid. You can then add water directly through the dispersion basket inside the boiler - we recommend using at least 6-8 fl oz of water to start. Then, replace the lid, and screw on the cap until no more gasket material is visible beneath the cap. Once the lid is nice and snug, place the Bellman onto your stove on medium high heat (be sure to check that the steam valve is screwed closed), and sit back while it heats up and pressurizes. Once the safety valve in the handle begins hissing, just turn the heat down to low and you’re ready to steam your milk! If you need tips for how to steam and texture milk for lattes, we’ve got a great guide to help you out.

The downside is the Bellman steamer does take a bit of time to heat up initially, about 5-10 minutes for a smaller volume of water (and of course, it doesn't make espresso as well). But once it’s hot and rolling, it has plenty of steam power to work with, and you’ll have no trouble steaming for 3-4 beautiful and delicious lattes. Once you’re done steaming, just wipe down the wand with a damp cloth and open the steam valve to purge any milk residue out of the wand - or if you're done for the day, remove from the heat and open the steam valve to depressurize the steamer. You can leave the leftover water in the steamer, but we recommend emptying and rinsing out the steamer periodically as well to prevent any off flavors from forming.

There’s really a lot to love with this little steamer. If you want an inexpensive way to make lattes at home, or work on learning how to pour rosettas, it’s a great option for you. The steam power and milk texture are fantastic and quite comparable to many more expensive machines, and you’ll easily get great results. Try one out today, and be sure to show us all your tasty creations!

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Solid advice, Cori! The Bellman has less overall steam power than most commercial machines, and the tip design is also different, so it can take some practice to find the right place to put the tip to get a good whirlpool or rolling action to keep that milk moving. A little trial and error will go a long way to getting that perfect microfoam.

Sounds like you need to get a better vortex going half way through your steaming to fully mix. Put less milk in, max 2/3 full, let it foam a little on the top at the beginning, then submerge deeper in one 1/4 section (imagine cutting the top into 1/4, and stick the end of the wand in the middle of one of the quarter sections) and hold it still to get a good mix going. Just need to find the sweet spot

Making a cappuccino with the Portaspresso Rossa Air PG and Bellman stovetop steamer https://youtu.be/e_bAos_5xSE

I purchased this steamer and have been VERY frustrated. I have yet to be able to create proper microfoam. While I'm not a professional barista, I have taken classes at a couple of coffee shops and I am able to get good microfoam with a professional machine. I can't afford to buy a good espresso machine, so I had high hopes for this. At first I used it on a gas stove. Then I moved and now I have a horrible glass top electric stove. However, on both stoves this steamer creates an excessively thick foam on top, with the milk being watery about half way down. Again, I have been able to get properly textured, uniform foam the few times I've been able to use a coffee house high end machine. So something else is wrong. I regret buying this.

Great article, very nice photos. I've got the steamer from Prima Coffee, pleasure to deal with you guys. I use it with the Portaspresso Rossa Air PG. It is an excellent steamer, very capable, the tip with two holes lets me spin the milk with minimal effort (surely you need to know how to froth the milk in the first place - for me it was a relatively steep learning curve). I have now developed my workflow so that I can pull espresso and steam milk at the same time. I'll make a video shortly.

I started my espresso journey with this. Cheapest entry into espresso with proper microfoaming capability.

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