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I'm not yet ready to "invest" in an espresso machine with in built steam wand and am looking for a gateway to convince me it is worthwhile.

Are there safe, dedicated, decent stove top milk frothers capable of generating microfoam? I'm currently reasonably happy with what I can get out of my Aeropress but want to "do milk right".

So far I have seen the "Bellman" on line, but it looks pretty awkward to use and I am not convinced this exactly brimming with safety features.

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I recently got a Bellman and consider it very hefty and well made. I am not a professional barista, but I have been chasing beautiful (and not overheated) microfoam in cafes since at least 2007. I was able to achieve microfoam on my first try (though not my second), and am super happy with it as a purchase.

For safety, I would give it mixed results. It's not going to explode like an old school pressure cooker unless you leave it to boil dry, which would definitely take a while, even if you only put in an inch of water, and it does have an escape valve on the handle to reduce that kind of craziness. It does get hot, so you do have to watch where you put your hands, though if you keep the burner low/narrow flame as you heat it, the handles stay cool to the touch. I didn't feel comfortable with it for the first few times I used it, and did hit my knuckle against a hot bit the first time I used it, but I figured out that because I'm left handed, if I orient it with the steam wand pointing left, it's fine. Probably more flexible for me than a standard machine.

I agree that you can fill it only about an inch, and have it heat much more quickly. And with that smaller amount of water you can do a handful of drinks, in my experience. You might have to put it back on the burner for a very short time between drinks to bump it back up to steam, but you only use a small amount of the water each time to steam.

The Nespresso milk heater/foamer my friend has is a plug-in appliance, and it was a less satisfying result. Less control over the milk temperature, a consistent, but eh foam quality. It was trivial to use, but I didn't care for the results.

  • Thanks - good to hear there is an escape valve. It sounds like it's worth a shot (pun intended). I have the luxury of an induction hob - so I think keeping the steam pressure up should be straightforward. – user1383092 Aug 16 '16 at 5:57
  • Yep, induction is probably ideal. The valve is just a little hole, but it seems to do the job. – j4- Aug 17 '16 at 14:30
  • I'll get one and report back on my findings! – user1383092 Aug 17 '16 at 14:51
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Yes, I have tried one before. Just make sure you only fill a quarter of the way to generate steam quickly. Downside is that you only have enough to make for one drink, which is an awful lot of expense for so much fuel spent heating up the thing.

There are some fancy hand-held steam/aerators by Nespresso around, maybe that would be better.

I doubt if anyone in the world has had a long relationship with a stove-top milk steamer. Meaning to say that you might just try it out for a while, then shove it in the back cabinet forever.

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