Water in my electric kettle makes the most noise sixty to ninety seconds before the water comes to a full boil. I have been fooled many times by the noisy kettle, only to discover that the water was not yet hot enough for tea. The kettle is only at a full boil after the noise has subsided.

I have noticed the same phenomenon with many other kettles, including conventional kettles on kitchen ranges; it is not a peculiarity of this electric kettle.

Why does the boiling become quieter as the water reaches full boil?

  • $\begingroup$ Think about this. When water is hot in your kettle, and it reaches an internal pressure greater than that outside of the kettle, it must release that pressure. However, since gas is released (aka the sound produced), heat escapes and thus cooling the water somewhat. That's why when the sound has subsided has the water only reached a more energized state. $\endgroup$
    – Brent
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @nielsnielsen Thanks, I hadn't seen that, and your answer is much more persuasive than the similar answer below from Forsudee. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ @MJD, in a previous lifetime I had to be an expert on that sort of thing. it's not often that I get to reveal that! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ @niels I asked the mods to reopen the other question, and to close this one as a duplicate of it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


There are three phenomena that occur before vigorous boiling of water that produce sound.

1) Air dissolved in water on heating forms small air bubbles at the bottom of the container. These air bubbles get released from the bottom of the container on reaching a sufficient size. The process of release produces a sound of frequency ~ 100 Hz.

2) On boiling, small vapor bubbles get produced at the bottom of the container and also produce sound of ~ 100 Hz on release. However, they cool down before they reach the surface of water and collapse. This collapsing produces a sound of frequency ~ 1 kHz.

3) Collapsing vapor bubbles agitate the water to release small micro air bubbles from water and also from the air trapped in the vapor bubble. This production of micro air bubbles produces a sound of ~ 35–60 kHz.

I guess you were talking about either the first or the second case. Both of them occur before you observe vigorous boiling of water and you can hear them.

There was an interesting problem posed at APHO 2008 which is the same as your question which estimates the frequencies I just quoted. It also contains references to the experimental measurement of these frequencies. I hope you will find it interesting to solve it than me answering your question:

Theoretical Problem 1. Tea Ceremony and Physics of Bubbles

You can also find the solutions here in case you need help on this:

Theoretical Solution 1, 9th Asian Physics Olympiad

  • $\begingroup$ @forsudee With increasing temperature the excess pressure of dissolved gas increases, the dissolved air is liberated and air bubbles appear at the bottom and walls of teakettle. Why small air bubbles are formed at the bottom of the container while heating? what happens to the air bubble density? $\endgroup$
    – Eka
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any references that discusses such phenomena? $\endgroup$
    – user5402
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ the air bubbles grow out of pits and crevices in the wall of the vessel which contain tiny amounts of air which act as seed sites for the exsolvation process. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 2:43

Here is the answer I get from internet. Google makes things easier.

There are a few contributors to the noise you hear. The main reason is that when water boils, it turns to steam, but that's just at the bottom of the pan. The steam at first doesn't make it to the surface of the water because it cools and condenses back to liquid form.

These percussive, collapsing bubbles of steam are what you hear. It's a bit like a water-hammer effect in pipes. When the bubbles collapse, the water slams into itself and, being a non-compressible liquid, converts that energy into sound waves.

When the bubbles of steam begin to make it to the surface, the noise diminishes. When all the steam makes it to the surface, the sound stops altogether.


as per conservation of energy, provided
heat is used to heat the water, thus it raise its temperature. As molecules are not very tightly bonded in liquids ,they start moving randomly. these movement causes colapsation initially and it gives out some of the energy gained in the form of sound energy of varying intensity/frequency, as there are no any other changes could take place to expend that energy. The frequencies which are in audible range are heard. Further, as the water reaches its heat capacity, further heating causes its molecules to escape from its surface.the molecular sound ceases but other mechanical attention getting features makes the rest of the sound.


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