I have a Sunbeam home espresso machine with a steam wand. The steam roars out straight from the end of the wand. When it's first placed in the cold milk it really screams! Once the milk has a bit of a whirlpool action going it's much quieter, so I guess that the noise is because of fast-moving steam hitting stationary cold milk. Something something fluid dynamics?

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    $\begingroup$ My bet: So much noise: superheated steam at high velocity, lots of kinetic energy to dissipate as noise. Noise waning: Once the froth starts to form, froth/foam has really good noise muffling properties. $\endgroup$ – SF. Dec 13 '12 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. I think the temperature must also play a part... not sure how much of a part though, perhaps only in its effect of the viscosity of the fluid? $\endgroup$ – a different ben Oct 9 '13 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ The noise most likely comes from a phenomenon known as "cavitation" as the tiny steam bubbles collapse when the steam condenses, dramatically shrinking and producing great forces at the microscopic scale. Explained on the Cooking SE: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/12722/… $\endgroup$ – Trutane May 12 '18 at 0:24

There is a lot of protein in milk, so when it is heated with steam, the water evoporates and protein start to foam around the steam wand. Due to tiny holes on the steam wand, the velocity of the jet will be high(high velocity) and the moment it reaches out of the wand, it heats the milk producing protein foam making it thick blocking the orifice creating a whistling noise. If you notice the steam wand, however smooth surface it has got, you can see a layer of milk protein stuck to it. This thick layer of milk moves/provides steam to expand away if you give the cup a worlpool action.

To understand this, just leave some steam without placing cup. It makes a noise. Steam tries to expand the moment it comes in contact with cold air absorbing water content from surrounding.

  • $\begingroup$ So if I put a cup of water instead of milk I'll get a different noise or volume? I will try it. $\endgroup$ – a different ben Oct 9 '13 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ Yes.i tried it.....it gives a bubbling noise than whistling with water. $\endgroup$ – Vaishakh Rajan K Oct 9 '13 at 6:53

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