View Full Version : Puzzling noise as the kettle boils

26th Apr 2012, 08:45
Because JB is the ideal place to ask the big questions, here is one:

While a kettle (or electric jug etc) is heating up to boil water, it makes a lot of noise - enough to make conversation near it difficult.

What's making all the noise? I've looked in the electic jug while it's boiling, and nothing seems to be moving. There's just the element, still water, and noise.

Any views on this?

26th Apr 2012, 08:52
If I remember my O level physics correctly, it's due to bubbles of steam forming and collapsing that makes the noise. They don't have sufficient internal pressure to support themselves against the water pressure.

Living in a hard water ares, we notice it more when the kettle has just been descaled. There are fewer rough surfaces for the bubbles to form on so they are larger and collapse with more of a thump. As you say, the noise can drown out a conversation.

tony draper
26th Apr 2012, 08:54
It's the pebbles in the bottom rattling about in my kettle.:rolleyes:

26th Apr 2012, 08:57
So why does it all go relatively quiet just before the kettle comes to the boil?

26th Apr 2012, 09:14
'Cos the bubbles are now hot enough & stable enough to get to the surface & escape without collapsing?

Anyhoo, it's better that the kettle sings the way it does. I've seen several reports of water heated in a microwave becoming superheated - i.e. no local bubbling because of sharp edges & local impurities. Then when disturbed, by, say taking the cup out of the m-wave the whole lot boils over catastrophically, almost explosively, causing bad scalding.

26th Apr 2012, 09:46
Thanks CarryOnLuggage. The bubbles must be microscopic, at least at first. The present jug is brand new with a shiny element and nothing's visible there, at first anyway.

i've also wondered why a cup of water heated in a microwave oven boils over when you put instant coffee powder in it. So now I know the answer to that too.

DX Wombat
26th Apr 2012, 10:39
It's always a good idea to let water, or any other liquid, heated in the microwave stand for a short while before removing it or adding anything to it. Careful experimentation has taught me that 2mins45secs on full power is sufficient to heat a cup of milk if I fancy a milky coffee. That applies ONLY to my microwave.

26th Apr 2012, 10:54
Why are electric kettles so noisy? - The Naked Scientists May 2009 (http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/latest-questions/question/2293/)

Takan Inchovit
26th Apr 2012, 11:11
The noise may always be there, but some kettles amplify the sound more than others. The bench top it sits on serves as an amplifier too.

Our newest electric kettle (steel) is louder than the previous plastic one.

26th Apr 2012, 12:20
Be happy for it. During the war there was a song that I cannot find anywhere these days:

"When you're up to the neck in hot water,
Just be like the kettle and sing!
Sing! Sing! Sing!
Just be like the kettle and sing!

P.S. Just found it in Google: Vera Lynn.

26th Apr 2012, 12:36
In school chemistry lessons used to put marble "anti-bump" chips in flasks when boiling water to give th bubbles something to form on and stop the flasks getting too lively.

Davaar: I bet most people understood "hot water" to be two other words ending in ..it .

26th Apr 2012, 12:41
a milky coffee

My dear old Mum used to make it that way http://images.ibsrv.net/ibsrv/res/src:www.pprune.org/get/images/smilies/pukey.gif

As a result, I didn't drink coffee until I went out to work, where they made it properly.

26th Apr 2012, 14:01
On holiday in Tenerife, the hotel room had a electric plate hob cooker.
Put just enough water for cuppa in kettle and placed on hob.
Minute or so later heard a tapping noise slowly getting more frequent.
Looked around to the cooker to find the kettle rocking from side to side with increasing frequency. Eventually turned into a frenzy like something possessed.

26th Apr 2012, 14:36
CarryOn, Thanks! I am pretty sure, though, that Vera Lynn does not know any Bad Words.

26th Apr 2012, 14:40
She's 95 you know (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vera_Lynn) . . .