What could be better than a steaming cup of smooth hot chocolate as the winter nights draw in? If you want to take your homemade versions to the next level, Hotel Chocolat's Velvetiser could be the answer to your prayers.
Developed in partnership with Dualit, the Velvetiser hot chocolate maker is designed to work with Hotel Chocolat's premium hot chocolate flakes to create the ultimate 'barista-grade' hot chocolate.
It's one for a chocaholic's Christmas wishlist, but at just under £100 it's pretty pricey considering you can get similar results using an ordinary milk frother, some of which cost less than £30.
So is it worth it? Read on for our full verdict, and the lowdown on how the Velvetiser fares with milk substitutes such as almond milk.
When we tested the Velvetiser hot chocolate maker in 2018, we found it whipped up rich, smooth hot chocolate that was more akin to an authentic cafe experience than your average hot chocolate. It was easy to use and clean, too. As an indulgent gift for a dedicated hot chocolate fan, it's still a winner.
But there are cheaper alternatives available, and a few drawbacks to be aware of. For example, you can only make one drink at a time, so making a round of three or four can be a slow process.
The Velvetiser works like a milk frother, heating and whisking milk and chocolate flakes to create rich, silky-smooth hot chocolate with a frothy top.
Since it launched, Hotel Chocolat has added some new specialist flavours to the mix, including: ginger, black forest gateau, mince pie, and salted caramel and clementine.
You can buy a Velvetiser direct from Hotel Chocolat in , , or for £99.95, and it will also be launching a new version soon. Currently, if you buy direct, you'll get free delivery and two white ceramic hot chocolate cups included. Alternatively, if you purchase one from for £110, you'll get 10 single serve hot chocolate pouches along with it.
The Velvetiser is about the same size as a small kettle, so shouldn't take up too much room on your kitchen worktop.
To make your hot chocolate, you simply pour in the milk (or alternative non-dairy substitute) up to the marked max fill line, add the chocolate flakes, pop the lid on and press the start button.
The start button lights up in use, and then goes out when your drink is ready. It takes about two-and-a-half minutes, and when you're ready to pour, the handle can easily be used both right and left-handed.
We made hot chocolate using semi-skimmed milk and Hotel Chocolat's Classic 70% Chocolate Flakes. It turned out rich, creamy and smooth, with just a little bit of froth on the top. It wasn't piping hot, but was a good temperature to enjoy straight away.
Hotel Chocolat recommends swilling your cup with boiling water first if you prefer a hotter drink (if you're used to instant hot chocolate, it can seem lukewarm at first), but also warns that having it too hot can scald the flavours.
Clean up is mostly simple. The interior has a non-stick coating, so a wipe with soapy water and a soft cloth does the job well. The magnetic whisk comes out easily, but is fiddly to clean by hand as chocolate and milk get trapped in the various little edges and corners. It's dishwasher-safe, but asmall cleaning brush would have been useful for those without a dishwasher.We recommend washing it as soon as possible after using, to avoid dried-on grime.
Overall, we were impressed with the Velvetiser, but a few things grated on us. The jug felt a little unbalanced when pouring, and wobbled when sitting on the base - not so much that it's at risk of falling over, but we'd expect perfection at this price point.
Given its not insubstantial size, it's a shame that you can only make enough for one drink at a time - not a problem if you're treating yourself to a hot chocolate on a cold winter's night, but if you want to make several at once, the first will be rather cold by the time you're done, so it's hard to enjoy with more than two people.
No. The Velvetiser is only designed to work with Hotel Chocolat's chocolate flakes, which limits your options a bit.
You can buy it in sachets with just the right amount of chocolate for a portion (£13 for a pack of 10), or in larger pouches if you don't mind weighing it out yourself (£8 for a 250g pouch).
A 35g serving is recommended for the perfect hot chocolate, although we found this quite rich. You can experiment with using more or less according to your taste.
Hotel Chocolat advises against grating your own chocolate flakes, as larger chunks may get stuck and burn out the motor.
Yes. You can also make frothy milk for coffee or other hot drinks with the Velvetiser. It takes the same amount of time as hot chocolate - two-and-a-half minutes - and is quicker than many standalone milk frothers we've tested with the same amount of milk.
We tried it with semi-skimmed milk and thought the results were more suited to a latte or flat white, rather than the stiffer foam needed for a cappuccino.
You can use any type of milk or milk substitute in the Velvetiser, or even make your hot chocolate with water if you prefer.
We tried it with a range of popular plant-based milk substitutes including oat, almond and soya milk, as well as lactose-free milk.
There were some big differences in colour and texture, but they all made a pleasant, smooth drink with a slight froth on top. You can see the results for each in our gallery below.
We found that the plant-based milks actually made a smoother-looking drink than the dairy milk versions, which gradually separated over time.
It's not exactly the same, as it's rare to find a standalone milk frother that can make hot chocolate using flakes in one step. In fact, only two of the models we've tested recently say you can add chocolate straight into the frother, though we did not use them to make hot chocolate. We only tested their milk frothing capabilities.
If you don't want to splurge on the Velvetiser, you might consider trying one of these hot chocolate-making milk frothers: you can read our reviews of the Lakeland Milk Frother and Hot Chocolate Maker and the Illy Electric Milk Frother in our guide to the . Be aware though, that the Illy only works with powdered hot chocolate, while the Lakeland model can take both powder and chocolate flakes.
Alternatively, if you don't mind taking the extra time and effort to froth your milk and add the chocolate separately, then an ordinary milk frother could be a more cost-effective option.
Many coffee machines also have milk frothing functions built-in. So if you like coffee as much as hot chocolate, a coffee machine could give you the best of both worlds.
Choosing a coffee machine with a steam pipe will allow you to froth or heat milk just how you like it, so you can make anything from a flat white to a super-frothy hot chocolate. If you want a more hands-off approach, opt for a model with automatic milk frothing.
And if your budget is tight? We've recently discovered that you don't even need a milk frother to create perfect milk froth. Underneath the models featured in our guide, you'll find our top tip to creating voluminous, fluffy milk, using an ordinary cafetiere.