Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Want to discuss your Atomic?

Maybe you have an Atomic and you would like to know more about it. Or you would like to get an idea of what it is likely to fetch on eBay or TradeMe. Or it needs fixing. Bring your problems here. Someone will have an answer for you.


Anonymous said...

I recently bought a second Atomic this time with the rod through the group. My problem is some black gunk in the resevoir. The steam pressure is low, insufficient to froth effectively, in comparison to my old faithful. I have removed the tip of steam spout and allowed some residue out - no better. I have used vinegar in tea kettles to remove scale build up but I am hesitant with my atomics. I believe vinegar discolours aluminum. Any suggestions for internal cleaning or improving steam? I would love to get it operating as good as my old one. Susi

Wootha said...

The general way to clean the inside of your Atomic is with food-grade citric acid. About 3 tsps in a jug (0.5 liter) of water - just run a normal brew but without any coffee. This will clean out any mineral salt buildup. Then run a couple more brews with plain water and no coffee before you resume normal service. But black gunk is a new one on me. Corrosion usually shows up as white or gray powder or paste, not black.

Lucio Del Piccolo said...

Hello sir,
i am the proud owner of 2 Atomic. i am a techinician specialized in steam production, but i tried to wonder what was the use of the tiny hole on the water pipe which can be seen opening the black knob ...without answer.
can you give me a serious answer ?
nice blog, mine is http://caffettiere.blogspot.com/



Wootha said...

I can offer you a serious answer, but I am not certain it is true. How can one be sure about anything Atomic? But my theory is as follows: The position of this hole ensures that, in the event of the steam pipe becoming blocked, or the user putting too-finely-ground coffee in the filter basket, excess steam will be concentrated right opposite the pressure relief valve in the filler knob.

Lucio Del Piccolo said...

i believe you are right.
however i must clarify something which is a typical mistake(as well for me since few years ago): the pipe you are referring is a water pipe. steam should never came in contact with coffee ground, that was the early '900 way of extraction but coffee became too bitter in that way.
maybe the tiny hole was a little helper to force the relief valve in the opening position.

the "serious" answer was a joke since i already have done it to an Atomic "expert"... but the answer was ..incredible!

thank you very much.

Wootha said...

Of course you are right. It is a water pipe. One of the cleverest features of the Atomic is the "heat sink" created by the mass of metal in the head, designed to drop the water temperature down to the 90-94deg range, so that the coffee doesn't get scalded. Other similar coffee makers generally lack this thoughtful touch.

Anonymous said...

Mik said... Funny i read about this now... here is a thread i found recently: http://www.home-barista.com/espresso-machines/hi-my-name-is-otto-who-is-going-to-buy-me-t11683.html

Anonymous said...

So and second: a friend of mine gave me a old atomic robbiati recently; it reads on top: Atomic (A) brevetti robbiati .... it is much smaller than the Atomic (B) i possess. i read on a sorrentina homepage, the B one is the smaller but i have the proof not. Anyone has a (A) please get in contact with me.... especially if you have a spare Jug!!! ;.))))) Ps: of course it's flatheaded! Greetings ,mik

Anonymous said...

I just acquired a new Atomic. I can't seem to get the right brew! No matter what I do, it all comes out tasting burnt and bitter. Do you have any suggestions? I've tried different grinds, different amounts of water, different coffees. I've tried removing the pitcher before the coffee becomes watery. I've tried removing it from the heat early. I've tried filling the grind-cups only partway. I've tried everything! The only thing I haven't tried is using a lower heat. Does this really make a difference? How can I keep from scalding my coffee? What is causing the awful bitter taste?

Yours in frustration,


Wootha said...

Using a lower heat should give you a richer brew, but I doubt it will solve your current problem.

A question - have you tried running a brew with NO coffee and tasting the result? I'm wondering if what you are getting is the aftertaste of corrosion or previous cleaning efforts in the water reservoir.

Also, have you cleaned out behind the filter in the head? Could there be some old grounds in there that are "flavoring" your brew?

Under normal circumstances, it is almost impossible to scald coffee in an Atomic. Even if you did, the amount of actual coffee produced once the water passing through the filter turns to steam is so small that it should have little impact on the brew as a whole.

There may be other suggestions, so hang in there.

Good luck!

Cary's Aerie said...

I am the proud new owner of a vintage Atomic with steamer. (Badge: Brevetti Robiatti, Milano, Made in Italy.)

The basket seems to be missing the brass steam rod with red bakelite ball handle. I know reproductions are available, but I would love to find a collector who will sell me a used one to better match the patina of my old Atomic.

- Rodless in Alaska.


Wootha said...

Dear Rodless in Alaska,

I can solve your problem. I have one here, just one, very dark red, original vintage from one of the early Atomic dealers in New Zealand, mint condition. But if I sell it to you, you must promise me never to use it! The main reason these go missing is because unwary owners leave them inserted while the Atomic cools down, and the differential cooling of brass and aluminum alloy results in a stuck knob that has to bashed out with a hammer. After which it is generally unusable, and thrown away.

The second reason they go missing is because alert Atomic owners - knowing the above - put the rod away in a safe place. So safe they can never find it again.

Anyway if you still want one, and no-one else pops up with a better offer, feel free to contact me via the Atomic website at http://www.actionlearning.net.nz/atomic.html and click on About This Site. I'm away for a few days, so don't expect an instant response, however.

Anonymous said...

recently aquired a very old atomic espresso machine from the goodwill the machine has tht big black knob stuck behiond belief and raher than forcing it i undid the milk froter and pouredwater into the reservoire then proceed to brew coffe once he coffe came out and with the machine still hot not extremelly hot i was able to loosen the big black knob i guess the diffrential in temp and th internal pressure helped this machine brews an exellent coffe and i am sure is the only one in venezuela where i have one of te best coffe in the world however have not ben able to get crema it does ot matter it ios a beautifull machine

Wootha said...

Dear Anonymous in Venezuela,
That is an amazing story, and a very creative solution to a difficult problem. Usually when the black filler knob gets stuck, it is because of a chemical reaction between the knob and the body, and heat would not normally fix that. But perhaps the bond was weak enough that even a small change in heat or pressure was enough to free it. Congratulations, anyway!

Getting crema on an Atomic is almost, if not completely, impossible. It works at perhaps 1/10 of the pressure of a commercial espresso machine. You have the comfort of knowing (a) that your coffee is closer in taste and appearance to the very first espressos ever made and (b) that your coffee will taste like nectar from the gods.

And, as you say, it is a beautiful object - what does it matter if you can't get crema!