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OTTO Stove Top Espresso Coffee Maker.

It started about two years ago when I heard that a new coffee maker was coming on the market. So curiously I followed the links to discover the beauty that is the new OTTO Stove Top Espresso Coffee Maker.

Since then I’ve been on a mailing list, receiving irregular updates as to how the development of the OTTO was going, only to be constantly left wondering if it would ever finally be available. The little bit of information I’ve been able to glean by reading between the lines is that there must have been some design and manufacturing issues which delayed the release of the production model. This doesn’t surprise me as this is one of the harder design challengers out there to manufacture and a credit to the originator of the concept as developed in the Atomic Stove Top Cappuccino Maker.AtomicOTTO

I’ve had an Atomic for a few years now that I was fortunate enough to pick up second hand in an Op Shop. Even so I still paid $350 for it and I know that the value of Atomics can get pretty silly at times due to the lack of availability, that was up until recently.

When I saw the OTTO I thought that this was simply a copy probably brought about by the lack of availability of Atomics but the OTTO is significantly different in several features. Significant enough to win an Australian International Design Award and is currently a finalist in the International Design Excellence Awards.

Poking around and comparing the manufacturing approach shows that significant design changes would have had to have been incorporated by design firm Tiller Design. Whereas the Atomic is sand cast aluminium coming in at 1.8 kilograms the OTTO is 4 kilograms of pressure die cast stainless steel. Tiller Design have faithfully reproduced the style and elegance of the original Atomic so much so that many people who know no better, I’m sure will think that the OTTO is an Atomic. It’s only in seeing the differences that you can see that a timeless design has been upgraded.

  • Removing the water filler plug from the base with the group handle is an inspired idea and enables filling while still warm easy. A major issue with the aluminium atomics was the filler plug seizing if it wasn’t used for a prolonged period requiring many a good Atomic being damaged in order to get it going again. With the use of stainless steel on the OTTO that will never be an issue.
  • Two coffee baskets for coarse and fine grind coffee. Now there is an option of grind size.
  • Adjustable steam wand enables easier entry into a milk jug.
  • Silicon mat prevents over heating and boiling off the coffee in the jug.
  • Large solid handles for manoeuvring while hot and it gets very hot. I think hotter than the Atomic.
  • The machining, finishing, carry case and extras like jug, tamper, glasses and DVD/manual are all top quality in every respect and again reading between the lines I’m sure some perfectionistic personality of the individuals involved is evident and probably due to some of the productions delays. It is truly a piece of Industrial Design Art and one of the reasons for me investing in an OTTO.

The OTTO like the Atomic are not the standard stove top coffee makers as they build up significant pressure to espress through the coffee. It’s been quoted that the OTTO generates about 3 bar of pressure compared to a commercial 9 to 12 bar so it isn’t the same as a commercial machine but it’s an improvement on the normal stove tops and significantly more than the cheap home espressos at a bit over 1 bar.

UPDATE: The full story of OTTO is now a podcast episode in Ep 63 : Craig. Creating the Best Stove Top Espresso Machine from a Classic

I’ve made this short video of the unpacking and the first coffee that I made on the OTTO to give you a feel for what it’s like. Does the OTTO make a better coffee than the Atomic? At this point I don’t know. It makes a great coffee all the same but I don’t know if it’s better than the Atomic. It doesn’t really matter which is better as this is about great design as well as great coffee and the coffee from these machines, with some practice to learn the idiosyncrasies of them, offers the chance for someone to feel like they are creating something rather than just pressing a button. The pleasure of creation has returned. I hope to make another video at some stage when I get the feel of the OTTO and do a direct comparison side by side with the Atomic but that’s for later.

On an aside, on the instructional DVD Craig takes One for the team by removing the group handle while the OTTO is hot showing what happens if it’s attempted. It’s worth watching just to see the trepidation on Craig’s face and surprising that he didn’t get scalded in the process. It gets the message over perfectly.

If you purchase an OTTO due to this review please let the good folks at OTTO know, this has been reviewed without any involvement with OTTO other than the purchase.

{ 33 comments… add one }
  • Craig Hiron Tuesday, 22 September, 2009, 5:42 pm

    G’day Ian,

    Thanks so much for the fantastic wrap about OTTO, such a thrill to see your appreciation after the years of hard work. I’ve forwarded the link to the designers (Tiller + Tiller) and my legendary manufacturing mate (Doug Marshall) because I know they’ll share my joy.

    Loved the video, really well done.

    If there’s anything at all I can help with or anything you’d like answers to I’ll be more than happy to help.

    Kindest regards,

  • Frederick Tuesday, 22 September, 2009, 7:59 pm

    By now you must have realised that the OTTO produces s fine espresso.

    The OTTO develops more than 3 bar of pressure on my electric stove up here in Quebec, Canada.
    Although I am owned by 2 dozen ATOMICS, I fail to see any ressemblance in performance with that venerable machine. They are now gathering dust, unless a group of friends show up.

    Wait till you have a second and third trial with the OTTO, I assure you, you won’t go back.
    A trick I use is to start the OTTO on less than high heat, then set it higher for the last minute or so. The crema is unbelievable.
    This machine will be very hard to beat.

  • Colin Wednesday, 23 September, 2009, 6:33 am

    Nice video! Can you tell me what you shot the video on and what software you used to make it web ready?

    I would have way more video on my coffee website – but I do not know where to start.

    • Ian Wednesday, 23 September, 2009, 8:21 am

      Thanks Colin
      I used a HD video camera (Canon HF10) and iMovie/Garageband for the editing

  • Ian Monday, 28 September, 2009, 9:43 pm

    Frederick – I look forward to learning the specific skills for the OTTO to achieve the same end results as you, As yet I’m not there yet and I expect it to take a while.

    Craig – Thanks for getting back and leaving a comment, I appreciate the chance to be involved. I’ve been around manufacturing, prototyping and Industrial Design in my time and I can appreciate how challenging this entire project was for you. I’m looking towards getting the skills for using the OTTO up to speed and appreciate it’s quality. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Todd Willis Monday, 28 September, 2009, 11:08 pm

    awesome work Ian,

    great to see ya progress with the multi-media. Ya such a great man of passion, patience and determination to learn all that ya do.

  • coops Friday, 13 November, 2009, 12:21 pm

    hi Ian
    I came across the Otto during an unrelated web-search.

    Is cleaning the Otto easy? and is it stable on the gas hob when heating the milk?
    A nice informative video too


    • Ian Friday, 13 November, 2009, 2:29 pm

      Hi Coops.
      I find the OTTO easy in both respects. The only cleaning is the group head which requires only a wipe and the steam wand which is a soak and wipe. It’s very stable on a stove as the wand is only in the milk. It’s also so heavy that it’s going nowhere in a hurry

  • coops Tuesday, 1 December, 2009, 11:49 am

    hello Ian
    how is your Otto going, any updates?

    • Ian Tuesday, 1 December, 2009, 5:44 pm

      You wouldn’t believe it but I haven’t had a coffee in 5 weeks. Just doesn’t suit me at the moment.

      However I have started to see a couple of things. Because the base of the OTTO is smaller than the Atomic I have to use a smaller flame and I find that I’m having a bit of difficulty getting enough heat into it to get a good flow of coffee and pressure for the steam wand. However I know that I should be able to alter that by using a smaller grind/tamp firmer to build up a higher head of steam. I just haven’t had a chance to play with all the options yet.

      I think it probably took me 50 or so coffees to know the Atomic and I would expect the same for the OTTO. To date I’ve only made half a dozen on the OTTO so I still don’t fully understand it as yet.

      I know that it seems a bit of a waste but it’s hot in Brisbane now that Summer is here and not the best weather for coffee anyway. I’ve recently discovered a new found love for iced tea anyway.

      I’ll let you know more when I eventually get back to the coffee.

      Thanks for the interest.

  • ScottZeeman Monday, 11 January, 2010, 4:04 pm

    Iced tea is my thing too, although you got me thinking!

  • coops Tuesday, 2 February, 2010, 8:51 am

    hello Ian
    I`m using an OTTO now, and really enjoy it.
    the thing that speed up my learning to consistent espresso was understanding the grind and tamp.
    I mucked around with variations of bean grinds but now have settled on a grind that gives me an great extraction and steam pressure.
    Its winter here now, so use OTTO 3 -4 time during the day.
    We use the travel case too, friends invite us around much more now and say to bring the espresso maker

  • John Thursday, 4 February, 2010, 12:56 am

    Great design and very funky coffee machine. I havent seen any of these around. Where abouts are these found? It would be a great addition to any stove. cheers

  • Pangi Thursday, 11 February, 2010, 3:08 am

    Nice writeup and vid. Loved it! There’s another great little Otto vid here: http://www.c4coffee.co.nz/videos/

  • Jane b Saturday, 27 February, 2010, 4:22 pm

    this machine is amazing. I was sceptical at first at how it could perfor
    after hearing good things about it. but the Otto is amazing. the espresso it produces is in a class of it’s own. i reckon it will redefine how we drink coffee at home. I’m proud to be an early adopter of an undoubtable classic.

  • Peachtree City SEO Friday, 5 March, 2010, 2:39 pm

    Very slick video Ian. I’d love to create a few high-end custom videos showcasing local search.

    Unfortunately my video skills are pretty poor!

    • Ian Friday, 5 March, 2010, 3:02 pm

      Brian, Thanks and unfortunately unlike you my SEO skills are pretty poor ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Texas Defensive Driving Saturday, 8 May, 2010, 9:09 am

    Hey lan,

    Thats what i c\have recollected some of my moments with the Espresso. It was a good experiment which i have done with it when it came newly in the market and now an experienced one!! well hey the Video was excellent and more over i think now i can have the taste in a more perfect manner ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Karen Saturday, 12 June, 2010, 10:39 pm

    Really like the coffee maker design. Do you know if they sell them in the UK? Do you know if there is a distributor in Europe? Thanks

    • Ian Tuesday, 15 June, 2010, 4:38 pm

      If you follow the links to the OTTO site I’m sure they will be able to help you.

  • Ben Tuesday, 29 June, 2010, 2:49 pm

    Great design and quite unique. The expresso maker mixes old with new which is quite fashionable at the moment.

  • Ben Tuesday, 6 July, 2010, 8:55 am

    Sorry i forgot to ask also. With the coffee maker will it be available in southern europe (mediteranean)? I think it could be a great collectors item.

  • Term Life Rates Friday, 6 August, 2010, 12:41 pm

    Ha! Those coffee makers look like some sort of illegal water pipe! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • The Woodlands Real Estate Thursday, 19 August, 2010, 9:55 am

    Very nice. I’ve been using the new Keurig for my coffee and can’t brag enough on it. I will have to do some more research on these expresso machines.

  • Jeffrey Revell Reade Saturday, 4 September, 2010, 6:20 pm

    Great coffee maker design. I have been looking around for some unique kitchen appliances like cake mixers, toasters and coffee makers. Where abouts can i buy such a product.

  • Paul Smith Thursday, 23 September, 2010, 4:15 pm

    I bought an Otto last weekend after deliberating for about 3 months (mainly because of price). I need not have bothered waiting. It’s worth every penny. Makes the best coffee, looks deadly and I’m totally sold on it. The finish is second to none. I followed the instructions on the DVD to the letter using a 3.8 grind as recommended by my local Merlo Coffee and haven’t had anything other than sh1t hot coffee since. My only gripe if you can call it a gripe is “Craig, why did you have to have it assembled in China???”. Anyhow, much respect Otto designers and makers. It’s the best.

  • Ben M Monday, 27 September, 2010, 4:20 pm

    Like the idea and concept, however are the coffee machines sold in retail stores?

  • Personal Checks Friday, 20 May, 2011, 11:30 pm

    Love your idea and really like the coffee machine. What is the price of this coffee maker machine in the market?

  • David Hancock Monday, 4 July, 2011, 8:11 am

    My Otto has jammed closed this morning and I can’t seem to open. Any clues as to what caused this and how to open?

    • iankath Monday, 4 July, 2011, 9:48 am

      That’s an issue I’ve never seen with mine. I’m afraid I have no idea what could be the issue as the thread and lock mechanism is so coarse it shouldn’t jam up. Sometimes I find the O ring can move and interfere a little but that will normally be the issue as you tighten it.

      Could you have spilt coffee down amongst the thread and it tried and “glued” it tight. Try soaking it in water for a while and try again?

  • Steve Hay Monday, 11 March, 2013, 9:18 pm

    Ahoy…..became the proud owner of an Otto 2 days ago and also copious caffeine tics and tremors as I attempt to get it right. Having used Atomics over the years I’m down with the nuances of heat and grind but there seems to be an awful lot of water left at the end of the extraction and barely 2 shots with no crema out of it which is frustrating considering the suggested 20 minute wait between coffees. Any suggestions please?

    • iankath Monday, 11 March, 2013, 9:28 pm

      Hi Steve
      Have a bit of a read through the comments. You may pick up some ideas but like the Atomic it’s a case of test, practice and learn.

  • viktor Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 11:15 pm

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