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.
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.