By the time the postage is added even the cheap one is over $400 and the others are just under and just over $600.
Following my initial cleaning of the old Atomic coffee maker, I managed to get some pretty nice looking coffee out of it. But even after a number of shots it still tasted a bit off.
As a matter of interest, when my son Andrew got his at Christmas, I designed a water level gauge that allows us to consistently fill the Atomic with the right amount of water, so that the stream stops and sputters just as the level reaches an ounce.
We also solved the problem of Atomic coffee tasting burnt by simply placing a glass in the aluminium bowl. The glass is marked so we can always be sure if we get one or two actual shots. We can of course vary the amount to taste.
In the last post I wrote about freeing up the filler knob without damaging it, but I still could not get the 'shower screen' loose to clean behind it, so I back flushed. I was pretty sure there would be a little residual gunk up behind it, because there had been in Andrew's Atomic. Today I finally managed to get the aluminium screen free, although one of the screws broke in the process. It isn't a big problem, as the screen is held in place in the head by a silicone gasket.
Above is what it looked like up in the head, behind the screen. You can just see the broken screw at the top, and the hole at the bottom where one came out ok. You can also see where I scraped some of the scale and dead coffee grounds off the water pipe.
I spent ages scraping with a screwdriver and then using various Dremel tools in there cleaning it up, but it ended up pretty clean.
And this is what was behind the screen. No wonder the coffee had a hard time getting through and only came out in drips. And also probably the reason it tasted really bad.
The filler knob is also the safety pressure valve. It had been venting too easily, so while I was messing with things I took that apart and cleaned the seat where it seals, cleaned the rust off the shaft of the screw with a Dremel wire wheel, and cleaned the actual hard rubber seal material. I also gave the spring a clean and cleaned the threads, then put the whole thing back together. I'm almost sorry I ordered a new one, because it now works perfectly despite the main filler neck seal being hard as a rock.
So where are we now?
For a start, I have it on good authority that the Atomic coffee maker does not produce proper espresso because it operates at too low a pressure. That's ok. It makes a delicious short black that tastes very, very close to the real espresso I get if I order one from The Coffee Club or Gloria Jeans. So I am happy enough with that.
And that makes a rather nice Atomic Cappuccino!
I also have it on good authority that the Atomic coffee maker cannot make a shot of whatever we call it (if we are not going to call it 'Espresso') with crema. Now, it is true, you don't get the foamy crema mixed through the shot and settling to the top after the shot is put aside. But you do get a layer of fine gold a few millimetres thick across the top.
As for foaming milk. I like fine microfoam and the Atomic has two holes in the nozzle that point downwards and outwards at an angle. That makes it almost impossible to get a swirl going in the jug. It is designed to make froth rather than fine foam and it is excellent at that - if you like a 'meringue peak' on your coffee.
But it isn't all bad and I'm slowly discovering some tricks that make a fairly fine foam.
It will take a while to get a brew that is close to the Krups 871 sweet syrupy and really strong coffee from the same amount of ground beans, and I'll be working on adapting to the milk technique for a while. But for now, it is working nicely and the coffee is pretty close to what I get in a cafe. Except I do NOT do Latte Art.
As a matter of interest, here's the bowl with one of the water gauges in place. We fill the bowl until the water just reaches the flat turned in piece on the aluminium strip That way we get the same amount of water every time.
As mentioned earlier, by using a glass in the bowl, the coffee doesn't get burnt. If I am making a 'long black' style using more water, so I can just have an ordinary black coffee or a coffee with milk, I can skip using the gauge and just have the coffee flow into the bowl. To do that, I just pour a full bowl of water into the Atomic.
Above is the cappuccino from the coffee in the previous photo. The foam is not perfect, but it is about as fine as I can get out of the Atomic so far, and getting close to the texture I get from the Krups 871, finer than I get out of the Breville pump machines.
The coffee tastes better than either of the Brevilles, but still not as perfect as the Krups, either as an espresso style or as a cappuccino, but that's probably because I mastered the Krups over many years.
Something else that is handy to know. Because of the bulk of the Atomic's aluminium body it takes forever to heat that, then heat the water in it.
Water will boil much more quickly in an ordinary kettle or pot, so to save gas, we usually boil a small amount of water and pour that into the Atomic. That pre-heats the Atomic and once it is on the stove it takes a fraction of the time it normally would to make a coffee.
Conversely, once the Atomic is hot, pouring in sufficient water for a second coffee takes little time because the Atomic is already hot.
There's a trick to this too. If you empty residual water in the Atomic into the bowl, you only need to top it up to the level you want in the bowl and pour it back in. That way you get the exact amount you are after.
NEVER touch the Atomic body, steam wand or any other parts with your bare hands until it is cold or cool.
If you need to empty it to refill it, use a wet towel to hold it.
You will probably only grab a hot part of an Atomic once. The lesson is very sudden and very painful...