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La Sorrentina Atomic Users

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  • La Sorrentina Atomic Users

    Ive had the opportunity to have a good play with the La Sorrentina and thought it might be helpful if there were a thread dedicated to this machine. Though there dont appear to be too many discussions about this particular piece/style of equipment, I know for sure that people buy them...because I and many other Sponsors sell them!

    I dont mean to start a review, just some practical tips that might be helpful. So to get things started...

    It took me a while to work out how much water to put into the unit, given that I wanted some for the coffee and some for steam I found it awkward to determine. The user guide is somewhat helpful in this regard, but doesnt state the quantity of water to add, but rather, suggests filling to a certain point. Having emailed Jack from Ikon and suggested this would be helpful, I learnt that the units are sand-cast, and vary slightly from one unit to the next, making it impossible to give a certain figure. At some time in the future, we may see an insert along these lines in what is already a good and useful user guide.

    In the meantime, Jack has offered the following suggestion:

    "After making a brew of coffee- empty the coffee jug. Then pour the water that remains in the LS boiler after brewing into the jug. Make a small mark/scracth on the inside of the jug at the waterline. In future whatever water you put ABOVE that line- when you fill the machine- will be roughly the size of your shot/shots when you make the brew."

    Ive also asked if theres a tamper to suit, but alas, not at this point. In the meantime Im getting pretty good at using the back of a teaspoon. ;D

    Im still only managing sudsy froth, but on the improve, as is the flavour of the coffee Im making. One definite for me is to use a lighter roasted coffee to compensate for the higher brew temp.

    I guess like all sorts of new to hand equipment, these take some getting used to.

    So, Id be interested to hear from owners of either the La Sorrentina, or Atomic about your experiences and any tips you may have!


  • #2
    Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

    Good one for starting this up Den.

    Ive yet to use mine to make a coffee- just been though the first-use preparation. Theres not much info out there on how to use the Atomic or its clones.
    Theres two Youtube vids - one is failrly forgettable, the other one shows a guy preparing one on a camp stove and was tamping fairly firmly.

    As I mentioned to you, I was going to use the plastic tamper from my VBM and sound it down to 53mm or whatever the basket diameter is. I checked the VBM dosing spoon and its a but small but might do the job.

    Interested to hear from Renzo about the LS as I remmeber him saying he uses one as his travel machine.



    • #3
      Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

      Managed to make a nice coffee from the LS this morning.  Gave away the idea of tamping with the back of a teaspoon, overfilled the basket, tapped to settl a couple of times, a little more coffee and used the blind filter to tamp *firmly*.

      Resulted in a much slower pour, though still working on the milk side of things.


      • #4
        Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users


        The LS has a 51mm baskets. As Dennis mention you could over fill the basket and use the water preasure as a tamping trick. regarding the milk i manage to get a nice milk texture by using small milk jug and using the machine preasure to created this texture.


        Di Bartoli Home Barista Centre


        • #5
          Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

          Very glad to see a thread along these lines, thanks Dennis. I didnt think I should start my own review....

          To Tamp or Not to Tamp, is that the Question?

          Atomic type coffee makers require that the coffee grounds provide sufficient resistance to the flow of water to enable at least a few BAR of pressure to build up inside the boiler. Pressure build up is essential to make a good extraction and to provide sufficient steam for frothing.

          The design also allows that you can make anywhere from 20ml to 300mls of coffee per brew. Originally it was suggested in most instruction manuals that you always fill the machine completely to the water filler hole every brew. This produces one full jug of coffee- 300mls. However many people would prefer to make two small 20 ml shots.

          Either way the following rules apply:

          If the coffee is too loosely packed and/or too coarsely ground it will brew too quickly, the coffee will be weak, and there wont be strong steam pressure for milk frothing.

          If the coffee is too finely ground and/or too tightly packed it will brew too slowly with a very dark stream, the black safety knob may release a little pressure, and you will have an enormous blast of steam for frothing.

          The key is to find the middle point. Tamping or not is by choice: if you dont tamp you can grind a little finer, and just knock to settle the grinds evenly.

          I find using hot water at the start and a medium gas flame works well for me. My preffered method is to make two 20ml shots:

          1) half fill jug with boiling water- transfer to empty LS coffee machine.
          2) fully pack large basket with finely ground (but not powdery) coffee- tap down a few times- leaving it 3/4s full and evenly packed. Lightly tamp.
          3) place on medium heat. You can vary this a little as the brew progress.
          4) As extraction begins to wane begin your frothing with the heat remaining on medium.

          If you use good freshly ground coffee you should be able to get a reasonable amount of crema, and there will be very strong pressure for milk frothing:


          • #6
            Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

            Originally posted by 10313A3A3D27540 link=1236240384/0#0 date=1236240384
            Im still only managing sudsy froth, but on the improve, as is the flavour of the coffee Im making.  One definite for me is to use a lighter roasted coffee to compensate for the higher brew temp.
            With a moka pot, you can get around the overheating problem to some extent by filling the cold machine with boiling water before putting it on the flame. The thought is that that way it takes less time for the water to start to head through the coffee, which also gives less time for the heat of the flame to heat the rest of the parts of the machine, which means that they can cool the water more. I wonder if that would work here?




            • #7
              Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

              This is a good point Luca: and I always start with hot water straight from the kettle.

              However I would not call the Atomic design a moka pot as such...

              The Atomic type coffee maker is different than a moka pot in some important respects and I dont think it belongs in the Moka class:

              The machine has two separated pressurised chambers- the main boiler and the machine head. There is also a small hole in the inner tube that delivers water to the top (head) chamber (it is located adjacent to the steam arm on the LS machines - and behind the black filler knob on vintage atomics). This hole feeds some steam/water back into the main boiler and increases the pressure delivered to the head (in fairness some Moka pots also employ this ingenious pressure increasing device- you can see the hole at the base of the upturned coffee basket cone).

              The key point in differentiating the atomic type machine from the Moka pot is the head of the machine. The water has to travel further than in a Moka  before it reaches the coffee grounds - and on its way it encounters the heavily cast alloy head. This acts as a heat sink and significantly cools the water just before it reaches the coffee - meaning that the design allows for lower brewing temps than a moka type device can achieve. This feature was listed in the patent applications as one of the novel improvements of the design.

              If you start with boiling water- and the flame is kept medium- the head of the machine is still cool to touch as the brew commences. If you touch the head (carefully- it gets HOT) you can feel the sudden increase in heat as the water fills it (and this lets you know the coffee is on its way soon). If you had started with cold water- by the time it has boiled a lot of heat has transferred up the body- and the heat sink affect will be greatly reduced.

              Also if you make a large volume of coffee the benefit of the heat sink affect will be reduced by the end of the brew. This is one of the reasons I generally only make short black type shots- rather than a full jug.

              If you were interested in making a full jug of coffee-  I would recommend using a lighter roast of coffee and slightly coarser grind to account for the increased heat over the coarse of the extraction.  


              • #8
                Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

                Interestingly- a friend of mine used to place a single cube of ice on the top of the machine at the start of a brew. He reasoned that this could drop his brew temps at least a degree or two....


                • #9
                  Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

                  Originally posted by 0B2A2121263C4F0 link=1236240384/0#0 date=1236240384
                  Im still only managing sudsy froth, but on the improve, as is the flavour of the coffee Im making.One definite for me is to use a lighter roasted coffee to compensate for the higher brew temp.
                  Not wanting to start a whole roasting thread on roasting beans for Atomics (just got a second hand one to add to the menagerie 8-) ) Are you using espresso type beans and blends roasted just to SC or a bit before?


                  • #10
                    Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

                    Originally posted by 7F787C737B716474737A1D0 link=1236240384/8#8 date=1238381518
                    Are you using espresso type beans
                    Im using coffee beans. ;D

                    It would all depend on the bean, but always lighter than for other roasts - generally to first signs of 2c.


                    • #11
                      Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

                      I know I was asking for it with a vague roasting question like that :P That bit of info will save me a roast or two I hope. Roasting tonight, maybe a Hrarrar Longberry for the first go with a pinch of Robusta added for kick and crema.

                      The nice soul who listed it on ferralbay had it as a stylish coffee maker and not an Atomic (saved me about $200 I reckon : )

                      Time to go fly a glider I reckon this end of the world 22 degrees and a nice steady sea breeze then home for a beer or two while the beans toast. Thats the way I like my Mondays


                      • #12
                        Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

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                        • #13
                          Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

                          hello folks, New User here. Im based in Vietnam had an Atomic for 20+ years but have only just started making a real fist of using it well. I have a couple of observations that relate to this topic so I thought Id offer them up.

                          Tamper - I have a moderately domed tamper that was sourced from Starbucks in Hong Kong which is a perfect fit for the Atomic type coffee baskets.

                          Videos - There are three videos for the Atomic type machine on youtube: Mr. Moos Coffee Experience, which is interesting for the milk frothing element; Coffeeguy - The Atomic, which is illustrative for his heat up technique; and, Atomic stovetop espresso machine - functionality test, which is a curiosity only for the coffee basket brass stopper handle aspect. Of these three I would recommend the Coffeeguy - The Atomic video for its straight forward simple illustration. Id love to see a La Sorrentina take on this.

                          To Tamp or Not: Ive tried no tamping, light tamping and moderately firm tamping. The outcome? Tamp firm with a coarser grind, tamp lightly with a fine grind or as suggested above tap the basket a few times.

                          However Ive not had much success in producing a Crema. I even tamped firmly with a light grind and had on small, full flame burner and had the Atomic rocking a bit and steam gently releasing from the safety valve in the black knob - it worried me a little. All in all I usually produce a few shots or a jug that resembles turkish coffee rather than a silky smooth light to moderate crema headed coffee :-(  Would love some advice...

                          I love the tip about pouring the residual water back into the jug and then marking a level line - top one!

                          Love the thread, hope my observations are useful and would love to see the La Sorrentina Atomic Coffeemaker breath new life into an otherwise fascinating part of coffee culture.



                          • #14
                            Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

                            Im having a difficult time with my LS Atomic. I get the crema working fine, and I can make the milk foam, but I cant get the milk to come to a wet paint thickness. Can anyone give me advice that would be useful specific to La Sorrentina Atomic model users? Thanks.


                            • #15
                              Re: La Sorrentina Atomic Users

                              Originally posted by 101F161E530 link=1236240384/13#13 date=1275857021
                              I get the crema working fine, and I can make the milk foam, but I cant get the milk to come to a wet paint thickness
                              Hi Clem

                              I dont think you will get the same consistency as espresso coffee. Try only half filling the LS. Last time I used mine, I got good results by filling the jug to about 60% full. You can try 50% for an even thicker shot but might be too strong.

                              Also, try a finer grind or tamping the filter basket a little firmer.

                              Check Reply #4 above for more tips..