La Sorrentina Atomic Coffee Machine

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ohofmann
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Postby ohofmann » Jul 04, 2008, 1:41 pm

Dear all,


doesn't really qualify as an espresso machine, but since I'm moving around a lot I've been trying to find reviews for the La Sorrentina coffee machine. Is anyone familiar with it and thinks it is even remotely worth the extra costs compared to your standard stove top coffee maker?

-- Oliver

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shadowfax
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Postby shadowfax » Jul 04, 2008, 4:20 pm

well, it does appear to have a steam wand, which is highly unusual for a Moka pot. How well it works is another question entirely...
Nicholas Lundgaard

Paul
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Postby Paul » Jul 04, 2008, 7:28 pm

Taiwanese copy of a collectable classic. No better (or worse) than the original probably, which is to say, not very good. Looks pretty though :D
cheers
Paul

LMWDP #084

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sorrentinacoffee
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Postby sorrentinacoffee » Jul 06, 2008, 12:29 am

Hello all,

I guess you would have to conclude I am biased: having spent 4 years developing the La Sorrentina Atomic Coffee Machine and 10 years collecting vintage atomic type machines...

I note Paul said "not very good" and I wonder why? Have you used one Paul?

the Sorrentina machine can produce delicious shots of espresso style coffee with crema- and the frothing wand can quickly whip up a jug of fluffy, rich milk. The Sorrentina machine can be used on gas and electric stovetops- making it the ideal choice for the traveling coffee lover.

The machines are heavily cast- and made to last a lifetime. The original atomic style Italian machines still work perfectly after 40 years of every day service.

Finally I would like to look at the 'its just a moka pot' issue:

It is NOT 'just a Moka Pot'.

Despite the fact that it can froth milk: the Sorrentina machine employs some unique devices which mean it can produce a better stove top brew than the generic Bialetti style Moka pot. The Sorrentina machine has a heavy head (where the group handle bayonet is)- it also has an internal water tube that delivers the hot water to the head of the machine- this tube has a small hole in it- that acts to increase the brew pressure. These features work together to improve your brew: the machine operates under a higher pressure than most moka pots- the heavy head acts as a heat sink cooling the boiling water just before it reaches the coffee. The result is a strong, black espresso-like brew- and even an crema.

This is not just talk: I use the machine every day- here are some pictures of a brew in progress:

Image

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sorrentinacoffee
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Postby sorrentinacoffee » Jul 06, 2008, 12:30 am

Image

zin1953
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Postby zin1953 » Jul 06, 2008, 4:51 pm

Jack,

I think you hit the nail on the head:
  • [It] can be used on gas and electric stovetops- making it the ideal choice for the traveling coffee lover
  • delicious shots of espresso style coffee with crema
  • strong, black espresso-like brew - and even an [sic] crema
Moka pots -- including your Sorrentina -- do not produce espresso. The good news is that your Sorrentina (which looks like a very nice machine, by the way) can steam milk; that is indeed an added bonus. But it is a moka pot, a moka pot that can steam milk. To suggest otherwise is -- well, perhaps it's an inventor's/designer's pride . . . .

The good news is that Oliver (the original poster) understands this is a moka pot, not an espresso machine. The bad news is that it's AUS$450! A quick search on Google showed you can get various Gaggia Baby models between AUS$400-500 or so from retailers in Sydney and from online Aussie vendors.

Were I still traveling around -- sending two-to-four weeks here and there on business, staying in one of those "corporate apartment" places or "residence inns," I'd certainly think about a Sorrentina. But at $450 . . .

Well, anyway, I'm not doing that anymore -- best of luck!

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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sorrentinacoffee
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Postby sorrentinacoffee » Jul 06, 2008, 10:08 pm

well, each to their own as they say.

I don't agree that it is just a Moka pot- as I said the machine has several technical and functional differences that preclude it from the moka class. In addition to the ones I already mentioned the machine also has two separate pressurised chambers- the boiler and the head... It may be tempting to label every machine that makes coffee on a stove a 'moka' pot but it is not accurate.

neither do I claim it is an espresso machine in the modern sense.

It really is a machine in its own class. I know it's not for everyone- and that it's not the cheapest stove-top machine available. The Sorrentina machine employs old techniques and materials in manufacture and is expensive to make. I personally believe it is the best looking stove top machine FULL STOP- and for frothing milk: I have never seen it's equal on a gas hob. It even beats the pants off my La Pavoni Europiccola in the frothing department.

On a side note: I am not sure about modern semantic distinctions concerning the term 'espresso'. The La Sorrentina machine produces real crema as you can see in the images above. When used correctly the shots are dark black, rich and thick + crema. The Crema may not be as thick or persistent as you would get from a pump or lever machine- but crema it is never the less. As I understand it the term 'espresso' dates from the turn of the century (around 1903) and simply means 'fast' in Italian. Modern definitions often have things like minimum BAR pressures for 'true espresso' production- but such pump and lever machines didn't even exist until the mid-twentieth century.

If we follow the modern definition of espresso- we should then be forced to say that millions of people who enjoyed so called 'espresso' before the first Gaggia spring lever machines of the 1950's: were all deluding themselves... I like to think that some of those early Italian Baristas were such masters of their art- that they managed to pull true 'espresso' shots- before the lever machine was ever invented. It may be romantic and deluded... but that's exactly how I like it ;-). If you want to prove me wrong (and have a time machine)- by all means- take me back to Milan, 1926 for a pre-lever 'espresso'. I am in like Flynn!

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HB
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Postby HB » Jul 06, 2008, 10:29 pm

sorrentinacoffee wrote:If we follow the modern definition of espresso- we should then be forced to say that millions of people who enjoyed so called 'espresso' before the first Gaggia spring lever machines of the 1950's: were all deluding themselves...

Not necessarily. Equipment and techniques do advance, and with them our definition of what characterizes an exceptional espresso. I would disappointed if espresso drinkers of the 2050's were impressed with what we pull today, otherwise what's the point of trying to improve?
Dan Kehn

zin1953
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Postby zin1953 » Jul 06, 2008, 11:19 pm

sorrentinacoffee wrote:I personally believe it is the best looking stove top machine FULL STOP- and for frothing milk: I have never seen it's equal on a gas hob. It even beats the pants off my La Pavoni Europiccola in the frothing department.

  1. I agree with you, it's the most beautiful stove-top machine I've seen.
  2. You're probably right -- my Europiccola was good at steaming, but never great.

sorrentinacoffee wrote:The La Sorrentina machine produces real crema as you can see in the images above.

I wasn't going to say anything, Jack, but since you brought it up: the crema doesn't look all that great to me. It looks too light/blond (maybe it's the photograph, maybe it's the cup).

sorrentinacoffee wrote:If we follow the modern definition of espresso- we should then be forced to say that millions of people who enjoyed so called 'espresso' before the first Gaggia spring lever machines of the 1950's: were all deluding themselves...

Technology changes. Constantly. Sometimes for the better (think of the roast lamb you had last week -- you want that, or the mutton they served in the Middle Ages?), sometimes for the worse (do we really want Cool Whip, CoffeeMate, or CheezWhiz?). The Sopwith Camel was a truly great fighter aircraft . . . for its time. But would any pilot really want to have flown one against a fighter of World War II, let alone the jet age?

There were some truly amazing wines produced in the 19th century. I have been privileged enough to have some. But I know of no one who thinks/believes that the average quality of wine has not dramatically improved over the past 150 years. No one I know wants to go back to using sheep's bladders and oxen blood.

It is no different with espresso.

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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sorrentinacoffee
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Postby sorrentinacoffee » Jul 07, 2008, 1:17 am

all good points and well taken.

I am not sure exactly how 'lamb technology' has progressed over the centuries but I will trust you on that one.

as for the 'blonding' crema: perhaps a superior Barista could improve on that somewhat? - and in practice variables such as tamp, grind, bean, method, water, humidity and the moon phase- affect the result with a Sorrentina coffee machine just as they do with a commercial machine. There is plenty of room for the 'pursuit of coffee excellence'

As to the Pavoni frother: it is a bit weak- perhaps the comparison was not the best: the Sorrentina frother is very powerful: I can froth two lattes in around 8 seconds if I need to- the steam arm really produces a very strong jet of dry steam. As good as many professional electric machines.

I am not here to claim that this stove top coffee maker can compete with pump and lever machines: it is not intended to do that. Nor am I here to overturn the modern concept of espresso- just to defend the espresso of yesteryear... and the stove top machines of today ;-)

 
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