Back in the early ‘70s these ‘Atomic’ coffee machines were all the rage. They looked like something from science fiction. A Stovetop expresso coffee machine that built up enough pressure for you to be able to create café style Cappuccino’s in your own home. This was back in the days when you could only order either a flat white, short black or cappuccino. When instant coffee ruled the home and Nescafe was as synonymous with coffee as Levi’s were for jeans. Hipster half-caf, decaf, soy chai lattes were unheard of. An uncle of mine was the sole importer of these futuristic machines here in Melbourne and this particular machine has been in my family for over 40 years. I recently had it restored to full working condition and decided to document my first experience with this resurrected masterpiece.
Broken into its essential elements. The Atomic consists of the machine itself plus a large generous 4-cup coffee catching jug and the coffee handle. These may not be the scientific terms for these, but the experience in trying to use this machine purely from the 35-year-old memory of my mum operating it makes me feel like consulting Google would be not in the spirit. After all, that’s the way you learnt things back then, through memory and personal demonstration – not Youtube. So here I go, freshly grinding the coffee beans, spooning them into the coffee handle and carefully patting them down with the teaspoon to achieve a smooth consistency – just like mum used to. Filling the machine with water and attaching the handle, making sure the steam valve is closed so that the correct amount of pressure is achieved. Now to just light up the stove and sit back in anticipation.
It doesn’t take too long to begin trickling ‘Black Gold’ into the catching jug and soon enough it has become a full blown geyser and the jug is suddenly full. Now is the time to frantically grab the cup filled with a little bit of milk and dip the steam nozzle into its depths. Turning the little red knob, the steam springs forth, screeching like something from ‘The Fast and the Furious’ number 17 and then suddenly it is finished. I twist the knob shut and stare down at my efforts. It looks like a cappuccino and once I add the coffee, I’ll be darned – It tastes just like a cappuccino. This
kooky retro design from yesteryear has delivered all counts.
Now to sit down, relax and enjoy the fallout…