COFFEE TALK WITH CRAIG HIRON

OTTO ESPRESSO MAKER MAKES THE PERFECT CUP

George loves coffee – a cappuccino in the morning, a shot or two of espresso in the afternoon (no milk after midday), maybe an affogato for dessert. So when it came to curating our lifestyle essentials, an espresso maker was obvious – and we went right to the best: OTTO. This patented, award-winning stove-top espresso maker was meticulously engineered to produce superb coffee at home.  

Just as we spent forever tweaking the perfect slimfit shirt, the OTTO espresso maker is the product of almost 5 years' development right here in Australia. Founder Craig Hiron and his team have mastered the art of extracting great coffee and steaming milk with texture and precision. Plus, OTTO is a sight to behold: a modern take on an Italian classic design, the Atomic, this ergonomic device is made almost entirely of stainless steel. Its sleek, contoured design is second only to its exceptional functionality, extracting 2 espresso shots within 8 to 10 minutes.

Every OTTO espresso maker includes a barista training DVD to achieve optimal results.  But we decided to go straight to the source – Craig himself – on how the OTTO works, why he left his roofing trade to brew coffee, and where the best java is these days – if you didn't check the little guy in overhead, that is.

Where do most machines fall short in home brewing? How is OTTO's design different?

OTTO is different to all other brewing systems. It replaces an electric pump with the force of steam itself. The water is pressurized before reaching the coffee. The resistance of finely ground and firmly tamped coffee builds a second tier of pressure. The thermal dynamics are very finely tuned to control precise temperatures at the head for coffee extraction, then to deliver loads of steam pressure for perfectly textured milk. The process is about 30 seconds slower than traditional espresso extraction. The flavors in the extracted coffee could be compared to slow cooking food. 

What is the biggest misconception about good coffee and espresso?

There’s so much information out there about brewing coffee. We’re also living in a time of broad innovation – it’s a stretch keeping up with it all, even being in the coffee industry. In a nutshell, anything set in stone and stated as fact might just be in the firing line in this wonderful evolution. 

OTTO could be a piece of modern art, it's so striking. How important was the look of the machine when developing it? What were some of your influences and inspirations?

The credit for OTTO’s looks largely belongs to Mr. Robbiati who invented the Atomic. It took Tiller Design and me four weeks to nail the aesthetic, and four years to perfect the brewing system. Getting the look right was the tip of the iceberg. “It’s what’s inside that counts.”

Do the beans make the perfect cup or does the machine? That said, what beans do you recommend when using OTTO?

Brewing is dependent on three pieces: the beans, the machine and the maker. All three need to be driven by passion – you can’t make great coffee without passion, this much is true. For black coffee I like single origins, Ethiopia produces coffees with some really delicate flavors. For milk coffee I prefer blends that are specifically created to work well with milk. 

We're having trouble parting with our OTTO when we travel. I know, issues. But seriously, can we check it on a plane? How well does it travel?

Take OTTO with you, for sure. I fly with OTTO all the time. There’s a case made by Pelican called a 1300. You can buy one from places that sell gear for making films and TV. OTTO fits perfectly in those cases with a certain configuration (jugs and tamper included). I just check mine. If you pack it properly in the 1300, there’s no way it’ll break. You can email us if you need any help with this, it’ll be our pleasure to help. 

Where are 2 or 3 of the best places you've had coffee (when OTTO is not along for the ride)?

There’s so much great coffee in Melbourne and Sydney now, picking 2 or 3 wouldn’t be fair. Epicure in Melbourne or Good Living Grower's Market in Sydney will point you in the right direction, though...

The best meal you've had recently is...

Cotton Duck in Surry Hills, in Sydney. And Coda in Melbourne.

A man's watch, car and espresso maker say a lot about him. What do you think having an OTTO espresso maker says about someone?

Most people buy OTTO because they love coffee, really good coffee. They’re people who’re broadly considerate and will generally make a greater effort for a greater result. I’m really fortunate getting to share time, phone calls and emails with people who’re “friends of OTTO.”

Thanks Craig, you've outdone yourself when it comes to OTTO's form and function, congrats. Buy OTTO here.

25 June 2011
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