Category Archives: espresso

Really Good Espresso in Malaysia

I said that good espresso in Malaysia virtually DOES NOT EXIST go in year 2007.

It’s time to update the list. It is good to say that after more then 2 years since, there have been some improvement in the local GOURMET coffee scene.

Well, I have to say that I am regularly having very decent and good espresso. That is because I am making them myself. But we must understand that brewing coffee the espresso method is very different from other brewing methods. And it is one of the most expensive way to brew coffee.

You will need a decent espresso machine (not those toys you find in electronic shops), a decent grinder (again, not those toys in the electronic shops), good quality fresh roasted beans and good barista skills. Without these 4 elements, you will not get good espresso.

Good espresso is flavourful. Notes of chocolates, nuts, citrus fruits like orange and berries can be experienced. Do not be surprised (or maybe you should be surprised) if you even taste sweetness which I have had many times with good espresso. Usually too with subtle bitterness. Notice the word “subtle”. BITTERNESS is not a PRIMARY profile of good espresso… in fact, any high quality good coffee is not bitter at all. Merely subtle.

Hey, all you Home Barista… are you guys and gals enjoying good espresso at home? Tell us more about your good and great espresso moment.

Ok… back to the list. I can say that for myself, I have only tasted good espresso in two commercial settings.

Cafe Departure Lounge
I love their espresso from their House Blend. BUT be warned… It is on the acidic side of things. It is bright, fruity and sweet. Brightness is not something most people like in their coffee. I urge you to give them a try. Their coffee is fresh and roasted by the excellent people of Five Senses Coffee, Australia.

The only place I know that serves illy the way it should be served. Love their “mafia-Corleone-family” gang of baristas.  A well made illy espresso is chocolaty, nutty and sweet. Had one recently pulled my Roy-Corleone 😀

Anymore cafe out there serving good espresso??? To cafe owner, if you are serving good espresso, do let me know.

The Barista
If you are going to either of the two cafes, always ask for the name of the barista. If you find someone who can pull you a good shot of  espresso, remember their name man. These people are hard to find.

Espresso Extractions

One of the obsession of coffee geeks is trying to get the so-called “perfect” extraction.

And wherever we hear some cafe trainers says “making espresso is easier than frothing milk”, we have to make tremendous effort to stop ourselves from “rolling our eyes” and say “yeah, yeah”.

Bottom-line: Pulling the “optimal” (instead of perfect) espresso shots requires technical discipline, skills and “God’s blessing”?

God’s blessing… hence “God’s shot”. Well, in Malaysia God’s blessings probably refer to high quality beans, skillfully blended and FRESHLY roasted. Why do you need God’s blessings in all these human endeavour? Well, in Malaysia it is really difficult to get these combinations without God’s blessings… really… I kid you not.

I got myself a batch of coffee that perhaps were half-blessed.

Both 24 seconds extractions using a double basket. Taste is pleasant but not really optimal. I think I will try with a triple basket later.

Mazzer Mini

One of the most popular Professional Grinder, the Mazzer Mini.
And it is available in here.

The Mazzer Mini

Finally, got my hand on a Mazzer Mini Stepless Grinder.

It is of the same category as my M5.

The Isomac and M5

The Isomac is the tiny stainless steel and my M5 is on the right.

Lot's of metal

The Mazzer Mini felt more sturdy because there is more metal. Notice the portafilter holder… thick fork metal. Produce clanging sound when you tap the portafilter against it. The On/Off switch is nice to press too.

Mazzer Mini - Top View


It is STEP-LESS. This mean you can make fine minute adjustment to grind size. Very important and useful if you are chasing the OPTIMAL espresso extraction. Turning of the dial takes some effort though. It was tight and you need to use 2 hands to make a difference of 2mm. (The adjustment ring on the M5 is effortless though, but you cannot make as fine an adjustment as the Mini).

The Doser

Wow… looks so nice eh? Don’t be deceived by the look though… this is actually where the M5 is better.

Well, I took this picture before actually putting in the beans to grind. After I actually ground up some beans, I notice that the “sweeper” does not sweeps very clean. There are grounds left in all the creaks. The M5 is definitely more efficient in “sweeping” of coffee grounds when you are dosing. Especially in a home environment, I always wanted to thoroughly “sweeps” away all the grounds.

There are not many good quality grinders available for the professional home users in Malaysia. How much more difficult if we are to search for one that give excellent consistent grinding to make our good tasting espresso? As if that is not enough, we desire one that looks good as well.

Mazzer’s advantages
– STEPLESS (good for those espresso lovers and those who don’t always change beans type and brewing methods)
– Produce consistent and quality grind
– looks good
– more metal (felt sturdier and more expensive)
– On/Off switch a joy to use (those who grind per cup will know what I mean)

M5’s advantages
– Stepped (for those who likes to experiment with many brewing methods)
– Love the sweeper in the doser
– Produce consistent and quality grind
–  Looks better than most commercial grinder (except the Mini)

Isomac’s advantages
– Half the price of the above grinders (Not suitable for commercial use)
– Small enough to bring it along for local trips (I’ll definitely bring it along for any local trips if I am driving)
– Grind quality good enough to make excellent espresso (Unbeatable at its price)

I wish I have all the above.

Learn how to brew coffee using many methods

You don’t need to invest thousands of ringgit to enjoy good coffee in Malaysia or anywhere in the world. Unless of course, if you want to enjoy good espresso in Malaysia, then a few thousands ringgit investment is required.

Aeropress, French Press, Moka Pot, Syphon, Drip and many other methods allow you to make nice tasty coffee at home.

Check out this posting from Mr. Cheah and learn of the many cool brewing methods with tips from many professional barista around the world.

Upgrading my Oscar Espresso Machine

The Nuova Simonelli Oscar Espresso Machine is one of the best professional home machine you can find. The price is reasonable for the Malaysian market. It is not too heavy, around 18kg. Huge 2litre boiler. Plenty of powerful steam to make excellent cappuccino and latte. Commercial grade brew head and a Heat-Exchanger machine that allows you to brew espresso and froth milk at the SAME time. Specifications here.

But there are 2 “flaws’ with the Oscar.

1. The 4-holes steam tip
2. Brewing pressure

Steam Tip Problem
The original 4-holes tip has a very wide angel of dispersion. Trying to make microfoam has been really difficult. Many of us has resort to plugging a hole or 2 with toothpick. The toothpick idea does work. I plug one hole and has been able to make good microfoam. It still requires a steady hand and full concentration to achieve perfect velvety smooth frothed milk.

Finally, Irving and I got ourselves a NEW 2-holes Isomac steam tip and microfoaming has become a piece of cake.

Here is how it looks like:

High Brewing Pressure Problem
Another problem for espresso lovers are the brewing pressure. The original settings of the Oscar came with a brewing pressure of around 13 to 14 BAR. The official recommendation of espresso extraction is set at 9 Bar.

The overly high pressure resulted in espresso that is slightly more bitter and less sweetness. After we installed in an OPV (Over-Pressure Valve), the improvement is definitely noticeable. Using my favourite Supremo Highlander Blend, the improvement is obvious, less bitter and much livelier.

Do note that if you are not  a regular espresso lover and drink mostly cappuccino or latte, you will not notice much difference and this issue may not concern you at all.

Here’s what happened when Irving installed the OPV on my Oscar Espresso Machine.

Before the setup.

Installing the T-Joint

The OPV is on the right of the T-Joint.

The final measure of the pressure. It is NOW at 9Bar. (I forgot to take a pic of the original settings at 13Bar)

If you have an Oscar Espresso Machine that is more than 1 year (after warranty), you may want to consider doing the upgrade.

The New 2-holes Steam Tip cost RM55.00

The OPV cost RM200 + RM150 for installation charge.

An Epic Experience at Epic Espresso

The Epic Espresso Blend has been one of my favourite espresso blend for quite some time. And of course, I had Simon to thank for introducing this lovely coffee to me. And being the true fan of Epic himself, he went to visit EPIC for a coffee spree. Below are the accounts from the man himself:

Adventure at Epic

Finally, after years of drinking the Epic Blend, I am finally visiting the famous café in Western Australia. Can Epic lives up to its tremendous reputation?

We were greeted with the fresh aroma of coffee even as we got off our car. The café is small and sits about 25 inside and another 10 outside. It spots a cool blend of retro and contemporary design. Nothing beats the industrial sound of human and machine combining to make great espresso.

KF Chan: note the price. very cheap if you are an Australian

Since the walkway between the bar and seating areas was quite small I was not able to observe the baristas in action. A few things I noticed though:

  • Every milk drink has latte art
  • They use the huge Synesso machines and Mazzar Robur grinders
  • The baristas adjusted the volume of the milk before doing free style latte art
  • They used the Greg Pullman tamper – and I found out later that the design was a collaboration between Greg and Epic.

Mr & Mrs Simon

First batch order – 1 Flat White, 1 Ristretto, 1 Latte, 1 Piccolo Latte and Affogato. The moment of truth as our orders arrived. The following comments were drinks ordered and consumed by me:
KF Chan: Greedy fella. Consume all by yourself??? Your wife just watch and take photos issit 😀

Flat White

No Sugar Needed

No Sugar Needed

Flat White – 1 part espresso and 5 part milk – incredibly sweet without any sugar yet does not take anything away from the coffee. Best milk based drink I have ever tasted!


Ristretto – The “restricted” shot of about 18ml of double espresso, nice deep red and brown colour – the shot is very intense with caramelised sweet finish. There’s not a single hint of bitterness. Not something I will drink often but a showcase of how good the Epic Blend can be.
KF Chan: Are you sure 18ml for a double ristretto? A single espresso shot is 30ml. 18ml for a double is too short, right?


Piccolo Latte

Belgian Chocolate Couverture

Then we were offered the “Mojo” – a drink only offered by the Barista to their friends. The base was a single shot espresso, then filled with Belgian Chocolate Couverture and topped with another double shot espresso – then the drink was stirred – taste a bit like liquor chocolate.





The next day I came back (and actually the day after next as well) and I tried their Cappuccino and Mocha. I usually dislike Mocha because it can taste a bit bitter when not done properly. This version was superb and silky smooth although it can be a bit too sweet for those who are used to drinking coffee without sugar.

No Extra Hot

No Extra Hot

KF Chan: Don’t insult the barista by requesting your coffee “Extra Hot”

Truly Epic Café lives up to its considerable reputation. I went to the café three days in a row. There was a slight drop in the quality on day 3 (with a different crew) but overall they displayed an absolute master class in preparing espresso drinks. Three days and AUD150 (RM450) spent – it was a great experience. Epic claimed they could possibly be one of the best espresso café in Australia – based on my experience I would not disagree.

Thank you Simon for these lovely photos and memories.
Note to self: Must visit Epic before I go.

dr.CAFE @ Solaris


This is like a quiz. Anyone can tell from the procedures below, what did they do WRONG.

Happenned to be at Solaris, Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur today and saw a nice looking cafe.

“The best coffee in the world”

That of course is their Tag line lah.

They originate from Saudi Arabia.

It was very well decorated. And they sells some very interesting stuff… mugs, cups, thermos, thermometer, french presses, drip coffee makers and ready for this… The Eva Solo coffee maker.

The Eva Solo is a really cool and sexy looking coffee brewer man. Wee Chuan should really do a review on it.

The pastry bar looks good but I can’t be spending so much on them. You guys give them a try and tell me if they are really as good as they look, ok.

They also have quite a selection of single origin whole beans. Guatemala. Costa Rica, Sumatra, Ethiopia, Columbian and their own espresso blend too. And surprising there is “manufacturing date” on the packaging.

The “manufacturing date” is SURPRISE! SURPRISE! July 2009!!!!

JULY 2009!!!

Can you believe that?

Ok, I thought to myself, if the “manufacturing date” (which I hope it really meant roasting date) is only 2 months old, maybe the coffee should be pretty good.

So I ordered an espresso and cappuccino. From the way I was looking through, they asked if I’m a coffee lover and i answered affirmatively. I ask the barista how many seconds is their standards of espresso extraction and he says 17 to 23 seconds. O-Oh… red flag… then i remind myself, “Don’t be so judgemental. Even Barista Competition also states between 18 to 26 seconds. See first”.

Then I stand right next to the espresso machine and squeezed myself into the corner to take a good look at the preparation process. I have my camera out and ready to snap some pic.

But alas, the “barista” says.. no, no… cannot take pic and point me to the “no camera” sign. Sigh… ok.

Well, if I’m not allowed to take pic, all my attention will be on how he is going to prepare my drinks.

Here’s the procedure:-

1. Pour milk into pitcher (30oz pitcher I think)
2. Flush the portafilter with hotwater.
3. Immediately dose into it.
4. Tamp, knock-knock, tamp again.
5. Lock in the portafilter to the group head.
6. Start frothing milk
7. Finish frothin milk
8. Start brewing from the portafilter in step 5.
9. Sink the shots and try again saying the shots is not good.
10. Repeat steps 2 to 5 and 8 again.
11. Repeat step 9 for two more times.
12. Colleague comes and do steps 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8.

Then serves me the espresso. I took a sip and walk to the other side on the counter when they gave me my cappuccino.

Espresso: Lack of crema (doesn’t look like a 2 months old beans), bitter and burnt taste.

Cappuccino: Hard foam on top. I took a careful sip and OUCH… burnt my tongue. Wow!!! Remember the milk already done at step 7. How in the world it can still burn my tongue I cannot tell. Did they re-froth the milk while I was walking around the counter? I don’t know but one patch of my tongue just lost sensation.

If you guys are going there, do tell of your experience.

Btw, Free Wifi available and the seats are REALLY comfortable.