Category Archives: grinder

Espressamente – An Improve Experience

Went to Espressamente again today with my wife. My first experience was not that great.

But I was impressed by Michael D’Alessandro’s response… “We are not a Starbucks who in reality, is more about the people than the coffee, we are a specialist coffee bar who are as much about the coffee as the people.”¬†

Reached there around 3pm and lucky me, Michael was around. It was lovely to be able to chat with like-minded coffee enthusiast.

He was true to his word and offer to make me a nice drink. I asked for an espresso for myself and an americano for my wife.

Many times one can somewhat predict the quality coffee by observing a few visual clues.

Let’s consider the 4 “M”s of good espresso.

Macchina (espresso machine) – La Marzocco, good machine.
Macinacaffe (grinder) – Mazer, excellent grinder. Need a good Mano to adjust the grind.
Miscela (coffee blend)
Mano (the barista)

Here’s the Mano. How do you recognise an expert? Notice his attention to details.
– Cleaning the portafilter.
– Flushing the portafilter to ensure that it is hot.
– Wiping it dry.
– Careful dosing and tamping.

The visual from the extraction looks good.

Here’s the result.
It is good. Smooth, medium acidity, moderate body and a nice after-taste. No bad bitterness.
In fact my wife was raving about it afterwards and she is one who normally gets headache drinking bad coffee. The americano was just as good, with hint of fruitiness. You know how I always rant about not finding good espresso in any cafes in Malaysia. I take that back. Here’s one worth trying.

The Miscela (coffee blend) of course is Illy. Normally I don’t fancy Illy. In most cafes, they are very much lacking in freshness. I guess in Espressamente with reasonably high volume traffic, their beans should not be staling so fast. And Illy was known to be quite a forgiving blend.

Therefore, if it is reasonably fresh with the 4 “M”s in sync, you should get a pretty good cup. And if you are at Espressamente the next time and the espresso is not good, most likely it will be the Mano’s fault. Ask them to redo or complain to Michael.

Lastly I asked to try again their cappuccino.

What can I say? It was better than my last visit. Microfoam was better. It’s a decent cup of cappuccino that I consider above average and certainly better than most cafes. Oh yes, the cups.. it’s top notch. Thick and beautifully designed.

Here’s Michael on the left with his crew.

It’s a pleasant afternoon, good espresso and nice coffee.

For good coffee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia… visit Espressamente.

Fresh Roasted Espresso Coffee Blend

Now that the Election Fever had passed and the PKR-DAP-PAS coalition (Barisan Rakyat) had form government in the 5 states of Penang, Kedah, Kelanta, Perak and Selangor, it’s time for them to get down to their work. Let’s hope that positive changes will drive our country’s economic, social and political arena to higher growth and maturity.

It is time for me to re-focus my attention to the journey in discovering better espresso. Some people call it the espresso nirvana. Some term it the espresso “god-shot” where it felt as if god has blessed the cup.

Got myself some freshly roasted Highlander’s Supreme Blend.


After dialing in the grinder and pulling a couple of “sink-shot”, here are the results:


The shot above are done using those espresso glass from Starbucks. Heh heh heh.. Once I manage to convince one district assistant manager of Starbucks to give me one of their glass. She was kind enough to oblige me. One thing I can’t fault Starbucks is their customer service. I was after all once a very regular Starbucks customer.

If you notice the line on the glass, it measures at 30ml, which is the default measurement for a single shot of espresso.

What i pulled was not a regular espresso, but rather a ristretto. A Ristretto basically refers to a “restricted” shot. That shot above is about 23 to 25ml. Generally, ristretto gave a more intensed shot and the flavours are more pronounced.


This is espresso in a Bodum Double Wall Thermo-Glass. The sizeof the glass is 3oz or 90ml. What I have there is a double ristretto, about 45ml. A regular double espresso is about 60ml.

Wow, look at the crema. And this is from 100% arabica coffee beans, about 1 week from roasting. The taste is intensed, mild acidity, full bodied with a tinge of sweetness and very slight bitterness. Please do note that a good espresso is not BITTER. But having a very slight bitterness is actually desirable. And more importantly, it does not have any bad after-taste. (My previous ranting about espresso.)

I have been using Highlander’s Blend for some time. But it was only recently that I manage to find the correct combination in bringing balance to the (force?) whole espresso experience. I grind it finer, tamp it lighter…lo and behold.. it works ideally on my Gaggia Baby machine. Not forgetting the most important factor, the excellent La Scala M5 grinder.

Next… Cappuccino.

Americano – Rebirth

I’ve never like “kopi O”, and I used to say I don’t like Americano too.

As to re-tell the story, I really like milky drinks. Therefore, cappuccinos and lattes are my so-called staple diet. And these milky drinks are only really good with full cream milk.

Unfortunately, with my middle-kingdom kept expanding, I need to cut down milk intake among other things like fatty food, chocolates, nasi lemak , sugar and etc.

So, the healthiest coffee drink would be “kopi O”, brew coffee from french press or Aeropress and Americano. But they tend to be bitter and I need to add sugar and creamer. That defeats the whole idea of cutting fat and sugar.

And with my wife a little lactose-intolerant, I need to find way to make good coffee that is so good you can drink it on its own (like Gardenia bread in the AD, but I hate roti kosong).

Then suddenly the break through came. As you guys know, I have been emphasizing fresh roasted coffee. Well, my Highlander Supreme Blend of 100% arabica coffee is as fresh as they can get in Malaysia. But I am still unable to produce a nice cup of Americano.

That is until I change the grinder settings. In fact it was an accident. I was actually trying to improve my espresso experience. I normally grind to a certain fineness and give it a hard tamp. Extraction is around 28 seconds. Should be good, but somehow still lacking the complexity in the cup.

So, I change the grinder setting to one step finer but this time i use a softer tamp.

Dang, dang, dang, dang…. all the nuances of flavour came out. The fruitiness, slight acidity, good body and decent after taste. I did it. Lovely espresso. Wait a sec.. how about an americano. Immediately make one… wow… tasted great without milk and sugar.

Is this a fluke??? Quickly make a fresh cup for my wife. Ha… and she confirms it.

Americano that has a fruity and flowery taste of rose.

What did I learn here? Good americano like any other coffee style, you need four important ingredients.

1. Good quality, fresh roasted coffee
2. Good quality grinder
3. Espresso machine (Not toys like delonghi and krup)
4. Barista skills

Nuff said.

My story of the espresso machine and grinder – Part 2

I got my espresso machine about 1 year ago.

Instead of getting the grinder first, I got my espresso machine first. The reason I wanted to get an espresso machine is of course so that I can make espressos and espresso based drinks. Cappuccino, latte, mocha, afogato and etc are all espresso based. And I can assure you that you cannot make espresso without an espresso machine.

The cost of the espresso machine + grinder = RM 2000 + RM 2000. And I cannot afford RM 4000 at that time. But if I got myself the RM300+ grinder, I cannot really make espresso. (Actually the RM300+ grinder can make espresso, but it is notoriously difficult and messy. I’ve borrowed one from a friend and it frustrate the hell out of me). But what I really wanted to make espresso and cappuccino. Can you see my problem.

Alas, I got my espresso machine first from Etc-concept. Then I get my fresh coffee from my friend Danny at Dankoff. I will have the coffee grounded there and put it is Lock&Lock air-tight container. I normally spend RM16 for a week of coffee.

Here are the facts:-

1. Whatever they tell you about the air-tightness of Lock&Lock, they will not prevent the coffee from deterioration (but they work great for storing fruits, snacks etc).

2. Forget about drinking espresso unless you have the coffee freshly grounded and use immediately.

So, for the entire time, I only drink milk based drinks like cappuccino and I learn how to make microfoam, the stuff that makes all the difference in a cup of cappuccino.

Finally, it is time to move to the next level. I got my M5 grinder. It is one heck of a grinder. It cost me RM2000++ but it should last for 10 years. With the M5, it can grind for any brewing methods, from press to drip and it is excellent for espresso.


Now, my grinder is actually of a more superior quality than my espresso machine. While my espresso machine is an excellent home machine, the M5 is a commercial grade grinder. I got myself some very nice and fresh roasted beans from Dankoff, grind them with my excellent M5 and make excellent coffee with my Gaggia Baby D.

Next step, I can now offer barista service for small parties.

My story of the espresso machine and grinder – Part 1

Due to the many comments and questions I got lately about the decision to buy espresso machine and grinder, here is my story. I hope it will help all you lovely people to evaluate for yourselves the rational and the money to invest in your decision.

Note: in the world of coffeegeeks, the recommendation is always to get the grinder first. Then if you have money, go for the espresso machine.

Why grinder first? Well, to enjoy good coffee, you can do so without an espresso machine. The french press is a coffee brewing device you can find easily in shopping malls and they cost between RM50 to RM100. The Bodum has some very nice french presses.The grinder is most important because freshly grounded coffee tasted the best.

A note about roasted coffee beans. Unlike tea, let me assure you that aged coffee beans are worthless. The roasted coffee beans aroma and taste peaks between 5 days to 2 weeks from the roasting date. After that, it started going downhill. No technology in the world today are able to prevent the deterioration of roasted coffee beans. It is like preventing human aging. In fact, you can prevent human aging better than coffee beans.

Therefore, I can say all the coffee beans you see on the supermarket shelf are practically stale. Whatever they state on the “expiry date” are nonsense. The first time you open the package, you’ll get the whiff of aroma. After that, it is over. Now, I’m not saying that there is really no more taste and aroma in the coffee. It just meant that you are merely enjoying maybe only 30% of what could have been 100%.

And I can assure you, none of the coffee you see in Starbucks and Coffee Beans are fresh. I define freshness as coffee that is less than 4 weeks from roasting date. (in Malaysia, I stretch it to 2 months due to lack of supply)

What is worst than coffee beans that is not fresh? Ground coffee. Even if you have a batch of fresh coffee beans (say 1 week old), after you grind the coffee, it will lose its potential within 30mins to an hour.

That is why you need a grinder. If you grind your coffee and use them immediately, it has higher potential than grounded coffee.

Therefore, if money is an issue, get a decent grinder and a french press and you will be able to start enjoying decent coffee at home.

One big concern and one big question.

The big concern = It is notoriously difficult to get fresh roasted coffee in Malaysia.

The big question = How much is a decent grinder?
That depends on the brewing methods.

Coffee press (french press) and drip coffee = About RM 300++
Espresso type = RM 2,000.00

Summary: If all you want is nice coffee via presses and drip, just RM 300++ and a french press. If you want espresso, cappuccinos, lattes, mocha… those types that you pay RM10+ at Starbucks… It is a long term investment. Go to Part 2 of my story.