Category Archives: Starbucks

Starbucks goes Instant


It finally happened.

When more and more cafes in Malaysia moving towards fresher and better coffee, the GIANT that is Starbucks goes INSTANT.


RM8 per pack. Inside consist of 3 servings.

I rope in 2 unsuspecting “victims” for some blind test. I bought the Colombia Pack.

Using the Colombia from Highlander, I made 2 portions. One using the V60 Dripper and another using Aeropress. And then the last portion, Starbucks Instant Colombia.

Epic Failed Award goes to ….

Latte Art on Coffee


Not many cafes in Malaysia make their cappuccino or cafe latte with LATTE ART on them.

The word LATTE basically means MILK. So latte art means art made with milk.

Incidentally, many people went into Starbucks and asked for a latte not knowing that they were actually asking for MILK! Well, that how words lost their meaning. Perfectly meaningful words being mis-used. Back to the matter of latte art and cafes.

The only cafes I know of that serve their milk-based drinks with latte art are Espressamente Illy and Segafredo Espresso. And I don’t mean those cafes that shows us latte art only when interviewed by journalists or when they appear on media, or those where latte art only appears on their menu. Seems like Espressamente Illy and Segafredo Espresso cafes are the only that serves with latte art on a regular basis. Well, at least 8 out of 10 times is good enough for me.

Hey, if your cafe serves coffee with latte art, let me know. I want to come and try.

Note: let me qualify… when I say latte art, I meant those free pouring  latte art that shows a heart, an apple or a rosetta. NOT those who simple etched the surface with some chocolate sauce or colouring.

Is LATTE ART important to a cup of coffee? I assure you that latte art does enhanced that cup of coffee. How? Firstly, enjoying coffee is a sensory experience. It involve our whole senses. One of the very few things I like about Starbucks is how very cozy is their environment. (they can’t make a good cup of cappuccino if their lives is depending on it)  A nice cup of cappuccino with latte art shows how much care and details were put into making it.

Latte art on coffee basically enhances 2 aspects of consuming coffee. It is pleasant to the eyes and sweetly smooth on the tongue.

The fact that it is pleasing to the eyes is easy to understand, but there is another reason why it is lovely to the tongue.

In order to pour latte art like this picture (not by me unfortunately), the milk need to be correctly frothed. The stretching amd texturing must be well done and temperature must be ideal.

Actually, when you have correctly frothed milk, even without the art, it will still taste sweet and velvety.

And when you add the art, wow… that is a lovely coffee experience. With lovely milk and art, it can turn a lousy cup of coffee to be bearable. A bearable cup to average and an average cup of cofee to decent. And if you have quality fresh roasted coffee to begin with, you can get a GREAT cup of coffee.

Of yes, LATTE ART works on hot chocolate too.

Finally: don’t go and whacked the barista in Espressamente Illy or Segafredo Espresso if your cappuccino does not come with latte art , ok. Consider it a bonus. It is a difficult skills and take time to learn, practice and perfect.

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.

highlander-supreme.jpg

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

hl-espresso.jpg

hl-espresso2.jpg
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.

highlander-espresso.jpg

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.

Espressamente


(Special Note: The improved experience is here)

Drop by Espressamente today. This is a store of everything Illy. Illy’s home espresso machine (Francis! Francis!), Illy coffee beans in cans, Illy Coffee cups and big Illy logo everywhere.

Location: 3rd Floor, The Pavilion.
The front entrance faces towards KL Plaza.

The display of beverages were nicely done. In fact they look so good, I really felt like trying them all. Presentation is impressive.

espressamente.jpg

But alas, the coffee is average at best. I would rather go to Gloria Jeans.

I ordered a Cappuccino.

espressa-cappa.jpg

As you will notice, there are some attempt to create microfoamed milk. (They call it emulsified milk), but the milk were not really velvety smooth. Still lots of small (small but still very visible) bubbles. Well, still better effort than most Starbucks.

One thing that is almost always consistent with places that uses Illy beans is that the beans lack freshness. How do I know? Credit to them, when the espresso is extracted, it does look promising from afar. Small stream of mouse-tail-like espresso pouring out. Extracting time is about 20 to 25 secs, I estimated. But the result in the shot glass is apparent. THE LACK OF CREAMA.

You don’t see a lots of crema in Starbucks because most of the time, their espresso extraction is less than 20 secs, in fact from my personal observation, most of the time it is less than 18 secs. They can harldy get the extraction timing correct, how in the world to get nice crema. Especially most beans in Starbucks is OLD.

Another thing that really bug me is that they re-froth their milk. No wonder the microfoam is not well done and most of the natural sweetness is missing.

Why am I being so critical. Dr Ernesto Illy, the second generation of the Illy family, and an absolute giant in the world of espresso and coffee research and science – has just passed away on the 3rd Feb 2008.

dr-ernesto-illy.jpg

Using the Illy brand, they owned it to the Illy family to do a good job.

Especially if you want to charge premium price for a cup of coffee. My 7oz of cappuccino (smaller than Starbucks and Gloria Jeans) cost RM 10.00. Add in 5% tax + 10% service charge, a whopping RM 11.50.

Good presentation, nice design, average coffee and ridiculous price.

Note: All comments are purely my own opinion and preferences. Feel free to go and try. It is your money.

Last thought: There are many cafes out there. Most serve an average cup of coffee. I don’t really want to complain too much. They did charge an average price for an average coffee. But when you charge even higher than Starbucks for a smaller cup of coffee, get your act right lah.

Re-frothing milk??? Dirty portafiler??? Never dry the portafilter before dosing??? Arrrgghhh..

Final good thought: The Illy cups are great. In fact they are among the best. Thick and nicely design. Not cheap but definitely very nice cups. I will go back and buy their cups for sure.

Starbucks’ Blackberry Green Tea Frappe


Just in case some people think that I have nothing good to say about Starbucks, here are the things I appreciate about Starbucks:-

1. Biggest influence in Malaysia (probably the world) in making it hip and cool to pay
RM10++ for a latte.
2. Of all the Coffee chains , they have set the highest standards (though average at best)
in espresso preparation. At least I have never seen a “dead shot” of espresso sitting
there waiting for the next customer. Those who commits such horrible “evil” in the
espresso world, you know who you are.
3. Free Wireless Internet Access. Those who don’t provide such affordable service are
definitely daft. It cost less than their RM10++ latte a day.

Of course, their high standard of espresso preparation is on the way “DOWN”, since their policy to switch to Super-Auto machine. Click here for details.

Usually I don’t fancy their ICE-Blended drinks. Too sweet. But that has just changed.

Enter their Blackberry Green Tea Frappe.

Green Tea Frappe

Nice. In fact pretty nice. Give it a try but it cost more than a RM10++ latte. I think at least RM14.

The End Of Espresso in Starbucks???


Some Starbucks in Malaysia no longer sells espresso. Some newer outlet (like the one in Pavilion) and some renovated outlets like the one in Mid-Valley have change their excellent Espresso machine to a Super-Auto Coffee Machine.

Do they still sells espresso? Yes, on the menu. But in actual sense, they may not be selling you espresso at all. Why? Because they can no longer make espresso.

Espresso basically refers to a method of making coffee. Therefore, to make espresso, there are a certain widely recognized standards accepted worldwide.

Therefore, to make a proper espresso you should fulfill the following:-
1. Necessary portion of coffee. 7g for a single shot.
2. Temperature from grouphead: 88 to 92 degree Celsius.
3. Entry water pressure at 9 bar ±1.
4. Extraction time at 25 seconds ±2.
5. Volume: 25ml to 30ml.

Of course not everyone agrees to the standards of making a proper espresso. Variation exist. Some people updose the coffee to 8g. Some people practice extraction time between 18 to 24 seconds, others practice 23 to 30 seconds.

Generally, extraction time over 30 seconds will produce bitter coffee (over extraction). Anything lower than 18 seconds will produce espresso that is bland or sour (under extraction). Personally I prefer mine between 23 to 28 seconds.

So, what has all these to do with Starbucks. I was at the Pavilion 2 days ago. I thought, well since they put in the new machine, does it making more consistent drinks?

And horror of horrors. Espresso produce in less than 13 seconds. I think it may be even lower still. What kind of espresso is that? I actually ordered a cappuccino. Yucks, i’m not drinking coffee man. I’m just drinking milk. It was horrible. What am I gonna do? Last time, I can just ask the machine attendant (they called themselves “barista”) do redo a drink. They can always adjust the grind or increase the tamping pressure.

But now, its a Super-Auto. They can’t do shit. No calibration allowed. So there you go. RM 10 Ringgit for a cup of milk plus some added coffee water (I can’t call them espresso).

Can you imagine this? Cappuccino is espresso with frothed milk. But if you don’t make espresso anymore, what do you call that “drink”. I called it “Weak Coffee plus milk”.

Wanna get an espresso? Latte? Cappuccino? Go to Gloria Jeans, Dome, San Francisco Coffee. Not Starbucks. At least not the new outlet with Super-Auto machine.

3 Cappuccinos


Here is a comparison on 3 cappuccinos.

Starbucks cappa
Starbucks

Gloria Cappa
Gloria Jeans

pretty-decent-capp.jpg
Mine

I was really surprise by the Gloria Jeans in the Pavilion.
In the past, they were no where even near Starbucks’ standards.
Now, I have to say they have surpassed Starbucks. At least the Pavilion’s outlet.

Have not try the real test, which is their espresso. But from the cappuccino, you can see a decently frothed milk. Check them out. Cost = RM 6++

As for Starbucks, one look at the scary foam and my money down the drain. And they dare to charge RM 9++.