The home barista is in

The next time you visit a friend's house, do not be surprised if you are served a hand-pulled espresso shot or a cup of brew that boasts pretty latte art.

Discerning coffee drinkers are now buying home barista equipment to grind coffee beans, pull espresso shots and steam milk - which are typically done in cafes.

Home baristas are growing in number because of the booming cafe culture here.

More coffee-centric cafes and local coffee roasters have opened in the last three years, which have helped to develop a taste for speciality coffee sourced from around the world.

Home barista machines are several times more expensive than consumer coffee machines, which typically cost a few hundred dollars.

Brands of machines popular among home baristas include the Rocket Espresso Milano and Bezzera Strega, both from Italy; and the Expobar Model Office Leva from Spain. These machines cost between $3,000 and $8,000 each.

Unlike consumer coffee machines, these semi-professional home barista machines extract more flavour from ground coffee beans because they are able to better regulate water temperature and pressure.

These espresso machines are also fitted with larger boilers and powered by stronger pumps.

Local coffee purveyor Papa Palheta, which has been bringing in Rocket espresso machines over the past five years, has seen a year-on-year sales increase of up to 10 machines.

Its coffee showroom in Tyrwhitt Road has doubled its shipment frequency to once every three months over the last five years.

Owner Leon Foo, 33, says: "These semi-professional machines stabilise the range of brewing temperatures with industrial-grade parts to produce coffee of consistent quality."

Fine Coffee Company in Chang Charn Road, which distributes brands such as Expobar and Bezzera, says sales have jumped by up to 50 per cent year-on-year in the past three years, with at least 10 machines sold monthly.

A spokesman says the trend of capsule coffee machines in 2011 planted the concept of enjoying an espresso at home.

He adds: "Those who used the capsule machines started to compare the difference between their home brew and cafe-style brew and realise they want higher quality coffee."

Highlander Coffee in Kampong Bahru Road, which distributes Vibiemme espresso machines here, notes that sales have risen yearly by 20 per cent since 2008, with about 20 machines sold annually.

Owner Phil Ho, 49, says: "Some customers are well-travelled and appreciate aspects such as acidity in their coffee. They also want to be in control of their brew."

Besides buying home barista machines, coffee enthusiasts can also take barista lessons.

Topics such as coffee extraction and tasting notes are covered and they can try their hand at grinding coffee beans, pulling espresso shots, texturing milk and doing latte art.

These sessions are usually small - up to 10 participants - and most schools use commercial-grade equipment to give participants a taste of a professional barista's work.

Kinsmen Coffee, which does speciality coffee catering at events, conducts four barista training sessions a month at its Bedok North facility. Its two-hour Introduction To Espresso course costs $200 a person.

About a third of its participants own a home barista machine.

Founder Jervis Tan, 25, says: "Most participants want to know more about making coffee as well as try the machines before deciding to invest in one at home."

He conducts classes at people's homes if they own a machine.

He says: "They want to familiarise themselves with their machines and calibrate the temperature and pressure of water to get a more complete extraction of coffee beans."

Some barista schools offer practical sessions for people to use espresso machines.

Bettr Barista Coffee Academy in Mactaggart Road, which offers about 10 coffee-brewing certification courses, has two-hour practice sessions. Each session costs $80 and coffee beans and milk are supplied.

Co-owner Pamela Chng, 39, likens it to a "barista gym".

She says: "Coffee-making requires a lot of practice and some people want to zoom in on areas such as steaming milk or pulling shots and may not have access to home machines."

In her Home Barista Basics course, participants can go beyond "being YouTube learners" and explore the spectrum of flavours that comes from the different coarseness of the beans by adjusting the coffee grinder.

Despite more people brewing their own coffee at home, it has not affected the business of the speciality cafes.

Dutch Colony Coffee Co, which has outlets at The Grandstand and Frankel Avenue, has seen an up to 40 per cent jump in revenue for its in-house roasted beans in the past two years.

Co-owner Suhaimie Sukiman, 33, says: "People who buy coffee beans drop by to try coffee from beans they don't fancy brewing at home.

Home baristas say they are inspired to make better quality coffee similar to the ones they have tried overseas and also relish the control they have over their brew.

Technical officer Amir Abas, 45, who drinks three cups of coffee daily, bought an Expobar Brewtus last month for his home. He also has a Gaggia Baby Twin machine in his office.

He says: "It is a worthwhile investment as I enjoy the satisfaction of brewing coffee from scratch."

Business development manager Sandry Mutheardy, 56, who has been brewing up to five cups of coffee a day with his Expobar Leva machine for three years, adds: "The coffee is more aromatic because I can extract most of the flavour from the beans."

He spent five-figure sum on coffee

In the past five years, optician Andrew Hoi, 43, has spent a five-figure sum pandering to his love of coffee.

Taking pride of place in the kitchen of his five-room HDB flat is a sleek five-year-old La Marzocco GS3 espresso machine that he spent almost $9,000 on.

He also has a Versalab coffee grinder that cost about $3,200 and a host of barista accessories such as milk pitchers and tampers used to flatten ground coffee.

Mr Hoi buys artisanal coffee beans from local roasters such as Nylon Coffee Roasters in Everton Park every week.

He says with a laugh: "I don't think about the money I have spent or else I will lose the enjoyment of brewing coffee at home."

The heavy coffee drinker downs three espresso shots in the morning before work and another espresso shot in the evening sometimes.

The caffeine does not keep him awake at night, he says.

He also makes a cup in the morning for his 45-year-old wife, Sharon, an administrative manager.

Mr Hoi chose the high-end espresso machine because it can calibrate the temperature of the water used for brewing coffee.

The machine is also able to saturate the coffee with water on low pressure for six seconds before applying the full water pressure when extracting the coffee. Mr Hoi says this results in a richer and well-rounded coffee flavour.

He is so serious about his coffee, he even routed an extension from his kitchen's water pipe to the machine so that the machine will get a constant supply of water at low pressure.

Mr Hoi caught the artisanal coffee bug in 2010, when the coffee scene here burgeoned. He went cafe- hopping every week and struck up conversations with baristas and other coffee-lovers on coffee-making.

The self-taught barista spent $3,000 on his first espresso machine, a Vibiemme Domobar Junior Double Boiler, and upgraded to his current one within a year.

He says: "I'm always curious about how much more I can get out of my coffee beans."

Barista machines for the home

Nuova Simonelli Musica

What: This machine allows users to select the amount of espresso they want in a shot and comes with a sound-proof pump to minimise noise during the process.

Price: From $3,350

Info: Call 6448-5030 or go to

Rocket Espresso Milano R58

What: This dual boiler espresso machine features a smart controllerfor a precise brewing temperature. It is fitted with a rotary pump and allows users to choose between a direct water supply and water stored in its reservoir.

Price: $3,900

Info: Call 6299-4321 or go to

Vibiemme Domobar Super Double Boiler PID

What: It is able to control brewing temperatures precisely and comes with an in-built water tank. The steam/water boiler and the coffee boiler are independent of each other, which gives better temperature control overall.

Price: $3,699

Info: Call 6226-1686 or go to

This article was first published on October 19, 2015.
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