Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Singapore startup launches first-of-its-kind machine to brew kopitiam-style coffee

SINGAPORE — Avid kopi drinkers could soon find that the next cup of coffee they order from their local coffee shop is brewed by a homegrown automated coffee machine, rather than hand brewed by a skilled kopi “tao chiew”.

Hawkermatic founder Jason Thai (pictured) created the KopiMatic when he could not find a skilled kopi “tao chiew”. The team plans to roll out 1,000 machines by 2022.

Hawkermatic founder Jason Thai (pictured) created the KopiMatic when he could not find a skilled kopi “tao chiew”. The team plans to roll out 1,000 machines by 2022.

  • Mr Jason Thai decided to design a machine to brew kopi when he could not find a skilled kopi brewer
  • His startup Hawkermatic aims to roll out 1,000 of the machines by 2022
  • Mr Thai is confident kopi brewed by the KopiMatic is just as good as a cup brewed by a kopi “tao chiew”

 

SINGAPORE — Avid kopi drinkers could soon find that the next cup of coffee they order from their local coffee shop is brewed by a homegrown automated coffee machine, rather than hand brewed by a skilled kopi “tao chiew”.

The machine — named the KopiMatic — is the brainchild of Mr Jason Thai, who came up with the idea when he could not find a skilled kopi brewer after opening his canteen-style coffee shop at Infinite Studios in One-north in 2015.

“(Back then) I thought maybe there’s a machine which can actually make Nanyang-style coffee so I can have that role filled and then be the cashier, but then I discovered that this machine did not exist,” he said.

Nanyang-style coffee is the type usually served in kopitiams, with the flavour enhanced by the use of palm oil or butter in the roasting process. This type of coffee has always been handmade, unlike coffee in upscale outlets such as Starbucks where machines are the norm.

Discovering this gap in the market, the 51-year-old decided to take matters into his own hands and took on the challenge of making the first version of the KopiMatic.

Though Mr Thai has always had a passion for building things — dabbling in carpentry and metal work — the complexity of the KopiMatic required him to pick up more skills, and he learned 3D printing and computer-aided design and manufacturing to create the prototypes.

The KopiMatic went through three iterations before Mr Thai settled on what he calls “version three” of the machine.

He recalled that at first, the machine was just a row of pumps on a metal shelf and the pipes were scattered around.

Now, the KopiMatic has become more compact and ergonomic. It features a dual dispenser and a set of buttons corresponding to the various common kopi orders that any staff member can easily navigate and press to mix a drink to the customer’s taste.

Businesses can install the machine in their shops for S$250 a month on a hire purchase plan.

Mr Thai and the team at startup Hawkermatic said they have received interest from at least 10 local coffee shop chains, spanning 200 outlets in total.

They hope to roll out 1,000 units by 2022. The machines are being made in Singapore.

MACHINE PASSED MULTIPLE TASTE TESTS

Of course, the first question on every kopi lover’s mind is whether the taste of the coffee brewed by the KopiMatic compares to a cup carefully brewed by a trained kopi “tao chiew”.

Mr Thai and the team at Hawkermatic told TODAY during a media preview on Thursday (Aug 13) that they are confident even a kopi connoisseur will not be able to tell the difference between the machine and a trained hand.

He recalled that two years ago, when he told his regular patrons that he was shutting his coffee shop to sell the KopiMatic to other food and beverage businesses, his customers were surprised to learn that they had been drinking coffee from a machine this whole time.

“I’ve sold about 60,000 cups using the older version (of the machine) and people liked it,” he said.

And it is not just the patrons. The team at Hawkermatic also invited several bosses of local kopitiam chains to test the machine out for themselves to see if it could match the traditionally brewed coffee in taste and quality.

In a taste test, the kopitiam bosses could not tell the difference between a cup brewed on the spot by one of their staff members and a cup brewed by the KopiMatic.

On top of that, Mr Thai said what appealed to the bosses was the consistency of each cup of coffee that the KopiMatic promises.

“The consistency (of each cup of coffee) has always been a problem for them,” he said.

Related topics

kopitiam startup entrepreneur KopiMatic coffee

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.