Java from Australia

Filed in Food & Drink

Here's that coffee article I promised.

I have some friends who I have known for a long time. We met in Australia while attending the University of New South Wales, were together frequently for most of the time I have been in Hong Kong and still stay in touch since they moved back to Australia. We're good friends.

Occasionally, I help my friends out with their Apple Mac computer problems. I've been working with Apple Mac computers since the late 1980's and know enough to be helpful to my friends. So when my friends announced that they were coming to visit their families in Hong Kong, I quickly asked them about bringing me a coffee espresso maker.

While in Australia last Christmas, my family's neighbour mentioned that the Australian Choice magazine had done a study and comparison of espresso makers. Remembering this little tidbit, and the fact that the leading espresso maker was not the most expensive one, I went online and found the study. It turns out that Breville makes good espresso makers at a price that I could justify. I researched the Breville espresso makers and promptly asked my friends to check the local pricing for me.

Now I've had one or two bad experiences with buying electrical appliances overseas before. Back in April of last year, I purchased a KitchenAid countertop cake mixer while in Los Angeles because the price was great and decent cake mixers are almost impossible to find in Hong Kong. The average Chinese person does not make cakes. My wife brought the mixer back with her but we later discovered that the mixer had developed a problem. In Los Angeles, we actually tested the mixer once and it worked fine. Back in Hong Kong, the vaunted "very slow stir" was malfunctioning. I can only conjecture that the mixer was damaged while being transported by airport cargo staff. If you've ever watched the video seen of airport cargo staff on 60-Minutes, you'll understand that your cargo is definitely not in the best hands at the airport.

Unfortunately, the mixer's warranty only applied to the U.S.A. so unless I could get the mixer back to the States, it wasn't going to get fixed. It never got back because we couldn't find any friends to take it back for us. We then discovered that KitchenAid actually does have a distributor here in Hong Kong, one that even supplies 220V models. If we'd known earlier, we would've bought it locally. They can fix our mixer for us but it will cost HKD600 for inspection and extra for any parts they need to replace. The price of the mixer could easily double once the cost of the repair is included. It's a really nice mixer so we'll have to fix it; soon.

So this time, I was a little more careful and checked to see if the Breville espresso makers were available in Hong Kong. It turned out that Breville has a local office and distributes product locally but they don't distribute the espresso makers locally. Bummer!

My new Breville espresso maker Well my friends came to Hong Kong and were anxious to see me asap. They completely surprised me by bringing over Breville's top model; the 800 Class Espresso Machine; and giving it to me as a gift. I was one very happy customer.

I've now had the espresso maker for almost two weeks. The available options are extremely limited but its two primary functions work extremely well; making espresso and frothing milk. There are no electronic LCD control panels and there are no complicated choices to make. And the machine is made extremely well; no plastic! It's a work of art.

So I won't be visiting Starbucks as often as I used to. The coffee I'm making at home is pretty good and getting better every time I make another cup. All I'm missing are a couple of shot glasses to measure the espresso output.

For those of you into coffee, here are the primary characteristics of the espresso maker from my perspective:

  • The entire machine is made of stainless steel. There's almost no plastic used in its construction. Almost every other espresso maker I've seen on the market is made of plastic unless you're buying the really expensive models.

  • It uses a 15 bar Italian-made thermoblock pump to deliver the espresso and the steam. 15 bars is a lot of pressure and espresso makers with that much pressure usually cost a whole lot more.

  • The water tank is easily removed for refill. It also features a transparent plastic gauge on the front so that you can instantly see how much water is left. It even uses a small blue light above the water so that the water level is extremely obvious no matter how bright or dark the room is. In addition, the water tank can be refilled by removing the tank or by flipping down a door at the back of the espresso maker and pouring water directly into the tank.

  • The milk frother just works. It's extremely easy to froth milk and it's quick.

  • There's a 'full' indicator in the drip tray so you'll know instantly when it needs to be emptied.

  • Maintenance and cleaning are simple and it doesn't require priming before or after each cup of coffee as some espresso makers require.

So if you're in the market for an espresso maker, take a look at Breville.

If you have any suggestions for coffee brands, please let me know.

Update (26 March 2008)

The Breville 800 Class Espresso Machine is now available locally here in Hong Kong. I've seen it in the B&Q store at Megabox.

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32 Responses to “Java from Australia”
  1. Thomas Cheung says:

    Where is the local distributor of Kitchen Aid?

    I know that this mixer can be purchase at Shanghai Street for around HKD2500 or in the "Pan Handler" in Prince Bldg in Central for around HKD4500.

    It is my dream to have such mixer, the real cost is I do not have a fix place in my small kitchen to place it permanent.

    Hmhmm, my low cost egg beater won't do.

  2. 河國榮 says:

    The version we purchased is the KitchenAid Classic. It's the 4.5 litre size. It only cost us around HKD1200 when we purchased it in the states but will cost HKD600 just to inspect the mixer here in Hong Kong.

    The name of the local distributor is Hong Kong Food Machinery. Their phone number is 25560099.

  3. Sue Yung says:

    I have been watching you in the idiot box since I was a little girl. what surprised me more was your fantastic voice and fluent chinese. I listened to the interview of you on RTHK2 last year, and could never imagine how you were able to transform from a medidcal stuent to an actor in HK. I admire your courage and intelligence. and my mom is also one of your fans. hope you keep up your work and produce more tvb shows and operas.

  4. Sapphire says:

    Any suggestions for coffee brands?

    All depend on which type of roast you like. Dark roast or medium roast?
    For dark roast, I got nothing to suggest, because I don’t like strong coffee.
    If medium to dark roast, my hubby creates a formula by blending three types of coffee beans together. He said blend coffee gives richer and more complex favor than just one single type of coffee bean. This formula is good for our taste but I’m not sure whether you like it. The formula is:

    Colombian Supremo (Med Roast) ½ portion
    Kenya AA (Med Roast) ¼ portion
    French Mocha (Dark Roast) ¼ portion

    I’d like to recommend you to invest a small amount of money on a domestic coffee bean grinder. In order to keep the freshness of the beans, buy the whole beans from outside and ground them every time at home just enough for one time use only.
    I purchased a Delonghi (Italian made) coffee bean grinder here at less than
    CAD50. (Appro. HKD300).
    For milk frothing, I’d prefer to use homo milk than 0% fat milk. I found out the foam from homo milk is thicker and richer. Maybe more fat content in homo milk can cause the foam thicker.(???) BUT you have to watch out if your LDL cholesterol level is high!!!
    For water, I’d prefer to use distilled water or bottled water than tap water, because I don’t like the strange smell of fluoride and chlorine in tap water. (Dr. Rivers, are they no smell at all? Maybe my nose is too picky.)

    Hope you like this formula. Enjoy your coffee!

    BTW, do you know you can turn your KitchenAid stand mixer to a food grinder,
    or a slicer/shredder, or a pasta maker by adding some specialty attachments to it?

  5. Alison says:

    Sapphire,

    Is Columbia and French Mocha sour? I wld like to try ur signature blend; but I don't particularly like sour coffee hence wld like to know. I agree w/ u. I always grind my beans just prior to making my cup of coffee. It definitely tastes better. I also use "Britta" filtered water. I have both a manual and electronic coffee grinder. I tend to like the former better but the coffee powder is not as fine, so I wld have to use the electronic one for my espresso machine and drip coffee maker. Most of the time, I will use my French press for my coffee. I'll use my espresso machine on weekends and my Japanese symphon only when I have lots of time. I thought espresso machine is only good w/ espresso beans. Wld it taste just as good w/ other beans?

    As for milk-frothing, so far I don't have much success w/ my espresso machine. But I found it a lot easier w/ (again) my manual milk frother. Yeah, I think the foam made from homo milk tastes richer & smooth.

    Greg,

    Y do u dislike drip coffee? I personally do not like instant coffee.

    As for coffee brand, "illy's" coffee from Italy is supposed to be good. But to me, it is the type of coffee (ie Kenya, Blue Mountain, Sumatra ...) matters more than the brand. I used to enjoy buying coffee from the Great supermarket (at the basement of SEIBU department store at PP. They have a coffee and tea corner, carrying a wide selection of coffee. There used to be an Aussie young guy, who is a coffee expert, selling coffee there. He is really good at interacting w/ customers and he knows a lot abt coffee. He also speaks Cantonese, but not as good as yours. I don't shop there for coffee anymore after his departure. I discovered recently that he is now working at my friends'cafe near Lan Kwai Fong. The signature blend at that cafe is something called "well bean", which mixes coffee bean w/ soya bean. Due to its low acidity, u can mix soya milk w/ their well bean coffee. I quite like it but it may not suit the palete of connoisseurs like u. R u still enjoying ur new espresso machine.

    Cheerio, AL

  6. 河國榮 says:

    Sapphire,

    I know about the mixer accessories. unfortunately, we still haven't taken the mixer in for repair. the cost of repair will double the original price!

    we saw a Delonghi coffee grinder is a shop nearby recently but it was a lot more than HKD300. many things in Hong Kong are more expensive than overseas. I guess this is true for coffee stuff too.

    I haven't tried your coffee mix yet. I have to find a place with a good coffee range. the Starbucks brand is ok but not great, at least not as nice as the Italian Lavazza Creme I'm using at the moment. Alison pointed me to a good coffee selection in SEIBU. I'll take a look if I ever get over there. (where's "PP"?)

    Alison,

    I dislike drip coffee. it's too bitter and rough for my liking. that's why I ask waiters at restaurants if their coffee is made by drip or by espresso before ordering. finding good coffee in Hong Kong is very difficult.

    I have no interest in soya bean products, especially soya bean cheesecake. yuk! (personally speaking of course). the exception is soya milk.

  7. Sapphire says:

    >Alison pointed me to a good coffee selection in >SEIBU. I'll take a look if I ever get over >there. (where's "PP"?)

    Greg,

    Where is PP?... it's Pacific Place at Queensway. If you're using Italian Lavazza at the moment, I think I have an idea about your taste in coffee. My coffee mix definitey is not as good as Lavazza and it is only a middle-of-the-road stuff. Don't waste time on my mix. Have you try Illy Espresso from Italy? Similar grade to Lavazza. About HK$95 for one can(8.8oz). It's good!

    Sapphire

  8. 河國榮 says:

    Sapphire, at $95 per can, it had better be good ;-) I'll look for it the next time I'm in the neighbourhood.

  9. Sapphire says:

    I found your Breville Espresso Machine on Shopping Channel finally.
    http://www.theshoppingchannel.ca/product_detail.asp?departmentId=3531&templateCode=PD&itemId=284863
    It’s not easy to find Australian made appliances at our local leading Dept Stores. They mostly carry N.Am and European products. The model I purchased was about HKD1300 only. 15-bar and the entire machine is made of stainless steel. Good deal eh.(It’s the same model as the one ranked “best buy espresso machine for 2004 “by Australian Choice Mag.). Of course not the same model as yours (I know the one you have is top of the line, pretty pricey). Last Saturday was the first time I made my coffee. The cappuccino looked pretty close to those one from outside coffee shop. But still room for me to improve.
    I found that the machine wouldn’t auto stop after the 4-oz cup was full of coffee. I had to power off the machine to make the flow stop. I know there are some smart machines out there (the high-end one), when you use the small coffee filter and select the right mode. Only 2oz (single shot) of coffee flowing into your cup, and then the flow will auto stop. If you use the large filter, the flow will give you 4oz(double shot) of coffee before stop. This type of machine is cool! For your machine, any auto stop function?
    FAQ: Do you know there is less caffeine in a typical shot of espresso than in an 8-oz. cup of traditionally brewed coffee? Surprise!

  10. 河國榮 says:

    Sapphire,

    my machine doesn't have auto-stop either. I have to watch it and turn it off which isn't difficult. the whole espresso thing takes about 15 seconds. waiting for the machine to heat between pouring hot water and steaming milk takes much longer.

    I didn't know that about espresso vs brewed coffee. I owned a drip coffee maker for a while, purchased it while in L.A. last year. the cups provided with the coffee maker are 16oz cups and for a while, I was drinking two of these a day; not good! I think three mugs (larger than cups) of my espresso coffee per day are probably too much but two 16oz cups? talk about getting the shakes!

  11. Johnny says:

    Umm....there isn't much home use esspresso machine you can get in HK department store, but certainly there are Agent still selling Francis Francis, Gaggia, and Rancello Slivia. Usually the 15bar only means the pressure that the machine max could hold. If over, then the boiler will Boooom, but don't worry it has a controller inside to tell when the boiler should stop heating to a certain temp. Some of the expensive home esspresso machine is that they could keep a consistance pressure of 8.5-9.5 bar and also brewing 30cc of esspresso in control temp of 92C. Due to that these machine are very expensive. For detail infor about reveiw of coffee equipment and esspresso machine try to check out http://www.coffeegeek.com. This is a place to check the evaluation before actually buy the machine that meet your demand.

    Happy Coffing,
    Johnny

  12. Jon says:

    Your Breville is fabulous! I recently bought a La Pavoni machine which is worked by a lever to generate the pressure rather than a pump but it does mean a lot of practise is needed. What I need now is a grinder that can make esspresso; this means it has to be a burr not a blade grinder (all my info comes from coffeegeek.com too!)but I couldn't find one even in Shanghai Street. Does anyone have any ideas where to look because on-line ordering is so expensive with the shipping costs for this type of item.

    One thing I've learnt in the last few weeks is to avoid esspresso or french roasts when buying the coffee. They are almost invariably just over-roasted to the point of burning. Illy is the best esspresso I've found and if you worry about the price just remember how much it costs for a coffee in Starbucks!

  13. 河國榮 says:

    Jon,

    even now, the Breville is making wonderful coffee although it seems to run as much water into the drain tray as it places in the coffee cups before and after pouring the coffee.

    I don't own a grinder yet. I'm lazy so grinding might stop me drinking my coffee, and as you noted, the coffee grinders here are expensive: HKD500 or more.

    I'm currently drinking Starbucks French Roast coffee and I have to agree with you. it's not the best coffee; too raw and a little bitter for me. I like their Kumodo and Gold Coast coffees much more. Illy is good too ;-)

  14. Jon says:

    Perhaps I'll try those coffees sometime, thanks.

    HK500 would be incredibly cheap for a real coffee grinder. The blade types are completely useless for esspresso but okay for a filter or cafe-press. Apparently what we esspresso drinkers need is something called a burr grinder and they start at US150 and up, and up! I'm going to ask around my restauranteur friends and see if I can find a trade or used source.

    Happy drinking
    Jon

    PS You might want to have the seals/gaskets checked on your machine if it is leaking water. Or you are not filling the basket enough with coffee and it is leaking around the top.

  15. easy_henry says:

    I was just searching the web for places to go fro coffee this time when I come to Hong Kong and wao... seeing my fellow CGs everywhere (Jonny & Jon)!!! What's your CG login?

    Anyway, back to the owner of this site:
    Grinder is most important equipement in making espresso. I can put a much better shot with an average single boiler domestic machine(say Gaggia baby) WITH a good burr grinder(just say a Mazzer Mini), than a top-class commerical machine (say LaMarzocco FB70) WITH a blade grinder(ie chopper).
    Brewing a good cup of coffee require unformly ground fresh coffee. That includes drip, espresso, fresh press, coffee syphon(vac pot), briki. Coffee goes stale within minutes of being ground. And fresh coffee should be within 2 weeks post-roasting. I don't know where in Hong Kong you're going to find freshly roasted coffee. I know Cafe Zambra roast their own coffee in HK and also Paul Bratt from JustJava roast coffee in HK.
    As for machines, my choices would be Gaggia Espresso/Carezza/Classic for lower budget. Next up would be a Rancilio Silvia. Next would be a HX(heat exchanger) machine-probably E61 (big jump since nothing in between is worthy). I could give reason all my choices, but I don't want to rant on too much. Just make sure you can find a local service centre(for your brand) just in case...
    As for semi-auto or auto models (the one that you have to stop brewing & the one that automatically stops at some volume correspondingly), at this price range, I personally would choose the semi-auto. Since there'll be no different between the 2 models apart from the brew switch option, and it's cheaper. At higher end machines, some auto may have time-delay pre-infusion and/or rotary pumps instead of vibrational pump.

    Sorry for going against you(Jon), but don't you find illy to be a little old? I'm surrounded by microroasters here in Melbourne, and I just can't get my head around illy anymore. I'm sure their espresso taste fantastic in Italy, but Nitro flush cans of roast coffee beans... I just don't know. Which LaPavoni did you get? I was looking at either getting a LaPavoni or an Elektra and the Elektra is winning so far...

    I'll probably be bring some Aussie coffee to HK with me, maybe we could do some cupping...

    Give me an e-mail or just post on CoffeeGeek's forum if there's anything else you(s) wanted to know about coffee. Cheers...

    go easy, keep brewing and happy tamping,
    henry

  16. easy_henry says:

    sorry for the typos...
    henry (A Honkie in Oz)

  17. Jon says:

    Hey Henrie

    This is getting wild! It sounds like we have an expert in the house.

    I have little choice until I find a grinder for ready ground esspresso. Illy is the best I can find so far but I'm really new at this - only been pulling shots for a couple of weeks.

    My machine is the Europiccosomething. I bought on impulse when I saw the picture. The service direct from La Pavoni was amazing - arrive in HK 2 days after ordering on the internet. I am learning with each shot and would be thrilled to have a master help out. Please do let me know if you are over here.

    I have, co-incidentally been in contact this week with justjava hoping for a happy relationship. So far, no call back and never got a response from Paul to an email several weeks ago...hmm

    I'm still on the grinder hunt..as I said, I'm a beginner and CG has taught me that I'm supposed to have a MazzerMini! Would you accept anything in a lower price range? US sites are obviously no good because of the voltage - any ideas where to buy?

    Sorry to hijack the blog guys! Must be the caffeine..

    Jon

  18. Johnny says:

    Hi Henry and Jon,

    Nice to meet Coffee Geek forum people here. You guys are really have great deal of fun there. It is very hard to find good home use esspresso machine or even a electric grinder in HK. Which need a lot of checking and making calls here. At present, I am only playing with Slivia. The electric grinder for esspresso machine which grind with very detail adjustment might be Rocky which you could call some of the coffee distributer in HK that sell shop use esspresso machine, but extremely expensive costing more than 1k above HKD.

    Wow playing the leverage machine (La Pavoni must be fun). Only tried it once in my friend place and certainly really need a lot of skill for that machine to brew well. One thing fun about this I feel that when you pull too slow, the taste just really mess up and very unpleasent. When the grind and tamp is correct, wow certainly another kind of coffee.

    About blending of bean for esspresso, certain percentage of french roast bean is require. Over roasted and french roast is totally a two different taste (from my home roasting experience).

    I have just applied a blog recently to seperate my company website, but my blog is in japanese(due to that hope to gather some Japanese coffee player in the future in HK). There is picture in there so it will be kind of easy to understand even not reading Japanese.

    Keep in touch.

    Thankyou,
    Johnny

  19. Johnny says:

    Hi all,

    Opps...here is my recently built blog....http://spaces.msn.com/members/firecrystallization/

    Thankyou,
    Johnny

  20. mausekopf says:

    I am looking for a grinder as well. After some research on the web, I came across the Gaggia MDF burr grinder. Have you come across this grinder? Do you know where I can find these grinders in Hong Kong? thanks.

  21. lily says:

    Hi Greg

    I have bought the same coffee machine as yours in Syd, thanks for your recommendation. I love the machine and the coffee it makes is fab. Initially the coffee i made weren't very nice, but I was taught a trick by my brother who also has the same machine- which is to preheat the machine for at least an hour. What i do now is I will turn the machine on and leave it for at least an hour, and after an hour I will run water (no coffee powder) with the filter holder in place and the coffee cup underneath so I can use the hot water to heat up the cup. After that you just do the standard coffee thing and it tastes great.

    As for coffee blend, I have recently bought 'The Espresso mix' (java and mocha, HK$30 for 0.5lb) from the coffee bean shop on Old Bailey St in Mid-Levels, I ususally use the double expresso filter for a cup of coffee but I would use the single expresso filter for this blend, my husband said the coffee now is comparable to Sydney coffee but still not as good as Melbourne coffee- well he is from Melbourne so he can be bias.

    As a result, no more starbucks and pacific coffee for me, cos the coffee I make is better!

  22. Greekelf says:

    Hi Another Java Lover,
    I got a cool coffee maker from some friends as a gift just like you. Hurray and Bravos to all those lovely friends. Howver, it doesn't come with a milk frother. Please, do you know where I can get one in Hong Kong?

  23. Marcello says:

    don't you think the Lavazza capsule system is the way to make a good coffee for dometic use? every coffee you make is like just open the bag/can, fresh & Aroma, I'm using it and I love it so much

  24. OZ Stinks says:

    can't stand you aussies!!! always "aussie this" "aussie that" "how we do this and that in aussie" and yet can't wait to get out there... get real ... the world is very big ... tugged away down under.... need people to remember you ha...!!

  25. Branda LO Kwok-man says:

    Hello, do you know how much cups of coffee can be made from a bag of cofee beans.

    I am a marketing student, I am preparing a business plan for a coffee shop.

  26. chi says:

    Any suggestions for coffee brands?
    i think this shop can solve any kind of the problem about coffee.
    here is the link, but no english version http://www.hkcoffee.com
    their roasting level is depend on the customer, something like tailor made. enjoy it.

  27. Edwin says:

    Hi
    Reached your blodg when I was searching for local price for a La Pavoni espresso maker, I then know you are a coffee lover. I am also buying coffee beans at hkcoffee.com. Their shop is at North point. The owners are nice and helpful. They even came to my home helping me optimizing my old La Cimbali last week. Tailor roasted beans are good too.
    Well, please let me know if you know where I can get a La Pavoni in town or anywhere at a lower price.
    Nice to be here and found you.
    edwin

  28. 河國榮 says:

    Lily, thank you for the suggestions. I'm responding 2 years after your comment! but I've been using your hot-water pre-heat suggestion ever since you recommended it. It's great. The hot water cleans out the filter, heats up the elements and the cup, and generally helps to make a better cup of coffee ;-)

  29. Karen says:

    Lavazza Hong Kong Distributor, they provide the espresso coffee machines at home. Check it out!!
    http://www.metadesign.com.hk/content/coffee.htm

  30. Kwong says:

    Did they close the HK office. Where can I buy the Breville in HK ?

    Thank you.

  31. catherine says:

    i m asking my friend to buy kitchenaid mixer in the states and bring it back to hong kong and it's definitely cheaper than buying in hong kong. however,what i concern is about voltage, the electronic appliance in the states is 120v whereas hong kong one is 220V. is it ok?

    - catherine

  32. Carol says:

    I heard that it's gonna run slower becoz of the voltage difference, and eventually it's gonna break down... i heard they are selling kitchen aid for $2700 in Shanghai Street, but i bought one from sogo for $4000...