This Hawker Built A Kopi Machine For Rental At S$238/Month

Created by Jason Thai, the KopiMatic machine automatically brews your classic cup of kopi.

Hawkermatic, the foodtech start-up that launched the kopi-making machine caused a stir in the online space last week with its attempt to digitize one of Singapore’s cultural frontiers: coffee.

A long-time player in the restaurant industry, Jason came up with KopiMatic when he couldn’t find a qualified kopi brewer for his coffee at One-North in 2015.

The plan was to build a machine that didn’t require the manual labor required to brew a cup. Jason learned everything, from 3D printing to design, to help prototype the KopiMatic.

It took three iterations to be satisfied, and Jason claims to have sold over 60,000 cups of kopi already. The machine is also capable of making other classic drinks like yuan yang and teh.

Jason Thai, founder of kopimatic
Jason Thai, Founder of Kopimatic / Image Credit: Hawkermatic

Hawkermatic says it has so far received interest from at least 10 local coffee shop chains, covering 200 outlets in total. Its goal is to deploy 1,000 units of the KopiMatic machine by 2022.

Will he replace the Kopi brewers?

According to Jason and his team, they’re convinced that even a coffee connoisseur would be unable to tell the difference between the kopi brewed by the KopiMatic and a professional kopi brewer.

If KopiMatic takes off, it could give Kopi Brewers a run for their money.

Currently, Kopimatic operates on a subscription model. It is available for rental at a minimum of S $ 238 per month.

According to financial websites like Seedly and MoneySmart, hawkers and their booth assistants typically earn between S $ 1,000 and S $ 3,000 per month, a cost difference of over S $ 800.

Unlike humans, the KopiMatic – being a machine – can run around the clock. It is also able to serve drinks at a faster rate than humans, moving 400 cups per hour in the serving line.

There is no need for “staff recruitment and retention fees, salary increases, annual leave, medical leave, personal leave and insurance” when you purchase KopiMatic, Hawkermatic claims on its website.

Responding to criticism that the introduction of the KopiMatic loses the “human touch,” Hawkermatic pointed out that automated brewing saves older kopi makers from repetitive stress injuries (RSI).

Older kopi brewers experience aches and pains when pulling pots of kopi every day.

While KopiMatic can ease this burden, it can also put kopi brewers out of work, or relegate them to smaller roles as servers.

KopiMatic: SEA Spin On espresso machines

The cost savings from a machine like the KopiMatic may be enough to tip hawkers over the edge during a period of low traffic.

The pandemic is keeping everyone indoors, and F & Bs – among the industries most affected – must cut costs. But what makes the KopiMatic different from an espresso machine?

The art of “pulling the kopi” seems to be a technique unique to South Asian culture that cannot be replicated in espresso machines.

There are steps in brewing kopi that cannot be skipped. This includes both ingredients like the use of condensed and evaporated milk, as well as the techniques used to “pull” the kopi.

Traditionally, kopi is filtered through a sock and poured from one container to another to create a smooth, frothy texture. Careful details like stirring the kopi mixture are also needed to ensure that the kopi tastes authentic.

kopi brewing singapore
Image Credit: AsiaStyleAsia

According to Hawkermatic, the KopiMatic replicates every step of the kopi brewing process. From the pour of the mixture, the wrist of the kopi brewer, even down to a precision milliliter of condensed milk.

This is not a feature you will find on an espresso machine, which only makes Western-style coffee drinks.

Granted, espresso machines are one-time purchases and are available as household appliances, so they’re still much more appealing to the average consumer than a KopiMatic.

Meanwhile, KopiMatic appears to be an inevitable development in the advancement of food technology. It can also be a welcome innovation due to the labor shortage in the hawking industry and high staff turnover.

Where humans fail, machines can enter, at least to extend the lifespan of a beloved aspect of Singapore’s food culture.

The machine is unlikely to completely destroy the kopi brewing profession, but it will certainly relegate them to smaller roles.

And if at some point we are able to brew our own cup of kopi at home, no one will wear it the worst.

Featured Image Credit: Mothership / The New York Times

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Jothi Venkat

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