Wondering if what’s the difference between the kopi you’re familiar with and the coffee you get in specialty cafes? The key difference is the type of coffee beans used:
What coffee is used in Kopi?
Kopi is traditionally brewed using robusta coffee beans instead of arabica beans that are preferred in the West.
Traditionally, Singapore kopi features robusta beans that are roasted with margarine or butter and sugar. These are usually roasted dark, aromatic and slightly oil. Depending on the roaster, fillers like corn are added to the mix. The added fillers helped to reduce the cost which was an important factor in the early days of the local kopi culture. They also give the kopi an additional malty and nutty finish.
Every kopi roaster offer a range of blends and their own roasting style. The roasting process strongly influences the final cup of kopi – usually strong, robust and nutty.
How is Singapore kopi made?
Roasted robusta beans are ground to something similar to a medium-fine consistency (although this may vary by roaster and kopi shop). The robusta coffee grounds are tend steeped in hot water off the boil in coffee pots, ready to be served upon order.
Each kopitiam would use a slightly different brewing recipe. Some keep their recipe and process a secret while the bigger kopi chains have managed to finetune theirs into a replicable SOP to churn consistent cups of kopi all day long.
Today, there are ‘artisanal’ kopi brewers exploring and offering blends of robusta, liberica and arabica beans. Some have started grinding their beans on demand while others have kicked up the novelty notch by pulling robusta kopi ‘espresso’ shots using an espresso machine instead of the traditional sock brewing method.
If you’d like to brew your own kopi at home, read our kopi brewing guide.