Leon Foo’s Morning Machine Brings a Touch of Class to Your Daily Coffee Routine

Words by Diyanah Baharudin

Leon Foo’s The Morning Machine strikes the balance between that deep desire for consistency in your first cup of coffee, whilst allowing for some fun experimentation over the weekends. It allows one type of capsule to be tasted in multiple ways – precisely how different brewing techniques make the same coffee taste different each time. If you get bored easily, or just need a distraction this P2HA/P2/P, what may follow – this might just be the machine for you.

For coffee nerds, we share our first impressions with its sleek metallic silhouette, featuring a fancy click wheel dial and digital screen, which literally greets you “Morning” when you turn it on, and tells you to “Enjoy!” your coffee once it’s been brewed. It even reminds you to “Remove Capsule” after the process is over. These little touches humanize just another kitchen appliance. The Morning is indeed a world unto its own, a little wonderland of coffee joy that will do more than just deliver your cuppa. It will educate you in the basics of coffee brewing to the extent you care about it – but it will also forgive you if you don’t.

Most of us would know co-founder Leon Foo, as the person behind PPP Coffee, or Papa Pahlheta as it is known to us that occupied the back alley in a cool enclave. Together with his business partner Andre Chanco, whom he first met at Papa Pahlheta and formerly from Yardstick Coffee, official distributor of La Marzocco, ModBar and Rocket Espresso, the duo is now set on bringing convenience and quality in the form of a first-of-its-kind product, The Morning Machine, which started off as a Kickstarter project. Leon lets us in to his approach of creating that spark amongst coffee connoisseurs and his vision of becoming the go-to brand for all things “home coffee brewing”.

Popspoken: Share with us a little known fact about you and the biggest misconception people have of coffee entrepreneurs. 

Leon: I can be the most particular coffee drinker but at the same time I can be the most forgiving. This is because I know the huge amount of effort and extent in preparation people go to achieve a good experience with a coffee beverage but it sometimes still can go terribly wrong. The intent has always been good and we should focus on that part.

Misconception of coffee entrepreneurs is that we are like and focus on selling coffee, but most of us really come from a place that we really want to share and create coffee connections with customers.

Popspoken: Tell us more about how Chye Seng Huat and Papa Palheta started. What was your vision of it then and how has it evolved? 

Leon: I deliberately started the business from roasting specialty coffee, then I very quickly became intrigued with sourcing coffees from origin and fascinated with its traceable and quality aspect at the farms. Ethical sourcing  for buying green coffee became one of our biggest focuses. That obsession over the years also developed into brewing and serving specialty coffees in cafes and also selling high quality coffee equipment. As we pushed the boundaries of specialty coffee in Singapore and KL, our mission evolved into connecting people with coffee.

Popspoken: Do you think the coffee consumer’s mindset has changed because of COVID? If yes, share with us some findings and how you have adapted your business model to suit these mindsets.

Work-from-home arrangements have evolved people’s daily rituals and in many cases, people have replaced their usual cafe coffee runs with improved home coffee experiences. We built the Morning Machine to encapsulate features borrowed from professional coffee equipment but in a format that was intuitive and accessible enough for anyone to elevate their home experience.

Another consequence of the pandemic has been restricted travel preventing coffee lovers from enjoying some of their favourite cafes around the world. The capsule format has been an incredibly effective way for roasters to export their coffees overseas, our Morning Marketplace brings together capsules from the world’s top roasters with recipes from the roasters themselves so you can enjoy your favourite cup from the comfort of your home.

Popspoken: Share with us your top 3 reads to get up to speed on coffee trends. 

Perfect Daily Grind, Standart, Sprudge and of course our Morning Journal. 

Popspoken: How did the idea for Morning come about and did you anticipate that it would see so much success on Kickstarter? 

Having spent over a decade in specialty coffee, my co-founder Andre and I noticed a rise in popularity of capsules amongst roasters. However the options for capsule machines were limited in their abilities to express the diverse breadth of flavours that specialty coffee offered. We developed the Morning Machine in response, with precision-brewing capabilities and IoT-enabled to draw recipes directly from the roasters themselves. We aspire to make delicious coffees more accessible by allowing roasters around the world to share their coffees with a wider audience via a shelf-stable and logistically-optimised format like the capsule, as well as reducing the barriers to better brewing with a Machine that facilitates automation.

We were incredibly grateful for the success we enjoyed on Kickstarter, I think it’s mostly because the Morning Machine is the first of its kind. 

Popspoken: What are some cult-coffee cafes around the world that have impressed you?

Cupping Room (HK), April Coffee (DN), Colonna and Small’s (UK) and Stumptown (US). 

Popspoken: To the uninitiated, how would you describe the difference in taste profile in a standard Coffee Bean latte vs a hype-specific specialty latte? 

In general a better-blended espresso base and lesser milk to espresso ratio in a specialty latte will result in more flavour. Depending on the beans the taste profile will range from a tart jam to hazelnut and a rich chocolate flavour with more complexity and balance.

A skilled barista will also micro-foam the milk that results in a sweeter taste and better mouth feel.

Our in-house prosumer, Diyanah, an avid lover of coffee took the machine for a twirl and these were her observations.

Nespresso v Morning – At a price point that is more than twice that of a basic Nespresso, the first question that popped into my mind was “so how much better is this compared to a Nespresso?” I decided to test this out by trying Yardstick Coffee’s Snack (Breakfast Museli) both ways – using a Nespresso recipe for light, sweet coffees (for the Cosi capsule) and the roaster’s own brew recipe. One capsule yielded completely different flavours: The Cosi recipe made the coffee taste rather flat, although not denying its chocolatey sweet flavour. However, with the roaster’s recipe, I could smell the almond top notes as the crema emerged, and the espresso itself imparted a wonderfully warm, nutty, honey flavour, whilst the chocolate stayed muted in the background. The difference was quite stunning.

“Bloom & Brew” v “Short Light Roast” – Variety is to be found even within the Morning Machine’s own pre-set recipes. I tried April Coffee’s Burundi Nyabihanga capsules using both recipes. The former brought out the black currant and herbal middle notes of the coffee, whilst the latter made the blood orange acidity of the coffee shine through. Thus, the Morning’s recipes have the potential to expand the range of flavours delivered by one coffee pack, giving a little more value to each of your purchases.

Get creative, coffee nerds – Eventually, I became curious about why different recipes yielded different results. The Morning App allowed me to study the brew temperature, amount of coffee, water, and coffee flow of each brew profile. I decided to design my own recipe by tweaking existing Morning recipes. Starting with Morning’s “Tried & True” capsule, I used two different recipes and combined the best of what I liked. 6 capsules later, I realized that this capsule tasted best with a 15 second bloom time, at 92 degrees, with 25g of coffee extracted. Brewing it this way allowed the espresso to develop a smooth, viscous crema, whilst bringing out the fullest expression of its cherry toffee flavour. It was pure coffee nerd joy tweaking the different variables and learning more about how each changed the taste of the coffee. I punched out the same espresso the same way a few more times after and revelled in the satisfaction of pretending like I was an actual coffee professional.

Beyond Espresso? – Besides making great espresso, the Morning also makes decent filter style coffee, being equipped with “Kyoto Style Slow Drip” and “Long Light Roast” modes, amongst others. I’ll be honest here – whilst the coffee tasted good, it is unlikely to replace your filtered coffee routine if you already have one. From the moment you pour your whole beans into the container to weigh them out, putting your drip kettle on, smelling that first burst of freshly ground beans as you set them on grind. The whole process is rather meditative, and the Morning probably won’t replace that. Although it’s not likely to matter to you if you’ve already raised your eyebrow at the word “meditative”.

For more information about the Morning Machine coffee machine, go to www.drinkmorning.com/the-morning-coffee-machine.

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