Singaporean Coffee - A Guide To Singaporean Kopi

Singaporean Coffee – A Guide To Singaporean Kopi

Last updated on February 1st, 2024 at 11:02

Singaporean coffee is tasty, delicious and different from anything that you have tried. It’s one of the few coffee beverages and cultures in the world where everything is different – even how it is roasted!

When you are in Singapore, be sure to try a Singaporean Kopi!

What Is Singaporean Coffee?

Singaporean coffee beans are transformed into their famed kopi after the roasting process where they are roasted at 180C (355F) with margarine and sugar for 25 minutes.

During roasting, which is an 80% coffee beans and 20% margarine and sugar mix, salt is added at the halfway mark when 12 and half minutes have passed. Towards the end, more sugar is added to produce a caramelized finish.

Once the roasting is finished, the coffee beans are aromatic, oily, browned to rich and dark color and caramelized.

Notably, lard and butter are frequently used instead of margarine.

The beans are then spread in slabs and left to dry, after which they are then ground.

The ground coffee is placed in coffee sock which is often brewed in a tall pot. The strong brewed coffee is then poured into the coffee cup.

Depending on the coffee beverage, evaporated milk or condensed milk, sugar and a little hot water to thin out your cup of coffee.

On its own, Singaporean coffee can be an overbearing drink, and thus the need for condensed milk, evaporated milk or hot water to be added. The addition of the condensed milk is a preference of many Asian as it adds a creaminess, a rich and thick texture and adds to the mouthfeel.

What Is Singaporean Coffee
Singaporean Coffee And Kaya

Read: Kopi O 

How Is Singapore Kopi Made? Singapore Traditional Coffee Brewing

Singaporean Kopi is always made with robusta beans or a robusta and Liberica blend and not arabica coffee beans. Singaporean kopi is always freshly roasted by a local roaster. This is something that you can be assured of as this style of coffee is really only sold in the South China Sea region and popular in Taiwan, The Philippines, Indonesia and of course Singapore and Malaysia.

Kopitiams is where you will find the traditional Singaporean kopi. The name suggests these are coffee shops that specialize in Kopi, light breakfasts and breakfast snacks and the Singaporean favorite Kaya toast.

In Singapore, Kopi is often served with Kaya toast, a toast with lightly boiled eggs. To be honest, it is a fantastic match with kopi tarik, a poured Kopi with condensed milk.

The freshly roasted coffee is ground on the spot, upon ordering once ground the coffee grounds are put in a coffee sock, and then steeped in a pot of hot water.

The coffee brewed is concentrated and poured into a coffee cup.

Depending on which particular Kopi you have ordered sugar, evaporated or condensed milk is added. Kopi C, for example, has evaporated milk added while Kopi O has hot water.

No matter what drink you order, it will have a serious dosage of caffeine.

How To Order Coffee In Singapore

Thanks to British Colonialism, English is widespread and a natively spoken language in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and The Philippines – where you will find Kopi.

Let’s decode the language of Singaporean Coffee, so you can order it like a pro using the local terms.


This is the most popular and frequently asked for Singaporean coffee kopi beverage. It is coffee with condensed milk.

Fresh milk in coffee is very rare all over Asia. Probably due in part to Kopi style coffee being very popular and often sold on street carts, by street side vendors and fresh dairy milk not being able to stay so well in the high temperatures of the tropics.

Asians generally are lactose intolerant, but don’t seem to have any problems with a little condensed milk.

Read: What does kopi mean?

Kopi O

The next popular coffee drink in Singapore. This is a strong black coffee served plain with no milk or sugar.

Kopi O Kosong

A Kopi O made with no milk or sugar.

Kopi C

A sweet and creamy coffee that is very caramel like. It’s Kopi with unsweetened evaporated milk. Kopi C is more suited to western tastes. Sugar is added and may suit you if you have a sweet tooth.

I said may suit you as this is not particularly a sweet drink.

Kopi C Kosong

This is a tasty kopi C with the evaporated milk but no sugar.

Other key terms to know are:

  • Gua: Strong, for example Kopi C Gua – A Strong Kopi C.
  • Poh: Weak, example. Kopi O Poh – a weak Kopi O.
  • Peng: Iced, for example Kopi O Peng – Iced black coffee (Kopi O).
  • Koi Ta Bao: Kopi to go.

As I said, English is widely spoken in the region where Kopi and Singaporean coffee is sold and simply talking to the baristas will get you the beverage that best suits your own personal taste.

Singaporean Coffee
Brewing Singaporean Coffee

Read: Malaysian coffee

Best Places To Enjoy Your Singaporean CoffeeSingapore Coffee Shop!

Coffee culture and in particular the Kopitiam culture is important in Singapore. Kopitiams are much more than a traditional coffee shop, they are place to enjoy a quick bite, a good Kopi coffee and a meeting place for friends.

Kopitams are all over the city state with Chinatown’s Tong An Eating House which is a family owned business for 5 generations and does everything the good old-fashioned way.

If you want a killer Kaya toast and eggs, with your Singaporean coffee, that is the place to go.

You’ll also find Killiney Kopitiams all over the city – they are a national franchise chain of Kopitiams with the warmth, charm and feel of a family business.

Sin Hoe Huat Café in little India has what can only be described as the breakfast of champions and killer Kopi to match it.

You don’t need to walk far to find one, there are plenty around Chinatown, which in my opinion and that of many locals is where the best ones are.

The best of the best – Nanyang Old Coffee, on South bridge road, and is Singapore‘s only Kopi museum. Their award-winning Kopi is a Kaya is a must. As you sit and enjoy you can read up on the history of Kopi and making of the beverage.

On Amoy street you’ll find Coffee Break where the brother and sister team have taken Kopi to a the third wave of coffee and have a tasty Ginger-Almond Kopi and a butter-pecan Kopi latte.

You’ll find their stall on the 2nd floor of the Amoy Street Food Center.

Frequently Asked Questions About Singaporean Coffee

What Is The Most Popular Coffee In Singapore?

The most popular coffee in Singapore are the following brands, based on sales volume:

  • 1. Tiong Hoe Speciality Coffee.
  • 2. Chy Seng Huat Hardware.
  • 3. Homeground Coffee Roasters.
  • 4. Huggs.
  • 5. Dapper Coffee.

Does Singapore Import Coffee?

Yes, Singapore imports on average 95,000 60kg sacks of coffee per year. The Island nation imports almost all of the food and beverage that it consumes. This includes coffee.

Does Singapore Export Coffee?


While Singapore does export coffee, it is one of the lowest (by volume) of the coffee producing nations. The principle nations and destinations for Singaporean coffee beans are:

  • The United States.
  • Malaysia.
  • Taiwan.
  • The Philippines.
  •  Hong Kong.

Which Coffee Powder Is Best In Singapore?

Instant coffee is not at all that popular in Singapore as, like Europeans and many other nationalities, coffee is a social thing – they like to go out for coffee

Here are the top-selling instant coffees: 

  • Nescafé Original 3 in 1 coffee, milk and sugar. 
  • AGF Instant coffee 3 in 1.
  • G7 Instant Coffee
  • Lavazza espresso grounds coffee blend. 
  • Maxim Mocha gold Instant coffee, mild. 

Is Coffee Expensive In Singapore?

Coffee in Singapore has an average rice of US$2.50 per cup which is pretty reasonable. The city state ranks 20th in the list of most expensive cities for a cup of coffee.

How Much Caffeine Is In Singapore Kopi?

An 8 ounce (240 ml) cup of Kopi O has 265 milligrams of caffeine, which is a serious caffeine kick; it has more than the equivalent of 3.5 shots of espresso.

The reason behind the elevated amount of caffeine is the use of robusta beans, which have on average 2.2x more caffeine than Arabica beans.

How Is Kopi Different From Coffee?

Yes, from what I have seen and personally experienced in Malaysia and Singapore when I lived there for a year and half.

When you request Kopi, you get the local coffee that is roasted differently and when you ask for a coffee you will get a coffee that has not been roasted with margarine, sugar and salt – that is how the two differ, the way in which they are roasted.

Also, a Kopi is always brewed using a coffee sock.

Final Thoughts – Singaporean Coffee

When in Rome, do as the Romans do and when in Singapore, drink Singaporean coffee like the Singaporeans do.

It is a unique and tasty coffee and worthy of the time and effort and be sure to have Kaya toast with it.

Join our vibrant and active coffee community on Facebook/Meta and share your Singaporean Kopi and Kaya selfies, funny coffee jokes and memes.

Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or, mentioning your name and location

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