Amazon product recommendation – Philips Sonicare 3 Series

I have used a sonic toothbrush for quite a few years by now, and i will not settle for less. I have been quite happy with the Arm and Hammer Sonic toothbrush. Me and my wife, we share the toothbrush by swapping the brush head. Even though the battery’s retention of charge has deteriorated, it is good for 4 days’ usage per charge, which is still decent actually. However, due to wear and tear, there is now a hole in the flap that covers the on/off switch, and this could be dangerous, so it is high time for an upgrade.

Time for retirement

Continue reading Amazon product recommendation – Philips Sonicare 3 Series

Amazon product recommendation – GermGuardian AC4825 Air Cleaning System

I have had the GermGuardian AC4825 for a few months now, but have not written a review on it, because it’s really hard to assess the effectiveness of such a product. Well, i now have evidence that it really works.

One of my better half’s student has acute nasal allergy. She would be sneezy for 5 minutes when she enters the room, possibly due to dust. Yesterday, we tried turning on the GermGuardian, and within a few minutes, she was relieved of her runny nose. Her mum was so impressed that she wanted to get the GermGuardian too. Continue reading Amazon product recommendation – GermGuardian AC4825 Air Cleaning System

Amazon product recommendation – bread knife

I bought the Update International (KP-05) 9″ German Steel Offset Bread Knife for slicing bread (obviously). If you used a chopper knife, you’ll end up squashing the bread. I haven’t used any other bread knife before, so i don’t know how this particular one from Update International compares with other brands and makes, but it works very well for me.

If you read the reviews in the Amazon product page, you’ll notice that some of the reviews tell you that this knife not only slices bread, but also many other things. How true it is. Continue reading Amazon product recommendation – bread knife

Amazon product recommendation – Lodge pan scraper

This was one of those suggested items that appeared when i was browsing on Amazon. I was skeptical, but the price was just right to make up the minimum total amount required for free shipping on Amazon, so I went ahead and ordered one, since, for some time, I have been frustrated with cleaning the post-cooking residue stuck on a pan.

The reviews for the pan scraper on Amazon are stellar, and turns out, they are true! It is strong and durable enough to remove the residue without damaging the pan. Being flat and even, it removes more residue than a sponge does in a single pass. You’ll still need to use some form of sponge to clean spots you’ll inevitably miss, but still, this pan scraper is much quicker and easier in removing the bulk of the residue.

I don’t use the scraper on a non-stick pan, even though it is stated to be safe to do so, but otherwise, it is a liberating feeling to be able to scrape my cast iron or stainless steel pans as hard as I want to. It has become an indispensable part of my kitchen arsenal, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you get one of these!

Great for scraping the residue left on the side of the pot after cooking broth. You won't miss anything like you always do with a sponge!
Great for scraping the residue left on the side of the pot after cooking broth. You won’t miss anything like you always do with a sponge!

Win, lose or draw

My car started showing hesitation when moving off recently. In lay man language, it felt jerky. Brought the car to a garage and the problem was traced to faulty ignition coils and spark plugs, as pictured above.

Here’s the thing: I bought the spark plugs from Amazon about 2 years back. These were aggressive spark plugs that were supposed to improve power, which they did for my car. Unfortunately, it was likely too aggressive and may have damaged the ignition coils. So here’s the perennial lesson: in decision making, consider that there is always the possibility of a trade-off for your choice. In my case, I had no idea a high-power spark plug may affect the reliability of the ignition coil, but I learnt today that you can’t always win all the time.

Anyway, I will continue to source for automotive parts from Amazon. This truly helps me save bundles, and it really isn’t that difficult, even for a car idiot like me. Automotive spare parts do cost an arm and a leg, especially when you look like a car idiot.

Amazon product recommendation – Thermos water bottle

Most people don’t care much about the bottles from which they drink water, if they use one in the first place. Until they have kids, that is. Yes, then, you’ll be careful to choose BPA free, non-leaking, shatterproof bottles that are easy to clean. Plus, the bottle needs to look pretty. Continue reading Amazon product recommendation – Thermos water bottle

Amazon product recommendation – beer kit

This is my second time buying the Coopers beer kit from Amazon. As expected, I received a dented can. This is the price you pay in exchange for a 25% discount. This time round, the sachet of yeast was missing as well, which was what also happened to some other Amazon product reviewers. Thankfully the yeast and the instructions sheet wasn’t missing when I received my very first beer kit. Why did I buy a second time from Amazon, you might ask, if I knew I was going to get a dented can and possibly missing yeast? Mainly it is because it is cheaper, even if only slightly. Continue reading Amazon product recommendation – beer kit

Sourcing for coffee beans

Some time back i wrote about buying coffee beans on Amazon. Well, if you did a little more homework, you would have realized that, unless you’re buying coffee beans sold by Amazon themselves, buying on Amazon might mean paying a premium over the seller’s actual pricing to cover the transaction fee Amazon charges the seller. Some of the sellers actually host their own website to sell their products, but also sell on the Amazon platform as an additional sales channel. The customers are the ones paying the additional cost anyway.

For example, this Kona Coffee cost a total of US$38.50 on Amazon, inclusive of shipping, but only US$35 with free shipping on the seller’s own website. By the way, this was a very fragrant coffee, though not that spectacular in terms of taste. On the other hand, the Dark Guatemalan i recommended in my earlier posting is the same price on the seller – Fresh Roasted Coffee’s website. In this case, buying from Amazon presents the advantage of choice to purchase items other than coffee to make up the total of $49 required to get free domestic shipping (whereas you need to buy $35 worth of coffee i.e. at least 4 X 12 oz to get free shipping from Fresh Roasted Coffee). Continue reading Sourcing for coffee beans

Amazon product recommendation – Christmas gifts for under ten bucks

Taobao is good for buying generic gifts for kids in bulk, but what if you wanted to buy Christmas gifts for the special few – nieces, nephews, or even your own kids? Amazon is your choice for “premium” Christmas gifts. You can find novel gifts at very reasonable prices. Here are some under-ten-bucks gift ideas (all eligible for free shipping to Singapore):

For Girls

1. Fashion sketch books

Fashion Angels Equestria Girls Fashion Design Sketch Portfolio US$8.99 (S$12.70)

Fashion Angels Fashion Design Portfolio US$7.71 (S$10.90)

Fashion Angels Fashion Design Sketch Portfolio Artist Set US$9.11 (S$12.90)

2. Craft

Fashion Angels Feather Fashion Accessory Kit US$7.77 (S$11)

American Girl Crafts Coin Purse Sewing Kit US$5.96 (S$8.40)

Perler Beads 6,000 Count Bucket-Multi Mix US$8.31 (S$11.75)

For Boys

Nerf N-Strike Jolt Blaster US$5 (S$7.10)
Never knew these were so cheap..

Airfix Hawker Hurricane MkI Model Kit US$9.99 (S$14.15)
Apparently these are improved versions of 30-years-old kits

Non LEGO building sets:

K’NEX Intro Helicopter Building Set Assortment US$7.75 (S$11)

Mega Bloks Call of Duty Assault Stirke UGV Drone 6 Toy US$6.13 (S$8.70)

Non gender specific

Puzzles and Games – there are tonnes of them on Amazon!

Magformers Triangles Eight Piece Set US$9.77 (S$13.80)
Crazy Cheese US$6.99 (S$9.90)

Kanoodle Genius US$9 (S$12.70)

Dutch Blitz US$9.73 (S$13.75)

Quiddler US$8.79 (S$12.45)

LEGO and KRE-O

Well, you don’t get free shipping to Singapore for ANY LEGO or KRE-O set, probably due to authorized dealership restrictions. BUT, it may still be worthwhile shipping them via a forwarder.

LEGO Star Wars AT-AT Toy US$9.49 (S$13.40)

LEGO Friends Stephanie’s Pizzeria US$8.99 (S$12.70)

KRE-O Transformers Micro-Changers Combiners Decepticon Piranacon Construction Set US$6.99 (S$9.90)

Amazon product recommendation – barista tools and coffee beans

My coffee adventure started with the purchase of a Krups espresso machine, which became the subject of some of my first few blog entries. The purchase of the espresso machine was triggered by the gift of a pack of coffee powder from Ipoh. You must be wondering how a pack of coffee powder from Ipoh (the traditional Kopi type coffee powder) can be used in an espresso machine. You’re right, it couldn’t. I actually did try, and, well, you can imagine the result you get with very coarse ground coffee in an espresso machine. Sadly, not too long after i had the machine, it went back into the box and got stashed away for more than 5 years. I guess my taste buds were not yet ready to appreciate coffee for what it is.

I don’t remember what was the motivation, but out it came from the box and it sat on my kitchen table top again, a year and a half ago. I decided to do it right this time. Now that i have proper filtered water (the absence of which was noticeably affecting the taste of the coffee previously), i was sure i will arrive at a better result. I got serious – i decided to upgrade the tools. Back then (yes just a year and a half ago), the only logical place I thought I could source for the tools was Amazon. Now, well, you know, anything can be found on taobao, for a fraction of Amazon’s price. My recent one day transit in Beijing has revealed to me that China is now a serious coffee consuming nation, so it’s no surprise that taobao has a proliferation of coffee related products.

The tamper definitely had to be upgraded. I’ve read more than once people referring to the plastic tamper that normally comes with an espresso machine as “silly”. Now that i’ve had some experience with tamping the coffee powder, i concur. I got myself a stainless steel tamper, because the ones with a wooden handle cost more than I was willing to cough up. Now that you can buy from taobao, well, nothing is really out of reach. So, contrary to the title of this article, when it comes to buying a tamper, i would suggest looking it up on taobao. The search term is 咖啡压粉器. Quick check on price – CNY 35 to 200.

The next item I thought I should get was a coffee bean grinder. I initially thought i should get an electric grinder. After reading some reviews however, i learned that a blade grinder may not be a good idea, since the stainless steel blades may impart a metallic taste to the ground coffee, and it may be difficult to get the exact grind size you want. Someone recommended that a manual ceramic burr grinder is the best option. I took the advice and got the Hario Mini, from Amazon. This product is sold at departmental stores in Singapore, but Amazon’s was slightly cheaper, even after factoring in the shipping cost. Now, however, contrary to the title of this article again, i doubt Amazon is the best place to get a grinder. You can find the Hario Mini at a lower price on taobao. Search for Hario or the general term 咖啡磨豆机. Price check – CNY 115 to 170 for the Hario. By the way, at this point of time, i am actually waiting for a new grinder to arrive. I must say that manual grinding can be a little tiring, but that’s a compromise i’m willing to make to get fresher coffee. There are electric burr grinders in the market, but the reviews are not so positive, UNLESS you’re willing to spend an equal or higher amount of money on a grinder than you do on an espresso machine, in which case you might get something decent.

The final tool I got was a pitcher for frothing milk. Ok, I must have got the name of my article wrong, because taobao is again the place to get the pitcher now. The term to search for in taobao is 咖啡拉花杯. Quick check on price – CNY 13 to 150.

baristatools
A group photo for my tools. The weight of the tamper helps. I would imagine that a wooden handle will give a more comfortable grip.

With the tools in place, there is one final item needed to make coffee – the beans! This is one item that doesn’t make sense to get from taobao, because China has to import the beans as well. Amazon is a good place to buy the beans, but there are some things to note. Firstly, coffee is not eligible for the free AmazonGlobal Saver shipping. You will have to ship via a forwarding service. Also, the coffee sold on Amazon may be more expensive than if you bought directly from the seller’s own website, so you will have to do proper homework before you buy. I must have sampled no less than ten different varieties of coffee from Amazon. I think I could recommend this one – Dark Guatemalan, good taste and good value. Coffee beans sold in Singapore are generally quite expensive (and they tend to be already ground), so I think it’s worthwhile getting them from the US, from Amazon or other websites.