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Tim’s review of the Wilfa Svart Precision

Repost from the Nordic Coffee Culture blog, which I contribute to every now and again…

A couple of years ago, Wilfa asked me if I was interested in helping them develop a new filter coffee brewer for the domestic market. Since Norwegians are one of the biggest consumers of coffee per capita, and most of the coffee made in Norway is made at home on a filter brewer, I though it would be very interesting to see if it was possible to make a better machine than the ones already on the market.

I decided to meet with some representatives from Wilfa and together with a design team we sat down to discuss what would be the ideal coffee maker. There was a lot of big ideas suggested such as integration of a scale in order to make it easier to weigh the water and coffee, programmable brew cycles, temperature control, etc. Since the brewer was made for the consumers and not the elite of the barista world, we had to make it simple to use and of course there would have to be some compromises in order not to make the brewer too expensive.

A lot of testing had to be done and fine tuning the technical solution without compromising the design took a lot longer than we expected. I have tested a lot of prototypes on the way to the final iteration, which kept getting pushed back. Wilfa would not release the brewer until they were 100% sure that the brewer would live up to our expectations. Finally the Wilfa Svart Presisjon was launched before summer this year. Two long years of research and development were complete.

Because of my busy schedule this year, I haven’t had the time to properly test the final version of the brewer until recently. Although I have used it on several events brewing coffee for several hundred people, I wanted to take some time to properly test the final brewer in my lab. So, based on all my experience with this brewer, here are my thoughts on how to best use it and why this brewer is so good.

The technical essentials:

The brewer comes with a detachable water tank. This is extremely handy as most brewers have a fixed tank leading the user to fill the water tank by using the serving carafe which in most cases will be dirty with old coffee left overs. If you only use clean water to fill the brewer, there is rarely a need to clean the brewer’s internal system. (Although it is very important to clean the filter holder and serving carafe after each brew). This of course will lead to cleaner and better coffee. The water tank also has measurement markings with recommended coffee to water brew ratios.

There is a pump in the machine that pumps out all the leftover water inside the machine at the end of each brew. This means there is no water left inside the brewer after a brew is finished. This is important as some brewers contain a lot of water inside after brewing and this water will quickly start tasting metallic due to the prolonged contact with the tubes inside the brewer, hence making an off taste in the next brew.

We figured there would be too many variables to play with if you were able to adjust the brewing temperature, and to get the brewer approved by the Norwegian Coffee Association, the brewing temperature needed to be between 92C – 96C. The Wilfa Svart Presisjon has a very precise temperature control and the brewing water gets to the right temperature only seconds after you start the brew. This makes it the most temperature stable filter brewer for the domestic market so far. The filter holder comes with a plastic lid in order to keep the slurry temperature high enough during brewing. I personally always remove this lid during brewing as I find a slightly lower slurry temperature to yield a better tasting coffee. It also gives me a better control over the slurry during brewing as I can stir the grounds if I see that the water distribution is not completely even during brewing.

Design features:

I simply love the elegant and sleek design of the brewer, but it also has some clever benefits. Since the filter holder and serving carafe is removable, the brewer can easily be used as a hot water dispenser for other brewers such as the Chemex, Hario V60 or others.

One feature that a lot of baristas find negative is the fact that the brewer has a hotplate. This is designed to keep the coffee hot. Although the hotplate will automatically shut off after 1 hour, I really don’t recommend storing the brewed coffee in the serving carafe on the hotplate. This will make the water in the coffee evaporate and there will be a faster development of quinic acids in the coffee leading to a bitter and astringent taste. I therefore strongly recommend brewing less coffee at a time so that it is always fresh, or pouring the coffee over to a clean pre-heated thermos.

There is also a clever little mixing tube in the lid of the serving carafe. This mixes the coffee better during brewing. However, I always give the coffee a proper stir after the brew is finished as the last liquid coming out of the filter is always less concentrated than in the start of the brewing cycle. I also recommend getting a thin bottle brush in order to be able to clean the inside of this tube more easily.

One other great feature on this brewer is the flow control on the filter holder. Most consumers still don’t have a coffee grinder at home. (Although everyone should have one.) So their option is to buy pre-ground coffee in the store. The problem with filter brewing is that you are using gravity to pass the water through the coffee. If you brew small amounts of coffee, the water will pass the coffee faster than if you are brewing large amounts, as there is less resistance for the water. Therefore, if you want to brew 1 litre or 0,5 litre and hit the same extraction and taste, you would need to grind coarser for the 1L brew and finer for the 0,5L brew. This is of course impossible to change once the coffee is ground. A clever way to get around this is to restrict the flow on the 0,5L brew in order to increase the extraction time hence being able to extract enough flavor from the coffee.

You can actually close the flow completely, and I always do this after the brew is finished, as this creates no spill when I remove the filter holder to throw out the spent grounds. I have been experimenting a little bit with doing 0,5L brews by using a full immersion filter method like you can do with a Clever coffee dripper. Some of the best cups of coffee I have made on the Wilfa Svart Presisjon has been made with this method. Just be careful that you don’t overflow the filter as this creates a big mess.

As you can see there are many possibilities on how to use the Wilfa Svart Presisjon. I am really happy with how the brewer turned out and hopefully it will get more people excited about drinking really good black coffee again. With a good coffee grinder and high quality coffee beans you’ve got all you need in order to brew a great cup of coffee.

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