Coming to America: The Wilfa Svart Presisjon

08.28

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Meet the Svart Presisjon (Black Precision) from the Norwegian housewares company, Wilfa. You may have seen photos of it floating around the internet, wondering what planet it came from and how to get your hands on one. Its unique, modern design sets itself apart and made it a new contender for the best automatic coffee brewer on the European market—and now it’s finally available in the US.

Wilfa has been around since 1948 and has a catalogue of products that include everything from waffle makers to air conditioners to coffee brewers and grinders. Until recently they were barely known beyond the Nordic region. But that all changed two years ago when they launched the Wilfa Svart Manuell with the help of former World Barista Champion, Tim Wendelboe. That product, was an attempt to offer an all-in-one package for customers who were curious about manual brewing, but overwhelmed by all the options and tools needed to begin. The Presisjon maintians a lot of the same design DNA as the Manuell but its a much more practical product for the average coffee consumer.

Before debuting the Svart Manuell, Wilfa made a strategic decision to enter the specialty coffee market with some innovative new products of their own. With Nordic people consuming more coffee per capita than most other countries, mostly drip-style, it made sense to focus on a great home brewer. From the beginning, Wilfa has worked with coffee professionals to make sure they were designing great products with coffee quality in mind. From partnering with Tim Wendelboe to demoing the products at the Nordic Barista Cup, there has been a lot of feedback from professionals. The result has been products that look and function very differently from most other existing products.

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The most noticeable feature on the Presisjon is the unique water chamber design. This clear tube detaches from the base so it can be filled easier with clean water from the tap. There are also recommended coffee ratios and water volume marks printed on the side of the chamber, which are quite accurate without the need of a scale. The water is then pumped out from the bottom of the chamber leaving it completely empty at the end of each brew, making sure that there is no water left sitting in the machine to cause problems in the future.

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One of the biggest shortfalls of most automatic home brewers is water temperature stability and an even saturation of the coffee. For a long time, the Moccamaster was one of the only brewers able to do these things, making it the only option recommended by baristas. Recently, new models from Bonavita have also added reliable choices with a more affordable price point along with a more standard coffee maker design. The Presisjon also has remarkably stable water temperature, even when being used repeatedly for multiple batches of coffee. Within seconds of the brew cycle beginning, the water is in a range of 197–205°F (92–96°c) and stays there consistently throughout brewing.

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The Presisjon filter holder fits a standard No.4 Melitta-style filter and can be fully detached for easy cleaning. It has a removable lid to maintain the temperature of the coffee slurry and it’s also outfitted with a unique aperture system that allows you to adjust the flow rate of the liquid based on the volume of coffee you are brewing. This allows you to better control the extraction rate when brewing two batches of different volumes. The flow rate is increased for larger batches (up to 1.25 liters) and decreased for smaller batches (250ml). When the coffee is done brewing, you can close the filter holder completely which prevents drip before removing the carafe—a much appreciated detail.

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While this has taught me to appreciate an automatic brewer, there are some things I would like to improve, namely, the carafe. It’s a pretty standard glass carafe with a coffee stirring funnel in the lid. I’m not a fan of the shape of the handle, or the way the glass connects with the plastic lip, which creates a small reservoir that always catches a small amount of liquid, making it harder to clean and dry than it should.

The carafe also sits on a hot plate that can not be independently turned off so you need to remember to turn off the machine once it’s finished brewing to prevent the hot plate from burning the coffee and making it bitter. Ultimately, you won’t be leaving coffee sitting around for too long—brew less and enjoy it fresh.

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I’ve personally been using a Presisjon that Wilfa sent me to test out for over a year now in various situations. I’ve used it at public events to brew large batches for 50 people at a time and I’ve used it at home for dinner parties and guests. The machine’s one button simplicity is easy for anyone to use but it’s quality and consistency is good enough that it can still be appreciated by coffee geeks as well. Thanks to the brewer’s unique design, you are also able to explore using it as a water delivery device for other brew methods like the Chemex, V60 and Kalita Wave—with great results. Surely something that will make coffee enthusiasts quite happy.

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After more than a year of only being available in Europe, the Wilfa Svart Presisjon has now found its way to the US exclusively through Williams-Sonoma. The Presisjon comes in two finishes, aluminum and a slightly more affordable matte black polymer version. Designed by the Danish firm, Designit, the Presisjon also won a prestigious Red Dot Design award, something that few products in the coffee industry can claim. Its form is a striking departure from pretty much every other home brewer available and every time I’ve used one around other people, they ask questions about it.

Williams-Sonoma is selling the black polymer Presisjon for $275 and the premium aluminum version for $363 on their website and in their stores. This is definitely an expensive home brewer, but it’s in the same range as a Moccamaster and still less than the forthcoming, albeit US-made, Ratio Brewer. If you’re in the market for an automatic coffee brewer and appreciate great design, this is definitely worth looking into alongside the other options available.

As the resurgence of considerate batch brewing is finding its place in more top coffee shops around the world, the automatic home brewer has also become less of a device to be loathed, and instead is one to be enjoyed on lazy weekends. With the proper technical attributes provided by the latest home brewers, combined with the knowledge of brew ratios and access to better, fresh roasted beans, a quality automatic brewer like this Presisjon can yield fantastic and consistent results.

Check out a video of Tim Wendelboe demonstrating the Presisjon below:

posted by on 08.28.2014, under Design, Misc., Products

Design Alert: Commonwealth Coffee

07.16

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Commonwealth Coffee is a new coffee roaster based in Denver, Colorado, founded by Jason Farrar and Ryan Fisher. The pair got things started last fall and I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan in Seattle at the SCAA Event in April. He sent me home with a stamped brown bag of their Ethiopian coffee that was one of my favorites on the post-SCAA cupping table and assured me that they had new bags coming out that would be fantastic. After seeing a couple process shots on his phone, I knew they were going to stand out—and that, they do.

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The branding and the bags for Commonwealth are the work of notable designer and typographer Kevin Cantrell, whose intricate work looks like its from the bygone era of Freemasons and royal charters. The design is meant to reflect the core of Commonwealth Coffee, which represents unity between the quality of product and service. On the back of each bag is a quote from Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan which argues for the value of the social contract:

This is more than mere agreement or harmony; it is a real unity of them all. They are unified in that they constitute one single person, created through a covenant of every man with every other man… -Hobbes, Leviathan

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The detailed line work wraps the entire bag in gold patterns, filling nearly every inch of empty space between the custom, typographic logo. Laced between the patterns and the flourishes you will find details of the coffee. Each country of origin also has be assigned it’s own custom typographic treatment that is just as well crafted as the logo itself. The details are tremendous. If Baz Lurhmann made a modern period film about coffee, this would be his bag of choice.

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Enjoy the photos here and then head over to Kevin Cantrell’s site to view much more of the design development. Order a bag of your own from Commonwealth Coffee.

 

posted by on 07.16.2014, under Design, Misc., Recommended Roasters

Summer Coffee Videos by Florian Döring

06.26

For the past couple of years, Florian Döring has been producing some of the best short coffee films around the web for brands like Coffee Circle and Probat. Many of his videos have been featured here on DCILY, including the hugely popular MacGyver AeroPress, starring Hannes Fendrich.

Recently, Döring and Fendrich teamed up again to create a video of their own, bringing to life Fendrich’s own coffee-themed vision of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” music video–”The Coffeesweet Symphony.” As the star of the video, Fendrich comes off just as dickish as Richard Ashcroft did in the 90′s, performing flawlessly while brewing a French press on the streets of Berlin.

The film features several coffee heroes as well, with cameos from Cory Andreen, World Cup Taster Champion from Cafe CK and the newly opened Mockingbird Hill in Washington DC as well as Kris Schackman, from Five Elephant Coffee.

Also, just in time for summer holidays, Döring has released a short film capturing a relaxing journey into the wilds of Beerwalde in eastern Germany, enhanced by the joy of drinking fresh brewed coffee with a friend. Caution: this video will inspire you to stop whatever you’re doing and head for nature.

More from Florian Döring and his company Flughand Produktion on Facebook

posted by on 06.26.2014, under Misc., Videos

A Moomin Cafe: So Much Better Than Cats

05.07

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With the recent—and unexplainable—trend of “cat cafés” there seems to be a rise in these concept-driven (value-added?) ways to get people into a shop to sip coffee. While I think a cat café sounds like an incredibly awful and hair-filled experience, I would happily sit at a table with a large stuffed Moomin and enjoy a delicious cup—something that you can actually do in Japan.

If you haven’t heard of the Moomins, they are a family of hippo-esque creatures who live in Mumindalen and go on great adventures. They are the central characters in a collection of books, comics and cartoons from the Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator, Tove Jansson—and they are simply fantastic.

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The Moomin Bakery and Café is located at Tokyo Dome City, an entertainment complex in the Bunkyo neighborhood. The bakery offers Finnish-style bread and lots of other food shaped like Moomin Characters to create a Finland themed café in the heart of Japan. While I can’t speak to the coffee quality, but does it really matter when you’re sharing a table with a giant Moomintroll?

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Moomin Bakery & Cafe Tokyo Dome City
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 1-1-1 Tokyo Dome City LaQua 1F
T. 03-5842-6300

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[photos via Business Insider]

posted by on 05.07.2014, under Misc.

Bookman’s Bicycle Cup Holder

03.27

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With spring on the horizon, the dreams of leisurely bike rides under blossoming trees and lounging in grass covered parks is almost within reach. If you’d like to add a fresh cup of coffee to the equation, your options for safely transporting it can be limited. Just in time for better weather, the Swedish cycling accessory company Bookman, known for their portable and powerful bike lights, has just launched a new cup holder for your bike to make your coffee’s journey easier.

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The simple and utilitarian design attaches like a clamp and can be quickly and easily removed. The company claims that it will remain firmly in place, even over bumps—just be sure you’ve got the coffee’s lid on tight. The two rings are different sizes allowing you to flip the holder to accommodate a small or medium sized cup of coffee. I’m not sure if they can fit a KeepCup, but that would make them even nicer. Once they’re available, I’ll be sure to test them out.

Pre-order now at Bookman

posted by on 03.27.2014, under Design, Misc., Products

Coffee Cup Inspires Innovative Relief Shelter

03.26

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Following the devastation and poor management of relief to the hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans, Mississippian Michael McDaniel was determined to develop a solution that would prevent inefficiency and waste in future disasters and avoid making things worse for the victims. The goal of his company Reaction over the past 8 years has been to improve the quality and cost of post-disaster shelters for victims. With the inspiration of a styrofoam coffee cup, McDaniel came up with the idea for the lightweight, stackable, and cost effective Exo Housing System.

According to the company’s website, the shelters are light enough to be moved by hand and strong enough to stop bullets. While the average cost of a FEMA trailer, the current post-disaster shelters, is around $20,000 each and designed for a single use, the Exo will be sold for about $5000 and can be reused. Apart from the cost and construction, they can also be stacked, just like coffee cups, fitting 28 housing units on one semi trailer that can only transport one FEMA shelter.

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The shelters are also more than just a roof over the inhabitants heads, they are wired with modern technology to allow victims charge phones and stay connected with updates through an integrated app called Populous. The company just finished raising $50,000 to send shelters to Syria and they are beginning the process of manufacturing on a large scale to make these available to all the areas in the world that desperately need them.

Fast Company just published this nice video interview with McDaniel about the Exo shelter’s creation and its potential for doing good in unfortunate circumstances. Disposable coffee cups are often one of the downsides to coffee’s popularity, but in this instance, a disposable coffee cup’s inspiring impact has the potential to do a lot of good for a lot of people around the world.

Read more: Reaction Housing

posted by on 03.26.2014, under Design, Misc.

Sylvan Esso’s Coffee EP Drops Today

03.25

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Sylvan Esso is a synth-pop duo based in Durham, North Carolina that’s made up of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn. Meath was a vocalist in the female folk trio Mountain Man and Sanborn was playing bass with the band Megafaun when Sylvan Esso accidentally formed. Together, the two’s sound creates warm layers of bouncing beats, magnetizing vocals and catchy hooks that are just as energizing as they are relaxing (like a good cup of coffee).

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Until recently, Sylvan Esso only had two songs available from their debut EP, “Hey Mami/ Play It Right,” making a live performance the best way to hear more of their music. Having seen them twice in the last six months, I’ve been eagerly awaiting their first LP, “Coffee” which will be released in May. The title track—Coffee—was released a few months ago on Sound Cloud and today they released a video to correspond with the EP’s release.

The sounds of Sylvan Esso provide a great soundtrack for all your coffee brewing and coffee sipping needs or turn up the volume and find some bass that’ll get your whole body moving to the beat. Check out the new video for “Coffee” below and their upcoming tour dates in Europe and the US.

Order the “Coffee” EP today and look out for the full length in May.

posted by on 03.25.2014, under Misc., Videos

University of California Considering Coffee Degree

03.14

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The University of California, Davis is considering the potential of a degree in coffee sometime in the near future. The university recently opened the UC Davis Coffee Center as part of their Food for Health Institute, whose stated goals are to “increase value at every step of the coffee pipeline, to ensure safety and quality of the global coffee trade, and educate the next generation of coffee scientists.”

The Coffee Center just wrapped up its first coffee research conference and they are currently looking for partners in the coffee industry to help expand the program and its research. NPR spoke with the director of the Food for Health Institute who made the case for why coffee is an obvious area of study:

There aren’t a lot of things that so many people consume several times a day, every day,” says J. Bruce German, who directs of the Foods for Health Institute at Davis. But given how much coffee people all over the world chug, there’s a surprising lack of academic research on the topic, German says.

There’s a lot we still don’t fully understand about coffee, German says. What’s the best way to treat the beans while they’re still green? What’s the most environmentally friendly way to roast them? And why are we so obsessed with how it smells?

And since the university is already well known for its winemaking and beer brewing programs, German says coffee seems like a natural next step. –NPR

As someone currently working on a Master’s Thesis about coffee, I can confirm how little academic research there is on the topic and I would greatly appreciate the knowledge a program like this could produce. If you’re considering an academic degree in the future and you’re enthralled by the idea of studying the chemistry of coffee, its impact on human health, or how to improve coffee at any point of the coffee chain, keep an eye on UC Davis.

Read the full story on NPR.

posted by on 03.14.2014, under Misc.

Female Baristas the Ultimate Male Fantasy?

03.14


Comedy websites College Humor and Funny or Die are no strangers to playing off barista stereotypes in an effort to get laughs. The former even has a feature length movie called “Coffee Town” staring Glenn Howerton of “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” fame. In College Humor’s latest short, they replace a bachelor party stripper with a coy barista plying for tips—do not tell Lauren!

Funny? Ridiculous? Objectifying? Sexist? Terrible? I’m just happy it doesn’t mention “hipsters” or Kopi Luwak. Share your thoughts on Twitter.

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posted by on 03.14.2014, under Misc.

TOMS Shoe Company Announces Coffee Roasting

03.12

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Yesterday at Austin’s grand technology orgy known as South by Southwest (SXSW), TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie announced the next step for his pioneering “one for one” shoe company—specialty coffee. The plan includes more than just a pop-up cafe in a shoe store, the new category of the TOMS brand will include wholesale roasting, a chain of retail outlets and a subscription club. The coffee, just like the company’s shoes and eyewear, will continue following the company’s model of giving to someone in need for every product sold, in this case water. Fortune has the scoop.

Generally, a celebrity’s foray into coffee isn’t really worth noting. However, Mycoskie specifically mentions specialty coffee pioneers like Intelligentsia, Stumptown and Blue Bottle as their competition and has tapped Angel Orozco, founder of LA’s Cafecito Organico as their new master roaster:

TOMS says it’s not targeting Starbucks so much as “third wave” artisanal roasters like Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia and Stumptown, cult coffee brands that keep cropping up in places like San Francisco and Portland. But TOMS Roasting Co. will have one major distribution channel most of those niche brands don’t: outside of its own cafes and website, the beans will only be available in Whole Foods. -Fortune

It pays to know people, and TOMS brand awareness combined with their existing distribution channels may give them a running start. With over 2 million social media followers and a loyal fan base, those who support the TOMS model of one for one giving may find the coffee attractive, even more so if the product tastes good.

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In an interview with Fortune, Mycoskie talks about wanting their new cafés to feel more like someone’s home that can become community centers where people can bring their dogs, have a coffee (and buy shoes and glasses). Although they see the “third wave” coffee shops as their target market, they admit they will fall somewhere between Starbucks and Stumptown, offering a less intimidating atmosphere.

The TOMS Roasting Co sweet spot is high quality beans (single-origin, free-trade) at a lower price ($12.99 per 12-oz. bag compared with $16 to $18 for cult coffee brands). Rachel Halliburton, the TOMS marketer who led “project burlap,” says the hope is to play somewhere between Starbucks and Stumptown. “I’m intimidated to walk into Intelligentsia,” she says. “We want you to feel okay about walking in and saying, ‘I just want a cup of coffee, and yes, I’m going to put sugar in it.’” –Fortune

I find it curious that TOMS will sell its “high quality” coffee at up to 25% less than other specialty companies. Does this mean they will pay the farmers less only to offset those lower prices by giving water? On a certain level I truly admire TOMS and how they’ve changed the conversation of corporate responsibility, however my primary critique of business models like theirs is that they rely on the “westerner as savior” mentality instead of paying someone the true value of their product, allowing communities to build their own infrastructure. Instead of empowering a community, TOMS comes across more like a foreign hero giving things to those deemed in need.

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I believe this new venture from TOMS has all the potential to be quite successful. With over  a year of planning, it seems like the company has done its research and remains humble about entering a market they have no experience in. If they can provide a quality product that creates a stepping stone between the likes of Starbucks and other specialty coffee companies, I see this as a benefit to the entire industry, further validating the widespread appeal of better coffee. If however, simply adopts the marketing language and design cues of specialty coffee to market a mediocre product, it won’t be much of a surprise. Keep it real Mycoskie.

Read more at Fortune and TOMS Roasting Co.

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posted by on 03.12.2014, under Misc., Videos