Last year at the Nordic Barista Cup, a prototype of the Wilfa Svart Manuell was first unveiled and put in the hands of attendees. I posted what little I knew back then, but have since had the opportunity to try one out myself.
The all-in-one kettle and pour over device, which was developed with the help of Tim Wendelboe, has moved beyond the prototype stage and will be officially released in three weeks—on the 25th of April. The US market may see them in 2013, but until then there shouldn’t be trouble finding people to use them here in coffee loving Scandinavia.
While I don’t consider myself the primary market for this, there are some things I really love about it, particularly the cohesiveness of all the parts. Everything fits nicely on the base which can be picked up and moved easily around the kitchen. It includes everything you need to get started brewing pour over coffee, except a grinder—making it great for those who are brew-curious, or just want a hassle free coffee set-up for their parent’s home or their Nordic cabin in the woods.
The cone uses standard Melitta filters and has complete flow control through the ring at the bottom. Which allows you to completely close it off for full immersion or fine tune the extraction time—adding a new variable other than grind size. The filter also sits in a removable cup that rests in the cone, making it easy to dispose of the used grounds.
The cone is held stationary above the caraffe, which is great for stability, but lacks the ability to place a scale underneath it. In an attempt to keep things easy and approachable, it makes it less desirable to someone like myself who feels blind when brewing coffee without a scale—but that may be a personal problem.
The kettle has a 1.2-liter capacity and heats up quick. It has variable temperature settings, making it great for brewing teas and the “keep warm” function will allow you to maintain the water temperature while rinsing filters. It doesn’t have the pour control of a thin-spout, but it’s better than most standard kettles I’ve used.
The most exciting thing about this product is the effort given to manual brewing at home by a large home appliance company like Wilfa. Instead of just creating their own version of a V60, they’ve thought about the whole coffee making process and what may deter someone from brewing manually. In a home appliance market flooded with k-cup machines, it’s nice to see manual brewing given this kind of attention.
The production models don’t look like they’ve changed much from the prototype I used, other than the color (which is now a more elegant looking black) and some of the graphic details. I look forward to comparing the production model when I have the chance.
You can watch Tim Wendelboe demo the Svart Manuell in the video below!
While doing research for my recent Chemex post, I came across several fascinating articles about the inventor himself, Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. He sounded like an incredibly charismatic fellow who would have been a pleasure to have coffee with.
Last week marked 49 years since Dr. Schlumbohm passed away on November 7, 1962, from a heart attack at 66-years old. He accomplished much in his abbreviated life, during which he held 300 registered patents, more than 20 belonging to the MoMA permanent collection. The Chemex coffee maker, which coffee lovers are most familiar with, was named one of “100 Best-Designed Products in Modern Times” in 1958 by the Illinois Institute of Technology—quite the accolade for a coffee maker.
Well over one million dollars’ worth have been sold in the last five years. The Chemex, currently on sale in 3,000 U.S. stores at $6 for the one-quart size, is a typical bit of Schlumbohmiana…
-Life Magazine, 1949
Apart from spending 8 years studying Chemistry at the University of Berlin, he also had an incredible design sense that permeated his inventions. There is remarkable elegance and simplicity in the way he blended glass with materials like wood and cork, which most certainly played a role in his success. The importance Dr. Schlumbohm placed on design was no accident either:
After 22 years of inventing, Schlumbohm has come to certain conclusions about it. He feels that just seeing the problem to be solved is 20% of the inventive process. Finding a patentable idea that solves it is 40%. Good design (“Eliminate everything that’s wrong, and what’s left will be right”) is 30%, and merchandising is the remaining 10%. -Life Magazine, 1949
Dr. Schlumbohm even played the role of marketing director for his products:
Dr. Schlumbohm does all his own selling, writes his own advertisements, direction leaflets and brochures and even types out his own patent applications—one draft only, since he refuses to make a mistake. -Life Magazine, 1949
What little I could find of Dr. Schlumbohm’s specific thoughts regarding coffee always seemed to be from the perspective of a Chemist more than a consumer:
Ground coffee contains only two desirable ingredients: aromatic coffee oils and caffeine. The rest is a vile mixture of some 50 different chemicals, including such ‘skunky stuff’ as mercaptan. -New York Times Obituary, 1962
But apart from his scientific analysis of coffee, he understood what consumers wanted (or needed). In that same New York Times obituary, Dr. Schlumbohm is quoted, while pointing at a Chemex, “With this, even a moron can make good coffee.”
For that we thank you. Cheers to you Dr. Schlumbohm.
The Chemex is possibly the most elegant looking of all brewing devices and one of my favorite ways to make coffee. It was designed in 1941 by a German chemist, Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, who immigrated to the United States in 1935. The modern hourglass shape of the Chemex, hugged in the middle by a wooden collar and leather tie, became a part of MoMA’s permanent collection in 1944—just a few years after its invention.
Apart from its sophisticated design, it makes an equally great cup of coffee when it’s not looking beautiful on your counter or the walls of a modern art museum.
The upper portion of the Chemex cradles a thick, bonded filter (also made by Chemex) that resembles lab parchment more than a typical coffee filter. This filter is what helps create such a clean cup of coffee that really highlights the brightness, clarity and sweetness in certain coffees that I personally enjoy very much.
The design is nearly identical to the original product, except the glass is no longer made by Pyrex. There is an alternate, glass-handled design that is easier to clean and allows a better view of the coffee brewing process—or there’s the handblown versions for three times the cost of the mass produced ones, if you’re a purist with extra money to spend.
Apart from the design itself and the quality of coffee it makes, I also like the Chemex for its ease of use. In regards to pour over devices, I find the Chemex to be one of the easiest for beginners to take up. The thickness of the filter and slower brew time allows for a greater margin of error, while the one-piece design reduces spills and can be less intimidating to handle. Although the larger ones are not ideal for smaller servings, there are several sizes of the Chemex available depending on your needs.
There are many variations on how to use the Chemex, but at its simplest, add a bit of hot water and let bloom for 30–45 seconds, then pour the remaining water in a circular motion, keeping all the grounds wet. I generally stick to a “60g of coffee/1 liter of water” ratio for the Chemex—but as always, adjust to taste. There are a number of tutorials on BrewMethods.com, but this one from Intelligentsia has always been my favorite.
There’s a new coffee doctor in town, Dr.Drip, whose medicinal looking product aims to combat the virus of instant brew across the land. Each pack comes with five “pop-up” pour over stands and five packs of pre-ground coffee—available in four mediocre sounding blends: Organic Blend, Premium Signature Blend, Dark Sumatran Blend, and Decaffeinated Premium.
The product was created by Gordon Grade Coffee, a father/son company who wanted to develop a simple and portable single-cup brewing device that didn’t need any fancy equipment. Its a good looking product. Sadly, they’ve chosen to market their product in the most trite sounding terms available, using every catchphrase of the moment:
All of our Gordon Grade Coffee is made from 100% superior quality Arabica beans, carefully selected from the world’s best growing regions. Artisan roasters escort the beans through the roasting process, crafting rich, flavorful all natural, fair-trade or organically grown blends before the beans go on to receive a precision grind.
I haven’t personally tried these, and won’t have time to before leaving the country, but they piqued my interest for two reasons. First, I think the design, although very pharmaceutical, is kind of nice. I’m a sucker for simple geometric illustrations. However, the perpetuation of marketing coffee as a drug is rather annoying. Second, they reminded me of the Kalita Katan disposable drippers that Wrecking Ball Coffee sells (and for much less). A pack of five Dr.Drip pouches costs $9, while a pack of 30 Kalita drippers costs only $8—but you must supply your own questionable pre-ground coffee.
I think the drippers are a great idea for travelers, and they look sturdier than the Kalitas, though I’m not sure how they compare brewing wise. My suggestion to Gordon Grade Coffee would be to start selling just the drippers (at a more competitive price) and let the customer provide their own coffee. If the product performs, I bet they’d have a bigger market in Specialty Coffee than they realize.
The more cafés begin using pour-over as a method to brew coffee, the more creative they get with the stands that hold the drippers. From the concrete bar at Water Ave in Portland, to the custom Chemex drippers used by Kickstand in Brooklyn—I am continually impressed by the ingenuity of baristas and store owners who provide a unique set for their coffee theatrics.
While I love a homemade cup of pour-over coffee, resting a V60 on top of a mug just isn’t the same experience as visiting a café with a dedicated pour-over bar. The guys at Clive Coffee must have agreed when they set out to create an elegant stand that would look just as good in a home as an Eames chair. Thanks to them, pour-over in the kitchen just got a bit more sophisticated.
The Clive Stand was designed—and beautifully hand crafted—by Delaney Carthagh Kelly, who has been working with wood since he was 13 years old. The stand, made from salvaged Oregon black walnut, takes about 10 hours to build from start to finish and costs $165—a fair price for quality design and woodwork. It will work with a Hario V60 or Clive’s own ceramic dripper made by Pigeon Toe Ceramics.