In Tested, we put recently released cooking gear to the ultimate test. Because wasting money on bad kitchen products is like burning the soufflé. Annoying!
Tim Wendelboe is as close to coffee royalty as they come. A 2004 World Barista Champion and 2005 World Tasting Champion, the macchiato maestro owns an espresso bar/roastery in Oslo, Norway, that attracts caffeinated cognoscenti from all over the world. He also develops barista-beloved brewing techniques, wrote a well-received book on the subject and regularly travels the globe to educate and train coffee lovers on bean buying and best practices.
The man knows his stuff, which is why I’ve been coveting the Wilfa Precision coffeemaker for the past two years. Created by Wendleboe in conjunction with Norwegian appliance company Wilfa, the brushed-aluminum automatic machine promises pour-over quality control — it's designed to heat water to temperatures between 197ºF and 205ºF, the range that coaxes the most flavor from beans, and rains down the ideal amount over the grounds — and a place-me-on-your-counter-and-make-your-friends-jealous elegance. It also features a few other smart design elements, namely a choose-your-own-flow filter and a faster-than-average brewing process. Wendelboe’s creation has been exclusive to Europe for the past few years but has finally appeared Stateside. Was it worth the wait?
Call MoMA: The Precision is a beauty. The slender, silo-like water tank stands on one side of the base, while a sculpted cone filter, U-shaped piping system and 42-ounce pot are nested together on the other. It drew oohs and ahhs from everyone who entered my apartment. And the great design goes beyond aesthetics. As its name suggests, the machine is all about precision: Helpful markings on the side of the silo and pot indicate water levels as well as the proper amount of grounds for said water (50 grams of coffee if you’ve added half a liter, for example). The cone filter has a five-position adjustable-flow spout, which lets you control the water drip onto the grounds — helpful for ensuring grounds are hit with the correct amount of water when you’re making smaller batches. And the internal piping heats the water to the exact standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
The only controls are a side-mounted power switch and a push-button starter, which makes operation simple. Once you’re ready to brew, flip the switch, press the backlit button and wait: The machine purrs and starts slurping water from the filter, delicately showering the accurately heated water over the grounds before dripping down into the carafe. Many high-end machines aren’t very quick, but the Precision produced a full pot of coffee in about five minutes. And it conjures a sublime brew from beans: I used a Stumptown roast for my week’s worth of test runs and it tasted rich and full-bodied, without any hint of bitterness. (Say what you will, but I lowered the amount of recommended grounds, as I found Wendelboe's markings made for a bit too strong a cup.) The hot plate on which the pot sits kept the brew warm for an hour without ever burning it (apparently, it keeps the coffee heated to 185 degrees).
Honestly, not too much to badmouth here. By its very nature, this minimalist machine has very few frills, which means no timing functions or alarm settings. And while gorgeous, it’s a bit of a space hog, measuring 14½ inches across and therefore demanding much more countertop space than your standard Mr. Coffee. There are also a few slightly annoying aspects: fitting the filter onto the U-shaped shower connector requires a precise docking maneuver; the plastic top of the coffee pot has a long, narrow funnel, which is easy to crack (I did so accidentally my second day).
Should you spend $250 on a single-function coffee machine? If you’re prone to using such words as “terroir” and “cupping,” then the answer is a resounding yes. The Precision is accurate, extraordinarily well designed, and quick, and it produces an exceptional pot of coffee that’ll appease the most appalling coffee snobs. For everyone else? It’s a toss-up. The Precision is certainly a standout, but it's meant for a particular demographic: those who can tell the difference between a good cup of coffee and a great one, and who don’t care about dropping serious cash on a single-use machine. I for one love it. I guess that makes me a snob. Hey, this machine is all about precision.
Purchase at williams-sonoma.com ($250 and up).
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