Wilfa Tries Again
It’s 2013. World Famous (and also very polarizing) Tim Wendelboe, the 2004 World Barista Champion and multiple-times Nordic Roasting Champion, announced to the world he was working with a company in Norway called Wilfa, designing a new auto drip coffee […]
It’s 2013. World Famous (and also very polarizing) Tim Wendelboe, the 2004 World Barista Champion and multiple-times Nordic Roasting Champion, announced to the world he was working with a company in Norway called Wilfa, designing a new auto drip coffee maker. Wilfa is a well known brand in Scandinavia, designing and manufacturing a range of small appliances from juicers to blenders; indeed they are kind of like the Breville of Scandinavia. In 2013, they decided to get really serious about coffee, teaming up with Wendelboe and the various Nordic Barista events.
By 2014, that machine hit North American shores as the Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker, imported and sold exclusively by Williams Sonoma (here’s an Archive.org capture of their sales page for the unit). The marketing push online was impressive. Wendelboe blogged about it and travelled around marketing it. Several prominent coffee bloggers of the era were paid to write the machine up in positive ways. Wilfa themselves even created a website around the Wilfa Precision that didn’t so much promote the machine specifically, but waxed poetic about Nordic Coffee Culture, fitting the Wilfa Precision very tightly into that concept. And Williams Sonoma themselves did a huge marketing push for the machine when it was introduced.
In 2015, I contacted an insider I had at Williams Sonoma (WS) and asked for a Wilfa Precision to be sent to CoffeeGeek for testing and review. My contact called me back (unusual for the time – they would normally just email) and told me on the phone “you don’t want to test this machine. We’re in the process of discontinuing it and ditching our remaining stock to overstock channels. It’s got a lot of problems”.
And sure enough a short time later, WS stopped selling the Precision, and even tried to stop servicing the product. The remaining stock ended up on Amazon and other overstock blowout websites in the US, being offered at up to 80% off retail. Then one by one, all the fancy promotional material and blogging mentions of the Wilfa Precision disappeared. Wendelboe even pulled all content about the US model off his own blog by 2016. You won’t find much about the original machine online any longer, save for Daily Coffee News’ introduction article on it and a lot of 1 star reviews on Amazon. Wilfa themselves abandoned their US website for the brewer (it’s still up though as of this writing). There were also some rather harsh threads in the old CoffeeGeek forums about the machine.
Why such a spectacular failure? It’s that word: failure: the Precision in the USA had a high failure rate, related mainly to the AC powered pump. Yep, the Wilfa coffee makers all run on a pump (for specific design reasons, outlined in our forthcoming first look on a new Wilfa machine), so without a pump, it’s DOA. And if the pump did work, other failure points in the brewer popped up, including issues with aluminum used in the machine’s inner workings, how the coffee carafe would come apart, and more.
Make no mistake though: the Wilfa was a stunningly beautiful machine with a ton of promise and innovations that were not really seen as a package on any other auto drip coffee maker. It had the ability to select flow rates mechanically, even becoming a full immersion brewer for extra small brews (under 300ml). The removable reservoir was fantastic and remains unique in auto drip brewers to this day. The access to the brewing chamber while the machine was in operation: also fantastic. It’s such a shame the original Precision failed in the US.
Indeed, with the Precision failure, Wilfa disappeared from the USA marketplace between 2016 and 2022. Yet they continued on as a company in that time, improving and re-engineering their products, learning from their mistakes, and working with new famous World Barista Champions (like James Hoffmann, who has consulted with the company).
Enter the Wilfa Performance
In 2019, Wilfa announced the new Wilfa Svart Performance auto drip brewer in Europe, a machine that took all of the original Wilfa Precision’s best features (selectable flow rates, easy to access brewing group, removable reservoir, stunning good looks and pump operation), and fixed everything – the big, the small, the minute – that was wrong on the Precision.
The new Performance model now has a couple years’ worth of sales in Europe, and claims have been maid that there have been minimal warranty or repair issues with the brewer. They’re so confident in it, they’ve got a full 5 year warranty on the new machine over in Europe.
There hasn’t been a lot in the way of independent reviews of the new Performance model; Even James Hoffmann, who has consulted with Wilfa, has not done a video review exclusively for the new machine; he has however featured it in a comparison video and ranks it highly.
That said, the few independent reviews out there that have looked at the European variant of the Performance are quite favourable.
Wilfa knows it’s very important to re-enter the North American marketplace and to do it right, so after two years of sales in Europe, and much more testing, engineering and planning, the company has officially launched its return into the US market partnering with Lardera Coffee, the new exclusive importer of the 110v version of the Wilfa Performance. It will be available this early fall for sale at $249.
We have been testing a unit for over a month now, and will have a very comprehensive and exclusive First Look up in a few days; it’s going to be the first really detailed look at this 110V variant of the Performance in North America.
We did speak with Lardera’s CEO and Owner Michael Cramer about what has been changed and improved in the Wilfa Performance, compared to the Williams Sonoma Precision model of 2014.
“The pump has been changed from AC power to a DC motor, which provides much higher reliability.” said Cramer. “The printed circuit boards (PCBs) have also been changed and construction simplified to get much lower error rates on new Wilfa coffee makers, compared to the first generation brewer.”
I asked about how other parts of the Precision were improved, including issues with the water lines in the older Precision. “The older model had aluminum in the tubing, which easily clogged. Wilfa changed to all stainless steel inside the tubing system, which greatly improves the Peformance’s reliability.” Cramer said.
As to other improvements in the new Performance brewer, Cramer went into further detail: “The overall construction of the Wilfa Performance is different (for most of its) components, based on lessons (Wilfa) learned from the previous generation machine.” Cramer said. “As an example, (the Precision’s) aluminium housing had cosmetic issues, so it is replaced with a plastic housing in the new Performance model, which retains a metal shower arm. The Performance is also much tidier inside, with less use of glue, and being designed to be much easier to repair. The coffee carafe is improved by having much improved pouring design, and being made in one piece, where the previous model had various parts glued together. Even the water tank is easier to remove on the Performance model, and has a new locking mechanism.”
Some Early Thoughts on the Wilfa Performance
We are currently testing and evaluating one of the first Wilfa Performance models to arrive in North America, and our Exclusive First Look will be up in a matter of days.
What I can say is this: the machine, in a month worth of testing so far, has been pretty much flawless. Even more so, I’m genuinely excited to use the Wilfa Performance on a daily basis, and I cannot say that about most auto drip coffee makers I’ve evaluated over the years. I found myself tinkering and experimenting with things I never thought I could do with an auto drip coffee maker, including full saturation brews, adapting the flow rate throughout a brewing cycle, and even manipulating the coffee slurry in the filter chamber during the brew cycle.
If anything the new Performance is even more strikingly beautiful in that awesome Scandinavian minimalist way than the old Wilfa Precision was, and just about everything regarding this machine, from the way the water reservoir works, to the way the coffee carafe pours, is fantastic.
So stay tuned!
Mark has certified as a Canadian, USA, and World Barista Championship Judge in both sensory and technical fields, as well as working as an instructor in coffee and espresso training. He started CoffeeGeek in 2001.