As contemporary as the vacuum pot is classic, the Aeropress is manufactured by the company that brought the world the Aerobie flying ring. It unabashedly embraces 21st century materials and design, and is a triumph of modern production. For around $30, the Aeropress can actually compete with thousand-dollar Italian coffee machines in terms of flavor. It’s been on the market since only 2005; it makes both American drip coffee and espresso; and it brews outstanding coffee in about a minute.
The strange-looking brewing machine was developed by Stanford professor Alan Adler, who began a company, Aerobie, that achieved riches and fame in the 1980s for its world-record-setting flying discs. Adler was innately curious about things; he was “never happier than when he was learning a new discipline.” This curiosity led to a wide range of diverse hobbies, which in turn led to surprisingly varied inventions.
The amazing flying disc—once Adler had finally perfected it, after several prototypes—was a huge success for the company. Today, it’s sold just shy of 10 million units, which just happens to be the number of all-time sales of the Frisbee. But that was just the start for Aerobie.
A conversation about coffee over dinner spurred a retreat to Adler’s garage, where he confronted the problems of brewing time (other coffee makers typically took 4-5 minutes to brew, which leached more bitterness from the grounds into the finished cup) and quantity (these makers usually brewed multiple cups of coffee even if the user desired only one). He threw together a prototype that used air pressure to force water through the grounds, and brought it to his business manager, Alex Tennant, who was suitably impressed. After a year of tinkering and forty iterations, they launched the AeroPress.
Sales were sluggish at first—coffee connoisseurs were skeptical that a toy manufacturer could brew coffee worth drinking—and when the company saw a drop in profits from 2006 to 2007, it looked like the end of the road for the AeroPress. Though Aerobie had success in the sporting goods industry, they had no experience in housewares. The team decided to double their efforts, and ferociously attended trade shows and conferences the following year. Gradually, the strange device caught on, helped by the new trend of one-cup brewing. Adler, the Leonardo da Vinci of manufacturing, had done it again: the AeroPress slowly became a success. It is now a household name in American coffee culture, and has been embraced by all corners of the globe— the World AeroPress Championship has been held since 2008.
Operation of the AeroPress is charmingly simple—place a filter and 2-4 scoops of coffee grounds into the plastic tubing, add water (optimally at 165-175 degrees) and stir for ten seconds. Insert the plunger apparatus into the tube and slowly press down, forcing the water through the grounds and into the coffee mug below. (Handily, this process also self-cleans the device.)
AeroPress Espresso: A Tutorial
The strength of AeroPress coffee is close to that of espresso. However, for those desiring the real thing: