If you've ever used an Aeropress, you'll know that they're a wonderful example of good design: simple, easy to use, nice-looking—oh, and they make killer coffee, too. This is how the device came to be.
The $25 coffee-making device is the brainchild of Alan Adler—a Stanford lecturer, electrical engineer, part-time physicist, and toy maker. In an interview with Fast Company, he explains how after chatting to a colleague about how drip coffee makers produced awful results when making a single cup, he was inspired:
I took up the challenge of making a better single serving of coffee, never thinking for a moment that it would come to be a product. Eventually, I developed some techniques for making a pretty decent cup of coffee in a filter cone—the kind you just put over a cup. But I was troubled that it took about four minutes to pour through. During that time, a lot of bitterness was being extracted from the coffee grounds. And so I wanted to experiment with a much quicker process, and I got the idea of building what became the AeroPress. By applying air pressure, it took the brew time to below a minute...
Well, I went out to my garage to my machine shop, and I made the first [prototype]. It wasn't terribly different from the current AeroPress. It was plastic, too. But the thing that just blew me away was how good the coffee tasted. It didn't have the bitterness that other brewing processes had. So, I invited [Aerobie General Manager Alex Tennant] over to the house and have a cup of coffee. And he said, "Alan, I can sell a ton of these."
I launched into a further development of taking this thing, which was just a simple prototype, to a real pre-production prototype. I spent more time on it than I should have, because I didn't actually know how to use my own invention at that point.
Indeed, the initial prototypes involved multiple plastic cylinders that fit together to create an air-tight seal, and even the inclusion of a bike pump to increase pressure at one point. Fortunately, the design simplified to become the iconic coffee-making device many of us use today. [Fast Company]
Image by sad giraffe coffee