After spending decades developing a flying ring that set the Guinness world record for the farthest thrown object when it was hurled 1,257 feet in 1985, you might think that American inventor Alan Adler – who also lectures in mechanical engineering at Stanford University – would slow down a little bit. Yet Adler, whose signature pink Aerobie Pro flying ring is instantly-recognizable pretty much everywhere, has only picked up the pace leading into his late 70s.
Although he has spent the last few decades developing additional flying objects including a triangular boomerang and a toy football with fins that allows almost anyone to throw a perfect bullet pass (the sign of a true mechanical engineer), he also invented a completely different kind of product in 2005 that has since taken off thanks to a new generation of coffee lovers – the AeroPress.
“I was troubled by the fact that the drip-through took about four or five minutes,” said Adler in a recent interview with notable design writer Steven Levy.
“I believe that if lower temperature makes the coffee sweeter, a shorter time will as well. I tried pushing with various instruments down on this slurry of coffee in the cone, and it did absolutely nothing. Pressing on it didn’t shorten the time at all. I realized that I had to contain it somehow in an airtight chamber so I could apply pressure to shorten the time. So I drew a sketch and I made something in my shop. And it just tasted delicious. It tasted so much less bitter than regular drip coffee.”
If recent sales numbers are any indication, a lot of other people would agree; even Levy himself owns an AeroPress and proclaims that it’s “rocked (his) world”.
“The $30 single-serving plastic device looks like a hand pump and, in the opinion of some of the world’s leading coffee snobs, outperforms thousand-dollar espresso machines,” he says.
“I ordered one and it rocked my world. The coffee was great—smooth and rich—and best of all, the gadget pretty much cleaned itself. And replacement filters cost a fraction of what Melitta and others charge.”
So how did Adler – who also holds approximately 40 patents in electronics, optics, and aerodynamics – develop such a device on a whim based purely on the desire to make himself a better cup of coffee?
In this fascinating new video profile from Likely Media, Adler tells the stories behind some of his most famous inventions:
Next up for Adler?
“Lately I’ve been thinking about exercise equipment. I’m thinking of devices that would be so much fun to use that people would enjoy using them.”
(Photos by Jason Henry)