Taking the Plunge: A Brief History of the Aeropress
Ahh, the Aeropress.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and for Alan Adler, the need was for a simple way to make a great cup of coffee.
Who’d have thought that a simple tube-like device would pave the way for millions of home brewers and baristas the world over to have a great cup of coffee at home? Today, we look at the brief yet fascinating history of the Aeropress.
Ideation and Experimentation
The Aeropress is the brainchild of Alan Adler, a retired engineering lecturer from Stanford University whose claim to fame was the Aerobie disc, a modified version of the frisbee that’s been known to get thrown for very long distances.
It was at a meal with colleagues when the wife of one his sales managers asked the question that would birth the brewer we all know and love today: “what do you guys do when you just want one cup of coffee”?
A home brewer or barista could hear this question today and could shout out a bevy of options ranging from pour overs to a french press, even the use of a capsule machine could do the trick, but at the time, the definition of brewing at home meant having a coffee machine that churned out 6-8 cups worth of coffee at a time. The question sparked a curiosity in Adler and, ever the tinkerer, tried out different coffee brewing methods but didn’t find one to his liking. He was looking for sweetness in his coffee, and figured correctly that the longer a coffee brewed, the more acidity to bitterness you would get. Realizing that pressure could cut the brewing time, he made several prototypes that eventually made him the coffee he was looking for, and after having another colleague try out the coffee to rave reviews, Adler jumped into producing the Aeropress.
Debuting at the Seattle Coffee Festival in 2005, the Aeropress was a quirky thing. First off, it was made a “toy” manufacturer, so that didn’t sow a lot of confidence up front. Of course, they let the coffee speak for itself, and with quite the attractive price of just $29.99, it seemed like it was destined to fly off the shelves. Reality is a little more, well, realistic than that, and it took several years before the Aeropress really gained any traction. There was a brewing (no pun intended) community of users who shared ideas and discussed how they made their own perfect cups of coffee with the Aeropress. There was even a competition ironically named the “World” Aeropress Championships, despite only being held in Tim Wendelboe’s café (more on this in Part 2). Soon enough, the Aeropress managed to find itself in different homes and cafés the world over, becoming almost a default recommendation for a single-cup manual coffee brewer for anyone looking to get started with their home brewing journey.
Where to next for the Aeropress
The company recently received an investment from Canadian holding company Tiny Capital. Alan Adler still retains ownership of Aeropress, but with the added capital, there looks to be much more in the pipeline for the 83-year-old inventor. With plans to come out with more coffee brewing gear, it looks to be quite the exciting time for the Aeropress and coffee community at large, and we’ll definitely keep our eyes out for what’s next. In the meantime, for the next part of Taking the Plunge, we’ll talk about the contest that birthed a community icon: the World Aeropress Championships.
Words by Ryan Uy
|Taking the Plunge is a special three-part series on the Aeropress to celebrate the first ever virtual Philippine Aeropress Championships.|