So I recently ventured to the small suite towards the back of a tiny industrial complex near 101 in Palo Alto, the home of the Aerobie company and its unsung master maker, Alan Adler. At 75, he is still at it, the canonical independent inventor, digging in file drawers for blueprints, shuffling to a storage space to locate an early version of his long-flying disk, lining up AeroPress prototypes like the iconic illustration of Darwin’s vision of the evolution of man. Across the room is his granddaughter, who does his PR. If the Maker Movement needs someone to put on its postage stamp, Adler would be perfect. He agreed to speak to Backchannel about coffee, flying saucers and invention. The interview is edited for length and clarity.
Adler’s line about the Aerobie stuck with me:
I set about trying to come up with a disk that was stable at all speeds. By this time Parker Brothers had made a million Skyros and returned the rights to me. Eventually I developed a little ridge on the perimeter, [like an airfoil]. The effect of that was just absolutely magical.
Regarding the self-cleaning nature of the Aeropress, which I thought was always part of the design, Adler says:
Total good luck. It was what I call serendipity.
He says that the popular method of inverting the Aeropress with a longer brew time (which I use) contradicts the philosophy of the Aeropress. For a long time I used the out-of-the-box instructions, but have been doing inverted brewing for a while (following the basic recipe of the folks at the late Tonx). I may have to give the regular method another shot—especially if it’s won the last couple U.S. Aeropress Championships.
If you want more, don’t miss The Invention of the Aeropress from Priceonomics just over a year ago.