Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Technology

Interview: Alan Adler Answers Your Questions About Coffee and Throwing Objects 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the throw-it-better dept.
A while ago you had the chance to ask inventor Alan Adler about making the perfect cup of coffee and throwing things really far. Below you'll find his best coffee brewing tips and the answers to those questions.
How did you get interested in making thrown toys and brewing coffee?
by samzenpus

The two things that you're known best for are the Aerobie toys and the AeroPress. Were these things that always interested you or did you stumble into engineering them.

Adler: In the case of the Pro Ring, it was a deliberate effort to try to design a flying disc that was better aerodynamically. Better in the sense of lower drag, because lower drag would mean that you could throw it farther and also easier. For the coffee maker, again, it was a deliberate effort. I got to thinking that the way I made coffee did not make a good single cup of coffee. I and a lot of other people I know seem to want to just make a cup of coffee as opposed to a whole carafe full. Most people, including me, use an automatic drip machine, and when I tried various recipes to make one cup of coffee that way, it didn't work very well.

I started experimenting with various methods. I began mostly using a pour over on top of a mug, and experimenting with temperature and amount of coffee. I found there was a big improvement in taste quality when I lowered the temperature, but I was troubled by the fact that pour over was taking about four or five minutes to run through. I had read that the longer you drag out the coffee brewing process, the more bitter the taste of the brew.

I got the idea of making a cylindrical chamber where I could apply air pressure and push the liquid through rapidly. I made a prototype in my shop in early February of 2004. The very first prototype tasted better than anything I had ever made with a cone filter. So I knew I was on track and I really spent all of 2004 perfecting the design, experimenting with various types of seals, and various diameters and lengths, and spent nearly a year getting production [tooling] made so that we could go into production.



Aerobie Drones?
by CanHasDIY

After reading the article about the Aerobie setting a world record as the farthest flying thrown object in human history (uber-neat, BTW), I wondered: Do you think there's any way that such a design would work as a small drone platform? Perhaps something that can be thrown from the hand, then perpetuate flight at least semi-autonomously?

Adler: I haven't come up with anything that is practical. Every idea I considered, I think is really inferior to a relatively conventional airplane, a configuration that's not rotating.



The Physics of the Aerobie
by MonkeyDancer

The Aerobie Pro Ring is one of the best skill toy inventions ever created.Can you tell us about the physics and engineering challenges that you had to overcome to break the world record?

Adler: I spent about eight years on the project. Not all of those eight years were with rings. I wasted quite a few years trying to make a better disc.

The ring is really a superior shape. It's better than a disc, and it's better because it flies and behaves sort of like two thin airfoils one after another. The front half of the ring is behaving like a leading air foil and the rear half of the ring is behaving like another airfoil. A very efficient airplane, like a glider, has long thin wings opposed to short fat wings. And by going to the shape, we have something that's like two long thin wings.

The front half of the ring naturally wants to develop greater lift, because it's flying in undisturbed air. When an airfoil develops lift, the process of doing that forces air behind it downward a bit. For every action there has to be a reaction, and in this case, the reaction pushes that air downward, so the rear half of the ring is at a disadvantage. It's flying in air that has been pushed downward a little bit by the front half. A ring or a disc or anything that's spinning, won't fly straight unless the lift is balanced evenly between the front and the rear. The challenge was to figure out how to do that, and I had a partial success in 1980 when I developed a ring that I licensed to Parker Brothers called a Skyro. The Skyro was a little bit like an Aerobie, but it didn't have that little rim around the outer perimeter. it was so efficient that it set a new record for a human thrown object. It first set a record of 750 feet and in less than a year later, upped that record to 850.

During that time, I met Mr. Norris McWhirter, the co-editor of the Guinness Book, and he was quite fascinated by the records that we set throwing that device. However, it was really only stable at one air speed, and I had developed equations that told me if I could make an airflow that satisfied certain equations, I could make a ring that was stable over a wider range of airspeeds. By stable, I mean it would fly straight, whether it was flying fast or slow. I had a breakthrough in January of 1984 when I came up with that little rim around the outer perimeter. I call it a spoiler lift.



Will Aerobee do a Milk Steamer as well?
by billstewart

I'm guessing the answer is probably no, because it's not something that's easy to do in plastic, and in a hotel room you can get by with heating the milk in a microwave, while there are other devices out there for stove tops or camping stoves. But I'd love to see one if there's a practical way to do it.

Adler: No. What could we contribute over and above an already manufactured milk steaming machine? There are some really nice kettles on the market that allow people to dial whatever temperature they want as opposed to just boiling water. When we first started, there were only a couple on the market, but now there are probably a dozen different kettles, and they're useful not only for the AeroPress but also for brewing tea.



Metal filter for Aeropress
by hawkinspeter

I've been using a metal filter with my Aeropress(es) for a few years now and was wondering if you're ever going to sell a version with a permanent filter? Also, how about a redesign to make the upside-down method a bit easier? (The upside-down method allows for better control over the steep time).

Adler: I had a bunch of metal filters fabricated by the photo-etching process which is a sort of a relative of the way silicon chips are made. The process allows you to make very, very fine holes, but they never tasted as good as paper filtering.

Along the way, I discovered that coffee that's made with metal filters, or maybe we should say coffee that is not made with a paper filter, contains two harmful oils, called cafestol and kahweol. They've been discovered to be the most powerful blood cholesterol raising substances ever found. So the people who drink coffee that's made with a metal filter typically have LDL cholesterol, which is about ten percent higher than people who drink paper filter coffee.

So I decided that even though some people said that they wanted a metal filter AeroPress, I couldn't with a good conscience produce it. However, there are a number of filters on the market from other manufacturers now. I asked the guy who runs The World Aeropress Championships if they were permitting metal filters in Aeropress competitions, which are judged solely on taste, and he said, yes, we allow them, but no metal filter brew has ever won a single heat.



Re:Glass or steel Aeropress?
by Anonymous Coward

Was the Aeropress world championships something started by the company and what is the best recipe to come out of it?

Adler: It has been going on for about five years, and it was the invention of Tim Wendelboe who runs a cafe in Oslo, Norway. He's also the Norwegian importer for the AeroPress, and he held the first two championships in Oslo. Tim Varney worked for him, and sort of took it over, and then they decided to start moving it around to different countries, regions, and cities.

These championships just sort of sprang out of the grass roots all over the place. We have tried to step back from it and tried to be supportive in the sense that we often make trophies, but we don't tell them how to run it. I'm very happy with the way they run it. They judge it on taste, and I think that's the way it should be judged.

Now as far as recipes go. I think if you look at the winning recipes, over the years, they approximate what we tell people to do in our instruction booklet. We suggest people brew right side up with 175 degree water. Most of the winners have been in that ballpark. Occasionally, somebody will win with a variation on that, but I think it's fair that most people win with something that's pretty close to the normal process.



What's AeroNext?
by timothy

Both the Aerobie and the AeroPress embody design traits I really like: they're durable, have few pieces, and work simply by dint of ordinary (vs. extraordinary) human-muscle power. Basically, they remind me of simple machines. (As in the wedge, the lever, etc.) What are your favorite likely areas for further improvement?

Will you come up with good improvements on ...
- Flashlights? (Muscle-powered flashlights have gotten much better, thanks to LEDs, but they still mostly suck.)
- Sailboats or kayaks? (What could modern materials and thinking bring to small person-powered / wind-powered watercraft?)
- On that front, paddles / oars ... wrt ergonomics and efficiency, I think there is a long way to go ...
- Whistles? (Pealess whistles have come a long way, but progress isn't over)
- Waterguns? (Where is the next SuperSoaker-style leap?)
- Bicyle fairings? (A semi-standardized clear fairing would be useful for lots of people, esp. as some big U.S. cities improve their cycling infrastructure.)
- Juicers? (A human powered AeroJuicer sounds like a good idea to me ...)

Not to say that for any of the above items that there aren't smart people working in the field ... but Hey, there were lots of coffee makers and coffee making methods before the Aeropress, too.

p.s. What about smaller and bigger AeroPresses, for light travel and for bigger gatherings? :)


Adler: I haven't worked in any of those areas.

With regards to a small model, I think that the savings wouldn't justify the investment because the existing one is pretty small.

With regard to a bigger model, I've experimented with it at length, and perhaps someday I will bring one out. I feel that the present AeroPress really meets 80% of the average person's brewing needs. Because it is capable of brewing three or four cups if you want to. We get a lot of letters from people who say that they brew a few cups and then maybe three or four hours later in the day, they do it again, and before the AeroPress, they were brewing, let's say six cups in a drip machine. Towards the end of that six cups, it tasted awfully stale.



Perfect Coffee
by samzenpus

There are almost as many different ideas about how to make a cup of coffee as there are coffee drinkers. What advice would you give someone trying to make a perfect cup?

Adler: We get a lot of resistance on two fronts relative to the AeroPress. There are people who buy AeroPresses who use it differently, and the first way they use it differently is they don't use 175 degree water. They say, oh you can't possibly brew coffee at 175 degrees. My answer always is, well, you can use any temperature your heart desires, but you owe it to yourself to try 175, because whenever we do blind tasting, whether it be for just average people or professional coffee tasters, they invariably choose 175. I would say that the average person who had an AeroPress, has never tried 175, even once. They go hotter, and you get answers like 'I don't use boiling water. I boil it, and then I wait a minute before I brew.' Well, with the average kettle, if you wait a minute, the temperature goes from 212 to 210. It takes 17 minutes for the average size kettle to go down from boiling to 175.

You're really missing out on a wonderful tasting coffee if you don't at least try a lower temperature. I have never found a single person, who when given a test between 175 and higher temperatures, has chosen the higher temperatures.

I gave a talk at Google about a year ago, where I said that there are a lot of people who would rather jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge than to dilute their coffee, and that created a good laugh. But we tell people to brew their concentrate, according to our instructions. At that point they are brewing something as strong as espresso and then, if they want a cup of American coffee, to add water to it.

The idea of pouring water into the brewed concentrate makes peoples shiver in fear. They think somehow that they are going to wreck it, and so they do things like, push water through the same bed of grounds. A typical user will put in a scoop of coffee and then fill the AeroPress with water to the very top and push it through as opposed to what we say, which is just fill to the number one, and push that through, and then add water afterward.

It's a little like the temperature thing, most people have never tried that, and it tastes better. The reason it tastes better is you're not forcing a lot of water through the same grounds and extracting more bitterness. So once again, I tell people you can make it anyway your heart desires, but at least try the way we recommend, because I think you'll like what you taste.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Interview: Alan Adler Answers Your Questions About Coffee and Throwing Objects

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    For a moment I thought this was going to be about the Java programming language.

  • by Antipater (2053064) on Monday January 06, 2014 @01:46PM (#45879613)

    Along the way, I discovered that coffee that's made with metal filters, or maybe we should say coffee that is not made with a paper filter, contains two harmful oils, called cafestol and kahweol. They've been discovered to be the most powerful blood cholesterol raising substances ever found. So the people who drink coffee that's made with a metal filter typically have LDL cholesterol, which is about ten percent higher than people who drink paper filter coffee.

    I had never heard of these before (granted, I know very little about coffee in general). Is this a known issue in the field of coffee-making? Are these common in other coffees as well, and if so, should this be publicized more?

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Monday January 06, 2014 @01:57PM (#45879729)

      I'd also never heard of them, but it does appear to be legit. However the full effects of the chemicals don't seem to be known: the research I can dig up in a quick search suggests that cafestol, for example, elevates cholesterol [nih.gov] but also might reduce cancer risk [nih.gov]. How that nets out in terms of actual net impact on lifespan doesn't seem to be known.

      It appears these compounds exist in anything except paper-filter coffee: Turkish coffee, espresso, French press, etc.

    • by reverseengineer (580922) on Monday January 06, 2014 @02:16PM (#45879945)

      It's something that's been known for awhile- there are papers on it going back to the early 1980s, though I'd imagine it may not have been heavily publicized at first due to the American preference at the time for paper-filtered drip coffee. Methods that retain more of the oils or the grounds themselves in the finished coffee, like boiled coffee or French press tend to have much higher concentrations.

      This paper [nutrition.org] and this paper [ahajournals.org] have some more information.

    • by DriveDog (822962)
      Of the many studies of the effects of coffee on health and/or measures like cholesterol levels, earlier studies tended to show a negative effect, and later studies tended to show a neutral or favorable effect. Someone noticed that earlier studies included a lot of 1960s coffee drinkers, who were mostly using percolators. Later studies included a lot of 1980s drinkers, who were mostly using paper-filtered drip coffee makers.
    • I'd heard of them, but hadn't been bothered enough to research them. I was aware that Alan Adler uses the cholesterol argument for using paper filters, but I've never been concerned with cholesterol (no significant heart disease in my family and I eat quite healthily).

      However, looking at the wikipedia page on Cafestol, it appears that cafetol has some beneficial effects as well as increasing cholesterol.

      What I found interesting in his answer (it was me who asked the question) was that none of the contes
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You're really missing out on a wonderful tasting coffee if you don't at least try a lower temperature. I have never found a single person who when given a test between 175 and higher temperatures has chosen the higher temperatures.

    To me, Starbucks first burns their coffee by over-roasting it, and then brews it at too high of a temperature.

    So now we have empirical proof that Starbucks make shitty coffee, and that those people who line up for it have no idea what coffee is supposed to taste like?

    I've known th

    • by Anonymous Coward

      After years of drinking what I thought was coffee, I toured a coffee farm. At the end of the tour I was able to sample a variety of brews from a range of beans - "medium roast" all the way up to "dark espresso roast". I was amazed at how quickly the flavor changed from pleasant and flavorful to burnt and bitter as I went down the line. It was an eye opening experience.

      I picked up a few different whole bean roasts to try at home. I varied the grind size and water temperature. For me, higher water temperature

      • by Pope (17780)

        Some of the absolute best coffee I've ever had was a medium roast pure Colombian bag of beans my Dad brought back from there. I ground them normally, and used my 4 cup coffee maker with a paper filter as I usually did. Great flavour, strong but smooth. Really excellent stuff!

        The past few years I switched to espresso at home, and mostly I've found the more expensive the coffee, the more bitter it is. I stick to Medaglia d'Oro, and its great as-is.

  • Samzenpus asked two questions? Not the worst questions, but they're the same questions and answers in pretty much every interview, party small talk, or post-sex chit chat for Alan. More interesting and off-the-wall questions didn't make it.
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Samzenpus asked two questions? Not the worst questions, but they're the same questions and answers in pretty much every interview, party small talk, or post-sex chit chat for Alan. More interesting and off-the-wall questions didn't make it.

      Just more indication that this shark has been jumped. Like others before me I am starting to get my news from other websites (Hi Ars!) well before it turns up here.

  • I found there was a big improvement in taste quality when I lowered the temperature, but I was troubled by the fact that pour over was taking about four or five minutes to run through. I had read that the longer you drag out the coffee brewing process, the more bitter the taste of the brew.

    I remember stumbling onto cold brewing coffee and loved the easier. milder flavor. Good article at Trader Joe's about this. [eatingatjoes.com]. Although it's easy to do.....
    • Sew together a muslin bag
    • Pour in 1 pound of coarse grind coffee
    • Lower that into 9 cups of cold water
    • Let sit for 12 hours

    Put a shot into your cup (1:4 ratio is good) and pour hot water over it. .It makes a nice concentrate that works great for iced coffee too!

    • by Agent0013 (828350)
      This is how we made the cold coffee that Seattle's Best called Iced Toddy when I worked there. And it did have a nice mild flavor without the bitterness that brewed coffee can have. The only drawback to it is that is can be hard to dissolve sugar into a cold drink. I found that vanilla syrup works good as a replacement since it is already a liquid it goes into the cold drink very nicely. I like to make this at home during the hot parts of summer. I make a pot or so instead of a whole pound of coffee and it
  • Combine coffee and throwing. When someone asks you to get them a coffee, stuff a styro mug with paper towels and some water to give it weight, and toss it to them. One of my favourite pranks. Makes them jump out of the way every time. :P

  • I'll be watching what this guy does in the future for sure. The aeropress is a great device that makes great coffee. I use it almost daily, and the 4 cup capacity is not a problem as if people are coming over I just make several batches and keep the espresso in the fridge. Even do that for camping trips, that way I don't have to pack the aeropress when camping, just bring the espresso.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      I just got an Aeropress this winter actually. It's OK, but it uses 3 times the amount of coffee I normally use. Literally. Three tablespoons of coffee is plenty for 3 cups in my drip machine. 3 tablespoons of coffee is *one* cup in the Aeropress. That's insane.

  • Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to finger the coke machine and see if there are any cooled down coke bottles left in the vending machine.

    • OK; this is an almost direct quote of something I wrote back in, hmm... around 2003. Coincidence, or are you the Will that used to get blasted by a certain bot with infamous quotes?

  • by Skynyrd (25155) on Monday January 06, 2014 @03:48PM (#45880837) Homepage

    I use an AeroPress twice every day, and it's perfect for my use. However...
    I know that I don't want to put 175 degree water in my mouth. Yet, when I brewed at 175, and put the coffee into a pre-heated cup, it wasn't hot enough.

    This may be one of those things that on paper, in theory, method A is superior, but actually has flaws.

    • Perhaps you can combine that with a preheated Joulie: http://www.joulies.com./ [www.joulies.com] You could also dilute with hotter water, just don't use it to brew the concentrate.
    • by kaiser423 (828989)
      I cheat, because I make it off at work where we have a hot water spigot. I get 175 degree water from the spigot (wait, dilute, whatever) and make the espresso/concentrate and then make an Americano/regular coffee with the super hot water from the hot spigot on the machine and it's hot enough that it'll burn my mouth and oh so yummy.
    • by Trogre (513942)

      Ten seconds in a microwave oven should fix that.

      At least that seems to be what people around these parts do.

Hacking's just another word for nothing left to kludge.

Working...