AeroPress / Inventing the World’s Best Coffee Maker

This $25 device makes what many consider to be the world’s best cup of coffee.


See how it works in this video by Sandwich Video:

Consistently fast, easy, and delicious, the AeroPress has attracted an impressive cult following since its release in 2005. According to Aerobie, the toy manufacturer behind the press, it brews the richest, smoothest, and purest coffee in the shortest amount of time possible.

The Story of Alan Adler

Alan Adler—electrical engineer, Stanford lecturer, toy maker, inventor, and founder of Aerobie—spent his first 25-year career developing nuclear reactor controls and aircraft instrumentation systems. In the mid 1970s, he shifted focus to consumer goods, and began tinkering with mechanical and aerodynamic toys. He sold the rights to his first product, a flying disc called the Skyro, to Parker Brothers in 1978.


Adler with an early Aerobie Pro ing. Photo via

Adler further developed the disc concept, as well as other toys, and eventually founded Aerobie in 1984. The Aerobie Pro ring was easy to use, flew straight as an arrow, and even broke the world record for distance traveled. Adler developed an obsession for creating easy-to-use products, and focused on toy development for the following 20 years.


In 2004, Adler was commiserating with friends over the lack of good options for brewing a single cup of coffee. A true inventor, and tired of complaining, he set out to find a better solution. He evaluated traditional methods: stovetop, percolator, drip, and cone. After careful consideration, he decided that he favored pour-over versions but was troubled by the 4+ minute brew time. Convinced that longer brew time resulted in a bitter taste, he looked to air pressure to help speed up the process.

The Invention of the AeroPress

Adler developed the first prototype in his Los Altos garage—a room overtaken by large industrial tools, boxes of prototypes, and remnants of half-completed creations. Early versions of the AeroPress were actually very close to the final press on the market today. After a series of positive taste tests, Adler began developing a production-ready prototype immediately.

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Adler with various early prototypes, as well as the final AeroPress. Photo via Aerobie.

The AreoPress was unveiled, to a bit of initial skepticism, at the 2005 Coffee Fest in Seattle. People were unsure of the low brewing temperature (a recommended 175 degrees), and perhaps unimpressed with the aesthetics. However, every blind taste test created a new fan.

Despite it’s superior brew, entry into the coffee world was not quite easy for Aerobie. “House-ware distributors and retailers were reasonably reluctant to sell an odd looking, completely new kind of coffee maker made by a toy manufacturer,” says Alex Tennant, Aerobie’s business manager.

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Adler presenting the AeroPress at Coffee Con SF. Photo via

Refusing to accept defeat, Adler turned to the internet and its notoriously fanatical coffee community. He began posting responses to an AeroPress thread on CoffeeGeek, a website with 80,000+ members. The thread is now the largest on the forum, with over 7.3 million views. Sales of the AeroPress took off almost immediately, and quickly became Aerobie’s best-selling product.

Make it Your Own

In addition to its delicious coffee and huge success, the most fascinating thing about the AeroPress is it’s hackability. Innovators have built upon the device, creating supplementary products such as the S Filter reusable filter and the Able Brewing Travel Cap (below).


There are countless recipes and brew methods, the best of which go head-to head yearly at the annual World AeroPress Championships.

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Adler with the 2014 championship winners and their trophies. Photo via Aerobie.

Hundreds of others have created inventive videos to show off their AeroPress skills. Here are a few of our favorites:

A simple animation.

How MacGyver does AeroPress.

The Sightglass brewing guide.

Adler finds this ongoing thread of innovation exciting, and encourages it wherever possible. However, he still stands by his personal AeroPress method and the current design. When asked if he plans to develop a larger model, his response is that the current press meets the needs of about 90% of brewing occasions. He’s happy to tinker, but less motivated to solve a problem that he doesn’t believe exists.


Alan Adler. Photo via Sprudge.

Best advice from Adler on success with the AeroPress: “Get a thermometer!” He says that the 175 degree water really does make all the difference.

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Photos and interview content via AerobieFast Company and Priceonomics. Header photo via Blue Bottle Coffee.


Sense / The First Device to Truly Understand Your Sleep

“We’d all like to get more sleep. Sense helps you to get better sleep.”

Your Sleep Story

James Proud, founder of Hello, set out to change the way we think about sleep. “Sleep. We spent a third of our lives doing it. Each day is dependent on it. But we still neglect it,” says James. He founded Hello as a combination hardware and software company to help people understand how conditions in the the bedroom impact sleep.

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Sense, by Hello, is a simple system that tracks your sleep behavior, monitors the environment of your bedroom, and reinvents the alarm. The team launched a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, raising over $2.4 million by 19,000 backers.

The system is comprised of three distinct parts. Sense sits on your nightstand to monitor conditions in the bedroom: noise, light, temperature, particulates in the air, and other disturbances. The Sleep Pill clips to your pillow, tracking your activity throughout the night. Finally, the mobile app ties it all together and includes a smart alarm to wake you up at the right time.


The Making Of Sense

When the team began designing Sense, they set tight constraints: create a beautiful object that feels at home on your nightstand while working seamlessly with the complicated technology inside. They wanted to create an object that, even if it did nothing more than look pretty, people would be still be happy to display in their bedroom.

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As opposed to more typical tech products, “it’s much harder to design a device that feels at home sitting beside your bed every day,” says Industrial Designer Rob. To complement something as natural as sleep, the team decided on an organic, nest-like structure.


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They pulled initial inspiration from architecture, as they saw how “a single design could be wrapped around an entire structure and lit up in ways that illuminates a whole building with a beautiful glow.”


To achieve a similar effect, the team created hundreds of prototypes. The 3D printer, which ran 24/7 for months, has spent over 1500 hours and 16,000 grams of resin developing parts.

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In addition to logistical challenges (the 3D printer broke down at least 17 times), the CAD modeling itself proved to be challenging. To get the exact look they wanted, the team actually wrote their own software to build an algorithmic modeling program just for Sense. From there, the team moved to a parametric modeling program to focus on the details. The outer shell was created with 2,745 lines, manually edited in order to manufacture it as one solid piece.

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sense insides big

A total of 90 individual pieces make up Sense, all designed to fit seamlessly together and tested extensively for durability. “It’s like a beautiful puzzle fitting together perfectly to become strong, sturdy, and to protect everything inside,” says Mechanical Engineer Rosalie. “Objects shouldn’t just be designed to look good, they should be designed to last.”

The Makers

“We’re a team of designers, engineers and operations experts who collectively have built products and services that millions of people around the world use and like.”


Pre-order Sense.


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Photos via Hello.


Peloton Cycle / The Only Indoor Bicycle with Live Streaming Classes

Peloton Cycle has built an entire tech-enabled ecosystem that brings the energy, instruction, and motivation of an indoor cycling class to any living room. 

The Inspiration

The idea for Peloton came to John and Jill Foley when they realized that they loved spinning classes, but could never find the same energy and motivation when working out at home.

John, then a President at Barnes & Noble, was simultaneously taking note of trends in the tablet market. The content available to a tablet is more valuable than the tablet itself, and he realized that indoor cyclists want good content as well–the invigorating experience of working out in a studio. He set out to find a way to utilize technology to transform the home workout, quickly assembling a team to help realize the ambitious goal.

peloton bottom

The team spent about 18 months developing and prototyping the system. The result is a combination of stationary bike, computer system, physical studio space with great cycling instructors, and software to connect it all as well as integrate key gamification and social elements. The team launched a Kickstarter campaign in mid-2013, to large success, and raised another $10.5 million in 2014.

The Making Of

The design of the bike itself is pretty impressive all on its own. The chain is replaced with a smooth and quiet belt drive. A magnetic system is employed in place of typical brake pads. The compact frame is constructed with carbon steel, and the micro-adjusting seat easily accommodates any rider.


As for the computer, the sweat-resistant screen is 4x the size of a typical tablet–plenty large enough to watch the instructor while video chatting with other cyclists. The system is sleek and quiet, and made to fit right in to any living room –no more hiding in the basement!

Here are some photos documenting the design and prototyping process that went into making Peloton Cycle:

Evaluation boards in the early days.
Team members Graham Stanton, Chris Sira, Rich Couzzi, Swarna Anananon, and Yony Feng testing the streaming system.
Yony Feng and Scott Milstein unveiling the first official prototype.
Tom Cortese setting up the sound and streaming system.
Above, John Foley with a later official prototype. Below, palettes of bikes mid-assembly.


The Makers

The term “peloton” refers to the main pack of riders at the front of a road cycling race. Riders in a peloton work together to conserve energy and perform better. At Peloton Cycle, based in New York, the team is comprised of technology and cycling enthusiasts working together to deliver on their ambitious goals.


Buy a Peloton Bike.

peloton cycle

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Photos via Peloton.


Oru Kayak / The Folding, Origami-Inspired Boat for Urban Dwellers

Combining traditional art with new technology, the Oru Kayak team is committed to connecting urbanites with the outdoors.

The Inspiration

The idea started in 2008 as a personal project of designer Anton Willis. Anton had recently moved into a studio apartment in San Francisco and had to put his kayak in storage. Around the same time he read a magazine article about origami, and was inspired. Why not make a kayak that can similarly fold like a piece of paper?

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Anton started folding paper models in his apartment.
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He gradually moved on to building prototypes in a friend’s garage.

A TechShop Collaboration

Anton immediately joined the SF TechShop when it opened in 2011, enabling him to fast track his design and prototying process. There, he teamed up with partners Ardy Sobhani and Roberto Gutierrez. They made many more prototypes using the shop’s advanced equipment, and launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012.

The team continued to work out of TechShop for a while after the campaign. They continue to use the space to develop their core product, design new kayak models (to be released soon), and brainstorm future plans to expand their product offering beyond kayaks.


Anton speaks highly of the relationships built with other makers at TechShop: “It feels like we’re in a class of companies that grew out of there. We all stay in touch and ask each other for advice.” Some of his favorite TechShop “classmates” include LumioOpenROV, and Mark Roth of SF Laser, who laser cut the pieces for many kayak prototypes.

The Making Of..

The kayaks are completely manufactured in the US, in a facility near Los Angeles.

Anton, at the factory examining the first prototype.
The body of kayak is made of one single sheet of white corrugated plastic. The orange plastic is the floorboard when assembled, and the lid when folded.
Cutting the corrugated plastic.
Tim, Oru Kayak’s manufacturing consultant, inspects the floorboards.
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A long piece of plastic is extruded and soon to be bent into shape.
Cutting and screen printing hulls, as well as building bulkheads, footrests, and seats.
Final assembly, packaging, and shipping.


The Makers

Meet the team behind the Oru Kayak.


Buy an Oru Kayak.


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Photos via Oru Kayak.


Navdy / Head-Up Display for Any Car

“Drivers are 3x more likely to get into an accident when they take their eyes off the road to look down at a touchscreen.”

Feels Like Driving in the Future

Navdy, an aftermarket Head-Up Display (HUD), makes it easy to drive and use your smartphone without taking your eyes off the road. By combining projection display with voice and gesture control, you can navigate, communicate, and control your music seamlessly, without fumbling with your phone.

How does it work? Navdy projects an image so that it appears to float above the road ahead of you. Your eyes focus on the virtual image the same way they focus on a license plate. This allows you to shift focus from the display to the road in milliseconds.

how it works

The Making of…

“We started by completely rethinking what the experience of using apps behind the wheel should feel like. Navdy is built from the ground up to be the safest and most intuitive way to make calls, use navigation, listen to music or access notifications without ever looking away from the road,” said co-founder and CEO Doug Simpson.

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Alex Halikias, President, and Jesse Madsen, VP Design, sketching mockups of Navdy’s display.


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Various iterations, from an early foam core prototype to more recent versions and components.
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In addition to prototype development, the team experimented with hundreds of vehicles to ensure that Navdy works in even the toughest of scenarios.
Navdy’s headquarters in San Francisco’s Mission district.
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Paul Michalczuk, Director of Electrical Engineering, and designer Patrick Mulcahy hard at work; Karl Guttag, Co-Founder, explains the product to a group at Limelab.
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Jesse Madsen with the Navdy combiner: a curved polycarbonate lens that takes light from the projector and makes it appear to float 6 feet in front of you.

Meet the Makers

Navdy was founded by entrepreneur Doug Simpson and serial inventor Karl Guttag. They boast a highly accomplished veteran team of designers, engineers and other experts.


Preorder your Navdy here.


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Photos via Navdy. Video by Sandwich Video.


Mark One / The World’s First 3D Printer to Print with Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is 20x stronger than the plastics usually used in 3D printing.

Mark One is the world’s first 3D printer designed to print with continuous carbon fiber. In this video, the makers tell their story, and explain how this technology will change the way me make things in the future.

The Mark One Process

MarkForged, the company behind the Mark One, plans to revolutionize the way we use carbon fiber. Despite the benefits of carbon fiber’s strength and light weight, it’s traditionally labor intensive and hard to work with.

MarkForged developed a new type of continuous carbon fiber material that can be printed with their beautifully designed Mark One—a printer any designer would be proud to display on their desktop.


The idea is to help simplify the design, iteration and creation of composite parts without the use of bulky equipment. To achieve this goal, the printer uses two print heads to build with plastic or nylon, as well as MarkForged’s carbon fiber or fiberglass filaments.

Early prototypes can be printed using only the cost-efficient plastic or nylon. The MarkForged software then aids in determining where carbon fiber can be used as a reinforcement. The final product is then printed, using both materials, in one seamless process.


The MarkForged team imagines that this is only the beginning of a revolution in 3D printing, and is excited to see real-life applications in aviation, robotics, prosthetics, space and countless other fields.

The Makers

MarkForged was founded by Greg Mark, an aerospace engineer who until recently worked on high-performance race car wings. After years of designing and manufacturing composite parts, he understood the limitations of traditional methods, and set out to develop 3D printing hardware to automate it.

“There’s a lot between an idea, and a product. That gap is filled by a team,” says Greg. The team is made up of mechanical engineers, scientists, plastic experts, and a creative director for “art, marketing and sexiness.”


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Photos and video via MarkForged.