50 over Fifty: Alan Adler

I love coffee. But the other day a friend of mine who really loves coffee invited me to a "cupping" at one of Kansas City's artisan roasters. A cupping is where coffee tasters slurp coffee off spoons, pretty much exactly the way your mom told you never to do it. It seems that mixing the coffee with a lot of air releases the flavor.

Anyway, my point in telling you this story is that all the coffee samples were prepared using the up-to-date coffee geek's méthode du jour: the Aeropress. From Brooklyn to Portland, from Sundance to SXSW, guys are riding up to cafes on their fixed gear bikes and specifying they want a single-shot coffee brewed in an Aeropress, which is a device that's sort of a cross between a portable espresso machine and a bicycle pump. As the name implies, the water is pressed through the coffee grounds by a cushion of compressed air.

Adler, who's been an inventor all his life, is having a big second act at 76.

Adler, who's been an inventor all his life, is having a big second act at 76.

Since the Aeropress is the darling of Millennials, you may imagine that even I was surprised to learn that the inventor, Alan Adler, is in his 70s. He's been inventing stuff for decades, including a Frisbee-like flying ring that's sold in the millions.

Adler's not even that big a coffee drinker, but he was inspired to develop a cheap and effective fast-brewing system after he read that when the water spends less time in contact with the coffee, it comes out sweeter. Of course, from my perspective here @BrandROI, I'm a little disappointed that he's now sold millions of Aeropress machines (they retail for about $30) almost without advertising. But I can't argue with his strategy, which is to get the machine into the hands of coffee geeks like the ones who put on that cupping I attended. They then become evangelists for his brand.

 Like my last 50 over Fifty subject, Barbara Beskind, Adler works in Palo Alto, where he's still inventing stuff.

To read a great story on Adler and the Aeropress, go here.