Filming the Aeropress: an interview with Ales Pospisil

Ales Pospisil has been to a lot of coffee shops. The cofounder of the website European Coffee Trip has compiled the most extensive regional catalogue of specialty coffee shops we’ve seen anywhere. But the Czech-native’s latest project is even more ambitious. Pospisil recently produced Aeropress Movie, a medium-length documentary about the cult brewing device. We viewed a screening of the film and were impressed by its engaging story, uncovering surprisingly bits of information about one of our favorite brewing devices. We caught up with Pospisil to ask him what it was like to meet legendary inventor Alan Adler, and, of course, how does he brew an Aeropress.

Okay, first things first, inverted or regular?

I was using the inverted method for years. It is the method I learned first, and it is a practical one for traveling. Before we started filming, we wanted to try the original recipe by Alan Adler, and I have to say it often produces a delicious cup of coffee. It is also very quick.

When did it first occur to you that you could make a documentary about the Aeropress?

It was around the end of 2017. We finished our first short film from Tanzania that year, and we felt we could produce something more significant.

At that time, we were already producing many AeroPress videos for our Youtube channel, so we knew that it is something people like to watch. Considering a passionate community around the World AeroPress Championship, its 10th anniversary and the inventor’s aim to sell the business, we thought there is a good story for a film.

We decided to kick it off in the middle of 2018, and then we waited a few weeks for Alan Adler to confirm his participation. We couldn’t make this film without him. Then we started filming in Oslo in October 2018.

Alan Adler seems like a pretty humble, down-to-earth guy. What was it like being invited into his home laboratory?

Honestly, filming with Alan was the most exciting but also the most challenging filming of our career. We are privileged to be invited to his home, having a chance to visit a place where he spent hours and hours inventing, and prototyping was truly special.

Alan likes to talk but not that much about himself and not that much on the camera. We had to convince him that his story is essential for the story of AeroPress. He kept reminding us that there should not be too much of him.

We spent two afternoons filming, and I think it took us a day to build a trust needed for getting all the answers we needed. Actually, the fascinating parts of the interview you can see in the documentary were captured in a casual discussion in his kitchen, not in the interview setup.

Probably the tensest moment of the film comes when discussing the recipe. Most coffee professionals┬ádo not use the device the way it was designed– to make an espresso-style concentrated coffee beverage– but Adler seems insistent it’s the best way to use the device. As a filmmaker, how did you approach this tension?

Yes, you are right. Alan is still convinced that his method of using AeroPress produces the best tasting cup of coffee. On the other hand, he appreciates that what made the AeroPress so popular is its versatility. Brewing AeroPress coffee can be both simple and complicated.

As filmmakers, we wanted to capture this controversy, but the most tension was build in the post-production when we combined all the interviews together. Lucky to us, Kyra Kennedy of Baratza and James Hoffmann shared great stories and memories of the early days of the AeroPress being on the market. We also dug into the Coffeegeek.com to spice it up with some authentic posts.

The World Aeropress Championship has gone from something of a spoof of coffee competitions to a pretty serious coffee competition in its own right. What role do you think the competition has played in popularising the device?

It played a huge role! It is basically their major PR activity yet it was not created by Alan or the team at AeroPress Inc. They were lucky with Tim Wendelboe starting in Oslo something that would bring some many people around the world to use the AeroPress. The global reach of AeroPress is undoubtedly contributed to the success of the World AeroPress Championship.

The funny part is that they tried to establish competitions with the earlier products, flying rings, yet the competitions never took off even though it got several Guinness World Records listings.

What’s your Aeropress recipe?

I use the Tim Wendelboe’s recipe in the office and I use inverted 15g coffee / 250g water when travelling. I played with a water temperature (intrigued by Alan and the winning AeroPress recipes) but most of the time I use 90 degrees.

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