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Victoria Gregory and Gabe Alba designed, developed, and manufactured their latest dorm-room invention called Coffee Cookie. Coffee Cookie is a portable, rechargeable device that keeps your to-go coffee hot. During Maker Faire New York, we took some time to talk with Gabe in order to better understand what goes on behind the scenes of this project.
Gabe, tell me more about this rechargeable, portable coffee warmer!
What is really behind the scenes of this product is that we did everything from start to finish ourselves. It was our last semester at school at MIT and we were studying mechanical engineering. We just really didn’t want to apply to a job directly after college. We wanted to try to do something ourselves. We got a small amount of funding, and with all that money we took this project from conception to market in a semester. It has been intense: a week before graduation we were in the basement of a dorm room, assembling a thousand of devices to try to get it out there. We sourced some components going directly to China, we made a block of aluminum to make our molds, and we used open source 3D printers.
We’re pretty used to everything that’s now possible via open source. We’re basically trying to be the guinea pigs of the maker revolution.
How does it work?
Coffee Cookie is meant for the coffee community that gets their coffee on the go. Commuters drink their coffee on their way to work, but sometimes they then throw out the last bit because it gets cold. The Coffee Cookie can double the time a coffee can last by keeping it at the same temperature. It acts as a controller that adapts to whatever temperature it finds. You attach it to the bottom of the cup and it keeps your beverage warm. Way more convenient than just throwing out a half-filled cup. You don’t have to wash the Coffee Cookie either. The heating element runs on an internal battery that’s rechargeable and has a life cycle of about a year.
Why did you start working on this specific problem? Was it something personal?
It isn’t even necessarily a personal problem. I’m not a big coffee drinker or tea drinker but there are plenty of people who are! It was something where [Victoria and I] had a lot ideas that we’d come up with in previous classes and wanted to try out. At the very beginning, it was more about the process. We wanted to bring an idea to reality, from concept to product, and possibly impact a big number of users. Who better then coffee drinkers?
So, it seems like what you wanted to use what was available to you to build your product so you could make it available as soon as possible. What’s people reaction?
It works out pretty nicely right now. We sold out of all our first units. We’ve been selling them over the summer. So right now we’re just showing them because we’re out of version 1. We have been selling them through our Instagram account – easy!
How much did you sell them for?
We were selling them at $15, and that was a big point for us. We have an Instagram account and good website set up, but that’s it. Everything is very simple, cheap, and made by us. We have been able to sell Coffee Cookie for such a price because we decided to do everything ourselves. Despite small quantities, we can still sell them at a reasonable price.
What are your next steps?
Now we’re going to scale up to version 2. We want to keep on making [Coffee Cookie] but with a more standardized process. We are setting up a plant in Mexico to produce on a larger scale, and we bought an injection molding machine. The goal is to keep on doing everything ourselves; we just need to increase production capabilities.
We are also thinking about different products. We have a few other products we’re trying to make, using the tools we have so far. We want to make products of similar dimensions and size where we can use the same molds!