ESPRO Offers Ultralight French Press and Hydration System
Tom Spendlove posted on January 12, 2018 | 1256 views

Bruce Constantine and Chris McLean are design engineers with a simple but lifelong goal: make a better cup of coffee. After developing the ESPRO travel press as a portable way to brew coffee they solicited customer feedback and found that users wanted a press that was lighter and more flexible. Their new solution is the ESPRO Ultralight, what they call the world's lightest coffee press and hydration bottle. The first run of production components is currently running a Kickstarter campaign.

The double micro-filters from previous ESPRO products are still present but the added feature is the sixteen ounce stainless steel bottle that can be used as a water bottle or thermos. Chris McLean, ESPRO's Vice President of Design, answered some questions about the development of the new Ultralight, and he says that weight was the most important factor when constructing the new system. To satisfy the competing constraints of low weight and strength they worked with a factory that could form stainless steel to use the least amount of material while still meeting the strength requirement. Designing the lid was another component that required several iterations to optimize and remove any unnecessary mass.

Seals were the greatest manufacturing challenge for this production run. Chris said "there are two static seals and one dynamic seal in this design, and we obsess over them: material, durometer, stretch, dimensions, tolerances, and parting lines." The loop and lid were the biggest design decisions. The team looked for something functional but visually pleasing without raising the cost of the bottle. Solid full-sized loop design was chosen so users can easily pick up the unit and hold it with a few fingers, and clip to a carabiner.

ESPRO is a great representation of engineers moving from larger corporate jobs - McLean and Constantine met as QuestAir Technologies engineers - and moving on to work on smaller scale passion projects. Ultralight feels like a small scale maker level project but done with volumes of hardcore engineering and manufacturing development behind it. The company has amassed a large number of patents at this point going all the way back to 2005. I'm always surprised at how passionate coffee drinkers are and the extremely busy comment section of the campaign is full of people discussing the design and development of the Ultralight.

ESPRO sent me a test unit of the Ultralight and it's been fun to test these past few weeks. It's great to be able to make coffee for my morning commute and then have a water bottle during the day. The bottle feels strong but still light, exactly as I heard the design was intended. The Kickstarter campaign has already met its funding goal and ends on February 16. First units are expected to ship in May 2018. 

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