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One of tech’s most prolific design studios just reinvented the coffee maker

Argodesign works with companies like Magic Leap and designs interfaces for AI. But its latest project is pure low-tech.

If you’re a true coffee aficionado, chances are you’ve got an immersion brewing setup at home that involves a grinder, a kettle, and a brewing device–as well as the cup itself. But existing immersion brewing systems are often cobbled together from different makers, meaning they don’t work particularly well together, leading to drips and unnecessary clean up. And while they might make an amazing cup of coffee, these thrown-together systems don’t look very appealing on your counter, either.

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[Photo: courtesy Argodesign]
That’s what industrial designer Hayes Urban discovered when he and his wife embarked on their quest to make a perfect cup of coffee. “It was a cacophony of different components and solutions trying to work together,” he says. So Urban began collaborating with the other designers at the Austin-based studio where he works, Argodesign, to create a new immersion brewing system called Stäk that seamlessly integrates the brewer and carafe into one coffee maker that also looks good on your countertop.

Immersion brewing is fairly simple: You let the water and coffee grounds steep together for a few minutes before draining the coffee and leaving the grounds behind in a filter. Usually, this is achieved with a funnel-shaped brewer that has a lever at its base; when you’re ready to drain the coffee, you pull the lever and the coffee drips through to your cup or carafe.

Stäk replaces this age-old design with a simple but clever mechanism. After letting your coffee steep, you simply place the brewer on top of the matching carafe. The carafe’s lid is designed with a pinnacle-shaped rivet that pushes through a small valve in the brewer’s base and allows the coffee to start draining into the carafe. The second you remove the brewer from the carafe, the valve closes, prevented any annoying drips.

There’s another reason to ditch the old lever design, according to Argodesign’s founder and chief creative Mark Rolston: Ceramics are incredibly finicky, and you want to use the simplest mechanism possible to release the coffee into the cup once it’s brewed. Rolston and his team worked with Portland-based ceramics manufacturer Mudshark Studios to refine three different molds for the three components of Stäk over the course of a year: If the formula in the clay was slightly different, or it wasn’t cooled in exactly the same way, the team would end up with differently sized, warped pieces. Rolston described the sometimes frustrating process as “very, very analog.”

[Photo: courtesy Argodesign]
But that was also part of the appeal for the digitally-oriented design studio, which has designed the world’s first graphical AI interface and serves as a strategic design partner to the augmented reality company Magic Leap. Stäk is the very first commercial product designed, produced, and sold entirely in-house. “Because we spend so much time in front of our screens doing digital work–that’s the nature of the world–it felt really like a great idea, very inspiring, to do something as analog as possible,” Rolston says.

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There are no buttons and Stäk requires no power. Instead, you carefully hold the brewer and double-walled carafe with two hands, since there’s no handle. “It felt natural to hold it with two hands, given the way we wanted someone to approach this with care, like a ritual,” Rolston says. That means this isn’t a coffeemaker for when you’re rushing out the door and all you want is a jolt of caffeine. It’s for the slower mornings when you have time to breathe in the coffee’s aroma as it steeps, and you want to curl up on the couch with your cup once it’s done.

“We like to do it on Sunday mornings when we’ve already made the pancake batter,” Urban says. “That’s the perfect time to break out the Stäk.” Stäk costs $200 and is available online and at the fashion and home goods shop ByGeorge in Austin.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and sign up for her newsletter here: https://tinyletter.com/schwabability

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