Fellow’s latest product, Atmos Vacuum Canister, launched in September with the important mission to keep coffee fresher for longer. The minimalist canister looks simple, but the science and engineering inside is no joke. Drew Cosgarea, Fellow’s Product Development Engineer, invented Atmos during his junior year of college at Stanford and spent the next four years working hard to bringing it to market. To celebrate our newest engineer on the Fellow team, we had Drew dig up old photos from his college days and then sit in the hot seat to answer all things Atmos and dive deeper into what’s exactly happening inside the most effective coffee canister out there.
What’s the origin story of Atmos?
During the last quarter of my junior year (spring of 2014), I was in a class called ME203 at Stanford. This is a popular design and manufacturing class where you have ten weeks to come up with a physical product idea, make multiple prototypes, and then present a “finished” version at the end of the quarter.
And how did you land on coffee storage?
My class project corresponded to a time where I had just recently started drinking coffee. I’d buy a bag on the weekend and use it all week, but by Friday, the bag tasted off. I realized that a good product could be something to keep my bag of coffee fresher for longer.
What was the first prototype like?
I made the first version of Atmos in that class, except that it had a hand pump. At the end of the class, we presented at an expo in the d.school where about a couple hundred people came and looked at all the products. Someone came up to my table and said he’d actually use this but didn’t like the separate pump. So I went to the professor of the class, David Beach, and told him I can make the vacuum canister a lot better. I asked him if he’d be willing to mentor me to turn Atmos into a real product.
He said it would be a really hard thing to do, but if I committed the time, we can do an independent study the fall of my senior year. I knew I wanted to put a pump into the lid and power it with a twisting motion, which as far as I know, has never been done before. During the study, we iterated through a series of prototypes starting with literally just cutting components of a fish tank pump. But by the end of the independent study, we had a functional, machined proof of concept. No fish tank pumps required!
What happened after graduation?
Well, I moved to Arizona for a year to train full time for the 2016 Olympic Swimming Trials. I got extremely bored during that time, so I continued working on the project while training. I worked on the CAD and eventually raised $25,000 from a couple different investors, basically friends and family, to help me get the patent on this. I eventually got the patent for a vacuum sealable container with an internal pump mechanism. This is the only internal curved vacuum pump. There were no designs for curved pumps that could be integrated into a lid.
Where does Fellow come into this whole story?
So by now, it’s 2017 and Atmos had been an idea of mine for three years. I spent the last of the money on the patent application, and I was running out of steam. I was about ready to give up on the project when I had a conversation with Professor Perry Klebahn from Stanford. He encouraged me to not walk away, but instead, chat with Jake at Fellow who was in his launchpad class in the d.school a few years back. So I headed to Fellow’s old office in the Dogpatch and met with Jake for the first time. Coincidentally, Fellow had been wanting to make a coffee storage vehicle for the past few years and Jake was excited to add my technology to Fellow’s portfolio of products.
How did Fellow help bring Atmos to market?
Fellow officially took on the Atmos project January of 2018. A side note, I had always referred to this product as Hypo (comes from “hypobaric” which means low pressure and the name Atmos didn’t come along until July of this year). The final naming process took about a month, but I’m so glad it ended up the way it did. Anyways, Fellow and Branch Creative worked for months to create the beautiful design ID and iron out kinks. Then in June, I actually joined the Fellow team officially. This was not the intention when I passed off Atmos, but something kept drawing me back to Fellow and I was excited to design new products with them.
My first day at Fellow was a flight to Taiwan for factory visits. I got to see the mold tooling for the curved pumped piece. This curved pump is the foundation of my invention and a huge headache, so it was pretty rad to see this in real life. Ever since getting back from the trip, I’ve been improving on the design and guiding production ramp up through launch at the end of September.
Why is Atmos better than what’s on the market currently?
At the time of invention, there were no vacuum canisters that didn’t require an extra pump. There are also some other non-vacuum coffee containers out there, but they’re total gimmicks. Here’s why. When you roast coffee, a bunch of compounds form that make it smell and taste good. Oxygen comes in and steals electrons from these compounds, which makes them smell and taste bad. This is called an oxidation, and it’s the reason coffee goes stale. How quickly oxidation happens depends on the pressure of the oxygen. Again, pressure. It’s a fundamental principle of chemistry. If you’re not storing in a vacuum, you’re not slowing oxidation. Frankly, non-vacuum containers are no different than leaving your beans in the coffee bag and folding the tabs down. Not to mention, Atmos is beautifully designed and minimalist. The whole idea is you can’t tell there’s a pump inside.
Did you have any big hiccups while making Atmos?
I would say there were at least four times that I wanted to totally ditch the project. There were times when the only thing that kept me going was knowing that I borrowed money from my friends and family. I didn’t want to let them down.
How do you feel now that your baby is finally out in the world?
It’s super satisfying. To be able to see the entire process from the original idea to the industrial design to the marketing campaign to fulfillment, it’s pretty magical. I never imagined it was actually possible.
How many Atmos’ did your mom buy on launch day?
Sheila Cosgarea bought six. A set of the clear glass and a set of the matte black stainless steel.
What are you going to store in Atmos?
I’m definitely going to put full bags of coffee in the 1.2 liter glass size. I like to see the label and remember the tasting notes that I’m drinking. Also, specialty bags are so well designed, why would you cover them? Also, when you put a bag of coffee inside, the bag also gets vacuumed sealed!
What’s next in your product inventing pipeline?
From Atmos’ idea conception until the product shipped, it took me four years. I would say now, my goal is to cut that down to eight months for the next Fellow product. That’s why I’m here. They have the resources and mentorship to learn how to do this along with an incredible brand that I’m excited to design for. (Note: We did not pay him to say this. Although, he is on our payroll…)
Thank you, Drew! If you didn’t already know, Atmos is a pre-order product shipping in mid-November. Right now, we have special pre-order launch deal – buy two, get one of equal or lesser value for free!