by David Leone
A friend of mine has created the perfect cup of coffee. Make that the perfect cup for coffee.
You might have heard about it by now; he’s been garnering some attention in the past weeks, online and in area press.
Wake Forest resident Dean Verhoeven has come up with a container, dubbed Temperfect, with a special lining that slightly cools piping hot liquids to make them drinkable, then stores that heat energy to keep them hot for hours.
“What you want is a mug that you pour your coffee in there and it just drops down and just stays in that zone,” he says. “I can make my coffee and drink a little bit and go to yoga class and come back and it’s still good.”
If you’re saying to yourself right now: “Genius!” you might add a mild rebuke to Dean because he’s been sitting on the idea for more than half a decade. He started working on the concept in 1995. He came up with the finished prototype in 2007.
Think about it, for more than five years, while you’ve been scalding your lips and tongue on too-hot coffee, hot chocolate or whatever, and then dumping the contents still half-filled down the drain when it cools, Dean has been drinking out of that prototype on the job.
There’s a reason for the delay, but introductions first.
I first recall meeting Dean as part of a wine drinking club, though I’m more of a beer drinker. He has lithe, striking features and piano-player’s hands. Though the wine group conflicted with my work schedule, I began to run in some of the same circles as Dean, namely concerts involving Wake Forest ARTS, of which he was a board member. You might have seen him taking pictures for the organization at Six Sundays in Spring, Neck of the Woods, or other events.
After a time, I came to learn how he makes a living. It’s quite unique. Working out of his Wake Forest home, Dean is an industrial designer. He makes things. Unusual things. Cool things. In his living room is a prototype of a piece of furniture that conforms to your shape. I’m not allowed to say more than that, but it’s very cool.
He is trained as a scientist and engineer, and isn’t comfortable until he’s done something right. So you can guarantee this coffee mug does what he says it does.
You pour the liquid at about 180 degrees. Within two minutes it’s still hot, but now about 135-140 degrees — comfortable enough to drink. Keeping the lid sealed between gulps, the same secret stuff that draws heat out of the liquid keeps the cup warm. Over the next three hours, the temperature only drops about another 10 degrees.
Went to see a play
So what’s Dean been doing since he started? Trying to market it — to Thermos, to whomever.
“The span between 2007 and now has been trying to find an approach to try to make it a mass-market product,” he describes.
That went nowhere, so Dean has opted to do it himself, instead. He found a factory that can make the stainless steel base in bulk. He’ll assemble the rest at home, adding the insulation layer, and then sending it to Quality Contract Manufacturing in Louisburg to have it finished and boxed.
It was Dean’s love for theater that led to that last step.
“I was just up there for a play and drove past this factory,” he says about Tuesdays with Morrie, put on at Louisburg College in November. “I noted the name and Googled it and called the owner and we’ve got a deal.”
It was serendipitous, Dean says, because, “I’d spent a lot of time searching on the Internet and trying to find somebody that could do this for me and I couldn’t find anybody.”
See, art really does open up doors for people.
He estimates he’ll be able to retail the mugs for about $30. Insulated mugs tend to sell for $20-21, but they’re not as well-insulated as the Temperfect.
A kick start
But Dean needed seed money for the manufacturing end. So he’s raising the capital the new-fashioned way — through Kickstarter.com. The online crowd funding site has garnered $121,000 so far of his $23,000 goal to get started.
Why would people pledge more than the needed total? Perhaps they’re all long-haul truck drivers — people who donate $40 or more are promised the first versions of the Temperfect mugs.
And yes, I’ve put my money where my mouth is. I’m buying a mug for my sister, Nicki, an avowed coffeeholic.
The finished product won’t be ready until July, but think about it — is six months too long to wait for the perfect cup for coffee?
Check out the Kickstarter site and see a video of Dean describing the process in a much more scientific fashion at tiny.cc/temperfect or see his company website at joeveo.com.
Editor’s note: Uncommon Sense is a new column highlighting the unique and unusual thinkers, makers and doers in our community.