Wake inventors team up to create the perfect hot-coffee mug

jprice@newsobserver.comDecember 14, 2013 

— Two local inventors have teamed up to solve one of those niggling problems that makes millions of peoples’ day just a tad less perfect.

Dean Verhoeven, 53, of Wake Forest and Logan Maxwell, 23, of Raleigh have created a high-tech travel mug that rapidly drops the temperature of coffee just enough to let you drink without scalding your lips, then keeps it satisfyingly hot for hours.

Their temperature-regulating “Temperfect” mug isn’t even in production yet, but it’s already a hit.

They needed to raise $23,500 on Kickstarter, the online project funding site, to launch it. Halfway through the five-week campaign, they had already beaten the target by more than $20,000. Then Thursday the popular technology and gadget blog Gizmodo gave it a blurb (“This Goldilocks Mug Would Keep Your Coffee Just the Right Temperature”).

Techies are, of course, notoriously fond of coffee, and as of Friday evening, pledges topped $81,000 with more pouring in every few minutes. A $40 pledge gets a mug, shipping included.

The mug uses a three-wall construction, which creates two voids between the coffee and the outside. The outer void is a vacuum chamber, and the void closest to the beverage is filled with a proprietary “phase-shift” material, that turns from solid to liquid at 140 degrees, the point at which the inventors determined coffee no longer burns.

The nontoxic material, which Maxwell describes as waxy in appearance, absorbs the excess heat, melts, then slowly releases it back into the drink before turning solid again. The result: a pleasant drinkability window that lasts for hours.

Verhoeven, a research and computer programming consultant, had dabbled with the idea since 1995, creating and testing various prototypes. He got the idea because he would burn his lips with the first few sips, then some days would set his mug down and forget about it until the coffee was unpalatably cold.

Maxwell had a similar idea for his senior design project at N.C. State. He graduated last spring but kept pursuing the idea.

A third local coffee-minded inventor – Aly Khalifa, who along with his wife, Beth, developed a mug that doubles as a French press and raised more than $130,000 for it on Kickstarter – put the pair together after hearing they were both working on the same approach.

Now, Verhoeven said, he handles the production side, and Maxwell is dealing with the marketing.

They’re already planning other products for their new company, which is called Joeveo. They hope to use the phase-shifting approach on things like cups and soup bowls, for example, Verhoeven said.

The mugs will be made mostly in China, though they will be finished in North Carolina.

Ironically, Maxwell and Verhoeven now both drink tea. Their mug works great for holding tea at a nice temperature too, Maxwell says. But it’s not great for brewing, since tea needs to be steeped at a temperature higher than 140 degrees for best results.

Price: 919-829-4526

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