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Ex-Apple engineer to open cafe in Fukuoka using coffee grinder he developed

Douglas Weber, who has developed an electric coffee grinder, is seen in the city of Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Dec. 13, 2018. (Mainichi/Tadashi Sano)

FUKUOKA -- An American engineer will open a cafe in the central area of this southern prefecture in February to offer coffee made using an elaborate grinder he developed after he had been involved in product development at IT giant Apple Inc. in the United States.

    Douglas Weber, 39, a resident of the city of Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, plans to open "Kamakiri Coffee" in Fukuoka's Chuo Ward with Tetsuo Yamaguchi, 41, a friend from when Weber studied abroad at Kyushu University in the same prefecture.

    Taking advantage of his experience and knowledge gained at Apple, Weber created simple and functional coffee grinders. The electric-powered version is able to adjust how fine it grinds coffee beans by up to a micrometer or one-thousandth of a millimeter, and it is also easy to clean and set up because of its joint parts using magnets. The grinders have drawn attention from coffee lovers globally despite their price tags -- some 110,000 yen for a manual grinder and some 360,000 yen for an electronic version.

    The Californian joined Apple in 2002 after studying mechanical science at Stanford University and attending Kyoto and Kyushu universities in Japan. He was part of the development team of the iPod portable media player that became a huge hit due to its innovative design and high functionality, and he also contributed to develop the iPhone. The success brought Weber a sense of achievement.

    But behind the brilliant accomplishments, a question arose. Weber saw piles of unmatched iPod nano parts build up after more than 100,000 players had been produced each day at the peak. He remembers thinking that the company had sold a large amount of products but that it had produced a large amount of trash at the same time, and he wondered if such a negative cycle should be encouraged.

    The engineer came to think that he wanted to create a long-running product, not a model replaced by another in a few years.

    Weber eventually decided to move into manufacturing and selling products related to coffee, which he loves to drink. He enjoyed coffee so much that he would buy grinders and other items, and take them apart to study and improve them. An encounter with another coffee aficionado who sold him a grinder online made Weber take a leap -- leaving Apple and establishing his own company. He hit on the idea of making a grinder that could help make tasty coffee for 50 years, unlike fast-evolving electric appliances and IT devices that change constantly.

    In 2017, Weber moved to Itoshima which he had liked when he studied at Kyushu University. He is dedicating himself to developing a new product, such as an espresso maker, in a quiet environment.

    Weber says he wants to create a good product that is needed and isn't currently available, and that he achieves business success.

    (Japanese original by Tadashi Sano, Kyushu News Department)

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