Securing your Keurig with RFID


[Andrew Robinson] and his co-workers are lucky enough to have a Keurig coffee maker in their office, though they have a hard time keeping track of who owes what to the community coffee fund. Since K-Cups are more expensive than bulk coffee, [Andrew] decided that they needed a better way to log everyone’s drinking habits in order to know who needs to cough up the most cash at the end of the month.

He started by tearing down the Keurig B40, making note of the various PCBs inside while identifying the best way to go about hacking the device. The coffee maker is controlled by a PIC, and rather than try to re-engineer things from the bottom up, he left the core of the machine intact and focused on the control panel instead.

He disconnected all of the unit’s buttons from the control board, routing them through an Arduino before reconnecting them to the machine. This essentially rendered the machine inoperable unless triggered by the Arduino, giving [Andrew] control over the brewing process. He wired in an RFID reader from SparkFun, then got busy coding his security/inventory system. Now, when someone wants coffee, they merely need to swipe their office access card over the machine, which enables the use of its control panel.

As you can see in the video below the system seems to work well. If we were to offer some constructive criticism, we would suggest ditching the laptop and rolling the RFID reading/verification into the Arduino instead – other than that, we think it’s great.


  1. Cool, but I’d suggest letting it get to a warmed up state before you swipe your card. That way, you don’t have to wait.

    Now I just have to resist the temptation to rip my B40 apart……

  2. Dan says:

    Two problems:

    What about the guy who brings his own K-cups? Still has to pay the coffee fund?

    Also, wouldn’t it have been easier to just wire the button to a wifi webcam, so when somebody turns on the coffee maker, you have a mug shot? Facial recognition in photo organizing software works pretty well these days.

  3. Josh Clark says:

    While I don’t want to detract from how cool this is, I have to ask what kind of office doesn’t pay for the employee’s coffee? Even the inflated cost of K-Cups is a small price to pay for keeping the employees productive and happy.

    • Jon says:

      Agreed. Cool hack, though. But what a crappy office to charge employees for coffee.

      • Joe Zydeco says:

        It’s crappier than that. The office isn’t supplying coffee, much less charging for it. This is a private group of guys that are sharing a coffeemaker and freeloading coworkers have forced the guy to put a lock on it.

    • Mental2k says:

      Maybe the coffee club is already organised by the staff. Could be nothing to do with their employers. I’ve worked in many offices with coffee clubs and it’s really annoying when people who aren’t in the club steal the coffee/tea/milk. Especially when they use the last of the milk. lol. This is a great system!

    • It’s actually a research lab at a University ;-)

      There’s free coffee in the building, although it might not be made by the Keurig, and the hack was done in good fun. It’s certainly more about hacking things just to hack them, rather than solve a dire problem with people stealing K-cups.

      The attitude approaching this hack is best described as ‘quick, let’s do something fun with RFID, look around the lab and invent a problem we can solve’.

    • Anon coward says:

      I work for a notable IT company (that’s 3 letters long), my site of 1500 people has coffeee shops and machines I have to pay for. Even for hot water, kettles are also banned.

      You can understand how valued I feel as an employee

    • Andrew says:

      Government employers are not allowed to provide coffee (or any other beverage, food, etc) to their employees.

    • Mike says:

      Any government office. We have to fund our own coffee.

  4. Dean says:

    Unfortunately this won’t keep my wife’s co-workers from stealing her k-cups and using them in the other machine.

    • John says:

      Well in the case make a vending mechine for the cups rather then haveing the coffie maker do everything =) You can good coffie pay for it or use someone else old cup that taste like crap

  5. llvllatrix says:

    Does it implement HTCPCP?

  6. Sean says:

    Cool hack. Now if someone could come up with a hack to make the coffee from a Keurig taste good… i’ll try to do both.

  7. fartface says:

    Yay! now all can share in the garbage coffee.

    I’ll just grab a K cup, pierce the top and take out the “teabag” of coffee and seep it in the cup of hot water instead. Same quality without having the be “tracked”

  8. Mike says:

    I would have just interrupted the switches for size selector. That way it will always be heated and it just won’t let you make the coffee.

  9. ejonesss says:

    couldnt you refill the k cups with bulk coffee?

  10. daniel says:

    why dont you just buy your own k cups and use the “office” machine. problem solved.

  11. jons says:

    interesting approach to an annoying problem! I would have opted for an rfid k-cup dispenser instead. Though his solution get more hacking points!

  12. exHomunculus says:

    Sorry for being negative but it does seem like a very complicated and controlling way to handle such a simple problem.

  13. metalwolf says:

    If you bring in your own cups, just think of it as helping pay the power bill to run it.

  14. Lasse48411 says:

    the rfid chip should have been on the cup, so when you put your cup into the machine. the machine logs the cup owner, and it should as it was said, only have been size that was locked

  15. Blue Footed Booby says:

    K-cups are incredibly wasteful. The refillable cups are basically just a kludge to turn the machine back into a regular coffee maker. It’s really quite silly.

    Don’t get me wrong, this is a decent hack, it just seems like a waste of talent, like building a teleporter then only using it to transport poop from your house to somewhere else to save on your water bill. :[

    • ScottInNH says:

      I used to agree with you, that the k-cup is wasteful. After all, that’s a lot of plastic cups which are not compostable/recyclable.

      On the other hand – most of the carbon footprint of coffee can be attributed to the coffee plantations themselves, and secondly the shipping thereof. Most of a standard pot of coffee gets dumped down the drain… after sitting on a hot plate for several hours.

      So anything which lessens coffee waste, and continuous heating, makes k-cup a less evil option. Aside from the freaking patents on the k-cups themselves, and the fact that most of the coffee vendors are owned by 1 company (green mountain coffee).

  16. Mark says:

    Grumble grumble grumble…. A hack is a hack. Look beyond his application of the hack. Substitute coffee maker for home security system or office thermostat.

  17. Yeah! Instead of a crappy coffee maker they should have done home security or an office thermostat! Right!

  18. Jean says:

    Absolutely GENIUS! This added brewer technology would go beautifully with the KCup Vending Machine from Multi-max… Ever heard of it? Check out their site, as I think you will find it rather interesting given your desire to control how the KCups in your office are being dispensed to employees…

  19. Vonskippy says:

    Next project – toilet paper dispenser.

  20. joesugar says:

    Wish I’d have had this for the keg when I was in school.

  21. Hirudinea says:

    Nah, RFID pay toilet plus a web cam in the crapper to charge by the deposit.

  22. Rollyn01 says:

    All those complaining about it tastes like crap, you should know that Dunkin Donuts makes k-cups too.

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