Hacking a Coffee Machine for a Better Brew

Coffee Machine

Senseo coffee makers are automated brewers that use coffee pods. [Ronald] had one, but wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the coffee it produced. His solution was to hack it apart and build his own automatic coffee machine with the innards.

The coffee brewing part of the system is controlled by an ATmega8. This reads the temperature using the NTC sensor from the original machine and actuates the various parts of the Senseo machine, and the added grinder. The timing was all done by trial and error, optimizing for the best cup of coffee.

Keeping with the trend of adding Raspberry Pis to everything, [Ronald] connected one to this build for remote control. He runs a very hacked version of LCD2USB which deals with communicating with the RPi. An Apache web server hosts a PHP script to provide a user interface, which runs a C program to tell the system to start brewing.

Unfortunately, [Ronald] didn’t give us a link to his web interface, so we can’t remotely brew him coffee. However he did provide all of the source for the project in his write up.

Comments

  1. gamip says:

    So, you had a working, good looking coffee machine and you hacked it. Now it’s a ghetto-looking mess of wires controlled by linux, great job, nerd.

  2. ChalkBored says:

    Now I know how the townspeople in the Frankenstein movies felt.
    I’d best describe it as a mixture of intrigue and semi-irrational fear for my life.

    Also, this needs a webcam, and the server on the pi should implement HTCPCP.

  3. Ren says:

    But he still has to remove the filter and replace it with a clean one for each brew?
    Yes, I know you have to do something similar with the coffee “pods”.

  4. Frank says:

    Sure this ain’t a miniature meth lab?

  5. gadget says:

    I can’t see how this makes better coffee than a senseo (admittedly not the best machine around) as it’s no different to making filtered coffee as this won’t produce an espresso.

  6. Guillaume says:

    Ah, I see why the coffee doesn’t taste good, you’re using Starbucks.

  7. stephelton says:

    I’m a pretty big coffee geek. I use the Clever every day to make coffee. It uses a standard filter, like this does, but it allows the grounds to steep for a period of time before pulling the liquid, so you get a nice, full extraction.

    The Clever has a stopper that is opened when it is set on top of a coffee mug (etc). I’ve often thought about making a coffee setup like this, because it takes about 5-10 minutes to make each cup of coffee. Here’s my workflow:

    1) pour water into a kettle
    2) heat the kettle to boiling
    3) measure & ground beans
    4) add beans, slowly pour boiling water over 30 sec
    5) wait 75 sec, stirring twice
    6) activate clever
    7) clean (throw filter + beans away, rinse clever)

    This hack looks like it accomplishes 1-4 for the most part. the last parts would be tricky. Now the workflow becomes:

    1) ssh in / use web interface / etc to schedule my next cup
    2) receive email / sms / etc notification that coffee has been prepared
    3) get coffee, clean up (as above) and set up for next cup

    Which basically means I reclaim 20 minutes or so of each day.

    I’ve also considered doing something similar with the Aeropress, which would give you an espresso-ish drink.

    • boxbox says:

      That aeropress would be a sweet hack, but definitely challanging, especially if you brew inverted (which I definitely prefer).

    • dtremit says:

      Most decent standard drip coffee makers use a mechanism similar to the Clever for a “brew-pause” feature. It’s designed to let you pull the carafe to pour a cup. You might find it easier to hack a pre-built machine like that, in the end.

  8. vonskippy says:

    And I wonder if I’m turning into a Soda Snob when I wipe off the top of the can before opening it.

  9. James Bailey says:

    How about a solenoid valve to fill the reservoir with cold water automatically, as well?

  10. TK9K1 says:

    Nothing beats instant coffee warmed by the barrel of your rifle.

  11. Ronald Teune says:

    I don’t have an internet exposed interface yet, it’s WIFI only for now. So no public link for the web interface, indeed. First need to implement some security features so you can’t all brew me a cup of coffee while I’m not at home… ;-)

    @gamip: It only cost me 10 or 15 euros, used. The only reason I used the Senseo because it is a convenient all in one device for this.
    @noouch: it’s meant to look this way; I like it (and my girlfriend does too :-))
    @gadget: Have you ever tasted Senseo? It’s nothing compared to normal filtered coffee. This indeed is “just” filtered coffee, but because the beans are freshly grinded, it tastes significantly better still.
    @Ren: I indeed have to replace filters. But since I can do that after drinking coffee everytime, it’s not in the way of the automatic process.
    @ChalkBored: nice, HTCPCP… Haven’t heard of it before. It probably will get a webcam, once. It needs, in honour to the first. :)
    @James Bailey: I do have one lying around, but I’m not yet at the point that I trust myself enough for a project of mine to be directly connected to the water supply…

  12. RoadWarrior222 says:

    If you want decent coffee, pick up a ’80s vintage proctor silex machine from a yard sale for a buck, keep it clean, and resist all attempts to replace it with something shiny. Takes me 90 seconds tops to dump filter, replace filter, dump in coffee, fill water, hit switch, then be webbrowsing again for 7 or 8 minutes while it brews. Takes longer to make 6 mugs of tassimo or whatever, with filling the reservoir twice, dickering with the stupid puck to get it to sit straight and be recognised, and the tendency to stand there gormlessly waiting because it’s not worth relocating yourself for a minute or two.

    • cutandpaste says:

      Yes, the old Proctor-Silex machines are an under-appreciated gem if you like drip coffee (I do).

      The last coffee machine I bought was a Mr Coffee thing that works just the same, except it has an insulated carafe instead of an electric burner, and also has a timer. The coffee stays fresh much better with this method, and I can get good, hot, fresh-tasting coffee hours later: Not as long as a good vacuum-insulated Thermos (good, hot coffee 24 hours after placing it in the cold trunk of a car? check!), but it’s pretty awesome for daily use.

      Warning: Having fresher coffee longer turns you into a coffee snob. Having gone this direction, I can no longer stand coffee that has been open on a burner for any significant length of time. In fact, I don’t even like to walk past coffee that is on a burner: It stinks. Accordingly, I can no longer enjoy coffee at the local gas station (even though it can be quite good if it actually is fresh), because the -smell- of all that old (oxidized?) coffee turns me off.

      The clock/timer contraption on my machine is actually easy to set(!). I don’t use it much because I’m not a big fan of having pre-ground beans sitting around overnight (flavor gets lost), but it works for the occasional early-morning gig: Wake up, shit/shower/shave, dump fresh-brewed coffee into aforementioned Thermos, dump remainder into insulated travel mug, and go.

      Aaaand. In other coffee-related news, coffee has grades. Beans are bin-sorted just like CPUs, RAM, and high-output LEDs are. Better grades have fewer defects, and worse grades have more defects. In the process of sorting, the better grades get better, and the lesser grades get worse (nothing is wasted). We as consumers aren’t exposed to this information (unless we’re buying green beans and roasting them ourselves), but it’s certainly something that the industrial buyers for whatever brand of coffee are keenly attuned to.

      Knowing this, one can pay huge amounts for well-sorted coffee, or just sort it themself: Dump the beans all out on a clean dish towel, and take out anything that is too light, too dark, too small, funny looking, or otherwise other-than-pristine and consistent. Throw the maligned beans in the compost pile, and keep the rest. There will be loose powdery stuff left over on the towel, too: A lot of this is the hulls from the beans (which are added/kept just to increase product weight), and none of this is something that you want in a good pot of inexpensive coffee. So scoop up the good coffee with your hands to put it away for storage, don’t just roll up the towel and dump it.

      If my time is money, it’s cheaper and better to sort my own $5.99/lb coffee than it is to buy extraordinarily better coffee at $23.00/lb (which some folks wouldn’t even consider expensive, but I digress).

      The post-sorting flavor is immediately obvious to anyone who enjoys good coffee: I usually buy 8 O’Clock Bean because it’s cheap, decent, and has high turnover (so it’s fresher than other stuff sitting on the shelf on the store). If I don’t sort the beans, folks don’t comment on the coffee: It’s just coffee. If I do sort the beans, they mention how good it is, ask what kind it is, and always drink more of it. It smells better, it tastes better, and I daresay it lasts longer.

      Only rarely do I go on at length about the work I’ve put into improving the coffee, but this is HaD, not a random visitor. :)

      Hope this helps someone…

  13. echodelta says:

    The red tape is the worst. Why not cut the foot off the grinder and position it over basket.
    Before I quit coffee I simply hacked one of those pumper-pod makers that was a curb giveaway. Remove fake espresso basket (pod receiver) put on without receiver. Set a Melita Cone and filter on cup (the original filter-still the best) and load up with grind. Set under pod funnel-drip spout. The rest is water and push button easy. Clean up when done, take tank off and drain. This reduces lime buildup. The cone design of the Melita creates a nice pool of steeping for the perfect cup every time.

  14. mikemac says:

    If you have a RPi, why do you need an ATmega8? All of these projects that use an ATmega to do relativistic space time calculations and then hook a RPi up to do serial to network conversion just baffle me.

  15. supershwa says:

    Rube Goldberg machine?

    They make 12-cup coffee pots with built-in grinders that don’t require RPi … about $100 and well worth it if you’re a coffee aficionado. ;p

  16. borgartank says:

    why isn’t the video posted?

  17. Ronald Teune says:

    The atmega came first… I had it, including the display and some buttons with an LCD2USB interface lying around from building a rockbox based remote control. Since I didn’t need that anymore, it was the obvious choice for the coffee machine. I thought of adding an openwrt router for the web interface, but then found out about the raspberry. Because changing everything to replace the atmega by the raspberry pi was harder, I chose this route :)

    Funny btw, all of this discussions about what coffee is the best, when my purpose just was creating a remote controlled filter coffee machine…

  18. Ronald Teune says:

    @echodelta: the grinder blows the coffee dust to everywhere… Even with the red tape. Another reason I did it this way is that it think the steam out of the filter is bad for the grinder.

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