Alexa Robot Coffee Maker Brews Coffee, Speaks For Itself

To keep hackers fueled and hacking, why not hack a coffee maker into a coffee brewing robot? [Carter Hurd] and [David Frank] did just that at The Ohio State’s Hack OHI/O 24 hour Hackathon. They even won the “Best Hardware Hack”. The video below shows it in action but the guys sent us some extra details on how it’s made.

To give it a voice they put Alexa on a Raspberry Pi. Using an audio splitter they have the voice go both to a speaker and to an Arduino. The Arduino then uses the amplitude of the audio signal’s positive values to determine how much to open the “mouth”, the coffee maker’s hinged cover. As is usually the case, there’s some lag, but the result is still quite good.

The brewing is also controlled by the Arduino. They plan to add voice control so that they can simply ask, “Alexa, make me coffee”, but for now they added a switch on the side to start the brewing. That switch tells the Arduino to work one servo to open the cover, another to insert a coffee filter, and two more to scoop up some coffee from a container and dump it into the filter.

They replaced the coffee maker’s on/off switch with a relay so that after the Arduino closes the cover again, it uses the relay to start the brewing. The result is surprisingly human-like. We especially like the graceful movement achieved by the two servos for scooping up and dumping the coffee. Full disclosure: they did admit that it would often either not scoop enough coffee or scoop enough but spill a bunch on the group.

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Insanely Hot Oven Makes Pizza in 45 Seconds: Avidan Ross on Food Hacking

In the future, nobody will have to cook for themselves: the robots will take care of it all for us. And fast! At least if folks like [Avidan Ross] have their way. He gave a talk on his 45-second pizza robot, and other DIY food automations, at the 2016 Hackaday SuperConference, and you’re invited to pretend that you were there by watching this video.

Why would you want to build machines to build food? It’s a serious challenge, and there’s always going to be room to improve and new frontiers to cross. There’s immediate feedback: [Avidan] gets to taste and tweak in a quick feedback cycle. And finally, everybody eats, so it’s not hard to find “test subjects” for his work.

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Arduino Controlled Micro Distillery

Booze, they say, is one of the major factors that shaped human history. And creating new and faster ways of making booze has always been a big engineering problem, so this project by [Goat Industries] is rather interesting. It’s a completely automated micro-distillery called the NanoStillery.

The whole thing can run unattended, but uploads data on the brewing process for remote monitoring and notification. Given that distilling involves explosive things like alcohol vapor, that’s a big plus. It is all home-made, including the boiler assembled from steel plate and an air-cooled condenser. It’s controlled by an Arduino Mega twinned with a couple of Adafruit boards that interface with the various sensors and pumps that control the flow of booze around the system. There is also an Adafruit FONA board that includes a cellular modem that uploads data to a database to monitor the progress and let you know when it is done.

The Instructable even includes the Arduino code that runs the process. It’s an impressive build from an engineering point of view, and the final touch has to be the creepy Cylon voice that the controller uses to narrate the process. There’s a video tour after the break.

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Open Source Pancakes

It is definitely a first world problem: What do you do when creating a custom pancake requires you to put a design on an SD card and plug it into your pancake printer? This is what was nagging at [drtorq]. Granted, since he works for a publication called “The Stack” maybe a pancake printer isn’t so surprising. [drtorq] built the custom PancakeBOT software on Linux as a start to his hacking on the flapjack creating robot.

[drtorq] promises more hacking on the printer in the future, so this is just step one. We expect the mods will be a lot like a typical 3D printer, except the heated bed is absolutely necessary on this model. The printer is more like a CNC engraver than a 3D printer since it is basically an XY carriage with a nozzle that flows batter instead of polymer.

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Brew a Cup of Coffee Without Electricity!

So, wether you’ve blown your house’s breakers while cranking up the power on your latest project or a storm has brought low the local power grid, what do you do if you desperately need coffee with no electricity to power your coffee maker? Make like [austiwawa]: crack it open and bust out the tea lights.

Removing the bottom of the coffee maker is simply done, exposing the resistance heating element. Improvising a jig to hold the coffee maker over an arrangement of five tea lights, the candle flames slowly do the work of heating the element to set the maker in motion.

It’s a solution for after the apocalypse… as long as you can find tea lights, coffee plus a grinder, and for some reason don’t want to use the quick and efficient method of brewing over an actual fire (though kitchen hearths are a rarity these days). Now we kind of want to see this adapted for all kinds of other heat sources. Reflected sunlight anyone?

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Reverse Engineering The Internet Of Coffee

The public promise of the Internet Of Things from years ago when the first journalists discovered the idea and strove to make it comprehensible to the masses was that your kitchen appliances would be internet-connected and somehow this would make our lives better. Fridges would have screens, we were told, and would magically order more bacon when supplies ran low.

A decade or so later some fridges have screens, but the real boom in IoT applications has not been in such consumer-visible applications. Most of your appliances are still just as unencumbered by connectivity as they were twenty years ago, and that Red Dwarf talking toaster that Lives Only To Toast is still fortunately in the realm of fiction.

The market hasn’t been devoid of IoT kitchen appliances though. One is the Smarter Coffee coffee machine, a network-connected coffeemaker that is controlled from an app. [Simone Margaritelli] bought one, though while he loved the coffee he really wasn’t keen on its not having a console application. He thus set about creating one, starting with reverse engineering its protocol by disassembling the Android version of its app.

What he found was sadly not an implementation of RFC 2324, instead it uses a very simple byte string to issue commands with parameters such as coffee strength. There is no security, and he could even trigger a firmware upgrade. The app requires a registration and login, though this appears to only be used for gathering statistics. His coffee application can thus command all the machine’s capabilities from his terminal, and he can enjoy a drink without reaching for an app.

On the face of it you might think that the machine’s lack of security might not matter as it is on a private network behind a firewall. But it represents yet another example of a worrying trend in IoT devices for completely ignoring security. If someone can reach it, the machine is an open book and the possibility for mischief far exceeds merely pranking its owner with a hundred doppio espressos. We have recently seen the first widely publicised DDoS attack using IoT devices, it’s time manufacturers started taking this threat seriously.

If the prospect of coffee hacks interests you, take a look at our previous coverage.

[via /r/homeautomation]

See a Cheap Smoker get an Automation Power Up

[Jason] learned a lot by successfully automating this meat smoker. This is just the first step in [Jason’s] smoker project. He decided to begin by hacking a cheaper charcoal-fed unit first, before setting his sights on building his own automatic pellet-fed smoker. With a charcoal smoker it’s all about managing the airflow to that hot bed of coals.

Custom mount for servo was actually one of the more challenging things to get just right.

[Jason] started by making sure the bottom was sealed off from stray airflow, then he cut a hole into the charcoal pan and attached a length of steel pipe. The opposite end of the pipe has a fan. Inside the pipe there is a baffle separating the fan from the charcoal pan. The servo motor shown here controls that valve.

The pipe is how air is introduced into the smoker, with the fan and valve to control the flow rate. The more air, the higher the temperature. The hunk of pipe was left uncut and works fine but is much longer than needed; [Jason says] the pipe is perfectly cool to the touch only a foot and a half away from the smoker.

With the actuators in place he needed a feedback loop. A thermocouple installed into the lid of the smoker is monitored by an Arduino running a PID control loop. This predicts the temperature change and adjusts the baffle and fan to avoid overshooting the target temp. The last piece of hardware is a temperature probe inside the meat itself. With the regulation of the smoker’s temperature taken care of and the meat’s internal temperature being monitored, the learning (and cooking) process is well underway.

There are many, many smoker automation projects out there. Some smokers are home-made electric ones using flower pots, and some focus more on modifying off the shelf units. In a way, every PID controlled smoker is the same, yet they end up with different problems to solve during their creation. There is no better way to learn PID than putting it into practice, and this way to you get a tasty treat for your efforts.