Retrotechtacular: Time For Coffee

coffee fruitIf you ask us, it’s almost always a good time for coffee. In the spotlight this week is an educational/promotional film made by A&P, who started in the 1800s as with a chain of shops offering coffee and tea. By the 1950s, they were operating full self-serve grocery stores with a trail of shuttered mom and pop operations in their wake.

This is the story of coffee as it goes from the nursery to the field to the shelves of your local A&P. It covers the growing, cultivation, and distribution of coffee from South American crops that at the time covered more than one million square miles of Brazil alone.

Coffee trees leave the nursery at two years old and are planted in nutrient-rich red soil. Two to three years later, they bear their first crop. Coffee blossoms appear first, and the fruit ripens over the next 8-9 months. Skilled workers pick the berries by hand. We are told that the average tree produces one pound of roasted coffee per year.

sun dried beansThe day’s harvest is collected, weighed, and bagged for further production. The fruits are crushed to remove each bean from its red jacket. Then, the beans are washed and spread out in the sun for 8-10 days. They are frequently rotated so they dry evenly. The dried coffee is packed in bags and sent into the city.

bag stabbingAt a warehouse, the coffee is inspected, sorted, and graded. Bags are stamped with the coffee’s country of origin and intended destination before going to the seaport. A very important step happens here. As each bag walks by on the shoulders of a worker, another guy stabs it to get a sample of the beans. The on-site A&P officials take over at this point and do their own inspections, sending samples to the US. Here, the coffees are roasted and taste tested for both strength and flavor from a giant lazy Susan full of porcelain cups. taste testing

The film takes a brief detour to tell us that the great cities of Latin America were built upon the labors of coffee exportation. We see a montage of vistas, skylines, and shorelines, which bring it back to the subject of shipping the coffee to various ports of call. At the dock, bags are tumbled onto large nets to be loaded on the ship. As coffee is susceptible to moisture, special care is taken to avoid the ill effects of traveling out of the tropics.

[Read more...]

Hackaday Links: September 29, 2013

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We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that all of SparkFun’s open source hardware is now on Upverter.

Not wanting to tie up an iPad as a mini-gaming cabinet [Hartmut] hacked an Arcadi cabinet to use EUzebox instead.

Time travel happens in the bedroom as well. But only if you have your very own Tardis entrance.  [AlmostUseful] pulled this off with just a bit of word trim and a very nice paint job. [via Reddit]

[Pierre] tricks an iPhone fingerprint scanner by making a replica out of hot glue.

Some of the guys from our parent company were over in Shanghai on business. [Aleksandar Bradic] made time to visit the Shanghai hackerspace while in town and wrote about the experience over on their engineering blog.

[Gregory Charvat] is a busy guy. In fact we’ve got a juicy hack of his saved up that we still need to wrap our minds around before featuring. In the mean time check out the Intern-built coffee can radar that he took over and tested on a  multi-million dollar Spherical Near Field Range.

And finally, everyone loves coffee hacks, right? Here’s what [Manos] calls a Greek style instant coffee machine.

Hackaday Links: September 8, 2013

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“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t open the dorm room door.” Does your dorm room have a peephole? Take [pjensen's] lead and turn it into a mini HAL 9000 using a red LED.

Mix a little work in with your hobby skills. [Vittore] needed to build a video looper to drive some TV screens for a Hotel contract job. He grabbed a Raspberry Pi and got to work. The final product (translated) even uses a shared folder on the hotel’s network as the source slides.

We’re not sure if anyone noticed last Monday (it was Labor Day in the U.S.).  We had a little fun with coffee themed posts. [Tom] wrote in to remind us about the HTCPCP: Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol. If you don’t have time to read it all, he suggests you don’t miss his favorite, error code 418.

Maybe funny reading isn’t your thing right now, but we have some more helpful stuff to offer. Check out [John Chandler's] Commandments for using PIC microcontrollers from a few years back.

[Andy] has some old smart phones which he is using in his projects. His beef with the touchscreens is that there’s no tactile feedback. Since these are going to be dedicated displays he’s outlining the touch controls with tape to let your finger know what it’s doing.

If you’re living in your first home in America there’s a really good chance it’s a 1950’s ranch house considering how many of them were built after World War II. Bring its infrastructure into the information age with a cable retrofit. [Andrew Rossignol] just did so and posted a lot of pictures of the process.

If you liked [Ken Shirriff's] post about the Sinclair Scientific Calculator we think you’ll love his continuation of a Z80 reverse engineering series.

Grow your own coffee beans

beans

Unlike T-shirts, sneakers, cell phones, children’s toys, software, appliances, virtually everything made of plastic, and food, people really seem to care about who makes their coffee. Instead of buying guilt-free free trade coffee, [spikec] over on Instructables decided to actually do something to uproot the evils of consumerism. He’s making his own coffee, at home, with a real coffee plant.

[spikec] bought a coffee plant a few years ago off eBay. Coffee plants are actually trees, and with careful pruning they can be maintained to a reasonable size. But what about the weather? Well, for [spikec], who lives in the 7a USDA hardiness zone – a strip that runs from southern New Jersey to the Texas panhandle – he just brings the plant inside when it’s cold.

Once the coffee fruit turns ripe, [spikec] picks the beans, husks the fruit, and puts the beans in a dehydrator. From there, it’s a trip through a small coffee roaster and into a french press.

[spikec] only harvested about a half pound of beans. That’s still very impressive for growing a bonsai coffee tree a thousand miles outside its native range.

Monitoring a coffee pot with an Arduino

coffee graph

Coffee has always been an important part of the internet; the first webcam ever was in the Trojan Room of the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory to monitor the contents of a coffee pot. Now, instead of webcams, we have Arduinos and a bathroom scale. Not particularly similar to a webcam, but more than enough to keep track of how much coffee is currently available at DoES Liverpool.

Being a techy workshop/studio, coffee is always in short supply at DoES Liverpool. Instead of getting up and checking the pot, [Patrick] thought it would be a good idea to monitor the contents of a coffee pot online. He’s doing this with a bathroom scale underneath the coffee machine connected to an Arduino Ethernet module. By measuring the weight of the coffee pot and subtracting the known empty weight, [Patrick] can get a pretty good idea of how much coffee is left in the pot, and how long the coffee has been sitting there.

The data from the Arduino is fed to an Xively feed that displays the current status of the coffee machine on any computer with an Internet connection. Far more sophisticated than the first webcam ever, and a very useful tool for everyone at DoES Liverpool.

Give yourself to the dark roast side

R2

A normal coffee maker won’t cut it for dinner parties or any time you need a lot of coffee really fast. At this point, you have two options: you could buy an industrial coffee maker, or you could buy an industrial coffee maker and make it look like R2D2. Guess which option we think is cooler?

The R2D2 coffee pot was designed for large dinner parties where waiting five minutes for a pot of coffee to brew is just an inefficient use of time. Instead of a Mr. Coffee, [iminthebathroom] used an industrial BUNN coffee maker as R2’s body. This coffee maker has two water reservoirs, one that pours into the coffee filter and another that keeps a pot of coffee’s worth of water piping hot.

As for the cosmetic modifications to the coffee maker, [iminthebathroom] found a wonderful dome for R2’s head in a junk yard. It was formerly a giant ball valve, and a little work with a saw cut it down to a proper R2 skull shape. R2’s voice – as heard in the video below – come from a greeting card programmed with the bleeps and boops of the actual hero of the Star Wars saga.

[Read more...]

Precise temperature control of a coffee urn

coffee-urn-temperature-controller

Hackaday Alum [Nick Schulze] decided to help out a friend who needed a controller to hold water at a precise temperature. Coffee guzzling hackers of the world should rejoice, as [Nick] targeted a coffee urn as the vessel for the project. What he came up with was a couple of custom boards and a roll-your-own temperature probe which does a fantastic job of regulating the temperature of the liquid.

Needing to switch the mains going to the heating element he immediately thought of an AC chopper circuit based on a Triac. What didn’t come to mind immediately was the need to detect the zero crossing. In the image above you can see nearest the urn his high voltage board. Below that is the zero crossing detector circuit. For feedback he created his own temperature probe using a TC1047 temperature sensor. After soldering on a filtering cap and the leads he dipped it in JB Weld to make it water tight. If you’re using this for coffee may we recommend seeking out a food safe probe.

After successful testing he added a user interface and buttoned it up in the enclosure seen in the video below.

[Read more...]

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