Top Up Your Teapot In Time With This E-ink Tea Timer

A 3D-printed teapot with an e-ink display

Whether you’re a tea aficionado or just a casual drinker, it’s important to pay attention to your brewing times: too short and you’re just drinking hot water, too long and your brew becomes bitter and astringent. [Bob] wanted to help his parents avoid the latter scenario, and made them a convenient little tea timer that displays the time when they last replenished the pot.

Operating the timer couldn’t be easier: just press down on the teapot’s lid and it will store the current time on its e-ink display. Inside is a Pimoroni Badger 2040 with a real-time clock daughter board, powered by a set of AAA batteries. The Badger is an RP2040-powered board with an integrated e-ink display that’s perfect for this use case: the display needs to be updated only once when the button is pressed, and doesn’t use any power after that.

Naturally, the tea timer is encased in a teapot-shaped enclosure. It has a clever mechanism inside that pushes one of the Badger’s buttons when you press down on the lid, and also provides the satisfying click that you hear in the video embedded below. It took more than thirteen hours to print on [Bob]’s Creality Ender 3, but the end result definitely looks the part.

Functionally, this tea timer is about as simple as it gets: most other designs focus on the initial brewing process, and include features to alert you when your tea is ready.

15 thoughts on “Top Up Your Teapot In Time With This E-ink Tea Timer

  1. How one can manage to get tea wrong without such a device is a mystery to me.

    Does look really neat, and if its useful to the intended users that is great – I would make it ‘smart’ and know when the tea was made automatically myself
    – perhaps by a thermocouple in the tray the real teapot sits on
    – perhaps just by audio trigger – kettle are quite loud and sustain that volume even if they don’t have a whistle so a quick wake on any loud enough noise to decide if it is the kettle and then when it has turned off.
    – or perhaps just by monitoring the power to the kettle if they use electric…

    1. It’s difficult to reconcile your comment with any technique I am aware of for making tea. Conventionally one boils the water, then adds it to tea in a separate vessel to sit without additional heating for a short period of time. Monitoring kettles, power or the temperature of a tray will not help in this. How one gets it wrong is because the absolute time difference between weak, good and bitter tea is not a particularly long period of time and is on a scale that humans are bad at monitoring and estimating.

      1. The Kettle being turned off and used or the tray under the teapot getting hot is an easy and remotely detectable measure of when the user introduced the tealeaves to the hot water – just a way of starting the timer automatically for the apparently incapable of brewing tea folks this is for. If they have to push a button to change the screen and the screen never blanks on its own either all tea being made could be ‘oh its going to be awfully strong’ have a second after the brew was started as you didn’t press the button to reset it.

        And it really isn’t something you get wrong easily, nor is it that unforgiving… Perhaps you just have to grow up in Britain or India (I have never been but I understand they still take tea seriously there too), so you do just know how to make tea on an instinctive level from childhood…

  2. I’ve never understood the “if you brew it a second too long, it’s so bitter!!!”. I like tea well enough, and it’s an easy way to get some hot caffeine in me… but I use 3x as much loose tea and brew _way_ longer (6 minutes+) than you’re “supposed to”, it comes out looking almost as dark as coffee… and it still tastes like hot water with some mild flavor in the background. Maybe if you eat a bland-as-hell English diet?

    1. what sent me down the rabbit hole is i was gifted some slightly stale tie guan yin — a ‘premium’ grade of oolong. and it was awful, it was always either flavorless or super bitter. i couldn’t figure out what to do with it. so i played with all three parameters (temp, weight, time) until i stumbled on 150F (low temp), 4g (high weight), and 2 minutes (short time). i got a perfect cup of tea. it was amazing. it was much better than other oolong teas. and i struggled to replicate that experience. i found myself ‘chasing the dragon’ of that initial good cup. i even learned, sometimes the second brewing is *better* than the first. now i am more experienced and more obsessive about quantifying those factors, and i can usually dial in the parameters for a new tea pretty easily. but it was hard to learn. that’s what got me to blow $10 on a new set of AAA batteries for my gram scale, for example.

      i also sometimes buy like a stale earl grey. it is much more forgiving. i use a high temp, a high weight, and a long time, and it makes a good tea. i can be +/-20F, +/-2g, and +/-3minutes and still get a good result. i love that too. in fact, sometimes i prefer it! but i am hooked on variety so i can’t let go of my kit…i always want to be ready for that tricky or exotic tea.

      1. I assume Jim must be from America, where as a Brit I have been reliably informed its almost impossible to get something even loosely resembling a good cuppa tea in most areas. Even compared to the cheapest of the cheapest floor sweeping filled teabags here…

        I do quite like having a variety of teas on hand, so many interesting flavour varieties. But I don’t go in for being all that scientific – no need really the nose is a pretty good instrument for detecting if a brew is actually sufficiently infused. And with a bit of practice you just tip out a pinch of tea leaves and know its a good amount (or grab a decent teabag), its not a chemistry experiment with super fine margins to get the right results, brewing good tea becomes almost automatic as its really pretty forgiving, as you say a few mins, grams or temperature either way makes little difference.

      2. I use a tea ball (or “infuser” depending on your local) with loose leaf tea. I have also found that the second cup is often better than the first.

        But even if that wasn’t the case, I would still use the tea ball in preference to tea bags. It’s cheaper, lower waste, and no risk of nasty stuff like bleaches or plasticisers leaching out of the tea bag

    2. I think you may be assuming an English diet is bland there for some reason. Living in the UK we have access to planes and ships. Sometimes we bring food that cannot be produced locally over. We even occasionally eat food from the US not me of course I prefer a little less chlorine in my chicken.

      As for the tea look like a great gadget, but seems a little convoluted for something you could do with a watch.

      Any one born in the UK will know how to brew a good mug of tea by the age of around ten and generally nowadays we don’t use tea pots

  3. i don’t understand the purpose of this device? this is for knowing if the already-brewed tea has sat around too long? i guess i just don’t have that problem, i always pour it directly into mugs when it’s done brewing, and you can really tell if the mug sat around too long. for one thing, it’s cold.

    i’ve become a real fanatic for getting tea right. i drilled a hole in my kettle and put a meat thermometer in it. i use a gram scale to weigh the leaves. and i use the timer on my phone to control brewing duration. it is honestly a slight nuissance to do the phone dance just to measure 3 minutes, or 2:30, or whatever. it would be kind of neato to have a better timer interface. but i couldn’t go *this* simple, because i am always updating my parameters depending on which tea i have, or as it gets stale, or as my taste changes, or if i get two brewings out of a single load of leaves (second brewing might be hotter or longer).

    really, i want to make a pendulum clock with like 5 minutes worth of travel in the weight, so you lift the weight up to a certain height depending on how long you want. and i want it to have a long physical travel — a couple feet — so that you can be precise-ish. the traditional little wind-up kitchen timers aren’t suitable because it’s hard to tell 30 second increments on them. but mostly it’d be a fun project, but i don’t know if i’ll ever get around to it. i got it about 80% designed in openscad years ago and haven’t touched it :)

  4. Hi, this was me. The problem this is meant to solve is when there are multiple families under one roof at Christmas time, all on different schedules; when you head to the kitchen and find the teapot is still warm under the tea cosy (you do use a tea cosy, right?!), you don’t know whether it’s been sitting there for 10 minutes or 2 hours. Last season we tried using a blackboard mounted to the wall, but it was unreliable because not everyone used it- some forgot, some couldn’t be bothered, one person can’t reach it. So a very simple one-shot update device seemed ideal.

    1. haha awesome! thanks! i can’t relate, but at least now i understand.

      and now that you describe it, there are a ton of people who have that same problem with the drip coffee makers that make a quart at a time or whatever

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