A Modern Solution To Tea Bag Inventory Management

Britain is famously known as a land of manners and hospitality. Few situations could make an Englishman’s stiff upper lip quiver, short of running out of tea bags while entertaining house guests. Thankfully, [The Gentleman Maker] is here and living up to his name – with a helpful tea monitor to ensure you’re never caught out again.

The Intelli-T, as it has been dubbed, monitors tea inventory by weight. An Arduino Uno combined with a HX711 IC monitors a load cell mounted under a canister, with a reed switch on the lid. Upon the canister being open and closed, the Arduino takes a measurement, determining whether tea stocks have dipped below critical levels. If the situation is dire, a Raspberry Pi connected over the serial port will sound an urgent warning to the occupants of the home. If there is adequate tea, the Raspberry Pi will instead provide a helpful tea fact to further educate the users about the hallowed beverage.

It’s a fun project, and one that has scope for further features, given the power of the Raspberry Pi. A little more work could arrange automatic ordering of more tea online, or send alerts through a service like IFTTT. We’ve seen [The Gentleman Maker]’s uniquely British hacks before, such as the umbrella that tells you the weather. Video after the break.

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Internet Of Tea: Coaster Watches For Optimum Drinking Temperature

Ah, the age-old question: at what temperature does one’s tea need to be for maximum enjoyment? It’s subjective, of course, but subjective in a way that makes everyone else’s opinion demonstrably wrong. What’s worse, the window of opportunity for optimum tea temperature is extremely narrow. What’s a tea drinker to do?

Throw a little technology at the problem, of course, in the form of this Internet of Tea smart coaster. Through careful experimentation, [Benjojo] determined the temperature of his favorite mug when the tea within was just right for drinking and designed a coaster to alert him to that fact. The coaster is 3D-printed and contains an MLX90616 IR temperature sensor looking up at the bottom of the mug. An ESP8266 lives inside the coaster too and watches for the Optimum Tea Window to open, sending an alert via Discord when the time is right. Yes, he admits that a simple blinking LED on the coaster would keep his tea habit metadata from being slurped up by the international tea intelligence community, but he claims he has nothing to hide. Good luck with that.

What’s next for [Dane]’s tea preparation? Perhaps he can close the loop and automate the whole pre-consumption process.

The Best Part Of Waking Up Just Got Better

If you ask us, one of life’s greatest pleasures is sitting down with a nice, hot cup of something of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Of course, the best part of this ritual is when the beverage has cooled enough to reach that short window of optimal drinking temperature.

Often times the unthinkable happens—we sip too early and get burned, or else become distracted by watching cat videos reading our colleagues’ Hackaday posts and miss the window altogether. What’s to be done? Something we wish we’d thought of: using the beverage’s heat to cool itself by way of thermal dynamics. For [Scott Clandinin]’s entry into the 2018 Hackaday Prize, he hopes to harness enough heat energy from the beverage to power a fan that will blow across the top of the mug.

[Scott] enlisted a friend to smith a thick copper slab in a right angle formation. The gentle curve of the vertical side pulls heat from the ceramic mug and transfers it to the heat sink of a CPU cooler. Then it’s just a matter of stepping up the voltage produced by the thermoelectric generator with a boost converter. Once he’s got this dialed in, he’d like to power it with supercaps and add a temp sensor and a microcontroller to alert him that his moment of zen is imminent. We’ll drink to that!

Manufacturing Your Own Single-Origin Tea

It’s nice to take a break from hacking together the newest bleeding-edge technology, relax, and enjoy a beverage. It’s no surprise that hacks devoted to beer and coffee roasting are popular. We’ve also seen a few projects helping brew the perfect cup of tea, but none involving the actual production of tea. Today we’re going to take a short recess from modernity and explore this ancient tradition.

Consumption of tea is about equal to all other manufactured beverages, such as coffee and alcohol, combined. It is hands-down the most popular manufactured beverage in the world, and we thought it would be interesting to make some ourselves. Also the local tea is so bitter that it’s used to clean things, and it works alarmingly well. To each their own!

I started by driving into Vietnam’s Central Highlands, down what Google simply refers to as ‘unnamed road’, to about 11°52’59.3″N 108°33’49.5″E. I asked around until I found a street vendor that knew a farmer at the nearby tea plantation, and would sell us five kilograms of fresh tea. I carried it 330 kilometers back to the city, because I’m a sane person that does normal things.

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Tea Making The Mechanical Way

For some of those who are aficionados of the drink, tea making can be serious business. For them, strong, black, leaf tea left for ages to stew in a stained teapot that would strip the hairs off your chest (like it should be made) just won’t do. These beverage anarchists demand a preparation process of careful temperature regulation and timing, and for some reason repeatedly dunking a teabag in the water.

For them, [Dorian Damon] has an automated solution to getting the crucial dunking process right. He’s made an automatic tea bag dunker. The teabag is mounted on a slide operated by a crank, and the crank is driven through a pair of bicycle hubs. Motive power comes from a mains shaded-pole motor, an unusual bi-directional one of which he only uses one side. He measured his personal dunking rate at about 50 per minute, so he only needed a 4:1 reduction to match the motor at 200 RPM.

The resulting machine will happily dunk his tea bag at that rate for as long as it’s left switched on. He’s put a few videos up, of which we’ve posted one below the break.

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A Little IoT For Your PID Tea Kettle

For some folks, tea is a simple pleasure – boil water, steep tea, enjoy. There are those for whom tea is a sacred ritual, though, and the precise temperature control they demand requires only the finest in water heating technology. And then there are those who take things even further by making a PID-controlled electric tea kettle an IoT device with Amazon Echo integration.

Nothing worth doing isn’t worth overdoing, and [luma] scores points for that. Extra points too for prototyping an early iteration of his design on a RadioShack Electronics Learning Lab – the one with a manual written by Forrest Mims. [luma] started out using an Arduino with a Zigbee shield but realized the resulting circuit would have to live in an external enclosure. Switching to an ESP8266, the whole package – including optoisolators, relays, and a small wall-wart – is small enough to fit inside the kettle’s base. The end result is an MQTT device that publishes its status to his SmartThings home automation system, and now responds when he tells Alexa it’s time for tea.

Projects that hack the means of caffeine are no strangers to Hackaday, whether your preferred vector is tea, coffee, or even straight up.

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UK IT Specialist Unable To Boil Water, Make Tea

In our latest episode of “IoT-Schadenfreude Theater” we bring you the story of [Mark], a British man who can’t boil water. Or more specifically, a man who can’t integrate MQTT with Amazon Echo, or IFTTT with HomeKit.

Yes, yes. We all love to laugh at a technology in its infancy. It’s like when robots fall down: it’s a cheap shot and things will surely get better, right? Indeed, the Guardian has had its fun with this particular WiFi kettle before — they’re British and nothing is more important than a remote-controlled cuppa.

Every time we hear about one walled-garden protocol not speaking to another, and the resulting configuration mayhem that ensues, we can’t help think that [Mike] was right: home automation has a software problem. But that’s putting the blame on the technology. (We’re sure that [Mark] could have made the kettle work if he’d just applied a little Wireshark.)

Strongbad's VCR
Strongbad’s VCR

There’s another mismatch here — one of expectations about the users. A water kettle is an object that should be usable by grandmothers, and a complex networked device is clearly aimed at techies and early adopters. Combining the two is asking for trouble. Non-functioning IoT devices are the blinking 12:00 of our generation.

What do you think? Where’s the blame here? Poor design, bad software stack, stupid users, or failure of mega-corps to integrate their systems together? More importantly, how could we make it better?

Headline image:Fredy Velásquez Orozco, via Wikimedia Commons Thumbnail image: Markus Schweiss, also Wikimedia Commons.