Image via unsplash.

ITR8 Cases: Hacking a coffee machine.

When you love coffee and want to learn more about hardware… why not hack your coffee machine? It was the perfect challenge for ITR8 Product Designer Ruben der Kinderen.

The brief

To make his Bezzera Magica coffee machine smarter, ‘espresso geek’ Ruben wanted to fix two problems:

Firstly, the one-hour wait required to heat the machine to the right temperature — which meant no spontaneous espressos!

Secondly, the automatic switch-off when the machine was out of water — which even happened when it was pouring coffee!

Our approach

1. Use smart devices. To solve the one-hour wait, Ruben used the Belkin Smart Socket and app to be able to switch the machine on and off remotely. With the automation platform IFTTT (If This Than That), he made it even smarter. For example, if he leaves home, the machine switches off automatically.

2. Diverge the problem. To tackle the water issue, Ruben asked a few questions: What relates to the tank being empty? How many different ways are there to solve this problem?

3. Sketch different solutions. Think of it like a visual brainstorm.

4. Make a first proof of concept — using an Arduino, LED, aluminium foil, bottle cap and some water.

5. Get measurements — to make a quick cardboard model of the machine.

6. Research ready-made parts — to use for the solution. Make life easy for yourself!

7. Iterate — on form, function and materials. Meanwhile staying open to different ideas or approaches to the problem.

8. Order the parts — required to assemble the final product.

9. Assemble the final product… and enjoy a smarter, quicker espresso!

Product rendering of the idea.
Image via Image via gdgts.de

The results

In the end, Ruben made 5 paper models, 3 prototypes and 5 tests for the final device.

The device consisted of a float switch and battery pack attached to a frame, which sits above the water tank of the coffee machine. The device buzzes when the water levels are low — which reminds Ruben to refill the tank!

Hacking this little add-on was a sustainable solution that meant Ruben didn’t have to rebuild his entire machine. Win win!

Upcoming projects

ITR8 is diving into the world of IoT! And after attending his first hackathon, Ruben is working on a few more IoT projects. Watch this space…


For our case studies, lean methods and start-up stories, follow our publication ITR8 Life.

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.