BrewHob: Retrofitable IoT Controller

Equipment doesn't work? Troubleshooting? If you're handy, members can help.
tmazer

#1: Post by tmazer » Mar 16, 2019, 2:29 pm

Figured y'alls would be interested in hearing about this. I'm studying Computer Engineering at the University of Michigan, and put together what is essentially a wifi-enabled Gicar 3d5 as my senior design project. I'd be happy to share any info on this little guy. It does everything the old Gicar could do, plus we put the PID (and a little extra) right on the board.

The idea came from a few years of experience as a barista and coffee tech, and found that La Marzocco and Modbar were looking forward to big data-driven development.

Before the switch, we saw a 2gr linea fluctuating up to 20 degrees on the original PID. We dialed in a new set of PID parameters, plus had a bit of a feed-forward algorithm, where it would notice the flowmeters spin, and proactively start heating the element more aggressively. Over the course 120 shots of espresso in 1 day, we didn't see it fluctuate more than 2degrees from the setpoint of 200degrees.

For the technicians, we have a feature we call the "Brewhob shell," which essentially is a wireless command line for the board. It has a soft AP which you can connect to with a computer, then you open up a command line, and have a set of commands (like "set group1 on/off") to manually control all the solenoids, heating elements, PID parameters, etc. You can even check how much current the heating elements are drawing.

For cafe owners, we have a dashboard, which can be reached by brewhob.com, where you have all the diagnostic info, like number of shots pulled on each group, average flow-rates, and a plot showing the boiler temperature over different ranges of time. This'll be handy for more pro-active preventative maintenance. No point in rebuilding your left group as often as your right if you don't use it as much.

For the baristas (and just being a nerd), you have a control panel which is essentially just the linea's keypads, but on GUI on your computer. So you could control your machine from a touch screen (which yeah seems like a bad idea but it helps your grade when your professor can control your espresso machine remotely).

It's purposely overbuilt, with 100% solid state components, an overpowered power supply, and an LED is connected to every function, much like Synesso's boards. Its fun to watch.

We actually have a few cafe's that are interested in using this thing, and we have plans to have a few ready to be sent out by the end of May. Would be happy to send out a few more if anyone is interested.

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HB
Admin

#2: Post by HB » Mar 16, 2019, 4:18 pm

tmazer wrote:I'm studying Computer Engineering at the University of Michigan, and put together what is essentially a wifi-enabled Gicar 3d5 as my senior design project. I'd be happy to share any info on this little guy. It does everything the old Gicar could do, plus we put the PID (and a little extra) right on the board.
Normally we'd treat a first-time post like this as spam, but judging from your brewhob.com page, this is a university project, not a profit venture (e.g., "Get in touch, send us an e-mail or call us. Hurry while we still care about this project"). I'll even overlook you graduating from UoM (I graduated from OSU :D).
Dan Kehn

ecolyx

#3: Post by ecolyx » Sep 11, 2019, 3:41 am

Hi, I'm very interested in this controller, and wonder how I might obtain one for testing?

I have an Expobar with 3ds, but the transformer is burnt out and I'm wondering what else will need repairing once I get it powered. I'm planning on connecting an external 12v supply and bypassing the transformer and bridge to test whether the board is bootable. Then wanted to connect to UART and see if there is any life to the processor.

I have done a bit of work with Atmels and ARM processors (even worked for ARM Holdings in Cambridge as a software consultant for a stint). I'm familiar with the ESP8266 and ESP32 processors also.

I considered replacing the entire board with a prototype arduino or RPi, writing my own code. Seems the GICAR code is hard to find so I was thinking about developing an open source alternative eventually.

Looks like you have done alot of the hard yards, I like the wireless solution. I'd be interested in collaborating or offering test/quality reports.

Cheers,
Charlie

ira
Supporter ♡

#4: Post by ira » Sep 11, 2019, 12:50 pm

They only ever made this one post. I doubt they will ever return, there is a contact email at brewhob.com but it also looks unchanged since they made this post. But I'd try that if you actually want to contact them. As far as I recall, the Gircar box just controls the pump and the solenoid and is used to implement the autofill function. In my experience, replacing the dead parts of the transformer, bridge and the first big cap will fix most Gicar problems. I think I've also seen one relay die. All those parts are reasonably easy to come by.

Ira