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No options?
Three months ago, we ordered 1000 new drip tray covers to be made, by our regular manufacturer.  These are a quite expensive part (about $12/each) and (we believe) very profitable business for this company. 
We've also had to pay $20,000 for an aluminum casting mould. That makes us "pregnant" with this supplier (that's the actual "term of art" for this situation)
Two months after taking our money, this supplier told us that they would cancel our order, if we didn't triple our order quantity to 3000 pieces. They offered us a 5% price discount.
Given that we've only made 850 espresso machines in 18 months, that represents 5 years worth of stock.
And, since they've waited so long to do this to us, they know that if we refuse, we'll run out of this part, and maybe have to stop shipping espresso machines.  CNCing this part costs us $80/each, so that's not an option.  
They've got us right where they want us.
Which is why I walked away.   Because: if we say OK to them this time, they know that they own us, and could demand any terms they want.  
More news on this tomorrow...
-john
Since you've had to pay for the casting mould, could you not just take it elsewhere to a business that won't try to shaft you?

Laissez les bons temps rouler

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7 minutes ago, ashcroc said:

Since you've had to pay for the casting mould, could you not just take it elsewhere to a business that won't try to shaft you?

In theory, yes. However, in practice the previous supplier always drags their heels in sending you the mold, and it's often the case that the mold worked with the equipment of your previous supplier, but not with the new supplier's equipment.

More relevant in this case, is that we've had a really hard time finding a supplier who was willing to make this part at all, so it would be difficult to find another one quickly.

More info on this tomorrow.

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Welcome to the Stainless Era™️

I've been wanting to move off of aluminum for this part, for a long time, and go to stainless steel. We're applying two coatings to the aluminum, and twice polishing it (before and after coating), which is what's making this so expensive to make.

Two years ago, four companies each told us that our design was impossible in stainless steel.  The wires were too thin, too long, and there would be warping issues.

Nonetheless,  Ben went searching 3 weeks ago, for stainless steel casting companies who would have an engineering discussion with us. We're willing to change our design, but we need to do in tandem with a metal casting engineer, telling us what's doable.

In the end, we succeeded. We're moving to stainless steel for the drip tray cover. The new design is only slightly different at the engineering level, and visually almost identical.

Ben specified very tight warpage tolerances.  The new manufacturer replied that this was possible, if they made an "aging machine" that repeatedly stamping the drip trays over and over to the flat shape, for **several weeks**.  We've agreed and have paid to make this machine. It does add to the deliver time, but it should solve the warping problem endemic to stainless steel.

The bad news is that it will take 3 months to get this part, which is still 2 months' away.

More tomorrow...

-john

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Keeping the engine running

In order to avoid having this “drip tray cover kerfuffle” stop our daily shipping of machines, I'm sending machines out now with "quality control failed" drip tray covers. 

That will cover us for only 2 weeks, because we have 40 pieces of "qc failed" drip tray covers.

I have called on all v1.0 DE1 espresso machine customers for help!

All our DE1 v1.0 customers received a free "update pack", which contained a replacement drip tray cover, among other things that we had improved from DE1 v1.0 to v1.1.

If a customer received one of these, and they still have it, I’m asking them to post it back to us.  I have addresses in the USA, UK, Australia and Hong Kong, to help save on postage.

We make 20 machines a week, and I have to hold out for 6 weeks more (after we run out of our own stock).  That means that I have a shortage of 120 drip tray covers.

What I’m offering to all our v1.0 customers is: in exchange for their helping me out of this tight spot:

  • In 2 months, when I have the new stainless cover, I'll post it to them
  • And I will also include a free digital thermometer or milk jug (size of their choice) for free, in that shipment.

I’ve now sent out 223 emails, and 93 of you have replied within 24h, to say you’re sending your tray back to us.  Hoorah!!  We might just make it…

-john

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Tools of the Coffee Cart

Previous photos have shown a "naked" coffee cart, without all the tools you need to actually make coffee.

Here's an annotated set of photos, showing what I actually use.

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One note: the grooming tool I use is from https://www.bplus.biz/products?query=stirrer but is unfortunately no longer being produced. 1433956042_ScreenShot2019-08-10at9_39_18AM.jpg.918046c60659d5e2de31761f3475921c.jpg

 

 

 It's *excellent* because of its super-thin 0.4mm thick wires that don't cause clumping as you work.  A metal handle and rounded (not sharp) wire ends are nice touches.

I talked to them about their making a set for Decent to sell. Unfortunately, I found out that they were selling them *at cost* at $15 each, as a promotional tool.  For me, that effectively has destroyed the market, because now people expect to pay $15 for this item, whereas that's my actual cost, thus a bad business proposition for me.  

That's also why "Bplus" is no longer making/selling these.  With shipping (both to and from us), QC testing, a defect rate (typically 20%), and labor, I'd have to charge $45 to not lose money, and I don't think people buy at that price. So... that's why I've not been selling this tools even though I myself use it.  

Here's a video of that distribution tool in action:

 

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Rolling out the coffee

My coffee cart is now completely built, and I am rolling it around my home.  

The Niche power cable goes through a 6.5mm hole I drilled in the wood. I had to take apart the Niche to make that happen.  

And 5mm thick "Forex" PVC printed signage arrived. This material is so thick and strong, I decided to bolt the signage on, as it acts more like wood than fiberboard. I used the Italian company https://pixartprinting.fr and total cost (delivered) was just €60, with 7 days time from order-to-receipt.  It'd be better with black bolts (these are M6x20) but I couldn't buy any locally, so I made do with chrome until I do.

I had a few guests today for lunch, so I moved it to the main room, that way I could talk to them while making coffee, and not disappear into the kitchen.

Eventually, I'll swap the black DE1XL chassis for a while DE1XL chassis, so that it matches better with the white Niche grinder.

And yes, that's how they spell it in France.

-john
 

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All White 

We’re working on the final bits of the DE1XL model that is optionally in white.  These are renders to visualize our decisions.

We think we’ve finally found reliable USB cables (made for us) and we’re going to order them in white as well.  

And 200pcs of our tablet, in white matte silicone, are arriving in about a month.

For people who already bought the white DE1XL, they'll get these updated parts for free, and will have benefitted from the lower price, and having bought from us early.

-john

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Posted (edited)
On 12/08/2019 at 11:02, decent_espresso said:

And yes, that's how they spell it in France.

An "X" in espresso just feels wrong (now about the "U" in color...😎)

No Chinese company wants to clone the BPlus stirrer?

Edited by patrickff

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All White 
We’re working on the final bits of the DE1XL model that is optionally in white.  These are renders to visualize our decisions.
We think we’ve finally found reliable USB cables (made for us) and we’re going to order them in white as well.  
And 200pcs of our tablet, in white matte silicone, are arriving in about a month.
For people who already bought the white DE1XL, they'll get these updated parts for free, and will have benefitted from the lower price, and having bought from us early.
-john



That is really starting to look like a thing my wife would sanction. Almost clinical it’s so sharp. Like it.
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Espresso: Ceado E92 (modified for single dose); Vesuvius; VST baskets and refractometer.

Other: Aeropress, Sowden and Alessi Moka Pot; Mazzer Robur doser with Auber timer; Mazzer Mini E; Expobar Leva Dual Boiler

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White is the new black and people not realizing it. It look great with the wooden handles.

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IMO Wooden handles are much better with the white machine.

Don't like them on the black (mine)


Ron 

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2 hours ago, ronsil said:

IMO Wooden handles are much better with the white machine.

Don't like them on the black (mine)

Wouldn't that depend on the wood used on the handles though? I agree this lighter wood (not sure on the species but reminds me of pine or other softwood) looks better on this machine. For black something like zebrano, walnut or even maple may look good 

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DE1XL White, on a Tabletop 

Because I'm always promoting countersinking the DE1XL model, many people aren't aware that it's designed to sit on a table. It doesn't need to be countersunk.

To help clarify this, we've made some renders, so you can compare.

I personally prefer the dimensions of the XL model, as the additional 6cm depth, and 1cm height, seem to harmonize better in the overall shape.

One small thing on this model: by enlarging the legs, we also increased the spacing between the drip tray and the match, so as to make it easier to put a scale under the drip tray.  With the DE1PRO, we hadn't anticipated that "clever hack" and you have to be quite careful to get the scale/drip tray to not touch the legs, if you want the weight to be accurate.

I have a few prototype 3D printed "Skale stands" for the DE1XL in front of me, which I'll be testing next week.  They should permit weighing from below the drip tray, more reliably than currently is possible with the DE1PRO.

Note that some DE1PRO users have 3D printed their own solutions for weighing, and I'll post more info about that shortly.

-john

6 hours ago, Bacms said:

Wouldn't that depend on the wood used on the handles though? I agree this lighter wood (not sure on the species but reminds me of pine or other softwood) looks better on this machine. For black something like zebrano, walnut or even maple may look good 

We use ash wood for all our handles, and paint the black ones.

 

 

 

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Group Head Controller

Here’s a render of the new “group head controller” that will appear on version 1.3 Decent Espresso Machines.  Pictured here is our white DE1XL model.

  • This new controller will enable real time control over flow or pressure, during espresso making.   
  • The current flow rate (blue) and pressure (green) will be displayed on the light ring in real time during espresso making, as a moving colored dot.
  • You’ll be able to “drag” to a new value by keeping your finger down.
  • And you will also be able to make small +/- 0.1 incremental changes to flow or pressure, by tapping *near* the current pressure (or flow) values.  Each quick tap will cause a precise 0.1 change.
  • Both “tap” (small precise changes) and “finger down” (drag to new value) will be supported.
  • This group head controller will be available to all v1.1 Decent customers (at a modest price), and will also ship by default with all v1.3 machines. Shipping is to start in January 2020.

-john

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How to Make a Drip Tray Cover

The first photos arrived today from the company casting our drip tray cover in stainless steel.  Most companies said they couldn't do it, as those long wires are too delicate to cast regularly, without warping or defects.

But one company used a very different approach to casting stainless steel, and I want describe for you here, how that works.

First, they make a mold out of aluminum. This is fast and cheap, because aluminum is soft and inexpensive. Traditional stainless steel molds are slow and expensive to make, because the mold material has to be harder than stainless steel.  

Next, the aluminum mold makes our part out of wax. It looks perfect, but it's very fragile.

Then, a dozen wax-made drip tray covers are attached to a pole, and dipped in a thin coat of very fine, wet sand. And then hung to dry slowly.

Over the course of several weeks, the wax drip trays are repeatedly dipped in the fine, wet sand and left to dry.  This slowly builds up into a thick layer around the wax.

After several weeks of this, the sand-covered object is baked in a kiln, and becomes hard like concrete (or plaster, or glass).  The wax melts out.

Hot, liquid stainless steel is then poured into the space where the wax was.

The stainless steel is then left to slowly cool, inside the mold. This is a crucial difference between regular casting, where most cooling happens outside the mold. This slow cooling the mold hugely helps prevent warping.

Once the object in sand is cool, then sand is chipped off, cleaned, and polished.  

I haven't yet seen the "steel aging machine" they've built for us, to repeatedly re-stamp the drip tray covers to ensure they stay flat.  I'll post photos of that when I have them.

We're currently still in the "covering the wax with sand" step.

What's interesting about this process, is how similar it is to the "lost wax" approach that has existed for centuries.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost-wax_casting

It's not a really good process for mass quantity manufacturing, as it's too slow, which is why I think we hadn't found companies who did it.  However, it's pretty ideal for the kinds of quantities we want, as we get to avoid paying for a very expensive mold, and can hopefully avoid warpage thanks to the slow cooling.
-john

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DESIRE Working Demo

Decent hacker Reed Taylor has wired his DE1 espresso machine directly into a small Raspberry Pi computer, which then makes his espresso machine available over TCP/IP.  He then modified my open-source DE1+ tablet app, so that when it's running on his Mac, it works using TCP/IP instead of Bluetooth. 

This working demo opens up all sorts of new possibilities:

  1. the Mac, Windows, Linux versions of my DE1+ app are now fully functional
  2. Wired control (over TCP/IP, and soon, USB) of the espresso machine is both faster, and more reliable
  3. The DE1+ app can already run in a web browser, but Bluetooth was an issue. Now, a full DE1+ app can run on this little Raspberry Pi, and anyone with a web browser can now use the DE1+.  This means that iPad users will now be able to control their Decent without needing an Android tablet.
  4. 3 Robotics companies have Decent machines, and have been wanting a more reliable way to control the espresso making process.  
  5. a "REST API" can now be offered to Javascript (and other)  programmers, so you can talk directly to the Decent using your favorite programming language.

A very nice step forward, this.

-john

 

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15 minutes ago, decent_espresso said:

DESIRE Working Demo

Decent hacker Reed Taylor has wired his DE1 espresso machine directly into a small Raspberry Pi computer, which then makes his espresso machine available over TCP/IP.  He then modified my open-source DE1+ tablet app, so that when it's running on his Mac, it works using TCP/IP instead of Bluetooth. 

Cool! Would make sense to use something simpler and smaller than a Pi though, such as an ESP32.

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1 hour ago, oscar-b said:

Cool! Would make sense to use something simpler and smaller than a Pi though, such as an ESP32.

Currently, this approach above requires a computer that run Linux.  I don't see that the ESP32 can.

However, I believe that the ESP32  is likely compatible with our Bluetooth module pinout, since they are both Arduino modules. Thus, it should be possible for us in the future to offer a Wifi TCP/IP port control directly in the DE1 itself, simply by swapping out our Bluetooth module for one that has Wi-Fi on it.

That would let you run my DE1+  app on Windows/OSX/Linux and talk to the espresso machine over wifi, and that would be very nice. However, it would not give you a web browser interface to the espresso machine, as you still need a computer to run the DE1+  and then since the GUI over wifi to your web browser.

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14 minutes ago, decent_espresso said:

Currently, this approach above requires a computer that run Linux.  I don't see that the ESP32 can.

However, I believe that the ESP32  is likely compatible with our Bluetooth module pinout, since they are both Arduino modules. Thus, it should be possible for us in the future to offer a Wifi TCP/IP port control directly in the DE1 itself, simply by swapping out our Bluetooth module for one that has Wi-Fi on it.

That would let you run my DE1+  app on Windows/OSX/Linux and talk to the espresso machine over wifi, and that would be very nice. However, it would not give you a web browser interface to the espresso machine, as you still need a computer to run the DE1+  and then since the GUI over wifi to your web browser.

Yeah I was thinking more along the lines of using WiFi instead of Bluetooth for the connectivity, and having the REST endpoint on the ESP32 proxying serial commands. They are surprisingly capable. Having a web app on the device makes little sense, there's no point in serving them from the ESP32, it can be hosted anywhere.

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9 minutes ago, oscar-b said:

Yeah I was thinking more along the lines of using WiFi instead of Bluetooth for the connectivity, and having the REST endpoint on the ESP32 proxying serial commands. They are surprisingly capable.

Yep, exactly my current intention.

However, this was something that was declared "not allowed" 4 years ago, for UL certification, because it allowed "remote control", whereas Bluetooth was nearby and thus OK.  That's why we went with bluetooth only, and not wifi. 

Bluetooth control was not allowed either, for turning on "dangerous functions".

So... as of January we'll have a physical "start espresso" button on the DE1, and the app can do everything else (including stop shots), over Bluetooth, and TCP/IP.

9 minutes ago, oscar-b said:

Having a web app on the device makes little sense, there's no point in serving them from the ESP32, it can be hosted anywhere.

Well, I think it'd be nice to be able to fire up any web browser, such as an iPad or Android, and have a full features app inside the browser.  I get a lot of requests for an iPad app, and this is a clean way to implement that, with no additional hardware needed by the user.

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18 minutes ago, decent_espresso said:

Well, I think it'd be nice to be able to fire up any web browser, such as an iPad or Android, and have a full features app inside the browser.  I get a lot of requests for an iPad app, and this is a clean way to implement that, with no additional hardware needed by the user.

Not necessarily, you could host a PWA web app on decentespresso.com, and the user searches for their machine on the local network/bluetooth the first launch to set the IP-address. The app itself caches itself and is available offline. You get the added benefits of the web echosystems when it comes to deploying and pushing updates, for instance. Thinking this might be out of scope for the forum though, you know where to reach me ;) 

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Might be one of the few practical uses for a PWA at the moment...

*ducks to avoid incoming rocks*

But on a serious note, opening the platform up for tinkering would be a real selling point for me just as a way to bridge hobbies. 


ECM Heidelberg Mechanika IV Profi // Niche Zero

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6 hours ago, catpuccino said:

But on a serious note, opening the platform up for tinkering would be a real selling point for me just as a way to bridge hobbies. 

It's been open from the beginning, but it takes time to build momentum, interest the right people, and for them to have time to do great work.  

I have a few other "community contributions" posts to make over the next few days. Suddenly, things are moving.

-john

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7 hours ago, oscar-b said:

Not necessarily, you could host a PWA web app on decentespresso.com, and the user searches for their machine on the local network/bluetooth the first launch to set the IP-address. The app itself caches itself and is available offline. You get the added benefits of the web echosystems when it comes to deploying and pushing updates, for instance. Thinking this might be out of scope for the forum though, you know where to reach me ;) 

Just to be clear, the current full-featured DE1+ app was written in Tcl/Tk, and runs full-featured on Android. Because it's open source and interpreted, people can re-skin, and extend it fairly easily.

There's an opengl driver for Tk, which runs inside a web server, and automatically allows a kind of "virtual control" of the app, through a web browser.  It's pretty neat, as it means my "native app" suddenly becomes a full-featured browser app too.

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Shin from Decent Espresso Korea has started creating "Coffee Shin TV" episodes.  They're far, far more fun than my videos, and better shot and more informational.

Damn!

Here's his video, on how to convert the DE1PRO model into a DE1XL, along with how to countersink it.

 

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