Not that sort of Java

Back when we moved into our offices, I tweeted about the fact that we were all feeling itchy, snappish and antsy (like some dwarves who didn’t make the Snow White cut), because we weren’t able to make proper coffee in the office. Things were so bad, we had resorted to instant.

We didn’t get around to getting a machine – we’ve been kind of busy. Instead, we were spending far too much money at the nice Italian cafe across the road. And then, to our great surprise, a lovely, shiny bean-to-cup espresso machine arrived on the doorstep. It was a gift from an American company called Zipwhip, who are in the cloud texting business. Better still (and yes, we were surprised to discover that there is something better than a free coffee machine), they’d hooked it up to a Pi and a homegrown circuit board they’re calling Textspresso, which turned it into a connected cloud texting device. The Zipwhip folk sent us instructions on setting it up so we could send a text message to a phone associated with the machine when we were on our way into the office in the morning, and it’d grind some beans and make a coffee just in time for our arrival. Cloud texting, you see. It’s the caffeinated wave of the future.

And they sent us this rather brilliant video.

Here’s the machine (it’s the same one from the video) in situ at Raspberry Towers – picture taken this morning. Note the glamorous view we have of the car park.

It sees a lot of use, and yes, we really do keep it that clean. (Gordon is not allowed to leave in the evenings until he has done some judicious sponging.)

We’ve been using Rob B’s phone to control the machine: it’s him we send texts to when we want a coffee, and the message is forwarded via the cloud to the Pi in the machine. The Pi then texts the person who’s ordered the coffee to let them know when their drink is ready. (Thanks to the cloud, it can text us even though it’s not a mobile phone.) This works brilliantly, but we have found that if any of Rob’s friends sends him a text with the string “coffee” in there (“Hey Rob! Fancy meeting up for a coffee later?”) the coffee machine springs into action, and is prone to widdling all over the floor if we’ve forgotten to stick a mug under the outlet. Friends of Rob: a plea. Use email if you want to invite him out.

Zipwhip have made exhaustive instructions for adapting your own coffee machine available, so you can get coffee on your own carpet. (Seriously. We really need to get more regimented about leaving mugs under the thing, guys.)

Thank you so much, Team Zipwhip. We’re overwhelmed by your generosity, and you read us just right: coffee is an instantaneous and powerful way into our hearts. We raise our mugs to you.

Speaking of mugs, you can buy them in the Swag Shop. Go on. You know you want to.


Elbert avatar

Page not found. I think the date is wrong.

What I think the link should be:

BTW very cool setup. If I had a coffee machine this fancy I’d totally go for it!

ukscone avatar


Liam Fraser avatar

Awesome video. The link to their blog is broken though!

Kelsey avatar

It should be fixed now Liam.

andrum99 avatar

Very impressive! Maybe a cup detection mod should be next on the list? lol.

Andy avatar

Now you need a robot to move mugs to the machine.
And a motorized lazy susan to provide the mugs to the robot.
And a Gordon to wash the mugs to fill the lazy susan.

Kelsey avatar

Andy, we actually built that machine last year before the Pi was out.

meltwater avatar

surely the point of texting Rob is that it is now his job to deliver the coffee! :)

Wombat avatar

Send it to BBC’s ManLab! and use their train track!

Matt avatar

Fantastic post, had me laughing at the end. Great innovation too, I love all the things a Pi can do!

ukscone avatar

what is Rob’s phone number & does he do deliveries? i could do with a cup seeing as i screwed up my coffee maker by deciding to give it a bit of a clean

ErikW avatar

Just don’t mention the c-word!

JBeale avatar

Nifty! But kind of surprised they do not have cup detection on something this fancy. The non-cloud-connected beverage machine at work here won’t do anything until it detects a cup in place.

Kelsey avatar

Have you built a similar machine? I’d be keen to check it out!

JBeale avatar

I have to confess I have not done anything creative in this field! But I can tell you that the “Flavia Creation 400” dispenser has an infrared beam shooting diagonally down from top left, across the cup position, to an IR sensor at lower right on the cup platform. If you have a clear glass mug, it does not work (unless it is dirty enough to block the beam). You can fool it by blocking the sensor (hard to see- black on black) at lower right with your thumb, at risk of getting hot beverage splashes.

Kelsey avatar

Interesting! Thanks so much for commenting and sharing.

JamesH avatar

Clear glass mugs should only be used for beer.

Andy avatar

Oh I don’t know. As a student I subsisted on pint mugs of coffee between 8 am and midnight, with porridge at 3 am.
Mind you, I failed. So maybe there’s a lesson in that somewhere.

Gert avatar

Can the original power supply handle the extra load of the Pi? (I assume you used the A model)

Kelsey avatar

Hi Gert,

Yes, we were using the Model A. The original power supply does handle the load, you bet. You can either plug the Pi in separately to an external power source, or solder the power supply internally as we did. There’s instructions on our blog.

Gert avatar

I see that you did not power the Pi from the 5 Volt of the Espresso machine (that would be dangerous because none of the electronics inside are mains isolated!)
In the USA the mains voltage is lower as in Europe (where you would have to use VDE approved optocouplers to meet safety regulations). But a big fat warning to not touch any of the electronics if the wall plug is inserted would be appropriate.

NoiseMaker avatar

Erhm? They did.

Kelsey avatar

Thanks for the follow-up Gert. We are indeed powering the Pi via the DeLonghi. We put the cover back on it to make sure nobody touches exposed wiring.

Michael Horne avatar

Genius. Pure Genius.

John Larson avatar

Awesome blog! Seriously, you guys rock. Looking forward to meeting the Rasp Pi team soon and seeing the machine in action.


Kelsey avatar

It was a pleasure utilizing the Raspberry Pi in this build. Please keep posting any quesitons you have about this build. I’ll be doing my best to answer in a timely fashion.

Mark avatar

Interesting – Keep Rob’s phone number safe or you could have some sort of messy/wet denial of service attack on your coffee machine. And, in a purely Yank moment, I’m surprised that you prefer coffee to tea…

nelson avatar

hehe at 1:52 looks like the GPIO header was not correctly inserted. on a side note a carambola 2 looks like a cheaper alternative if you can make the code fit it’s tight space

Kelsey avatar

Hi Nelson! It was attached correctly. The piece you’re seeing on the side isn’t part of the GPIO port. It’s the piece of the board the ribbon cable is connected to. It’s right next to the port…

Brendan Tierney avatar


Victor avatar


Tim Rowledge avatar

Tradition ( requires that you add a webcam aimed at the machine. I know it won’t be any use for monitoring the fullness of the non-existent pot, but it would be a great way to check that it has been cleaned….

Kelsey avatar

Correct you are, sir :) We’ve pondered setting up a Livestream.

Marc avatar

Add facial recognition to the cam, and brew a customer ‘s preferred brew.

Pygar avatar

Permit me to suggest that a code word string be created, other than “coffee”, to set it off… Something that wouldn’t see any use otherwise, something no merry japester would be likely to stumble across… I have a suggestion but it wouldn’t be much use if I posted it here!

clive avatar

We’ve tried “schadenfreude”, “flibbertigibbet”, “anybody got any bockle orange joof”, “arukou, arukou, watashi wa genki” and “bap!” as trigger words, to no avail. Rob gets some mad old texts and no mistake. I’ve started wearing waders to the office.

ukscone avatar

turn the a/c down to north pole levels, text rob a few thousand times and wear ice skates in the office

Kelsey avatar


anvil201 avatar

what about
“sudo make coffee” ?

liz avatar

We use that on Eben. Works a treat.

meltwater avatar

Surely only Liz has Sudo access to Eben. :D

Richard George avatar

Can’t you get the phone # sending the text and whitelist on that?

andrum99 avatar

One question – is it RFC-2324 compliant?

Kelsey avatar


W. H. Heydt avatar

That’s all very well, but where is the machine to brew a proper cup of tea?

ukscone avatar

no machine could possibly brew a proper cup of rosey as it is an art form that requires the human touch to perfect. in 20 years when our robotic overlords want a cup of tea they’ll have to have kept a few humans around to make them one

Kelsey avatar

Haha, well said!

Wombat avatar

I would point out I have never had a good cup of coffee in the states!

I wonder if the PI could help Arthur Dent out on making the perfect cuppa!

Fred avatar

Hey why don you add an optic sensor so it would only dispatch coffee if there is a cup? You can add that input the the Raspi and then work the code.

Just an Idea. for your awesome idea ;)


Kelsey avatar

Thanks for the suggestion Fred!

The Other Peter Green avatar

Or use a pressure sensor under the cup position so that it also works with glass mugs?

Terry Carlson avatar

I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my Pi. Came to your site for a little inspiration. Looks like this little gem of a DIY computer is fulfilling it’s promise. Anyway liked the blog; it’s interesting how you can tell where people are by their use of slang. Widdling indeed (yes I did have to google it!)

Terry Carlson
Milpitas, California USA

Kelsey avatar

Terry, Let me know if you decide to build this thing and run into any issues. We tried to be as exhaustive as possible in the blog, but there may have been something we overlooked. Cheers!
-Kelsey from Zipwhip

Tim Rowledge avatar

Hey Terry, how are things in Milpitas? I used to live there from ’93 to ’04 before moving to Vancouver Island.

Homer Hazel avatar

This is very cool. It reminds me of why the first web enabled camera was put on the web. It was a long trip down to the coffee ploy, so one of the engineers whipped something together. Only one cup is slightly limiting. But in my house, it would work fine since I am the only one who drinks coffee.

Kelsey avatar

Thanks Homer!

Aron avatar

I am somewhat disappointed in this project.
Why did you construct your own proprietary interface when everyone knows that the defacto standard for cloud coffee is HTCPCP. There have already been implementations of the teapot part of the standard on Raspberry Pis.

We need to fork this project out!

Kelsey avatar

Thanks for the thoughtful reply!

Rostislav LIBER avatar

Possibilities of Raspberry Pi and human´s ideas are boundless :-)

steve lake avatar

I see big problems ahead!!… multiple coffee orders… no-one to change cups… no indication of who’s is who’s coffee…. solution
10 cup carosel… numbered cup locations… machine will text reply to coffee request…’your coffee is ready and can be found in slot ‘n’ ‘ easy peasy

Kelsey avatar

Good call!

Aron avatar

Come to think about it. Me thinks that this should work as a webservice for the RAPIRO. The RAPIRO can walk over to your desk, take your order, collect a cup, take to the coffee maker, webcall over HTCPCP, return with hot coffee.

Mark avatar

Hey, Rob! Can you post your mobile phone number on here so that we can all order coffee for Liz. Pleeease!

PRISM avatar


Aron avatar

Btw Liz, how mature do you expect Rob’s friends are when he recently left university?

Ken MacIver avatar

Truly awesome on several counts

1) The skill of the guys “makeing” the Mod..

2) The generosity of ZipWhip, with some seriously good product placement..

If I ever need text controlled kit I know where to look now..

Kelsey avatar

Thanks Ken

Wombat avatar

Where is the web cam….. coffee machine deserve web cams!

Kelsey avatar

It seems a lot of folks want the web cam. We may have to look into that but this was just a fun side project.

Aron avatar

If there was a webcam I would just spend all day texting Rob and watching the coffee flood the office. Muhahahahahahahaha

mrpi64 avatar

where the heck has my other comment gone?

Richard avatar

I haven’t had a chance to look at the video yet, but as an owner if a machine that looks very similar to the one shown in the picture, I have to ask, did you disable the auto-standby and/or auto rinse function? If not, wouldn’t you not just be texting for a coffee in the morning, but a cup of coffee and rinse-water?

liz avatar

We turn it off in the evenings, and Emma (who gets in about about half an hour earlier than the rest of us) turns it on.

Richard avatar

Ah I see. So if we wanted this in kit form, each kit would need to include an Emma.

liz avatar

You can’t have her: she’s busy. ;)

RexRoper avatar

No Emma! Well, that is a ‘Fine how-do-you-do”!

I can see this project will need more financial investment in order to obtain a ‘reasonable facsimile’ Where can we obtain specifications for Emma?

Otherwise, Great RPi project!

qwerty avatar

Interesting. Does it use Java? Now that would be cool.

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