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BrewBit Winter Update

12-31-2012

We have been quiet for the past couple of months, but rest assured, we have not been idle. So we wanted to give you a little nudge, remind everyone that we are still here, still slaving away over a pint of cold beer. Since our last email, we have gone through many tests, a few prototypes and a lot of drinking.

In this newsletter, we’d like to tell you more about BrewBit, our troubles and our plans. So here goes.

How BrewBit Works

We’ve posted in a few places how BrewBit works, but we have not done so as widely as we should have. So first off, we’d like to tell you more about BrewBit internals.

BrewBit is a miniaturized wireless digital refractometer. That’s a mouthful, but what it means to you, is that it goes inside any fermenter with an opening at least 1 inch (2.54 cm) in diameter and will wirelessly send temperature and specific gravity to your computer about how your beer is fermenting.

The refractometry bit means we shoot a light into a prism that is in contact with the your brew. Depending on how the light refracts (bends) inside the prism, it tells us the specific gravity at that time. The temperature bit lets us auto-correct the specific gravity readings so that they are accurate and tells you when you need to turn up the heat or find a cooler place.

Pretty basic stuff, until you try to fit it into a tube that is less than 1 inch in diameter made out of food-safe plastic.

The physics driving how the prism looks and how the light is shone into the prism affect everything about the device; from the internal shape of the device itself, to the positioning of the electronic components, to the kind of sensor we can use to measure the light.

Plus, we’d like it to last as long as possible so you can get as much data as possible. Oh and don’t forget food safety. We wouldn’t want you to end up with a beer that tastes like plastic or worse, causes you to grow an extra arm (though that can be useful to hold another pint; we can look at this as a feature in one of the next models).

This brings us to where we are currently.

Where We Are Currently

Our current prototypes are not delivering the accuracy that we had hoped they would. After a few pints and a few tests, we think we’ve found a few options to try out, but this means manufacturing new optical components.

Redesigning the optics does not affect our final price, but does affect our timeline by extending it out to the summer of 2013.

Why does it take that long, you ask? Well, we need to design a new optical system, and analyze it to ensure that it will meet our performance standards. To this end, we’ve built a custom optical design software package as the existing ones are too expensive and don’t work for our case well. So in the coming months, we’ll be exploring our options, ordering a few different versions and seeing what works best.

The problem with changing optics is that it causes a ripple effect that means changing plastics and electronics.

Changing plastics means going back to the manufacturer and redoing all the molds that we spend a lot of time designing.

Changing electronics means new boards, potentially finding new components, because the old ones no longer fit, retesting wireless, redoing all the work for FCC certification, dealing with changes to power and retesting batteries.

Each of those things takes time, which means we have to delay launching BrewBit.

It’s not all gloomy though.

Next Steps

We are committed to launching BrewBit and giving everyone a product that works in any fermentor with any fermentation style for a pro or a novice alike.

There are Kickstarter projects that have had trouble delivering their rewards on the timeline they promised. In most cases, this is caused by the project starters launching their project before they have a production-ready design. This outcome quickly turns the excitement of the backers into frustration. We are committed to avoiding this situation by designing for production from the start, and waiting to collect money until we are fully ready to use it. When we launch, you can be certain that we will deliver the device you want to use and deliver it on time.

We’re working very hard to solve our optics problems and getting the rest of the product squared away so we can give you an amazing experience!

We’re also working very hard on the companion site that will show you the data BrewBit collects, but we’re not stopping there. Will also give you the tools to make sense of the data and help you Brew Better Beer.

Watch this space for more on that and happy brewing…

Thank you to everyone for hanging in there. If you’d like to ask us questions, we’re on Twitter (@thebrewbit) or on Facebook (http://facebook.com/BrewBit¬†or hit Reply to send us an email.

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