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The Bright Buggy, an Arduino-based toy

A few weeks ago, I came up with an idea for a new Arduino project. The concept is and execution should be pretty simple: Hook up an accelerometer with some LEDs using an Arduino board. Stick this little gadget in a toy car and use the accelerometer to measure the speed that the car is traveling. Based on the speed, the LEDs will light up different colors along a gradient, say, red/orange for slow, yellow/green for medium, and blue/purple for fast. When you drive the car around, you can tell (relatively) how fast it’s going by the color your LED speedometer is shining.

I submitted this idea to quirky.com a few days ago with a slightly different idea (same gadget in a ball that you can kick around — see the quirky link), and it’s gotten some decent traction, though probably not enough to actually be produced.

Still, I think this is a cool idea for a toy and, as soon as the accelerometer I ordered gets here, I’m going to try to make a prototype. Might be a cool kids’ toy — could be put in a toy vehicle or ball, but also as a clip that you could attach to your bike or clothing to see how fast you’re going — a sort of visual speedometer.

Two new brews and another cheese

My roommate has been in Africa for the past few weeks, so I took the opportunity to blow up the kitchen several times while she was gone.

First, a saison/farmhouse-style beer that didn’t go exactly as planned (low mash efficiency) but tastes delicious anyway.

Second, a remake of the delicious ginger-spiced pale ale Nate & I made about a year ago. This time, I went all grain and changed a few recipe details. This beer is one that I am going to try to get down really well. I usually just try something new every time I brew, but I’m going to start working on two or three beers that I can consistently produce.

Both beers are currently aging and will be bottled/kegged in a couple weeks.

Lastly, another cheese very similar to one I made a few months ago. For whatever reason, this one turned out moister than the previous one, even though it was pressed for several days longer. It’ll sit to dry for another few days, and then I’ll wax it. I’m planning on letting this one age several months to see how it turns out — I was really impatient and only let the last one age for 6 weeks before beginning to eat it…

Two-Brew American Coffee Mild

I woke up this morning, rather late after a long night in the lab, and decided I wanted to make a beer today. As I sat in front of my computer, drinking some coffee and contemplating all of the delicious possibilities, I thought, “Ah! Coffee… Something I haven’t used in a beer for a long while. How could I incorporate coffee or coffee flavors into a beer, but do something other than a porter or stout? Maybe a brown ale or a mild would go well with coffee flavors…”

I decided to go with a mild, an English session style known for low bitterness and lack of hop flavors and aromas, but often with malty, toasty, and somewhat sweet flavors. I designed an all-grain recipe, and instead of doing a traditional British mild, I went with American ingredients. I found an American ale yeast that will help enhance the beer’s malt profile and leave some residual sweetness behind. For the coffee, I’m going to do a cold extract and add it at kegging time. It’ll be enough that the beer will get some coffee flavor and aroma, but not too much for my relatively small beer. Not sure what kind of coffee I’ll use yet — probably a lighter roast, something fruity and mellow.

Check out the recipe for “Two-Brew American Coffee Mild” (two brews — beer and coffee — get it?) on Hopville.

In honor of our friends: Paul & Natalie’s Wedlock Wheat

My friend and assistant brewmaster Nate and I put together a beer to be drunk during the week before the Gebheim-Thiel wedding this August. Paul simply requested something refreshing and relatively low in alcohol for the summer. So, in honor of the Gebheim name, we used a combination of American and German ingredients to make a clean, crisp wheat beer featuring sweet honey, spicy rye, and earthy, herbal, and minty hop flavors.

Check out the recipe on Hopville.

Cheese #2: Monterey Jack-style

After my previous cheesemaking attempt with Paul, which was successful for a first try but pretty obviously not quite right, I decided to make another last weekend. Since I was using pasteurized milk, this time I used CaCl2, which helped the the milk gel better and gave a clean break. I made a small batch to test things out and it turned out nicely. Here’s the recipe I used, modified from the Monterey Jack recipe in Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll:

-1 gallon skim milk (pasteurized & homogenized)

-1 pint heavy cream

-1/4 tsp CaCl2, diluted in a few ounces of water

-1 packet C201 thermophilic starter from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.

-Malaka brand liquid rennet, diluted in a few ounces of water

-1 Tbsp sea salt

Heat milk and cream to ~95F. Add starter and ripen for 30m.

Add diluted CaCl2 and gently stir. Add diluted liquid rennet and gently stir. Let sit for 45m.

Check for clean break, then cut curds into 1/2- to 1/4-inch cubes. Let sit for 40m.

Heat curds to 105F, gently increasing temperature over a half hour and gently stirring throughout the heating process.

Keep curds within a few degrees of 105F, gently heating when necessary and occasionally stirring, for 30m. Let curds settle for the last 5m.

Gently pour off whey until the curds are just covered. Keep curds around 105F like in the previous step for 30m.

Drain whey off of curds using a cloth-lined colander. Mix in salt.

Press curds with cheese press in cloth-lined mold, increasing pressure and turning curds every couple hours for the next 12h for an even pressing. Then, press for 12h, undress and redress, and press for another 12h.

Rub more sea salt on cheese surfaces. Air dry cheese, wrapped in cloth, for 3 to 4 days, turning cheese every 12h for even drying. Wax cheese and age for several months at 60F.

Small-scale Malting

Another great thing going on in the craft brewing industry: small-scale malting of local grains. (Article fromĀ NYTimes)

Interactive Birthday Gift, Part the Fourth

Here it is! I finally got a chance to put it together. I used a LilyPad Arduino board and constructed the “card” with a cheap plastic/cardboard photo frame, construction paper, a glue stick, and an X-Acto knife. See the project details on my Fritzing profile.

Lens Flare Eclipse

Solar eclipse seen in lens flareI tried my best to capture last evening’s annual solar eclipse with my shitty phone camera, but there was still too much light to work without a filter. It wasn’t until I took a closer look at the photos this morning that I found an image that shows the eclipse in the lens flare! Pretty cool, huh? This was taken right around the maximum, about 6:30 PM local time.

A First Attempt at Cheesemaking

I’ve been making cheese for a few months now, but just soft cheese like ricotta and cottage cheese. I wanted to try making a hard cheese, something that I could age for a while. Making a hard cheese requires pressing it — which you can rig up with supplies from around the house. But since I think this is something that I’d like to do on a regular basis, I decided that I’d make a cheese press. I’m not much of a builder of wooden objects, so it took my friend Paul telling me he also wanted to make cheese to do it.
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Interactive birthday gift, Pt. 3

Picture, Fritzing schematic, and Arduino C code uploaded here.