The straw which broke me and meCoffee’s back


Early 2013 I was unimpressed with the temperature of my inherited Rancilio Silvia and discovered the espresso PID rabbit hole : Auber’s, cheap Alibaba’s or DIY Arduino setups. As I had little money and no creditcard to boot I went shopping at Okaphone ( luckily we still have an electronic components shop in Groningen ). I already had an Arduino waiting for a purpose, at Okaphone I bought a SSR and a temperature sensor. Before dinner I had stuff wired up. After dinner I was controlling the boiler. Somewhat.

In the following weeks I tinkered with the setup in the evenings and weekends : I had a job, but I knew my contract would end in June and would not be prolonged. I did a quick tour of the homebrew PID market and decided to do something crazy : to focus 100% on the development of a PID which people would love :

  • Easy to install
  • Invisible, so your significant other would let you
  • A minimum component and wire count
  • Highly customizable through meBarista and firmware updates
  • All for a fair price

What followed were two very hard years with money running out constantly. At the end of 2013 I had an integrated prototype : my own SMPS power supply, microcontroller, SSR/TRIAC and Bluetooth all on one board. In 2014 some contacts brought the first local customers. As money for food was running out, I started selling belongings. I fell behind on paying rent. Early 2015 I was getting desperate and created the KickStarter which failed miserably. But it drove traffic to the website and people were inquiring about reviews.

Then all of a sudden, in May 2015 a couple of people bit the bullet and ordered through the website : my first sales! A month later, some other sales. A review appeared on a forum, and sales increased, from one a month, to 4 a month, to 9 etc. I had to support users and work on all the feedback : especially the manual has been a pain.

And ever since sales have started, I have had to adapt my workflow to keep up : manufacturing electronics by hand is very hard work. Producing cable sets is hard labour. At the end of 2015 the volume had grown to a point where I could decide to keep going. In 2016 I worked on the accumulated debts and I had to work on myself : being poor is exhausting. It feels bad too.

However, manufacturing by hand was not sustainable and from the start of 2017 I worked on the design for manufacturing and had a batch produced by a local manufacturer on June 16th, 2017. Finally I would be able to take some rest, work on features and firmware again etc.

Boy, how wrong I was : after about 4 weeks it turned out units were inexplicably faulty and I could not figure out what the problem was. My manufacturer was not helpful at all. Finally in early November I figured out the problem : some components were acquired through a broker which had not followed MSL procedures. If components contain too much moisture they might get damaged in the SMD oven. And they did get damaged and I had to work on my manufacturer to acknowledge the problem and work on a solution. They did not assume responsibility although it was theirs.

In the end I had to hire a lawyer and they settled, moneywise none the richer though. I have moved production to a responsible partner in Poland since and they have produced an excellent batch which I have tested extensively. These have been ready for shipping for some time now.

But I turned out I was not ready for shipping : the manufacturing problems broke my back and I had to take some time off after 5 years of poor to minimum-wage, no holidays and running a 1-man army. Running a hardware startup is, ehhh, hard.

Although there have been many hardships it has been incredibly fun too : designing a product is fun, getting a bit of traction is fun, espresso is fun and most customers have been amazing, supportive and kind. Thank you all.

I have been working on meCoffee full time again for some weeks now and will restore operations like shipping, support and warranties on September 11th, 2018. If you are affected : before shipping your order I will contact you.

I am sorry. Mea Culpa.

Kind regards,

Jan

20 Comments

  1. JR
    10 September 2018

    Thanks for the update, and well done for pulling through it! Look forward to receiving it.

  2. Joel
    12 September 2018

    All the best Jan!
    Feel free to contact me if you need support for German customers.
    I owe you one!

    Joel

  3. Christopher
    12 September 2018

    All the best Jan.
    Hope you will soon get things running smoothly again at mecoffee

  4. Ruslan
    13 September 2018

    Ordered a PID 50 days ago. As result I got nothing! No PID, no response, no money back.
    Awful way to make business. Disappointed.

    • 13 September 2018

      Hi Ruslan,

      I am sorry to hear you are affected. I have started working on the backlog on the 11th of September ( last Tuesday ) and will continue to contact customers and ship meCoffee’s until operations are normalized.

      I will get in touch,

      kind regards,

      Jan

  5. Mircea
    15 September 2018

    This is great news Jan.
    Wish you all the best!

  6. Sebastian
    17 September 2018

    Thats great news. All the best for you!
    I just ordered a set and look forward to install it to my Silvia 🙂

  7. Helge
    18 September 2018

    Hope there will a be more stable FW Version for the BLE Version soon. Sometimes the MeCoffee lost the Settings total, and sometimes i can make Changes, but mostly i can´t change the Settings, because crashing in App. When after a long time and reset the app on my Phones (yes i need more modells to change all settings) it works.

    Please let me know, if you need Help by Testing the Beta FW.

    Feature requests still here in my mind 🙂
    – a working Timer
    – manually way to set sleepmode on/off with aktive Timer over the app
    – a pre Water Inflution on Wakeupup for 3 Seconds (to be sure that the boiler is full with water)

    I don´t want to miss your mecoffee anymore in my silvia. Such a great Development, not perfect… but nearly 🙂

    All the Best and Happy to read this Update!

  8. sheitan
    18 September 2018

    Jan, keep the good work goin’ !

  9. Brian
    19 September 2018

    Sorry to hear of your difficulties! Understandable given the stresses of running a hardware startup. Hope you’re feeling better and moving forward once again. Still looking forward to receiving my PID and being a happy customer!

  10. Paul
    20 September 2018

    Hi Jan,
    Thanks for you openess, sorry to hear of your troubles. You project is still what I concider the best option for me, for the reasons you started this project.
    Without people like you, where would we all be?
    Stay strong, best of luck for the future,
    Paul.

  11. Frans
    24 September 2018

    Hi Jan,

    Thanks for sharing this story. Great to see you are back! Good luck for the future. Take it easy!

    Frans

  12. Andrew Bennett
    27 September 2018

    Hi! Are you still taking new orders? I messaged a couple weeks back about paying via PayPal but haven’t heard back. If not all is well just am curious as to the current situation!

  13. Daniel
    30 September 2018

    Hi Jan,

    I wish you the very best. But in my opinion you should first sit back and inform every buyer, including me of your problems and that we will eventually get our micro controllers and orders. We had very much trouble and in my case I thought my money is lost. I files a suit with my credit card company, but they couldn’t get my money back. I already was looking for an alternative, but the me coffee seems much better than everything else on the market. Would be great to hear from you.

    What I was hearing is that some people already filed police suits against you, so it would be in your own interest to inform everybody who ordered and didn’t get an order or any answer from you already. Contact everybody as soon as possible.

    Best regards,
    Daniel

    • 1 October 2018

      Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I could not imagine contacting all customers 4 weeks ago and processing the email it would generate.

      I am currently on track with processing the backlog which should be done in about 2 weeks. There are always trade-offs.

      kind regards,
      Jan

  14. Olav van Overveldt
    1 October 2018

    Okay, Jan, goed, dat je weer on track bent. En fijn, dat je dit op deze manier zo uitvoerig laat weten. Ik heb je al eens eerder gemaild om je een riem onder het hart te steken, want zo’n product kan mijns inziens niet zomaar oplossen in het niets. Kennelijk zijn er meer die je gesteund hebben met als uiteindelijk resultaat, dat je project gecontinueerd wordt.
    Proficiat! Ik blijf je geïnteresseerd volgen.
    Groet,
    Olav

  15. Rastislav Staník
    1 October 2018

    Thanks for your hard work!

  16. 1 October 2018

    Wow Jan, thank you very much for sharing your story!
    I had no idea as to which trouble you have had along the way. Living out a dream makes a lot of sence but sometimes there’s a bill to pay.
    I was a bit frustrated I must admit, but really… it’s people like you I want to support. Don’t worry a thing as we say in the Christian fellowships “the worst is over and the best is yet to come “
    And I actually believe this also goes for you?

  17. drinksta
    14 October 2018

    Hey Jan,

    I have a degree in Mechatronics Engineering and would like to help you. Do you have any plans for making the app development open source? What about an API or SDK you could make public? There have been a lot of problems with people not getting their meCoffee working on USA versions of the gaggia classic. I made this document to supplement your instructions. I give you permission to add another model (Gaggia Classic North America) to your instructions and use my findings. Here it is: https://ufile.io/sng4v and here the reddit post: https://www.reddit.com/r/espresso/comments/9lwm8t/adventures_with_mecoffee_pid_modding_my_gaggia/

    • 15 October 2018

      Hi Alex,

      Thank you for your input. Your prayers have been heard and meBarista has been opensourced : https://mecoffee.nl/blog/opening-up-mebarista/

      I will review your addendum and see what I can do for the US Gaggia Classic market.

      kind regards,

      Jan