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The beauty of constraints in engineering

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2018

The design of the automatic-drip coffee maker is super simple and clever. By using a one-way value to pump the water to the top of the maker to drip through the grounds, you can get away with using only one heating element at the bottom that both heats the water and keeps the brewed coffee hot.

To engineer an object means to make choices; I’ll show you with this coffeemaker. The key choice: to use a single heating element to keep the cost low — 9 bucks in the case of this coffeemaker. Now the heater must be below the carafe to keep the coffee warm yet it also needs to heat the water for brewing. And since the grounds are at the top, that presents a problem. How do you get the water from down here to up here?

Bill Hammack shows how this works in just over 2 minutes:

Hammack’s videos are great. He also did this 11-minute video about how aluminum cans are designed & engineered and it’s not boring even for a second. (via @macgbrown)