Turn WordPress into a Brewery Controller with BrewPress

BrewPress

I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of WordPress plugin developers on this site in the last year about lots of different products. BrewPress, from Brant Calder, is probably going to go down as one of the most unique plugins I’ve featured.

Using the power of WordPress and the Raspberry Pi, BrewPress is a fully automated brewery controller for home brewing aficionados. Brant talks to me about how the idea for this plugin came about, what it was like developing for the Raspberry Pi and his future plans for BrewPress.


There’s no need for introductions since we’ve spoken before so let’s just start with how the idea for BrewPress came about?

I’ve been home brewing for about 6 or 7 years now and had been using other brew control software that was written in Python. I wanted to make some changes to the software and customize things a bit, but not knowing Python I was left with the choice of either learning Python or trying to create something myself.

BrewPress Screenshot #1

For anyone not familiar with the Raspberry Pi can you quickly explain what it is and how it works?

The Raspberry Pi is basically a very small and very cheap computer. You can install and run an operating system on it, it has WiFi, bluetooth, USB & ethernet ports. It also has a bunch of GPIO pins (General Purpose Input/Output) which allow you to switch mechanical relays. This allows the control of light switches, heating elements or any other electrical device.

This seems like it could have been a traditional SaaS application. Was there any thought about going in that direction and, if so, why did you ultimately decide to go with WordPress?

No, it wouldn’t work as a SaaS application as it needs to be installed onto the Raspberry Pi to make use of the physical GPIO pins. I chose to use WordPress because it is so easily extended upon (and it is what I know).

Being able to extend the BrewPress plugin with other add-on plugins was very important as there are so many different brewery setups and so many different ways it could be used, it just made sense. There are already a few extensions available with more in the works.

I would imagine this is one of the more interesting plugins you’ve built from a technical perspective. What were some of the biggest challenges while making BrewPress?

Yes, this was a huge learning curve. For starters, just setting up a Raspberry Pi with the required software was all new to me as well as writing an automation program. The plugin was re-written several times as I got a better understanding of how I wanted it to work and also making it work in a way that made it easy to extend.

I’ve seen some pretty niche WordPress plugins but BrewPress might take the prize for the product with the narrowest market. How do you plan to go about getting the word out about BrewPress?

The brewing community is not overly large and then the brewing community who automate their brewing is much smaller again so it is a very small market. I’m fairly active on the home brew forums and Facebook groups and I have posted about BrewPress on there as well as on Twitter. People seem intrigued by the idea of WordPress being able to brew beer.

BrewPress Screenshot #2

BrewPress has optional extensions but they are currently all free to download. Is this your eventual path to generating revenue with the plugin and what are your plans for income in the future?

I’m not sure I really have plans to generate revenue as yet. At this stage I am happy to give something away to the home brew community. I’d like to build a user base first before I consider any options about charging to use it, but the main BrewPress plugin would always be 100% free.

You’ve sold a lot of plugins on to new owners in the past. Is there a similar plan in place for BrewPress or is this something you’re planning on sticking with for awhile?

No, I will stick with this one for a while. I’d love to continue development of the plugin and to make it something really useful for the people using it. Like most home brewers, I’m pretty passionate about the hobby so I can’t see myself losing any interest in this one. Plus I will be using it each time I brew.

What’s in store for future BrewPress releases? And, on a personal note, are you planning on making any more WordPress plugins soon?

There is a bunch of features on the list that I am wanting to integrate into the plugin such as: translating the plugin, recipe imports from popular recipe building software, incorporating different control logic such as PID and PWM and being able to integrate with other types of hardware.

BrewPress should hopefully keep me busy for a while, so no real plans to create any other plugins at this stage.

BrewPress Screenshot #3