Stirrers and Ice Hoppers

Following a post on Reddit, which subsequently led to a post on Hack A Day and other sites, we’ve had quite a bit of interest in our little project over the past couple of days. Comments have been very positive, so thanks guys, we really appreciate the feedback.

One recurring theme has been the lack of an Ice Hopper and Stirring mechanism, so thought I would make a post about them. Frankly we would love to add both of these features, and they have been considered many times, but so far we have not found a suitable solution.

Stirrer mechanism: Magnetic stirrers have been mentioned a couple of times, and we considered one in the early stages of the project. But there are a few issues preventing their use; First, how do you fish out the stirring bar out of the drink after stirring? Secondly, and from my perspective a little more important, how do you prevent cross contamination between cocktails. Some of these cocktails have potent ingredients, last thing you want is your White Russian tasting of Tequila, or your Tequila Sunrise having bits of curdled milk floating on top (OK I know, you’re not meant to stir a tequila sunrise, but you see the point?). So in the mean time we have gone for the solution of having a pot of disposable stirrers next to the machine so people can stir their own cocktail. Perhaps a simpler solution would be just to fix one of the disposable stirrers to a stirring mechanism, and have a vessel of water in the machine that is then used to rinse the stirrer afterwards.

Ice Hoppers: This is something we really want to solve, in use people often forget to add the ice before putting the glass on the machine. Unfortunately we haven’t had any good ideas on how to approach this. Issues from how to channel the dripping of the melting ice away from the machine, to how to actually dispense a consistent amount of ice face us. Ice also tends to partially defrost and kind of refreeze into a block which I think will complicate the mechanism further.

Over the next few weeks we are going to post some updates to version 2 development, and also I think it’s about time the beast was fired up again and put through some rigorous “testing”.

Ice Box and Stirrers

Whilst very low-tech, extremely effective.

27 thoughts on “Stirrers and Ice Hoppers

  1. What about an arm that picks up or otherwise dispenses a disposable stir stick which it uses to stir the drink and then leaves in the drink? that would prevent cross contamination and allow for some drinks to not be stired.

      • This. I would have a gravity feeder of swizzle sticks, and it would drop one down, so that only the very end is retained, then it would stir gently, and finally release the stick into the glass allowing the human to do any additional stirring necessary.

  2. It believe both ice dispenser problems are solved by the common corkscrew design of ice dispensers. The space between spiral arms only allows a measured amount of ice to fit between and the crushing power of the spinning keeps the ice small enough to dispense.

  3. With regards to stirring, it could be a little complicated but using something that grabs a swizzle stick, places it in the drink and stirs and then leaves it inside the drink for service. OR just place a swizzle stick in and let the filthy humans do some of the work.

  4. Rather than mechanically stirring the drink what about aerating the drink with a short blast of air? It may be simpler than having a rotating stir stick but the problem of cross-contamination would still be there. Unless the aeration nozzle were to dip itself in a water bath after mixing the drink. Then, by the time the next drink were to be ready to be mixed the nozzle would should be dry/clean.

  5. Why not just spin the glass? You have ice in there, which will help to mix the ingredients well. Spin the glass one way for a while, then switch directions. Do that a couple times and things will be well mixed, I think.

    For the ice, my solution would be to put the device on a table in front of my fridge, which has an ice dispenser on the door, and wire up the device to the fridge’s ice dispenser (just wire something like a 1/8″ phono plug into your fridge and connect each lead to the same contacts that the pressure plate uses (The little rubber thing that you push your cup into)). At that point, all you need to do is add a little metal slide to get the ice from the freezer to the cup in the Inebriator.

  6. For stirring the mixture: use a sonicator.

    I believe the ultrasonic modules from ultrasonic baths can be purchased for a reasonable price.

    No cross contamination issues.

  7. For the ice hopper you could try a water wheel type solution, only keep two scoops on opposed ends of the wheel, and have the scoops travel through an ice reservoir scooping cubes as it travels, use rubber flaps to allow the scoop passage while at the same time keeping the reservoir from being exposed to room temperatures for times of more than the second or two it would take the scoop to pass the rubber flap. As far as the automated stirrer goes why not try an inverted test tube style glass or plexiglass tube, motivator at the top (outside of the tube, naturally), metal stirrer, fill the tube with water (filtration or cyclic system would be best if at all possible) and rubber seal at the base. Signal activates the motivator which would push the stainless steel stirrer down through the rubber seal and into the drink, set the whole assembly to revolve at a suitable rate and after a programmed stir time has elapsed the stirrer would retract itself into the tube again (slicking off excess liquid via the rubber seal) for a rinse, also possible revolving arm that could clamp a fresh disposable stirrer, stir, and deposit the used one upon completion, the construction and programming would be difficult (if possible at all), but just my humble opinion. All in all the Inebriator looks like it would be a magnificent addition to any home bar.

  8. What about using the “AK bullet” ice molds, and using them as the stirrers?
    They can be kept in an ice box, long enough to mimic a straw or w/e but also used as the ice in the drink.
    No cross-contamination.
    2 birds – 1 stone.
    *OR get longer cylindrical ice molds instead.
    But i do like the idea of spinning the drink (with metallic ice cubes or what not) but at the same time, it’ll take a while for the drink to mix because the glass will spin but because it’s in the center, the drink will not. Or at least after a while, which is why the metallic ice cubes is a better idea.

  9. If you’re always using the same glass model, a simple solution for the ice : use a sensor to weigh the glass, if it does’nt weigh more than the empty glass their is no ice. Use LEDs and console to advise user to add ice. Add bypass button if the user does’nt want ice.

  10. Ice: Unless you have an ice machine, cubes will melt and stick to each other. You might want to implement existing technology, like the types of ice dispensers at soft drink stations at McDonalds. Mixing:When I watch my bartenders, they put the ice in the glass first, then pour over the ice. That might cover ice and mixing… Else, you could pour the drink in a container, then at the end, pour the drink into the person’s glass. Replace container, pour next drink.

  11. Vibration works great until you have a carbonated drink that will loose its fizz. Stones are good, but will get expensive fast for big parties. Turning the glass may work, but not well, especially with drinsk that like to “layer”. If you get an extreamly hydrophobic rod that may be sufficient enough to get around the cross contamination for an evening. can you get teflon stirring rods? If you want the magnetic, it won’t work if ice is already in there.

    • That’s spot on, hydrophobic rod/stirrer etc is exactly what we need, any ideas how to source something with a hydrophobic coating? I think I need to do some research on this.

  12. First of all, great idea, your machine is really cool, and if you ever get it into such a design that could be reproduced in a decent quantity, it would probably sell well. I could see party supply stores renting these.

    Now, i don’t know how to deal with the ice issue, but the stirring problem could be solved in a somewhat simple way. Could you perhaps get glasses shaped in a spiral pattern? If the sides were shaped properly, and the jets angled to follow these channels, every time more was added it should stir itself, or so i believe. I could be mistaken after all.

    I would suggest a shape like this one:

    Though of course it would need to be made of glass obviously.

  13. To combat the stirring problem, how about using an ultrasonic pulse to stimulate the drink instead?

    Sounds more complicated than it is – have a look at a Guiness surger, which is designed to do just that!

  14. Solving both the ice problem and the stirring problem might lead to a third problem- when a drink is poured over ice, the ice will sometimes melt and re-freeze into a clump, which may cause issues for the stirring mechanism if you go with a swizzle stick type stirrer as opposed to a motion type stirrer.

    • Let the customer put in ice and stir the drink. Have av sign that lights up anp blinks with an blinking arrow pointing to the ice. When the drink is mixed have an other similar sign point to the stirring pins.
      After all, the hard part of the work is done when the drink is composed with the different ingredients, putting ice into the drink and stirring are “no-brainers”. Adding those features will just add to the complexity and cost of the machine. More cost to develop it, and more pieces that will break. I would stick to the consept that you already have, maybe add some dispensers instead so you can make some more types of drinks!

  15. Hi again!

    I’m worried about the frequency of the refile for the CO2.

    How big and how many drink can you do with one refile? (approximately of course).



    • We are using a 22kg 70% Nitrogren 30% Co2 bottle.

      Its been on the machine since we built it. So lasts quite a long time

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