Coffee Brewing App

App Design Case Study

This project is featured in “The Best Easy to Use App Designs” by DesignRush


BRWR is a guided app for people to record and recreate coffee recipes - like a coffee coach.


I’m a coffee nerd, and I wanted a tool with which I could track my coffee brewing consistency over time, especially at home.

I was looking for a tool which would allow me to capture brewing data, compare various instances of that data for consistency, and use the best instances to recreate that particular brew. 

During the BRWR design process, I learned users are looking for a tool which will guide them through the “what” and “why” of coffee brewing. Such a tool needs to balance the technical aspects of coffee brewing, appropriate for both novice and experienced coffee brewers.


Matt Hughes (me)

Matt Hughes (me)

• Matthew Chu (Design Mentor)

Anik Devaughn (Design Mentor)

My Role

• Designer

• Researcher

• Subject Matter Expert (Coffee).


• Sketch

• Invision


• BRWR uses a guided brew-timer feature to instruct people on brewing a coffee recipe

• Brew data is stored as a recipe, used to recreate that coffee, or share with others.  

• A user can connect any “smart” coffee gear to BRWR app for real-time coffee data collecting, as well as manually add/ edit a recipe.

Understanding the Problem

People who brew coffee, of all skills, want tools which give them guidance and understanding of the "What" and "How" of coffee brewing


I set out to find how do other people brew at home? Do we share the same problem? What apps do they use? What apps already exist?

User Interviews

I interviewed 3 at-home coffee brewers for their experiences with coffee brewing apps and tools, and to test my designs. 

I was looking for candidates familiar with coffee brewing,(but not experts) as I wanted to understand where their mental models on coffee brewing differed from mine.

2/3 Candidates

Have never used an app for coffee brewing

All Candidates

Felt they could be intimidated by the technical jargon and process of coffee brewing

All Candidates

Don’t know what smart devices are

1 Candidate

Didn’t believe the app they used held long-term value for them

App Comparisons

I also compared currently existing apps to see what features they offer, limitations they have, and their usability. 

Here’s an example of 3:

Quick Summary:

• Acaia Brewmaster app real-time tracks my brewing data when paired with any Acaia digital scale.

• UI for important interaction points (#2, #3, #6) has low visibility.  

Quick Summary:

• SlowBar is a library for pre-decided coffee brewing recipes. No editing possible.

• Does not track brew data

Quick Summary:

• Coffee.Guru has fully customizable recipes and brewing instructions, but does not track nor compare brew data

• UI, while fairly usable, can be initially visually complex and visually unappealing

I compiled a chart of all the apps I compared as well.


A coffee coach for two types of users, divided by ability

From my interviews, I discovered 2 major takeaways:

• All users wanted a “coffee coach” which guides them through the brewing process, according to their ability. 

• There are 2 primary user personas, divided by ability.

Coffee Coach

From the interviews, a “coffee coach” was the best descriptor of the need users had. 

Users wanted guidance on:

• What terminology meant

• That smart coffee devices even existed

• Tutorials on the hows and whats of coffee brewing

"I Want a Coffee Assistant"

– Jonathan


I divided the personas in two groups, based on ability (skill + knowledge)

For Jay, he ’s comfortable with coffee specific terminology and expects more granular control over his quantitative variables (dose, ratio, time, etc).

Lisa is inexperienced, is intimidated by coffee terminology and expects guidance on what to do.

"For someone like myself, who's kinda meticulous... there's probably a better way"

– Dan


Use live data collection with a guided feature to record a coffee brewing instance in order to recreate it

The main area of focus was to design a brew-timer screen.

Designing a brew-timer feature solved a few problems:

• Is an existing design solution, so user will be familiar

• Is the best opportunity during workflow to offer brewing guidance

• It’s the best opportunity to live capture data from each brewing instance.

How Might We Create an Experience Which Provides Meaningful Brewing Data for Both Novice & Experienced Users?


These are a collection of early ideas of features for the app, as well as sketches of the brew timer screen, and sketches of ideas for how to navigate to the brew timer feature and what saved brew data might look like.


Brew Timer Screens

The brew timer feature is one of the most important and core interactions for the app. (User’s will use it every time they make a coffee!).

These iterations were the beginning attempts to include instruction, real time data, and brew variable information all at once.


Balancing necessary technical features while not overwhelming users

In coffee brewing, there is technical jargon and customization options necessary for brewing and for advanced users. For novice users though, interviews showed these details can be overwhelming.

To address:

• I designed icons and illustrations to accompany the technical jargon

• Prioritized displaying screens in a scannable way.

• Designed customization screens to keep focus on the core basics and make advanced options hidden yet discoverable.

• Designed the brew timer screen to be as hands-free as possible. (During brewing, users are using their hands to pour, so design needed to account for better accessibility during this work flow.

Iterating: Brew Timer

To focus better for hands free:

• I borrowed the “stories” design pattern common on social media platforms to indicate a multi-step process

• Included instruction cards for user guidance.

• Use large buttons for easier interaction when users’ hands are occupied

• The illustration is intended to be animated to visually demonstrate instructions. 

Iterating: Recipe Selection

A “recipe” is the name given to a collection of saved brew variables.

The selection process needed to balance enough information to differentiate between recipes, while still being quick and scannable.

Current version:

• Uses filters and search to quickly find recipes when a user’s “library” becomes extensive.

• A “favourite” feature for recipes

• A way to select which coffee beans a user might be using. 

Iterating: Recipe Customization

Customization was the user flow which jargon and terminology were the most confusing.

• I designed contextual icons to accompany technical terms or better understanding

• Switched to the two column layout to increase scan-ability

• Separated the recipe details and ability to customization into two tabs – accessible for experienced users, but away from beginner enthusiast so they didn’t feel they might “break something” or be overwhelmed.

Prototype & Test

Users say BRWR is valuable, but, find certain features complicated and don’t match their expectations

Users said BRWR gives them confidence and is an outlet to explore and experiment. However, I learned my implementation of recipes and connecting devices is too complicated.

For recipes:

• interactions (eg. adding new recipes, customizing, sharing, making their own), were not discoverable enough.

• When users reached the recipe selection screen, they were stuck,  saying, “I don’t know what to do”.

For device connection:

• Users are still unsure/ unaware of what smart devices are.

• For both analogue and smart devices, users need clearer guidance of how to connect and the benefits of connecting their devices.

Usability Test

For this test, I interviewed 2 new users and 1 repeat from previous test.

Testing revealed users loved the brew timer experience (finding it very easy to navigate) as well as two major takeaways for improvement.


1/ Recipes

• While users understood the concept of recipes, they were unsure how to interact with them.

• The discoverability of finding new recipes wasn’t clear, nor did they know to think about being able to edit them.


2/ Smart Devices

• Users still didn’t know what smart devices were

• Wanted more guidance on connecting their devices.

"Brewing is intimidating and this makes me feel confident"

– Lisa


Check out the current prototype versions for BRWR

Brew Timer
Recipe Customization
Recipe Selection


BRWR exists in a design space open for innovation, and needs some features reworked to move forward

I learned a lot from this design project.

First, users’ lack of awareness of smart-devices and their non-usage of apps, shows there’s room to create a better digital experience.

Second, all the users expected direction and a guided, somewhat linear experience from the app. For this kind of experience, it’s necessary to balance the app’s technical complexity, appropriate for the two main user types I discovered.

In the future,

• I need to clarify the device connection feature to be more useful for users.

• I need to rework and simplify how recipes are displayed, and interacted with. 

• I need to design how brew data for recipes will be displayed and compared to each other (to make good on ability to compare and track consistency over time).

"It’s a good app! For those that really enjoy their coffee."

– Robert

This project is featured in “The Best Easy to Use App Designs” by DesignRush