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Meet the Duke Brew Devil

A senior design project culminates in a fully automated home brewing system that could give systems currently on the market a run for their money

Engineering never sounded so cool.

Every year, about a dozen groups of mechanical engineering and materials science seniors spend two semesters designing and building a senior project. These projects challenge students to use what they’ve learned over the past four years to solve an engineering problem.

Some projects work on the aerodynamics of a competition electric racecar while others build better systems to cheaply test bike helmets made for developing countries. Stefan Fertala tackled the problem of overly expensive home brewing systems.

“When I first started teaching the course more than a decade ago, about half of the students wanted to do a project relating to beer, so we just said flat out ‘no beer projects,’” said Bob Kielb, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke, and teacher of the ME 421 senior design class. “But Stefan came into my office and made an impassioned plea, detailing how the project would require their engineering knowledge and how it would help in their career aspirations. So I said okay.”

The result is the Brew Devil—a fully automated home brewing setup that uses three vessels to complete the brewing process. To learn more about the project and how the ME 421 course helped investigate the system’s business opportunities, watch the video below.