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Mellow, The Smart Sous-Vide Robot

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#1 weinoo

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 04:45 AM

In a never-ending battle to bring sous-vide cooking to people who have no idea they want to cook sous-vide, there's a product in the works that will do all the work for them.

 

It's called Mellow. From the Mellow web site:   Have at it.

 

 

It takes a lot of energy to craft a great meal, when you have to balance dinner, work, and everything else you have going on. Mellow makes it a lot easier by cooking ingredients to perfection while you're away. This way, when you want to cook dinner, you can let go of the stress and focus on enjoying yourself.

Think of Mellow as your loyal helper. Tell it what to do, teach it what you like, and it'll do its best to make your life simpler.

 

 

 

 


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#2 dcarch

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 04:50 AM

 

A 1000W heater can bring a 4.5L water bath from room temp to 85C in 21 minutes. Heat loss is apparently on the order of 35 - 50W so even taking that into account, you're still well within the margin of safety.

I am not sure.

 

From the looks, the cooling is most likely done by the use of a solid state Peltier thermoelectric module, not by a compressor.

 

Peltier device is very interesting, by changing the polarity of the DC power, it can be a cooler or a heater. 

 

If that is what's going on, it can be a problem. A Peltier device is a low power device, a high temperature Peltier module is less than 200 watts.

 

It will take a very long time to heat up or to cool down that much water.

 

It also makes the water container not removable. It will be a pain to clean the thing.

 

dcarch

 

Edit: Just saw it on their WEB site. Apparently the tub is removable. So the heating/cooling is done by metal-to-metal conduction. That makes it less deficient. I also don't see a thermometer/temperature sensor. How does it control accurate temperature if metal-to-metal contact is the only connection between the tub and the main unit? Is it PID controlled? Does it come with a cover?


Edited by dcarch, 23 April 2014 - 05:17 AM.


#3 gfweb

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 04:57 AM

The first SV thing that is marketed to the general public rather than food nerds!

 

Infomercial is next.

 

FWIW the term "sous vide" ought to be changed to something more accurate and descriptive eg "immersion cooking". I think we are to the point where the name SV  is an impediment to more widespread use.

 

Not that I care if it comes into widespread use. Let them eat shoe leather.


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#4 scubadoo97

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:05 AM

The first SV thing that is marketed to the general public rather than food nerds!

Infomercial is next.

FWIW the term "sous vide" ought to be changed to something more accurate and descriptive eg "immersion cooking". I think we are to the point where the name SV is an impediment to more widespread use.

Not that I care if it comes into widespread use. Let them eat shoe leather.


I use the term "water oven" to describe SV to those who are unfamiliar.
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#5 Mjx

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:06 AM

Subtext: 'Now making it easier for the stupid and the lazy to attempt things that are trendy.' Yay.

 

ETA, If the programming is anywhere near the calibre of their spelling ('You deserve piece [sic] of mind of mind.'), this should prove quite entertaining. To pathologists.


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#6 gfweb

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:18 AM

One could preheat the water...



#7 gfweb

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:20 AM

Biggest problem with mellow is its size. Lots of kitchens don't have the space for it. An IC will hide in a drawer.



#8 dcarch

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:59 AM

Biggest problem with mellow is its size. Lots of kitchens don't have the space for it. An IC will hide in a drawer.

 

May be even bigger problem, Does it keep temperature precisely? I don't understand how the water and food temperature is measured and controlled.

 

Sous vide is meaningless without temperature control.

 

I like to see a lot more specifications.

 

dcarch



#9 gfweb

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 07:17 AM

I think a temp swing of a few degrees, while anathema to a SV maven, would still give better results than the typical crock pot/oven meat massacre done in most homes.



#10 Shalmanese

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 07:22 AM

I am not sure.

 

From the looks, the cooling is most likely done by the use of a solid state Peltier thermoelectric module, not by a compressor.

 

Peltier device is very interesting, by changing the polarity of the DC power, it can be a cooler or a heater. 

 

If that is what's going on, it can be a problem. A Peltier device is a low power device, a high temperature Peltier module is less than 200 watts.

 

It will take a very long time to heat up or to cool down that much water.

 

It also makes the water container not removable. It will be a pain to clean the thing.

 

dcarch

 

Edit: Just saw it on their WEB site. Apparently the tub is removable. So the heating/cooling is done by metal-to-metal conduction. That makes it less deficient. I also don't see a thermometer/temperature sensor. How does it control accurate temperature if metal-to-metal contact is the only connection between the tub and the main unit? Is it PID controlled? Does it come with a cover?

 

Cooling is 50W and the maker already states that you cannot do cook-chill in this device. However, you can safely do chill-cook (ie: add chicken in the morning, chill until 4 pm, bring up to temp and have dinner on the table at 6). 


PS: I am a guy.

#11 rotuts

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 07:27 AM

a couple of degrees in variation seems to me to only really matters w eggs, and 'flakey' fish ie Salmon and items wanted very very rare.

 

these seem to have a critical temp where proteins stay very loose:  egg yolks, Salmon a la sushi-ish, and 130 steak.



#12 swieton

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 07:58 AM

Having got a circulator (the Sous Vide Magic, and now the Nomiku as well), I am glad I didn't go for an integrated unit. The flexibility of not having an integrated tank is a big improvement. I'd feel really bad paying $400 for something that's not as flexible, even if it allegedly has some cool phone integration.



#13 dcarch

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 08:09 AM

I think a temp swing of a few degrees, while anathema to a SV maven, would still give better results than the typical crock pot/oven meat massacre done in most homes.

 

I am sure a lot of thinking has gone into the conceptualization and implementation of this unit. I am not saying that it is got problems which I have mentioned. Based simply on information I have so far, I would like to know a lot more.

 

It is possible that the temperature swing can be quite a bit, if there is no direct temperature measurement of the bath, and no PID type of feedback compensation of the entire system.

 

dcarch



#14 rotuts

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 08:45 AM

i may be wrong, but did the web site suggest that the bags did not need to be 'sealed?'

 

are they using zip=locks?  hard to tell.

 

PS  buried deep is they do use zip bags.


Edited by rotuts, 23 April 2014 - 08:54 AM.


#15 zemvpferreira

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 09:23 AM

Happy you guys found us! I'm a long-time egullet member through another handle, and happy to field any questions you guys might have.

 

 

Subtext: 'Now making it easier for the stupid and the lazy to attempt things that are trendy.' Yay.

 

ETA, If the programming is anywhere near the calibre of their spelling ('You deserve piece [sic] of mind of mind.'), this should prove quite entertaining. To pathologists.

 

Thank you for catching that one; our web designer isn't a native english speaker and a few typos do get through.

 

We're not trying to call anyone lazy or stupid; we just recognise some people are too busy and otherwise occupied to devoted themselves to food and cooking as much as they'd like to. Surely helping them isn't a bad thing. Do you beat your own butter or press your own olive oil?

 

 

May be even bigger problem, Does it keep temperature precisely? I don't understand how the water and food temperature is measured and controlled.

 

Sous vide is meaningless without temperature control.

 

I like to see a lot more specifications.

 

dcarch

 
It not's visible in the video, but there's an NTD thermistor in the bottom of the water bath. Mellow controls temperature as precisely as your standard circulator.
 
 

i may be wrong, but did the web site suggest that the bags did not need to be 'sealed?'

 

are they using zip=locks?  hard to tell.

 

PS  buried deep is they do use zip bags.

 
We recommend zip bags, but it's also possible to use open vacuum bags, as in, non-zipped, nothing. Water pressure seals them fine, and Mellow's geometry keeps them upright. Actually works better than zip seals, because any remaining air that'd puff the bag out exits as it expands.

Edited by zemvpferreira, 23 April 2014 - 09:31 AM.

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#16 lordratner

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 11:09 AM

Lol, what a bunch of haters. Have we all been so enamored by the Anova that we can't see an awesome idea when it arrives?

 

Here are my thoughts, as a sous-vide-at-home addict of 4-5 years:

 

Price: Always the biggest factor when getting people to buy something completely foreign to them. What I like about this is that you don't have the usual caveat of "You'll also need to buy a vacuum sealer." More on that next, but whatever people pay needs to get them everything they need to cook sous vide.

 

Ease: No vacuum bags is great. Not having to learn the displacement trick for ziplocs is even better. I'd be interested is seeing exactly how open bags are used in Mellow. It needs to be fool-proof; one spilled bag of food and a new sous vide-r will be turned off the method.

 

Size: Too small - Not enough room for large roasts, lamb legs, etc. Too big - No place to put it. The integrated bath takes up a lot of room when not in use. I like that you're taking an aesthetic approach, that should help. Maybe advertising that Mellow doesn't need to be on the counter could help. Kinda in the same way people (who are lucky enough to have them) keep their centrifuges in the basement, rather than the kitchen. This and price will probably be the biggest challenges. 

 

I love the cold to hot idea. I've played around with filling the water bath with ice and water and plugging the unit into a timer (the type people use to turn the lamps on and off when on vacation), since the biggest downside to sous vide is long cooking times. I think you may have the best solution to this problem so far, but the interface will have to be very intuitive. 

 

Of course there are real concerns about food safety (as everyone here has jumped at), but your concept won't have that problem. If of course the 10 minutes from cold to cooking temp claim needs changing, the dynamic can change, however, I've noticed many home cooks here exhibit restaurant-level concern about food safety. Fine if you have food sensitivities, but overkill (in my opinion) for the average home considerations. 

 

That said, I have a hard time with the 10 minute claim. It seems a bit optimistic. Of course, my (home built) bath uses a 1500 watt heater on 5-8 gallon bath (depending how full it is). The bath is extremely well insulated, and it still takes 30+ minutes to go from ~10C to 70C. I also cant remember how big the bath on Mellow is, so maybe my math converts to the 10 minute claim. 

 

Controlling it from a smart phone... YES! Even if there was no cold-to-hot capability on Mellow, the ability to turn the bath on from work and have it ready to drop food in when I got home would be great. Its the more elegant solution to filling the bath with ice and using an old outlet timer. Do me a favor though, don't ruin this with a subscription service. Connecting directly to devices on a home network is far from straight forward. Many companies end up using a centralized server the user sends commands to and to which the device connects in order to receive the commands. Of course there are costs with this, but charging customers a monthly fee is a huge turn-off.

 

I'm stoked. Please keep us up to date on your progress in this thread. There are lots of sous vide pros here who can give great feedback, but more importantly, many have spouses who can serve as test subjects for the new-to-sous-vide crowd. 


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#17 rotuts

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 11:20 AM

"""  I'd be interested is seeing exactly how open bags are used in Mellow """

 

Im also interested in this.

 

as in :

 

""""    Water pressure seals them fine, and Mellow's geometry keeps them upright. Actually works better than zip seals, because any remaining air that'd puff the bag out exits as it expands.  ""



#18 dcarch

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 11:29 AM

zemvpferreira, thanks for coming in to explain things. I hope you don't mind that some of us have a tendency to be critical.  we are serious about cooking and sous vide.

 

There is another thread where I posted the following:

 

Shalmanese, on 23 Apr 2014 - 07:33 AM, said:

snapback.png

 

A 1000W heater can bring a 4.5L water bath from room temp to 85C in 21 minutes. Heat loss is apparently on the order of 35 - 50W so even taking that into account, you're still well within the margin of safety.

I am not sure.

 

From the looks, the cooling is most likely done by the use of a solid state Peltier thermoelectric module, not by a compressor.

 

Peltier device is very interesting, by changing the polarity of the DC power, it can be a cooler or a heater. 

 

If that is what's going on, it can be a problem. A Peltier device is a low power device, a high temperature Peltier module is less than 200 watts.

 

It will take a very long time to heat up or to cool down that much water.

 

It also makes the water container not removable. It will be a pain to clean the thing.

 

dcarch

 

Edit: Just saw it on their WEB site. Apparently the tub is removable. So the heating/cooling is done by metal-to-metal conduction. That makes it less deficient. I also don't see a thermometer/temperature sensor. How does it control accurate temperature if metal-to-metal contact is the only connection between the tub and the main unit? Is it PID controlled? Does it come with a cover?



#19 dcarch

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 11:39 AM

 

It not's visible in the video, but there's an NTD thermistor in the bottom of the water bath. Mellow controls temperature as precisely as your standard circulator.

 
Are you saying that the Mellow can maintain water temperature to within one degree control?
 
We recommend zip bags, but it's also possible to use open vacuum bags, as in, non-zipped, nothing. Water pressure seals them fine, and Mellow's geometry keeps them upright. Actually works better than zip seals, because any remaining air that'd puff the bag out exits as it expands.

 

And how is this different than all other water bath sous vide appliances?  

 

In addition, how do you empty the water? If the tank is detachable, what prevents water from leak out thru the air hole? If the thermister is in the tank, is there a wire connected to it?

 

dcarch



#20 zemvpferreira

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 11:41 AM

I'm probably making the open bag thing sound more alien than it actually is. Look at the part in our video where Catarina (catv here) walks you through the use-case:

 

 

If you notice, the bag she puts inside Mellow is a HDPE bag for vacuum sealing, unsealed. There's a jump cut or whatchamacallit, but that's how we cook using Mellow. Regular non-ziploc sous-vide bags, open. Did that help at all?

 

On the time to temperature: Mellow will usually be loaded with under 1 US gallon of water, and has a 1000 Watt heater. It's pretty quick to heat up. I don't want to get into the mechanics too much, but it share a lot of similarities with an electric kettle, if you've ever used one.

 

On subscriptions fees: screw that noise. You have my word we'll never charge for ongoing use.

 

Dchard: No worries, I appreciate you being skeptical about our claims, and am happy to be tested on them. Peer review is no bad thing.

 

Let me know if I haven't addresses all your concerns (very sleep deprived right now), but on what seems to be the main one: You're right that we use peltiers for the cooling aspect, but heating the water is done with a nice big resistance heater, induction-welded to the bottom of the water bath. There's not metal-to-metal contact involved in the heating process, it's all continuous.

 

We do have a probe in the waterbath, it's just not visible in the video. It's a tiny thing potted into the base. Mellow does come with a cover, and is PID controlled.

 

EDIT: We're achieving +- 1F precision, yes. There's a big connector block that handles the fluid and electrical connections. Don't worry, we won't send you a leaky unit :)


Edited by zemvpferreira, 23 April 2014 - 11:43 AM.


#21 rotuts

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 11:57 AM

i have no reason to doubt you that the unsealed SV bag works here.   but Im still very doubtful.

 

you see to 'circulate' the water w a 'bubbler'  no big deal, Ive been using that system for years.

 

I take it that the intro price is 400 USD?  eventually 500 USD.

 

this might very much appeal to people that have a bit of counter space, a few bucks  ( believe me, the Check your Portfolio remotely every

 

time you go into Bill Sonoma, or SurLaTable ) dont fiddle nor faddle too much in the kitchen.

 

but appreciate the 'main' item done when they get home.

 

so   V.4  will be a dual / tri / quad  machine with 2 - 4 chambers set at different temps

 

Veg/meat/dessert done just on time !

 

I congratulate you for taking SV a step further.

 

this is sort of a Digital Crock Pot on Steroids w WiFi !


Edited by rotuts, 23 April 2014 - 11:58 AM.

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#22 gfweb

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 12:15 PM

Like your answers and your machine Zem'

 

I still don't see how the chicken marinade...or at least a few bacteria don't escape from the unsealed bag.



#23 gfweb

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 12:29 PM

I did the experiment.

A spoon or two in a ziploc with a few tbsp of water with food coloring

IMG_20140423_152259_301.jpg

 

Lowered into a gallon vessel carefully....no leakage with a minute.

 

But put in quickly (not carelessly)...green dye in the water bath

IMG_20140423_152203_219.jpg

 

 

I think that the idea to not seal the bag will cause you more problems than sealing the thing.



#24 gfweb

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 12:33 PM

Zim' have you done similar dye studies, both with dye starting in the bag and dye starting in the bath(and getting into the food bag?



#25 zemvpferreira

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 12:34 PM

Are you submerging the open end of the bag? I'm sorry, I'm not quite following. All I can say is that I've never had a problem with the technique.


Edited by zemvpferreira, 23 April 2014 - 12:35 PM.


#26 zemvpferreira

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 12:35 PM

Edit: Haven't used dye. Would be happy to! I'll put it on the to-do list immediatly.

 

I've cooked plenty of marinades, sauces et al likes this, though.

 

Double edit: ups, something weird happened here.


Edited by zemvpferreira, 23 April 2014 - 12:36 PM.


#27 gfweb

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 12:36 PM

Yes the open end ended up underwater.  How do you keep it above the water?



#28 rotuts

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 01:01 PM

if 'submersion' water pressure keeps  'SV' bags from leaking

 

we need more ExPeRiment on this

 

fron leaking  it """ might be that the top is smooth 

 

the Zips are not    ""{"   water pressure """   cant close a 'rough' top

 

Id like to be very much convinced that a 'smooth top'  works well in this system

 

it might

 

I think the 'bubbler' is quite mild.



#29 OliverB

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 01:10 PM

really interesting idea! I'll keep my eye on this machine, don't really need a second one, but the cooling option certainly is interesting. Thanks for jumping in here with answers to questions and concerns!


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#30 dcarch

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 01:45 PM

One of the reasons for the liquid not to come come from the open bag when submerged is because most of the time (not all the time) the liquid inside the bag is heavier (salt, and colder). By gravity it will not tend to float up. but I don't think that is very reliable.

 

I still want to know how do you empty the water from the container.

 

dcarch







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