Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to Issue #93! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
It’s me, Josh Holtz, and I’m back from my little April hiatus from writing issues! I want to give another big thank you to Chris Wu for writing the last four issues for me. I what Chris brought to Indie Dev Monday so… I’ve asked him to keep contributing to issues whenever he feels like 😊
But that is all the news I have for now. Hope you all enjoy this issue!
Today’s Spotlighted Indie Devs
📆 Today I’m featuring Stephen Panaro.
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
1) What is your name? Where do you live?
Hi! I’m Stephen Panaro and I live in Melrose, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts (USA).
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
I like to make things. I went to school for electrical engineering, which is in fact a discipline where you make things. Along the way, I realized I like it even more when the time between making something and someone using it is small. So I gravitated towards tech and crossed my fingers that having EE instead of CS on my resume wouldn’t bite me.
It worked out pretty well. After school, I was fortunate enough to join the folks working on Crashlytics. It was fun to see the iOS ecosystem from a different side, and I got to work with some brilliant folks. I actually still work with many of them in my current day job at Digits, a fintech startup building tools for accountants and businesses.
Outside of tech? I’ve got a two-year old sourdough starter that I use to make bread from time to time. I also love being outdoors: hiking, biking and snowboarding. When I’m indoors I like to watch weird indie movies (send me your recommendations!). And, spoiler alert, I’m a huge coffee nerd.
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
Maybe it’s the imposter syndrome or that I have a full-time job, but I’ve always thought of myself as a tinkerer or hobbyist. I’m kind of getting the feeling I might be an indie though. It’s got a nice ring to it, I wouldn’t mind.
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
So I just looked and found a screenshot from my first app… apparently that was 10 years ago 😮 (There were so many textures and shadows!)
At the time I was still in school. We had two dining halls and one vintage non-mobile-friendly website that showed their menus. Surely an app to put the menus at your fingertips would be a runaway hit? [Narrator: It was not.] I found it useful though and actually got one or two 5-star reviews that really tickled the “making things for people” part of my brain.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
I try to treat my apps like just another indoor hobby. So when I sit down at night maybe I’ll watch a movie, or maybe I’ll work on a new feature. There are crunch times, like around a release, and sometimes on the other side of those I take time off to let my brain relax. That I can afford to do that is definitely a perk of these being true side projects instead of a full-time job.
6) Brew Timer - I have a huge coffee addiction and a lot of coffee accessories at home. I roast my own beans and sometimes hand grind but I have realized I’m never consistent with my Aeropress brewing method so I was super happy when I ran across Brew Timer! What inspired you to create Brew Timer? What were you using before Brew Timer? And… how addicted are you to coffee? 😇
I drink a lot of coffee :) but I think less than people usually expect! Nowadays it’s 2, sometimes 3, cups per day. But I’ve been going at it for ~7 years, so it does add up. I’ve actually been working on Brew Timer for close to that entire time, so the app has really grown and evolved with me – and in the last few years with feedback from other folks’ brewing experiences!
At the start I was just eye-balling how much coffee and water to use. Some days I would have good cups but some days they wouldn’t be very good at all. Then I got a scale and started using the built-in iOS timer app to follow recipes I found online. Big step up for consistency, but I wanted to get back towards the simplicity of eye-balling it.
At the time (and still) there was an official AeroPress app with a bunch of official recipes – that was a definite inspiration, but I wanted to put my own spin on it: something dead simple, yet super tunable if you want to get nerdy with it. I was also dipping my toes into pourover at the time so I knew expanding beyond AeroPress was a must.
Also.. it’s super cool that you roast! I’d love to hear about your setup sometime.
7) Brew Timer - I am in love with your onboarding flow! The message style questioning felt so personal. I felt connected to you and the app right from the start. It was also a nice easy way to get a suggested brew method! I’m looking forward to trying “Inverted Aeropress” tomorrow. What led you to make this style of onboarding? Did you have any unexpected challenges with it?
🙌 That’s awesome to hear! My main goal with the onboarding is to get you set up with a recipe as quickly as possible – the app comes with a bunch of recipes and you can create your own so that’s a lot of choices to make without some guidance. Making that simpler clears the way for you to try an actual brew and see what the app is all about.
My secondary goal is to make folks feel comfortable reaching out to me about the app for any reason. Feedback is priceless and people are used to getting an automated response and/or vague answer. One of the perks of being a small niche app is I can give you a fast personal response. You can even text me!
The hardest part was actually writing text for the messages that I was happy with. I wanted to keep the tone casual, convey a few important pieces of information, and do it in as few words as possible since no one likes to read long messages.
8) Brew Timer - The brewing screen is soooooo good! I love the easy taps in a big area to continue to the next step and the timer animations are so gorgeous. I’m also concerned I’ve been making terrible coffee for years now 😛 I think I missed so many important steps. Was this screen hard to design with so many different step type and different orders? What was the hardest part about making this screen? What was the most fun part?
You’re too kind! Good news on your coffee: if you enjoyed it, it wasn’t terrible :) Some of the fun, and what I hope Brew Timer makes easier, is experimenting a little bit to learn what you can do to take a cup from good to great.
The brewing screen itself is one giant time-triggered state machine. That has occasionally led to some really strange bugs. The upside is there are only a handful of transitions between step types which makes it quite manageable.
The unique challenge with that screen is I want it to be visible from a distance so you have both hands free to do the actual coffee brewing. That means a lot less space for text than usual. That’s why you get those big buttons too. Although it was challenging, it was also my favorite part – these are pretty unique design constraints, and finding something that satisfied them was a fun puzzle.
9) Fresh Roasts - Thank you for submitting Fresh Roasts to Indie Dev Monday in the new release and recent updates section! As I mentioned I roast coffee but I can really only do it in warm weather since I don’t have a good venting in my house to do it. Fresh Roasts looks perfect for the winter months when I need to buy roasted coffee! Where do you source these roasts from and how many of them have you tried? Do you have a favorite roaster from the ones you feature?
I’m always keeping an eye out for cool new apps, so I’m a big fan of that section! Fresh Roasts started out (and continues) as a Twitter “bot” @coffeereleases. Bot is in quotes because it’s actually all hand-maintained! I do have a couple of scripts to help me know where to look, but ~every morning I take a few minutes to look at what coffees have just been released, copy their details, tweet them out and put them online so the app can get them.
Since I’m adding coffees as they’re released, it’s impossible to try them beforehand. However, I don’t add any roasters into the rotation until I’ve had multiple coffees from them. At that point, I trust the roaster to source good coffees and roast them well. I try coffees via the app every couple months and this seems to hold up well!
One of the implicit features of Fresh Roasts is that it helps you find coffees based on taste without any bias that the roaster name might introduce. If I had to pick one roaster though, I’d recommend trying some coffee from Black & White. They source some delicious coffees and have a nice range of options for any palate. Also! If you’re ever in Brooklyn, Sey’s cafe is one of my favorites.
10) Brew Timer, Fresh Roasts - Not really app related but definitely coffee related… what are your favorite brewing methods and favorite roasts? I pretty much only use Aeropress but I feel like I need to try some other methods again. I’d love some suggestions on different things to try 🙃
I definitely have a taste for sweeter, fruitier coffees so I lean towards lighter roasts. I’m not sure what your options are for home roasting, but if you haven’t tried any anaerobic process coffees they can have some pretty wild flavors. If you’re ever looking for decaf, try finding one that is Ethyl Acetate (aka EA) processed – you lose the caffeine but not the flavor.
My current go-to brewers are Aeropress and Hario V60. If you want to dip your toe into pourover, I’d recommend the plastic V60 (cheaper and better heat retention) and a cheap gooseneck kettle. Honestly though, Aeropress is a versatile little brewer. I’ve had great results with James Hoffmann’s recipe – I can send over my Brew Timer version of it if you want to try.
Regardless of the device, I highly recommend experimenting with how you brew. Even without changing your recipe you have a lot of knobs to turn and see what happens: grind size, temperature, coffee:water ratio. It’s a little adventure every morning!
11) Brew Timer, Fresh Roasts - What’s next?!
I have pages and pages of ideas for both apps, so stay tuned 😉 And if there’s anything you’re itching for, do let me know!
Outside of that, one thing that has always puzzled me is the lack of an affordable bluetooth scale. It’s definitely not a necessity for brewing coffee (I used a $15 Amazon scale for years), but the high-end options are unreasonable for your casual coffee drinker. I’m sure there are good reasons for that and that my ignorance about hardware is showing… but also I think it would open up a lot of fun doors.
12) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What’s the most fun part of being an indie dev?
Everyone says marketing :) So to shake it up a bit: when you’re a user of your own app, it’s hard to balance your wants/needs with the feedback you’re getting from others. Everyone has their own coffee routine and I try to be mindful of that. I don’t want to just build “Stephen’s app” although that’s sometimes a trap I fall into.
So much about this is fun! Any time I get a review or message from someone about the app it brightens my day. It’s soooo cool that people from all corners of the world have somehow found this app out of all the other apps. Then for them to use it, and like it, and reach out to say hi? Wow.
13) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
I love to try new apps. Send me yours! I’ll even give you feedback if you want (though I have no formal qualifications, so it’s just like my opinion 😛). I’m also open to chat about coffee, movies, or anything – just drop me a line on Twitter!
14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
I’m not on the bleeding edge of indie Twitter so not sure I can mention people that haven’t made prior appearances here. I do have a few apps to shout out though!
Away for Twitter (@hybridcattt): I shudder to think how much time I’ve spent mindlessly scrolling on Twitter. This app helps me stay in the loop but gives me back time to do things I enjoy. If you’ve ever felt the same, check it out!
SceneShot (@RomainDerrien): I have no 3D skills, but this app helps me generate sweet 3D renders for marketing my apps. It can be a little tricky to figure out but it’s totally worth it. The iOS and macOS apps have slightly different features so be sure to try both.
Newly Released and Updated Indie Apps
Here are some newly released and newly updated apps from this past week! If you would like to possibly see your app in this list, please submit your app to the look at me form 👀
Thank you to everybody who made it to this footer! You either spent the time to read or took the effort to scroll 😊
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