Kafka for Developers — Part 2 — Spring Boot and Embedded Kafka

This is second in a series of articles for developers about working with Kafka. We are covering the practicalities of running Kafka on your development machine, how to write code that uses it, and how to write reliable tests. In the previous article (Kafka for Developers — Part 1) we started a local Kafka broker using Docker containers, and wrote a simple JUnit test to show it was working.

All the example code for these articles is at https://github.com/cyberycon/kafka-howto. This repo consists of numbered directories each of which has a separate project. The code for this article is in folder 02-embedded-kafka. You’ll need Java 8 and Maven installed to build and run the examples. To verify everything is working, run command mvn package from the 02-embedded-kafka directory. Import the Maven project into the IDE of your choice to work with the code.

In this article we’ll:

  • see how Spring Boot minimizes configuration and boiler-plate for using Kafka
  • write a test that uses Embedded Kafka for reliability

An Example Application

The application is a simple Spring Boot command line application that emits regular meter readings onto a Kafka topic. We’ll look at consuming these readings in the next article on Topics, Partitions, and Consumers.

Although there is no consumer application yet, we’ll have unit tests for the basic functionality of the meter, and an integration test to verify that the application is posting events in the correct format to a Kafka topic.

Application Structure

UML Diagram. Meter class has methods start() and stop() and attribute of MeterReadingSender, with two implementations.
UML Diagram. Meter class has methods start() and stop() and attribute of MeterReadingSender, with two implementations.

Each meter reading is generated by adding a random number to the previous reading (you can’t use a negative amount of electricity so each reading must be more than the previous one). Meter implements the Runnable interface, and the readings are generated in a separate thread by the run() method.

The main application class SmartMeterApplication implements CommandLineRunner and will start the meter running and generating random readings. Each reading event posted onto the queue is a String in the format:


You can override the properties for meter id, area, and interval on the command line. This will be helpful in later articles when we start looking at multiple producers and consumers. The area property is used as the message key, which is something looked at in the next article.

If you compare this example with the one from the previous article, there is no boilerplate code to set up producer properties. Spring Boot has a set of defaults that match the most common uses. You can override any default in your application.properties file with properties that start spring.kafka. Producer defaults start spring.kafka.producer and consumer defaults start spring.kafka.consumer.


  • SmartMeterTests
  • SmartMeterIntegrationTests

The SmartMeterTests class tests the basic functionality of the SmartMeter — does it emit readings, do they meet the expected criteria? It uses the MockReadingSender to record the readings sent by the SmartMeter class. Nothing is sent to Kafka. The MockReadingSender asserts that each reading has a higher value than the previous one. When electricity meters run backwards it usually means someone is cheating.

The SmartMeterIntegrationTestsclass is an integration test that sets up a Kafka listener to see whether the application is posting readings to Kafka when the MeterReadingSenderKafkaImpl is the MeterReadingSender wired into the Meter class.

It’s hard to write reliable tests that use stateful services like databases or message queues. We can write a test that sends messages to our local Kafka broker, and then add a listener to check that they have been sent, but because Kafka topics are persistent it’s hard to know whether a test passed or failed because of events previously sent to the topic.

Spring Boot provides an Embedded Kafka for testing that is clean every time the Spring context for a test class is created. By adding the @DirtiesContext annotation at the start of a test class, you can ensure the context is recreated for every test in the class.

The listing below shows the SmartMeterIntegrationTests class (omitting imports). The@EmbeddedKafka notation starts up a clean Kafka instance as part of the Spring test context. The brokerProperties sets a non-standard port for running the Embedded Kafka. In the application-test.properties file, property spring.kafka.bootstrap-servers=localhost:19092 configures the Spring context to use this address for Kafka producers and consumers.

The test autowires a Meter and TestListener. The test starts the meter running and uses a CountDownLatch to wait for three messages to be received by the TestListener, which is listed below.

This class has a single method which is annotated as a @KafkaListener. Spring Boot wires this up to consume topics from the meter.reading topic. It asserts the received messages are strings in the format and decrements a CountDownLatch. The test is reliable because using Embedded Kafka ensures that the Kafka topics always start empty.


In the next article, consumers, topics, and partitions.

Senior Solutions Architect at VMware Tanzu Labs.

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