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Let’s encrypt/acme-tiny role for Ansible

Installs and configures dehydrated, a small Shell-based client for Let’s encrypt.

This role historically used acme-tiny, a Python-based implementation of the ACME protocol. As this client was too limited in functionality, we switched over to dehydrated in april 2017.

During each role run, the certificate renewal script is also executed (as with the cron job), to ensure you get new certificates as soon as you have configured them.

IMPORTANT: This package is currently in the transition from acme-tiny to dehydrated. Use with caution and always manually verify if everything worked ok!


For every hostname you want to support, you need to have a webserver configured and add an alias that points to the directory configured with dehydrated_challenges_directory. For Apache, such an alias should look like this:

Alias "/.well-known/acme-challenge" "{{ dehydrated_challenges_directory }}"

Hint: You can also put this into a global variable and then use this variable in the definition of every vHost.

Certificate chain

The intermediate certificate of Let’s encrypt is downloaded to letsencrypt_intermediate_cert_path. You should include it in the webserver config to have it delivered to visitors.

Reusing existing account keys

When you use Letencrypt on multiple servers, it may be simpler to have only one account defined with Letsencypt. You can do that with this role by proceeding as follow:

  1. Run the role on a first server, a new account.key file is created for you.
  2. Register the account public key with Letsencrypt using for example Gethttpsforfree
  3. Copy /var/lib/letsencrypt/account.key from the first server to your computer
  4. Recommanded: secure the account.key file. It should never be accessible to anybody otherwise the security of your site may be compromised as an attacker may impersonate you. Personally, I use git-crypt with PGP encryption to protect this file.
  5. For new servers, setup letsencrypt_account_key_source to point to the local account.key file. The file account.key will be copied to the server and you will be able to reuse the same account with Letencrypt for all your servers.

Role Variables

You might want to adjust these variables that control where the software and data are located:

  • dehydrated_software_directory: The location to which dehydrated is cloned
  • dehydrated_base_directory: The location where the configuration, account key(s) and the certificate list (domains.txt) are placed
  • dehydrated_challenges_directory: The (web-reachable) directory that contains the temporary challenges used for verifying your domain ownership
  • letsencrypt_intermediate_cert_path: the path to which the intermediate certificate of Let’s encrypt will be downloaded.
  • letsencrypt_account_key_source_file: the path to the local account key file to copy over to the server. Leave this variable undefined to let this role generate the account key.
  • letsencrypt_account_key_source_contents: the actual content of the key file including the BEGIN and END headers. Leave this variable undefined to let this role generate the account key.

You can also adjust the user and group used for generating the certificates; there should be a dedicated user for this (recommended by the acme-tiny authors). The user and group are configured with these two variables:

  • letsencrypt_user—note that this is a user on your system, not with the Let’s encrypt web service.
  • letsencrypt_group

Add the certificates to generate to their respective hosts (important! if the certificate is not generated on the host the DNS A record points to, Let’s encrypt won’t be able to verify if the hostname really belongs to you and thus won’t give you the certificate!):

    name: "an_easily_recognizable_name__this_is_used_for_the_csr_file"
    keypath: "/path/to/your/keys/anything-you-like.key"
    certpath: "/path/to/your/certs/anything-you-like.crt"
    chainedcertpath: "/path/to/your/certs/anything-you-like.chained.pem"
    host: ""
    name: "multidomain cert"
    keypath: "/path/to/your/keys/"
    certpath: "/path/to/your/certs/"
      - ""
      - ""

The certificate will be placed in the path given in the certpath attribute. The chainedcertpath option gives you a certificate file consisting of the actual certificate and the intermediate certificate. This is e.g. useful for nginx. There is also a fullchainedcertpath option that works much the same, but will include the private key in the output. Note that you always need to also have the certpath option set, even if you only want to use the chained certificate.

For multidomain certificates, all mentioned names must point to the server where the certificate is being generated.

You can optionally also set the permissions of the key, with these three options which are fed in to Ansible’s file module:

  • key_owner: a user name, e.g. root or www-data
  • key_group: a group name, e.g. root or ssl-certs or www-data
  • key_permissions: an octal mode, like "0600". This must be specified as a quoted string. Without the quotes, it did not work for me (read: the number was interpreted as octal and converted to decimal)

The default mode is root/root/0600, i.e. the file is only read-/writable by root. Make sure you never make the key world-readable! If you do, everybody with shell access to the server might be able to compromise your encrypted connections. You can also change the defaults by setting these variables:

  • letsencrypt_default_key_owner
  • letsencrypt_default_key_group
  • letsencrypt_default_key_permissions


No direct dependencies, but of course you will need to have a webserver configured (e.g. Apache); this role currently does not support setting up a temporary server.

Example Playbook

- hosts: servers
     - role: andreaswolf.letsencrypt
        name: "think_of_something_unique_or_nice_here" # :-)
        keypath: "/etc/ssl/private/anything-you-like.key"
        certpath: "/etc/ssl/certs/anything-you-like.cert"
        host: ""


This role is brand-new, so it needs testing. I tested it on Debian, where it works fine, but YMMV. If you can get it to run on other systems, I’d be happy to hear about that. I’m also happy if you report any issues you run into.

During its public beta, Let’s encrypt has a rate-limit of five certificates per domain per seven days source. So two certificates for and use two of the seven available certs for This should be better handled by the role, by not regenerating certficates too often (probably you have multiple servers which host subdomains of the same domain, so the limit would be depleted very fast).

Also desirable would be more ways to verify domain ownership than configuring a virtual host. I know there are others, e.g. via DNS, but I did not look into them and they might require complicated setup. Also acme-tiny likely does not support them currently, but that could be changed—it’s all open source here :-) So if you know your way around the ACME protocol and/or other parts of the Let’s encrypt universe, feel free to contact me to work together on this.



Author Information

This role was created by Andreas Wolf. Visit my website and Github profile or follow me on Twitter.


(in alphabetic order)


Ansible role for generating certificates with acme-tiny via Let’s encrypt






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