Anybody familiar with automation?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by JebediahScooter, Dec 20, 2012.

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  1. JebediahScooter

    JebediahScooter Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2010 Vermont

    I'm in the planning stages of a new system (I've mentioned it in a couple of threads...two-vessel, no-sparge setup), and I am thinking that I would like to take a stab at automating my mash temps. It would be a recirculating mash with a PID and solenoid setup to fire the MLT burner when heat is needed, a la the Brutus setup. I'm trying to keep it super simple and budget-friendly, as I have zero technical ability when it comes to this sort of thing. I have read up on PID controllers and solenoids and understand the concept but not how they actually work, and I have a few practical questions about equipment needs and whatnot. I will have somebody with a lot more electronics DIY know-how helping me set it all up and wire controls, but I'm not 100% sure on what I need exactly. Holler at me if you use something similar and might be able to help out with a few questions. I've only had one kinda sparse response to a similar query over on HBT. Thanks.
  2. ryane

    ryane Initiate (159) Nov 21, 2007 Washington

    what exactly do you want to do? as gas can get tricky (pilot lights, solenoids, etc, etc) electric is actually a much simpler set up IMHO if you go the automation route

    Im just put together my own semi-automatic rig (all electric) I currently have the panel and all electric down, I havent added a herms pump yet (too broke because of Xmas) but plan on adding one after my tax refund
  3. ryane

    ryane Initiate (159) Nov 21, 2007 Washington

  4. JebediahScooter

    JebediahScooter Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2010 Vermont

    I'm thinking gas because I want to be portable and, after reading into it a fair amount, I'm concerned about constraints with electric given that I'd only be operating with a standard outlet out of my shed, which I had wired a couple of years ago. It seems that folks working off of 110v can only heat so much water to so high a temperature, and I'd like to fire up the burner full blast to get to strike temps and then switch over to automated firing to control mash temps after doughing in. We might be moving in the not-too-distant future, so it wouldn't make sense for me to pay an electrician to install a 220v outlet.

    I've read up on Brutus builds and am pretty well set on that approach...thermocouple --> PID --> solenoid with a standing pilot --> burner. What I'm unsure about is which equipment to select. I cannot translate all of the technical terms for the equipment I'd need, so any guidance on model numbers to check out (looking at Auber PID & Honeywell solenoids) to accomplish my goals would be helpful. Once I cobble everything together, a guy I know can wire it. He just doesn't really know what would be needed for this application.
  5. ryane

    ryane Initiate (159) Nov 21, 2007 Washington

    You might think about using a brewtroller, they have set ups for direct fired systems, if you check out the "store" section it shows all the different equipement they use in their system. You obviously dont have to buy everything from them, and I dont know your budget, but its a good resource for model #'s etc that they use and you know will work for you
  6. JebediahScooter

    JebediahScooter Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2010 Vermont

    Cool man, thanks, I'll check it out.
  7. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (721) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    "I am thinking that I would like to take a stab at automating my mash temps"

    Are you not hitting/holding your mash temps currently? Why do you think automation will help?
  8. JebediahScooter

    JebediahScooter Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2010 Vermont

    I am hitting and holding mash temps, but I've been brewing for a year and a half on a cobbled-together system, and I've gotten to a point after a lot of experimentation of figuring out a permanent set-up. I need a larger mash tun volume to go the no-sparge, full water volume route, as the 10 gallon rubbermaid won't do the trick for bigger beers or 10 gallon batches using this method. I'm also looking to remove plastic from my system...the way the interior of my MLT has warped isn't exactly comforting. So my keggle HLT is getting converted to an MLT, and I need a way to hold mash temps in that vessel.
  9. dennho

    dennho Initiate (0) Oct 29, 2006 New York

    I know something about controls. I work for a heating and A/C wholesaler. We sell Johnson and Honeywell controls. I couldn't design a system, but I could get you employee pricing on stuff once you know what you need. However in the internet age employee pricing isn't always the lowest.
  10. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (721) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    I have 3 rubbermaids (10, 3, 3) and have never had a warping problem in 5 years. 2 of them rarely get used anymore though unless I'm doing 10 gals of a big beer. How hot is your pre-heat water?

    I've also considered going to a direct-fired MLT...for decoctions mostly.
  11. JebediahScooter

    JebediahScooter Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2010 Vermont

    The warping occurs in the four spots where my copper manifold touches the sides of the cooler. I'm thinking this is when I pump 170* water through the hlt valve to mashout/sparge.
  12. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Devotee (400) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Beer Trader

    My system is a semi-automated gas/electric RIMS system. The brain is a BCS460 from Embedded Controll Concepts:
    Their forum and my own experience was all I needed to build my system. Mine currently has 4 relays and 2 temp sensors. One relay is on 220V (for HLT), the others on 110 (Pumps and RIMS tube). I built my own RIMS tube for about $25 in parts from Lowes and Home Depot.
  13. telejunkie

    telejunkie Disciple (320) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    Here is a new controller on the scene to throw into the ring/confusion:

    I use the BCS460 like wickedsluggy which runs my RIMS tube for MLT temp control and my pump (2 relays) and 3 temp sensors (RIMS tube post-element, MLT outlet & HLT).
    My garage currently isn't 220V capable either so my next upgrade would be to add a third relay to run a solenoid for HLT control like you're talking about.

    Just received my new BYO and it had a PID controlled build in it with suggestions for a PID, SSR combo for a HERMS system. Won't help with solenoid, but could get you part way there if you have access to a copy.
  14. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (721) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    I have a false bottom on my 10 gal and bazooka screens on the small ones...I guess your damage has already been done, sounds like non-round copper manifolds aren't the first choice for round coolers. Good luck with your new setup.

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