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Old 09-14-2012, 08:31 PM   #1
killsurfcity
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Default Designing a Bare Bones Electric Brewing System (Diagrams inside)

Some friends of mine and I are partnering together on a 1-1.5bbl system. The budget is not huge, but I think we can pull it off if we make some smart choices.

One thing I read a lot is that jacketing the mash nearly eliminates the need for HERMS to keep temp in a single infusion mash. So I decided to design my system without RIMS or HERMS, and with only a single pump. This helps us to start on the cheaper end, but we can always add the HERMS coil and control later.

Thus far I have not seen anyone doing this, so I have a couple questions about the control panel setup.

With the configuration below, only the BK/HLT will have elements/probe(s). The mash will just use a standard dial thermometer. Or is there a way to incorporate some kind of temp readout for the mash into the panel?

With two elements, I've heard it's better if one fires full on, and the other is controlled. This way only one will be switching on and off, and you only need one probe. If this is true, how do you set the "full on" element up? Switch + pot? Naturally, I'd want a switch for my pump in the panel as well.

Other than that, what do you think of this method? Sorry for the really long image. I wanted to draw it all out just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. Thanks!

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Old 09-14-2012, 10:13 PM   #2
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With the configuration below, only the BK/HLT will have elements/probe(s). The mash will just use a standard dial thermometer. Or is there a way to incorporate some kind of temp readout for the mash into the panel?
Sure. Either use another PID with an RTD or thermocouple, but don't hook up any output, or just get a cheap indoor/outdoor temperature guage and put the sensor in a thermowell. If doing degrees C, get a cheap ebay temperature controller.
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With two elements, I've heard it's better if one fires full on, and the other is controlled. This way only one will be switching on and off, and you only need one probe. If this is true, how do you set the "full on" element up? Switch + pot? Naturally, I'd want a switch for my pump in the panel as well.
You only need one probe anyway. A PID will control two SSRs (actually, more), and it will pulse both of them together to get the power level you desire. Make sure it has a manual mode, as that's what you want for boiling.
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Other than that, what do you think of this method? Sorry for the really long image. I wanted to draw it all out just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. Thanks!
Kind of interesting. I thought about something like this for my 120V system. Since 1 element is not enough power at 120V, I needed two 120V circuits and two heating elements, so I thought having only one vessel for heating would be nice.

But I wound up using both a boil kettle and a HLT, so four heating elements(2 for each), 2 PIDs and 2 RTDs. I used ebay (Chinese) components rather than Auberin, so I saved a few bucks.

In your case, I would think the pots are the real cost. Also, I wonder about keeping real hot water in the plastic tank without insulation will work. You want to be sparging at 170F, and it could loose temperature during the mash. That's part of the reason I went with a kettle for my HLT - I batch sparge, and typically transfer boiling or near boiling water to achieve mashout(raise the 152F grain/water to 168). 212F/100C is right at the limit for HDPE, so I didn't want to go there.
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Old 09-14-2012, 10:36 PM   #3
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You only need one probe anyway. A PID will control two SSRs (actually, more), and it will pulse both of them together to get the power level you desire. Make sure it has a manual mode, as that's what you want for boiling.
Ah, I have heard that before I think. Cool, well 2 PIDs, 1 probe it is. Good call on the cheap digital thermometer idea too. I could just hack one appart and mount it in the control box if I wanted to.

If manual mode is what it sounds like, that makes sense, but wouldn't it make more sense to just use a PWM for one element? That way, when I want to boil I turn the PWM element all the way on and set my setpoint on the PID. If It looks like I may boil over, I can easily just turn the PWM knob to a lower point to reduce the heat from that element. Or am I misunderstanding something?

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In your case, I would think the pots are the real cost.
I already own two 55g SS drums, so that's not a consideration at this point. It was like $300 for the two!

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Also, I wonder about keeping real hot water in the plastic tank without insulation will work. You want to be sparging at 170F, and it could loose temperature during the mash. That's part of the reason I went with a kettle for my HLT - I batch sparge, and typically transfer boiling or near boiling water to achieve mashout(raise the 152F grain/water to 168). 212F/100C is right at the limit for HDPE, so I didn't want to go there.
Well, the only liquid that will ever in the HDPE drum will be wort, at between 150 - 170. Mash liquid always comes directly from the BK/HLT, so no worry about much temp loss there. One possible improvement would be to jacket both the BK/HLT and GRANT in something so temps are reached faster.
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Old 09-15-2012, 04:27 PM   #4
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O, so I've been mulling this over and doing research. It looks like the PIDs that P-J recommends are pretty easy to put into manual mode, and control is at the push of a button. At this point, I'd rather go with one of his diagrams, and save myself the trouble of reinventing the wheel. I'm sure I could always modify things down the road if I need to. So I think I'm going to go with this, and just add another element to the SSR.

I figure boil process will just be switching to manual mode, at 100% until hot break and the backing off to 75% and adjusting from there.

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Old 09-17-2012, 04:42 AM   #5
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Ah, I have heard that before I think. Cool, well 2 PIDs, 1 probe it is. Good call on the cheap digital thermometer idea too. I could just hack one appart and mount it in the control box if I wanted to.
Ok, I lost you with the 2 PIDs. I said two SSRs can be controlled with one PID. The one PID can control two SSRs, one SSR for each heater element. So if you need more than one heating element in a given kettle, then you have one PID, one RTD, and two (or more) SSRs. You always have to have a 1:1 relationship between probe and PID, however.

Although you can just use a PWM to boil (again, with as many SSRs as you need), the advantage of a PID is you can program it to just below boiling, go away, and have it ring an alarm when it hits temp. When you get back, just change to manual mode and start using % to get the boil level you like. That way you don't have to constantly monitor it, having to worry about boil over if you leave the room. A great feature, IMHO.
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Old 09-17-2012, 04:57 AM   #6
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Yeah, sorry I had a brain fart there. I meant a single probe for both elements. The rest of what you said makes sense. The PWM would end up being not much more useful than the pID anyway, and the PID requires less wiring of course, so I think I'm sold.

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Old 09-20-2012, 03:54 PM   #7
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Why not use your "Grant" as a HLT? wouldn't it be easier to pump hot water from your kettle into that tank and pump wort (first runnings) into the kettle? that way you really only have to clean the kettle and the MLT, not the 3rd vessel as it only held water. sure, you may want to insulate it a bit, but once you have your system dialed in you can estimate the temp loss and compensate for it.

Check out the thread on "Kevin's e-brewery build" http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f170/kev...14/index3.html He has a diagram of what I'm talking about.

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Old 09-20-2012, 04:10 PM   #8
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Yeah, good point. I've been thinking about that as well. With proper jacketing, and keeping track of temp loss, we could dial it in no problem. That would allow us to start heating the wort sooner as well. Hmm... might need to change those diagrams.

That's a great thread. What a cool little system.

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Old 09-21-2012, 04:22 PM   #9
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Ok, I revised the drawing based on jpoder's suggestion. Working out the diagram it seems like a pretty elegant process, for being somewhat less efficient than one which incorporates more elements/pumps.

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Old 10-02-2012, 03:13 PM   #10
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So, I'm going to need 2 5500W elements in the BK. What should I ask the electrician for power-wise? I don't speak high voltage.

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