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Old 10-18-2012, 01:54 AM   #1
rcbishop
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Default My (soon to be) all electric brewery!

Sorry the pics are kind of weak.. I'll take better ones once I get this thing built!

This project has three new goals -- to stop using propane, to have no metal fittings anywhere other than 304 stainless and to make it easier to do 10 gallon batches, as my old kettle was barely big enough for that. It is also designed to cut down on setup / cleanup time as much as possible, so I can be as close as possible to the theoretical 2 hour brew day. Not that I don't enjoy brewing beer.. I just don't have the kind of free time I did when I got into this hobby!

Anyway, I just ordered a new brew kettle last night from Brewers Hardware. The idea is to install a 5500W heating element in the 1.5" tri-clover port that it comes with, using an NPS -> TC fitting from the same vendor. I ordered Derrin's new fitting for the valve (it has 1/2" MNPT outside and 1/2" FNPT inside for a pickup tube), and another NPT port for the thermometer -- both to be welded into the kettle. After the valve, the fittings go back to 1.5" tri-clovers.

The brewery will consist of that kettle, a rectangular cooler MLT, and a little RIMS brew-cart that the cooler sits on top of. The brew cart is probably worthy of its own thread, but in a nutshell, here's what it consists of:

-Brewers Hardware RIMS tube
-March 809 pump
-Plate Chiller
-Mag-meter (electromagnetic flow sensor)
-Valves so I can backflush the chiller in place
-Electronic control panel

Since the kettle isn't here yet, I only have pictures of the brew cart. One pic shows the cart itself, and the other is the control panel. I'm going to redesign the board in the controller, because it needs some improvements, but it controls the temperature of the mash by adjusting the amount of power going to the element (it works like a light dimmer, instead of just being on or off). It also senses flow to give better temperature control and prevent dry-firing. The user interface is a little LCD panel with two buttons underneath, plus a rotary encoder and an "active" light. You can see how rough it still is from the pic of the display! The encoder makes it easy to enter numbers (you just spin it), and each of the two buttons always has its function displayed above it, in order to tab through the menus quickly. I think there may be a couple more lights and buttons by the time I'm done, but I haven't gotten that far on it yet!

Hopefully I'll get all this stuff up and running over the next month or so (most of the delay is in having the boards made). I can't wait to brew some beer in it!

brewcart.jpg   controller.jpg   display.jpg  
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Old 10-18-2012, 03:06 PM   #2
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Subscribed - I am trying to see the differences between RIMS/Herms I see most folks on here do HERMS, but RIMS just seems more simple to me.

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Old 10-18-2012, 07:10 PM   #3
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I used to do HERMS.. I personally like RIMS better because it takes up less space (it's a 2 vessel system instead of 3), and I have instant control over the temperature of the wort.

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Old 10-18-2012, 08:36 PM   #4
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Very cool, I look forward to seeing the progress made on this.

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And I'd like to see my 1.080 beers ready from grain to glass in a week, and served to me by red-headed twin penthouse pets wearing garter belts and fishnet stockings, with Irish accents, calling me "master luv gun," but we can't always get what we want can we? :)
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Old 11-04-2012, 06:48 AM   #5
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Progress is always good!

The control board is designed now, so all I have to do is order it and hope it works right! I think I'm going to go with Gold Phoenix for board fabrication this time. Yeah, that means it will be Made in China, but this way I get 15 boards (instead of 1 or 2) for my $150... and I already want to use a second one to control the boil kettle.

The board has connections for a text LCD, temp and flow sensors, a rotary dial, some buttons and lights, and an isolated gate drive for a pair of SCRs (for the heater -- works like an SSR). On the hardware level, it should be equally good for zero-cross switching and phase fired control, so I will get to try both and see which one works better (I'm suspecting that PFC will be too noisy for the flow sensor).

Mostly to make it easier to write the firmware, I went with two PIC18F23K20 microcontrollers that will talk to each other over an SPI bus. Each MCU has a serial port, so I can connect a PC to both for debugging, or maybe, in the future, use that to daisy chain them together.

One MCU (U2) handles the stuff that requires precise timing:
-PID implementation
-Detect zero cross, maybe wait, and fire the heating element SCRs
-Drive the flow meter coil and read voltage from the flow meter
-Handle some GPIO, such as buttons and lights. There aren't any more pins on the other chip!

The other controller (U10) handles the tasks that don't have to be real-time:
-Drive the LCD display
-Regulate the backlight current for the LCD
-Monitor the encoder wheel
-Maybe take commands from a PC in the future

Also, according to BH, the kettle should have shipped yesterday, or will ship Monday.. can't wait to get that!

2012-10-31-23.11.53_2.jpg   2012-11-01-16.34.35.jpg  
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Old 11-04-2012, 10:55 PM   #6
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This is way too cool. Over my head, but that doesn't take much.

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Old 11-04-2012, 11:57 PM   #7
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This is way too cool. Over my head, but that doesn't take much.
haha yup
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Old 11-05-2012, 05:13 AM   #8
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Heh.. sorry about that. I like electronics almost as much as making beer.

But the idea is that it's kind of an all-in-one board for the RIMS system.. just another way to do the control panel.. that hopefully won't be too much work to program.

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Old 11-13-2012, 07:42 AM   #9
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The kettle and PC boards both came in today.

The best course of action would probably be to mock everything up and see what else I'll need to finish my project -- so of course I started a batch the minute the boxes were opened! The brewday actually went reasonably well, but was a little longer than usual.

The first pic is one of the PC boards that will drive the new RIMS cart (which didn't get used today) and control the brew kettle heating element.

Pic #2 is the new kettle with the old RIMS system. Notice how the hose coming off the kettle is spliced into the (old) vinyl tubing -- turns out the old tubing is way too big to go on that barb fitting! I never even thought to check that. Thankfully, the silicone hose is really stretchy.

Pic #3 shows how the heating element is mounted. The little metal box is tack welded onto the back of the element.

Pic #4 is the beginning of the boil. As it turns out, 5500W is a little excessive to boil 12 gallons with! On the upside, it was already boiling while the second runnings were still being pumped in... I had to do the boil with the wort circulating through the plate chiller (with the water off) to keep it inside the kettle.

I can't wait to get it finished, but the kettle by itself is pretty awesome. The quality is fantastic, like everything I've seen that came from Brewers Hardware. One thing I am liking about these heating elements that I don't see mentioned much is that the element is the only thing that gets that scum on it (that you have to scrub off). With propane, the whole bottom of the kettle would be coated in that stuff.

The next step will be to build a couple of the boards and try it with the new RIMS cart.

2012-11-13-01.04.22.jpg   2012-11-12-19.54.48.jpg   2012-11-12-19.21.44.jpg   2012-11-12-22.34.12.jpg   2012-11-12-21.17.16.jpg  

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Old 11-24-2012, 10:43 PM   #10
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I'm drinking the first beer from my first all-electric batch now! Well, I guess some of my early batches (about 10 years ago) were boiled on an electric stove, so that might not technically be true...

Anyway, the beer is a 10 gallon batch of a nut brown recipe from in Beer Captured -- the Gritty McDuff clone. I don't think I've ever had the real thing, but that clone recipe has been one of my regular brews forever.

The parts for the first two boards came in, and I put them together... mostly as originally designed. I found a couple little screwups and smoked one chip, but that is pretty normal for the first time around with any design. This gives me enough that I can work on the firmware now, and hopefully have two finished boards this week.

After that, the brew cart and kettle control should both be done within a couple days.

ercs_boards.jpg  
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