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Automation for idiots request

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pbrennan10

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Tons of good information and smart people in here but with 0 experience in this type of thing i'm struggling to get my head wrapped around it, although I want to, and it seems like beginner questions come up quite a bit. Several forums have a sticky that gives the highlights for beginners (water chemistry for beginners a fine example) which would be most appreciated, if possible.

I'm going to be presumptuous about someone wanting to help out and provide examples of my current mental roadblocks after spending a few hours cruising various threads --

the "tiers" (low hanging fruit, diminishing returns yada yada) of automation, eg automating the mash steps vs valves/pumps vs a robot tonka drunk dumping in my hops, where most people seem to settle, and costs involved.

the technology involved, voltages, and how it relates to physical control. Eg i have an omron ec5s, is an arduino with brucontrol the same thing and so much more? What would catch fire if I tried to replace it with that? Why are some controllers single touch screen and some all buttons and dials and are they similar overall with just two different methods of input?

The common acronyms, and what they mean to laymen.

And finally, is this generally more of a hobby for people that do something similar professionally or can people pick it up pretty quick?

I realize all this information is out there somewhere and I just need to spend more time reading, but i thought i'd try this first :p
 
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day_trippr

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Wow. That's a wicked huge ask, good luck with it :drunk:
 

IslandLizard

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Here are the brewing processes I have automated so far:
  • Using a pump for wort recirculation, whirlpooling, and chilling (plate chiller)
  • Temp controls (STC-1000) on my ferm chamber and (upright) keezer
  • Yeast starters are shaken (on an orbital shaker) for 1-7 days
  • Urine production after drinking beer
I see little need to automate much more.
 
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pbrennan10

pbrennan10

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similar request just last week... here is a link to my response:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/...wery-automation-software.659362/#post-8460678
That was one of the reasons I started off my posts the way I did :) and also one of the reasons I posted. I'm sure there have been plenty of those and they've slowly dropped down the pages. Also, when I read that a lot of it bounces off because I don't have a grasp on the big picture yet.

My request was for something like this.
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/threads/electrical-primer-for-brewers.145019/

I rambled off a few examples of what was on my mind to give some context to what a beginner may be thinking.
 
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Unfortunately, no such document exists that we have seen in this forum... Things are changing far more rapidly in automation than in basic electricity and power distribution.

I think that you are in a position to write just such a document, you have a layout example in that electrical primer, and crawling the high volume threads will be an education... I do realize I now sound like my high school electronics teacher did back in the early 1980's, so apologies for that, but I now see it as true... heck, my current boss makes me do that when I request better information on network equipment...

I myself have crawled the CraftBeerPi thread about three times and the BruControl thread twice, along with brewmaniac, ardbir, and other threads. And when I say crawl, I mean read every single thread and understand what people are asking or offerring up...

I stand behind what I linked, here it is expanded:
Y

I would highly suggest that you read/crawl the top 3 threads in this 'Automated Brewing Forum', starting with the CraftBeerPi and BruControl.

  • Manual - no PID, switches for pumps, but manual variable control with a SSVR (potentiometer controlled SSR)
  • Discrete PID's control one thing, maybe two or three if you use relay contacts, but still only a single vessel. The best source of information on this, hands down is TheElectricBrewery.com
  • The next level up is PID's with smarts and a bit of programming for step mashes, etc, such as the Auber and their DSPR series ( I suggest the DSPR320)
  • The next level is where real 'automation' starts, and includes a webserver and even smarter software that runs on, and/or controls a single micro-controller, such as CraftBeerPi or BCS
  • The final level is software that controls multiple micro-controllers, this is where BruControl sits.
I am an electrical engineer and have personally done Manual, PID, DSPR, BCS, CBP3, and am implementing BruControl. Here are some observations:
  • Read, read, read, and find your dream system and build a system that uses as many components what will not have to be replaced as possible
  • do not heavily invest in expensive examples of one sensor type right away.. they all work fine for brewing, some are better than others, but changing from one level of automation to another usually requires a change and if you have 3-4 $30 sensors, it hurts..
  • Power supplies and relay control voltages... 5v,12v, 24v, 24vac all exist and you may need to use 2 or 3 if you get really automated..
  • buy a panel 2-4x the size you need... if you are going PID, get the biggest box Auber has with the square cutouts pre-done. $145 for a 16x16x8 includes a HUGE heatsink for SSRs, this will save time, have a professional look, and if you don't hack it up, has great resale value as a hand-me-down..
  • find someone local on here (fill out the location on your profile) and brew with them on their automated system.. an hour drive will yield a ton of knowledge and possibly group buys, hand-me-downs, and spares availability...
  • pre-made systems such as bcs and the cbp3 add-on boards are simple, but restrict you ( you will be hard pressed to get 4-20ma and RTD on a CBP3, and it ain't happening on a BCS )
  • relay boards come in active-high and active low... understand exactly what you want before buying
Finally, IMHO, from my experience the best system to start out on for a 3-vessel brewer would be the CBP3, laptop or modern tablet, build your own 1-wire temp probes, an 8ch relay board, with either with direct wiring(use good wire and dupont connectors and buy good crimpers) and using 5V PS and relays OR a CBP3 board (I used terragady 3.1 ) and 12v PS and relay boards.

and finally, RDWHAHB!
 

chiefwigms

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What you're asking for is an iPhone of brewing, and unfortunately, many posts in the DIY/build areas are people who don't really care to spend the time to understand what/why they are doing. Homebrewing is like android - very fragmented. First you should research what system (3V / BIAB etc) you think you'd like, how you'd power it (stove/propane/induction/electric), and what you'd need to accomplish that. Don't go straight to automation. Understand how your system works, then start looking at automating.

When I started brewing, I did extract on a TopTier with propane - that didn't suit my needs, so i swapped to a eBIAB setup and love it. I choose limited automation because I find the brew process fun. In just getting my eBIAB system up and running, I changed about half of the original design, and it's still constantly changing (recirculation/stuck sparge detection/etc).

clearwaterbrewer gave a great post. I doubt there will ever be a single thread with what you want, it takes work (much like brewing beer)
 

kh54s10

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My request was for something like this.
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/threads/electrical-primer-for-brewers.145019/

I rambled off a few examples of what was on my mind to give some context to what a beginner may be thinking.
I didn't look through that whole thread but as far as the first post goes.... It is from 2009, so I would say that a good portion of that is way out of date...

There are so many different kinds of brewing rigs, even automated ones, that it would take a big book to describe them all. And since you don't have a grasp of the process of brewing beer, it would be quite mind boggling.

As far as "And finally, is this generally more of a hobby for people that do something similar professionally or can people pick it up pretty quick?" No I would say that it is a hobby but very few do something similar professionally. Leaving aside automation, brewing beer is something people can pick up quickly. Most start with a beginner equipment kit and an extract ingredient kit. ~$200 for brewing 5 gallon batches. Most, after a few extract kits will progress to all grain brewing. From there many will upgrade their equipment to varying amounts of automation. In my case after 7 1/2 years I still have almost no automation.
 

kh54s10

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I didn't look through that whole thread but as far as the first post goes.... It is from 2009, so I would say that a good portion of that is way out of date...
Not true..
Well maybe I worded that badly. I don't know much about electricity so most of that write up is beyond be. Maybe, being 9 years old there are alternatives or options available now that weren't 9 years ago.
 

crane

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I think this request is just too open ended. We could spend days arguing over what automation is. Some consider discrete PID controllers as automation because they are "automating the temperature". To me that isn't automation, its digital closed loop feedback control. You still have to use your fingers to press buttons to change temperatures throughout your mash.

Now within the automation realm there are a million ways to skin each cat. If we tried to contain all of this in one thread it would become a massive waste of opinions rather than educational examples.

A better approach might be to create multiple threads focusing on a single topic of automation rather than an attempt to create an all in one thread
 

day_trippr

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Or...just read what's already here?

Cheers!
 

kh54s10

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not really... everything coderage put in there is still valid and will be for years to come
True, But that doesn't seem to cover the automation that was being asked about. I think there are a lot of products for automation that weren't available in 2009.


I think this request is just too open ended. We could spend days arguing over what automation is. Some consider discrete PID controllers as automation because they are "automating the temperature". To me that isn't automation, its digital closed loop feedback control. You still have to use your fingers to press buttons to change temperatures throughout your mash.

Now within the automation realm there are a million ways to skin each cat. If we tried to contain all of this in one thread it would become a massive waste of opinions rather than educational examples.

A better approach might be to create multiple threads focusing on a single topic of automation rather than an attempt to create an all in one thread
I too took the OP as asking for information so broad, that would take an encyclopedia to answer. There are so many options for automation and to what degree you automate. Also you can automate a 3 vessel style brewery or a BIAB style and multitudes of systems in between. They would require very different things to automate them.
 

crane

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Or...just read what's already here?

Cheers!
Yes and no. When the automation sub forum was first created the threads seemed to focus more on theory and pro and cons of different approaches of automation. The majority of the threads now focus on individual products, whether it be an automation appliance like pico brew or a SW project like craftbrewpi. There is theory buried in them, but it takes a lot of sifting.
 
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