Dead Simple Automations Using Alexa and Cheap IoT Devices

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biertourist

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I love all the cool automated brewing gadgets and projects that many on here have built and are constantly building, but I've gotten to the point that I don't want to have a PC, or even a Raspberry PI involved in my brewing. I just don't want gadgets for the sake of gadgets, I want gadgets and automations that make my brew day easier.

I hope I'm not completely alone in that, but in this hobby sometimes it seems like it.


I HAVE found that Alexa and some dead-simple IoT devices DO make my brew day better and I'm hoping to come up with ideas on how to better leverage Alexa and smart devices to simply solve brewing-related problems or to make brewing easier.


Alexa capabilities I leverage in my brewery all the time:
  • Playing music while brewing
  • Converting between Units
    • I use this all the time on a brew day as I learned to brew on the metric system and find some metric units still just make way more sense to me, but so many things in BeerSmith are in other units. (Quarts for Strike and Sparge Water -UGH!...)
  • Setting Brew Day Alarms (and checking in on them)
    • Note: I don't find Alexa timers/ alarms to be perfectly reliable so for important brewing events I still rely upon an analog timer
    • I'd LOVE to have some sort of visual indicator of my current alarms and their status in my brewery, but the only thing I found was the old Amazon smart clock that supported 2 timers, but it only works connected over bluetooth to an Alexa speaker and it's been discontinued by Amazon.
  • Supporting Brew-Day Guests: I have my Alexa speaker connect to my phone on a busy brewday so I don't miss texts or FB messages from brew-day guests. I can also tell Alexa to pull my my Camera feeds on my FireTV I have in the garage / brewery to see when someone's arrived.
  • Changing the temperature of my Fermentation Fridge -I have Alexa change the temp of my InkBird WIFI-controlled fermentation fridge.

Alexa Capabilities I'm Playing with and Hoping to Gain Confidence In:
  • Automated Grist Milling: My malt mill is plugged into a simple $9 Alexa-enabled power outlet so I can issue a voice command to turn on the malt mill.
    • I've been experimenting with Alexa Routines that turn on my malt mill, Wait for x minutes, and then turn off the malt mill. -> I am going to time how long it takes to crush 10 lbs and then use that to create a routine for a typical (for me) 1.065 gravity or less 5 gallon batch crush and a typical 1.065 or less 10 gallon batch that I can use in automations.
  • Setting Temperature Profiles for my Fermentation Fridge:
    • I've built a typical "Ale", "Lagers", and "Lagering" temp profile that can successfully control my InkBird WIFI controller, but there's some challenges with alexa recognizing the routine name vs. trying to call a built-in alexa function.
    • There's some big Alexa Routine limitations in this space because Alexa only supports a 4 hour wait statement, so if you want a routine that keeps your fermenter at say 52F lager temps for 7 days and then rise to a 65F diacetyl rest, you'd need 6 four hour wait statements per day x 7 days = 42 manually entered wait statements in a row just for lager fermentation and starting the diacetyl rest...
  • Turning on tap tower fan to prevent foaming: I am automating turning on my tap tower every day from 5:00pm - 9:00pm so that it has an hour to pre-chill before my typical "pint time" and I don't get foam AND don't waste electricity / reduce my tower fan life unnecessarily.
  • Power on brewery & start pre-heating HLT: I just purchased a Shelly 1 smart relay and I'm hoping to wire my main control panel switch to this relay which will then power on my main contactor. My hope is that I can use an Alexa routine to power on the brewery an hour before I wake up, with my HLT filled the night before and my PID set to my strike temp. -If this works, I'll have it turn on my mill for an appropriate number of minutes before I wake up so that I am ready to mash in before breakfast.
  • Power on and off pumps. Sometimes it would be REALLY nice to be able to power-on and power-off my pumps without walking over to the control panel. This is dead simple with an Alexa outlet; I just need to do it.
  • Automate cleaning my HLT and CFC

Alexa Capabilities I'd Love to Have:
  • Monitoring specific gravity; I'd LOVE it if any of the new WIFI-enabled digital hydrometers included Alexa integration, but no such luck yet.
  • Alexa-enabled HLT filling!!!
    • I played with a WIFI-enabled (but no Alexa enabled) water flow meter in 2020 that supposedly supported filling x number of gallons, but it did NOT like the low rate-of-flow that I had after going through my sediment filter and 2 carbon block filters. -I've seen some WIFI flow meters since that seem like they may actually work, BUT, no Alexa-enabled options that I could find.
  • Improvement in Routines that better support Fermentation Temp Profiles -> (Support for >4 hour WAIT statements)
  • A kegerator carbonation custom Alexa Skill: I'd love to be able to enable a custom carbonation calculator skill, and tell it the name of the alexa-enabled thermometer / thermostat that's monitoring my in-kegerator temps and just ask it: "What pressure should I set my keg to for a Porter?" -And have it automatically pull the temp and just do a lookup in the table from the middle-of-the-range volumes of CO2 for the style and then the pressure required at my temp to hit that dissolved CO2 level. -I should be able to ask it "How long of a 4mm ID beer line do I need to prevent foaming for that?" -Too.
  • Alexa-enabled SMART PID controller to create automated mash profiles -no such beast, AFAIK
 
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