ITC 608T for RIMS Temperature control

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daspooper

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TLDR: As the title suggests, I have successfully used an ITC 608T for mash temperature control in a 2 vessel RIMS setup. I have only seen people report using this controller for fermentation control, so I was skeptical of its use in a heavier load situation, but I am happy to say the controller worked with my 1500 W Turbo Boiler over a double brew day.

the rest: I had been a BIABrewer since July 2016, but I wanted something that could hold mash temperatures better especially for my winter brews. The clear upgrade for me was a temperature controller and pump for recirculation. Fortunately those $25 solar pumps exist, and people have been using those with homebrew setups for years. The problem was every temp controller was either rated for too low power (stc 1000, itc 308t, etc.) or was too expensive for my 110 V setup to justify. Then this relatively cheap (~$55) controller appeared, but I hadn't seen anyone using it at 1500 W or during the mash.

The build is essentially the same as any 2 vessel RIMS. I upgraded the BIABag to a false bottom in a 10 gallon cooler. The cooler sits above the turbo boiler and gravity returns the wort from the cooler to the boiler. A tee is located at the output of the boil kettle; the temperature sensor is JB welded into one side of the tee. The other leg goes to the pump and moves the wort to the mash tun. The boiler is connected to the itc 608t which is set to maintain mash temps. The pump rate is set with an LED dimmer to about 1.5 GPM. The mash outflow is set to match the pump via a ball valve.

My brew day started the night before by adding the full volume of RO water I'd need to the system with brewing salts and bringing the water to a boil. The next morning I brought the water back up to mash temps and began recirculating. I crushed my grains while the water was coming up to temp. I then mashed in while recirculating; I used a bag at the exit of the mash tun to prevent grain from getting into the BK, but I don't think I'll do that in the future as only a small amount of grain made it into the bag. I checked back in every 15 minutes to make sure there was an appropriate amount of brewing liquor in either vessel adjusting as necessary. At the end of the mash I set the itc 608t to 170 F for mashout and walked away for a few minutes. When I returned, I let the wort run out into the boil kettle.

I didn't use the pump during the boil except at the end for whirlpool hop additions and then chilling. At 15 minutes left in the boil I added my immersion chiller and a bag to hold late addition hops. The pump handled this well; at the end of the boil I kept the pump running to keep the wort moving over the chiller. I use an immersion chiller with a pond pump to move water from one bucket to another; after the wort drops to 100 F I add ice to the pump bucket and recirculate the chilling water in that bucket to reach pitching temperature. This definitely helped to reduce my chilling time, and it was nice to see the temperature dropping on the controller.

Cleaning was pretty great in this setup; I put all of the dirty items like measuring spoons, bags, lids, etc in the mash tun and began recirculating tap water. I set the temperature controller to 140 F and added a few tablespoons of PBW. I returned 40 minutes later to hot PBW and almost clean hardware; a quick scrub and rinse and everything was clean. I recirculated sanitizer afterwards because I like to store everything sanitized to prevent stuff from growing.

I still have a bit I want to add before the setup is done (for now, lol). I want to plumb a bit of copper into the lid of the 10 gallon cooler so I can leave the lid on secured while mashing. I also would like to put a no weld whirlpool arm on the boiler; using loose silicone hosing was a bit maddening.

The beers are currently chugging away in my basement; I'll be sure to update on their tastiness in the coming weeks.

disclaimer: I wasn't one of the people that won this in one of the numerous giveaways. I wasn't payed for this by anyone. I just wanted to share my experience as it seems like very few people are talking about this controller.
 

augiedoggy

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Its not so much about the power since 15a rated relays are fine for 1500w,

The issue is if that controller uses mechanical relays as most lower cost "temp controllers" do since they are not designed for switching on and off quickly.
When controlling a fridge the controller would only turn on and off once in a few minute period giving the compressor in the fridge time to cool as well as the mechanical contacts in the controller the same time to cool off.. The mechanical contacts are only good for so many switching cycles before they usually fail. When you adjust the built in time delay setting in the controller to turn these on and off rapidly (multiple times per minute) The contacts heat up and wear prematurely often burning up or fusing shut. If you still have the controller setup to only turn on and off with these delays your simply not keeping consistent temps with the rims as normally they tunr on and off many times per minute to do so. (mine turns on and off for fraction of a second to keep consistent temps and to prevent the element surface from overshooting the temp setpoint.) since your using a kettle rims your controller likely doesnt have to fire quite as much.

In a nutshell if you hear any type of clicking from the controller when it switches the heat on or off it uses mechanical relay contacts and while it will work, it very likely wont last long before it either fails in the on position or the off position. Not trying to be a Debbie downer here, just trying to give you and others a heads up why these arent designed for this type of work and arent often used... Ideally you want a controller with a Triac or SSR doing the switching.
 
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daspooper

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Thanks for the information! I appreciate knowing why it will eventually fail. Hopefully it lasts more than a few brews. I will definitely keep an ear out for anomalous clicking noises and keep an eye on mash temperatures.

Would it extend the lifetime of the device if I were to modify the housing to incorporate a fan?

I currently have the temperature delta set to 1F. I didn't think I'd get quite the precision out of this controller as I would for the more expensive setups. It wasn't firing very often during the mash. I think you're right that this is because it is a kettle rims; a couple gallons of water are on the element all the time causing a bulk heating that doesn't require many on/off cycles. Hopefully this extends the life cycle of the device a bit.

PS You're from NT? My dad used to live there and lives in Niagara Falls now; I grew up in Springville. Woo Western New York!
 

augiedoggy

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Thanks for the information! I appreciate knowing why it will eventually fail. Hopefully it lasts more than a few brews. I will definitely keep an ear out for anomalous clicking noises and keep an eye on mash temperatures.

Would it extend the lifetime of the device if I were to modify the housing to incorporate a fan?

I currently have the temperature delta set to 1F. I didn't think I'd get quite the precision out of this controller as I would for the more expensive setups. It wasn't firing very often during the mash. I think you're right that this is because it is a kettle rims; a couple gallons of water are on the element all the time causing a bulk heating that doesn't require many on/off cycles. Hopefully this extends the life cycle of the device a bit.

PS You're from NT? My dad used to live there and lives in Niagara Falls now; I grew up in Springville. Woo Western New York!
Yes NT born and raised... just opened a nano brewpub here..

Ironically im heading down to Pittsburgh for the night for work in a few minutes...
 
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