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Moving to automating my brew day

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So, I have to be honest...there are a lot of automation threads and most seem to be fully automated or not at all. I know I want to get there some day, but not at this time.

My goal is to slowly move into the automation side of things and I have only been brewing for about 2.5 years.
My equipment:
3 vessel w/propane on HLT and BK
2 MKII pumps (wired to light switches for easier control)
1 fermentation chamber (deep freezer)
1 Keezer w/4 kegs

I currently use Raspberry Pints for my keezer (without flowcontrol).

I have an understanding of basic electronics, but no experience with circuit boards, etc. I enjoy DIY projects and looking to do the following (prioritized in order):
1. (within 2 months) Automate liquid flow on brew rig and remotely control (and automate) fermentation/keezer temps.
2. (within 6 months) Monitor HLT, Mash tun, and BK temps
3. Further in future...control these same temps.

I am looking find out what is best to get and how to set it up.

Thank you all.
 

RiverCityBrewer

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I think a little more clarification on your end goals will help you in the long run. Based on what you have listed so far, temp monitoring/control is very doable with most of the control systems on the market now. Adding automated liquid circuits really starts narrowing your controller search. The other issue you have is running gas... its very possible to do it (I did it for years), but for automated control will require some additional safety controls. Unfortunately, most out of the box control systems are going to be fairly limited as to what they can do. I'm probably biased, but BruControl will let you expand in a piecemeal fashion, which seems to be what you are looking for.
 
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Here to help!
Thanks!

I was looking at the BruControl website along with others to educate myself more on automated brewing. I think my first step is to create a RIMS setup with my mash tun. That brings up two immediate questions:

How do I modify my 10g cooler into a RIMS?
- I haven't finished my research on this one. I've seen a post on it, but not much of a how-to went with it.

Which pump should I use?
- I see your pumps on the website. I'd definitely want something similar to the first one (doesn't % of valve opening). I assume your pumps work for RIMS (haven't looked into them that much) since you use them.

Do you have any other recommendations on where to start? Am I going about this the wrong way? I don't want to make a mistake that I will regret later.
 
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When you say "pump", do you mean valve? There are 3 types of valves used for these applications: 2-way standard (open/closed), 3-way standard (L-port, meaning A&B or B&C ports are connected), and 2-way proportional.
 
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When you say "pump", do you mean valve? There are 3 types of valves used for these applications: 2-way standard (open/closed), 3-way standard (L-port, meaning A&B or B&C ports are connected), and 2-way proportional.
LOL, must be valve. Does that mean they don't "pump" anything? See...this is why I post, lol.
 
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Well, there are pumps too. The pumps create the pressure and move the liquid. They have electric motors in them to generate that flow. Valves just re-direct or stop flow. They can be manual (no electronics & moved by hand) or motorized (moved by electricity). For automation, you need motorized valves. How are you moving the wort now... gravity? Can you share a pic of your system currently?

As far as your cooler is concerned, you really don't need to put a RIMs on it. Coolers are great at holding heat (hence using them), whereas a RIMs tube is to add heat that leaks out during the mash. This leaking usually happens in the vessel and tubing during recirculation. That said, if you want to truly automate it, it will need some recirculation, even if just late in the mash to clear up the wort before moving it to the BK.

I would suggest you start with a schematic (drawing) of your system to document the plumbing. This should show all the equipment: vessels, pumps, valves, etc. and the flow processes for each step. This will give you direction as to what hardware you will need and them how you will integrate it all.
 
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Can you share a pic of your system currently?

As far as your cooler is concerned, you really don't need to put a RIMs on it. Coolers are great at holding heat (hence using them), whereas a RIMs tube is to add heat that leaks out during the mash. This leaking usually happens in the vessel and tubing during recirculation. That said, if you want to truly automate it, it will need some recirculation, even if just late in the mash to clear up the wort before moving it to the BK.
Attached is a photo of my rig...a lot of DIY (nothing spectacular, but makes good beer).

Additional note...thank you for the education on the cooler holding heat. I've noticed it doesn't lose much at all, but wasn't sure if the recirculation was still required. I do use a DIY false bottom and a BIAB to, basically, eliminate the vorlauf step. As you can see, I have two MKII pumps to push liquid around.
 

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Okay...I will get to work on that. In the meantime, do you think I still need to recirculate?

Once I get the schematic completed, I assume you want me to post it here?
 
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Well...this isn't professional work, but I think it gets the point across. Let me know if I have forgotten anything. I built it in PowerPoint.

I don't have anything to automate my cooling process (immersion chiller), but I will build that in later once I have a piping and fittings on my brew rig.

Thoughts?
 

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Looking at your pumps in the picture, are the valves on the inlet side of the pump? They should be on the outlet side. You shouldn't run the pumps dry.

Oh, and be careful with the wood structure. Make sure you have some kind of fire suppression (fire extinguisher, or even a charged garden hose), and don't leave it unattended when the burners are on.
 
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Looking at your pumps in the picture, are the valves on the inlet side of the pump? They should be on the outlet side. You shouldn't run the pumps dry.
I was afraid you'd say that. What about the hose between the hot liquid and pumps? Will that residual effect anything? Will I need to install valves there as well to keep all the liquid inside the tanks?

Oh, and be careful with the wood structure. Make sure you have some kind of fire suppression (fire extinguisher, or even a charged garden hose), and don't leave it unattended when the burners are on.
Yeah, the wood slat you see is now metal and moves to each side, depending on the burner that is on.
 
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I went and looked at your picture a little closer. The only valves you'll need to move are the ones on the pumps. The rest are all good. When you run the pump with no liquid in it, you can burn them out. Having the valve on the outlet side, you'll be able to shut the valve with the pump running. Having them on the inlet side, if you shut the valve with the pump running, it'll pump the liquid out and start to burn out. As far as hot liquid, I believe the pumps are rated for much higher temps than boiling, so you should be fine there.

And the metal shield is a good idea. But still, don't leave it unattended when the burners are on.
 
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Having the valve on the outlet side, you'll be able to shut the valve with the pump running. Having them on the inlet side, if you shut the valve with the pump running, it'll pump the liquid out and start to burn out. As far as hot liquid, I believe the pumps are rated for much higher temps than boiling, so you should be fine there.
Is there no fear of of the residual fluid between MLT and pump "contaminating" the boiled wort when I recirculate?

But still, don't leave it unattended when the burners are on.
Definitely not.
 
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I'm not sure what you mean.
When you stop the transfer from mash tun, there is residual fluid between mash tun and pump/valve. Fast forward to re-circulation post-boil, you mix your boiled wort with the fluid left behind from transfer. What risks are there for contamination (that residual hasn't been boiled).
 
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No, but I have built recirculating my wort while it cools to allow debris to settle in the middle of the kettle (I have a side pickup). I always start the circulation just before the boil finishes so, you are right...probably will take care of any residual that would be left in the hose.
 
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Updated schematic.

Assuming this is good, What would be the next part? I, obviously, need to buy the parts and pieces (including software). What recommendations do you guys have to minimize cost, but provide what I really need? I've browsed BruControl's site. I see a pretty decent listing of parts, but not sure how many of each of those that I need. I looked for some guidance there (which I will admit the site has a lot of good information to help me out), but couldn't quite find what I was looking for (# of electrical circuit breakers/etc).

I am assuming, I only need one (each) of the circuitry boards/wifi/etc.
 

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In regards to element, is it an option if I use a home depot cooler? I've assumed the element wouldn't fit and/or it would be too much for the plastic.

Couple of questions as I put together my parts list (with Arduino MEGA):
WiFi:
- Initially, I will connect via USB; however, I think I would like to go WiFi for fermentation monitoring later.
- Should I buy WiFi interfaces now or wait? Pros/cons to either?
- If I go 100% USB now, will that mess me up for WiFi later?
Power:
- What determines how many 5V power supplies I need? I see in BrunDog's documentation that I need one for every 250mA (if I read that right). I haven't done research on all my of my parts...is there a common estimate?
- Is it possible to add in control for my 110V AC pumps (relay board, I think)? If not, I will just put the switches on a control panel nearby.
Box:
- How big should my box be? I see that I should go bigger than I think I need now.
- Should the box be plastic or metal? Pros/cons other than WiFi?
- Where should I look for options on the boxes?
- Do they have a specific name to ensure I get what I need?
- Looks like DIN rails are the way to go...do the boxes come with them or will I buy and install them?
- What gauge of wire do you recommend using to wire everything?

BrunDog, thanks for having all the documentation on your site. It helped a lot to get me this far (zero knowledge to specific questions).
 
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Before you contemplate sourcing parts, I suggest you start with a drawing (like above) and schematic. Those will help guide you as to the function first, then we can pic the specific parts. I'll answer the bullets tomorrow - gotta run now.
 
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Before you contemplate sourcing parts, I suggest you start with a drawing (like above) and schematic. Those will help guide you as to the function first, then we can pic the specific parts. I'll answer the bullets tomorrow - gotta run now.
How detailed should I be on the schematic? Bulk item inter-connectivity or pin-to-pin diagram?
 

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Ideally, the more detailed the drawing, the easier it is to troubleshoot both onsite and remotely. I did an overview style drawing (plumbing), and I have the pin level for all my controllers. I developed and documented my wiring standard so at a glance I can look at any color wire and know what it is (power source, signal, ground, high voltage, etc). The wiring diagrams on the brucontrol site are a good reference to start with, then modify to fit your build.
 
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In regards to element, is it an option if I use a home depot cooler? I've assumed the element wouldn't fit and/or it would be too much for the plastic.

Couple of questions as I put together my parts list (with Arduino MEGA):
WiFi:
- Initially, I will connect via USB; however, I think I would like to go WiFi for fermentation monitoring later.
- Should I buy WiFi interfaces now or wait? Pros/cons to either?
- If I go 100% USB now, will that mess me up for WiFi later?
Power:
- What determines how many 5V power supplies I need? I see in BrunDog's documentation that I need one for every 250mA (if I read that right). I haven't done research on all my of my parts...is there a common estimate?
- Is it possible to add in control for my 110V AC pumps (relay board, I think)? If not, I will just put the switches on a control panel nearby.
Box:
- How big should my box be? I see that I should go bigger than I think I need now.
- Should the box be plastic or metal? Pros/cons other than WiFi?
- Where should I look for options on the boxes?
- Do they have a specific name to ensure I get what I need?
- Looks like DIN rails are the way to go...do the boxes come with them or will I buy and install them?
- What gauge of wire do you recommend using to wire everything?

BrunDog, thanks for having all the documentation on your site. It helped a lot to get me this far (zero knowledge to specific questions).
It is OK to start USB then switch to Wi-Fi later. We can help you with the transition.

Yes, you can (and should IMO) have the pumps controlled via the software. Yes, you can use a relay board - I would even recommend an SSR board over electromechanical ones, but you can use either depending on what else you want to control.

Box can be metal or plastic but plastic only goes so big. You always want the biggest box you can fit & afford - need to have room to work and add components later if you like. Size will depend on what you want in it and what to control. Your schematic will help, but for a 3V with valves, I wouls expect a 20 x 20, 20 x 24, or 24 x 24 (yeah... big!). You install DIN rails on the box's backplane. See the UniCon video series we are posting on the website for examples.

The correct gauge for the current running through it. 6 AWG for 50A, 10 AWG for 30A, 14 AWG for 15A, 22 AWG for signals, for example.
 
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Your schematic will help, but for a 3V with valves, I wouls expect a 20 x 20, 20 x 24, or 24 x 24 (yeah... big!).
Thanks for all the feedback...it helps a lot. In regards to the above statement, I got the sense (from BruControl website) that the best route was to go with 5V. I believe because it is easier to find those devices. I will end up going with the 24x24 to ensure I have enough room. I do plan to expand quite a bit as time goes on (more valves, more equipment, etc).
 

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5 volt logic is primarily only supported by the MEGA anymore, almost all of the new controllers coming out are based on 3.3volt logic. Don't get too tied up in it when starting the build, as it will be easy to build that way from the beginning. Many devices output 0-5v, 0-10v, or 4-20ma outputs, so obviously 0-5v is a good choice if you want to go with a MEGA. However, a simple resistor array can step down 5v to 3.3v logic, so I wouldn't be afraid to start a build with the Grand Central. It'll be a lot easier to build this way rather than have to eventually retrofit down the road.
 
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I think I am in over my head on this schematic. I don't think I know where to start, lol. I've looked at the schematics on BruControl.com; however, I don't even know what equipment I will be using yet--perhaps that is why I am finding it difficult.
 

RiverCityBrewer

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Start with defining your process and a plumbing diagram. How many vessels, pumps, valves, etc. That gives you a starting point.
 
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yep, I did that above. I think I just need to verify which valves and thermometers I am going to get. I have two pumps which I need to wire in the control for using SSR board.
 
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I was studying your updated schematic. Are you going to hard plumb everything? If not, you should have valves at all outflow points in the three vessels. And, I'm confused about DP. You have a valve on the outlet side, but there's two lines to the inlet. Are you going to have a T on inlet side of the pump?
 
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I was studying your updated schematic. Are you going to hard plumb everything? If not, you should have valves at all outflow points in the three vessels. And, I'm confused about DP. You have a valve on the outlet side, but there's two lines to the inlet. Are you going to have a T on inlet side of the pump?
I originally had valves on the outflow points of the vessels, but was told those weren't needed. So DP is "dirty pump." In other words, it will pump wort (from MLT to BK and for BK re-circulation). I had planned on a T going into the pump; however, I have considered a 2-way valve--at no point will I have both inlets active at the same time. Currently, I just swap my hoses around.
 
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I meant to post this earlier and I guess it didn't.

My current shopping list (found from BruControl's site):
Arduino MEGA
MDR-20-5 AC/DC PS 5V 3Amp 15W (DIN Rail)
Power Supplies: 1x 60W 12V 5A (arduino) / 2x 5V 3A 15W (interfaces)
SSR (4 Channel, 5V input, 100-240VAC)
Thermistor Filter Board (TF3D)

Plan is to mount everything DIN Rails that I can. I'm not sure if I need "board kit" or not...still researching. I will expand to a WiFi connection later (so I can monitor fermentation without going to plug in USB.

Additional research to do:
Thermistors/temp probes--still need to figure out what to get and how to install it, lol.
 
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