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Spat609

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I'm a senior mechanical engineering student and avid homebrewer. This fall, for my capstone project, I need to design and build a new product and I'm trying to think of reasonable, useful, and new products I could create. I was originally thinking about a floating hydrometer or an all-in-one system, but there are already several in existence and I don't think I could improve on the current ones.
What gadget or system do you wish you had to aid your homebrewing?
 

3 Dawg Night

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You could try to figure out a system to bottle straight from the fermenter without racking to a bottling bucket.

My degree is in aerospace engineering. For my senior project, I converted our the school's wind tunnel control program from FORTRAN to LabView (i.e., I got an A, and the professor got free labor).
 

AJinJacksonville

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A clone of me to do the homebrewing so I can just design it and drink it.

Jokes aside...

I'm planning an iSpindel build, but maybe a version of something similar to monitor temperatures for the mash in (could include a WiFi or Bluetooth connection to a device that you could set a timer or alarm for, monitor temps, build graphs for analytics, etc.). Maybe one that could monitor temps and time for the boil (obviously taking into consideration the temps of the boil and the effects on electronics). Right now, I just use my phone to set reminders for when to add hops, etc.

It probably already exists and I just don't know about it. But I have been researching the floating hydrometer builds and had been thinking about other ideas for that kind of technology.
 
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Argyll Gargoyle

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+1 on improved bottling concepts, particularly ones that can help to minimize oxygen exposure.

Another thing that would be neat is a low cost device for dry hopping without opening the fermenter. Some folks have envisioned various schemes using strong magnets to actuate an internal mechanism.

Or an improved steam slayer - that concept seems super useful, but not already refined to perfection
 

AJinJacksonville

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You could try to figure out a system to bottle straight from the fermenter without racking to a bottling bucket.

My degree is in aerospace engineering. For my senior project, I converted our the school's wind tunnel control program from FORTRAN to LabView (i.e., I got an A, and the professor got free labor).
I don't do it, but alot of homebrewers just ferment in a bucket (or other fermentation product) with a spigot...then bottle or keg straight from that.

With my clumsy a%%, I'd end up knocking the spigot off on the first brew.
 

Argyll Gargoyle

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I’ve fermented in the bottling bucket a few times, but started to feel like it was too hard to be sure I was getting the spigot clean between batches.
 
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Spat609

Spat609

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You could try to figure out a system to bottle straight from the fermenter without racking to a bottling bucket
I just bottled some beer on Wednesday and I was thinking about how I wish I had something to make this easier, faster and reduce the risk of oxidation. I really like this idea and have thought about it a little bit. Thank you!

Another thing that would be neat is a low cost device for dry hopping without opening the fermenter. Some folks have envisioned various schemes using strong magnets to actuate an internal mechanism.
Thanks, that would be quite useful! I've only ever dry hopped once because I'm usually too worried about oxidation/contamination, but this would help reduce those risks.

an improved steam slayer
I'm unfamiliar with steam slayers, I'll have to look one up.
 
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I have a 20 gal. 3-vessel electric system but I cannot dodecoctions without a fourth 10 gal vessel on a propane burner. Propane is not the best solution for indoors brewing.
What about an electric Mashing/boiling kettle with an electric element on wrapped at the bottom and 1/3 height on the vertical walls on the outside of the vessel to allow forn electric decoctions with the ability to control temperature ramps and steps ?
 

Gozie Boy

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One issue many lager brewers have is getting their lagering and crash temperatures as low as they would like (e.g. 28-34F). This issue is often experienced with stainless conicals with glycol chilling systems (with a coil inside the conical for heat exchange). [Those who can stuff their conical inside a converted freezer do not have much of an issue with this, but not everyone can do this and the larger the conical, the less practical this is].

One of the chief hurdles is that you can only cool the glycol down so far, and then you start to form a "beercycle" around the coil in the conical. However, the temperature profile between the coil and the outer conical wall can be significant, such that the average beer temperature may not get below 36 - 40F, depending on ambient. You can also see substantial temperature stratification between the standard temperature probe (located vertically at roughly the center of the conical), and a TILT hydrometer which floats on top of the beer. This usually takes up to a day or more to get those temps approaching each other. And any time you want to change the temperature, this time lag will again exist.

My thought is that if there was a device which could circulate the wort/beer inside the conical (gently, to keep from stirring up the trub), then these temperature differentials could be relatively quickly and effectively minimized. This should also allow the glycol system to get the average beer temp lower, as you could use a lower glycol temperature without creating beercycles. This might also help with dry hopping effectiveness.

A couple ideas might be to design some kind of magnetic in-situ stirrer, or a separate beer circulation loop, or something else. I'm not wild about the second one, as this would require cleaning (I have plenty enough of that already) and more ports/hoses/pumps. There is a solution to be had here, I think, with further goals of being cost effective and easy to clean and maintain.

This may not be of interest to you, as I would never have had a SS conical/glycol system while in college, and it may not be all that sexy to your professor (unless he's into HB too :mug:). Whatever you decide, all the best with your project!
 
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Spat609

Spat609

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One issue many lager brewers have is getting their lagering and crash temperatures as low as they would like (e.g. 28-34F). This issue is often experienced with stainless conicals with glycol chilling systems (with a coil inside the conical for heat exchange). [Those who can stuff their conical inside a converted freezer do not have much of an issue with this, but not everyone can do this and the larger the conical, the less practical this is].

One of the chief hurdles is that you can only cool the glycol down so far, and then you start to form a "beercycle" around the coil in the conical. However, the temperature profile between the coil and the outer conical wall can be significant, such that the average beer temperature may not get below 36 - 40F, depending on ambient. You can also see substantial temperature stratification between the standard temperature probe (located vertically at roughly the center of the conical), and a TILT hydrometer which floats on top of the beer. This usually takes up to a day or more to get those temps approaching each other. And any time you want to change the temperature, this time lag will again exist.

My thought is that if there was a device which could circulate the wort/beer inside the conical (gently, to keep from stirring up the trub), then these temperature differentials could be relatively quickly and effectively minimized. This should also allow the glycol system to get the average beer temp lower, as you could use a lower glycol temperature without creating beercycles. This might also help with dry hopping effectiveness.

A couple ideas might be to design some kind of magnetic in-situ stirrer, or a separate beer circulation loop, or something else. I'm not wild about the second one, as this would require cleaning (I have plenty enough of that already) and more ports/hoses/pumps. There is a solution to be had here, I think, with further goals of being cost effective and easy to clean and maintain.

This may not be of interest to you, as I would never have had a SS conical/glycol system while in college, and it may not be all that sexy to your professor (unless he's into HB too :mug:). Whatever you decide, all the best with your project!
Thanks for the ideas! I have to admit, I don't lager yet, so I don't think I have enough first-hand experience with the problem (though your explanation makes plenty of sense) to make an effective solution. However, I'll definitely keep this in mind as a personal project for when I do eventually create a lagering system.
 

chilitom

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(1) How about an improved method of separating wort from grain? The crush is always a compromise between a fine grind of the kernel, to improve extraction/efficiency, and not tearing up the husk, leading to impairment of the filter bed and a consequent stuck mash. We are dependent on this combination of grain and husk to create a proper filter bed. Is there a better or more foolproof/forgiving way to separate the liquid from the solids?

(2) Can you expand on the tilt hydrometer concept to incorporate other sensors to remotely monitor progress of fermentation? Dissolved oxygen, diacetyl, pH, ABV, IBU, etc.? Just a thought, but along the same lines, to what extent is it possible to replace sophisticated offline analytical tests with sensors to monitor, e.g., the conversion process in the mash (concentration and distribution of sugars) vs time/temp/pH?

(3) How about a pump design that's a) self priming, b) suitable for use with boiling liquids, c) high capacity for liquid transfers, d) doesn't clog, e) is easy to clean/sanitize, f) is inexpensive to manufacture.
 

Jim R

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The biggest downside to home brewing for me is cleaning and sanitizing. The fancier the brewing systems become, the more equipment there is to clean and the harder it is to get at all the nooks and crannies. I am an obsessive compulsive cleaner to avoid infections but I end up spending an hour cleaning during brew days not to even mention keg and line cleaning, etc.. I have no idea what it would be, but anything that would make cleaning easier and faster would be welcome.
 

kestrelbrewing

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(2) Can you expand on the tilt hydrometer concept to incorporate other sensors to remotely monitor progress of fermentation? Dissolved oxygen, diacetyl, pH, ABV, IBU, etc.? Just a thought, but along the same lines, to what extent is it possible to replace sophisticated offline analytical tests with sensors to monitor, e.g., the conversion process in the mash (concentration and distribution of sugars) vs time/temp/pH?
Like a brewing tricorder …
 

twd000

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hey, fellow Mechanical Engineering grad here! (15 years go)

how about a low-RPM stirrer that can be suspended over a vessel


lot of people simplifying to single-vessel BIAB and getting rid of the pump, but it sure would be nice to move liquids around without a spoon/whisk
 

Pkrd

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hey, fellow Mechanical Engineering grad here! (15 years go)

how about a low-RPM stirrer that can be suspended over a vessel


lot of people simplifying to single-vessel BIAB and getting rid of the pump, but it sure would be nice to move liquids around without a spoon/whisk
Peltier powered please.
 

eric19312

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How about an assessment of keg purging techniques. Using a real dissolved oxygen (DO) meter with good sensitivity - +/- 0.1 ppm or better would be pretty good (0.01 would be great) maybe your university has one you can use.

To test I think you would fill a purged keg with deaerated* water and shake it good then test the water for DO. You could compare:
  • No purge
  • Purge with 1 fills with 15 PSI and release
  • Purge with 5 fills with 15 PSI and release
  • Purge with full volume water CO2 push
  • Purge with fermentation gas

In your write up you could calculate theoretical effectiveness of each method and then see if real world comes anywhere close to calculated, even directionally.

If you could get your hands on a short keg you would not need to make so much deaerated water. Possibly this is available at your university too or else you could boil.

*I'm suggesting deaerated water because it should be reproducible and reliably available. You can do more experiments without having to produce as much beer. Just take DI water and boil for 15 min. I read this should get you to a starting point of 0.5-1 ppm DO. What you are looking for isn't actual DO level in the keg after filling, but the increase in DO in the deaerated water in your tank before you filled the keg and in the keg after you filled the keg.
 

Punx Clever

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I converted a window AC unit to an on-demand jockey box with a tube-in-shell evaporator. If I remember right, you need a 1/2 hp unit.

Won the senior design contest at Purdue Mech E in December of '09 with that. The alumni who were voting liked the idea of cold beer from a keg while tailgating.



Picture of a test run on the rig. We served rootbeer during presentations and had a nice wooden enclosure with a faucet on the front. Probably would have been smarter if the liquid tube was stainless... what with Cu leaching into acidic liquids.
 
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