Tilt hydrometer in a SS Brew Bucket

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TLaffey

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I just bought a new Tilt so that I can track fermentation and more easily know when fermentation has reached the point where I want to add dry hops. Problem is, as expected, it's kinda hard to get a radio signal out of a SS fermenter. Sometimes I could and sometimes I couldn't--my guess is it depends on where the tilt is relative to the hole in the top where I put my blow-off tube.

So here's an experiment: Bluetooth wavelength is about 13cm, or 5 1/8". So I took a piece of coated garden wire (this is an experiment) cut to 5 1/2" and bent a little hook into one end. The hook keeps the wire in position in the blow-off tube. The overall length is now 5 1/8". (photo of this attached.) Next I bent it into an "L" exactly in the middle. The hooked end goes into blow-off tube and free end extends into the fermenter, with the bottom of the L parallel to the inside surface of the fermenter top.

Does it work? First test says yes--I got Tilt data "immediately" where before I often had to wait 30-40 seconds. But I'm really not sure yet. More data gathering will tell.

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dyqik

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You'll do (even) better if the extension of the wire into the fermenter and outside the fermenter is a quarter wavelength, so that each end resonates correctly. As a bonus, this means that the wire is shorter.
 
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TLaffey

TLaffey

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You'll do (even) better if the extension of the wire into the fermenter and outside the fermenter is a quarter wavelength, so that each end resonates correctly. As a bonus, this means that the wire is shorter.
Yeah, I went with 1/2 wavelength thinking that more "antenna" inside the fermentor might help. I'll try shorter on the next attempt.
 

olie

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I'm planning to do this through a rubber stopper that's 1" thick.

Do I add that 1" to my antenna length? Or is the important part that I have exactly 50% inside the fermentor, and at least "some" sticking out?

Also: What's the ideal antenna material? Is it based on conductivity, so copper? Or something else? Steel?

I had a double-batch (12gal) inside a half-barrel where I used a tap as the airlock and, apparently, that was just too much metal between my Tilt & phone -- because I got nothing the entire time.

Hence, I'm now hoping to over-engineer the highest-fidelity solution. (I realize that just switching to the rubber stopper should probably be fine, but I still want to go for strongest signal.)

Also: is it ok to do a full-wavelength? Better? Worse? I actually would like a little longer, because of the shape of my operation.

Thanks!
~Ted
 

crane

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I'm curious to hear more about people's experimenting with this. I ferment in sanke kegs with the original spear in it. The 3 times I have tried using the tilt I can get a signal when I first drop it in, but then I can't get a signal. I think this is because I am initially connecting to it before installing the spear in the keg.
 

olie

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I strongly suspect (I also wanted to use in sanke kegs) that it's the steel blocking the signal.

I had grand designs on making a rubber stopper with a correctly-sized BT antenna inside & out, but never got around to it. If you do such a thing (there's a thread around here, somewhere, about how to), post your results! :)
 

Scottsj

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Has anyone done any more work on this? I ferment with a 7 gal Sanke and I’m not getting a signal from the Tilt.
 

olie

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I have not done anything, but saw this article:


Also, I can't find it now but, a few years back, someone posted a blog about how they managed a BT-antenna through a rubber bung that they used. If I find it, I'll post that, too.
 

BrewAgain

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I have 2 tilts. I use them on a grainfather conical and a blichmann 7 gallon conical. Both only had about a 3-6 foot distance. Adding 2 repeaters worked like a charm. Probably 50+ feet through the walls. Good addition.
 

Scottsj

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Thanks guys. I’m not getting a signal even with my phone laying on the fermentor like they show with the repeater. If I take the cap off the keg it connects but not with the cap on. I’d consider the repeater if I was sure it would pick up the signal through the thicker stainless of the Sanke keg but not sure it will if my phone can’t connect. Hard to spend the money unless I know it will work. I did play with the wire antenna idea shown at the beginning of this thread and was randomly able to connect a couple times.
 

Tom R

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On the web page they "guarantee satisfaction" with their repeater.
I have found them to have excellent customer service, I have no doubt they would accept a return if it failed to work for you.

FWIW, my latest-generation Tilt works through a jacketed conical with a 3mm wall and a 1.5mm shell. But my Kindle has to be right next to, or on top of, the fermenter.
 
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TLaffey

TLaffey

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A metal fermenter is a shield (farraday cage, essentially) for radio signals. The signal has to come through the gaps in the metal where there are seals, etc. This is why I was fiddling with a (electrically) floating antenna--an unconnected piece of wire with half inside the fermenter and half outside. IIRC, my best result was with 1/4 wavelength inside the fermenter and 1/4 outside. (Post #1 and #3.)

If your configuration would benefit from such an antenna, then how and where to put the "antenna" is a puzzle that depends on the specifics of the fermenter. I would expect a single wire of 1/2 wavelength exactly positioned half inside and half outside the fermenter to have the best performance.
 

BrewAgain

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I did also use it in an brew bucket. It worked but distance was limited to the same 3-6 foot range. I keep the repeaters on the lid. It doesn't seem to matter if close to the airlock.
 

Scottsj

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I think I’m going to try the antenna trick. I’ve got the hardware to play with so it’s free to try and a chance to tinker.
 
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Odd. I have both the Brewbucket and a Flex+. Both sit in a freezer. With my phone lying on top of the freezer I get solid readings on both. No repeater. I wonder if tilt has some quality control issues. Love mine.
 

BrewAgain

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Anybody have an idea on how the performance of the tilt is related to battery strength? Does the signal strength.decrrase as the battery gets weaker or is it there full range, then not there at all as if it turns off?
I reason I ask this as I have not let the battery die before I replaced it. Preventative replacement to keep the data flowing.
 

Scottsj

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Odd. I have both the Brewbucket and a Flex+. Both sit in a freezer. With my phone lying on top of the freezer I get solid readings on both. No repeater. I wonder if tilt has some quality control issues. Love mine.
I wondered about that as well since I’ve seen others use it in similar applications. I emailed them a couple days ago but haven’t heard anything back.
 

crane

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Anybody have an idea on how the performance of the tilt is related to battery strength? Does the signal strength.decrrase as the battery gets weaker or is it there full range, then not there at all as if it turns off?
I reason I ask this as I have not let the battery die before I replaced it. Preventative replacement to keep the data flowing.
The tilt uses the CR123A battery. The last company I worked for, we designed these batteries into all of our wireless products. I have done ass loads of battery draining testing of these batteries. Since it is a lithium battery it's voltage stays "relatively" constant throughout it's life so you shouldn't see any decrease in signal strength until it's at the last 10% of the batteries life. It will start out at 3.1-3.2V. then in the first 10% of it's life it will droop to 2.8V, then clime back to 3.0V until it drops off the cliff at the last 10% of it's life. Additionally larger current draws from radio transmissions will only cause the voltage to droop if you are at the end of it's life as well.

Edit: panasonic owns patents on this battery. They do sell them to other companies to rebrand. However, there are counterfeit ones out there. The genuine ones have a black plastic "washer" on the top of the battery with a hexagon opening. And if you peal the wrapper off you will find a green plastic washer on the bottom.
 
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phoenixs4r

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If you stuck this wire in between two gaskets on a sanke keg could you get away with pressurized fermentation and actually being able to read the tilt? Would the wire shoot out? lol
 

Scottsj

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Pretty sure you would be fine with pressure. I thought about this too but I don’t think two gaskets would fit under my clamp. Plus, My results with the antenna so far have been very spotty. Still trying to figure out a solution as I’d like to use the Tilt. I think Brewbuckets and the like have more area (gasket, blowoff hole) for the signal to get out. The Sanke keg setup is pretty sealed up. Still not much for a response from the company. One quick email and then they went silent.
 

phoenixs4r

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How much are you fermenting in the sanke? Whenever done with the beer that's currently in there I want to test water line levels maybe instead of 12 gallons into the fermenter I do 14 to get the tilt high enough to read. It was rock steady, albeit at like 95dbm, till I pulled a pint. Not like it's hard to give away free beer.
 

Scottsj

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How much are you fermenting in the sanke? Whenever done with the beer that's currently in there I want to test water line levels maybe instead of 12 gallons into the fermenter I do 14 to get the tilt high enough to read. It was rock steady, albeit at like 95dbm, till I pulled a pint. Not like it's hard to give away free beer.
I have a 7.5 gallon Sanke. I usually do 5.5-6 gallons in it. Interesting comment on the height vs signal. I doubt I can put much more in as I’ve had a couple of blow-offs at this level when doing bigger Belgians w/o pressure.
 

phoenixs4r

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I have a 7.5 gallon Sanke. I usually do 5.5-6 gallons in it. Interesting comment on the height vs signal. I doubt I can put much more in as I’ve had a couple of blow-offs at this level when doing bigger Belgians w/o pressure.
It's possible I just got lucky and the tilt was directly under the hole too. I pulled a pint and lost signal. A pint in 12 gallons in a keg seems insignificant frankly but I was at pretty much the least signal I could possibly have. Next weekend I'll do some tests. Maybe even see if I can shoot an antenna wire across the back yard.
 

Skeptonomicon

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Just a heads up, if you ferment under pressure in a snake keg, your tilt readings are going to be off.
 

bruce_the_loon

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What sort of caps do you have on the Sanke kegs? Would there be space to drill a new hole through the cap?

What you need for an antenna wire like this is to have it electrically isolated from the body of the keg. In the diagram, the orange lines are the lid/cap, the blue lines are rubber/plastic insulating spacers and the red lines are the antenna. I was thinking that a threaded rod could be used as the antenna, then it could be clamped to the lid with nuts on each side. You just have to be sure that the nuts are not contacting the metal of the cap, otherwise the antenna is just part of the Faraday cage of the keg/cap combination.

brewtenna.jpg
 

Scottsj

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What sort of caps do you have on the Sanke kegs? Would there be space to drill a new hole through the cap?

What you need for an antenna wire like this is to have it electrically isolated from the body of the keg. In the diagram, the orange lines are the lid/cap, the blue lines are rubber/plastic insulating spacers and the red lines are the antenna. I was thinking that a threaded rod could be used as the antenna, then it could be clamped to the lid with nuts on each side. You just have to be sure that the nuts are not contacting the metal of the cap, otherwise the antenna is just part of the Faraday cage of the keg/cap combination.

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This is what I’m using. There’s room to add an antenna but it will be tight. After my Quad is done fermenting I may take the Sanke out of the rotation so I can experiment with the antenna idea.
 

phoenixs4r

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I thought about that. Even looked at the glass versions to get a signal through but the extra height won’t fit in my chamber ☹
Hmm. Would the glass work? I have extra height. Says it can handle 120psi too. More than enough.
 

bruce_the_loon

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Hmm. Would the glass work? I have extra height. Says it can handle 120psi too. More than enough.
It should work, the metal is what is blocking the signal and dispersing it. If you have one available, it is definitely worth a test. If you can read from your Tilt when the cap is open, then it should perform similarly. You might have to play around with the position of your phone/Raspberry Pi a bit to get a decent signal through the hole in the ferrule.
 

phoenixs4r

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It should work, the metal is what is blocking the signal and dispersing it. If you have one available, it is definitely worth a test. If you can read from your Tilt when the cap is open, then it should perform similarly. You might have to play around with the position of your phone/Raspberry Pi a bit to get a decent signal through the hole in the ferrule.
Didn't have as much time to test as I wanted to. I transferred from the sanke to 2-5 gallon cornys. Figured what the hell throw the sight glass on top and see if I get a reading. There about a gallon or two of sludge in there. I can see the tilt though the top hole. Managed to get a 100dbm signal with the sight glass on via phone. Got nothing on the rpi-zero running tilt pi, and I actually bungie corded it to the sight glass lol. Before I didn't get anything period. So here's hoping it works out alright next brew day when it's closer to the top of the keg.
 

Scottsj

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About 12ish gallons of water in the keg. What I normally put into the keg pre fermentation. Before I used the site glass I was getting 99dbm, updates every 40-60 seconds. Now it's 65-75dbm updates every 2-4 seconds.
Congrats! Sounds like a success to me! Wish I had the room for one. I tested mine in a SS brewbucket this weekend and could get a signal accross the room with updates every second. Not so much with the Sanke. As soon as the ball lock adaptor goes on it stops updating. I need to play with the antenna idea now that it’s empty.
 
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