Quantcast

Ultrasonic sensors for filling a Grainfather?

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

Sadu

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2016
Messages
1,441
Reaction score
470
I went on a tour of a mega brewery the other day and they said they use ultrasonic (or similar) sensors that measure the headspace in their kettles. This lets them fill the kettles to the correct level without using a flow meter.

Seemed like a genius idea to me.

Has anyone done something like this at the homebrew level? Would a cheap ultrasonic sensor mounted on the roof pointing down into a Grainfather work? Controlled with Arduino or Raspberry Pi.

I'd love to completely automate the filling of my strike water and sparge water.
 

day_trippr

"Now brewing exclusively with Hydrohydroxic Acid"
Joined
May 31, 2011
Messages
35,094
Reaction score
16,962
Location
Stow, MA
This is a great question for the Automated Brewing forum.

While sonics have been considered over the years what I've been seeing of late measure from the totally opposite end of the vessel - a pressure transducer plumbed into the bottom...

Cheers!
 
OP
S

Sadu

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2016
Messages
1,441
Reaction score
470
Whoops, I thought I'd posted this in the Automated Brewing Forum, but apologies if I messed that up.
 

day_trippr

"Now brewing exclusively with Hydrohydroxic Acid"
Joined
May 31, 2011
Messages
35,094
Reaction score
16,962
Location
Stow, MA
No apologies needed. You can ask a moderator to move your thread if you like...

Cheers!
 

SoCal-Doug

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 11, 2017
Messages
885
Reaction score
617
Location
Earth
We use them for designs at work. $300 to $800 each for decent accuracy, not including the signal level conditioning circuitry or the firmware/software that deals with the signals. 2 inch to 4 feet is a pretty common range. The trick is finding one that works above about 140F. Even the steam coming off a mash tun or boil kettle will exceed most of their limits.
 

Vale71

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Messages
3,404
Reaction score
1,777
They won't work on tiny vessels such as our fermenters. Secondary echos from the sidewalls will throw the measurements off.
Laser ranging through a sight glass on the other hand does indeed work.
 

ClaudiusB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2007
Messages
1,547
Reaction score
531
Location
El Paso
I went on a tour of a mega brewery the other day and they said they use ultrasonic (or similar) sensors that measure the headspace in their kettles. This lets them fill the kettles to the correct level without using a flow meter.

Has anyone done something like this at the homebrew level?
I have been using an low priced open ultrasonic sensor for a few years in my cold water supply tank plus flow meters . The sensor is used during automatic filling the mash tuns only, water removed on command from the PLC.
Since mine is not enclosed it needs to be replaced between 18-24 months because of moisture damage.
First pictures shows local tank display, second from the PLC in the control room.
20150629_105329.jpgWater level tank #3.jpg20150531_173957.jpg20150531_174055.jpg100_5190.jpg
 

mabrungard

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 22, 2011
Messages
5,947
Reaction score
1,876
Location
Carmel
Ultrasonic does not work in foggy or steamy environments. Radar has to used in that setting. In any case, I don’t believe that there is an inexpensive way to incorporate that technology.

If the fill level is wanted, then load transducers under the vessel are a better way to assess that.
 
OP
S

Sadu

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2016
Messages
1,441
Reaction score
470
Cool, thanks for the great replies. And I think it was radar that they used in the mega brewery (I got my terminology wrong).

There's a bunch of online projects using ultrasonic for water tanks (for farm supply, that sort of thing) but these are much larger than a homebrew pot and no steam to worry about.

The load tranducers were my next option. I guess 4 of those mounted under the grainfather and weigh what goes in and out. Would this be a viable appoach? I'd be happy if I could get within 1 liter / kg of the actual volume / weight.
 

paledragon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 19, 2008
Messages
135
Reaction score
11
Location
Bridgewater, MA
I've got load cells up and running under each vessel in my 2 vessel system:

Load cells

I'm looking forward to being able to take mass measurements on my mash tun to fine tune things like recirc loop volumes, grain absorption, etc. On my BK side, I'll be able to automatically calculate boil off rate, and hopefully real time estimates on final volume and OG at the end of a boil.

p.d.
 

HopRodGarage

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2016
Messages
46
Reaction score
15
Location
Vinterbro, Norway
My first take on this was using loadcells. But a solution like that is very sensitive to changes - kettle not on the same spot, lid hanging on one of the handles, lid on/off, something laying on top of the lid etc. so I went for pressure transmitters instead. And they work very good and are quite exact if you use some that is scaled for the size of your kettle.
 
OP
S

Sadu

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2016
Messages
1,441
Reaction score
470
My first take on this was using loadcells. But a solution like that is very sensitive to changes - kettle not on the same spot, lid hanging on one of the handles, lid on/off, something laying on top of the lid etc.
I've ordered 4x load cells to have a play. I think I can keep the kettle in the same spot by routing a groove in the base that perfectly fits the kettle. I can manage the lid / spoon situation I think.

I've got load cells up and running under each vessel in my 2 vessel system:
I'm looking forward to being able to take mass measurements on my mash tun to fine tune things like recirc loop volumes, grain absorption, etc. On my BK side, I'll be able to automatically calculate boil off rate, and hopefully real time estimates on final volume and OG at the end of a boil.
Cool, thanks for the link. I guess I'm looking to have a play first then see what's possible. The ideal situation for me would to be able to autofill my kettle to strike volume and fill my HLT with sparge water, then dough in manually when I'm ready. Then it would be cool to have the system gravity feed sparge water through the grain at a consistent rate until the preboil volume is reached.

so I went for pressure transmitters instead. And they work very good and are quite exact if you use some that is scaled for the size of your kettle.
I don't suppose you have any pics of your build?

What about using float switch?
Do these measure the volume at any level or are they like toilet cisterns which only let you fill to a preset level?

Cheers all, looking forward to this project.
 
OP
S

Sadu

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2016
Messages
1,441
Reaction score
470
Dredging up this thread with a bit of an update. I've kitted out my HLT with load cells connected to a raspberry pi and python script.
Not a great photo but there is a board that rests on top of the 4 load cells and the pot on top of that.
Pot stays there permanently.
I've only done about 3 brews with this but the load cells work perfectly. The volume readout on my app is about as accurate as the sight glass and updates quickly. I've not had to recalibrate or tare the system since installing it and load creep seems to be a non issue. Even with a warm kettle.
Really happy so far, will be making another one for the boil kettle.
20190430_164852.jpeg
 
Top