Automated home beer brewery — best laundry room add-on ever

All-grain home brewing takes time… a lot of time. We’re not going to pretend like a good batch of beer isn’t thanks mostly to the artist that is the brewmaster, but at the same time it’s pretty amazing to see a compact system like the one above that can boil a batch of wort without much help from you.

[Zizzle] built this machine as his entry in the Renesas contest. You can see the development board there just to the left of the brew kettle. It’s network connected with a web interface that allows you to take recipes from Brewtarget and import them directly to the system. All you need to do is make sure that you load up the grain basket and boil addition modules to match your recipe. The bot takes it from there, filling the kettle, preheating that water, lowering the grains and maintaining temperature for the mash, and completing the boil with additions from the servo-controlled PVC pipe pods. Experienced brewers will notice a few steps missing, like the sparge, and a quick way to cool the finished wort. But this does take a huge part of the drudgery out of our hands. If only it had a clean-in-place system… then we’d really be happy! Don’t miss the video after the break and take a moment to check out the build-log posts.

Comments

  1. Girrrrrrr2 says:

    I want this… but i would take 2 sheds and make them into my own home brew area.

  2. Sean says:

    Great work Zizzle! No chilla for life! :)

  3. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    I commonly find that putting automated heating equipment next to combustible wood is generally an ill advised design decision.

    Maybe his next project will be an automated fire detector and extinguisher or a 911 dialing smoke detector that updates twitter to let him know his house burned down?

  4. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    Otherwise, this is a reasonable hack. I like the use of stainless steel vs brass and flexible pvc that many brewers use. Love the re-purposed cell phone display.

  5. macw says:

    @CutThroughStuffGuy it’s got a thermostat and a bunch of water in it. He’s not going to causing any fires.

  6. Zizzle says:

    The conductive level sensors are there to prevent dry firing the heating element.

    A flow sensor probably would have been easier to use, but wouldn’t not cover the case of the tap being left open or similar.

    Thanks to a bug, it actually went through a dry firing at one point. The element went pop, but no other damage. I suspect the solid state relay that drives the element would give up pretty early in the event of a failure.

    But realistically we won’t be running it unattended for the foreseeable future.

    When homebrewing beer, you obviously take some risk no matter what you do: a lot of heat energy is involved, near boiling liquids, malt crushers, lots of big glass containers, and you consume the result!

    Relax and have another homebrew!

  7. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    What if something flammable falls on the heating element or what if something knocks over the heater and causes it to contact something flammable? Perhaps the level sensors kick in then and turn it off? It might be too late though, depending on the flash point of said object. I worry about things like earthquakes, pets, children, etc.

    I don’t want to be overly alarmist but considering most houses are build out of kindling, a reasonable amount of precaution seems in order when “hacking” together stuff like this. Not to mention insurance companies.

    You CAN automate fire or heaters – just about every house in America has gas or electrical powered water heaters. Some people even have gas powered refrigerators. But this design isn’t something I would personally feel comfortable leaving out and automated to leave to run unattended without more process controls and a redesign. Otherwise, I applaud the effort that went into it!

  8. Carter says:

    A lot of good knowledge you have in that setup. I’m currently in the process of doing something similar. Would you be willing to share the code of how you integrated with brew target?

  9. macw says:

    I’ve always been somewhat surprised by the alarmism displayed by HaD posters. Yeah, some hacks are stupid and dangerous for no reason — I’m reminded of an Instructables “hand warmer” that was literally just a couple of shorted-out 9V batteries in an altoids tin. But all the running around screaming about the sky falling any time someone does something with more than 5 volts or temperatures above 100 degrees or speeds above 20 miles an hour is just annoying to read. You don’t learn if you never try.

  10. Dave says:

    @macw: He’s right. This is why you don’t see many self made thermostats. Think about how your house would react if the heat (or the AC for that matter) stayed on constantly during the worst possible time while you’re on vacation. That said, I would find this very useful, as I find the greatest part of the brewing experience is to sit back, while brewing, with a few beers and a few friends. With this, I would have less labor and I could enjoy another cold brew.

  11. Marc says:

    As a homebrewer and geek, I can assure you this is awsome. Good job sir!

  12. Dion says:

    Brilliant. Surely the front loader could play a role somewhere along the way :-)

  13. Tropica says:

    Amazing!

  14. IJ Dee-Vo says:

    this is a must have in every home!

  15. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    It isn’t alarmist to point out that hacks have potential for danger. After all, they are hacks.

    We hacked our way to the moon but we also built in back ups. And we had solid designs with sensors that reacted for us automatically. There was a reason that the fuels used to lift off from the moon were hypergolic. Because you greatly lessen the chance of it not firing. AKA moon tomb.

    When hacks incorporate items that may be a problem and that you don’t know them to be a problem until, well, they are problems, you should stop and ask yourself – could this go badly and if so, how? If there is no chance of this, as there are on many hacks, then don’t worry about it. If there is, then well, at least try to address it.

    Not ever hack needs this of course but it is a really good practice, especially if you start to incorporate high voltages and hydraulics and high pressure and temperatures and such into your builds to step back and think about what has a small probability of occurring but if it did, would have dire consequences. That isn’t alarmist, it is practical. No design is perfect and things fail, even when brand new.

    We work with 480 volt AC systems, hydraulic systems in excess of 50,000 PSI, temperatures that exceed 5,000 F and all host of other things that can be dealt with safely but need to be thought about, understood and handled properly in order to be used safely. As I mentioned earlier – we have whole house heaters in most homes. But they have also been engineered and have several safety backups as well. Which is why houses rarely burn down because of them.

    Unless hacks are carefully designed to at least have a nod towards safety, you may wind up doing something you never intended to do – like burn your house down or accidentally launch projectiles at high pressure at somebody. I am not saying obsess over it but I am saying at least stop for a moment during the 40 hour build or what have you and think…. what things do I not expect to go wrong could go wrong and how can I resolve those issues before they become potentially serious issues later down the road.

    That is all I am saying. Write that off as alarmist if you want and failure is always an option but I encourage you to set things up so by design if they fail, they don’t result in you failing. At life.

  16. Life2Death says:

    mmmm, linty beer.

  17. Joe Mama says:

    @CutThroughStuffGuy No one cares! Go troll somewhere else.

    Awesome build!

  18. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    Do you honestly believe my goal here is to troll? Go ahead and do whatever you want, I don’t care. I am just trying to point out a potential issue. Burn your own house down, or don’t. Just don’t put it in a commercial product and try to sell it to me is all I ask.

  19. Chopperdave says:

    Great build!

    Do you end up losing much fermentable/delicious material by not sparging the grains at all?

  20. Zizzle says:

    @Carter sure the Brewtarget mod is a bit of a hack. It pretty much adds on to the text recipe export and FTPs to the brewbot. I can send you a diff.

    @Chopperdave Actually no, our efficiency is still pretty good at around 70%. It’s thinner mash than normal which helps.

    There is a forum dedicated to Brew In A Bag here:

    http://www.biabrewer.info

  21. adamziegler says:

    I like this. The amount of time and planning that must have gone into this. I sorta want to plan something like this that I can hold bins of grain that grind as needed, and keep track of supplies remaining.

    dreams….

    Thanks for doing this!

  22. seanterrill says:

    While no-sparge, no-chill brewing isn’t the norm in the States, it’s quite popular in Australia.

  23. sam says:

    could you use arduinos to control it and use a second aduino and a xbee shield to make a pager

  24. Brewallon says:

    Where did you find the food grade stainless steel basket?
    Did you make it yourself?

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