Brewing beer or making wine at home isn’t complicated but it does require an attention to detail and a willingness to measure and sanitize things multiple times, particularly when tracking the progress of fermentation. This job has gotten easier thanks to the iSpindel project; an ESP8266 based IoT device intended as a DIY alternative to a costly commercial solution.
Tracking fermentation normally involves a simple yet critical piece of equipment called a hydrometer (shown left), which measures the specific gravity or relative density of a liquid. A hydrometer is used by winemakers and brewers to determine how much sugar remains in a solution, therefore indicating the progress of the fermentation process. Using a hydrometer involves first sanitizing all equipment. Then a sample is taken from the fermenting liquid, put into a tall receptacle, the hydrometer inserted and the result recorded. Then the sample is returned and everything is cleaned. [Editor (and brewer)’s note: The sample is not returned. It’s got all manner of bacteria on/in it. Throw those 20 ml away!] This process is repeated multiple times, sometimes daily. Every time the batch is opened also increases the risk of contamination. Continue reading “IoT Device Pulls Its Weight in Home Brewing”→
In Star Trek, there is a race of cyborgs with a drive to slowly assimilate all sentient life. Their aesthetic is not far off from the one [Ronald]’s ever expanding coffee machine is taking on. One has to wonder, what dark purpose would bring the Borg into existence? Where did they start? If [Ronald] doesn’t get a satisfying cup of coffee soon, we may find out.
We covered the first iteration of his brewing machine in 2013. We like to imagine that he’s spent many sleepless, heavily caffeinated days and nights since then to arrive at version 2. This version is a mechanical improvement over his original Rube Goldberg contraption. On top of that, it has improved electronics and code, with a color screen reminiscent of industrial control panels.
He’s also working on something called, “AutoBaristaScript(TM),” which attempts to hold the entire universe of pour-over coffee within its clutches. We don’t know when he’ll stop, but when he does finally create that perfect cup, what’s left of the world will breathe easier. They’ll also drink good coffee.
Editor’s Note: The Borg do not necessarily want to assimilate all sentient life as an end unto itself. The Kazon were deemed unworthy of assimilation (VOY: Mortal Coil). The Borg are driven towards perfection, accomplished by adding technological and biological distinctiveness to their own.
Making your own booze involves a lot of sitting around waiting for things to happen, like waiting for the fermentation process to finish so you can get on with bottling and drinking it. That involves watching the bubbles in the airlock: once the frequency of the bubbles falls below a certain level, your hooch is ready for the next step.
[Waldy45] decided to automate this process by building a bubble catcher that measures the frequency of bubbles passing through the airlock. He did this using an optocoupler, a combination of LED and light sensor that changes resistance when something passes between them. You can’t see it in the image, but the horseshoe-shaped optocoupler is slotted around the thin neck in the bubble tube to sense when a bubble passes through.
The optocoupler is connected to an Arduino, running a bit of code that generates an interrupt when the optocoupler is triggered. At the moment, this just outputs an average time between bubbles to the serial port, but [Waldy45] is looking to add an ESP8266 to wirelessly connect the Arduino and contact him when the bubble frequency falls, indicating that the booze is ready for bottling.
We’ve seen a couple of over the top beer breweries before (here and here), but none of them have automated the actual fermentation stage, so something like this would definitely be an addition. Cheers!
[Ken] found an interesting use for his sous vide cooker. He’s been using it to help him with his home brewing. It’s unlikely that the manufacturer ever intended it to be used in this manner, but as hackers we don’t really care about warranties.
Beer brewing is as much of an art as it is a science. There are a lot of variables that go into the process, and tweaking any one of them can result in your beer tasting different. There is one process during brewing that is called mashing. Mashing is when you soak malted grains in hot water to pull out the sugar. The amount of sugar that gets extracted is very dependent on how long the grains are soaked, and the temperature of the water. If you want your beer to taste a certain way, then you want to ensure that the water stays at constant, repeatable temperature.
As a home brewer, [Ken] has been using his stove top to heat the water. This gets the water warm, but in order to keep the temperature consistent, he has to constantly monitor the temperature and adjust the knob accordingly. Who wants to sit around and do that all day? He needed something to control the temperature automatically. Enter the sous vide cooker.
Sous vide is a method of cooking in which food is placed into an airtight bag and then submerged in a water bath with very strict temperature control. The process takes a long time to cook the food, but the result is supposed to be meat that is cooked perfectly even while also retaining all of the moisture and juices. [Ken] figured he might be able to use a sous vide cooker to control the temperature of the mash instead of a water bath.
His experiment worked wonderfully. He used the stove top to help get the mash up to the close temperature, then the sous vide cooker was used to fine tune things from there. [Ken] says he was able to achieve 75% efficiency with his mash, which is exactly what he was going for. Continue reading “Brewing Beer with a Sous Vide Cooker”→
Lager fermentation requires a consistent, low temperature. While many homebrewers might modify an electric refrigerator, [Ole] wasn’t interested in the cost of running a second one just for brewing beer. Instead, he built a climate box to work with the cool temperature in his garage. Starting with scrap wood from other projects, he lined the walls with polystyrene and put a layer of wood on the floor to help support the fermentation bucket.
Maintaining a consistent temperature in the box called for both heating and cooling. He pulled the Peltier from a 12V cooler meant to run off a car’s cigarette lighter, and used a spare ceramic heater that was lying around in case his primary reptile warmer went on the fritz.
An Arduino and a custom shield drive separate PID controllers for the Peltier and the heater. The shield has a temperature probe, and he extended the USB outside the climate box so the PIDs can be adjusted without disturbing the inside temperature. The schematic, board file, and code are all available in a zip you can get from his post.
The Peltier couldn’t quite compensate for the overly warm weather and the heat caused by the fermentation, but it was stable enough to produce a nice, plum-flavored lager he has dubbed Lektor Blommes maltbolche, which is a triple Danish pun he explains in the write-up.
A quick primer is in order: when it comes to hobby brewing there’s two main types, extract brewing and all-grain brewing. The former uses a syrup that has been extracted from the grains at a factory while the latter adds the steps to do this yourself. But in both cases the brewing grains have already been malted. This is a careful process of soaking the grains and then kiln drying them. [Richard Oliver] built his own malt kiln controller to add the preliminary step to his home brewing ritual. Now the only thing he’s not doing himself is growing the grains (and perhaps culturing the yeast).
His original design used a food dehydrator for the drying step, but this didn’t work because the temperature wasn’t at the correct level. The new build uses the ceramic heating element from a 300W hot air gun. A blower directs air through the element and into the wooden box that serves as the kiln. An Arduino monitors the heated air to keep it right in the sweet spot. He’s included a graphing GUI for easy monitoring, which is shown in the video after the break.
All grain brewing is a labor and equipment intensive endeavor, but it produces the highest quality beer compared to partial mash or extract brewing. [Jeff Karpinski] started out with the latter two methods, but as his enthusiasm for the hobby mounted he found himself brewing all-grain batches with just an electric kettle. He developed the system seen above as an easy method of automating the all grain process, and he managed to make it tidy enough to do in the kitchen.
All-grain brewing usually involves five or ten gallon (or more) boils. This type of volume is usually what demands that the brewing process move out of the kitchen. But since [Jeff] is the only beer drinker in the house he limits his sessions to three gallons. This means all of the equipment takes up less room. Here he’s got a five-gallon bucket, cooler, and brew kettle on just one small piece of the counter. In between the kettle and bucket you can see the controller box he built. This is responsible for switching power to the heating element in the brew kettle, and the electric pump in the bucket. The bucket has a permanent counterflow chiller which brings the wort down to a suitable temperature before pitching the yeast. It’s pretty amazing how well contained the liquid is from start to finish!