Kegerator: Mycodo

So I’ve spent a few weekends the last couple months trying to get the control system on the Conviron kegerator worked out. I wanted to use some of the PID controllers I bought, but they seem limited in they don’t have a on-time delay and off-time delay, no ramp/soak and limited output options. I don’t want to short cycle the compressor, so controlling the on and off times and delay between is a must.

When I was first planning the build, I looked into some other software that does controls for homebrewers. There’s Craftbeerpi, Brewpi and a few others. I stumbled upon another software that runs on the Raspberry pi, that was geared more towards plant and mushroom growth, called MyCodo, by Kyle Gabriel. I was hesitant at first because I don’t have experience with the DS18B20 temperature sensors.

So after months of tinkering, I decided to give it a shot and I’m really glad I did. Not only did it eliminate my problems, but it has some features that I really wanted to have. It turns the kegerator into a full temperature controlled chamber, with a receptacle inside I can control on and off if needed. I can control the heating and cooling solenoids on the heat pump, the compressor and fan, and display humidity, temperature etc. depending on sensors used.

One really awesome thing it can do, is use methods to change the PID setpoint over time, i.e. ramp/soak profiles for lagering and cold crashing.

I wired it to drive some SSR’s directly to control the compressor/fan at the same time, and heating/cooling solenoids independently as needed. I know the kegerator won’t need heating, but it’s just another cheap SSR, so I’ll wire it in and if I need it, it’s there. Once I prove it out, I’ll gut the controls on my other Conviron chamber, and overhaul it. Chamber 2 already has Temp, humidity and light control which I want to keep. The thought is, I can use it for fermenting as well as growing mushrooms, growing plants, etc.

Here’s a picture of the MyCodo interface showing some of the outputs, temperature and the graphing abilities:


New Fermentation chambers

I’ve come to realize that my conical and carboys scattered throughout my house was not only getting annoying, but it isn’t very consistent when it comes to fermentation temperatures. I had been looking on Craigslist the past few months and ended up getting a non-working Rock Star fridge with clear doors. A friend of mine said he could re-fill it and I picked it up.

Shortly after, I came across an add for some lab-grade temperature/humidity/light controlled chambers. They’re made by a company Conviron who specializes in these chambers. I messaged the seller and inquired a little, but the Ad ended. After tracking them down through another ad, it ended up they were right down the street. She sent me the manuals and specs and I realized how great they’d be for not only fermentation, but also another hobby I had tried before, Growing Shiitake mushrooms. They were asking $600 and I got her down to $300 each.

I went by to make arrangements to pick one up and these things were indeed gigantic. They’re over 6′ tall, 36″ deep and 30″ wide. There’s a touchscreen control that allows you to program to turn on and off lights, adjust humidity and temperature according to a schedule. They were in good shape and came with all their racks. Initially I only wanted one, but after going over there, it seemed that one of them didn’t run right. I took a gamble and offered $400 for both a working one and the non-working one thinking I could fix it.

They’ll fit 5 carboys in each, and if I put in shelving (would be a bit heavy for the shelf though), maybe even 10 carboys. I figure the second one would be for cheese, meet and growing mushrooms.

I got them home and tried working on the non-working one first. The motherboard had shorted and blown several chips off the board. It wasn’t likely salvagable and it was over 10 years old. There was no chance for getting it back to it’s previous condition. I figure I’ll slowly work on this one and install a Raspberry pi, PID controller and a couple SSR’s to control the cooling and heating system.

The other one works great and regulates temperature and light perfectly. These will be put to good use and hopefully end up saving room in the house!




New Bru-Gear Equipment

Brewing has been going really well. I’ve got about 10 batches under my belt and did 15 gallons of Hard Cider last fall that turned out great. Recently I got a couple friends to start brewing and we brewed a Porter and added Vanilla and some Bourbon soaked Oak bourbon-barrel chunks to the secondary. It’s looking great and tasted awesome before transferring to the secondary.

After brewing the last few batches, I’ve wanted to make the jump into All-Grain brewing. I had some equipment that would work, but there were some things to be desired from the system, and I wanted to use electric elements for brewing instead of propane.. I decided to sell all of my brewing equipment and upgrade.

The first upgrade was a 7.3 gallon Conical fermenter from Stout Tanks. I found one on Craigslist locally and went to get it from a guy Brian nearby. We had a long chat and he mentioned I should join Oregon Brew Crew. I joined and ended up meeting some great people. I’ve only been to 1 meeting and a Christmas party, but it has been great. The funny thing is, that the person I sold my old brewing equipment to was in the club too, and was good friends with Brian. They’ve been very welcoming and I even brewed a double batch of beer with Brian last weekend.

The second upgrade was to replace my kettles with something purpose built. I looked around at Stout Tanks, Colorado Brew Systems, Blichmann, Spike Brewing, Brewers Hardware and Bru-Gear. Lots of emails to and from each of them and I finally decided that for the features and value, Bru-Gear was the best choice.

The Bru-Gear has nice tri-clover fittings on all of their kettles. I got the electric version which has an additional 1.5″ fitting in the rear of the kettle, as well as a 1.5″ recirculation port at the top of the kettle. This allows me to get 3 of the exact same kettles and use for the MLT, HLT and BK. Another piece they offer is a HERMS coil that is mounted to the lid. I really like this as it allows me to use for a HERMS coil, but also as an immersion chiller after the boil in the BK. The kettles also come with thermowell/thermometer, ball-valves, clamps and TC barbed fittings. I ordered pickup tubes for all three as well as a false bottom for the MLT.

I ordered and got them just before Christmas. The welds are nice, the equipment looks well made, and I’m impressed with the system overall. Just missing a couple pieces, but Bru-Gear has been in contact and should be able to send me the fittings I need. I still need a few more fittings like some 90 degree elbow barbed TC, whirlpool fitting and something that would allow me to attach a Blichmann Auto-sparge to the inside of the MLT.

So the overall idea is to put together a 10-gallon Electric HERMS system and build a brew controller to control the elements and pumps and also monitor the temperature. I’ll post more on that in another post.

Here’s some pictures of all the new Bru-Gear and Stout Tanks equipment: