Hey Fermentation Nation!
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Stephen Williams and I am an avid homebrewer/geek/commandline cowboy. I have been home brewing for about two years now and have been a geek…well my whole life HA HA!
I got into home brewing with a good friend of mine because we both enjoyed craft beer and thought “hey we could do this!”. After running out to my LHBS I came home with a book, a kit, and a lot of giant glass vessels and went about making my first brew. I have to say it was semi controlled chaos and I was pretty clueless as to what I was doing. This drove me immerse myself with reading books, web searching, and finally joining my local homebrew club (Radegast Club of the year 2014 The Carolina Brewmasters). My questions have probably driven some nuts in the club, but I think they still like me.
All this reading and learning drove me to my second obsession: building geeky things. I started with the normal stuff, brew house kettles and a 10 gallon mashtun. While these things worked fine I wanted even more since I have aspiration of owning a brewpub someday. My next project was to build a RIMS (RIMS stands for Recirculating Infusion Mash System) setup. I built a neat little PID controller using an old .50 BMG ammo can and it works great. Alas my brew was still missing something and I started the search for a fermentation controller.
I searched all over the interwebs and stumbled across a youtube video of this guy Elco Jacobs from the Neatherlands talking about this project he had built: BrewPi. The device is a tiny Linux based computer since I am a UNIX engineer by profession this was right up my alley. And thus I built my first BrewPi.
Not familiar with the BrewPi and what is does? Here’s a little run down:
The BrewPi utilizes two main components to control fermentation temps within .1 degree (pretty darn accurate). The main brain of the operation is an Arduino micro controller. This device is used to read/send signals for heating and cooling. The second part is a RaspberryPi (tiny Linux based computer) that is used for data logging and an easy to use interface for programming your fermentation profiles. Once all setup in your brew house you can simply log into the webGUI on your local network (the device is WiFi) and start building/graphing your fermentation.
Now most people will say well my stc-1000/Ranco/Johnston do just fine for me why would I need/want this, easy better control. How you say? The main difference between this and most of the other common controllers out there is precision. You see, most controllers do not let you build a profile that will gently raise/lower the temperature of your brew over time. Most rather just turn hot or cold on till the desired temp is reached which can introduce stress to the yeast (we don’t want stress in our lives nor do our yeasty buddies). The BrewPi allows you to control the raise/lower with great precision and you can even define rest periods.
Example I have an IPA and am using WLP001 Cali Ale and it’s range is 68 ̊-73 ̊ so I will build my profile to start around let’s say 71 ̊ (middle of the road) for 36 hours to let my happy little friends start to multiple like tribbles (live long and prosper). I want to then lower my temp once I have a good bubble going to 68 ̊ for say three days to avoid any nasty esters I may produce. I can then choose if I wish to to a diacetyl rest for a few days and follow up with a cold crash for 3 days. All this is done with super precision and makes for the best environment for your yeast/brew.
The last thing to mention is what we all really want/should strive for in our brews: REPEATABILITY! Since we datalog and store these profiles I can brew a beer today build my fermentation profile and a year later repeat that exact same profile. This is really going to take you from home brewer to more of a pro home brewer by allowing you to control your fermentations the same every time.
Special Thank You to Stephen for coming on the show and sharing information about BrewPi with us! We appreciate your time!