Tuesday, April 26, 2011


For the last couple months ups has been a frequent visitor to my house. 
These parts are from Brian at dudadiesel some manual 1/2" ball valves, a 30 plate chiller and the 1/2" electric solenoid valves that will be controlled by the software.
This will be my HLT a old keg i had laying around. I cut the top off and polished it with my angle grinder. The hole seen  is for the drain pickup and there is another on the side for the heating element.
Quick disconnect fittings for hoses from bargain fittings.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Its been a while so i wanted to post some updates on the build. The last couple months I've been slowing gathering parts, and trying to work on the build in any spare time i could find which wasn't much between full time classes and 35hrs a week at work. However the extra hours at work are helping the hurt I've been putting on my poor credit card

As for the current status of the build everything is ready to go except for my HEX coil. I ordered the 316 50' 1/2 ss tubing from nybrewsupply which came in 24" diameter thinking i had someone to coil it tighter for me but that fell through. So after researching and attempting every hand coiling method i could find i was still only able to get it to 16" after that it just starting kinking and now its pretty much scrap. Presentation day is this wednesday so i don't have time to order another so it looks like i'm gonna sacrafice my copper ic it's only 3/8" though so i might head to hd tonight and get some 1/2" copper and try my luck at that first.

I'll get some pics up later today of the progress

Thursday, January 20, 2011

DAQ Factory

New plan: DAQFactory.  So I decided to ditch LabView for now.  After playing with both programs for a while I decided that DAQFactory might be a better choice to control the brewery.  The interface is very simple to use and all inputs and outputs are assigned to "channels" which are well organized and easy to call in functions. There is a lot more code writing however, but although its been a while since my one computer science class, its coming back to me pretty quickly. Most code is broken down into "sequences" which also helps keep things organized.  The user interface is easy to work with. It is built with simple components that can reference the channels and control sequences. DAQFactory also works great with LabJack which is the data acquisition device that i will be using to connect the computer to the inputs and outputs of the brewery.  I've made a lot of progress with the software in the last couple days and have built a rough draft of the brewing program. Currently all inputs and outputs are simulated signals. The code seems to be working alright and is correctly stepping through the mash process with the simulated inputs. I still have many features to add and bugs to work out and a few changes will need to be made once the actual inputs are ready but i wrote the code in a way that should make the switch pretty simple.  Here's a sneak peak screenshot of the half finished user interface.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


It's winter break at UNH so i have a lot more free time to work on the brewery. Since I'm waiting on a number of parts to come in, I'm using this time to focus on the software aspect of the project. To run the brewery, I have decided to use LabVIEW.  Labview is a graphical programing environment where you can create virtual instruments to execute processes and  communicate with hardware. I will be creating a master virtual instrument(VI) that will control many sub-VI's that interface with the brewery. The process is quite detailed but for the purpose of this blog i will try to simplify it the best I can. Bear with me. The functions of these VI's can be broken down into three basic categories;   Input, Processing, and Output.

Input :
Input signals will consist of either user input, data acquisition from hardware, or output from a higher level VI.

Data from inputs such as probes will need to be manipulated from varying voltages into usable information like temperature. The VI uses this information to determine how to proceed. For example, a Temp monitoring VI sees that a temperature is too low,  the VI would enable another sub-VI who's sole purpose is turning on the heater.

After the data is processed, the information is output either to the display to show the current levels and temps, or used to control a piece of hardware. For the case of turning on the heating element, the VI would tell the hardware interface module to output a logic high signal(3-5 volts DC). This signal is then used to switch the relay which applies the 240 volt AC to the element. 

The entire programing process relies heavily on the use of loops. ie IF this is true THEN do this, IF NOT do this, or WHILE this is true do this, etc. The graphical interface of LabVIEW uses block diagrams to represent these loops and processes and saves the user long nights of debugging code.

Friday, December 10, 2010

solenoids and solid state relays

All of the fluid transfers during the mashing process will be controlled by the computer which will open and close the solenoid valves and turn on and off the pump and heating element.  The valves are 304 Stainless Steel 1/2" npt  Solenoid Valves with viton seals from www.DudaDiesel.com.
These valve are normally closed and open only when 110 volts AC is applied.  To do this i will be using Solid State Relays or SSRs.  An SSR acts like an electrical switch.  The computer will put out a small dc voltage of about 5 volts which the SSR uses as a control signal that tells it to close the AC circuit and apply power to the valve. I will need 1 relay for each valve, the pump, and a special 40amp relay for the 240 volt heating element.     

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mashing Diagram with one pump

This diagram shows the system during its mashing program where the wort is pumped from the bottom of the mash/lauter tun through the coil in the hot liquor tun then redistributed over the grain bed.   My original design called for the use of 2 pumps however in an effort to save some money i will most likely go with a one pump design which should work just as well.  The short gray bars indicate temperature probe locations. The small gray cylinders are solenoid ball valves and the black bars are manual ball valves which means my design isn't 100% automatic however the mashing process will be which was my initial goal. This is also a cost saving measure and could be upgraded in the future.

Rims vs. Herms

This was a big decision when it came to my project; rims or herms? There are many different types of home brew mashing setups but the two most common are HERMS (Heat Exchange Re-circulating Mash System) and Rims (re-circulation infusion mash system). Both systems re-circulate the mash from the bottom to the top of the mash tun. the difference lies in the way the mash is heated to the desired temperature.  A HERMS system pumps the mash through a heat exchange (HEX) coil submersed in water in a hot liquor tun (HLT) heated by either an electric hot water heater coil or directly fired by a gas burner.  Whereas a RIMS system pumps the mash directly across a heating element contained in a section of pipe.  There are endless debates over the pros and cons of each, however I have chosen to go with a HERMS method mainly for the advantage of being able to use the water in the HTL as my sparge water when rinsing my grains.