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Electric Brewery Control Panel on the Cheap

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If you are into home brewing then you have likely heard of "The Electric Brewery" created and run by a fellow named Kal. If you haven't then get over there and read up. This is the best homebrew setup out there, well thought out, well designed and effectively open source. It uses electric hot water heater elements, a three-kettle two-pump setup, and a process control panel to bring your home brewing to a new level of awesome and easy. Kal has designed a top-notch, no-compromises system that is safe, enjoyable and easy to use. However, it is expensive. Also, Kal is an engineer by training, and as a fellow engineer I cannot possibly leave well enough alone and must change his design. This is job security which is bred into all engineering types. You can substitute fittings and pots and pumps to reduce system cost, but the heart of the "Electric Brewery" system and one of the costliest is the control panel. Here I will show you how I redesigned Kal's control panel with cost in mind, bringing the cost down from around $1500 to $250 without compromising safety and with only a few compromises in function. I can attest to the fact that this control panel works and makes great beer. If that sounds good to you, then read on!
 
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Hello there,

I really like this article and have ordered parts to build it.

I do have one question though, do the relays take the place of the need for fuses? and if not where would the best place to but some fuses be?

Again thanks for posting and happy brewing!

AdamW48 days ago

This is great. I was going to go with my current Auber PID for both the HLT and BK but I'm now thinking I want one for each. How do you run the boil on those PIDS? I don't see the manual mode that my current PID has....

JohnF816 days ago

I like the encouragement you offer along the way! I too am very new at this, but have learned a ton from various sites. I'm doing a build similar to http://www.instructables.com/id/Electric-brewing-system/?ALLSTEPS, which doesn't use relays, and the DPST in his diagram shows 6 pins. Between his schematic and yours, I can't figure out how to wire up the DPST between the SSR and the outlet for the kettle. Lil help please? Thank you in advance!

jmengel (author)  JohnF812 days ago

I'm not sure why you are trying to combine the two projects, they are quite different if you are new and have no idea what you are doing. If your build is similar to MrBippers simplified approach then I suggest you ask MrBippers. If wiring the switch is a mystery then you might want to learn another ton or two. The basic idea is that you want to use the switch to be able to disconnect the power from the kettle outlet. Both the always-on supply leg and the SSR switched output leg. Safety.

baer19d22 days ago

I already have two NEMA L6-20 20 AMP 250v turn lock plugs on hand so could I replace the 30 AMP outlets with 20 amp so I can use my plugs?

Thanks, Mike

jmengel (author)  baer19d22 days ago

If you reduced the rest of the system to a 20A system you should be good. Trying to push 30A through equipment rated for 20A is a bad idea. You'll have to decide if saving a few bucks is worth the risk.

kryckeley8 months ago

How would I modify your Control Box for a 1 PID 1 Pump Electric BIAB System?

http://www.highgravitybrew.com/productcart/pc/EBC-...

I want to do this... should be way less than $495.00 right?

jmengel (author)  kryckeley8 months ago

For a BIAB system? I'd reduce the system to the HLT controls, meaning a single RTD, a single PID, and a single pump control outlet and switch. Should be way less than $495. Below are some rough cuts at how you would mod the system. You'd have to manually alter the settings in the single PID to switch from "mashing" in the BIAB method to boiling, but that shouldn't be too hard.

schematic_simplified.jpgpanel_simplify3.jpg

I was also eyeballing HighGravity's EBV-SV and thinking of building my own. I like what you have shown above. Have you since done any other versions of this schematic beyond the roughy cut above? If so, I'd love to see something more definitive! Your original schematic is very nice by the way... one of the best out there. Thanks for sharing.

jmengel (author)  NathanC323 days ago

No updates to the schematic. Thanks for reading, and if you have any specific questions feel free to ask.

carson1203 made it!1 month ago

Jmengel,

It turned out nice. It was a fun challenge for a rookie. I learned a ton and it works great. I am using it to run my 1bbl brewery. Thanks again.

20140917_221917_resized.jpg20140928_112918_resized.jpg
jmengel (author)  carson12031 month ago
Hey, looks great. Glad it worked out for you. Brew in good health!
TylerT11 month ago

Great write up! I was really happy to stumble upon this. What are the approximate dimensions of the enclosure?

jmengel (author)  TylerT11 month ago
The cut files are included as PDFs I believe. The size is roughly 12"x10"x6"
baer19d1 month ago

Great tutorial! I've been contemplating building one of these for a while but was a little intimidated by the complexity. I have a few questions though. First, can this be powered by a 30A 120V outlet and what would you recomend for a pulse width modulation to control the brew kettle element?

Thanks, Mike

jmengel (author)  baer19d1 month ago
The short answer is no. The long answer is yes you could build an electric brewery to run on a 120VAC 30A outlet but the system I have presented requires 240VAC and 30A. You would need to resize the pots for the reduced power available, redesign the circuit for 120VAC and reselect components for 120VAC. So if you are intimidated by the complexity, the short answer is your best bet.

For the PWM control of the brew kettle, I use a potentiometer whose value is read via comparator and converted into a duty cycle signal by a simple chunk of code running on a TI MSP430 microcontroller. An ADC could be used with the potentiometer running in a voltage divider mode if your handy microcontroller doesn't have a comparator.
BillM12 months ago

In looking at the wiring for the keyswitch, it seems that power would need at the key to activate the relay. However the keyswitch is connected to common buss and the connection that is unpowered until the relay kicks in. Am I missing something?

jmengel (author)  BillM12 months ago
Ah, yes, good catch. If you look at the photo of the ratsnest below the schematic you can just see the black wire from the keyswitch disappearing into the terminal connector on the hot (black) wire from the 240VAC cable BEFORE the main relay, giving the keyswitch power at all times and thus enabling it to actually energize the main relay. As drawn the schematic is in error and would not work. I'll update that one of these days....

Will you please post your updated schematic to include the heat sinks.

jmengel (author)  carson12031 month ago

The heat sinks go on the SSRs and are not meant to be in the schematic, which is really more of a wiring diagram (with an error as noted by BillM1 above).

What can I do to assist?

Ok Jmengel,

I am no where close to being an engineer. Honestly I am a newbie when it comes to wiring. I love this project. I have all the hardware and am ready to being wiring. I am really nervous and don't want to mess this up. I am having a hard time following your wiring diagram and photos. I require a "rookie" version..... please. This is a huge learning experience for me and I require your expertise. If you could post or email me a wiring diagram for dummies with some explanations so that I may get my learn on. Thanks in advance.

jmengel (author)  carson12031 month ago

I'm sorry to say that I really don't have the time to redo this instructable to a "solder wire A to tab B" level of detail. Since the project uses 240VAC and AC in general throughout, I'd really suggest you bone up on a smaller undertaking before diving in if you aren't comfortable with electricity. AC can ruin your day or end your life if you aren't careful. The diagram as shown has all the info really needed (minus the mistake on the keyswitch wiring) and unless you have sourced the exact same parts as mine I will not be able to provide a pin-to-pin schematic anyway.

That said, if you want to forge ahead, dive in and have specific questions about a portion of the project, I'll be happy to help.

Thanks, I fully understand. I am currently trying to get my learn on. I will send questions as required. Thanks again.

goin200mph2 months ago

Could I substitute SSRs for the enclosed relays? I know they'd occupy more space with the heat sinks, but they are cheaper and I plan to use a thermostat-controlled enclosure fan.

jmengel (author)  goin200mph2 months ago

A few reasons not to skip on the relays. One, the SSR only switches one leg of the 240VAC, meaning that you'd need two SSR's to replace the DPST relay for each heater and the master relay. Two, you need to be able to ensure only one heater is active at a time, and a on-off-on toggle with a pair of DPST relays is convenient for that. Three, the PIDs are on all the time, and outputing control signals to the SSRs always, but you don't want the heaters on always so a toggle with the relays is a convenient way to achieve that without adding selector switches for the PIDs. Four, the DPST relays ensure that there is a "safe" state where the heaters are not receiving any voltage. Kind of a belt and suspenders approach since the system should be GFCI protected, but I like the idea of knowing that not only are my kettles grounded, but the heaters are completely isolated from mains voltage with the relays off. Five, SSRs dissipate heat due to internal resistance as evidenced by their heat sinks and thus decrease system efficiency as compared to using relays in the main current carrying path. Six, the SSRs require a DC signal to "activate" so you'll need a separate voltage converter to get the 120VAC to a suitable DC level to turn on the desired SSR.

That is all I can think of off the top of my head. I have nagging suspicion that I've forgot the main reason though. In this kind of project there are many ways to do the job so if you feel comfortable with the above, are up to making changes, and want to use SSRs go for it.

Whether you forgot anything or not, you gave me what I was missing. Thanks for the reply and darn nice work on this setup!!

carson12032 months ago

jmengel, what upgrades are required for a larger 50a system?

jmengel (author)  carson12032 months ago

Hmmm, a lot. You'd be good with the SSR's since they are already at 60A, but everything else that was in the current path would need to be bigger and beefier to handle the 50A. The wires, the relays, the receptacles, the terminal blocks, the cables, the heater elements, the outlet, the GFCI breaker, etc. Everything with fat lines connected to it in the wiring schematic above. The basic idea is the same, but everything would have to be rated for 240VAC and 50A, which is 12kW by the way. I'll tell you that the 30A system (7.2kW) I've built can boil 20 gallons of wort in short order, like less than an hour at 80% duty cycle to rolling boil and about 50% duty cycle to maintain boil with the cover off the pot. Hope that helps. Good luck.

Thanks for the reply. I am wanting to have the capability to grow to 30 gal batches without pushing the 30A system to the limit. But it sounds like I can get really close to 30 gal batches without burning up the components.

jmengel (author)  carson12032 months ago

If you use a taller pot than I have used, I would be confident of being able to boil 30 gallons with the 30A system. It may take a little longer to reach boiling (~60 minutes) however. The taller the pot, the better "heat stack" and the more efficiently you will use the heat output of the element. With my pot, boiling 20 gallons is no problem.

Great to hear that. My parts are currently on order. I will let you know how it turns out.

Great to hear that. My parts are currently on order. I will let you know how it turns out.

mwakefield38 months ago
Great project, love it. A comment, I don't know why you are modifying your PIDs when SSR PIDs are just as cheap and common.
jmengel (author)  mwakefield38 months ago

If you can show us where to get 3 SSR output PIDs for less than $40USD then I'm all ears. However, as I state in the writeup the goal is low cost. So spending $90 on 3 PIDs with SSR output is not attractive.

moshbox jmengel6 months ago

Great breakdown on TheElectricBrewery system, I had been leaning towards a simple SSVR w/ rheostat to control my BIAB system until I came across this, just because I couldn't wrap my head around TBE's complexity to extract just the bits I need.

At any rate, eBay is a great resource for these parts. A Rex C100 PID w/ SSR output can be found as cheap as $2 with free shipping from China. I just picked up this PID bundled with a 40A SSR, heatsink and thermocouple for $20 CDN.

private_16 months ago

You have to use a fuse for each pump output and the whole thing

a157636987 months ago

Is a fuse necessary or recommended? If I wanted to add one for safety of the electronics where would it be added. Also can you use a different item instead of the 8 terminal post and jumping it with 10 gauge wire?

Rex4117 months ago

This post is incredible! After reviewing a few times I now completely understand the electronic backbone of a HERMS system and can't wait to build. My question is on your use of the 30A 120VAC relay powering the 240V heating element - I know nothing about electrical components but isn't this going to cause a fault?

EngrDanny8 months ago
Did you add any GFCI protection on your design? Most designs I've reviewed utilize a spa panel to keep the cost down. Nice project!

I'm currently running a three tier propane setup, but considering the jump to all electric.
jmengel (author)  EngrDanny8 months ago

(Step 7) I used a GFCI breaker for the 240VAC circuit that powered the outlet for the system. So yes I did add GFCI protection.

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