There’s two very important points I need to share about this:
- Without the start FuzzeWuzze gave us on the “Mega Thread” on Homebrewtalk.com, a lot of us would never have successfully made our first rig. The first post is dated, the thread incredibly long (but still full of AWESOME info), the various fan Wiki’s also dated, so I wanted to persist for as long as I could how a person can put together the hardware
- There are as many ways to do this as there are people doing it. This is ONE WAY it can be done. If you are smart enough to deviate from this, you should be smart enough to figure it out yourself. Please don’t ask me why your new idea doesn’t work
This post will share how to put the hardware supporting BrewPi together in the most basic way with which I believe a person can be successful. It is not meant to be “production ready”, it’s meant to show how it works on the bench so that the DIYer can add a case, etc., and use it on their fermentation chamber.
What you need
I’m not going to suggest which ones of these to buy, but I will give you some pictures that, along with the name/description, should be about all you need to find them on the Internet. I’ll give you a hint: I got all of these pictures except for the thermowell off Amazon. For the thermowell, seek out Brewers Hardware:
A fridge that you can “hack”. This can be as simple as keeping a fridge’s thermostat all the way on cold and plugging it into the system so that it only turns on by the BrewPi system. Most modern refrigerators use timers and such which make using them a little less straightforward. If you have what is commonly sold as a “kegerator”, it will work pretty well as it lacks auto-defrost, etc. This article will not detail how to hack a fridge (maybe some future article will), it will assume you are using one of those “kegerator” style boxes.
A working Raspberry Pi. This article will not detail how to setup the Raspberry Pi, nor address the software part of the build – that’s done elsewhere.
An Arduino Uno. I recommend not trying to get the cheapest one possible straight from China, and until you know why; avoid the ones that state they have a “CH340”. You can get a genuine Arduino Uno R3 on Amazon for $20, and decent clones for about $11. Get a USB A to B cable while you are at it if it does not come with one.
A 2-channel 5-volt relay, commonly the “SainSmart 2-Channel Relay Module” or a similar model.
A 15A 115v electrical outlet (if you are not in North America, modify this accordingly).
A “euro-style” wire connector strip, three stations will be needed. You can do this with anything, a breadboard, wire nuts, go wild. The first time I made this, this is what I used and it worked well.
One 4.7k Ω 1/4 watt axial resistor (sometimres you see this called a 4k7 Ω ). You are unlikely to find a single of these for purchase, they are pennies a piece. Pretty much anything you find that says 4.7k Ω 1/4 watt that looks remotely like the ones on the left will be fine.
Some 22 gauge Dupont jumper wires in male to female and male to male. You can generally get an assortment of gender combinations in various colors for a few bucks.
Some 16 or 18 gauge stranded wire, in black and red. You won’t need much of this, maybe a foot each. You can even cannibalize some from the next item.
A 16 or 18 gauge (16/3 or 18/3) grounded power cord. An old computer cord is a pretty good item for this if you have one.
(Optional) a “Ceramic Heat Emitter” in 60 or 75 Watts, commonly sold as a reptile heater bulb. Many indoor implementations will never need a heater, but if you have this in an unheated garage or shed in a cold climate, some form of heating will be required. Some folks have used a “personal heater” but even 100w is pretty hefty for this application – a light bulb is enough heat but you don’t want light in the chamber to prevent skunking your beer.
You’ll also need a lamp/cord/receptacle to support a lamp inside the fridge (if you decide to use one.)
(Optional) a small “personal sized” fan for inside the fridge to eliminate dead spots. Nothing large, whatever you have and will fit will work.
At least two DS18B20 sensors (called “one-wire”). Getting “waterproof” sensors with leads is important. Make sure they are directly powered and not parasitic. Searching the reviews and/or BrewPi threads will help you get known good items. Also make note of the wiring/color scheme from the manufacturer. You will need this. It’s nearly always listed with the item’s description.
(Optional but HIGHLY recommended) a stainless-steel thermowell. You won’t need this for bench-testing this of course, but using a thermowell for the “beer” sensor is much better than any of the other methods for getting a good beer temp. Make sure the sensors fit in the well.
Putting it Together
I could blather on about how to put this together, but I think a picture is worth a thousand words. This is a diagram done by 100Amps on Homebrewtalk that suffices for those 1000 words:
There are few things that while clear on this diagram I have managed to screw them up or allowed them to confuse me (or allowed me to confuse myself):
- You can tie all of the One-Wire sensors together as shown since they are digital and have their own internal addresses
- The “data” leg of the one-wire sensors go to the A4 terminal on the Arduino, power the terminal marked “5v” and the ground to “GND”. Each manufacturer of the sensors seems to change the
colorsaround, so you will have to refer to the manufacturer for which coloris which
- A one-wire sensor (or many of them tied together) requires a single 4.7k Ω resistor between power and data in order to function correctly. This is called a “pull-up resistor” if you want to Google it. It looks strange but it’s necessary
- There is a jumper on the hot side of the outlet that can be broken off with a pair of pliers which allows them to be powered separately – we use this to independently turn on and off the heat and cool
Step by Step Wiring
Refer to the wiring image above as you go through these instructions. The colors need not be the same, but if you keep them consistent you will thank yourself for it later. Print the pic (in color) to make it even easier to reference as you follow along.
Low Voltage Wiring
- Get your Raspberry Pi running, get logged in, play with it if you want. You can follow these instructions in the Raspberry Pi pages. You need not make it headless, do it however you want. The videos on the Raspberry Pi website are really good as well. All you need is the Raspberry Pi running, and able to connect to the Internet.
- Connect your Arduino to your Raspberry Pi with a USB A to B cable. This serves for both communications and power. Nothing will really happen yet other than an LED lighting up on the Arduino.
- Install BrewPi Remix just to make sure your primary pieces are working correctly. Doing it now avoids any confusion later on when you add the rest of the wiring. You’ll know it works before you end up adding more “stuff.” When you are done, the screen will tell you the URL you may use to access your new BrewPi installation. Open it up in a web browser and enjoy it for a moment! When you are satisfied it works enough to open up the page, you can come back here and worry about the rest of the hardware.
- Unplug your Arduino from your Raspberry Pi (you do not need to power down the Raspberry Pi first) before you proceed.
- You are now going to use your Dupont wires. Grab three different
colorsof your male to male wires and plug one each in the Arduino’s 5V, GND and A4 (this is your “data” port). These are all on the same side of the Arduino, on the same side as the black power inlet. Pick separate terminals on your Euro-connector, whichever ones you like, and run them there. No need to tighten things up right now.
- Take a couple of Dupont wires, male to female, which match your 5v and GND wires. Put the male ends into the corresponding Euro-connector terminals (obviously easier here if you use the same
colorsas your first two wires.) Again, just snug, no need to tighten.
- Take your 4.7k Ω 1/4 watt resistor and connect it between your A4 (data) connector and your power (5V) connector.
- You should now have two wires coming into the ground (GND) terminal, two wires plus one side of the resistor into your power (5V) terminal, and one wire plus the other end of the resistor into your data terminal (A4). You can snug them down now if you wish.
- Now take at least one (I recommend two) of your temp sensors and referencing the manufacturer’s layout, connect all of the ground leads into the other side of the GND terminal. Connect all of the power leads (
may bereferenced as VCC) to the other side of the power (5V) terminal. Connect all of the data leads to the other side of the data (A4) terminal. One sensor will be your “beer” sensor and the other the “chamber” sensor.
- Now you will connect your 2-channel relay. Take a look at the low-voltage side first. It will have two small male pin strips; one three pins and one four. The
three pinstrip should have a jumper (probably a small blue or black cap) between JD-VCC and VCC on the strip of three pins. This allows the relay to be powered by the Arduino.
- Now you will connect your leads from power (5V) and ground (GND) out of the terminal block to the relay. 5V goes to VCC, GND goes to GND.
- Take two more Dupont jumpers, male to female, of differing
colors. These will represent heat and cool so maybe blue and orange would be good. Connect one to digital pin 5 and one to digital pin 6 (likely marked ~5 and ~6) on the opposite side of the other connections (USB connector side). At this pointit doesn’t matter which is which, you will be able to set the pins later.
- The other ends of these jumpers will go to the IN1 and IN2 terminals on the 4-pin
stripon the relay.
Your low-voltage wiring is now complete. You can go ahead and plug your Arduino back into your Pi. Refer to the instructions to set up your probes and relay pins and get to know your system. Experiment and test now before proceeding. I recommend a digital multi-meter to test the continuity at the high-voltage side of the relays so you can get the hang of how things work before actually applying high voltage. You can also view the LEDs on the relay card.
There’s nothing about any of the low voltage we’ve done so far which will be harmful to you. You might short some of the circuit logic if you are careless and allow things to touch each other, but I’ve had a lot of these systems laying around, in my lap, on a coffee table, even laying on the carpet, while I test.
High Voltage Wiring
This is where you can destroy your equipment, home wiring, start a fire, harm or kill yourself. BE CAREFUL and if you do not understand what you are doing find someone to help. This is something most home brewers will find trivial, but if there’s any doubt; don’t.
- Look at the “hot” side of your outlet. On North American outlets with the ground terminal towards the bottom, this will be on the right side of the outlet between the two terminals. These terminals are generally gold. There is a jumper there which you can grab with a pair of pliers and break off. Do so. This allows you to power each outlet separately, one for heat and one for cool. If you do not do this, you will be running your heater and your fridge at the same time and wondering WTH is going on.
This is called a “split receptacle” or sometimes a “switched receptacle.” When you buy your outlet at the local big box store, the people that work in electrical (if you can ever find one) can point this out for you as well.
- Take two lengths of stranded wire, 16-18 gauge and preferably red. These will go between the relays and the outlet so maybe a foot or two long. Some crimp-on terminals (called “spade” connectors) would help here but are not absolutely necessary. If you do not use spade terminals, it would be better to use solid core wire for this part. Connect them one each to the hot terminals on the side of the outlet (where you broke off the jumper.)
- Connect the other ends of those wires to the “NO” (this doesn’t mean “don’t do it”, it means “Normally Open”) side of the two terminal blocks on the high-voltage side of the relay board. I’d recommend crimping on what’s called “bootlace ferrules” or tinning the ends of the wire (melting solder on the end) if you are using stranded wire. You can do without the ferrule or tinning for testing, but for production use, it’s highly recommended.
- Take a piece of black stranded (tinned or ferrules on the ends) or solid-core wire and run it between the NC (Normally Closed) terminal of relay number one (on the top as you look at the relay board with the high-voltage on the right) and the COM terminal on relay number two. Refer to the diagram above for clarification.
- Take your power cord and strip enough of the main insulation to work with the three leads. Strip the tips of the three leads. A spade terminal would be good on the ground (green) and the common/neutral (white) leads. The hot lead (normally black) should get tinned or a ferrule.
- Connect the ground to the ground lug on the outlet. Connect the common/neutral lead to the neutral side of the outlet.
- Run the hot lead from the power cord to the COM terminal on relay number one.
- If you are using a metal box for your outlet, run an additional (preferably green) lead between the ground lug on the outlet to the ground lug on the box.
I’d highly recommend you mount the outlet to something that’s not going to move, put it in an outlet box, something to protect you and your belongings from the high voltage terminals.
As one final step before plugging in your refrigerator or heater, grab a couple of cheap outlet testers with lights, or even a couple of table lamps, and test some more to make sure things work like you expect.
The work above, and putting the “guts” into a suitable box, are all I did for my fermentation chambers. I plug my kegerator (set on 100% cold) into the “cool” outlet, and my heater (a 60w lightbulb in a paint can) in the “heat” outlet, and let magic happen.
From here there are many ways to go … 3-D printed cases are getting pretty popular. I’ve also seen folks come up with really nice setups from just a trip to the big-box hardware store. The sky is the limit!
“Hacking a Fridge”
This sort of setup relies on being able to directly turn on and off the compressor on the refrigerator. Normal modern fridges often are “frost free” which is accomplished by using a timer and a small heater on the coils to defrost the tubes. It should be obvious that this would not work well for this application. As described here we use what ends up being a “switched power cord” and leaving the fridge wiring intact. There are MUCH more elaborate ways to do this. One of the best write-ups is on the original BrewPi website under Fridge Hacking Guide.
If you do follow the instructions here, you will need a way to get the wiring for the sensors, heater and fan inside the fridge. These methods range from obvious (a kegerator has a hole on the top for the beer lines which may be used for our purposes) to the exceedingly elaborate (some people drill through the sides and use surface-mount electrical connectors.) If you do drill your fridge, make sure you know where the coolant lines are. Piercing one of these is a one-way ticket to the junkyard.