BrewPi Build: The Beginning

A while back I bought a Raspberry Pi which is a computer about the size of an Altoids tin that was developed in the UK.  There are a number of cool things you can do with this thing and after playing around with it for a while it ended up setting in my box of tinkering “stuff” awaiting a new epic project.  Until recently, when I decided I wanted to up my fermentation game with a BrewPi Fermentation Chamber.

When I first started brewing I was at the whim of ambient temperature.  My beers were better tasting in the late Fall and Winter, during the Summer not so much (though Saisons turned out pretty good).  In an effort to turn out better tasting beer, I went through several versions of a ghetto fermentation chamber before landing on my current version.  It is essentially a Styrofoam cooler with some ice packs and a PC fan.  My beers started coming out better tasting with the improved ability to regulate fermentation temp.  While according to my friends the beer I’m turning out is pretty good, I’m not satisfied.  I’d like to have better control over how my beer ferments and the only way to do that is with a fridge of some sort.

Since I brew small batches it ought to be easy enough to pick up a mini fridge on Craigslist or at a yard sale or something.  How to control it is the real decision.  After much consideration and research I found a new project for that Raspberry Pi thanks to BrewPi.  If you’ve not heard of BrewPi you can read more about it here, but it is essentially a program that utilizes a Raspberry Pi and Arduino to control fermentation temperature.

Before I get into the what and how of things, I’d like to mention that the method I’m using for this build is a little old school in that I’m using an Arduino.  The newer version of BrewPi is phasing out the Arduino in favor of a Spark Core/Photon.  Here are my reasons for using the Arduino:

  1. I’m only building a single fermentation chamber.  The move from Arduino to the Core/Photon was based off needing more room for the BrewPi code for added features (like controlling mash/boil steps) that I’m not interested in or don’t need at this time.  Maybe I’ll update things in the future..or not.
  2. The documentation for building a controller with Raspberry Pi and Arduino is better than using a Core/Photon at this point.  I couldn’t find a lot of step by step instructions on wiring, programming, and troubleshooting the Core/Photon setup.  While I’m sure I could figure it out, I feel it’s easier (from a non-programmer aspect) to use the Arduino.
  3. The Arduino is cheaper.

Alright, I’ll cover the parts list in my next post so stay tuned…

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