Brewing beer with Raspberry Pi

Ever since man first tasted naturally made beer, there has been no looking back. Not only man, animals also find beer irresistible. Beer brewers have always been looking for improving on the natural method to make beer tastier. Their work has become somewhat simpler and more high-tech with the introduction of Raspberry Pi or RBPi.

By using open source software and ultra-cheap computer hardware such as the RBPi and the Arduino, people are interconnecting all types of existing devices making them interact with each other. An ardent home brewer and Dutch electrical engineering student, Elco Jacobs has turned his refrigerator into a home beer brewing system. He calls it his BrewPi system and plans to sell kits. He has turned over his instructions and source code on-line for free, since he thinks they might be useful to others even if they do not brew beer.

Elco Jacobs has essentially beefed up his refrigerator with sensors, which send their data to an Arduino board. The Arduino adjusts the controls on the refrigerator for temperature and displays the results on an OLED display. The RBPi has a web server loaded and it provides the web-based interface for viewing. A Python script running on the RBPi allows it to communicate with the Arduino.

By using Jacob’s code, anyone can build a web interface to control an Arduino. The code makes it easy to use an Arduino to control an OLED display and present data on it after filtering the sensor data. When Jacob first started brewing beer at home, he was still a university student. He became interested after learning that to start brewing beer would cost him about 60 euros. He quickly learnt that temperature control was the main thing required when brewing to determine the fermentation rate of the beer and subsequently its flavor.

Hefeweizen, the favorite style of beer for Jacob, is particularly sensitive to temperature fluctuations. The taste of this beer alters radically if the heat to the beer buckets was not under finely tuned temperature controls. However, commercial temperature controls being outside the affordability of a university student, Jacobs wanted something cheap that he could control from the web.

That is how he hit upon the combination of the Arduino (for temperature control) and the RBPi for the web interface). Jacob’s goal is to sell a kit, which will require no soldering. The kit will not have the RBPi and the refrigerator.

By controlling the temperature of the fridge that holds the carboy, BrewPi is able to control the temperature of the fermenting beer accurately. Two zones of temperature are controlled separately, the fridge temperature and the beer temperature. This allow the beer temperature to be held far more steady than if a single thermostat were to be used. However, you can set BrewPi to operate in three modes: constant fridge temperature, constant beer temperature or allow it follow a temperature profile for your beer.

Highlights of BrewPi: four outputs for actuators, single wire bus for all sensors, a OneWire distribution board and lots of pluggable terminals.