Home > Brew gear, Tech geeks > Wireless Grant Prototyping

Wireless Grant Prototyping

I have been using my grant and pump control box for about a year and a half now, and I’ve learned quite alot about electronics – what works and what doesn’t, and how I really want to incorporate technology into my brewing activities. I’ve learned that simpler is better, and while I *could* build a sculpture with tons of instrumentation and control possibilities – most of that stuff is completely unnecessary. There is a fine line between brewing as an “artform”, and brewing technology overkill.

So I will forego the previously long-winded description of why and how, and sum it up thusly: I am working on replacing my grant and pump control box electronics. There is alot of really cool and new components out there, and I’ve learned how to better use stuff I’ve already got – for example, taking advantage of the ADC and digital input capabilities of Xbee modules will allow me to make my grant completely wireless without having alot of electronics involved.

The Netduino is an absolutely amazing little chip platform based on the popular Arduino that has lots of power, can be programmed in the Microsoft .NET Micro Framework, and is a huge step up from the PICAXE chips I was using before. Granted Revolution Education (the makers of PICAXE) have come out with newer and more powerful platforms since the once I purchased back in 2008, however I felt like this was the ideal time to switch platforms. It will form the “heart” of the new control box, and will allow me more flexibility and options that were not possible using the PICAXE chips.

As a proof of concept I wired up a couple of “switches” (pretty much alligator clips that I can touch together to simulate the high and low level switches in my grant) and a LM34 temperature sensor to the Xbee module. I configured the XBee to read the temperature sensor on pin 20, and the two switches on pin 19 and 18. The stuff in the upper right of the photo is just the 3.3V regulator to convert the 9V battery into the proper voltage. The Xbee transmits readings every 1/2 second, and will be picked up by the Netduino to trigger the pump on/off states.

A quick little test program shows that the output is being transmitted, with the red box showing when the various “switches” are opened and closed. 00 = both switches closed, 02 = one switch open, 04 = the other switch open, and 06 = both switches open simultaneously (Bits 1 and 2, for those goobers out there that are so inclined)… The ADC reading from the temperature sensor follows as the next two bytes, 0x01AA, which converts out to roughly 75 degrees. I can use this ADC reading to capture the temperature of the wort as it exits the grant.

I have alot more work to do before I can physically implement this and replace the guts of my control box, but as a proof of concept it works quite well… and I’m honestly expecting this to work alot better than the current “wired” implementation for several reasons. I can’t wait to see this through to completion.

So what else has been going on? I haven’t been inactive, that’s for sure. Within the past few weeks I’ve brewed a crazy amount of beer, and will likely continue to do so. I brewed 15 gallons of American Stout, 5 of which went to my sister and the other 10 which is sitting in kegs down in the basement. I also brewed 10 gallons of Abbey Singel, 5 of which went to my sister, and the other 5 sitting in a keg. Then there was the 10 gallons I brewed at How Do You Brew? for an all-grain class, 5 of which came home with me and is still conditioning in a secondary. There is also 20 gallons of pale ale that is currently aging, 10 with dry hops and 10 with blackberries picked from Milburn Orchard. As always I must include a shot of the blackberry beer because it is just so comical – where else can you get a pink/red/purple beer than from blackberries.

I also took the yeast from 10 gallons of the pale ale and pitched it into a batch of beer I brewed this weekend – a huge and hoppy red/brown ale which I haven’t quite settled on a name for. It used roughly 40 pounds of grain and a pound of hops, and should turn out somewhere in the neighborhood of 8% ABV and 100 IBUs. Hops were Columbus and Amarillo for FWH, Summit for bittering, Columbus and Citra for flavoring & Aroma, and I’ll add another 1.5oz/5gal of Amarillo as Dry Hops once it hits the secondary. I want this batch to be big, aggressive, sticky, and just… well… ridiculous.

Enough for now – Hope you enjoy your fall, and that it won’t be so long before my next Post! I’m slackin’!

Categories: Brew gear, Tech geeks
  1. November 3, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Sounds like you’ve got a lot of beer on your hands!

    That last beer, the red-headed step-child, sounds delicious 🙂

  1. December 29, 2013 at 3:05 pm

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