Home > Brew gear, BrewzNET 2.0 > Wireless Sparge Arm Build

Wireless Sparge Arm Build

This week’s activities included the final build of the wireless grant and wireless sparge arm for BrewzNET 2.0 – I will focus primarily on the sparge arm in this post, and the grant in a subsequent one. Make sure to click on the pictures to blow them up so you can also see the labeled components.

Wireless Sparge ArmAs has been mentioned in prior posts, the base for the sparge arm is a standard MoreBeer Ultimate Sparge Arm that I have pimped out with some custom components. There are multiple adjustment knobs that set the height of the sparge arm itself inside the mash tun, the height of the float switch, and if required the height of the electronics housing. Both the stainless steel float switch and electronics box are supported with another MoreBeer special order item that is not in their online or mail-order catalog, the SCUP405. I had to write to their customer service department and ask if they had a solution for supporting the float switch, and that is what they came up with. After I received the first one I realized how perfect it would be for also supporting the electronics and ordered a second.

Sparge Arm ExternalsThe top of the electronics housing has 4 components – an on/off switch, a bright green LED indicating whether the power is on or not, a bright red LED that reflects the device’s current charging status, and a mini USB port to recharge the device in between brewing sessions. When the device is plugged into a standard USB cable and power source (wall charger, laptop PC, USB hub, or whatever) the red LED remains lit until the battery is fully charged, at which point it turns off. I did some preliminary test several weeks back and found the battery would power the electronics for more than 4 hours (more than adequate for the typical brewing session) so I did not determine what the ultimate life of the battery was… It could potentially be good for several brew sessions.

Sparge Arm InternalsThe 2″x2″x4″ plastic electronics housing does a nice job of encapsulating the circuit boards and components. I could have maybe used a slightly thinner project box, but I like having a little extra space to accomodate my sausage fingers when assembling. At the top is the SparkFun LiPo Charger board that serves as the recharging and use interface between the remaining components and the LiPo battery. A custom PCB design acts as the interface between the 3.8V supplied by the LiPo battery & charger to the Sparkfun XBee Explorer Regulated board and ties the float switch to the appropriate pins on the XBee modem.

So what did the wireless sparge arm cost, in total? I’m scared to total it up because I know my wife reads these posts too (when I don’t bore her silly enough to quit half way). Here’s the raw materials / components breakdown:

Quantity Description Unit Cost Total
1 MoreBeer Ultimate Sparge Arm $150 $150
2 MoreBeer SCUP405 supports $10 $20
1 Stainless Steel Float Switch $8 $8
1 2″x2″x4″ Project Enclosure $5 $5
1 Custom XBee interface board (Mfg @ OSHPark) $16.20/3 $5.40
1 SparkFun LiPo Charger $15 $15
1 SparkFun 850mAh LiPo Battery $8 $8
1 SparkFun Xbee Explorer Regulated board $10 $10
1 Digi Xbee 2.4GHz Wireless Modem $26 $26
1 On/Off Switch $0.50 $0.50
1 JST Connection wire $1 $1
8 Circuit board standoffs & screws $3 $3
* 3/8″ stainless steel bolt, washers, and nut ~$2 ~$2
* LEDs, connectors, wire, etc.. ~$5 ~$5
TOTAL: ~$258.90

So that’s the wireless sparge arm. I’ll hopefully have some video of it in action up soon (once I get the other pieces finalized and tested). It’s certainly not the cheapest piece of brewing gear ever, but it certainly looks good and is one-of-a-kind… for now 🙂

Categories: Brew gear, BrewzNET 2.0
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