As any brewer can remember from their first batch, it all begins simply enough with a giant pot on a stove in the kitchen. Brewing beer on a stove is easy, but there are a few pain points that are impossible to ignore. Mainly:
- Getting 3-5 gallons of water to boil on the stove takes a long time.
- Standing over a stove for an hour or two is obnoxious, which is probably why you're not making risotto for dinner tonight.
- Inviting a friend over and making two batches at the same time presents space problems for the pots on the stove and the brewers working in the same area.
The next stage for many brewers is to use a turkey fryer to run the boil. There's nothing like a giant flame to fix a problem! And boy, does the water get to a boil quickly. However I do most of my brewing on weekday nights in the winter. I'd rather hang out inside with all of my equipment than outside fumbling around in the cold darkness. Not to mention the expense and annoyance of filling propane.
To solve my problems, I came up with a simple set of requirements to get me brewing ASAP instead of designing something for months. My brew system has these features:
- Make 2 batches of beer at the same time with 2 separate kettles. Guest brewers welcome!
- Powered from the dryer outlet already installed in my garage.
- 5500W heating elements are controlled by solid state relays (SSR) which are controlled by an MSP430 Launchpad.
- It takes less than 15 minutes for one kettle with 5 gallons to reach a rapid boil; I expect it would take less than 30 minutes to get a pair of 5 gallon batches to a boil.
- Each kettle's power is controlled independently, and will never turn on at the same time to prevent blowing the circuit breaker.
- An LED will illuminate when its associated heating element is turned on.
- Each kettle can easily be unplugged from the controller to allow for emptying the wort and cleaning without disturbing the other kettle.
- The entire system can be built for under $300 (including 2 new kettles).
With these requirements in place, I did a quick search on the brewing forums to see what exists in the way of simple electric brew kettles. I could find several people who created a system, but very few of them documented their full design. This is my favorite design, hosted on instructables which I referenced for ideas. The Electric Brewery is another excellent resource. Still, I posted the complete design files here for others to peruse. Please let me know in the comments if you have any improvements to suggest beyond those listed in the attached 'Design Documentation' file!
For those who want complete details of the project, I've attached all design files in this post. I have excluded my mechanical design because the Electric Brewery has some great instructions on assembly, especially how to make a safe kettle that doesn't leak. Please download the .zip file for:
- BOM (Bill Of Materials)
- MSP430 Project files
- Design documentation (design approach, known issues, future improvements)
Below is my video showing the system working. A big thanks to my younger cousin for her videographer work!
10.27.12 DYoung Brewery.zip 106.8 KB