SS Brewtech Chronical – Peltier Cooling

As I alluded to in the epic dragged out saga that is the Saison I brewed 3 weeks ago, I don’t have temp control on my SS Brewtech Chronical at the moment.

These SS Brewtech’s are awesome, especially for the price, they have a bunch of features that just aren’t available in some of the even more expensive brands (i.e. Blichmann). SS Brewtech offer a cooling option for these fermentors, but unfortunately I am not a fan of it, plus it doesn’t appear that it will work with the CIP/SIP capable 3″ tri-clover lid which is available shortly.

It is a small pump, a temp controller, and a stainless steel loop which hangs down (for the 17G anyway) from the lid of the fermentor into the wort. The temp controller switches on a pump when the wort is too warm, circulating cool water from an esky through the loop to cool the wort.

I dislike this solution. I do not want to be a slave to an esky full of cold water as it won’t stay cold enough for long enough. I don’t want to have to clean the cooling loop itself, as it will get krausen stuck to it. Also, unless it’s been updated recently it doesn’t work with the CIP/SIP lid that I am going to move to when available in Australia.

After thinking about it a bit, and looking at some other options that people have designed and sell, I designed an aluminium cooling block.

The intention is to have these machined by a hopefully local CNC workshop and then install these to the outside of the conical on the lowest part of the upper cylinder. I was planning on getting a number of the blocks machined as I’m not sure how well they will work – but the MoreBeer one sounds like it works pretty well with 4 peltier chips. Not sure of the size of the peltier chips or the blocks on the MoreBeer ultimate conicals.

So, as I’m intending though, it’s turning out to be a little tricky. As it’s a pretty small job, and I don’t want to spend thousands to buy a couple hundred items of something I don’t know if it will work or not, I’m struggling to find a local place that will machine it for me.

I’ve sent emails requesting quotes to a number of CNC workshops. It seems like the job is too small for most. The one and only quote I got back was $604/ea for 4!

I’m trying to keep this local, trying to get it done here, but it doesn’t look like I can afford it. I’ve asked for a favour from my old man who has some contacts, hopefully that will come off…

I’m not sure how I will heat the conical as yet. The SS Brewtech heater might be an option. It’s not too expensive, and it should do the job. Hopefully it doesn’t get too warm and cause autolysis though!

It’s the never ending Saison…

At least it seems like it anyway!

Tomorrow marks the 3rd week the Saison has been in the Conical. And. It. Is. Still. NOT. DONE!

SG was 1071, and brewed on January 17th. The ferment was going gangbusters for a few days at the start there. Last Sunday, after 2 weeks in the conical it was down to 1038, from the previous Sunday’s reading of 1040! Really not pushing along very fast! It doesn’t help that I’m fermenting at Ambient, in what should be summer, but we had a few days of 35c after I brewed the beer and except for a day or two there, it’s averaged about 23c ever since!

Now, I’ve resorted to wrapping the fermentor in an old duna, and hanging hot water bottles underneath the duna to warm it up.


So, with tomorrow being the 3rd week in the conical, I’ll pull another sample and see where we’re at. I’m not holding high hopes. If it hasn’t dropped very far when I do tomorrow’s reading, then I might have to build up a starter of a clean ale yeast and pitch that to finish it out. I’d rather not, though πŸ™‚

Updated brewery – First Brew done!

I managed to knock out a batch of “Oat’n’Rye Dark Mild” yesterday. Everything went pretty well, the RIMS tube ran well and held the mash temp up where it should be, and I was even able to mash-out for the first time.

I had run water through basically the whole brewery already but this was the first time it’s made wort. I started with my favourite Mild recipe; it’s a Mild which is ~3.5% ABV but has stacks of body as it’s about 20% Rye and Rolled Oats. The last time I brewed it, the first time for the recipe (and coincidently the first time back after not brewing for a number months), it was a bit dark. Almost stout like darkness. This time, I knocked the Carafa II Special down to 200g to try and make it a little less dark. And I also just realised I totally forgot to add 600g of Crystal! I actually don’t like crystal for the most part, so I’m sure it won’t hurt πŸ™‚

It was also the first run of my rebuilt mill; I’d obviously run it without grain but I didn’t want to waste any grain I had on hand, so never actually tested it fully πŸ™‚ Gladly, and expectedly, it worked first go. I used a motor and controller which was specced appropriately (and sold as a homebrew grain mill motor), but I still had a lingering thought that perhaps it might not start with grain in the hopper. There is a slight and minor alignment issue that I can see when it’s running – but it doesn’t seem to affect the mill operation at all.
Another minor issue I’ll need to resolve is that it generates some static charge, which builds up and then when it’s touched, ZAP! Some kind of ground strap may help resolve it; it used to do this before hand when I would run it with just a handheld drill. At the time I thought it might be an issue with the drill I have as it’s had a lot of work – but it just seems to be static.

With this brewery I wanted to make it a little easier and even a little faster to get a batch up and running, and get it finished. I tried out one of the ideas on this batch and it worked exactly as expected. I added the mash water volume to the MLT, and the sparge water volume to the HLT. Using the RIMS tube I then heated the mash water to temp, rather than heating it in the HLT and then transfer to the MLT which loses heat.

It worked very well doing this, as I also had the sparge water in the HLT, starting the heating just after I mashed in.

At the moment it’s more or less a temporary setup. I used an STC1000 for the RIMS element control which actually seemed to work OK – and that explains the strange temp probe sitting in the mash return bowl. It was a fermentor thermowell I usually use for fermenting, but it worked well enough for this application.

Nice clear wort as we get near the end of the mash, very dark..! #homebrew #homebrewing

A video posted by vortex (@auvortex) on

The HLT side of things is also in a bit of a temporary status, I’ve ordered a 3 way ball valve for the HLT pump however it is yet to arrive from overseas. Until then I added a 1/2″ stainless tee and a ball valve to allow the ability to hook up to the recirculation point or to the MLT. The 3 way ball valve will allow both HLT and MLT to be connected at the same time and I can then just flick a tap to direct the water from recirculation or to the MLT.

I chilled the wort as normal, didn’t run into any real issues…

Chilling wort, and filling a fermentor. #beer #homebrewing #homebrew #beerstagram #craftbeer

A photo posted by vortex (@auvortex) on

This batch also reminded me of a few issues I have with my equipment. I have absolutely no trust at all in my refractometer. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nil. Pre-boil I saw 1034SG on it which was a couple of points below anticipated (and it IS a Mild, remember!). Post-boil, took a sample from the kettle after whirlpool, 1045. A little above what I expected, boil off was as I was expecting, but I had extra gravity. Ok, not unhappy about that, but my IBU would be off. After chilling, took a reading of the dregs from the plate chiller. 1036SG. Ok, let’s try the hydrometer then… It was new, as I hadn’t brewed since the last one was smashed by my daughter a few months back. Open it up, assuming it to be like my old one, which you use the pack it came in as the jar to hold the wort when measuring the gravity. This one wasn’t sealed, and leaked! So, I have no idea what the SG was. Again not the end of the world, but something I’ll need to remedy.

So now that I’ve brewed a batch of Mild that I can drink (and consequently save some money on buying commercial beer again), it’s on to building the remainder of the brewery. The control hardware and software…

So close to brewing… I can almost taste the wort!

Still on holidays so doing a few of the final tasks on the brewery! Well, when I say final, I mean final other than the control hardware and software. That’s a whole other journey yet to be embarked on πŸ™‚

Today I managed to run a wet test of the march pumps on the HLT and the MLT, and the heating element in the HLT and RIMS tube. All successful, barring a minor issue with purching the MLT march pump. That’s a little bit of a problem, but the 3 way valve makes it easy to remove the airlock thankfully. Just something to think about when filling the MLT with water.

Videos, from Instagram:

MLT fill from HLT. #beer #homebrew #homebrewing

A video posted by vortex (@auvortex) on

Tomorrow I’m planning on picking up a couple of things to get started on the control hardware side of things.

SS Brewtech – 17G/64L Chronical!


I’ve been considering this purchase for a while now. I’ve never had any specific issues with the 60L plastic barrels I used for fermenting in, other than when I need to move them around. I generally brew 40L batches and the 60L size leaves plenty of head room when brewing top fermenting styles with vigorous krausen – such as WY3068 (Hefeweizen) and others without a blow off tube.


However, the odd back injury here and there reminds me that I should take a bit more care specifically when lifting anything heavy.

Currently I ferment in 60L opaque plastic barrels. When filling these I have to move my MLT from the brew stand and hook up a hose to the tap. Then using the pump I push wort through the trub filter and plate chiller and then into the fermentor. Once it’s full, I lift it off, then onto a trolley and move over to the fridge, before lifting it in. Quite heavy work.
This conical has provision for castors on the legs. These will be the first addition to be made and needless to say this will make moving the full fermentor from the brewery into place simple, I’ll just roll it over. In addition to this, the connection to the bottom valve in the fermentor will be simple and reliable, unlike the connection to the plastic barrel fermentor which when I’m using a silicon hose is not reliable.


When I keg from the plastic barrels I use at the moment I have to lift it out of the fridge, up 4 stairs (not full flights, just single stairs) and onto a trolley and wheel it into the kitchen. I then need to dead-lift the fermentor from the floor onto the kitchen bench so I can run into a keg with gravity. It always works, and gravity is always reliable, of course.
With the conical, I’ll be able to run beer into the keg directly into the beer-out post under CO2 pressure. This is something I never tried with the old plastic fermentor as I never expected it would seal up properly. I’m sure I could have found a way perhaps, but never really looked into it. This means I will be able to keg without moving the fermentor itself and definitely without lifting it.

Having the conical will allow me to improve certain other aspects of my process, simpler trub and yeast dropping from under the beer, simpler yeast harvesting and possibly cone to cone re-pitching if I end up getting another one. Easier to flush co2 through the fermenter prior to running wort into it, ability to CIP with a real spray ball (once the 3″ TC lid is available) for cleaning and sanitising. Plus it gives me more skills that are transferable into the pro-brewing world (even though I’m not planning on going pro!) should those skills ever be needed.

Overall though, this thing is beautiful! For the money, this just can’t be beaten. Lower price than the Blichmann’s, which (last I checked) didn’t even have sanitary fittings. I was a little concerned about the thermowell being weldless though to be honest, but it seems well made and should seal OK. It’ll be a simple matter to pop it out when I’m done fermenting the batch and cleaning it – like I will do with the other fittings too anyway. the ball-valves will be upgraded to butterfly valves in the next couple of weeks.

Downsides? Well it doesn’t fit in my fridge. That kind of sounds like a deal breaker, and it actually was for me for a while – I’d decided not to get a conical until I’d found a fridge big enough for it, or I won the lottery and was able to afford a glycol system. That was until I discovered someone else who’d designed and built a Peltier cooling kit for a Stout Tanks conical. Kind of like the MoreBeer item, which they actually won’t ship to Australia, it uses a custom aluminium block with the cool side of the peltier mounted against it, and the hot side under a CPU cooler fan. The controller then simply turns on the cooler when the beer is above the set temperature, just like it would for a a barrel or bucket in a fridge.

I’ve designed on paper the cooling block and sourced some peltiers. Watch this space for the detail on this. Until that’s up and running though, looks like I’m brewing Saisons! πŸ™‚

Fermentation Controller – Hardware Completed!

What you see below, is the completed hardware for my fermentation controller!



Yep, not too pretty! But in this picture is 4 temp sensors connected – stupidly one of these was mounted to the permaproto board and where I placed it is directly above the power supply. Dingbat! It’s reading about 8c higher than ambient… Because of that, I had to make up another sensor, and I soldered some wire to it and then mounted is so it’s handing literally in free-air where heat of a power supply shouldn’t affect it.You can see the red, brown and orange wires where the sensor is mounted in the photo. The sensor is out of shot.

Only two of the 4 fermentation sensors are connected in the photo, both of these are for fridge 1 (which may no longer be a fridge in the next month or so – details to follow!) – one sensor is for the fridge air-temp and the second is for the wort temp. In the next phase, if this fridge does disappear, the air-temp sensor will then become a peltier cooling block sensor perhaps. Unsure exactly of what it needs to be at this point. The second will remain a wort temp sensor.

These sensors are then duplicated for the second fridge, air and wort temps.


All temp sensors connected in the above photo, with the ambient sensor visible. And yes, I did plait all the wires! With three wires per sensor it seemed the sensible (and cheap) way to keep them together and tidy.

Now I need to do some coding!

root@raspiferm:/sys/bus/w1/devices# more /sys/bus/w1/devices/28*/w1_slave
7d 01 4b 46 7f ff 03 10 24 : crc=24 YES
7d 01 4b 46 7f ff 03 10 24 t=23812
6b 01 4b 46 7f ff 05 10 49 : crc=49 YES
6b 01 4b 46 7f ff 05 10 49 t=22687
6f 01 4b 46 7f ff 01 10 67 : crc=67 YES
6f 01 4b 46 7f ff 01 10 67 t=22937
6f 01 4b 46 7f ff 01 10 67 : crc=67 YES
6f 01 4b 46 7f ff 01 10 67 t=22937
73 01 55 00 7f ff 0c 10 b8 : crc=b8 YES
73 01 55 00 7f ff 0c 10 b8 t=23187
ee 01 55 00 7f ff 0c 10 02 : crc=02 YES
ee 01 55 00 7f ff 0c 10 02 t=30875

OpenBrew – Control App development

Just a few random screenshots of the OpenBrew app doing app-y things.

Running in the iOS 6 Plus Emulator – haven’t got the USB convertor for the laptop to the phone handy and also haven’t paid the developer ransom to run the app on my phone as yet. I’ll have to do that considering an iPhone is my main device at the moment.

Running in the Android Emulator on my workstation running ArchLinux.

And another one, shot of the config screen.

App Icon:

Now I need to get the thing to actually talk to the Raspberry Pi running the brewery πŸ™‚

Brewery Updates

So while I’ve been a bit quiet here I’ve actually been working on the brewery itself, as I touched on in the previous post.

I’ve painted the frame, installed some wood decking to allow the lower level to be used for storage while I’m not brewing, installed the mash return bowl and the RIMS tube. Finally!

RIMS tube

Mash Return Bowl

I also found some time to get my Mill motorised:

Final fitting of the motor.

Motor is now mounted properly. Can’t see an updated photo on my phone so I’ll take one later.


Brewery plumbing just about all finished. Need one 12v pump and a couple of other small fittings and it’s getting pretty close πŸ™‚

I’m not dead.

Really. I’m not!

Been awhile since I’ve brewed for a few reasons, but i’m actually working on getting the brewery running, properly, with all the expensive brewporn I bought for it 3 years ago actually working!

I’ve been doing some coding on the brewery controller and the control app. I’d kind of, well, given up isn’t the right phrase, but more like couldn’t be bothered before when it came to doing a native Android app. If it was my day job, then yeah I could spend hours on it no worries. But this is something I do at home, at nights, after I’ve been coding all day at work. I didn’t want to come home and slave away over Eclipse all night. Then I discovered Cordova/PhoneGap.

I didn’t have a great opinion of PhoneGap for a long time, but then it clicked about 3 months ago. What PhoneGap does,Β was all I needed to do. I already had all the skills I needed, and wouldn’t have to spend half my time looking up how to do basic things. I could write the app with PhoneGap!

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate Java (the language itself, I fucking hate what it’s done for the security of PC’s though!) and I did well with coding it in Uni (HD baby!), even if the exam was hand-fucking-written Java (I shit you not!). At least when I was doing the previous version of the OpenBrew App, Android GUIs were pretty basic in their design process. There was a WYSIWYG UI design interface, butΒ UI design was never my thing, so it never came out how I wanted it.

PhoneGap is basically packaged up HTML & JavaScript into a Mobile application. Write the code, “compile” for the target OS (Android, IOS, Blackberry, WinPhone (for the 2 people who own one)) and you’re done.

Anyway – all the code is up on GitHub atΒ – Brewery Controller code is there, Cordova app is there (neither of these do much yet, but the skeleton is there), Kegerator directory is there as is the Fermentation controller directory.

Also, if you like what you read please drop me a comment or a message. That’s another reason why I don’t bother to post much, because I don’t get much feedback and have no idea who’s reading this thing or if the information I’m providing is any good.

Been a while…

…since the grain hit the water around here!

Finally, that drought ended yesterday. Knocked out something that will be like a Mild. With Rye. And Oats. And Dark.

BeerSmith 2 Recipe Printout -
Recipe: OatenRye Dark Mild
Brewer: Me
Asst Brewer: 
Style: Mild Ale
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0) 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 50.80 l
Post Boil Volume: 46.80 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 40.00 l   
Bottling Volume: 38.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.041 SG
Estimated Color: 14.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 14.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 84.4 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
4.29 kg               Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)         Grain         1        58.9 %        
1.09 kg               Rye Malt (Weyermann) (3.0 SRM)           Grain         2        14.9 %        
1.00 kg               Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM)                   Grain         3        13.7 %        
0.61 kg               Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L (20.0 SRM)    Grain         4        8.3 %         
0.30 kg               Carafa II (412.0 SRM)                    Grain         5        4.1 %         
16.73 g               Magnum [14.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop           6        14.9 IBUs     
1.00 Items            Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)        Fining        7        -             
1.0 pkg               British Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs #1098) [1 Yeast         8        -             

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 7.29 kg
Name                    Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In                 Add 23.00 l of water at 74.5 C          68.9 C        45 min        

Sparge: Fly sparge with 39.09 l water at 75.6 C

The brew day went smoothly! I mashed a bit lower than I wanted, not too worried about that though; the first runnings samples were similar to thin viscosity motor oil, such was the quantity of beta glucan in the wort. The Rye character was subtle which is exactly what I was aiming for.

Looking forward to getting this in a keg, and pulling some through my hand pump!

I’m on Instagram now too, if you’d like to follow and see my boring photos: