CraftBeerPi Brewery Build

Its been a while since I’ve done a post on the site, but I’ve also had a lot of requests from people for a detailed breakdown of the CraftBeerPi (CBP) build that Andy Lynch and myself talked about on Episode 11. As such here is a detailed breakdown of the parts I used and how I did my build.

DISCLAIMER!

Under no circumstances should you attempt this unless you are a qualified or trained electrician. All of my work was inspected and checked by an electrical engineer with 35 years experience of panel building. There is a very real risk of injury here, and possible life changing injury at that. You’ve been warned and I, and the Hop Addition crew will take no responsibility for you doing something stupid and frying your ass. Before you plug anything in, get it checked for safety first, or even better, ask a sparky friend to be there when you do it so he can stop you if you’re being a bellend!)

Another disclaimer here. I’m English, live in England and as such have listed things from shops I have access to, if you’re in another country, you’ll have to do the research into what stuff you need, I cant help with that. Remember what your voltage and current is on your mains supply and build appropriately.

Right, that’s the legal stuff taken care of so here is the dealio.

Parts

The parts list for this build can be very extensive, as such I’m gonna list everything with links to the places I got stuff from with links as they are on the 24/9/2020

SSRs – You will need an SSR (Solid State Relay) for everything you want to turn on and off to control your brewery. Dont be tempted to go for relays, they will work for a short period before they pop and you’ll be buying stuff again. Buy the right stuff first time.
BeerPi is where I got mine from to be absolutely sure that they weren’t copies which were going to cause me issues later down the line. My advice would be to fit a 40amp one no matter what you’re controlling. Over building capacity will allow you flexibility later down the line should you upscale to a larger pot etc. If you’re doing a 3 vessel, you’ll need 1 for your HLT, 1 for your Mash Tun if you’re wanting to control the temperature in it and keep it stable, then 1 for each element in your kettle. You’ll need 1 for each pump as well, so if you’re 2 pumping it, 2 for that. If the pumps are 12v DC pumps, get DC to DC SSRs, or DC to AC if they are 240v AC ones, but that should go without saying tbh. Make sure each individual SSR is mounted to a heatsink, they get hot and will begin to melt if you dont. RS sell them too but they are quite expensive. Buy according to your wallet thickness.

Elements – I’d wholeheartedly recommend getting Tri Clamp elements for ease of changing and upgrading. These are available all over the place, but I found the cheapest ones on AliExpress from the Dernord Official Store. For a brew length less than 50L I wouldnt recommend anything bigger than 3500 watts (3.5kw). You can go 1.5″ Triclamp or 2″ triclamp, but you will need bulkheads and the absolute best I found were from Still Dragon in The Netherlands, hence i went for 2″ connections. If you want a more permanent fix and have access to a Tig welder and the skills to use it, you can buy triclamp parts in the UK from many places. Let Google be your friend on that one.

That’s the main hardware sorted, but you need to be thinking about the internals now, and this is where its gonna get tricky.

Thermoprobes DS18B20s are the ones I use, accurate enough to calibrate easily and cheap enough to replace should they go wrong. The Raspberry Pi also works really well with these. You’ll need 1 for each pot. You will also need thermowells. The length depends on your build. Buy appropriate ones but remember mounting hardware, seals and all that jazz. It needs to be watertight.

Resistors These are needed to make sure the thermoprobes work. You cannot do without them.

Din Rail Terminal Track for easy wiring, get one of these. Rated to 30amp so that you don’t melt it.

Connectors for your Thermoprobes – You’ll need 1 for each thermoprobe if you wire as I did. Means I can disconnect the probes and store them safely when Ive done.

Din Rail I cant link this, as the shop I got it from is on holiday, sorry. Google it.

Cable Don’t try to scrimp on this. This is the part of your build which is going to be doing the most work, so over build. I used 6mm2 since my system is 32amp but buy the proper stuff, and honestly, anything less than 4mm2 and you’re asking for trouble.

You’ll also need a shitload of these. Get the ones of an appropriate length, you’ll thank me later. Makes connecting everything much easier.

Plugs and sockets I used CEF as they are very local to me and had decent prices and stock levels. You can get them elsewhere, but make sure they are splash proof as you liquids and electricity don’t mix. Remember the old mantra, buy cheap, buy twice. Buy decent gear, this is gonna need to last and do some serious work. Hopefully you get to brew more than me.

On this part you will need to remember that you cannot have male plugs on both ends of a cable, since as soon as you plug it in its live and you will hurt yourself if you touch the end, and male plugs don’t have a cover. Protect yourself and put the plugs on the element cables and pump cables, sockets on the control box, and a male on the cable that plugs into the mains, that way you’re safe while connecting everything. You can hardwire the control panel into the mains, but mine needs to be portable for inside and outside brewing depending on the weather. Wire yours appropriately for your brewing setup.

Project boxes. 2 choices here. Metal or Plastic. I went ABS plastic due to weight and the need for portability. Choose your poison.

Safety stuff Dont even think of building one of these unless you build in some safety stuff. RCD is an absolute minimum. If you fuck up a connection this will save your ass and possibly your house and entire build. I put some MCBs on mine to double down, given the price, its cheap protection that could save you a ton of cash further down the line.

Now the heart of the beast – The Raspberry Pi The 3b is more than ample, but it work flawlessly on a 4B too. Pick your poison and get a din mountable enclosure with a fan and heatsinks. they aint cheap but will save you a lot of time wondering if its bashing itself around if you choose a portable option. I went for a 7″ touchscreen for mine, no idea why tbh cos I rarely use it and if I’m outside I cant see the godamn thing. Didn’t cost me anything as i got mine off a mate, but they are available on Amazon, eBay and AliExpress. Make sure you get one with a HDMI connection to output the Pi to.

At this point you will need some nuts and bolts to mount things to the enclosure you’re using. Amazon sell packs in various sizes, or you can buy from eBay etc. Make sure you use washers and get the right sizes and use the correct tools to fit everything, nothing worse than a stripped thread or rounded bolt. Use the right tool for the job and you wont have any issues. Get some glands for cables to ensure the enclosure stays water proof. Get the right sizes, CEF sell them, Amazon sell them too. Dont drill a hole until you KNOW you need the hole. Saves having a project box which resembles swiss cheese.

You will now need to make holes and stuff, ABS is easy to drill, so use a hole saw. Screwfix do a decent set by Bosch which comes with an adapter for your drill so you can quick release to swap sizes. I’ve had one for ages and ages so I didn’t need to buy this.

Putting the holes in the kettles is going to be much harder. Dont use the holesaws for this. Please. Just dont do it, you’ll make a fucking mess and the holes will be shit. Check which sizes you’ll need and buy some QMax cutters. Drill a pilot hole of the right size, screw the tool in and press out the hole, smooth the edges and you’re done. Simple, clean and easy. Follow the instructions online to use them and make your life easier. I have a full set from 8mm to 84mm so I was sorted. Trust me, you will use them in the future for other projects but if you dont think you will, borrow them off someone who has them., but having said that, they are cheap enough so it wont break the bank.

After this is all done, I think you’re ready to mount stuff. You might need to flatten the side of the kettle a little to get a good seal on your bulkheads if you’re using the screw in ones, otherwise just weld and away you go. I did this by using 2 pieces if 20mm plate which I used a grinder to remove the sharp 90 degree edges so I didnt punch holes in the kettle, drilled a hole through the middle, attach some fuck off massize thick washers to either side of a bolt, thread through the metal plate, kettle, and plate on the other side and simply tighten the bolt to flatten the kettle side enough to get a seal. Worked a treat.

Now, the wiring is fairly easy, just follow this schematic and make sure everything is earthed properly. Fit the resistors on the DS18B20s and you’re good to go. CHECK EVERYTHING TWICE, and get a sparky to check it so you arent doing something stupid. Honestly its a very logical process. I wired everything in in order completely (Earth, neutral and live in that order) and it was pretty easy.

Follow this guide to setup your pi, especially for the install of CBPi. It can be tricky, but I found this guide to be very easy to follow. Follow it for every single bit but the github clone step, and instead of using Manuel83’s git, use this following link when you do the git clone and you should be up and running in no time.

Here are some shit pictures of my progress and final build. Sorry for the shitness.

Thanks for reading this far, and if I’ve missed anything, please comment below and I’ll be sure to reply and add anything I’ve missed. Damn I need a beer and a pizza…

20 thoughts on “CraftBeerPi Brewery Build”

    1. Glad you found it useful fella. It was a lot of information to put down, and it took a while but I think its all there and you should be able to follow it fairly easily. Remember safety, these things can go wrong in a heartbeat. Be safe.

      1. Thanks for this Chris. I assume I have to drill holes in the galvanized back plate to secure the din rails with screws.

  1. The pumps (230V) I plan to use will be controlled via the Raspberry PI software and therefore a 3V control signal will be provided to an SSR that will then switch power on to the pump. Typically, the types of pumps used (230V) draw about 1-2A of current, from what I can see. Should the SSR have a maximum output current to reflect this (may be up to 5A)? I ask as you advise to just use 40A SSRs but wondered if this was for the heater elements.

    1. I advise 40a SSRs as it allow upgrade room. No harm in using bigger ones but issues will occur with using smaller ones. If it’s just for the pump you could use a smaller one, but given the difference in price is negligible, I’d use the 40a to cover yourself for future plans.

  2. Hi Chris – yep, agree with the 40A SSRs and I will do the same. My next question is around the heatsinks for these. The SSRs for the pumps should barely have any heat generated given they draw about 1-2A (I think I read that anything under ~4A and a heatsink is not needed). So, the SSRs for the pumps I think I will leave the heatsinks,. But, for the heating elements (5-6KW), will draw about 25A and heatsinks are definitely required – as you have. But, I see you have the heatsink within the enclosure and concerned that the heat dissipation will not be sufficient. Should these be externally mounted – and ideally with the fins vertical? I see you can get a large heatsink, good for 60A SSRs, that allow 2 SSRs to be connected to it – although they will not be on together anyway. This could sit on top of the enclosure. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. The heatsinks have to be mounted inside, as the din rail mount is on the bottom and the mount for the SSR is on the top. If you’re concerned about heat, use a hole saw and cut a hole for a 40 or 60mm fan and wire it onto the pi. Have it blowing out, and if you’re REALLY concerned, have another blowing in.

      I would definitely mount all SSRs on a heatsink, its not worth the risk and they really do provide cheap insurance.

  3. Been looking at BrewPI and their heat sinks are over 12cm wide (I think that’s what you’ve used too). Ideally I’d want my SSRs along the top like yours but with 2 pumps to take care of, that’s 4 SSRS in line. The enclosure would be huge. Any thoughts on this?

    1. I’m not sure if that’s possible bud, you might have to play with the layout to get it all working and in the box, or maybe get a bigger box? Can’t really help with tbe logistics of it fella, just gonna have to play about and see what you can get to work.

  4. HI – all SSRs are in and looking good so far. I have ordered some male-female jumper leads for the RPi4 connections. When connecting to the low voltage side of the SSR, I assume you used a “fork” connector. Can you crimp the male side of the jumper lead directly into a “fork” connector or is there an adapter I could buy – or did you simply cut the male side off to expose the cable and crimp a “fork” connector on to it?

    Thanks

    Dave

  5. HI – all SSRs are in and looking good so far. I have ordered some male-female jumper leads for the RPi4 connections. When connecting to the low voltage side of the SSR, I assume you used a “fork” connector. Can you crimp the male side of the jumper lead directly into a “fork” connector or is there an adapter I could buy – or did you simply cut the male side off to expose the cable and crimp a “fork” connector on to it?

    Thanks

    Dave

    1. I crimped the cable directly to the connector. Seemed to work okay for me. But yes, forked crimp connectors worked fine for me.

  6. Hi

    Which RPi case did you use and how did you fix it to the back of the enclosure door (I see no screws on the front)?

    Thanks

    Dave

    1. I use double sided tape from my RC racing days. It’s brilliant. Super tacky but does tend to detach when it gets warmer. I’m searching for an alternate solution which will most likely involve bolting it to the case in some way…

  7. Is there any way to control the voltage going to the boiler using the ssr setup to achieve a less vigorous boil.

    1. No fella, SSRs are an on or off affair. I’ve not found a way to do this properly yet. I heard about something called SSVRs but haven’t been able to find any for sale. I’m trying to find the same thing, but you can always use pwm mode on your logic. Element on for 0.8 and off for 0.2 of a second to give you the same thing… The craftbeerpi group on Facebook has some good people who can explain that better than me.

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