Homebrew Equipment Review: BrewPi,
Like all homebrewers, any process that you can implement to brew better beer is a no brainier. Whether those factors are time, money or energy, the reason I respect homebrewers so much is because they aren’t willing to take shortcuts or and they always go for quality rather than quantity.
In transition, I’m basically a techy beer nerd always looking to improve my brewing process to a better beer, which is why I really wanted to implement BrewPi. As for those who are unaware, BrewPi is a fermentation temperature controller for brewing beer or wine that runs on Raspberry Pi and an Arduino.
After being introduced to this fantastic device from my brewing friend, Kevin, he showed me the initial benefits of controlling your fermentation temps. The first thing that caught my eye was the backend, a clean and semi-intuitive display of his current beer profiles. I was already sold.
Purchasing the device seemed easy, but this is where things got a little hectic.
What to purchase for BrewPi:
After obtaining all the parts I was super excited to fully control my fermentation. Besides the insanely tedious task of peeling off all the protective coverings from the casing from the brewpi the assembly became a little frustrating, I only then I found out that it wasn’t a plug and play type of device.
Install of BrewPi
To preface, I am a pretty literate computer person. I have a good grasp on HTML and can design a website from scratch and can build a computer from just components (not bragging because it’s a pretty basic skill), but this type of coding I am not used to.
First, I highly suggest you utilize PUTTY and access your BrewPi from your computer after plugging it directly into your network.
After my first attempt of installing all of the files on my SD card, I was able to turn on the BrewPi and see the display, but I’m assuming I missed a step because it wasn’t a successful process. The instructions are pretty straight forward online, but my one piece of advice is to take it step by step. If you have a question, reach out to their BrewPi Chat Room.
After spending numerous hours in the chat room with my dear friend (never met him, but helped me beyond any other developers), AJT. He was responsive and patient enough to help with the install.
Finally, I had access to the backend of my BrewPi.
Install of BrewPi Sensors / Switches
Once again, I found myself back in the chatroom looking for ajt. Setting up the sensors also became a frustrating task that I can proudly say that I have come close to mastering.
When installing these devices, take it one at a time, and have the values read in the advance configuration settings. It will help you easily identify each switch & senor.
BrewPi is Operational
Compared to other temperature controllers, BrewPi offers much more. Mainly, specific temperature control in addition to a lot more features like data logging, a web interface and graphs to help you keep track of all of your brews. The range of this product is absolutely ideal if you like to play around with your temperature.
One perfect example of this was a farmhouse saison where after 3 days of fermenting at 64* I slowly ramped up the temperature to to 88* for the remainder of the fermentation to build on the phenols from my house saison culture.
Another example is if you are growing lactobacillus delbrueckii, it grows around 110*, which I was able to keep constant temperature for my lacto starter to properly grow.
Although I have yet to take on a lager, I can pretty much guarantee that the BrewPi can handle pretty much any fermentation schedule.
Thoughts of BrewPi
It’s clearly taken my beer to the next level. With one of the first beers I fermented with it placed 1st in Mixed Fermentation at 2016 NHC Regional (San Diego). Because of it, I am able to ensure a consistent fermentation despite the elements and replicate my beer on a much more consistent basis. Controlling my temperature has been the 2nd best thing I’ve done to better my homebrewing, and I’d recommend it to anyone.
UPDATE: BrewPi has really come through! They’ve recently released BrewPi Spark V2,
Elco has chimed in to also mention information regarding the brewPi Spark – “The BrewPi Spark V2 still connects to the Raspberry Pi as a web server. It replaces the Arduino.
Being much more powerful than the Arduino, we can run much more complex control algorithms. We have not updated the Arduino software for over a year and will continue only improving the BrewPi Spark code. The Arduino code is end-of-life.”