It’s 2019 and we can, if we want to, control our heating when we’re not in the house, view CCTV of our homes or workplaces on our smartphone so what about being able to monitor and control temperature of the brewhouse?

As part of the brewery move from the taproom to the brewhouse, we are trialling a commercial version of the homebrew fermentation hardware / software, MyBrewbot. As part of the trial we have decided to log the findings on our blog.

MyBrewbot is an IoT (internet of things) device which is controlled from an app on a phone or tablet rather than traditional LCD temperature controllers. All you need is a smartphone and a wifi connection in the brewhouse (although ours is in the bar two units away) .

I first spoke to Jeremy Bullock, the inventor, when I was at Pig and Porter. I could see the appeal of remote monitoring and control of temperatures particularly because I lived a long distance from the brewery. Sometimes I would drive a 90 mile round trip to simply put the beer onto chill at the weekend.

Since I moved to Crewe, I’m now much closer to the brewery so it’s hardly an issue but I remained in touch with Jeremy who lives only 20 miles or so from me. We started talking about potential applications in a smaller commercial brewery and how that might turn out. There’s only one way to find that out really which led to the trial of a commercial version. 

The hardware connects to remote control wireless plugs, which I use to turn on and off recirc pumps to chill the fermenters. The software features, amongst other things, temperature graphs that can be exported to the brewsheets and also an alert for when the hardware loses connection with the router in the office, for example during a power outage. Anyone who has had to pour away a brew due to temperature racing after a power cut at the weekend will know just how heartbreaking this is.

The homebrewing version controls heating and cooling and is based on controlling a brewing fridge and a keezer, it also works with the Bluetooth enabled Tilt hydrometer. We only need cooling and I have a pathological fear of putting any foreign object in the FV so we’re just having a simple on-off for a cooling circuit.

At the moment we’re just using it to control two of our three FVs but when FV4 arrives next month Jeremy will be back to modify the hardware to run five probes. However, there is also the potential to control other brewery equipment like HLTs (Hot Liquor Tank) remotely which might appeal to breweries who have cheaper overnight electricity.

Before Christmas we used an “out of the box” MyBrewbot to see how we got on. It went well enough but it was clear a commercial version would need better cable management and more protection from the inherently wet and steamy environment that a commercial brewery brings. So the pro version comes in an ip65 rated box.

The other thing we noticed was that the hardware factory resets if the probe detects a temperature over 50°c which it obviously did the first time we did a CIP (Clean in Place). We managed this by remembering to temporarily disconnect the probe to the FV being cleaned but in the commercial version the parameter is set to 80°c.

The only other thing we observed in the homebrew version was the physical absence of the digital displays and the need to get your phone out of your pocket to check a temperature. Like most brewers, I guess we’re just used to looking up at a temperature gauge the minute a cooler kicks in, just as we’re highly attuned to the sound of a pump changing or the liquid dripping from somewhere it shouldn’t be. It’s a force of habit but we might consider having a tablet on the wall displaying the UI if we can’t get used to it.

The commercial trial version was installed yesterday and we’ll be updating our findings on here so keep checking back if you want to see the progress.

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