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CraftbeerPi user, maybe looking to change to BruControl  

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(@rkhanso)
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Joined: 6 months ago
Posts: 1
June 2, 2020 5:37 pm  

I have a few CraftbeerPi controllers (one for brewing, one for fermenter and one for Kegerator) - but am getting tired of the issues because it's not being maintained and when I add a new controller, have issues getting it running since Raspbian keeps getting updated, but CraftbeerPi isn't keeping up.

Will BruControl work well for me? With minimal changes to my hardware? I'm guessing not, since both the fermenter controller and Kegerator controller are simply Raspberry Pi Zero Ws with some SSRs to run the glycol chiller, heater, compressor and read temps. 

I don't really want to spend a lot more money making new controllers. Should I keep working with CraftbeerPi? Or make the switch. The one thing with CraftbeerPi is that once I get it working, it usually stays working OK.

I have a 240V electric kettle (SSR for the element), 12v DC solar pump, CFC chiller and 1-wire sensors for brewing. Pi 3 with a Terragady interface board.

Fermenter has the SSR for the A/C unit, simple relay for the 120V reptile plastic heat tape, a relay to run the glycol pump and some 1-wire sensors for temp control. Pi Zero W.

Kegerator has an SSR for the compressor, 1-wire sensors for temp readings and 12v relay to run fans for the tower cooler. Pi Zero W.


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(@pbruno3)
Reputable Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 287
June 2, 2020 6:03 pm  

Hi Roger,

Thanks for reaching out! There are some changes that would need to be made, but I don't think it will be a ton of work for you. As far as the hardware is concerned, it will be pretty east. The one major difference is where the application/user interface runs, which is on a Windows computer (it doesn't need to be a powerful one).

Many users have a computer running full time, so data, logging, email alarms, scripts, etc. can occur, but this isn't necessary. The system is meant to be like a brew operations server, where all your stuff is integrated (brewing, fermenting, dispensing, etc.).

I would recommend you don't try to eat the elephant in one bite. For minimal cost, you can try replacing a RPi with an interface micro-controller. I'd suggest you go with an ESP32 development board. These is 3.3V as well and can replace the RPi directly. It can read 1-wire sensors and run the SSRs. They run for about $10 and connect to the BruControl computer via Wi-Fi. That said, just like with the RPi, you need to be careful driving loads like SSRs directly from the board - just need to make sure the current won't overload the interface pin. My guess is if the Pi has been working, the ESP32 should as well. On the brewing side, you have a Terragady board to handle this. We offer a series (UniShield) which can drive loads directly as well, including the 12VDC pump.

You can download the software off the website. It needs to be activated to actually connect to the interface, but you can get a sense of what it's about without activation.

We are happy to help you along the way with any integration questions or concerns. Thanks again!


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(@clearwaterbrewer)
Active Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 6
June 7, 2020 10:00 pm  

I went from BCS to CBP3, and ran into the same issues you did... I migrated to BruControl a couple years ago and am extremely happy with the support.

I think the ESP32 would be the way to go for the brewing system, I use them for several things like RTD interfaces and for Tilt hydrometer interfaces.  The unishield would be a great way to implement the ESP32, but you could also just jumper-wire it.

For the fermentation and kegerator, you might want to look at the SonOff Dual, I have 9 of them for various things, they have 2 relays and you can hook 1-wire probes up also. you can get them and a waterproof case on itead.cc for less than $10 and there is a technote showing how to set them up here under build--> resources ( http://brucontrol.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/BruControl-Application-Note-Sonoff-Fermentation-Controller.pdf )


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(@helibrewer)
Eminent Member
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 28
June 25, 2020 12:35 pm  

Roger,

You will have an upfront cost for the controller software but it really is worth every penny. The GUI is drag and drop and the scripting is straight forward. I also came from CBPi....no add-in world here, all the capability is baked in and the support is exceptional. I used most of the hardware from my previous setup. There are no issues with the underlying platform as far as OS etc so the maintenance on that end is nothing, unlike the dependency nightmares you can have with RPi. You'll love it.

Mike


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(@exoticatom)
Active Member
Joined: 4 months ago
Posts: 14
August 1, 2020 7:31 am  

@pbruno3 

Really appreciate your post.

I am in similar situation as Roger, and would like to update my CBPI3 setup to software which maintained. I gave arm and leg to make CBPI setup I have now, so I am really careful to go into another adventure. :-). Its not only about money, but I spent countless hours running the system. 

My current eq:
I bounced several time between 3 vessel HERMS and all in one, decided to stick with simple solution as I brew alone - so now I have modified brewmonk magnus - all in one running on CBPI3. My setup in 60 Sec: <a href=" removed link "> removed link (CPBI3 + Expansion board 3, DS18+RTD mixed, 3 relays, 2 SSR). My background is electrical engineering a bit of programming so that shouldnt be an issue :-D.

Checked your site, software, prices. I am not sure 100% abut everything. I'd like to start small but planning to have 3 vessel system in the future.

Would you please help me with some noob CBPI3 user - questions :-):
1) I'd like to have touchscreen in in the controller box. Do you think I can run it on raspberry OS any time soon? Or anyone installed Windows on Raspi and run your software? 
Idea would be to have independent control panel with a screen.

2) Running your application on a tablet , Android anytime soon ?

3)  Is there a way to have independent controller which is sitting on my brew desk, but still being able to access it over phone, tablet etc? 

4) Do you think I can reuse expansion board 3.0 (loaded with MAX RTD boards), of course with re-wiring? 

5) "connect one interface by serial (USB)" -> this reffers to connection PC with Application and Micro controller?  If ESP32 is used then it would have to be WiFi ?

6) How does licensing work. lets say I'd like to do a PoC and play around with all options in order to understand if 100 or 200$ license is for me. Is that possible and how? 
For example simple esp32, flash it, download software play around for XXXX amount of time ?

7) etc. 😀

I checked your prices for the software and for the hardware, which are sadly too high for my budget as I am a small home brewer. That's why this post as I'd like to start small, use what I have and build on it.

If brewers like me are of no interest it is also ok. Thank a lot for help and explanations. 🙂 

 


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(@pbruno3)
Reputable Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 287
August 1, 2020 8:06 pm  

Hi. Likewise, thank you for reaching out. We completely understand how expensive, confusing (and frustrating sometimes) brewery automation can be... but its cool! I'll try to help the best I can here. Unfortunately, for some reason your link didn't post. Please try again or point me elsewhere.

1. We do not recommend or support RPi. It really isn't robust enough for automation where high power is in play. That is primarily due to the SD based disk subsystem. That said, we do have a user who claims to have Win10 and BruControl running on an RPi 4. I'll bet it is painfully slow though. You can spend a few dollars more and use a mini-PC with reasonable performance. Or if you have an old PC, you can use that. I personally do not like the "touchscreen in a control box" approach as it requires you to have the control box mounted such that you can reach it (rather than under or to the side of the brewery). It also means the computer needs to be inside the enclosure (which works for an RPi which handles the I/O). In BruControl, the interface microcontroller handles the I/O, and the computer offloads commands to that. It also means you need a small screen. My personal rig has a 24" touch monitor on an arm off the side of it, which makes interaction just perfect. But, if that is your goal... then that's cool - go for it.

2. No, we do not plan for Android. We are leveraging the full-blown OS for advanced tools, such as the SQL back-end database we are employing going forward (you can store 30 days of data across all devices right now).

3. Yes, we have many users who access BruControl remotely via RDP, Teamviewer, VNC, or Chrome Desktop. Some even use the RPi to communicate with the main computer "server".

4. I'm not familiar with Expansion Board 3.0. Can you show me what it is? Assuming it is a hat that mounts on the RPi... then no, it is not supported, since we would not control the RPi's I/O. You could use it mounted OFF the RPi, assuming you can wire up to the pins.

5. Yes. We call the microcontrollers "interfaces" since they are the physical I/O interface (not to be confused with GUI). These can be Arduino MEGA's, certain Adafruit boards, and ESP based boards. BruControl lets these do the heavy I/O lifting, and also ensures that a communications or computer failure does not let the brewery or fermentation control go down. These interfaces are very reliable, so long as they are powered properly. They are also very accurate in terms of timing - so when we calculate a PID's output... it is millisecond accurate (which is tricky to ensure on a system without a real-time operating system). For example, I have a fermentation & dispensing controller (which has a LiPo battery backup) that has been running for over 3 years without a single hiccup. Yes, ESP32 uses Wi-Fi, though you can communicate with it via serial (USB).

6. We don't offer demo's because, quite frankly, we offer as much support as we can, and just can't handle supporting "tire-kickers". We've played with the idea of trial without support, but haven't implemented it yet. We are trying to do it right, not fast. The dollars the licenses cost create no profit, but do fund ongoing development, so we try to balance that. We also don't screw people by trapping them into a higher license... the cost to upgrade from one is not any higher than the license itself. Also, we offer a 100% guaranteed refund - if the application doesn't work for you or you don't like it - we'll refund it. To date, we have never been asked for one. We also won't charge for version upgrades (not until some MAJOR version upgrade, which is not in our line of sight), so licenses are lifetime.

7. I understand as I noted above. BC is meant to be modular, allowing you to build in stages. Start with one interface controlling one system, then expand your brewery, fermentation & spunding, refrigeration, cleaning, whatever!

Hope that helps. Feel free to respond here or email us with any private questions or concerns.


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(@exoticatom)
Active Member
Joined: 4 months ago
Posts: 14
August 2, 2020 11:04 am  

@pbruno3
thank you for your answers and guidance really appreciated. 

Please note, (again:-) ) that I am a small home brewer. I brew 50L per batch in simple all in one system, which costs around 500$ + craftbeerpi setup as on the <a href=" removed link " target="true">video (because installed controller was not good enough). I'd preferable replace raspi as a control, and use all what build.

My setup is craftbeerpi3 with HLT, and All in one system converted so I use external control panel. I need to dismount and mount my setup after and before each brew.

<img src=" removed link " />
I tried inserting link to you tube but it was removed from your platform aromatically <a title="LInk to my small setup" href=" removed link " target="true"> removed link

Just my 2 cents on the topics: 
1) Raspi4 can boot from SSD and 8GB. It's lightning fast and reliable. Tested it myself.
On the other hand, some medium sized breweries in Switzerland and Germany are using automation based on pi to control the process. If that's not robust enough, or is that only advertising for pi, cant really say. Anyway I am fully with you on the point that pi os is not real time os, but your application could run on pi with 8gb, windows and ssd ? I see no reason why not.

2) here is about your and mine use case. They are different.
On the side of "no touch panel" or "no Panel at all) , I disagree but that's more of matter of choice for me and preference. Even Space X has touch panels 🙂 If you drive plan or brew, you would like to see ? Maybe your point is for big guys, not for small ones like me. 
I am brewing for last 12 years on different systems (small and "big" (up to 300l per batch) and honestly I never preferred running all the commands from a distant workstation, for example to turn on and off the simple pump action. I'd always want to be part of the brewing and data/controls in front of my eyes. But that's maybe only me. 

3) that's rally not nice, I could assume that... as I partially understand the reasons.
Any way that to have pushover or similar notifications ?

Now coming from my angle, new investment to switch to your software and method which I find by the way, professional,  should be as optimal as possible.I'd assume I could take to start small:

1) ESP32, license for USB (connect ESP32 over USB), maybe later over WiFi.
2) have some sort of expansion board to be able to activate / deactivate SSRs, Relays, etc.
(I really liked Model UU-1-EW: ESP32 UniShield, with interface (on-board antenna): $279 US), I guess this is with included ESP32 ?
4)  I'd need in addition RTD Platform Board – Model RP - because I am running RTDs.
5) Computer + Monitor, running windows with your application
6) + SSR, + Relays, + Sesnsors, etc. (which I already have)

Right ? Did I miss something?  what would be your recommendation in order to start small but keep in mind that I would extend and grow to 3 vessel system and HERMs.

thanks again


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(@exoticatom)
Active Member
Joined: 4 months ago
Posts: 14
August 2, 2020 11:05 am  

I tired posting a link and picture but this forum is always removing links. 
www youtube com/watch?v=qp8rSMamxhU


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(@pbruno3)
Reputable Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 287
August 2, 2020 4:35 pm  

Hi,

Thanks again for the response. I was able to see your video (the forum blocks new users from posting links to reduce SPAM - which has been a problem).

Early on, we needed to pick a platform and once we committed, cross-platform compilation became difficult. The GUI library we liked was Windows based and we wanted the robustness of future expansion. At the time, a pi based system is cheaper than a windows based one, but this was much less about cost than trying to make something that works reliably. That said, I know we have many users who have passed because they don't like Windows... we understand, and unfortunately we can't always give everyone what they are looking for, even though we try.

1. I agree and believe the SSD would solve most of the RPi's reliability deficiencies. If Win10 can run on a RPi... then it creates an opportunity - I just haven't seen it yet. In terms of cost, assuming you were starting from the beginning... the RPi4 seems to run around $100 (USD) as a kit... and you can get Mini PC's for about $80 dollars more WITH eMMC storage, so I'm not really sure there is a major advantage of the RPi at this point. Obviously, if you have one in place, as you do, you would much rather use it than swap it - which I understand and agree with.

2. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear in my response... I'm not saying "don't use a touch panel"... I'm saying that the panel mounted in a control enclosure is limiting in my opinion. BruControl gives you the flexibility to make your user interface as simple or sophisticated as you like... so screen real estate becomes more important as you add more elements. But I see you have it in place... so no reason you should't use it. BruControl also puts all the controls in front of you - not on a distant workstation... so maybe I miscommunicated. We do have many users (myself included) who run BC as a "server" application, which means running it 100% of the time. This allows monitoring of processes that are ongoing, such as refrigeration, fermentation, etc. But you can run it as you need it too.

3. I'm not sure what you are referring to as "not nice" or pushover or similar notifications... sorry. Please clarify.

Regarding hardware... yes I think the ESP32 is a great path. Yes, the UniShield comes with the interface... ready to go. You might find other shields online that can drive higher current devices, but I haven't seen one in casual searching yet. Since you are running RTD's with CBPi, you do not need the RTD platform board... we offer it to make mounting and wiring easy since the amplifiers are so small (it is passive, meaning has no electronics). Since you have the amplifiers, you can just mount and wire them yourself if you like. In terms of the computer, I'd suggest an old laptop or computer that you may already have to test. Don't forget a power supply, though you likely have one. Ohter than that, you are starting in the right place!


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(@exoticatom)
Active Member
Joined: 4 months ago
Posts: 14
August 2, 2020 6:14 pm  

Once again thank you very much. I know my emails are very long. 😀

This app, rocks really. I love it. I just need a bit more time to browse trough the forum to figure out what's the best solution for me. I guess all the documentation about the setup, including screen examples, scripting instructions, etc. is on the website.
Videos helped a lot.  

I'd like to kick of and playground as soon as possible. Could you please help me with one more question.
I am having trouble locating exact ESP32 as in documentation. 
Checked espressif site to in order to identify ESP32 Development Module, , versions 45H, 45J, 45L. www espressif com/en/products/modules/esp32
I can't find reference to 45H, j and L.
If I'd search on the net for ESP32 45H can't find it. I am getting mostly ESP32 32P or 38P , or WROOM, 32U for example. But those specification 45H, J and L is nowhere to find.

Have couple of 8266 (AI Thinker) boards at home, but not sure which versions they are again this reference 45H, 45J is killing me 🙂

Any advice in this starting point where can I get esp32 which can be used localy, before I order anything which costs 300+ 🙂 ? 
My idea is:
1) have a board home
2) buy license
3) play around as much as possible , then order shield. 


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(@pbruno3)
Reputable Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 287
August 2, 2020 6:24 pm  

OK... cool. I'm sorry about the 45H, 45J, 45L, etc. These are versions of our firmware that we release over time. We usually leave older versions available in case someone has an issue with an upgrade (e.g. we introduced a new bug while solving for an old one), so that is why they are all referenced. Our general firmware release is 45... the letters are sub-versions. I suppose we should just go with numbers alone but got in this habit and didn't change it. So, these have nothing to do with specific hardwares.

You just want any ESP32 Development Module. There are many available online from Amazon or wherever you prefer to source your items. Should be approximately $12-15 (USD). If you want an external antenna version, check for the ESP32-DEVKIT-C on Mouser.com.

You can use the ESP8266 to test as well. Again, don't worry about the FW version, just pick the "latest".

Your process is sound! And again, if for any reason you aren't happy (heck, I'm not going to hold you to 30 days), you'll get fully refunded.

 


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(@exoticatom)
Active Member
Joined: 4 months ago
Posts: 14
August 2, 2020 6:45 pm  

thx mate, tomorrow morning I am going for a vacation, I'll order ESP32, and contact you after that for the  license 🙂


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