Brewery Control Panel

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Equipment

This system is designed primarily to control an electric heating element in the kettle.  I will use that for raising temp for the sparge water as well as controlling the boil rate.  Eventually it will also control a recirculated mash.  The planning has been in the works for a long time (> 1yr).  The inspiration came from the electric brewing forum on and especially the system built by Kal from  I modified the system to suit my needs and now I am finally building it.  The process is kind of slow going due to the cost of the components.

My goal is to have this system running by the end of 2011.  In order to achieve that goal I will forgo brewing for the rest of the year and focus on getting the remaining parts needed.

Panel as I received it from ebay seller:

About midway through construction.  Paint is done and many parts are installed but it still needs a lot of wiring and a few more parts:

Front panel - still need some switches and a timer.

Getting so close!  I have all of the parts and I applied the labels.  Still a lot of wiring to go.

I still need to install the outlets for the pump and auxiliary (second pump some day?).  After that, the rest is internal wiring.  I can’t wait to get this thing fired up (figuratively, I hope).

Update: 12/8/2011
I completed the wiring and turned on the power for the first time today.  This is how it went…
Whirrrrr….Hummm… Pop! Pop! Bang!  Silence…

The good news was no one was hurt and no major damage was done to the panel components.  We can call this a functional test of the GFI panel.  It passed the test.  The main power indicator LED housing was labelled 100 – 600v AC.  So I connected it up to the 240v main.  Unfortunately, the LED bulb that was in the socket was only rated for 28v.  Whoops!  The bang noise was the LED bulb exploding.  I never actually checked the bulb (it was a used component).  The socket was replaced with a 120v socket and rewired to L1 and Neutral.  All is good now.

Update: 12/13/2011
Today I completed the panel and ran it’s first test with water.  Everything went great.  Here are the updated pictures:

GFI Spa Panel installed next to the main house panel:

GFI Panel with outlet exposed:

GFI Panel Inside:

I ran a 10/3 romex from the main panel to the GFI panel, then split off (non-GFI) to the dryer outlet.  The GFI output goes to the receptacle installed in the GFI panel.

Brewery Panel Overview:

It’s kind of hard to see in the above images, but I built a  hinged frame that connects the panel to the cart it is on.  That way I can lower the panel to a horizontal position for storing and moving around.

Inside the panel:

Here is a sketch of the wiring diagram:

I used 24v contactors to control the main power and heater power (since I had these on hand).  I used 120v ice cube relays for the pump and aux power.  I built the pulse width modulator (PWM) from Walker’s post on homebrew talk forum.  Instead of the solid-state relay (SSR) in the diagram above, I used a solid-state power controller since I had access to one.  Since it basically works the same I didn’t bother to change the diagram.  The PID temp controllers are Watlow model 96.  The 24v power supply output is routed through the first contactor so essentially once the momentary ON switch is closed the system will keep itself on until the EMO is pressed.

Here is a pic of the system during the test run:

I also did my first temperature ramp test today.  I took 10 gallons of water from 56F to boil in 50 minutes.  That’s an average of just over 3 degrees/min.  Typically that is not how the system will operate though.  Under normal conditions it will go from 56F (well water temp) to 160F for strike water, then basically the same for sparge water.  The result from the sparge to the kettle will usually be around 145-155F which will then be taken to boil.

Overall I am very happy with the project results.  The system has plenty of power to do 10 gallon batches.  The panel has room to grow if I decide to enable the recirculation heater in the future.  The Aux control can be used for a second pump or a stir motor down the road.  And best of all, I no longer need to burn propane in the brew room.  My brew buddies will appreciate that.  On a typical brew day, the ambient temp of the brew room was around 85 degrees F.  After an hour of boiling for my test run, the ambient temp went from 66F to 70F.  Much more comfortable.

Keep on Brewing!


Update: 2/20/2012

I made a couple modifications based on the first brew session with the control panel:

1. Added an auto/manual temp control switch.  This switches the control signal to the element power controller from the watlow PID controller to the PWM manual controller.  So both controllers will always be active but only one will send a signal to the power controller, turning on the heater power.  The PWM (pulse width modulator) is great during the boil because the temp will always be ~212F anyway, but with a fine manual control we can adjust how vigorous the boil is.  The PID control is great for hitting a strike or sparge water temp and holding it there until I am ready to use it.  I need to put a label on the switch still.

2. Added a flashing buzzer to sound when the process timer gets to zero.  During the first brew session I missed the fact that the timer completed because I was distracted by other brew day operations.  No more missing the timer.  I had to do some creative wiring though because the controller doesn’t have a “silence” option built in.  It only has a “reset” which automatically starts the timer again.  So I put in a mechanical relay with an external “silence” momentary switch.  When you press the silence button, the coil activates and cuts off the alarm output signal from the timer.  When you eventually reset the timer, it drops out the alarm signal which returns the relay back to normal state, basically resetting it for the next alarm cycle.  It works great.


Here is the overview picture of the panel currently.  I don’t have any more improvements in the plans so hopefully it will stay this way for a while.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s